By Matt Neglia
Last year I attended the New York Film Festival as a guest just like the thousand others who travel from all over to enjoy the festival’s much eclectic films. This year, I am attending for the first time ever as a member of the press. It’s amazing how much a difference a year makes. While my festival experience has already started (See my review of “The Florida Project” here), I wanted to take a moment to preview the films that are sure to make some noise at this year’s festival and what awards potential they have for this year’s Oscar race.
”Last Flag Flying” (OPENING NIGHT)
Richard Linklater’s latest film has a coveted position at this year’s New York Film Festival as the opening night film and there seems to be a narrative building that he is “owed one” after “Boyhood” failed to land him an Oscar for either Producing, Directing or Writing. “Last Flag Flying” promises to be a mature look at the friendship and bond between three veterans and could be a contender in acting, writing and yes, Best Picture. The trailer did not give off the impression that the directing by Linklater will be anything to signal out but I am happy to be surprised if so. Set to premiere September 28th, the film will have its official release November 3rd.
Plot synopsis: Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry “Doc” Shepherd, Sal Nealon and the Rev. Richard Mueller reunite for a different type of mission: to bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in Iraq. Forgoing burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Doc and his old buddies take the casket on a bittersweet trip up the coast to New Hampshire. Along the way, the three men find themselves reminiscing and coming to terms with the shared memories of a war that continues to shape their lives.
”The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)”
A well-received second trailer for Noah Baumbach’s latest has me very curious if any of the three lead actors (Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and especially, Dustin Hoffman) stand a chance at cracking the acting lineups. Previously nominated for writing “The Squid And The Whale,” Noah’s writing should not be discounted either. Said to be one of Netflix’s best films yet and a surprisingly great performance from the usually critically reviled Adam Sandler, this family drama/comedy received positive reviews out of Cannes and will be looking to continue that success here. I will be seeing “The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)” September 27th while the film will be released on Netflix October 13th.
Plot synopsis: The adult children of Harold Meyerowitz reunite in New York in preparation for their father’s career retrospective.
”Call Me By Your Name”
This may be one of my most anticipated films this awards season. The word coming out of Sundance and Toronto has been MASSIVE. Everyone has been praising the acting, writing, directing and cinematography of this gay romance between a young teenager (Timothee Chalamet) and an older man (Armie Hammer). Michael Stuhlbarg is said to also give one of the best performances of his career as Chalamet’s father, with a monologue at the end of the film that people are saying could bring him his first Oscar nomination. After the Academy embraced “Moonlight” last year, audiences everywhere are curious to see if lightning will strike twice with “Call Me By Your Name.” I will be seeing the critically acclaimed film October 3rd and the film will be released theatrically November 24th.
Plot synopsis: It’s the summer of 1983, and precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman is spending the days with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy, Italy. He soon meets Oliver, a handsome doctoral student who’s working as an intern for Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of their surroundings, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
Now here is a late-breaking contender that was not on many people’s radar but after receiving high praise from Telluride and Toronto, it has become one of my most anticipated films of the festival. Sitting pretty with 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 92 on Metacritic, critics are calling Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut a triumph. With a sharp and insightful screenplay and fantastic performances from its cast (Including Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf), “Lady Bird” could go all the way and contend in Best Picture, Best Director, Acting, and Writing. I will be seeing “Lady Bird” October 6th and the film will release theatrically November 3rd.
Plot synopsis: Marion McPherson, a California nurse, works tirelessly to keep her family afloat after her husband loses his job. She also maintains a turbulent bond with a teenage daughter who is just like her — loving, strong-willed and deeply opinionated.
Todd Hayne’s latest film seems to have divided audiences somewhat. Nobody is saying it is horrible but with a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 74 from Metacritic, it is not getting the raves that his last feature “Carol,” received. Said to be a visually splendid (Shot in color and black and white) with a beautiful score by Carter Burwell (This could be his year), “Wonderstruck” should provide us with enough wonder to hold us over until Todd Haynes is ready to return to the Best Picture race. I will be seeing “Wonderstruck” on October 7th and the film will be released theatrically on October 20th.
Plot synopsis: Ben and Rose are children from two different eras who secretly wish that their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he’s never known, while Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue and Rose reads an enticing headline, they both set out on epic quests to find what they’re missing.
Every person who has already seen “Mudbound” sings its praises on a story level, acting, visually. It checks off all of the right boxes and should have no problem contending in many above the line categories at this year’s Oscars. So what is the problem? Netflix. With Netflix’s distribution model, the question of whether or not “Mudbound” will be able to get what it deserves, is currently up in the air. In terms of its chances in the Oscar race, it is a big question mark but should the buzz continue at NYFF55, then it may be too big to ignore. I will be seeing “Mudbound” October 12th and the film will be released on Netflix on November 17th.
Plot synopsis: Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband’s Mississippi Delta farm, a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family’s struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura’s brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not – charming and handsome, but he is haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, now battles the prejudice in the Jim Crow South.
”Wonder Wheel” (CLOSING NIGHT)
And here we are. The final film of NYFF55 is Woody Allen’s latest, the Kate Winslet starring period film known as “Wonder Wheel.” To say that Woody Allen films are a mixed bag nowadays is an understatement. One moment, his films can come out with very little to no buzz and even be critically panned in some cases. The next moment, his films could be huge awards contenders in Picture, Director (“Midnight In Paris”) to acting and screenplay (“Blue Jasmine”). Since this is the world premiere, we do not know much other than that there has been positive word on Kate Winslet’s performance in this film. If anything, Allen has shown that he can get his performers nominated. I’ll be seeing “Wonder Wheel” on October 13th and the film will be released theatrically on December 1st.
Plot synopsis: Four peoples’ lives intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s: Ginny, an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house; Humpty, Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband; Mickey, a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright; and Carolina, Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment.
We will also be seeing foreign films “Thelma,” “The Square” and “Beats Per Minute (BPM)” at the festival, all of which could contend in the foreign language film race.
Which of these films are you most looking forward to? Have you seen any yet? Be sure to check out my coverage of this year’s New York Film Festival in the coming days and my reviews here.
You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture