Filmmaker David Fincher has been away from the screen for a couple of years, since 2011's “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” threatened to be a major Oscar force but settled for a handful of nods (and a surprising Best Film Editing victory). He's back this year with the Gillian Flynn adaptation “Gone Girl,” which could be a major play for Fox as the studio looks to get its awards legs back after hitting a wall with “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” last year. Well, an opening night berth at the 52nd annual New York Film Festival is certainly a great way for the studio to set the stage.
It's a nice, and really, expected fit for a few reasons. When Fincher opened the festival four years ago with his critically acclaimed film “The Social Network,” that sort of kicked NYFF into gear as new personnel began to see the value of major debuts at the September-October fest. The next year brought an early look at Martin Scorsese's “Hugo,” while 2012 marked a major coming out, films like “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln” and “Flight” bowing at the fest in advance of the season.
Meanwhile, Fox has made NYFF a big part of the equation the last two years. After taking “Life of Pi” there, they tried their luck again with Ben Stiller's “Mitty.” To say the least, that film failed to become the success that Ang Lee's Oscar winner did; it probably would have been better situated in the Toronto maelstrom rather than offered up to the critically discerning flock of NYFF-goers, but you win some, you lose some.
All indications are that “Gone Girl” is another triumph for Fincher. The new trailer revealed the creepy cool of his aesthetic and the source material provides a similar opportunity to “Dragon Tattoo” with its underlying thematic considerations (misogyny, battle of the sexes, etc.). I've heard Rosamund Pike is beyond brilliant and that Neil Patrick Harris and, yes, even Tyler Perry stand out in the supporting ranks. The New York bow will be a huge coming out, so we'll know then what kind of contender we have on our hands.
Expect more big NYFF drops to be announced in the coming weeks. I imagine we'll learn that Paul Thomas Anderson is opting to take his “Inherent Vice” there – Warner Bros. closed out NYFF last year with Spike Jonze's “Her” and may be looking to do the same this time around, too. Otherwise, if Sony wants to dodge the Toronto whirlwind, New York would be an interesting place to present “Fury.” They took “Captain Phillips” last year, after all (though that may have had plenty to do with New York-based producer Scott Rudin).
Elsewhere, Paramount gave it a go with “Hugo” and “Flight,” but I wouldn't expect a Christopher Nolan film to hit the festival circuit, so “Interstellar” is probably out. “Selma” just entered post-production and won't be ready to show internally until October, while Jason Reitman has always stuck by Telluride/Toronto. Though on that score, I would expect the studio to opt for Toronto only with “Men, Women and Children” this year, so as to land one of the opening weekend slots up north as the Canadian fest finds itself at odds with Telluride for preempting their big, splashy premieres.
Focus took “Hyde Park on Hudson” to New York after a Telluride/Toronto run, but that's been a rarity for them, so James Marsh's “Theory of Everything” feels more Toronto only. Maybe NYFF can coax The Weinstein Company into bringing Tim Burton's “Big Eyes” there rather than Toronto? It would probably be better to hold it for that extra month or so, unlike the distributor's strategy for last year's December release, “August: Osage County”; that film went to Toronto and sort of fizzled out after bowing.
Certainly no one expects Disney to play the festival game with “Into the Woods” or Universal with “Unbroken,” so I guess that's pretty much the landscape. What else is there really for New York to choose from? I've heard Bennett Miller's “Foxcatcher” could play there, but after Cannes and a likely Telluride showcase (maybe Toronto, too), that wouldn't make a lot of sense for a centerpiece screening, particularly after the recent string of premieres. Speaking earlier of Rudin, there is Jon Stewart's “Rosewater” floating around, as well as Cameron Crowe's still-untitled film. But beyond that, I'm stumped. J.C. Chandor's “A Most Violent Year?” I don't know.
I guess we'll just have to see how it pans out. Soon enough, the annual Telluride guessing game will commence and before long, we'll be reporting back on all these shenanigans from the ground. The season is fast approaching.
You ready for this?
The 2014 New York Film Festival runs Sept. 26 – Oct. 12.