Lessons from the NY Film Festival

Each year the New York Film Festival showcases the magic that movies create on screen. This year’s 53rd edition offers important lessons about six ingredients that moviemakers should include in their recipes. Take a look.


#1: A movie needs a director’s vision: Carol

From its opening moments, Todd Haynes’ sublime movie Carol whisks us away to a different New York City than we know today. As Haynes beautifully reveals, the Manhattan of 1952 still reels from the tension of World War II before the prosperity of the decade kicks in. That tension reaches anyone who dares to pursue an unconventional relationship, such as the two women perfectly portrayed by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Haynes slowly reveals what it takes for people to accept a truth that others may not be ready to handle.


#2: A movie needs a daring approach: Steve Jobs

Someday, someone will write a movie about how Aaron Sorkin tells stories in imaginative ways. On television, he invented the “walk and talk” conversation in The West Wing and, on film, looked behind the curtain of Facebook in the Oscar-winning The Social Network. Sorkin sets a new creative standard with his approach to the story of Apple’s legendary leader. Rather than follow traditional biopic patterns, Sorkin breaks the rules to focus on three essential chapters in Jobs’ life. And, in Michael Fassbender, he finds an actor who can grasp the subtleties of nuance.


#3: A movie needs a strong story: Brooklyn

The rich narrative of this adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel reminds us of a time when movies consistently told complex stories with efficiency and restraint. Anyone looking for exaggerated situations, computer-generated effects or tasteless humor will be disappointed to discover a simple, credible and tasteful film that simply tells a story about people who want find their way home. Saoirse Ronan is radiant as a young woman from Ireland who, in the early 1950s, finds her way to a new country, neighborhood and life. Hopefully, this quiet movie will not get lost when released in theaters in early November.


#4: A movie needs a dream: Miles Ahead

As astonishing as Don Cheadle’s recreation of a chapter of Miles Davis’ life – also bypassing a traditional approach to a biopic – what the actor/director/writer achieved over eight years to get the movie made is just as impressive. At a question-and-answer session at the festival, Cheadle described how, at one point, he used crowdsourcing to ask people to help finance the film. Because so many believed in his project, Cheadle secured the funds to complete the movie. And anyone who sees it when it opens in 2016 will be grateful.


#5: A movie needs surprise: Where to Invade Next

Over the years, we have learned to expect the outrageous from documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. He first gained attention for taking General Motors to task in Roger & Me, after which he examined senseless school killings in the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine and controversial military action in Fahrenheit 9/11. But Moore is rather jolly in his new film, Where to Invade Next, a light-hearted look at the ideas America should borrow from other countries. Suddenly the man who use film to argue seems satisfied to simply make us think.


Even though this year’s New York Film Festival has ended, the work of the Film Society at Lincoln Center continues throughout the year. Go to filmlinc.org for details about ongoing programming.