Review: Paul Dano’s directorial debut ‘Wildlife’ is an instant classic

Wildlife focuses on a struggling family in 1960 and is mainly from the perspective of the 14-year-old son, Joe, played by Australian actor, Ed Oxenbould. At the post-screening Q&A with the director, Paul Dano admits that he only shot in digital because he was worried they’d have to do a lot of takes with a young actor. Turns out, Oxenbould was quite perfect from the first take. I would not have guessed digital as the color and tone was quite rich and retro.

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With no previews, the film started and I was instantly struck by how the camera didn’t move with the action and often dialogue took place off-screen. The film begins with mother, father, and son in the same shot at the kitchen table and slowly erodes throughout the film to only show close-ups with the characters, rarely showing them together. Once you see it, it becomes so obvious. Art imitating life. It’s brilliant.

Carey Mulligan is somehow old and young, frustrating and empathetic. It’s mind-boggling that she’s old enough to have a 14-year-old. Her character does the most outlandish things yet the audience somehow forgives her. While he doesn’t have as many scenes as Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal gives a desperate and hopeful performance as the father. However, the most expressive and stoic performance comes from the young Ed Oxenbould.

After this tragic yep hopeful film, Film Comment put on a free talk with writer/director Paul Dano and the author of the novel on which it was based, Richard Ford. It’s a very interesting talk, as you discover that Richard Ford did not want Paul Dano to make a scene-for-scene recreation of his novel, he wanted him to take inspiration and make it his own.

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New York Film Festival Reviews: ‘A Faithful Man’ & ‘Ash Is The Purest White’

25Two very different films about loyalty played at NYFF this year. A Faithful Man is quintessential French romcom and Ash Is The Purest White is the best of director Jia Zhangke.

A Faithful Man is about a couple of lovers torn apart by a pregnancy and brought back together by death. The jokes are witty and performances are stellar. I have adored every NYFF selection starring Louis Garrel, so it’s not surprising that one written, directed and starring him would entertain. He is charming alongside costars Laetitia Casta and Lily-Rose Depp. The chemistry between the three is electric and the story is fun and unexpected. If you like flirty french cinema, A Faithful Man will be up your alley.


Ash Is The Purest White, selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, is a much more complex look at the relationship of a man vying for power and the woman who takes the fall for his criminal actions. This is a story about pride and love. It spans three different time periods in Zhao Tao and Liao Fan’s characters lives. It transforms into a fascinating journey of a woman reclaiming her life and a patriarchal takedown. Bravo to the makeup departments for the seamlessly addressing a huge span of time in a realistic way. Tao and Fan walk a delicate balance of adoration and loathing.

New York Film Festival Review: ‘Private Life’ – Now on Netflix!

There is an age-old dilemma in Manhattan in respect to career and family. When I was a preschool teacher 10 years ago, the average age of the parents in my class when they gave birth was 40. My own mother had me at 22. This was the “normal” I understood. But, after I got married at 31 and moved back to Manhattan after years of traveling the world, I realized that I was faced with the same dilemma. My husband had not just hinted but boldly stated that he was ready for kids. I had just gotten deep into film criticism and similar projects, there was no way I was about to slow down now. Then, once I was ready it took a grueling 8 months to get pregnant. I know, some people will say that’s not a very long time, it takes years for some women to get pregnant. But that feeling of disappointment and fear month after month is palpable still. Those visceral memories are what made Tamara Jenkins new film Private Life so engrossing for me.

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Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti play a couple that put arts careers first and family second. Then the reality of the situation slams into them head-on. With adoption, fertility treatments, and surrogacy all on the table, this couple cannot seem to catch a break. The brilliance of this film is the fact that it’s rooted in reality. The emotional rollercoaster that is trying to be parents is all emotions at once. The comedy is as pure as the heartbreak. Giamatti is always fantastic. There is a beautiful juxtaposition in a performance from Molly Shannon. On the surface, it may appear to be an uncomplicated foil for Katherine’s character, but it is anything but. Private Life‘s essence lies in Hahn’s performance. Her soul-baring work will most certainly catch you off guard. It’s the quietest moments that crush you. Her specificity is award-worthy stuff, no doubt. Private Life is not just about having a kid, it’s about marriage. It’s about the delicate balance of love and hate and resentment between two people who promise to be together forever. Hands down, in my top three films from the festival this year. You can catch Private Life right now on Netflix. I highly recommend you do.

