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The 10 best movies to see at the 2018 New York Film Festival

From the riches of the annual showcase, we pick ten bangers, filled with punk perversity and global empathy alike.

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Every fall, the New York Film Festival saves us from overdosing on summer inanity. (It was fun while it lasted, Tom Cruise.) This year’s 56th edition—marked by a ferocity that’s in the air—unspools at various venues around Lincoln Center Sept 28–Oct 14. Screenings at the voluptuous Alice Tully Hall are what you’re gunning for. That's where you’re likely to see your fill of directors and actors taking their bows in person (and, hopefully, mixing it up in a Q&A afterward). But any theater will do when the standard of taste is this high. Visit filmlinc.org for the complete lineup and tickets.

Best movies at NYFF 2018

1
Netflix
Movies, Drama

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Miss a new film by the Coens at your own peril. Their latest—an amusingly violent six-part comedy set in a highly stylized Old West—feels a touch like a placeholder after the darker riches of Inside Llewyn Davis and Hail, Caesar! But when Zoe Kazan shows up on the dusty trail as an evolving frontierswoman, the movie deepens into the kind of drama the brothers are capable of. You'll have much fun with this.

Alice Tully Hall, Oct 4 at 6pm; Walter Reade Theater, Oct 9 at 8:45pm.

Time Out says
2
Movies, Drama

The Favourite

Ignore the buzz that already has this one leading the Oscar horse race (too soon!) and just let it function as the wonderfully catty and vicious period piece it was meant to be. In an 18th-century England that owes more to Stanley Kubrick’s fish-eyed Barry Lyndon than to reality, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone duke it out for the affections of the fickle Olivia Colman, who plays their queen. Clearly, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has watched Dangerous Liaisons a zillion times.

Alice Tully Hall, Fri 28 at 6, 9pm; Walter Reade Theater, Fri 28 at 6:30, 9:30pm; Francesca Beale Theater, Fri 28 at 7, 9:45pm; Howard Gilman Theater, Fri 28 at 7:30, 10pm.

Time Out says
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3
Movies, Drama

Her Smell

Get past that awful title and you’ll be treated to an unexpectedly affecting riot-grrrl fantasia (inspired in all but name by the offstage antics of Courtney Love). Star Elisabeth Moss rages through the first hour to an intentionally annoying degree, yet writer-director Alex Ross Perry slows things down for a fragile stretch of redemption that’s among the year’s finest climaxes.

Alice Tully Hall, Sat 29 at 6pm, Sun 30 noon.

4
Movies, Drama

High Life

It should be illegal to ruin the reveals of this ultra-strange sci-fi movie. Suffice it to say, it stars Juliette Binoche and the fearless Robert Pattinson (evolving into an indie director’s best friend after last year’s Good Time and The Lost City of Z), it owes more to thinkers like Solaris than to Alien, and it concerns some explicitly sexual experiments in outer space. You’ll be whispering about the Fuckbox for days.

Alice Tully Hall, Oct 2 at 9pm, Oct 4 at 9:15pm.

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5
Movies, Documentary

The Image Book

What good is a fancy film festival without the latest from provocateur Jean-Luc Godard, now 87 years young? The legendary filmmaker of Breathless and Contempt continues his semiotic plunge into the meaning behind Hollywood’s glamour factory: You’ll see clips from movies you know, including Kiss Me Deadly and Johnny Guitar, but stripped of their sound and thrust into a political realm. At just over 80 minutes, it’s the coolest date movie of the fest, sure to inspire a finger-snapping post-film debate over cocktails.

Alice Tully Hall, Oct 10 at 6pm.

6
Movies, Drama

Private Life

Bursting out of a relatively weak Sundance lineup, writer-director Tamara Jenkins's first movie in more than a decade shows the maker of The Savages in flinty form. Her new one is a comedy about the heartwrenching calculations of in vitro fertilization. If that doesn't sound like a laugh riot, let us re-introduce you to the effortlessly wry Paul Giamatti and a revelatory Kathryn Hahn, huggable and frazzled in every frame.

Alice Tully Hall, Oct 1 at 6pm, Oct 3 at 3pm.

Time Out says
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7
Photo: Netflix
Movies, Drama

Roma

Presented on a sprawling black-and-white canvas, Alfonso Cuarón’s epic memory poem—a salute to the two women who raised the Gravity director during a time of personal and national trauma (i.e., the early ’70s)—is the type of generous, Fellini–esque film that’s become too rare nowadays. Netflix is launching it, but take this opportunity to see it on a rapturously large screen.

Alice Tully Hall, Oct 5 at 6, 9:15pm, Oct 6 noon; Walter Reade Theater, Oct 5 at 6:30, 9:45pm.

Time Out says
8
Movies, Drama

Shoplifters

Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda has tremendous respect for those living off the grid, who have fallen between the cracks; he wants to restore a bit of their dignity. His devastating latest, about a makeshift household of mostly unrelated partners struggling to make ends meet, is one of his most accessible. The film stresses a deep message: Family is where you find it. This is the year’s most compassionate movie.

Alice Tully Hall, Oct 6 at 9:15pm, Oct 8 at 2pm.

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9
Movies, Drama

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

The festival will present the much-anticipated reconstruction of Orson Welles’s self-deprecating The Other Side of the Wind, never completed during his lifetime. That’s some high-level Welles Studies, but They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead—made by Morgan Neville, the guy who recently broke your heart with the Fred Rogers profile Won’t You Be My Neighbor?—is fun for everybody: a manic, witty and frequently riotous breakdown of Welles’s final 15 years, during which he attempted a Hollywood comeback in between wine ads.

Alice Tully Hall, Sat 29 noon. 

10
Movies, Drama

Watergate

Presidential corruption and swirling, all-consuming scandal: Will it actually feel like a night’s entertainment? This definitive four-hour examination—by the fastidious doc director Charles Ferguson, also of the award-winning Inside Job—casts grumbly actors to reenact Oval Office bitch sessions. But its real value comes via new interviews with the coolly critical Elizabeth Holtzman, journos Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and the already much missed John McCain.

Walter Reade Theater, Sat 29 at 11am; Howard Gilman Theater, Oct 8 noon.

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