2018 New York Film Festival

Most of the big movies of the fall have now premiered (although a few obvious exceptions remain to be unveiled) after their bows at Venice, Telluride and Toronto. Now it’s time for smaller, regional festivals to help further sort the wheat from the chaff. The New York Film Festival (NYFF), which kicks off this week, provides a perfect bridge to this next stage of the season. The festival features no world premieres, just a tightly curated slate of what the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s programmers determine are among the year’s best.

/Film will be in attendance at the New York Film Festival catching up with some of 2018’s best festival bows. But for those who can’t make it up to the Big Apple, you can craft a miniature festival in your own living room based around the NYFF lineup. Here are 10 films you can stream to get you hyped up for some of the eventual release of the festival’s selections. (All streaming availability is accurate as of publication and subject to change.)

the favourite trailer

The Favourite (Opening Night)

A pioneer of the so-called “Greek Weird Wave,” director Yorgos Lanthimos has recently turned his talents to depicting the absurdities of the English-speaking world. His latest project appears to be his most Anglo to date – The Favourite, a send-up of British royal manners with a venomous bite. He’s got one heck of a cast to play a trio of rivals in the court of Queen Anne: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman, all of whom generated serious buzz at the film’s Venice and Telluride premieres. The question now isn’t whether they are deserving of their awards chatter but in what category Fox Searchlight will position them to best capitalize on it.

Can’t make it to NYFF? Watch this at home: Since you’ve probably seen Lanthimos’ English-language breakout The Lobster, dip into his truly surreal Greek output. While Dogtooth earned an Osacr nomination, Alps is a personal favorite of mine. Lanthimos’ absurd look at how people outsource grief and emotional labor in dark times is social commentary well ahead of its time. (available for free to subscribers of Amazon Prime and Fandor)

At Eternity's Gate

At Eternity’s Gate (Closing Night)

A year after stealing our hearts in The Florida Project, Willem Dafoe is back to break our hearts as Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate. The legendary actor tackles the final days of the iconic painter in the latest film by Julian Schnabel, a fixture of the visual art world. Though perhaps better known for his work in the gallery art space, Schnabel has made his mark with just his handful of films. Seeing one painter make a movie about another painter ought to be interesting, at the very least.

Can’t make it to NYFF? Watch this at home: Schanbel’s first film Basquiat, about the eponymous postmodern artist, might be a more apt comparison for At Eternity’s Gate. But I can’t resist the opportunity to recommend The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Schnabel’s buoyantly humanistic tribute to our ability to overcome adversity. His answer to the challenge of depicting the inner world of a man who can only communicate through blinking one eye ought to inspire filmmakers everywhere. (available to rent on Amazon and iTunes)

high life review

High Life

TIFF went crazy for Claire Denis’ High Life (/Film’s Chris Evangelista called it a “strange, surreal, often indecipherable trip”), so it makes sense that A24 picked it up out of the festival. The movie feels like something the distribution company concocted in a lab – one part high concept genre flick, another part matinee idol turned indie icon (Robert Pattinson), all brought together by a stalwart but underappreciated director (Claire Denis). And it has something called the “Fuckbox,” apparently.

Can’t make it to NYFF? Watch this at home: Any chance to familiarize people with the work of director Claire Denis is a welcome opportunity. Hopefully by the time A24 gets High Life into theaters, more of her work will be available to stream. For now, start with her gripping thriller about the consequences of colonialism, White Material. (available for free to subscribers of Filmstruck)

if beale street could talk review

If Beale Street Could Talk

Moonlight was no fluke. Barry Jenkins has struck gold again if the TIFF hype around his follow-up If Beale Street Could Talk is to be believed. (/Film’s Chris Evangelista wrote it was “gorgeous and emotionally stirring – the type of movie that only comes along every so often.”) The film makes its U.S. premiere with a first for the New York Film Festival – a screening at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, the neighborhood in which the story takes place. As if Jenkins adapting a James Baldwin novel wasn’t already reason enough for excitement.

Can’t make it to NYFF? Watch this at home: While Moonlight provides a great taste of Barry Jenkins’ aesthetic choices, his debut feature Medicine for Melancholy really shows off his knack for showing two people simply existing and probing the boundaries of their love. It’s a far simpler film than his Best Picture-winning masterwork, sure, but the charm is undeniable. (available to rent on Amazon and iTunes) 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Trailer

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

“We are streaming motherfuckers!,” wrote the Coen Brothers last summer when Netflix announced their latest project. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the latest work from the inimitable duo, takes them back to the Wild West just eight years after their adaptation of True Grit. Their chosen format, the anthology film, gives them a chance to collaborate with such actors as Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, James Franco, Zoe Kazan and Tom Waits.

Can’t make it to NYFF? Watch this at home: Rather than indulging the incessant ranking and re-ranking of Joel and Ethan Coen’s filmography, something that occurs every time they release a new movie, I’ll go a different route with my recommendation here. The Coens’ chosen format, the anthology film, is ripe for rebirth in the streaming era. Think about it – you can binge watch connected short films! In this regard, Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales provides a tremendous amount of satisfaction. Various thematically linked stories depicting incidents where the savage inner nature of humans emerges provides a satisfying climax every 20 minutes or so! (available to rent on Amazon and iTunes)

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