New York Film Festival Review: ‘Non-Fiction’

Juliette Binoche is literally in a New York Film Festival feature every year. This year (and it’s not the first) she appears in two. Non-Fiction is a brilliant and sardonic piece of writing about the state of literature, media, politics, and intimate relationships. Centering around a writer a publisher, an actress, and a campaign manager, the film intertwines affairs and humor. If Aaron Sorkin wrote French romcoms, Non Fiction would pour from his fingertips. The witty repartee keeps you in your toes as does the relevant subject matter. At times an intellectual war if words.ans ideas from different generations, quite literally. The idea of printed booked versus ebooks and Twitter, the idea of classical consumption and attention span, and of course the implications this all has had and will have on capitalism. Non Fiction is not shy about poking fun at itself or at the world’s state of affairs. Perhaps it played well for a room filled with critics because of its plot but I would hope the love it garnered would spread to a much wider and wiser audience of all ages. The conversations it may provoke are why we still go to the cinema, after all.

Directed by: Olivier Assayas 2018 France 106 minutes

Sundance Selects release.

New York Film Festival Review: ‘In My Room’

The idea of “The Last Man on Earth” is certainly not new, but In My Room takes a look at the scenario from a long game perspective. The opening of the film is visually jarring and in hindsight is a fantastic set up for both our leading man and plot. The world’s population vanishes overnight. The introduction to this is subtle at first, so if you were to go into this film completely unaware of the plot, you may miss the first signs. The film’s emotional ride is all over the place. Panic sets in and then, very momentarily, a “fuck it” attitude. Hans Löw physical transformation from beginning to end it startling. Not to mention his intellectual prowess. Without an electronic grid, one has to adapt pretty quickly to survive. It makes one ponder their own abilities to last if some cataclysmic event were to occur. This guy has a system and strives to improve upon it daily without losing his mind. I’d love to report an uplifting ending, alas I cannot. Without going into detail, you’re left to route for a man that could very easily be you in a dark and twisted, “I hope to hell this never happens to me” kind of way. In My Room goes to dark places and sits there, and then makes you sit there, and in doing so is an incredibly effective film.   

Directed by: Ulrich Köhler
Germany / 2018 / 119 minutes / NR

Grasshopper Film

New York Film Festival Review: ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’


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Long Day’s Journey Into Night is why we go to film festivals. It’s one of those films that people will be talking about for years to come because the audience will either love it or loathe it. There is no denying it’s a visually striking and stylistically over-indulgent noir that goes nowhere and everywhere all at once. Confused? You’re not alone. I’m not sure anyone walked out of the theater thinking, “Yup, I can totally relate!” That would actually be pretty weird on multiple levels, but with all that being said, wow, it is one hell of a cinematic experience. The hyper-saturation of the sets, costumes, and the unusual use of neon give it a Blade Runner feel in style. You’re also working with two timelines. And then, wait for it, a 1 hour, single-take, dream sequence… in 3D! Yes. Reoccurring images, long natural cadence in the dialogue, superb music, and sound editing add the wild magic and peculiarity that is Long Day’s. It’s a film I may never see again unless I wanted to discuss it in some University setting, which, admittedly, I am not opposed to. So, I suppose in summation, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is as cool as it is confounding.

Theatrical release in 2019. Distributed by Kino Lorber. Scheduled at Lincoln Center for April 12, 2019.

New York Film Festival Review: Claire Denis’ ‘High Life’ starring Robert Pattinson & Juliette Binoche

Fresh from being picked up for distribution by A24 at the Toronto Film Festival, High Life is a sci-fi drama with twists and turns that both come slowly and take your breath away. It’s difficult to describe without giving away the plot, so I’ll just say that it’s a space odyssey whose cast includes Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche and André 3000.

While told in space, don’t expect too many techy gadgets, this story focuses on the people. There are moments of discomfort, shock, and tenderness. While I don’t gush over it, I did really enjoy it and highly recommend to people who enjoy original storytelling.

Listen to director Claire Denis and star Robert Pattinson speak about it at the press conference below.

If you want to see another stellar performance by Pattinson, you should check out The Rover.

8 New York Film Festival films you can see this year & 3 are coming to Netflix!

The festival is officially over, but you’ll be able to see a few of the selections very soon!

