NYFF ‘13 Wrap-Up

imageI was out of the country for the bulk of the 51st New York Film Festival (my 9th year attending) so unfortunately I didn’t get to see as many films as I would have liked — “All Is Lost,” “The Immigrant,” “Bastards,” “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “The Wind Rises” were probably my most noteworthy omissions — but on the plus side, my hit-to-miss ratio was much higher than it has been in previous years. I enjoyed all the films I saw this year to varying degrees with the top choices certain to land high on my year end list. Here, in descending order of preference, are my favorites from the 2013 NYFF.

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1. Her (dir: Spike Jonze) Probably the strangest (and most effective) love story since “Punch-Drunk Love” is a heart-on-a-sleeve romance between a man and his operating system. As much as I adore his collaborations with Charlie Kaufman, with “Where The Wild Things Are,” his 31 min short “I’m Here” and “Her,” it’s great to finally see Jonze’s voice onscreen. There’s nothing else like it.

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2. Inside Llewyn Davis (dir: Coen Bros.) Low-key character study features a career-making performance from Oscar Isaac and feels like a spiritual cousin of 2009’s severely underrated “A Serious Man.” The Coens track record has been spotty in recent years but ‘Llewyn Davis’ can stand alongside that and “No Country For Old Men” as their finest of the aughts.

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3. Nebraska (dir: Alexander Payne) Well observed father-son story is a big step back in the right direction for Payne after the milquetoast “The Descendants.” It may move a tad slower than I might’ve liked but the bench of supporting players is deep (Bob Odenkirk, Buzz from “Home Alone,” etc.) and it pays off big time emotionally in the final act.

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4. Captain Phillips (dir: Paul Greengrass) Not a film I need to see again but an effective true life thriller whose finale undercuts uplift with raw emotion and elevates the entire film which preceded it. Hanks doesn’t have a ton to do here (outside of the strangely awkward opening with Catherine Keener), but his final scenes do haunt. 

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5. Blue Is The Warmest Color (dir: Abdellatif Kechiche) The coming out/coming-of-age story that took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes contains some potent stuff (particularly in the first 3rd) but there is no reason on Earth that it needed to be 3 hours. Extended running time lingers on scenes that go nowhere and skips potentially huge dramatic developments. Its infamous sex scenes betray the previously earned dramatic emotion.

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n/a. The Age Of Innocence (dir: Martin Scorsese) Lured by the promise of a Winona Ryder appearance that never came I was inadvertently tricked into seeing Scorsese’s 1993 romance, also the next-to-last narrative film of Scorsese’s that I hadn’t seen yet. (If you’re curious, the last one is (“Boxcar Bertha.”) Damn you, FilmLinc!

My NYFF ‘11 Wrap-Up

I’ve been attending the New York Film Festival since I moved to NYC in 2005 and have had a somewhat tumultuous (one-sided) relationship with it. Their lineup, culled mainly from Cannes, is usually light on American films and sometimes the inclusions (“Hereafter”? “The Tempest”?) are just as puzzling as the ommisions (No “There Will Be Blood”? No “Black Swan”?) But this year I have to give them credit, the lineup was damn good. I had seen quite a few films before the fest even started (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel at Sundance, Shame, The Descendants, The Skin I Live In at TIFF and Melancholia in Paris) and still managed to see 8 films over the 2+ weeks of the festival. I have ranked them here from most to least favorite.

1. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) My favorite film of the fest is also one of my favorite films of the year. Charming, hilarious and surprisingly moving, this ode to silent film will be making a lot of noise during awards season. Read My Full Review


2. George Harrison: Living In A Material World (dir: Martin Scorsese) Scorsese’s epic 3 1/2 hour documentary about the life of George Harrison has all the punch of the directors fiction work and should more than satisfy any Beatles fanatic. Read My Full Review

3. Miss Bala (dir: Gerardo Naranjo) This sparse, gripping thriller about Mexican beauty pageant contestant who gets kidnapped by a drug cartel avoids cliches and utter bleakness by being thrilling cinematically. Read My Full Review

4. Hugo (dir: Martin Scorsese) Scorsese is still putting the finishing touches on this childhood fantasia but he may not be able to solve the films fundamental problem: it’s narratively leaden for the first hour until the actual story kicks in. Read My Full Review

5. Carnage (dir: Roman Polanski) Adaptation of the popular play has a great cast (Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz) but is too stagey for film. Occasionally funny but mildly grating at times. Read My Full Review

6. A Dangerous Method (dir: David Cronenberg) Disappointingly tame pairing of great actors (Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley )+ director (David Cronenberg) in static material. Nicely shot but forgettable. Read My Full Review

7. My Week With Marilyn (dir: Simon Curtis) Made-for-TV movie about a 23 year old Brit who spent a few days with Monroe. Williams is miscast but does her best. All Oscar talk is completely puzzling. Read My Full Review

n/a. The Royal Tenenbaums (dir: Wes Anderson) The 10th Anniversary screening of one of my all time favorites isn’t really eligible to be ranked but was still one of the highlights of the fest. Read My Q&A Recap