“All Roads lead to ‘The Social Network'”
by Brian Whisenant
Hello again Awards Daily! I am quite happy to be back with you after a great ride covering Tribeca Film Festival. This time around, there is a new beast to conquer, and its name is New York Film Festival.
If you didn’t read my coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival, or if you haven’t been to my blog, I will give you a quick run down of my perspective. Like many of you, I have been a fan of movies and an Oscarwatcher for most of my life. I was basically hooked on the Oscars at age 12 after I accidentally ended up in “Moonstruck” instead of “Police Academy 4.” (My little town of Corinth, Mississippi only had a Twin Cinema, so it was a lot easier than you might think.) That film changed my life. I remember begging the video rental manager a few years later to please PLEASE let this 15 year old rent “The Silence of the Lambs!” I had to know if it deserved to beat “Bugsy!” Anyway, years passed, I became an actor, continued to love film and Oscar and found Oscarwatch.com when I just couldn’t contain my obsession on my own any longer.
Skipping some bits, I ended up working in the box office at the Tribeca Film Festival, and this year covering the fest for AD. At TFF I really get a sense of what the general public is feeling, in addition to industry and press. Although there are press screenings that happen before Tribeca begins, most of the showings I attended were during the actual festival, some of which were public screenings. There is a fantastic thing that happens every year, at every fest, when a movie seems to come out of nowhere, starting as a whisper and eventually bubbling over as the film to see. At TFF it was “When We Leave,” which I reviewed on AD. That film is now Germany’s submission for the Foreign Film Oscar. Although I wasn’t there, at Cannes I get the impression that “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” was that surprise film.
Unfortunately, at NYFF, all the press screenings are separate, most of which are happening before the festival begins. And trust, me it is quite the strange experience. I did attend NYFF a few years ago, and the 4 films that I saw in addition to their mission statement really gave me an idea of what the fest was all about.
The festival “highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent.” One of the films I saw in 2008 was a film called “Serbis,” a very unique, and well acted film that I loved from director Brilliante Mendoza about a family running a porn theater. That same year I saw a movie whose title neither I nor the friends I went with can remember that had no dialogue for most of the film, even though the characters were actually having conversations. Experimental and maddening. And then I had the pleasure of seeing “The Wrestler,” which closed out the fest. What a star-studded and amazing experience that gala screening was. And here I was seeing it months before its release.
The roster this year is typical NYFF. Just like most festivals, there are panel discussions, Avant-Garde and showcase films (only one of which I am seeing, “A Letter to Elia,” Martin Scorsese’s docu-love letter to Elia Kazan), but I am focusing on the Main Slate. These are the films that may or may not stay part of the Oscar conversation to the end.
They definitely mean it when they say they highlight the best in the world, as many of the films have already been seen at Venice, Cannes and Toronto. Among them from Cannes, the already mentioned “Uncle Boonmee,” as well as the acting tours de force “Certified Copy” and “Another Year” (a film I can’t wait to see as I was completely over the moon for “Secrets & Lies.”) Also, there is Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff” (from TIFF), starring Michelle Williams (who very well could receive a nomination for one of her films this year). And then there is the Russian film “Silent Souls” which premiered at Venice along with “The Tempest” which has already been panned by several critics and bloggers. I am not one to enjoy the trashing of a film, but I have been irritated by Taymor since “The Lion King.” So much genius there, but seemingly no restraint.
Although I have never been one to scoff at a festival for not showing all world premieres (I am not the person who is able to make it to the every festival. If it’s not in NYC, I just can’t make it happen.) but at NYFF they are definitely few and far between. If I ever finish this piece I will be heading into the theater this morning to see one of them, “LennonNYC” one of the few docs showing, about…well, isn’t it obvious. Lennon’s dark days in NYC. And then there is the big one.
All roads lead to “The Social Network.”
Although many people, including our fearless leader at AD, Sasha, have already seen the film, its world premiere is this Friday. I see it Friday morning. Which leads me to what makes NYFF such a unique experience for me. Yesterday the theater began only 1/2 full, with the very unique, “Robinson in Ruins” starting the day. By the time we got to “Certified Copy” the theater was full. And full with all types of press and industry. To my left I had an older gentleman who is a press staple who seemed a bit, well, not bothered exactly, but indifferent to be at “Uncle Boonmee.” “I’ve seen this three times now,” he said, with no sense of enjoyment. And then there were the young bloggers all in a row, with pencils and pads out, scribbling all through “Certified Copy” only to look up when the rest of us laughed, realizing they had missed the joke. (Perhaps they all spoke French and didn’t need the subtitles. But I doubt it.)
And then there was the other group of young writers who, when I sat down were trash talking Clint Eastwood. Something I can’t abide. “Hereafter” is closing the festival (and unfortunately I will already be at the Hamptons Film Festival when it is screening for the press). “I hate Eastwood’s films,”one said with the others nodding, uniformly, in agreement. When one of their colleagues hesitantly spoke up that he liked “Iwo Jima” much more than he thought he would, you could feel the chill, which was broken with “Well…I can’t wait to see ‘Social Network.’ ” Something I heard all day from the old folks to the young. Nothing it seems can stop the freight train that is “The Social Network.” But don’t forget, I also seem to remember another freight train this time last year. And it’s name was “Avatar.”