Oscars Race and New York Film Festival


One of the last major film festivals of the season, the New York Film Festival, kicks off its two-week-plus run on September 28—bringing many of year’s festival favorites to the city, while world-premiering a couple of bigger titles. Though less of an awards campaign stop than Telluride or Toronto, what happens at N.Y.F.F. can still help clarify the Oscars field. Let’s take a look at where things stand as Lincoln Center gets ready to take focus.

In years past, N.Y.F.F. has held world premieres for at least three big titles over the course of the festival. Movies like 20th Century Women, The Lost City of Z, Gone Girl, and Inherent Vice were first seen by the public at Alice Tully Hall—tony films that weren’t necessarily huge Oscar players, but certainly were at “prestige” level.

This year, there are really only two films that fit into that particular category. The opening-night film is Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying, a dramedy about aging Vietnam vets reuniting after many years to attend the funeral of one of man’s son, who was killed in the Iraq war. It is said to be a sequel to Hal Ashby’s 1973 film The Last Detail, though some names and plot details have been changed. The film stars Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne, all previous Oscar nominees who may be hungry for an overdue win.

Linklater has of course had success at getting to the Oscars before; his screenplays have been nominated three times, and he was shortlisted as a director for Boyhood.I’m not sure Last Flag Flying is as promising, awards-wise, as Boyhood was, but there could still be something there. The film seems both solemn and lively, honoring military service while questioning the motives of war. So that could hit an Academy sweet spot, satisfying both the more conservative oldsters and the younger, leftier types. The film’s best bets are probably the screenplay category or supporting actor, though which actor gets tipped for that is hard to say. (I’d guess Fishburne or Carell.)

Speaking of hard to say, Woody Allen has a new movie premiering at N.Y.F.F. It’s a period drama called Wonder Wheel, set in 1950s Coney Island and starring Kate Winslet, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, and Jim Belushi. Yes, you did read those last two names correctly. Allen has a long and fruitful track record of getting his actors nominations and wins, so it’s entirely possible that Winslet, Temple, or Belushi could be in the mix this year. (Sorry, Justin.) If Winslet’s put in lead, she’d be a big stone to drop into that crowded pond, though the biggest rock of ‘em all, Meryl Streep—starring in Steven Spielberg’s yet-to-be-see Pentagon Papers movie—is still to come.

Based on anecdotal evidence, Call Me by Your Name, which first premiered all the way back in January on a snowy evening in Park City, Utah, is one of the hottest tickets at N.Y.F.F. Which isn’t all that surprising—there are a lotta gays in New York City! That buzz could mean big things for the film, which is making one of its final festival stops before opening in theaters in November. Or it could lead to a lot of people feeling let down, the film falling victim to overhype.

Written by RICHARD LAWSON for Vanity Fair


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