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Wrapping up the 52nd New York Film Festival

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NYFF52-LOGO 2Well, the 52nd New York Film Festival is now in the books, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, it was a great fest, with nearly 30 movies that unspooled before my very eyes, including a few of my favorites of the year so far. Perhaps a slight step down from last year (but only because I didn’t get something that was an all timer for me like Her was), this was still a tremendous film festival, even featuring a Secret Screening in the form of Noah Baumbach‘s While We’re Young. This fest continues to just be incredibly satisfying to attend. Of those various movies that I caught (27 in total, if we’re being specific), I only actively disliked three (the experimental works Jauja and The Princess of France, plus Mike Leigh‘s wildly overrated Mr. Turner), while I can say that I fell for over a half dozen flicks. That’s a pretty great batting average for a festival, especially one that caters to all sorts of cinematic tastes. From Clouds of Sils Maria to Maps to the Stars (two movies I’m fairly mixed on), with plenty in between, there was something for everyone.

Below you’ll see my personal list of the ten best things seen at the New York Film Festival this year.

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10. Inherent Vice – I’m still not 100% sure what to make of this movie, but I know that it’s pretty much exactly what Paul Thomas Anderson intended it to be. It’s often very funny and the entire cast is tremendous (notably Josh Brolin, Joaquin Phoenix, and Katherine Waterston, though there isn’t a weak link to be found here), but I didn’t fall in love with it like I often do with Anderson’s works. PTA definitely executed his vision, but while it’s an incredibly interesting film, it’s one I wish I loved instead of simply liked. Perhaps another viewing will change that, but for now…here we are.

Read Clayton’s review of “Inherent Vice.”

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9. Red Army – My favorite documentary of NYFF, this is a look at, among other things, the Miracle on Ice from the side of the Russians. Told through the eyes of former NHL star Slava Fetisov, it’s among the most entertaining docs of 2014 so far. It’s getting an Oscar qualifying run and really should be in play for Best Documentary Feature. It’s not as heavy as it otherwise could have been, much to the success of the doc. I was often enthralled.

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8. Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Yes, I have some issues with Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s Oscar frontrunner, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is still a very good film. It’s visually interesting, cleverly written, and features top notch acting from top to bottom. Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone are all nomination worthy, while this is the best I’ve ever seen from Zach Galifianakis. It’s not perfect to me at all (as I discussed on the most recent episode of the Power Hour), but it’s my favorite Iñárritu to date, so that says something.

Read Clayton’s review of “Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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7. Two Days, One Night – I had a suspicion that this Marion Cotillard film would be a bit of a chore to sit through, considering my mixed past on filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, but lo and behold…I really dug this. Maybe I’m the only one, but it felt to me like a European take on an episode of The West Wing, at least in terms of trying to drum up a certain number of votes within a short span of time. Cotillard is quite good and the slow pacing of the movie actually works to its favor. Consider me a fan.

Read Clayton’s review of “Two Days, One Night

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6. ’71 – Permit me to quote my festival review of this Jack O’Connell vehicle for a moment. I wrote

Mark my words ladies and gentlemen…Jack O’Connell is going to be a star. Director Yann Demange and writer Gregory Burke give him a real showcase here with ’71, a tension filled war drama centered around the Irish “Troubles”. O’Connell gets put through the ringer here…

Those words ring true still, as O’Connell gave one of the festival’s best performances. ’71 is the rare thriller with brains.

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5. Time Out of Mind – Another instance where I’d like to quote from a review, this one about Oren Moverman‘s character study starring Richard Gere. I wrote

Richard Gere gives what I feel to be the performance of his career so far in Oren Moverman‘s simple yet incredibly powerful Time Out of Mind. What begins as a character study of a homeless man becomes, by the time the end credits role, a reflection of us as a society, of the need and yearning to be acknowledged/heard in this world. Gere may be playing a man quite down on his luck with specific food and shelter problems in New York City, but the more emotional issues at hand are universal. Credit goes to Moverman and Gere for achieving this profound statement. Kudos also to Moverman for how he integrates the city, making it arguably a bigger character than the one Gere is playing. It’s a moving film, one that is almost impossible to forget…

It’s a film likely being held until next year, but one that you really need to see in order to believe. Time Out of Mind is captivating stuff.

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4. Foxcatcher – After a wait of over one year, it almost feels like we’ve already seen Bennett Miller‘s passion project. It certainly checks all of the Oscar boxes, featuring startlingly good work from Steve Carell and Channing Tatum (in a different year, Tatum is undoubtedly a Best Actor nominee), alongside a strong supporting turn from Mark Ruffalo as well. It’s a very cold and clinical film, but one that’s doing it that way on purpose. It’s hypnotically done, I can’t stress that enough. I’m still formulating somewhat of an opinion about it, but I’m a fan of Foxcatcher, let me say that.

