Inside the New York Film Festival

     Each year the New York Film Festival showcases the magic that movies can make. This year’s 53rd edition offers a rich preview of films to anticipate later this fall as well as some important lessons for any moviemaker to consider. Take a look.

#1: A movie needs a director’s vision: Carol
From its opening moments, Todd Haynes’ sublime movie whisks us to a different New York City than we know today. As Haynes reveals, the Manhattan of 1952 still reels from the tension of World War II before the prosperity of the decade kicks in. Against this backdrop, he places two disciplined women who dare to discover an unconventional friendship. As perfectly portrayed by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the women begin to learn what it can take to accept a truth that others may not be ready to handle.

#2: A movie needs a daring approach: Steve Jobs
Someday, someone will write a movie about how Aaron Sorkin tells stories in such imaginative ways. On television, he invented the “walk and talk” conversation in “The West Wing” and, on film, he looked behind the curtain of Facebook in the Oscar-winning “The Social Network”. This time, Sorkin sets a new creative standard with his approach to the story of Apple’s legendary leader. Rather than follow traditional biopic patterns, Sorkin breaks the rules to focus on three essential chapters in Jobs’ life. And, in Michael Fassbender, he finds an actor who can grasp the subtleties of nuance.

#3: A movie needs a strong story: Brooklyn
The rich narrative of this adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel reminds us of a time when movies consistently told complex stories with efficiency and restraint. Anyone looking for exaggerated situations, computer-generated effects or tasteless humor will be disappointed to discover a simple, credible and tasteful film that simply tells a story about people who want find their way home. Saoirse Ronan radiates as a young woman from Ireland who, in the early 1950s, finds her way to a new country, neighborhood and life. Hopefully, this quiet movie will not get lost when released in theaters in early November.

The past two years, the Best Picture winners (“Birdman” and “12 Years a Slave”) have played the New York Film Festival.

#4: A movie needs a dream: Miles Ahead
As astonishing as Don Cheadle’s recreation of a chapter of Miles Davis’ life – also bypassing a traditional approach to a biopic – what the actor/director/writer achieved over eight years to get the movie made is just as impressive. At a question-and-answer session at the festival, Cheadle described how, at one point, he used crowdsourcing to ask people to help finance the film. Because so many believed in his project, Cheadle secured the funds to complete the movie. And anyone who sees it when it opens in 2016 will be grateful.

#5: A movie needs surprise: Where to Invade Next
Over the years, we have learned to expect the outrageous from documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. He first gained attention for taking General Motors to task in Roger & Me after which he examined senseless school killings in the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine and controversial military action in Fahrenheit 9/11. But Moore is rather jolly in his new film, Where to Invade Next, a light-hearted look at the ideas America should borrow from other countries. Suddenly the man who use film to argue seems satisfied to simply make us think.

     Which of these films will remembered at Oscar time? Stay tuned. Now, in the past two years, the Best Picture winners (“Birdman” and “12 Years a Slave”) have played the New York Film Festival. So, yes, many do consider this event a necessary stop on the road to Academy recognition.
See you at the movies.

1 thought on “Inside the New York Film Festival”

  1. Hi, Mark, I just now got a chance to read this(!), and find it excellent as I always do your work. Jobs is the only one I’ve already seen; we’ll see Carol and Brooklyn in Austin next week at the FF there.

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