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Thursday, August 25, 2016

NYFF Most Anticipated: Films Starring James Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon, Gael García Bernal, Michelle Williams and More

It's official! I'll be covering the 54th annual New York Film Festival this year, and I am beyond excited. The festival, which will take place September 30 through October 16, will feature a gloriously wide range of films that highlight promising new narratives and reintroduce new audiences to classic stories.

Of course, I've already checked out the slate and made a list of which new films I am most anticipating. Check it out:

DOCUMENTARY LINEUP



Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds 
Directed by Alexis Bloom & Fisher Stevens
USA, 2016, DCP, 96m
Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds are now the best of friends (they live steps away from each other in their Beverly Hills compound) and the very definition of Hollywood royalty. But unlike today’s newly minted celebrities, they are both open books. After six decades of screen and stage stardom; a couple of disastrous marriages and assorted financial ups and downs for Reynolds; and, for Fisher, well-publicized drug addiction, bipolar disorder, and deity status (see: Star Wars), neither has anything left to hide. Bright Lights is an affectionate, often hilarious, and unexpectedly moving valentine to the mother-daughter act to end all mother-daughter acts. An HBO Documentary Films release.

I Am Not Your Negro
Directed by
Raoul Peck
USA/France/Belgium/Switzerland, 2016, DCP, 93m
Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck has taken the 30 completed pages of James Baldwin’s final, unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, in which the author went about the painful task of remembering his three fallen friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, and crafted an elegantly precise and bracing film essay. Peck’s film, about the unholy agglomeration of myths, institutionalized practices both legal and illegal, and displaced white terror that have long perpetuated the tragic state of race in America, is anchored by the presence of Baldwin himself in images and words, read beautifully by Samuel L. Jackson in hushed, burning tones.
SPECIAL EVENTS



Hamilton’s America
Directed by
Alex Horwitz
USA, 2016, DCP, 84m
World Premiere
Lin-Manuel Miranda takes us inside the making of his groundbreaking American musical Hamilton, winner of eleven Tonys, as well as the Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award. We follow Miranda, his collaborators, and key members of the original cast on their exploration of the history that inspired the show, visiting locations from Valley Forge to the West Wing. We also track the show's journey, from the moment Miranda thrilled the Obamas at the White House in 2009 to the first year of its blockbuster run on Broadway. A PBS Great Performances documentary. Horwitz and special guests to appear in person.



Film Comment Presents:
A Quiet Passion
Directed by
Terence Davies
U.K./Belgium, 2016, DCP, 125m
Swiftly following his glorious Sunset Song, the great British director Terence Davies turns his attention to 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson and ends up with perhaps an even greater triumph. A revelatory Cynthia Nixon embodies Dickinson with a titanic intelligence always threatening to burst forth from behind a polite facade, while Davies creates a formally audacious rendering of her life, from teenage skepticism to lonely death, using her poems (and a touch of Charles Ives) as soundtrack accompaniment. Both sides of Davies’s enormous talent—his witty, Wildean sense of humor and his frightening vision of life’s grim realities—are on full display in this consuming depiction of a creative inner world. Terence Davies and Cynthia Nixon to appear in person.
MAIN SLATE




Opening Night
The 13th
Directed by
Ava DuVernay
USA, 2016
World Premiere
The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. A Netflix original documentary.

Centerpiece
20th Century Women
Directed by
Mike Mills
USA, 2016
World Premiere
Mike Mills’s texturally and behaviorally rich new comedy seems to keep redefining itself as it goes along, creating a moving group portrait of particular people in a particular place (Santa Barbara) at a particular moment in the 20th century (1979), one lovingly attended detail at a time. The great Annette Bening, in one of her very best performances, is Dorothea, a single mother raising her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), in a sprawling bohemian house, which is shared by an itinerant carpenter (Billy Crudup) and a punk artist with a Bowie haircut (Greta Gerwig) and frequented by Jamie’s rebellious friend Julie (Elle Fanning). 20th Century Women is warm, funny, and a work of passionate artistry. An A24 Release.


Certain Women
Directed by
Kelly Reichardt
USA, 2016, 107m
The seventh feature by Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff), a lean triptych of subtly intersecting lives in Montana, is a work of no-nonsense eloquence. Adapting short stories by Maile Meloy, Certain Women follows a lawyer (Laura Dern) navigating an increasingly volatile relationship with a disgruntled client; a couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) in a marriage laden with micro-aggression and doubt, trying to persuade an old man (Rene Auberjonois) to sell his unused sandstone; and a young ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) fixated on a new-in-town night school teacher (Kristen Stewart). Shooting on 16mm, Reichardt creates understated, uncannily intimate dramas nestled within a clear-eyed depiction of the modern American West. An IFC Films release.


