The 51st New York Film Festival officially came to an end this past Saturday, with the closing night world premiere of Spike Jonze's Her. We absolutely loved the film, and were also able to catch 10 of our 13 most anticipated titles at the NYFF. In honor of yet another impressive and eclectic year at the festival, we've decided to bestow the films we caught with a fitting set unique awards.
Best Use of Adam Driver – Inside Llewyn Davis
We already extolled the virtues of the Girls and Lincoln actor within our round-up of the fantastic new Coen brothers film, but it bears repeating: Adam Driver's "Dear Mr. Kennedy" backup vocal recording scene is undoubtedly the best use of Adam Driver in a film to date. And, let's face it, probably ever. Nothing will top this.
Most Flattering Depiction of New York City Sewers – The Immigrant
Oh, so you thought it was all rats and raw sewage beneath 1920s New York streets? Not through the expert eyes of director James Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji, who leave most of the unsavory surroundings cloaked in black with only choice contours illuminated. There's a moment when Joaquin Phoenix's Bruno and Marion Cotillard's Ewa are chased into the city's underbelly by police, and it's a gorgeous, sparsely lit sequence that culminates with Phoenix being beaten by a group of cops. A sliver of yellow light has never made something so brutal look so beautiful.
Most Impactful F-bomb – All Is Lost
To be fair, there are only a handful of words spoken during the 100-minute survival epic that features Robert Redford navigating a ship lost at sea. Director J.C. Chandor weaves an intriguing tale of a man stuck in survival mode, and the film features Redford in his most physical--and virtually dialogue-free--form. Aside from some sparse voiceover that sets up the action, the f-word is the first one spoken (nay, emphatically yelled) by Redford within the narrative. Way to bring back the impact of a simple swear, Sundance Kid!
Most Convincing Promotional Ad for Xanax – Captain Phillips
As we explained in our review, Captain Phillips is an unrelentingly tense, masterfully crafted thriller--director Paul Greengrass tells the incredible true story of a man fighting to regain control of his ship after it's boarded by Somali pirates, and the terror never lets up. It's a two-hour build to a thrilling crescendo, and the movie is a serious workout for your nerves.
Most Beautiful Natural Disaster – The Wind Rises
Lauded Japanese animator and film director Hayao Miyazaki chose the perfect project to usher his retirement: The Wind Rises is a lithe, loving portrait of artistic inspiration. The film -- an adaptation of the fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Japanese fighter aircraft used in WWII -- is chock-full of trademark Miyazaki magical realism, and the film's depiction of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 is enthralling and terrifying and gorgeously crafted. You can practically smell the ash burning in the air and feel the heat of the flaming debris falling throughout the scene.
Most Devoted Art Student – Tim's Vermeer
We're feeling a little upstaged by inventor Tim Jenison--our hard-earned art history minor in college is nothing compared to his borderline obsessive efforts to prove lauded Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer used mirrors and lenses to create his paintings. Not only did Jenison spend five years of his life on the project, but he moved to Vermeer's hometown for months to study the artist's history and the town's light, he learned Dutch, and then went on to re-create (in perfect scale and detail) the room in which Vermeer painted the Music Lesson. And that's just the beginning of Jenison's journey in this incredible documentary directed by illusionist Teller and narrated by Penn Jillette. The film is a loving scientific deconstruction of one of history's greatest artists, and it’s an astonishing work of art in its own right.
Craziest 21st Birthday Celebration – About Time
You may have done too many shots or danced the night away when you turned the big 2-1, but Tim Lake (Domhall Gleeson) and his father (played by Bill Nighy) found a way to top even the most epic birthday outing: they traveled through time. That's because, at the age of 21, every man in the Lake family is bestowed with the knowledge that simply standing in a dark space and concentrating intently on a destination will allow him to travel back and manipulate previous events in his life. It's the basis for a romantic tear-jerker of a film follow-up from the director of Love, Actually.
Most Inappropriate Victory Dance – Nebraska
While Bruce Dern and Will Forte turn in amazing performances as a father and son joined together for an unlikely road trip in Alexander Payne's latest film, June Squibb completely steals the show as the family's fiery, gossipy, outburst-prone matriarch. We don't want to spoil it, but Squibb's hilariously inappropriate scene involves a graveyard and an ex-boyfriend. We sense GIF immortalization in Squibb's future.
Funniest Fictional Video Game – Her
The love-struck protagonist of Spike Jonze's futuristic romance, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), is privy to the beta test of his friend Amy's (Amy Adams) hilarious new video game The Perfect Mom Game. The scene features Adams getting "mom points" for making other parents jealous, baking cupcakes and other such domestic feats. The user also loses points for ills like feeding kids processed sugar, complete with a stern warning that they’re failing their children. It's hilarious, and Jonze divulged during the film's postscreening Q&A that the idea for the game came to him because "I think the pressure of parenthood and the peer pressure of parenthood seemed like a funny setting for a video game." Most of Adams' lines during the scene were ad-libbed, as Adams is a mother and admitted, upon reading the premise, "Oh, I know this!"
Most Hilariously Absurd Film Reference – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
We weren't exactly fans of director-star Ben Stiller's passion project (read our NYFF review here), wherein he plays an imaginative photo editor catapulted from outlandish personal fantasies into a real-life adventure. Had the film featured more moments like the one it's being awarded for--an absurdly funny Benjamin Button reference featuring Stiller's Walter Mitty and the object of his affection, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig)--we would've been a bit more enamored with it.
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