The 56th New York Film Festival begins this Friday, September 28th, and this year we have a host of films that have already screened at other festivals coming in to garner more buzz and attraction. That’s isn’t all together unsurprising.
Films that have premiered here over the last couple of years have had a rocky path to the Oscars, if they even land nominations. For example, last year we saw Oscar hopeful Last Flag Flying premiere here opening to a mixed reception. Also Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel was last year’s closing film, and that one also sunk under a mixed reaction. Neither one received any love from the Academy. And in 2016, we saw Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk premiere, also to a very mixed reception and that was, at one time, an Oscar frontrunner. But, 13th and 20th Century Women, both of which went on to be Oscar nominees, also premiered here. So it’s a mixed bag debuting here at NYFF. You’ll either really sink, or really swim. Here’s the lineup for this year.
The Favourite | September 28th
A fan-favorite (har-har) from both Venice and Telluride, Yorgos Lanthimos’ newest will be the opening night film this year for NYFF. At this point, it looks like the film has a promising run ahead of it Oscar-wise, with yours truly predicting it for Picture, Director, Lead Actress, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay. It also looks like it could land a few tech nominations, with Cinematography, Film Editing, Costume Design, and Production Design all on the table. It’s riding high at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, so we’ll just have to see if the NYFF crowd bumps that up or knocks it down.
Wildlife | September 29th
Paul Dano’s directorial debut has been at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes since its debut at Sundance in January, and a screening here at NYFF only continues to show that it should be one to count on for Oscars. While I’m predicting it for anything at the moment, we’ll see if Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan, who are both overdue, can build up some more momentum in the coming weeks leading up to its release.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs | October 4th
There’s a bit of a jump in the festival’s schedule before we find another Oscar-hopeful, and it’s the latest from the Coen Brothers. Buster Scruggs is sitting at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes after playing at the Venice Film Festival, but it missed both Telluride and Toronto. That being said, the film could be a big player for Netflix at the Oscars. A Best Original Screenplay nomination is not out of the question, and the Coens are no stranger to Best Picture and Director nominations and wins in the past. I’m not sure if any of the cast can break through in the acting categories, though, or if it will play to the tech branches.
Roma | October 5th
Alfonso Cuaron has pretty much punched his ticket for a Best Director nomination at the Oscars this year, if the buzz from Roma sticks. The film was a massive hit at Venice, taking the coveted Golden Lion prize, and it was second-runner-up at TIFF for the People’s Choice Award, and played well at Telluride as well. As the only film to hit all four of the film festivals in the August-October crunch, Netflix may have their first Best Picture nominee here, too. Who knows? It may also win that prize. And being at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t hurt, either. But for you Oscar stat fans out there, this may also make Oscar history. No one has ever been nominated for five Oscars in the same year for one project, and Cuaron serves as co-editor, co-cinematographer, writer, director, and co-producer on the film. Let that sink in.
If Beale Street Could Talk | October 9th
Barry Jenkins and company have to be nothing but proud of If Beale Street Could Talk. The film was a massive hit at TIFF, where it was runner-up to Green Book for the People’s Choice Award. Also, that new trailer they released last week was, in my mind, the best trailer of the year. The film could easily land nominations in Picture, Director, Lead Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, and Film Editing. Also, a 92% rating from Rotten Tomatoes’ finest puts another feather in the cap. Annapurna might have to keep in mind, too, that Adam McKay’s new film, Vice (formerly titled Backseat), is also coming from them. So they might have to compete with themselves for some of these categories.
At Eternity’s Gate | October 12th
Willem Dafoe was here last year for The Florida Project, and he later went on to receive the film’s solo nomination at the Oscars. That may be the case again for At Eternity’s Gate. Of all the films showcased here so far, it has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score, 80%, and like Buster Scruggs, it skipped Telluride and Toronto. Dafoe’s performance as Vincent Van Gogh has been turning some heads, and he may well indeed end up scoring a Best Actor nomination for his work, but at the moment I’m putting him on the sidelines. Maybe some great reviews at NYFF will help boost his chances.
The NYFF closes on October 14th, and like Telluride, it’s really just a showing of films here. No awards, like TIFF and Venice. That being said, NYFF will be an exciting one to watch. Just because there’s no new films entering the Oscar race this year doesn’t mean that Oscar chances won’t be dashed. After all, some films might be hits at one festival, but stinkers at the next.
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