James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” will close the 2016 New York Film Festival

Robert Pattinson map to the stars 600x385
Just a few short hours ago today, the Closing Night selection for the New York Film Festival was announced. This year, it will be James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, a long brewing passion project of his. As a pretty big fan of Gray, one who thinks Two Lovers is a near masterpiece and criminally underrated, as well as a fan of his prior movie The Immigrant as well, this is exciting news. Not only is NYFF getting another high profile awards contender, it’s a boost of confidence for a flick that I wasn’t sure would be able to find a place in the Oscar season. The fest certainly has changed that around, to one degree or another. The film, telling the tale of legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett, who ventured into the Amazon jungle in search of a fabled civilization in 1925 and never returned, was an X factor to begin with, it’s now one with a pedigree to speak of.

Much like I’ve previously said when writing about the festival, getting to be the closer at NYFF is traditionally a pretty big deal for a flick. Unless this year turns out to be an anomaly like last year was, it more or less launches you straight into the heart of the Oscar race. Over the past 15 years, almost nothing in this slot has failed to garner at least one citation from the Academy, with everything being true contenders in multiple categories, excluding 2015. In fact, we have one Best Picture winner, five Best Picture nominees, and over a half dozen that have taken home Academy Awards in one category or another. It’s probably even more important of a spot to be in than the Opening Night Selection, even if that one is a bit glitzier. Just look at what two years ago’s pick to finish off the fest was…Birdman. Enough said (though yes, Miles Ahead last year is the exception that basically proves the rule). Below you can see what the past 15 years have looked like with this slot at NYFF:

2015 – Miles Ahead
2014 – Birdman
2013 – Her
2012 – Flight
2011 – The Descendants
2010 – Hereafter
2009 – Broken Embraces
2008 – The Wrestler
2007 – Persepolis
2006 – Pan’s Labyrinth
2005 – Caché
2004 – Sideways
2003 – 21 Grams
2002 – Talk to Her
2001 – In Praise of Love
2000 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

That’s some great taste overall on the part of the festival programmers, right? It does seem like The Lost City of Z will fit in nicely with many of those titles, but that obviously remains to be seen…

Awards wise, I think there’s reason to potentially be bullish on The Lost City of Z’s Oscar chances. Gray has yet to have a hit with the Academy, but if this is the one, it has across the board appeal. If so, look for campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Gray), Best Actor (for Charlie Hunnam), Best Supporting Actor (for Tom Holland and/or Robert Pattinson), Best Supporting Actress (for Sienna Miller), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Gray as well), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Hairstlying & Makeup, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. It’s all a crapshoot right now, but there’s reason to feel good about its chances, at least today.

Overall, The Lost City of Z is another movie to really keep an eye on. Gray is a filmmaker who deserves to finally be feted, and perhaps debuting his passion project in his hometown at a festival that appreciates him will do the trick? Not debuting at the Cannes Film Festival was a bit of a surprise for the flick, but this is probably an even better spot for him. Time will tell, of course, but this is easily the NYFF premiere so far that I’m most excited about. Sit tight for potentially learning about the whole fest’s slate in the coming days…

Stay tuned for more on The Lost City of Z and NYFF 2016 in the weeks to come!

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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