Wrapping up the 50th New York Film Festival!

The 2012 New York Film Festival is now in the books ladies and gentleman, so there’s no better time to double back and take a look at what the 50th installment of the festival was actually like. This was my first time covering a festival of any sort. I saw some fantastic films, some very odd ones, and almost no terrible ones, so that’s a great success in my book. Overall I saw 28 of the films shown at the fest, though one I saw at an outside screening…though I’m counting it anyway. Of course I saw the big ones like the trio of ‘Flight’, ‘Life of Pi’, and ‘Not Fade Away’, along with the other high profile titles like ‘Amour’, ‘Frances Ha’, and ‘The Paperboy’, plus of course the “secret” screening this year, which turned out to be ‘Lincoln’. I’m going to start with the 10 best films that were screened at the fest, at least in my eyes.

The 10 Best Films at the 50th Annual New York Film Festival

10. Beyond the Hills– A tough film to be sure, but Cristian Mungiu’s religious drama is exquisitely acted and is rewarding if you stick with it. I didn’t find it to be the masterpiece that some had made it out to be, but I clearly think it’s among the more interesting movies of 2012.

9. Casting By– A very pleasing documentary that shines a light on the highly under appreciated job of the Casting Director on films. It’s very inside baseball, but if you have an interest, you’ll have a good time with this. It’s not one of the great documentaries, but it does happen to be a pretty good one.

8. Amour– I may not be as big a fan of Michael Haneke’s latest as almost everyone else who’s seen it is, but I definitely found it to be a powerful flick with two nomination worthy performances. It’s just a little cold and clinical in my eyes, though I’d still say it’s essential viewing this awards season.

7. The Bay– If anyone was wondering where Barry Levinson was, well…he’s back, and playing in a far new realm. This is an eco horror movie made using found footage, and wouldn’t you know, it’s kind of great? I was deeply unsettled and my interest was held the whole way through. It’s coming out next month, so stay tuned for an official review before long. It’s well worth your time folks…

6. Flight– The return of Robert Zemeckis to live action filmmaking is definitely a success. Denzel Washington is nomination worthy, John Goodman steals his scenes, and the plane crash sequence is incredibly memorable. I’m not completely in love with it, but it’s a very good flick that is definitely going to be an Oscar player during the course of the awards season.

5. Not Fade Away– When the release date nears I’ll talk more about David Chase’s flick, but for now I’ll say that I’m on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Clayton. I deeply appreciated this look at rock and roll in the 60’s, both in terms of the music and the mindset. John Magaro is an emerging talent and I really thought Chase delivered one of the better endings of the year so far. Stay tuned for more on this one…

4. Holy Motors– You can already see my then review of the polarizing film here, but I’ll quickly once again state just how much I loved it. Few movies are as unique as this one, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything quite like it. There’s so much to talk about still with the flick, but we’ll pick this up once it comes out this month.

3. Bwakaw– I was really surprised by this small foreign dramedy, but it’s a real winning look at an older man and his dog. It’s funny, touching, and just a real winner. I hope it winds up with a Best Foreign Language Feature nomination, but that remains to be seen. If/when it gets U.S. distribution, make it your business to see this one…

2. Frances Ha– Perhaps Noah Baumbach’s best film yet, he again teams with Greta Gerwig for one of the most pleasing movies of the year. Sadly, it’s going to be a 2013 release, but had it come out this year it would have wound up in my Top 10 and I think it’d have been a contender for both Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. A classical look at a modern woman in New York, there’s pretty much nothing not to like about this one!

1. Lincoln– This is not only the best film I saw at the festival, it’s one of the best movies of the year, period. The cast is terrific, Steven Spielberg is doing some of his finest work in some time, and it’s just one of the most satisfying Oscar contenders of the year. You’ll all be seeing it soon enough, but for now take my word on just how good this one is…

The Worst Film at the Festival

The Paperboy– Quite simply put, the film is best described as a “hot mess”, but not in a good way. Nicole Kidman is terrific, John Cusack is interesting, and almost everything else outside of the rest of the cast is downright terrible. I already tore into this one with a review (found here), but it’s really the only unmitigated disaster that I saw at the festival and a real misfire for Lee Daniels.

The Most Underrated Film at the Festival

The Bay– A really strong found footage horror movie as mentioned a bit above, it’s really pretty interesting and isn’t getting the praise that it deserves. I won’t argue that it’s extraordinary, but I liked it quite a bit. It comes out after Halloween, so keep it in mind when it hits theaters.

The Most Overrated Film at the Festival

Life of Pi– Ang Lee’s Oscar hopeful is far from bad, but it was far more flawed in my eyes than in almost everyone else who saw it with me at its debut during the festival. The visuals and direction are outstanding, but the story really underwhelmed me. I do think that it’ll wind up being nominated for some awards, but it’s a cut below to me. I liked parts of it, but overall it wasn’t quite up to snuff.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!