×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How the New York Film Festival Became an Oscar Season Launch Pad

In five years the event has shown its value as a starting point for awards hopefuls.

The New York Film Festival has always been one of the classiest, most finely curated stops on the global festival circuit. But it wasn’t until five years ago that the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which puts on the annual showcase, really capitalized on its position in the film awards season.

That year, David Fincher brought “The Social Network” as a world premiere to open the 48th annual event. The splash was considerable, and soon after, the fest adopted an understanding that two of its three major galas — opened night, centerpiece and closing night — had to be world premieres. Suddenly, a new launching pad was born for movies looking to springboard into the Oscar conversation.

In 2011, Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” kicked things off, while Simon Curtis’ “My Week with Marilyn” served as the centerpiece. Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” wrapped things up after bowing in Telluride and screening in Toronto as well. But that year also brought the work-in-progress premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” as a “secret screening.” The next year, Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” pulled the same trick. Talk about making some noise.

Maybe too much noise, though. In due time, the concept of a flashy secret screening wore off. In 2013, it was a 50-year-old Jean-Luc Godard film, “Vivre sa vie,” while in 2014, it was Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young,” which had already premiered in Toronto.

Back to the festival’s 50th anniversary in 2012, things kicked off with Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.” David Chase’s “Not Fade Away” was the centerpiece and Robert Zemeckis’ “Flight” closed things out. Along with “Lincoln,” they were all world premieres and major gets.

Captain Phillips,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “Her” were the trio in 2013, which also marked an interesting year for films playing Cannes and Telluride but skipping Toronto on the way to the Big Apple. “All is Lost,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Nebraska” all opted for that route as the Canadian fest began to lose a little of its awards season luster. Also, a presentation of “12 Years a Slave” was sprung on the fest that year (dubbed a “U.S. premiere” despite the fact that it had already screened in Telluride).

Last year, Fincher was back to kick things off again with “Gone Girl.” Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” was the centerpiece (producer Scott Rudin has taken a number of films to the fest), interesting for being a bit exclusive to the event with precious few press screenings after its bow there. The closer was another film that opted out of Toronto, eventual best picture winner “Birdman.”

And now, the 53rd annual. Zemeckis will be back Saturday night with the delayed (thanks to the Pope) opening night world premiere of “The Walk.” Rudin will be back with Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” after skipping out on Toronto following a Telluride bow. And Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead,” looking more and more like a 2016 release for Sony Classics, will close things out. Interestingly enough, Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” is a part of the lineup as a world premiere, but it didn’t land one of the three high profile slots.

So that’s a quick sprint through the New York Film Festival’s recent history with the awards race. Along the way, films like “Inside Job,” “The Artist,” “A Separation,” “Amour,” “Foxcatcher,” “Mr. Turner” and “Whiplash” have screened there en route to the Oscars. The event, already unique in the space, has shown its value as a starting point for contenders either not interested in or not ready for the early Venice-Telluride-Toronto corridor.

Which players will emerge from the Lincoln Center with a healthy stride? We’ll find out over the next two weeks!

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Virginia Leith, Female Lead in Stanley Kubrick's First Film, Dies at 94

    Actress and model Virginia Leith, who starred in Stanley Kubrick’s first film “Fear and Desire,” which he later disavowed, has died. She was 94. According to family spokesperson Jane Chalmers, Leith died after a brief illness at her home in Palm Springs, Calif. on Nov. 4. Born on Oct. 15, 1925, Leith met Kubrick in [...]

  • Sarah Bolger's 'A Good Woman Is

    Film News Roundup: Sarah Bolger's 'A Good Woman Is Hard to Find' Bought by Film Movement

    In today’s film news roundup, “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find” and “After Parkland” find homes, Jack Johnson is honored, AGC closes deals on Neill Blomkamp’s latest and Paramount is in talks for a “Power to the People” project. ACQUISITIONS Film Movement has bought North American rights to the thriller “A Good Woman Is [...]

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Chris Butler Looks At The Magic Behind Animating 'Missing Link'

    Laika’s latest feature “Missing Link” raises the bar once again for the world of stop-motion, pushing boundaries in scope and visuals. The story of an unlikely friendship between Mr. Frost and his 8-foot yeti buddy Link is one of hope. “Missing Link” producer Arianne Sutner says the message of the film was to “leave people [...]

  • Jonah Hauer-King Prince Eric

    'Little Mermaid' Live-Action Movie Finds Its Prince Eric

    Jonah Hauer-King will soon be a part of the “Little Mermaid” world. The newcomer has been tapped to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action remake of the animated classic. At one point, Harry Styles was is in early talks for the role, but ended up passing. Hauer-King has had two screen tests, with the most [...]

  • Peter Caranicas

    Variety's Peter Caranicas to Receive 1st HPA Legacy Award

    Peter Caranicas Variety managing editor, features, will be honored with the first HPA Legacy Award. Caranicas joined Variety as features managing editor in 2008, and currently serves as both deputy editor and managing editor, features. He has developed the editorial franchises Dealmakers Impact Report, Hollywood’s New Leaders, Legal Impact Report and Business Managers Elite. Caranicas also [...]

  • Jack Ryan

    Richard Rutkowski on ‘Jack Ryan,’ Costa-Gavras and Being Nice Abroad

    TORUN, Poland – Speaking at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival on Monday, Richard Rutkowski praised the work of Costa-Gavras, offered sage advice for filmmakers working internationally, and offered a glimpse of the fast-paced work faced by cinematographers on high-profile TV series. Rutkowski, whose credits include “Jack Ryan,” “Castle Rock” and “The Americans,” discussed the methods, [...]

  • 'Honeyland' DP on Low-Fi Shooting With

    'Honeyland' DP on Low-Fi Shooting With High-Powered Storytelling

    Filming the Sundance-awarded “Honeyland” in a remote North Macedonia locale without roads or electricity, it was easy to get lost, confesses cinematographer Fejmi Daut. “It was too hard to decide what would be the storyline in the beginning,” said the debut DP, speaking at the 27th EnergaCamerimage cinematography festival in Torun, Poland. The editing process [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content