Off the Carpet: Christopher Nolan, Brad Pitt and AFI Fest on deck

The New York Film Festival has added David Fincher's “Gone Girl” to the equation and will do the same for Paul Thomas Anderson's “Inherent Vice” in due time, but let me skip ahead a bit. The “Interstellar” onslaught, you see, has begun. New posters, interviews, a new trailer, TV spots during Sunday Night Football, more imagery, a reported (massive) running time, etc. Nolan's film is finished and has been shown here and there over the last week or so and, well, on a movie like this, it's hard to contain the trickle of buzz (even if everyone is probably signing NDAs). And the buzz is mostly great.

However, when I hear certain things about the film – like how it finds a sweet spot between the emotion of Steven Spielberg and the intellect of Stanley Kubrick – I have to wonder if Nolan actually has the former in him. He remains an expert visual storyteller and one who can play with theme at a very high level of difficulty, but I don't often find his films emotionally inviting – not in a warm/Spielbergian way, in any case. That's not a value judgment, and it's also not to say that examples like “Batman Begins” and “Inception” don't have their moments. It's just a personal observation. I've heard from some that “Interstellar” hits these beats quite well, and from others that they feel shoehorned in. If that element of the movie soars, it could be an interesting note.

Meanwhile, at 169 minutes (or 175, depending on the source), the film is Nolan's longest to date, just passing “The Dark Knight Rises.” That's surely enough to make it the longest contender in this year's Best Picture race, too, which will be fun for the folks at Paramount Pictures to play with. The studio has been so close to the gold for so many years – a perennial bridesmaid – that you have to imagine they'd love to go BIG with their first Best Picture win since the '90s.

It's also been reported that IMAX will be installing a 70mm projector at Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theater specifically for screenings of the film (not that anyone outside of Los Angeles cares about that). This comes after Nolan joined in with a number of high profile filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams and Judd Apatow to argue for a reprieve on Kodak's plans to reduce celluloid production to nil. Point being, he's at a flashpoint moment in both his career and his status as a power player within the industry.

But then again, so is Angelina Jolie. And if that becomes the race for Best Picture, it will be an interesting one indeed. However, word is Jolie doesn't shy away from the brutality of World War II in “Unbroken.” If violence is too difficult to stomach, a warmer embrace could be waiting from one of the last guys you'd expect it to be. And Nolan is already dropping clues in this regard (bold mine): “It”s a very classically constructed movie,” he told Empire Magazine, “but the freshness of the narrative elements really enhance it. I liken it to the blockbusters I grew up with as a kid, family films in the best sense: edgy, incisive, challenging.”

While we await “Interstellar,” which probably won't show widely to the press for a number of weeks (and doesn't really have to), Sony has imminent plans to start showing David Ayer's “Fury” with Brad Pitt ahead of its stateside release and London Film Festival premiere. It's been down to the wire on that one, leaving some suspecting trouble. But slow down. The film's producer, John Lesher, told me last week at an event for “Birdman” (which he also produced) that they literally finished the movie a week ago today. And I'm told otherwise that the edit, which was supposed to be done in June, has been through several iterations over the last month or so.

A lot of backstory tinkering on Brad Pitt's character has been going on, according to one source. Much of it had originally been shed to streamline the film, only to be thrown back in. “They were doing the usual honing and then it sounded like someone blinked,” the source says. “Why he's in the military, what he did before, why he takes a liking to Logan Lerman's character, all that stuff you could glean, they made it all kind of monologues and on the nose. But I could actually see people liking it more now.”

I'm not sure what the various parties were trying to settle upon or if they tested it and a different road became more obvious (test screening reactions have been positive, it should be noted). But these things rarely come together with ease. We'll see soon enough if the film is in fact the player I had a hunch it would be for Sony at the start of the year, or if it's been fashioned as merely a commercial commodity for the fall.

Finally, as expected, “A Most Violent Year” set its course for an AFI Fest premiere. It's smart for A24 to get that one out there far ahead of its Dec. 31 release date so that it doesn't have to contend with the end-of-year glut too much. The only other debut currently expected for the early-to-mid November event is Rupert Wyatt's “The Gambler,” which would bring with it a hopeful Mark Wahlberg looking to crack an overstuffed Best Actor race. Clint Eastwood's “American Sniper” could happen like “J. Edgar” before it, but it's not finished yet (and it's best to be wait-and-see on Eastwood these days). “Selma,” “Unbroken” and “Into the Woods” won't be ready to show until around Thanksgiving, if not later.

Oh, and speaking earlier of “Interstellar,” Nolan's space epic is putting a bit of a crimp in AFI Fest's usual plans by taking over that stay in the Chinese IMAX when it releases on Nov. 7. Just about all of the galas that would have taken place there will instead move over to the Dolby and Egyptian Theaters, I'm told. The Dolby is where they hold the annual Academy Awards. Will it be a good omen for the films that premiere there between Nov. 6 and Nov. 13, or will it just be a jinx? We'll see.

That's pretty much the lay of the land between now and the latter stages of the year. A lot has happened with plenty more to come. And I imagine in the immediate, much of the NYFF discussion will probably be built around expert craftsmen (Fincher, Anderson, Iñárritu) offering up subversive fare that doesn't typically find itself in the Academy wheelhouse, but could dazzle its way into the fold against such odds.

So it's starting to look like a fun, not at all typical season. Neat!

The Contenders section has been nipped and tucked throughout. Onward…