By Matt Neglia Starting October 2nd, I will be attending my first New York Film Festival in New York City. The festival, which runs from September 30th until October 15th is in its 54th year and I could not be more excited. My time will consist of seeing “Manchester By The Sea” first Sunday morning, then “Moonlight” later on that evening. Fast forward to the 8th and that is when I’ll be seeing Mike Mill’s latest “20th Century Women” starring Annette Bening. Then on the 13th I will seeing “Jackie” which is making its U.S. premiere after receiving glowing reviews at Venice and Toronto. After that, its on to the 14th and the world premiere of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” Directed by two time Academy Award Winner Ang Lee and filmed for the first time ever in 120fps, its probably the hottest ticket of the festival. I will end my time seeing James Grey’s newest film “The Lost City Of Z” on the 15th. Some of these are having their world premieres while others are returning to the festival circuit. Let’s take a look at which films we are most looking forward to at the festival and their impact on the Oscar race.
Opening Night – “13th”
Ava DuVernay’s (“Selma”) in depth look at the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution which supposedly outlawed slavery. DuVernay’s angry and detailed documentary explores how slavery is still in effect within America due to racially inequality in the prison system. It’s the first time a documentary has been selected as the opening film to the New York Film Festival and will receive a limited release in theaters with a wide release on Netflix on October 7th.
Centerpiece – “20th Century Women”
Writer/Director Mike Mills (“Beginners”) returns to the big screen with this 1970’s set coming of age story for a young teenaged boy (Lucas Jade Zumman) and the three women who shape his life: his mother (Annette Bening), a young photographer (Greta Gerwig) and his next door neighbor (Elle Fanning). The film’s trailer was recently released and surely looks to be a strong contender potentially for Bening, the supporting women (Gerwig and Fanning) and even the film’s screenplay. Mills had a stroke of good luck with “Beginners” and we’ll only have to wait a few days to find out if lightning will strike twice for the talented filmmaker.
Closing Night – “The Lost City Of Z”
James Grey’s historical epic of one man’s quest for an ancient city within the Amazon starring Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) is having its world premiere as the closing film at NYFF. The footage that has been showcased so far is gorgeously photographed (Which is to be expected if anyone has seen Grey’s previous work, “The Immigrant”) and the cast sure looks to be a talented one. The film is rounded out by Robert Pattinson (“Twilight”), Tom Holland (“Spiderman: Homecoming”) and Sienna Miller (“American Sniper”). Set to have its release in 2017, the film will miss out on this year’s Oscars, but if the word is strong it could possibly be a contender for next year.
Special Screening – “Jackie”
After opening up to tremendous critical raves at both Venice and Toronto, Pablo Larrain’s biopic will make its United State debut at the New York Film Festival as a late last minute screening was recently added this week. Natalie Portman is garnering some of the best review of her career as the former first lady who had to deal with many different emotions following her husband’s assassination in November of 1963. The film is also said to be a contender across the board in many areas including screenplay, score, costumes and even Best Picture.
Special Screening – “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”
And now we come to the big one. Ang Lee’s last film “Life Of Pi,” earned eleven Oscar nominations and walked away with four, including Ang Lee’s second Best Director award (The first he won for “Brokeback Mountain”). Now he returns with the adaptation of the novel by Ben Fountain which finds returning war hero Billy Lyn (Joe Alwyn) having flashbacks to his time in Iraq during the halftime show at the Dallas Cowboy’s Super Bowl Halftime Show. What makes this film so special is that it is the first film to be shot (By Oscar winning cinematographer John Toll) in 120fps. The effect is said to be “3D without the glasses” and promises to be unlike any cinematic experience anyone has ever seen before. The film is also expected to be a major Oscar contender due to the involvement of Lee and a supporting cast which includes Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Chris Rock, and Garret Hedlund. Whether its an Oscar player or not though, the film will make history regardless. There are tons of other films which shall be screened at the festival such as the controversial Brazilian film “Aquarius,” Paul Verhoeven’s thriller “Elle,” this year’s Palme D’Or winner “I, Daniel Blake,” Jim Jarmusch’s latest “Paterson,” Olivier Assayas’s newest film with Kristen Stewart “Personal Shopper,” the over two and a half hour comedy “Toni Erdmann” and many more! You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture