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New York Film Festival Picks Up Steam, Loses Outside Voices

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 26, 2013 at 4:24PM

Checking out the schedule for the 51st New York Film Festival, I'm struck by how many movies there are still to see, even if many have played other festivals, from Cannes last May to fall fests Telluride, Venice and Toronto. Under the Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo, over the past three years the NYFF has not only undergone management changes, but has picked up steam and momentum as a major festival.
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NYFF poster
Designed by British-born artist Tacita Dean

Checking out the schedule for the 51st New York Film Festival, I'm struck by how many movies there are still to see, even if many have played other festivals, from Cannes last May to fall fests Telluride, Venice and Toronto. (Here's Indiewire's list of must-see underdogs in the program.)

"Captain Phillips"
"Captain Phillips"

Under the Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo, over the past three years the NYFF has not only undergone management changes, but has picked up steam and momentum as a major festival. Following the departure of Richard Pena, for the first time, the entire selection committee led by new NYFF director Kent Jones--programmers Marian Masone and Dennis Lim and Film Comment's Gavin Smith and Amy Taubin-- are Film Society insiders, with no outside critics. (Kuo says this could always change.) The NYT's Manohla Dargis rhapsodizes about the much-expanded festival, which boasts 51 features and 30 shorts, here; Jones talks about the changes at the Fest here. 

Kuo had much say in wrangling the three much-anticipated gala world premieres: opening night's "Captain Phillips," directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks, on September 27 (which I will review after I see it at the LA premiere Monday night), followed by Centerpiece "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (which I will cover at the NYFF on Saturday October 5, along with the press conference), and closing night film, Spike Jonze's "Her." All three are being talked up as Oscar contenders, which is why their studios booked them in the festival in the first place. The NYFF can be an effective awards launch (see "A Social Network," "Hugo," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln"). 

I look forward to checking out next weekend Hayao Miyazaki's last film, the animated "The Wind Rises," James Gray's "The Immigrant," starring well-reviewed Marion Cotillard, Claire Denis' "Bastards," Chile's Oscar submission "Gloria," Richard Curtis's "About Time," Arnaud Desplechin's "Jimmy P," starring Benicio del Toro, and Catherine Breillat's "Abuse of Weakness." An embarrassment of riches. 

Fassbender, Nyong'o, Ejiofor in '12 Years a Slave'
Fassbender, Nyong'o, Ejiofor in '12 Years a Slave'

Of the films I have seen, I highly recommend:

Steve McQueen's Oscar contender "Twelve Years a Slave," starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender; two films starring 77-year-old likely Oscar contenders, Robert Redford and Bruce Dern, J.C. Chandor's "All is Lost" and Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," respectively; Roger Michell's sharply hilarious portrait of a middle-aged couple on vacation in Paris, "Le Week-End," starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan; and the controversial Palme d'Or-winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" (my interview with the two stars is here)

Ones I am sorry to miss that have been building buzz include Penn & Teller's "Tim's Vermeer," James Franco's "Child of God," Cannes entries "A Touch of Sin" and "Like Father, Like Son," Agnieszka Holland's "Burning Bush," and Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive," starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. And of course I'd like to attend the tributes to Oscar frontrunner Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine") and Ralph Fiennes, whose Charles Dickens true-story "Invisible Woman" is slotted in the Fest. 

For those who are in New York and able to sample the whole festival, there's much much more. More information on the 51st New York Film Festival poster designed by British-born artist Tacita Dean here and below.

This article is related to: New York Film Festival , Festivals, Critics


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.