Celebrating the absolute best in world cinema, the 52nd annual New York Film Festival returns to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for 17 days of master filmmaking, panels, screenings and more. Bringing favorites from renowned International film festival destinations such as Cannes, Berlin, Sundance & Venice, the NYFF half century long run continues to be the artistic and cultural center for cinema on the east coast and beyond.
As we normally do with events of this nature/stature, we have compiled a list of the 10 films we are most excited for at this years event. Including topics of interest, as well as films we have not featured on past lists the 10 films included below are sure to be heard from well into awards season with perhaps an instant classic or two thrown in the mix. From Paul Thomas Anderson‘s much anticipated ‘Inherent Vice‘ to new documentaries from Martin Scoresese and Nick Bloomfield, as well as the current critical darlings ‘Foxcatcher‘ and ‘Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance‘, our list does not disappoint for its 2014 edition.
The 52nd New York Film Festival runs September 26 – October 12, 2014 at the venues of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
1. Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson’s wild and entrancing new movie, the very first adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel, is a cinematic time machine, placing the viewer deep within the world of the paranoid, hazy L.A. dope culture of the early ’70s. Joaquin Phoenix, once again,goes all the way for Anderson playing Doc Sportello, the private investigator searching for his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston), menaced at every turn by Josh Brolin as the telegenic police detective “Bigfoot” Bjornsen.
2. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
In Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s big, bold, and brash new movie, one-time action hero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), in an effort to be taken seriously as an artist, is staging his own adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Iñárritu’s camera magically prowls in and around the theater, yet remains alive to the most precious subtleties and surprises between formidable actors. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is an extravagant dream of a movie, alternately hilarious and terrifying, powered by a deep love of acting, theater, and Broadway.
Bennett Miller’s quietly intense and meticulously crafted new film deals with the tragic story of billionaire John E. du Pont and the brothers and championship wrestlers Dave and Mark Schultz, recruited by du Pont to create a national wrestling team on his family’s sprawling property in Pennsylvania. Miller builds his film detail by detail, and he takes us deep into the rarefied world of the delusional du Pont, a particularly exotic specimen of ensconced all-American old money and privilege. At the core is a trio of stunning performances from Mark Ruffalo as Dave, Channing Tatum as Mark, and an almost unrecognizable Steve Carell as the fatally dissociated du Pont.
4. Maps to the Stars
David Cronenberg takes Bruce Wagner’s script—a pitch-black Hollywood satire—chills it down, and gives it a near-tragic spin. The terrible loneliness of narcissism afflicts every character from the fading star Havana (Julianne Moore, who won the Best Actress Award at Cannes) to the available-for-anything chauffeur (Robert Pattinson) to the entire Weiss family, played by John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, and Mia Wasikowska. The last two are brother and sister, damaged beyond repair and fated to repeat the perverse union of their parents. And yet, in their murderous rages, they have the purity of avenging angels, taking revenge on a culture that needs to be put out of its misery—or so it must seem to them.
All but ignored by her divorced, narcissistic parents and tormented by her more conventional and manipulative siblings, Aria (Giulia Salerno) shuttles between the well-appointed digs of her singer mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and actor father (Gabriel Garko), carrying her only companion, a large cat who is more affectionate and comfortable in his own skin than any of the humans in her life. A precociously gifted writer, Aria elaborates her cat-accompanied walks into the sometimes life-threatening adventures that mix with mundane actualities. This imaginative life is depicted with love and humor by Asia Argento, who grew up in the same place and time under similar showbiz circumstances.
6. Tales of the Grim Sleeper
When Lonnie Franklin Jr. was arrested in South Central Los Angeles in 2010 as the suspected murderer of a string of young black women, police hailed it as the culmination of 20 years of investigations. Four years later documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield took his camera to the alleged killer’s neighborhood for another view. Aided by Pam, a former prostitute and crack addict who knows the streets and the people walking them, Broomfield reveals the journey of a serial killer, gives voice to his victims, and illuminates the racial divide that still exists between the police and African-Americans in Los Angeles.
A pedagogical thriller and an emotional S&M two-hander, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is brilliantly acted by Miles Teller as an eager jazz drummer at a prestigious New York music academy and J.K. Simmons as the teacher whose method of terrorizing his students is beyond questionable, even when it gets results. Dubbed “Full Metal Jacket at Juilliard” at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, Whiplash is a kinesthetic depiction of performance anxiety, and you don’t need to be a musician to feel it.
8. The Blue Room
A perfectly twisted, timeless noir, Mathieu Amalric’s adaptation of Georges Simenon’s domestic crime novel also tips its hat to Alfred Hitchcock/Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. A country hotel’s blue room is the scene of erotic rapture, but the adulterous man (Amalric) and woman (Stéphanie Cléau, co-author of the script with Amalric) who meet there have different visions of their future. Amalric’s direction is brutally spare, as is his performance of a man caught in a vise—a situation of his own making. The classic aspect ratio (1:33) and Grégoire Hetzel’s turbulent, insistent score heighten the sense of entrapment.
9. Goodbye to Language
The 43rd feature by Jean-Luc Godard,Goodbye to Language alights on doubt and despair with the greatest freedom and joy. At 83, Godard works as a truly independent filmmaker, unencumbered by all concerns beyond the immediate: to create a work that embodies his own state of being in relation to time, light, color, the problem of living and speaking with others, and, of course, cinema itself. The artist’s beloved dog Roxy is the de facto “star” of this film, which is as impossible to summarize as a poem by Wallace Stevens or a Messiaen quartet. Goodbye to Language was shot, and can only be truly seen and experienced, in 3-D, which Godard has put to wondrous use.
10. The 50 Year Argument
The New York Review of Books, a renowned NY literary institution that’s played a substantial role in American cultural and political life, gets the royal treatment in this celebration of a half-century of critical engagement and dissent. Interweaving the history and evolution of the publication (in reaction to what was considered the impoverished state of book reviewing in The New York Times!), with an examination of its amazing track record of wrestling with the urgent issues and inconvenient truths of the day, from Vietnam to Iraq, this look at the magazine and the journalistic values it enshrines is thoughtful, lively, and moving.
– Steve Rickinson (with additional words & descriptions by NYFF programming staff)