The New York Film Festival has fallen into a pattern of opening with a trendy American offering, closing with Clint Eastwood's latest, and in between being contentedly stuffed with the finest offerings from Cannes and other bold obscurities. This year is absolutely no exception, and that's just the way I like it - it's nice when Cannes comes to me, and at Lincoln Center there's less chance of accidentally stepping on Lars von Trier.
As was previously announced, the fest will be opening with David Fincher's The Social Network, finally bridging the gap between the world's most challenging auteurs and N*Sync (at this rate NYFF 2011 will feature Justin Timberlake as a bisexual, ennui-ridden sailor in Hou Hsiao-hsien's next period epic). Clint Eastwood's Hereafter will close the program, with Julie Taymor's The Tempestbeing selected to serve as the fest's arbitrarily more expensive centerpiece. I'm not sure if any tempest could be as difficult to endure as Across the Universe (because of how it was one of the decade's very worst films, and all), but fond memories of Titus have me hoping for a Shakespearean return to form.
It's a strong line-up (New de Oliveira! New Hong Sang-soo! New Reichardt! New Puiu!), but also one that reinforces how NYFF needs to rely a bit less on Cannes if it hopes to carve a unique identity of its own. You can take a look at the entire roster over at filmlinc.com, but here are the 5 selections I'm most excited to see (not counting the aforementioned special events):