The 51st annual New York Film Festival has once again delivered a diverse and buzz-worthy lineup, including notable documentaries, biographies, comedies, thrillers, Cannes award winners, world premieres, and films whose names are certain to be echoed on Oscar night.
One of the most talked-about films featured this year, chosen as the festival’s red-carpet closing premiere, was Spike Jonze’s “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix. In the film, a recent divorcé (Phoenix) falls in love with a futuristic virtual operating system similar to the iPhone’s Siri (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). In his first solo writing feature, Jonze delivers a modern take on the romantic comedy that is poignant and heartbreaking, yet delivers a hilarious comedic punch at the perfect moments.
This year’s festival also featured “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks and directed by Paul Greengrass, depicting the true story of Richard Phillips’ kidnapping by Somali pirates in 2010. The thriller takes the audience through Phillips’ harrowing experience, with an authenticity achieved in no small part due to Hanks’ raw emotional performance and the four first-time actors portraying the crew of Somali pirates.
Finally, the Cohen Brothers’ submission, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” is set in Greenwich Village in the 1960s and follows a struggling musician attempting to make it in New York’s folk music scene. Although the film features several exceptional musical performances and an array of top talent, many critics felt the episodic nature of the film detracted from the power and depth audiences have come to expect from the acclaimed directors.
The festival slate was rounded out by submissions from James Franco (“Child of God”), Ben Stiller (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”), J.C. Chandor (“All is Lost,” starring Robert Redford), and a wide array of foreign directors.
This year’s festival also featured a gala tribute to actress Cate Blanchett, who co-stars with Alec Baldwin in Woody Allen’s latest film “Blue Jasmine.” In an evening honoring her career, the actress was praised for giving some of the boldest performances of the last twenty years, including her portrayals of Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator,” Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There,” the wife of an age-reversing Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and an elf queen in the “Lord of the Rings” series. The evening concluded with a video message to the actress from Woody Allen who brought his signature dry wit to the occasion: “I wish I could be with you tonight, but I find it impossible to sit through two hours of relentless adulation, especially for someone else.” The gala ended with a screening of “Blue Jasmine,” which opened in theaters on August 23rd.
Article by Angela K. Antony for The Untitled Magazine