Elle
Directed by
Paul Verhoeven
France/Germany/Belgium, 2016, 131m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Paul Verhoeven’s first feature in a decade—and his first in French—ranks among his most incendiary, improbable concoctions: a wry, almost-screwball comedy of manners about a woman who responds to a rape by refusing the mantle of victimhood. As the film opens, Parisian heroine Michèle (a brilliant Isabelle Huppert) is brutally violated in her kitchen by a hooded intruder. Rather than report the crime, Michèle, the CEO of a video game company and daughter of a notorious mass murderer, calmly sweeps up the mess and proceeds to engage her assailant in a dangerous game of domination and submission in which her motivations remain a constant source of mystery, humor, and tension. A Sony Pictures Classics release.


Julieta
Directed by
Pedro Almodóvar
Spain, 2016, 99m
Spanish with English subtitles
Pedro Almodóvar explores his favorite themes of love, sexuality, guilt, and destiny through the poignant story of Julieta, played to perfection by Emma Suárez (younger) and Adriana Ugarte (middle-aged), over the course of a 30-year timespan. Just as she is about to leave Madrid forever, the seemingly content Julieta has a chance encounter that stirs up sorrowful memories of the daughter who brutally abandoned her when she turned eighteen. Drawing on numerous film historical references, from Hitchcock to the director’s own earlier Movida era work, Almodóvar’s twentieth feature, adapted from three short stories by Alice Munro (“Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence”), is a haunting drama that oscillates between disenchanted darkness and visual opulence. A Sony Pictures Classics release.


Manchester by the Sea
Directed by
Kenneth Lonergan
USA, 2016, 137m
Casey Affleck is formidable as the volatile, deeply troubled Lee Chandler, a Boston-based handyman called back to his hometown on the Massachusetts North Shore after the sudden death of his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), who has left behind a teenage son (Lucas Hedges). This loss and the return to his old stomping grounds summon Lee’s memories of an earlier, even more devastating tragedy. In his third film as a director, following You Can Count on Me (2000) and Margaret (2011), Kenneth Lonergan, with the help of a remarkable cast, unflinchingly explores grief, hope, and love, giving us a film that is funny, sharply observed, intimately detailed yet grand in emotional scale. An Amazon Studios Release.
Trailer

Moonlight
Directed by
Barry Jenkins
USA, 2016, 110m
Barry Jenkins more than fulfills the promise of his 2008 romantic two-hander Medicine for Melancholy in this three-part narrative spanning the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a gay African-American man who survives Miami’s drug-plagued inner city, finding love in unexpected places and the possibility of change within himself. Moonlight offers a powerful sense of place and a wealth of unpredictable characters, featuring a fantastic ensemble cast including André Holland, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali—delivering performances filled with inner conflict and aching desires that cut straight to the heart. An A24 release.
Reel Talk Online write-up

Neruda
Directed by
Pablo Larraín
Chile/Argentina/France/Spain, 2016, 107m
Spanish and French with English subtitles
Pablo Larraín’s exciting, surprising, and colorful new film is not a biopic but, as the director himself puts it, a “Nerudean” portrait of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s years of flight and exile after his 1948 denunciation of his government’s leadership. Larraín’s heady blend of fact and fancy (the latter embodied in an invented character, straight out of detective fiction, played by Gael García Bernal) is many things at once: a loving, kaleidoscopic recreation of a particular historical moment; a comical cat-and-mouse game; and a pocket epic. Featuring Luis Gnecco, a dead ringer for the poet and a formidable actor, alongside a terrific cast. A release of The Orchard.


Personal Shopper
Directed by
Olivier Assayas
France, 2016, 105m
French and English with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Kristen Stewart is the medium, in more ways than one, for this sophisticated genre exploration from director Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria). As a fashion assistant whose twin brother has died, leaving her bereft and longing for messages from the other side, Stewart is fragile and enigmatic—and nearly always on-screen. From an opening sequence in a haunted house with an intricately constructed soundtrack to a high-tension, cat-and-mouse game on a trip from Paris to London and back set entirely to text messaging, Personal Shopper brings the psychological and supernatural thriller into the digital age. An IFC Films release.
Yep, I'm hyped. Hit me up if you're going to be there too, so we can do a meet-up. And if you'd like more information about the New York Film Festival, visit filmlinc.org/NYFF. To learn more about NYFF tickets, including a complete list of on-sale dates, prices, discount options, and our rush and standby policies, click here.

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