The Opening Night Selection for the 2017 New York Film Festival is Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying”

Believe it or not, we’re already at the point in the year where fall film festival announcements are being made. Yesterday afternoon, the first shot across the bow was fired when the New York Film Festival announced Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying as it’s Opening Night Selection. Getting a bit of a head start on things, NYFF is planting a flag, no pun intended, on this flick as an awards vehicle. Linklater nearly took home an Oscar for Boyhood, so he’s certainly due. Could this do it for him? Time will tell, but getting this prestigious slot at NYFF is a strong first step. There’s plenty of reason to be excited for this one.

This film is a road trip tale, working as a sort of pseudo sequel to the classic The Last Detail. In the press release, Film Society described it thusly: “In Richard Linklater’s lyrical road movie, as funny as it is heartbreaking, three aging Vietnam-era Navy vets—soft-spoken Doc (Steve Carell), unhinged and unfiltered Sal (Bryan Cranston), and quietly measured Mueller (Laurence Fishburne)—reunite to perform a sacred task: the proper burial of Doc’s only child, who has been killed in the early days of the Iraqi Invasion. As this trio of old friends makes its way up the Eastern seaboard, Linklater gives us a rich rendering of friendship, a grand mosaic of common life in the USA during the Bush era, and a striking meditation on the passage of time and the nature of truth. To put it simply, Last Flag Flying is a great movie from one of America’s finest filmmakers.” Linklater co-writes with Darryl Ponicsan and directs, while the cast besides Carell, Cranston, and Fishburne include Kate Easton, J. Quinton Johnson, Yul Vazquez, and more.

In terms of the Opening Night, this spot has recently become a launching pad for Oscar contenders, with a half dozen Best Picture nominees in the lot over the prior 16 years. As proof, here is what the Opener of NYFF has looked like in the past:

2016 – 13th
2015 – The Walk
2014 – Captain Phillips
2013 – Gone Girl
2012 – Life of Pi
2011 – Carnage
2010 – The Social Network
2009 – Wild Grass
2008 – The Class
2007 – The Darjeeling Limited
2006 – The Queen
2005 – Good Night, and Good Luck
2004 – Look at Me
2003 – Mystic River
2002 – About Schmidt
2001 – Va Savoir
2000 – Dancer in the Dark

As you can see above from that list, Academy Award nominations have come forth for more than a handful of Opening Night selections from NYFF. Especially with The Social Network, but also potentially with Good Night and Good Luck, Life of Pi, and Mystic River, they were the second place finishers in Picture. Depending on the year, the closer can be a bigger deal at the fest than the opener, but these are never duds. Having a doc in the mix was very unique last year, but it also turned out to be an incredibly strong indicator of quality. 13th went on to be nominated for an Oscar, suggesting that the odds favor Linklater’s movie at least being in contention for some love.

It remains to be seen how Linklater’s film will fare, but Last Flag Flying seems like it has a chance to contend for awards. The spot at NYFF will only help things. If the festival crowd digs it, anything is possible. Previous success stories like Captain Phillips, Life of Pi, and The Social Network more than give it hope. Linklater heading to the Big Apple should be a lot of fun. I’ll be there in the fall when the debut happens, but for now, it’s one to look forward to. Sit tight for this month’s prediction update to potentially reflect this news as well…

Stay tuned for much more on Last Flag Flying and the entire slate for NYFF as it becomes known to us!

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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