Read Clayton’s review of “Foxcatcher.”

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3. Heaven Knows What – One more time I’ll quote my own festival review, this one for Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie‘s tremendous movie. I wrote

Heaven Knows What looks at heroin addiction, life on the streets of New York City, and just junkie lifestyle with an absolutely uncompromising steadfastness. When you factor in that filmmaker brothers Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie based this on the real life of star Arielle Holmes, well, that makes this something special. Your heart breaks for her while also being horrified at what she went through and how those in this life act. Both Holmes and Caleb Landry Jones are sensational here, vividly portraying this sort of life. The camera sits back and just observes. It’s something to behold.

This is a very small movie, but one that will haunt you after you see it. When Heaven Knows What comes out in 2015, I’ll be banging the drums for this one, trust me there.

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2. Gone Girl – It already feels like Gone Girl is old news to some degree, but David Fincher‘s top notch new film is well deserving of some more discussion. I loved how biting a satire it was at times, as Fincher and company brutalize the type of small town media that engages in tragedy vampirism. Ben Affleck has never been better, Rosamund Pike gives a star making turn, and Tyler Perry (yes him) steals a number of his scenes. I can’t wait to see this one again, as it’s not just Fincher’s most accessible work to date, but among his most engaging as well. You can’t help but want to talk about it, particularly its twists and turns.

Read Clayton’s review of “Gone Girl.” 

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1. Whiplash – The best thing I saw at the New York Film Festival, this is the type of movie that makes you sweat just watching it. J.K. Simmons gives a towering performance, one that will almost assuredly give him an Academy Award, while Miles Teller continues to prove that he’ll be a nominee himself before long. It’s a nearly perfect picture, one that deserves plenty of Oscar attention as well. I was blown away by Whiplash, even with extraordinarily high expectations. Bravo to all involved, including of course writer/director Damien Chazelle. Bravo. 

Read Clayton’s review of “Whiplash

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Personal Awards (Joey)

  • Best Director: David Fincher from Gone Girl (runner up: Oren Moverman from Time Out of Mind)
  • Best Actor: Richard Gere from Time Out of Mind (runner up: Jack O’Connell from ’71)
  • Best Actress: Arielle Holmes from Heaven Knows What (runner up: Rosamund Pike from Gone Girl)
  • Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons from Whiplash (runner up: Edward Norton from Birdman)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Katherine Waterston from Inherent Vice (runner up: Carrie Coon from Gone Girl)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Gone Girl (runner up: Inherent Vice)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Whiplash (runner up: Foxcatcher)
  • Best Documentary: Red Army (runner up: Stray Dog)
  • Best Ensemble: Inherent Vice (runner up: Birdman)
  • Most Underrated: Heaven Knows What
  • Most Overrated: Mr. Turner

Personal Awards (Clayton)

  • Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman
  • Best Actor: Miles Teller for Whiplash
  • Best Actress: Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl
  • Best Supporting Actor: Steve Carell for Foxcatcher
  • Best Supporting Actress: Julianne Moore for Map to the Stars
  • Best Screenplay: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash
  • Best Cast Ensemble: Inherent Vice

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

What do you think?

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Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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Jamie Teller

I’m just going to say that Red Army poster is amazing. Easily top 5 poster for the year.

Jack Moulton

Awesome list. Very jealous about Birdman (surprise film at LFF and I couldn’t get in) and Inherent Vice, even though they’re relatively low in your top 10. How many films did you see total? I’m with you 100% on Whiplash. It’s such a deeply personal and powerful film that shakes me to my core. It would be my Best Picture of 2011, 2012 and 2013 too. Gone Girl was very good, and I agree with you that it feels like it was only hot properly for opening weekend, but it has its flaws (long time to hook me, and not… Read more »

Phillip Milner

Joey, I envy you. What’s a guy got to do to get a film festival in MS that shows Foxcatcher and Whiplash? Damn.

I think you should take me next year as a man date. We can crash the entire festival together. I’ll let you buy everything and in return, I will firmly grasp your hand through all screenings.

Deal?

Christopher Shank

I always wait for this time of year for the Oscar race to start coming into focus. Good to see that we have a man on the inside. Thanks for the article, Joey! You’re not my favorite critic for nothing!

M.B.

I love reading your reviews about movies I have seen or will see. I really get a thrill when I am vindicated in some of the less then popular opinions I have regarding a movie. Always a great read !

Jason Kline

Joey, I am so glad that you like Whiplash! I was super hesitant when I first heard about this “drum movie.” I saw the trailer for it the other day and I was quite impressed with what little I saw. J.K. Simmons looks extraordinary and like the surefire frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actor race. Miles Teller looked great, too. I’m surprised he isn’t getting more hype. I am truly impressed with what I saw in the trailer for it alone and cannot wait to see it when it comes out! I saw Gone Girl the other day too. I… Read more »

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