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Mike Mills’ “20th Century Women” is the Centerpiece of the 2016 New York Film Festival

Annette Bening 600 x320
Earlier today, the New York Film Festival let loose with another announcement in regards to their 2016 slate. This follows on the heels of picking Ava DuVernay’s documentary The 13th as the Opening Night selection, of course. The Centerpiece has now been selected, and it’s 20th Century Women, the new movie from Mike Mills. I’ll confess to it not being one I had pegged for NYFF, or at least not one of the big galas, but this certainly makes it a contender to pay attention to. It wasn’t on my radar as a huge Oscar player before, but it’s definitely going to be getting some extra consideration now.

The film is a comedy centered around a trio of women in Southern California during the late 1970s who experience both freedom and love in all of its forms. The lead appears to be single mother Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), with the other two women being artist Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and teenager Julie (Elle Fanning), the friend of Dorothea’s son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). Also of note here is a carpenter (Billy Crudup) who lives in the bohemian house with Dorothea, Jamie, and Abbie. Mills writes and directs, with other cast members here including Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, and more. It all sounds very promising.

Much like I said a few days ago when discussing the Opening Night selection of The 13th, as well as last year when talking about Steve Jobs being picked for this spot, getting to be one of the top three at NYFF is a big deal for any wannabe contender. The Centerpiece slot is usually a bit more of a wild card, but it’s had a fairly solid relationship with the Academy. Over the past 15 years, there have been both hits and misses, but by and large it’s usually things Oscar would look kindly upon. Just look at what last year’s pick for the middle of the fest was…Steve Jobs, with the year before being Inherent Vice. Enough said on the wild card part for the latter, though it did wind up with some nominations, while the former was a clear cut Oscar hopeful. Below you can see what the past 15 years have looked like with this particular slot at NYFF:

2015 – Steve Jobs
2014 – Inherent Vice
2013 – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
2012 – Not Fade Away
2011 – My Week with Marilyn
2010 – The Tempest
2009 – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
2008 – Changeling
2007 – No Country for Old Men
2006 – Volver
2005 – Breakfast on Pluto
2004 – Bad Education
2003 – The Fog of War
2002 – Punch-Drunk Love
2001 – Mulholland Drive
2000 – Pollack

As you can see above, there’s some flops for sure, but a Best Picture winner as well, so that’s something. As a general rule, you tend to see the more overt players do well here, while the ones that seem like long shots stay as such. Interestingly enough, 20th Century Women seems to be right in between, so we’ll have to see which way it winds up leaning when the time comes. If all goes well, look for it to compete in Best Picture, Best Director (for Mills), Best Actress (for Bening), Best Supporting Actor (for Crudup), Best Supporting Actress (for Fanning and/or Gerwig), and Best Original Screenplay (also for Mills) when the precursor season rolls around.

For now, we have two of the big three slots filled for the New York Film Festival. I’m very eager to see what the fest puts in the Closing Night spot, as there’s room for a really big awards vehicle there. I’ll keep my hunches to myself for now, but perhaps when it gets closer I’ll say what I’m thinking. At the current moment, 20th Century Women has gotten a nice bump in buzz and could be one of the surprises to come out of NYFF this time around. Sit tight for more on the festival and the film itself in the coming weeks…

Stay tuned for much more on 20th Century Women and NYFF when we have it!

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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