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The 2018 Opening Night Selection for the New York Film Festival is “The Favourite” from Yorgos Lanthimos

I think I spoke it into existence! After mentioning yesterday how it was unique that the New York Film Festival had kicked off with a Centerpiece Selection announcement, the powers that be came right back with something yes. Yes, yesterday afternoon, the next shot across the bow was fired when NYFF went and announced that Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite would be its Opening Night Selection for 2018. This high profile spot announces the newest Lanthimos movie as perhaps his most overt Academy Award contender yet. The slot rarely goes to something that isn’t at least potentially a player. So, if you’re a fan of his, this is incredibly exciting news to take in.

The film is a period piece comedy, as presumably only Lanthimos could tell. The NYFF Press Release states the following: “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.” Lanthimos directs a script he didn’t write, this time working from a screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. In addition to the big three of Colman, Stone, and Weisz, the cast also includes Joe Alwyn, Nicholas Hoult, and more. Robbie Ryan handles the cinematography.

In terms of the Opening Night, this spot has recently become a bit of a launching pad for Oscar contenders, with about a half dozen Best Picture nominees in the lot over the prior 17 years. As proof, here is what the Opener of NYFF has looked like in the past:

2017 – Last Flag Flying
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

Ladies and gentlemen, 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, while Last Flag Flying was sadly shut out. Still, there’s enough evidence to suggest that the odds favor Lanthimos’ movie at least being in contention for some major love.

It remains to be seen how Lanthimos’ movie will ultimately fare, but The Favourite seems like it has a chance to contend for big time awards. The high profile 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. Plus, The Lobster stopped in New York on the way to a Best Original Screenplay nomination a few years ago. Of course, I’ll be there in the fall when the debut happens at the fest, but for now, it’s one to look forward to. Sit tight for next month’s Oscar prediction update to potentially reflect this big news as well. In the meantime, we wait for the Closing Night Selection. Rumors abound, with titles such as Backseat and First Man speculated about. This could even be the place to unveil The Irishman. More likely, it could go to something like Ad Astra. We shall see…

Stay tuned for much more on The Favourite and the rest of the 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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