Yesterday morning I attended the press launch of the upcoming 57th BFI London Film Festival, happening from October 9th through October 20th. There really was no compelling reason to be there, certainly not at the crack of 9:30am — which is too early for a nightowl like me to up and about and functioning — especially since I could have stayed home and gotten all the same information that was announced at the launch in my pajamas: the program was released online virtually simultaneously.
But being there was a nice way to mark the beginning of a season that has become one of the highlights of living in London for me. I loved the Christmas-morning feel of seeing the program being unwrapped before our eyes. We already knew that Tom Hanks had snagged the unusual distinction of starring in both the opening- and closing-night films, already announced as, respectively, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, starring Hanks in a true story about the hijacking of an American container ship by Somali pirates, and John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks, about the making of Mary Poppins (Hanks stars as Walt Disney, with Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers). And we knew that Stephen Frears’s Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, would also be a centerpiece film. But that’s like knowing before Christmas that you’re definitely getting the bike you asked for. There’s still all the other stuff wrapped up under the tree.
There’s the prezzies you wished for and were at the top of your list that you’re delighted to find; for me, these movies were 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and Inside Llewyn Davis, all of which I had my fingers crossed for and got. Hoorah!
There are the prezzies you didn’t even know you wanted: I hadn’t previously been aware of Labor Day, from Jason Reitman and starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin; or Invisible Woman, from director (and star) Ralph Fiennes about Charles Dickens (he plays the author); or Jim Jarmusch’s new film, Only Lovers Left Alive, starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton; or Alex Gibney’s new documentary, The Armstrong Lie, about Lance Armstrong; or Kelly Reichhardt’s Night Moves, a thriller about ecoterrorists starring Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning. But now I cannot wait to see them.
There are prezzies I hadn’t though to include on my list and got anyway: Blue Is the Warmest Color, the Cannes hit; Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon; Alexander Payne’s new movie, Nebraska; Parkland, about the JFK assassination, with Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder; Under the Skin, in which Scarlett Johansson plays a predatory alien on Earth; Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said; All Is Lost, in which Robert Redford is stranded at sea.
There are prezzies I had no idea I wanted: a thriller from Australia about the Aborginial experience called Mystery Road; Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, about an all-girl punk band in 1980s Stockholm (the trailer we saw for this was hilarious).
The presentation gave us only the highlights of the program. After the presentation, as we were leaving, we picked up the brochure for this year’s festival: 106 pages of movies movies movies movies. And in here I discovered even more gifts: Tracks, in which Mia Wasikowska has an Outback adventure; director (and star) James Franco’s adaptation of Faulkner, As I Lay Dying; Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight; Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem; Short Term 12, which all my critic friends in the U.S. have been raving about.
Actually, my Christmas-morning metaphor isn’t quite right. I have not yet been handed any of these presents yet: I got only IOUs for them. The actual movies are still be unwrapped.
The anticipating is driving me crazy.
I’m hyperventilating from the overwhelming movie awesomeness.
LFF will screen a total of 234 feature films, both narrative and documentary. Last year, I managed to see only 37 films at the festival (and I didn’t review anywhere near all of them). I want to be able to do more this year — see more films and write about more of them — but I don’t know if that’s going to be physically possible.
If last year’s schedule holds true this year, press screenings will probably begin on September 23rd. I’ll see what I can do. Maybe I can get my hands on one of Hermione Granger’s time turners…
Tickets go on sale September 12th to BFI members, and September 20th to the public.