×
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!

More Film

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content