New York Film Festival Recap

As the 53rd New York Film Festival wrapped with Closing Night selection Miles Ahead, a bio-drama on “social music” (don’t call it jazz) legend Miles Davis, starring and helmed by Don Cheadle in his directorial debut, it’s time to look back on some of the Festival’s best offerings.

BRIDGE OF SPIES

In Steven Spielberg’s Cold War-era drama, Tom Hanks plays a Brooklyn insurance lawyer who must broker a sensitive prisoner exchange with the USSR. Once again, Spielberg proves he’s at the top of his craft. Hanks turns in a solid performance, but it’s supporting player Mark Rylance who steals his scenes as a Soviet spy with his too-cool-it’s-unnerving performance.

In Theaters: October 16

CAROL

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play two women in a May-December romance in 1950s New York. Therese (Mara) comes of age as Carol (Blanchett) struggles to keep her world together. Filmmaker Todd Haynes returns to the director’s chair for the first time since 2007’s Bob Dylan biographical drama, I’m Not There. His sense of style and elegance serve to frame two glowing performances in Blanchett and Mara. (Mara shared the Best Actress prize at Cannes with French actress Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon roi.)

In Theaters: November 20

EVERYTHING IS COPY

Filmmaker Jacob Bernstein turns the lens on his late mother Nora Ephron, the beloved writer/director who changed the conversation about gender and relationships with films like When Harry Met Sally…, Sleepless in Seattle, and Julie & Julia. With tremendous access to those who knew her best, Bernstein crafts a documentary that serves as a love letter to Ephron as writer, mother, and friend.

Coming Soon: An HBO Documentary Films production

EXPERIMENTER

Based on a true story, 1960s psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) controversially conducted a study of human obedience by experimenting with dozens of people, testing how far they would go in physically harming another individual if prompted to do so by an authoritative figure. Milgram’s tactics were deemed radical and unethical by some, a debate that is as resonant in 2015 as it was in 1961. And that’s the sign of a worthwhile subject.

In Theaters: October 16

MAGGIE’S PLAN

Filmmaker Rebecca Miller returns to form with Maggie’s Plan, following a six-year hiatus from the director’s chair. In this intelligent comedy, Greta Gerwig and Ethan Hawke play Maggie and John, colleagues who build a life together before Maggie decides she can no longer deal with John. She hatches a plan to set him back up with his ex-wife Georgette (a scene-stealing Julianne Moore), the woman she stole him from in the first place. Hawke plays a hot potato of sorts in this comedic gem, uncomfortably nestled between two strong-willed—if not confused—women.

Coming Soon: A Sony Pictures Classics Release

MICROBE & GASOLINE

Michel Gondry’s signature quirk is on full display in this tale of two outcast boys who build a house on wheels and travel it across the French countryside. The director behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has a knack for building characters who reside comfortably on the fringe of normalcy, and that always makes for a compelling and comedic watch.

SON OF SAUL

Some were surprised when László Nemes’s directorial debut about a Jewish man’s complicated role at Auschwitz only took the second-place prize at Cannes. The film has stunned festival audiences since its May premiere at the famed festival. With an unrelenting eye, Nemes delivers one of the most poignant and personal Holocaust films in recent memory. Lead actor Géza Röhrig’s debut performance will continue to be talked about as Son of Saul heads headfirst into awards season. This Hungarian Oscar submission is currently the arguable frontrunner for Best Foreign Language Film.

In Theaters: December 18

STEVE JOBS

The New York Film Festival’s Centerpiece film about the late Apple visionary took a hard road before making its big screen debut at September’s Telluride Film Festival. With objections from Jobs’s widow, and bouncing between studios, directors, and actors, it seemed the film would never see the light of day. Things started to come together when the project landed at Universal with Danny Boyle directing Aaron Sorkin’s script, and Michael Fassbender on board to play Jobs. Boyle and Sorkin are individually known for their frenetic pace, and they blend beautifully here, with pitch-perfect performances by Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, and Michael Stuhlbarg.

In Theaters: October 23 (wide)

WHERE TO INVADE NEXT

Michael Moore is at it again. In his latest offering, the Oscar-winning filmmaker makes a film about America without stepping foot in the country. Recognizing that the US has a tendency of waging wars in certain countries, only to bring home nothing to show for its efforts, Moore playfully “invades” several nations—from Italy to France to Sweden—in search of something he can claim for America. Norway’s rehabilitation of criminals. Portugal’s decriminalization of all drugs. Iceland’s true female equality. The US stands to learn from what other nations are doing to hopefully make America great again. Moore’s trademark polarizing approach will turn many off, but his message is no less important.

THE WITNESS

In 1964, a New York City woman named Kitty Genovese was murdered in Queens. The New York Times reported that 38 people witnessed the crime, but didn’t bother to report it to authorities. In what has famously become a portrait of urban apathy, the Genovese murder and its shoddy reporting by the famed publication are under investigation in this remarkable documentary by James D. Solomon. As Kitty’s brother William attempts to get to the bottom of what really happened, he learns that the story of his sister’s death and the alleged 38 witnesses isn’t what it was made out to be.

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