Private Life
Country: USA
In Tamara Jenkins’s first film in ten years, Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are achingly real as Rachel and Richard, a middle-aged New York couple caught in the desperation, frustration, and exhaustion of trying to have a child, whether by fertility treatments or adoption or surrogate motherhood. They find a willing partner in Sadie (the formidable Kayli Carter), Richard’s niece by marriage, who happily agrees to donate her eggs, and the three of them build their own little outcast family in the process. Private Life is a wonder, by turns hilarious and harrowing (sometimes at once), and a very carefully observed portrait of middle-class Bohemian Manhattanites. With John Carroll Lynch and Molly Shannon.
Distributed by: Netflix WATCH NOW


Wildlife
Country: USA
In the impressive directorial debut from actor Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), a carefully wrought adaptation of Richard Ford’s 1990 novel, a family comes apart one loosely stitched seam at a time. We are in the lonely expanses of the American west in the mid-’60s. An affable man (Jake Gyllenhaal), down on his luck, runs off to fight the wildfires raging in the mountains. His wife (Carey Mulligan) strikes out blindly in search of security and finds herself running amok. It is left to their young adolescent son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) to hold the center. Co-written by Zoe Kazan, Wildlife is made with a sensitivity and at a level of craft that are increasingly rare in movies.
Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival
Awards: Golden Camera – Cannes Film Festival (Nominee), Grand Jury Prize – Sundance Film Festival (Nominee), People’s Choice Award – Toronto International Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: IFC Films 10/19/2018

Melissa says: I’ll see anything with Paul Dano because he always brings incredible sincerity to his characters. I’m very curious to see how that sincerity translates behind the camera.


Burning
Country: South Korea
Expanded from Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” the sixth feature from Korean master Lee Chang-dong, known best in the U.S. for such searing, emotional dramas as Secret Sunshine (NYFF45) and Poetry (NYFF48), begins by tracing a romantic triangle of sorts: Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in), an aspiring writer, becomes involved with a woman he knew from childhood, Haemi (Jun Jong-seo), who is about to embark on a trip to Africa. She returns some weeks later with a fellow Korean, the Gatsby-esque Ben (Steven Yeun), who has a mysterious source of income and a very unusual hobby. A tense, haunting multiple-character study, the film accumulates a series of unanswered questions and unspoken motivations to conjure a totalizing mood of uncertainty and quietly bends the contours of the thriller genre to brilliant effect.
Cannes Film Festival, Munich Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival
Awards: FIPRESCI Prize – Cannes Film Festival (Winner), Vulcain Prize for the Technical Artist – Cannes Film Festival (Winner), Palme d’Or – Cannes Film Festival (Nominee), ARRI/OSRAM Award – Munich Film Festival (Nominee), People’s Choice Award – Toronto International Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Well Go USA 10/26/2018

Melissa says: I’ve been continually impressed with South Korean cinema, so there’s no reason to think this will be anything less than amazing.


At Eternity’s Gate
North American Premiere
Country: USA, France
Julian Schnabel’s ravishingly tactile and luminous new film takes a fresh look at the last days of Vincent van Gogh, and in the process revivifies our sense of the artist as a living, feeling human being. Schnabel; his co-writers Jean-Claude Carrière and Louise Kugelberg, also the film’s editor; and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme strip everything down to essentials, fusing the sensual, the emotional, and the spiritual. And the pulsing heart of At Eternity’s Gate is Willem Dafoe’s shattering performance: his Vincent is at once lucid, mad, brilliant, helpless, defeated, and, finally, triumphant. With Oscar Isaac as Gauguin, Rupert Friend as Theo, Mathieu Amalric as Dr. Gachet, Emmanuelle Seigner as Madame Ginoux, and Mads Mikkelsen as The Priest.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: CBS Films 11/16/2018

Melissa says: If nothing less, Willem Dafoe will be worth watching.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
North American Premiere
Country: USA
Here’s something new from the Coen Brothers—an anthology of short films based on a fictional book of “western tales,” featuring Tim Blake Nelson as a murderous, white-hatted singing cowboy; James Franco as a bad luck bank-robber; Liam Neeson as the impresario of a traveling medicine show with increasingly diminishing returns, where they use the best equipment for travelling as the PNW backpack; Tom Waits as a die-hard gold prospector; Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck as two shy people who almost come together on the wagon trail; and Tyne Daly, Saul Rubinek, Brendan Gleeson, Chelcie Ross, and Jonjo O’Neill as a motley crew on a stagecoach to nowhere. Each story is distinct but unified by the thematic thread of mortality. As a whole movie experience, Buster Scruggs is wildly entertaining, and, like all Coen films, endlessly surprising.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Netflix, Annapurna Production 11/16/2018

Melissa says: This trailer reminds me of the one for A Serious Man, so let’s hope it’s as good.


