The fall film festival season is almost at a close. Audiences have heard first word from Venice, Telluride, the Toronto International Film Festival, to a lesser degree Fantastic Fest, and coming up this week is the New York Film Festival (don’t forget about AFI Fest which closes out the season in November). Not as huge on world premieres as the previous, aforementioned festivals, it still has tricks up its sleeve. This year, NYFF features world preems from Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, a much-anticipated documentary about the master Steven Spielberg and key documentaries on Joan Didion and Arthur Miller by Griffin Dunne and Rebecca Miller. Then there’s the possible secret screening, which have previously seen “Hugo” and “Lincoln” unspool early, and last year, a mid-festival reveal of Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie.”
READ MORE: 50 Most Anticipated Films: Fall Movie Preview
NYFF also does a great service to the New York film industry and those that don’t have the frequent flyer mile access to jaunt all over the globe. Conveniently, the festival cherry picks the best from Cannes, Sundance, Venice and Telluride and curates a compelling line-up of diverse, global cinema.
There was plenty to choose from as we compiled our must-see list, and while we won’t include say, “Call Me By Your Name” and “Mudbound,” two hits that launched out of Sundance back in January, that’s not to say they’re not worth tracking down (in fact, don’t miss them).
There’s riches to be found all over the New York Film Festival schedule and here’s 12 quick picks to illustrate the breadth and quality of the programming. The festival runs from September 28th to October 15th.
Appearances By: J.J. Abrams, Francis Ford Coppola, Daniel Day-Lewis, Kathleen Kennedy, Harrison Ford, George Lucas
Synopsis: Created from more than 30 hours of interviews from some of the most famous actors, producers and directors in the world, this newest HBO documentary will look into the prestigious, acclaimed and versatile nearly 50-year career of Steven Spielberg.
What You Need to Know: There are few filmmakers more prolific, well-recognized and highly esteemed than Steven Spielberg. His filmography, including everything from “Jaws” to “Jurassic Park” to “Schindler’s List” to “Saving Private Ryan,” dazzled, amazed and moved audiences everywhere, and it influenced and inspired entire generations of filmmakers and storytellers. His signature style has been replicated in almost every blockbuster within the last 20 years. Spielberg’s cinematic significance is nothing short of staggering, and it’s time for his life story to get its cinematic appreciation. Directed and produced by Susan Lacy, we really hope “Spielberg” gives the titular filmmaker his full due.
Cast: Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen
Synopsis: The titular Thelma struggles to understand family, belief, and desire when her attraction to a female classmate begins to trigger an unknown force within her.
What You Need to Know: If you weren’t psyched enough when our rave TIFF review of Thelma likened the film to an “arthouse version of X-Men,” then hopefully this film’s ingenious and compelling camerawork, performances, and plot are enough to sway you. Somewhere at the intersection of Christian shame, childhood trauma, lesbian romance and supernatural horror lies “Thelma,” the fourth feature from award-winning Norwegian director Joachim Trier (“Reprise,” “Oslo, August 31st”). Already entered as the Norwegian contender for Best Foreign Film at the 90th Academy Awards, this movie is not shy about its own genius — nor should it be. The recently-debuted knockout trailer for “Thelma” has fans and critics clamoring for more, and with US distribution company The Orchard already winning rights to the film, a limited American release is hopefully on the horizon.
“The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)”
Cast: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Grace Van Patten, Emma Thompson
Synopsis: Estranged siblings gather in New York to celebrate their father’s work as an artist.
What You Need to Know: “The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)” didn’t blow our critic’s mind when she saw it at Cannes; her review states that the film’s “blood-temperature familiarity feels comfy,” and that “there is… the nagging sense that we’re just passing the time here in a world that doesn’t resemble real life as much as it resembles other movies we’ve been fond of before.” Still and all, the slight possibility of Noah Baumbach wringing a solid dramatic performance out of Adam Sandler for the first time since Sandler’s amazing work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love” is too enticing to disregard offhand. Keeping our fingers crossed on this one.
Cast: Kate Winslet, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake
Synopsis: On Coney Island in the 1950s, a lifeguard tells the story of a middle-aged carousel operator and his beleaguered wife.
What You Need to Know: Woody Allen grew up in Midwood, Brooklyn and if you know your geography, you know it’s like a hop, skip and a jump away from Coney Island. You couldn’t have grown up in the area without childhood memories of the world’s most famous beach and amusement destination (who will forget the scene in “Annie Hall” with the family that lived underneath the Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island). Using never tapped before muses, Winslet, Timberlake and Temple, and supported by Amazon Studios, “Wonder Wheel” is reportedly Allen’s best film in years. If it possesses any of the magical qualities of “Midnight In Paris,” the film, which has a forthcoming December release date, could find itself in the awards race—a spot a Woody Allen film hasn’t contended in in a long time.