How this year’s New York Film Festival shaped the Oscar race

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Over the weekend, the 52nd New York Film Festival came to a close and with that brought us into the final stretch of the festival season. As such, I wanted to discuss the fest a little bit and see what we can ascertain about how the Oscar race was shaped, if it was at all. As usual, the awards season is still taking shape, so whatever went down at NYFF could only have a temporary effect on the Oscars, but it’s certainly worth talking about a bit, so let’s do that now…

Here are five things in particular to take away from NYFF in terms of the awards season:

1. Inherent Vice debuted and puzzled audiences – Yes, the World Premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest was a big deal, and rightly so. That being said, it was an odd and triply film that defies easy description, which rarely translates into Oscar success. That being said, both supporting players Josh Brolin and Katherine Waterston could be factors in their respective fields, while Joaquin Phoenix has a shot to still pop up in Best Actor. I wouldn’t count on Best Picture, Best Director (for Anderson), or Best Adapted Screenplay (also for PTA), though stranger things have happened in the past. Inherent Vice will need to rock the precursors in order to make a real dent with Academy members that likely just won’t “get” it.

2. Gone Girl premiered too, mostly to strong reviews – Despite some early screenings that somewhat spoiled the World Premiere of the new David Fincher film, the NYFF audience mostly erupted once this one unspooled before our eyes. It more or less locked in its status as a Best Picture nominee and Best Actress contender for Rosamund Pike, while also solidifying Gillian Flynn in the Best Adapted Screenplay field. Fincher remains in play for Best Director and plenty of technical nominations are likely to come about for this one. While few are talking about it as a winner, Gone Girl pretty much did as well as we expected it to at the fest.

3. Birdman, Foxcatcher, and Whiplash continued to amass fans – Despite having made their bones earlier on in the festival season, both Alejandro González Iñárritu’s dramedy and Bennett Miller’s passion project built on positive word of mouth, while Damien Chazelle’s musical drama/thriller proceeded to boost its underdog candidacy. Iñárritu blew most away with Birdman, while Miller continued to impress with Foxcatcher. With Whiplash, I’d argue that Chazelle had the most rapturous response of the bunch. The trio should be in line for plenty of Oscar attention. Birdman should have a bunch of techs to go with Best Picture, Best Director (Iñárritu), Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), and potentially Best Original Screenplay as well, while Foxcatcher has Best Picture, Best Director (Miller), Best Actor (Steve Carell), Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo), and possibly Best Original Screenplay too. Rounding out the group, Whiplash looks like it can crack the Best Picture lineup in addition to a surefire nomination in Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons and a potential citation in Best Original Screenplay as well. These three movies will hear their names called a bunch on nomination morning.

4. We could have a Best Documentary Feature frontrunner in Citizenfour – If you’re looking for one big surprise to come out of the fest, it was this documentary on Edward Snowden. A late addition to the festival, it blew away pretty much everyone who saw it. Not only are many speculating that it could run away with the Best Documentary Feature category at the Oscars, some are even talking about it as a fringe Best Picture nominee. I’m seeing this one in a few days actually, so I’ll be sure to let you know if the hype is warranted.

5. The festival itself is quickly becoming one of the biggest of the Oscar season – NYFF has long been home to the start of many an awards campaign, but it’s becoming an almost mandatory stop for certain contenders these days. The lineup was chock full of awards hopefuls, including the aforementioned ones as well as the likes of Maps to the Stars, Listen Up Philip, Mr. Turner, Time Out of Mind, Two Days One Night, and others. It was almost an embarrassment of riches, with the trend sure to continue on next year…

Stay tuned to see how the NYFF titles do on the precursor circuit!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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