Shoplifters
Country: Japan
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner is a heartrending glimpse into an often invisible segment of Japanese society: those struggling to stay afloat in the face of crushing poverty. On the margins of Tokyo, a most unusual “family”—a collection of societal castoffs united by their shared outsiderhood and fierce loyalty to one another—survives by petty stealing and grifting. When they welcome into their fold a young girl who’s been abused by her parents, they risk exposing themselves to the authorities and upending their tenuous, below-the-radar existence. The director’s latest masterful, richly observed human drama makes the quietly radical case that it is love—not blood—that defines a family.
Cannes Film FestivalMunich Film FestivalToronto International Film Festival
Awards: Palme d’Or – Cannes Film Festival (Winner), Best International Film – Munich Film Festival (Winner), People’s Choice Award – Toronto International Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures 11/23/2018


The Favourite
Country: USA, Ireland, UK
In Yorgos Lanthimos’s wildly intricate and very darkly funny new film, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), and her servant Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) engage in a sexually charged fight to the death for the body and soul of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) at the height of the War of the Spanish Succession. This trio of truly brilliant performances is the dynamo that powers Lanthimos’s top-to-bottom reimagining of the costume epic, in which the visual pageantry of court life in 18th-century England becomes not just a lushly appointed backdrop but an ironically heightened counterpoint to the primal conflict unreeling behind closed doors.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures 11/23/2018


ROMA
Country: Mexico, USA
In Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiographically inspired film, set in Mexico City in the early ’70s, we are placed within the physical and emotional terrain of a middle-class family whose center is quietly and unassumingly held by its beloved live-in nanny and housekeeper (Yalitza Aparicio). The cast is uniformly magnificent, but the real star of ROMA is the world itself, fully present and vibrantly alive, from sudden life-changing events to the slightest shifts in mood and atmosphere. Cuarón tells us an epic story of everyday life while also gently sweeping us into a vast cinematic experience, in which time and space breathe and majestically unfold. Shot in breathtaking black and white and featuring a sound design that represents something new in the medium, ROMA is a truly visionary work.
Toronto International Film Festival, Venice Film Festival
Awards: People’s Choice Award – Toronto International Film Festival (Nominee), Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Netflix 12/14/2018

Melissa says: The director of Children of Men and Gravity, two incredibly cinematic creations, does a black and white family drama. Oh, I’m all in.


Watch 3 Press Conferences from the New York Film Festival

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will be available on Netflix in a little over a month on 11/16/18, The Favourite will be in theaters shortly after that on 11/23/18, but High Life hasn’t been announced, so we can only assume 2019.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
North American Premiere
Country: USA
Here’s something new from the Coen Brothers—an anthology of short films based on a fictional book of “western tales,” featuring Tim Blake Nelson as a murderous, white-hatted singing cowboy; James Franco as a bad luck bank-robber; Liam Neeson as the impresario of a traveling medicine show with increasingly diminishing returns; Tom Waits as a die-hard gold prospector; Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck as two shy people who almost come together on the wagon trail; and Tyne Daly, Saul Rubinek, Brendan Gleeson, Chelcie Ross, and Jonjo O’Neill as a motley crew on a stagecoach to nowhere. Each story is distinct but unified by the thematic thread of mortality. As a whole movie experience, Buster Scruggs is wildly entertaining, and, like all Coen films, endlessly surprising.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Netflix, Annapurna Production 11/16/2018

‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ Press Conference | Joel & Ethan Coen and Cast | NYFF56


High Life
U.S. Premiere
Country: Germany, France, USA, UK, Poland
Claire Denis’s latest film is set aboard a spacecraft piloted by death row prisoners on a decades-long suicide mission to enter and harness the power of a black hole. But as is always the case with this filmmaker, the actual structure seems to evolve organically through moods and uncanny spells, and the closest juxtapositions of violence and intimacy. High Life features some of the most unsettling passages Denis has ever filmed, as well as moments of the greatest delicacy and tenderness. With Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, and Mia Goth.
Distributed by: A24 2019


