New York Film Festival a four-star event
The New York Film Festival kicks off its 50th annual edition Friday night, showcasing top-of-the-line premieres, important talent and movies drawn from across the globe.
The 2012 fest, which runs through Oct 14, is set to add to the NYFF's impressive half-century legacy.
Beginning Friday night's world premiere of Ang Lee's heavily anticipated "Life of Pi," the event offers audiences the chance to take a sneak peak at "Not Fade Away," the new movie from "Sopranos" creator David Chase and star James Gandolfini; "Hyde Park on Hudson," starring Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and 30 other main slate features. Denzel Washington and Nicole Kidman are among the A-listers slated to attend the festival.
When it comes to serious movie cachet, the NYFF is second to none.
Past editions of the Lincoln Center-housed fest have offered NYC audiences first looks at classics like "The Big Chill," "Pulp Fiction" and "The Social Network." The Coen Brothers and Martin Scorsese, among countless others, were introduced to New York moviegoers at the festival.
"The New York Film Festival, as much as any institution in the United States, has really created a sense of film culture," said longtime program director Richard Peña. "The festival has always stood for excellence across a broad range of cinema."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer seconded Peña, touting "the central role this festival has come to play in New York's creative life" in a statement.
The curtain rises on this year's fest at a time of transition for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Peña is stepping down after 25 years at the helm, and his guiding hand will be replaced by the tandem of Kent Jones, a former colleague who will head the NYFF, and film critic Robert Koehler, who will spearhead year-round programming.
Plus, the 2012 edition marks the second year that organizers will make use of the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center, which opened last year across West 65th Street from Alice Tully Hall and the Walter Reade Theater, the NYFF's longtime venues. That means an expanded program, including a midnight movie slate, a media conference, a sidebar featuring documentaries about moviemakers and an Artists Academy for up-and-coming filmmakers.
These are significant changes for a fest that has prided itself on exclusivity and stability, keeping its main slate of features in the range of 30 movies when festivals like Tribeca reach around 100 and having been shaped by Peña since 1988.
But the Film Society's executive director Rose Kuo and Peña said the transitions are seamless.
"We've been able to expand the festival, [BUT]something we've really wanted to do is guard the legacy of what we've been doing," Kuo said. "So the main slate remains the same and it's still a small, curated selection of films."
When it comes to the programming future, "Kent is an enormously knowledgeable film curator, he has a tremendous knowledge of both contemporary and classic cinema, over a great range of international contexts and a lot of imagination," Peña said.
Of Koehler, Pena added: "I know his writing and over the years a lot of his writing was supportive of the kinds of things that we were showing, so he's somebody who is certainly on our side of the street."
While Kuo anticipates an uptick over the 60,000 tickets sold in 2011 and the festival is launching a partnership with area restaurants to offer discounts for Film Society members attending the fest, the NYFF isn't about bottom-line business.
At the New York Film Festival, the movies are king.
"The strength of N.Y., and what should stay at its core, is cinema lovers with great taste telling a very significant audience, 'These movies need your attention,'" said David Poland, editor of online trade publication Movie City News. "If 75% of the films really do deserve your attention, the NYFF has done a great, great service to its audience and to the ongoing love of film in the world."
Besides opening night selection "Life of Pi," these are some of the notable movies to look out for at the 50th New York Film Festival. Screening times and more info can be found at filmlinc.com/nyff2012:
Hyde Park on Hudson: Bill Murray plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the story of a weekend spent upstate with the King and Queen of England in 1939.
The Paperboy: Director Lee Daniels follows up "Precious" with this movie about a reporter looking into the case of a man on death row. The film stars Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman and John Cusack.
Frances Ha: Indie darling Greta Gerwig stars in (and co-wrote) Noah Baumbach's drama about a Brooklyn dancer.
Flight: Director Robert Zemeckis helms this film about a pilot (Denzel Washington) who safely lands a malfunctioning plane. Oscar buzz?
Like Someone In Love: Each year, there are many great foreign-language films at the NYFF. One of the most notable in 2012 is this romantic drama set in Japan, which marks Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's return to the festival.
Room 237: If you love "The Shining," you can't miss this documentary, which thoroughly dissects the Stanley Kubrick horror classic's nuances and possible hidden meanings.