The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced Alejandro González Iñárritu's “Birdman” as the closing night film of the 52nd annual New York Film Festival, rounding up a string of high profile announcements that have included David Fincher's “Gone Girl” as the fest's opening night gala and Paul Thomas Anderson's “Inherent Vice” as the centerpiece.
The selection eschews a recent pattern of slotting world premieres like “Flight” and “Her” to close the fest. “Birdman” opens just six days after NYFF concludes, and this further exposure for the film – which will come after a Venice world premiere and likely Telluride and Toronto showcases – will be a huge boost going into awards season.
The announcement also comes after Hollywood trade Variety scooped the festival's protocol with both the opening night and centerpiece selections without getting confirmation from either NYFF or the studios involved. Film Society personnel were scrambling Friday night to prepare a press release for “Inherent Vice” thanks to the overzealous outlet, which finds itself fighting for relevance after nearly dying on the auction block and selling for an embarrassing cut rate to Penske Media Corporation in 2012. Normally FSLC would have waited for the Toronto and Venice festivals to have this week for their selection announcements, giving everything room to breathe, so these last two NYFF announcements have come sooner than would have been preferred.
There is still the possibility that another premiere hits the festival in the form of a secret screening. Martin Scorsese's “Hugo” did it in 2011. Steven Spielberg's “Lincoln” did it ahead of a planned AFI Fest bow in 2012. Last year, though – perhaps to the disappointment of those hoping Scorsese would come back with “The Wolf of Wall Street” – the fest opted for something in a much lower key: Jean-Luc Godard's “Vivre sa vie.” So we'll see how things shape up this time around. It goes without saying, with the Fincher and the Anderson, FSLC has gone above and beyond landing major premieres for the 52nd edition of the fest. Here's hoping it will be enough to placate those frothing at the mouth for such things and the focus will shift to what has always been a smartly curated slate of world cinema.
The 2014 New York Film Festival runs Sept. 26 – Oct. 12.