The New York Film Festival may have ended a couple weeks ago but the movies that premiered at the festival continue to roll into theaters including Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Steven Spielberg’s The Bridge of Spies, featuring Tom Hankes; and Steve Jobs directed by Danny Boyle. In the weeks and months ahead more NYFF movies will be released in theaters. While the above-mentioned features are good, here are five films that are not to be missed and I hope to see, once again, in theaters.
—John David West
As one of my most anticipated movies of 2015, I had high hopes for The Lobster. How could I not? Yorgos Lanthimos—who brought us the Oscar nominated Dogtooth (2011) —directs his first English language film starring a middle aged, pudgy Colin Farrell and a short-sighted Rachel Weisz in a movie whose title begs the question, “what the hell is this about?”
Set in the near future, The Lobster is about how single people are arrested and transferred to The Hotel, where they must find a mate and fall in love or they will be forever transformed into an animal (or crustacean) of their choosing. Essentially it’s a love story that explores the human condition and examines the ubiquitous fear of there’s something wrong with you if you’re single. Beyond the film’s absurd, bleak view of a world where people are failures unless they’re in love (and become a voiceless animal), it’s a laugh-out-loud comedy—sad, but funny: violent, but smart and oddly hilarious. It leaves the viewer with much to ponder the big questions, like does being coupled matter that much and what animal would you choose to be?
Directed by László Nemes and featuring Géza Röhrig as Saul, this film won the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize of the Jury. Nemes’ first feature film is a powerful and unique look at the horrors of Auschwitz. Shot in 35mm, in academy ratio, with shallow focus, and long tracking shots; Son of Saul provides an immersive human experience that sticks with you long after the film is over. This should be an Oscar front-runner for Best Foreign Language film.
Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, The Martian is based on Andy Weir’s best selling book of the same name, Matt Damon plays astronaut and botanist Mark Watney who is left behind on Mars and thought as dead when the crew encounter a violent sandstorm and are forced to abandon their mission and make an emergency lift off from the red planet.
The Martian is both a crowd-pleasing movie and a smart science fiction film. It’s action packed fun and gorgeous to watch, and arouse rebellious thoughts like “come on NASA, let’s get back into space travel” —perhaps The Martian will inspire future missions to Mars astronauts and scientists. Unlike Gravity, Drew Goddard’s script succeeds in making the events plausible. The movie is packed with interesting science facts that don’t feel jarringly expositional, perhaps due to the comedic script and Damon’s charismatic performance. Ridley Scott succeeds in weaving a complicated story that is, at times visually poetic, at other times hilarious, but always consistently engaging. His use of is 3D is subtle and thankfully not distracting by being annoyingly self-aware. It sometimes comes dangerously close to having moments of schmaltzy Hollywood-feel-goodness (a few too many shots of cheering crowds in the control room and on the streets), and many characters are rather one-dimensional, but once you get past that The Martian is just elegant, fun, filmmaking.
In typical 1950s tradition Carol, brilliantly played by Cate Blanchett, lives in a world where everything is seemingly perfect, ordered, and definitely stylish. All is as it should be or at least it appears so on the surface, as Carol conceals the secret of her sexuality. She is more progressive than one might expect, as her husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler) is aware of her past relationships with women. Living in the repressed ’50s, a mother and a beautiful wife to a wealthy man her sexuality is a secret that must be concealed despite herself. Todd Haynes has explored this world before, in the luscious Douglas Sirk homage, Far From Heaven (2002), a film filled with colorful autumn-rich wide-angle shots. Carol is a bit more subdued, honest, and quite cold. Rather than vibrant shots, Carol is filled with close-ups, notably of faces, toys, and shiny vintage 1950s cars; and it’s a cold lonely winter that fills the screen. Perhaps this is not the most inviting world for the viewer, but Blanchett’s brilliance for conveying great depth without saying a word is evident in the film’s final shot, a simple yet impactful, delicate moment that lives beyond the life of this movie.
A thoroughly engrossing documentary by director James Soloman that unpacks the details and misinformation surrounding the events and iconic death of Kitty Genovese, who in 1964 was reportedly killed in front of 38 witnesses in Queens, New York.
The Witness is a powerful look at the devastating results of irresponsible journalism. Over the years, the Genovese murder became the subject of numerous books, news reports, themes on episodic TV crime shows, and case studies; her brutal murder shocked the country and its myth has remained alive through the world over the last half century. What is most refreshing in The Witness is how the film brings Kitty to life and reveals the person behind the grotesque murder. For the first time in 50 years, we see her as a beloved sister, popular friend, and a never-forgotten lover.
—John David West