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NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #2: Mangrove and Nomadland

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Neither Nomadland nor Mangrove are set right now, or even just before right now, in 2019, which is where I’ve mentally sorted any otherwise-very-contemporary stories that, naturally, do not feature multiple characters wearing masks and keeping their distance. Nomadland is specifically set during an election year that now feels like the distant past, taking place mostly over the course of 2012. Mangrove is a real-life courtroom drama that takes place in 1970. Yet–big sigh, deep breath, and then maybe another sigh–both of these New York Film Festival entries are plenty appropriate for our current moment, in ways that alternately seem complementary and diametrically opposed. Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is all about our old friend “economic anxiety,” albeit treated with unusual gentleness, while Steve McQueen’s Mangrove is about the kind of racist, violent police harassment that has inspired countless protests in 2020. Both of them have plenty of opportunities to come across as hamfisted in one way or another, and both of them succeed in ways that are somehow both straightforward and oddly miraculous.
Continue reading NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #2: Mangrove and Nomadland

NYFF58 at Home Dispatch #1: Lovers Rock, Fauna, and The Calming

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

I’ve been attending the New York Film Festival for nearly a decade and, because of various scheduling factors and assignments, I’ve known it largely as a venue for splashy, high-end premieres of one sort or another. Even though many of the NYFF selections typically hit Cannes, Toronto, and/or Venice first, they’ll still, say, be the first place anywhere that shows Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, or Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, or Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, under optimal conditions and maximum excitement. The Irishman is a perfect case in point, not just for the massive hype of a major fall movie shown for the first time, but for a more recent phenomenon: Last year especially, New York Film Fest became a go-to destination for catching movies that otherwise might not play on a big screen near you.

Of course, The Irishman and Marriage Story and the previous year’s Ballad of Buster Scruggs all did get theatrical engagements before their Netflix bows. But they were always tied up in uncertainty over which theaters would agree to Netflix’s shortened-window terms, and whether those theaters would give those movies anything better than token shoebox-auditorium engagements (Netflix seems semi-committed to theatrical releases for its prestige projects, but also reneges on promised splashiness like the thousands of screens that were supposed to show The Irishman). NYFF was a way for nervous cinephiles to make damn well sure they saw these movies on a big screen.

Now those concerns seem downright laughable. Wondering about whether a movie might play on big enough screens so that it might be experienced with a giant crowd of strangers? Ha, that’s pre-pandemic thinking, the concerns of a more innocent age! The New York Film Festival, like all but a very select few and foolhardy film concerns of the past six months, has moved online. The types of marquee features that might typically populate the opening, centerpiece, and closing slots have largely vacated the release calendar entirely, making a smaller, more streaming-friendly festival. Last year boasted the mid-fest world premiere of The Irishman. This year’s opening night? Part of a TV show Steve McQueen did for Amazon.
Continue reading NYFF58 at Home Dispatch #1: Lovers Rock, Fauna, and The Calming