The Favourite
Country: USA, Ireland, UK
In Yorgos Lanthimos’s wildly intricate and very darkly funny new film, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), and her servant Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) engage in a sexually charged fight to the death for the body and soul of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) at the height of the War of the Spanish Succession. This trio of truly brilliant performances is the dynamo that powers Lanthimos’s top-to-bottom reimagining of the costume epic, in which the visual pageantry of court life in 18th-century England becomes not just a lushly appointed backdrop but an ironically heightened counterpoint to the primal conflict unreeling behind closed doors.
Venice Film Festival
Awards: Best Film – Venice Film Festival (Nominee)
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures 11/23/2018

3 FREE Talks left to see at the New York Film Festival

Directors Dialogues: Alice Rohrwacher

  • 60 minutes

Free and Open to the Public! · Presented by HBO® · Supported by illy

Rohrwacher was Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Artist in Residence in 2016, during which time she worked on the script that became the Cannes-awarded drama Happy as Lazzaro, showing in this year’s Main Slate. Join Rohrwacher as she talks about her process bringing this unique vision to the screen.

Showtimes


Directors Dialogues: Mariano Llinás

  • 60 minutes

Free and Open to the Public! · Presented by HBO® · Supported by illy

Mariano Llinás discusses the vision and process behind his singular, wildly inventive epic La Flor, which skips across a multitude of genres over the course of its fourteen hours.

Showtimes


A Conversation with Willem Dafoe

  • 60 minutes

Free and open to the public! · Sponsored by HBO®

Dafoe will sit with NYFF Director Kent Jones to discuss his role in Schnabel’s vividly beautiful film At Eternity’s Gate, this year’s closing night selection, as well as his illustrious career and the craft of acting in general.

Showtimes

Willem Dafoe is Vincent Van Gogh in closing film ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ of the New York Film Festival this October

Nominated for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year, At Eternity’s Gate (named for a painting of Van Gogh) will close the 56th Annual New York Film Festival. Directed by Julian Schnabel (Diving Bell & the Butterlfy), starring Willem Dafoe as Van Gogh with Rupert Friend and Oscar Isaac.

Julian Schnabel’s ravishingly tactile and luminous new film takes a fresh look at the last days of Vincent van Gogh, and in the process revivifies our sense of the artist as a living, feeling human being. Schnabel; his co-writers Jean-Claude Carrière and Louise Kugelberg, also the film’s editor; and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme strip everything down to essentials, fusing the sensual, the emotional, and the spiritual. And the pulsing heart of At Eternity’s Gate is Willem Dafoe’s shattering performance: his Vincent is at once lucid, mad, brilliant, helpless, defeated, and, finally, triumphant. With Oscar Isaac as Gauguin, Rupert Friend as Theo, Mathieu Amalric as Dr. Gachet, Emmanuelle Seigner as Madame Ginoux, and Mads Mikkelsen as The Priest.

New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones said, “At Eternity’s Gate is such a surprising film, for all kinds of reasons. Julian Schnabel makes use of the most up-to-date information about Vincent van Gogh, altering our accepted ideas of how he lived and died; he grounds the film in the very action of painting, the intense contact between an artist and the world of forms and textures colored by light; and he gives us Willem Dafoe’s performance as Vincent—acting this pure is endlessly surprising.”

“I would like to say thank you to Kent Jones and the NYFF selection committee on behalf of Willem Dafoe, who is Vincent van Gogh in the film, and the cast and crew, who I have been so privileged to work with, for choosing At Eternity’s Gate for Closing Night,” said Schnabel. “It is a profound honor to be included with the other films and to be part of the history of Closing Night films that came before us. Looking forward to sitting in the audience with everybody.”

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Programming, and Florence Almozini, FSLC Associate Director of Programming.

Earlier this summer, NYFF announced Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite as Opening Night and Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA as the Centerpiece selection. This year’s gala screenings, including Closing Night, will be held on Fridays instead of Saturdays.

Tickets for the 56th New York Film Festival will go on sale to the general public on September 9. Festival and VIP passes are on sale now and offer one of the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival’s biggest events, including Closing Night.

New York Film Festival to open with 18th Century romp from the director of ‘The Lobster’ – Yorgos Lanthimos

Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and a mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time-consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.

While I really enjoyed The Lobster, from writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, I couldn’t connect with the director’s last work, Killing of a Sacred Deer starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. I’m cautiously optimistic for The Favourite.

If you haven’t seen or heard of The Lobster, you really must at least check out the trailer.

Here’s the trailer for Killing of a Sacred Deer