New York Film Festival 2012: Flixist Awards and Recap


[For the past month, we covered the 50th New York Film Festival, bringing you news, features, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films on the festival circuit in 2012. Check out all of our coverage here.]

And so another film festival comes to an end. For the last however long, Hubert and I have spent an inordinate amount of time in the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, and now it’s time to celebrate all of that coverage. You will notice that my role was relegated almost exclusively to second opinions this time around, and that’s because most of my time was spent doing things for places that weren’t Flixist. But I’m not going to pimp my other writing here, because that would be rude.

Instead, Hubert and I are rounding up what we thought were some of the films most worthy of some kind of superlative, whether that be positive or negative. Below you will find our choices.

And if you’re feeling down about this whole things, don’t forget that we’re already in the middle of covering another film festival, because we’re crazy.

Best Film

No 2012 Best Film Flixist Award

If I had been told that No was made in 1988, I would have completely believed. Shot with the cameras that were prevalent at the time, the film is ugly as hell. But that’s part of its genius. Telling the true story of the man who literally took down a dictatorship with music and rainbows, No serves as a fascinating look into politics that has a special significance in the US right now. Even without that context (which is unintentional), No still stands as a brilliant film. I still can’t get the song that inspired it (and the peaceful revolution that followed its depicted events) out of my head. And every time I think “Chile, la alegria ya viene,” I remember how amazing No is. And I smile, and I sing along. – Alec Kubas-Meyer [Read Hubert’s full review here!]

Barbara Runner Up Flixist Award

Christian Petzold’s Barbara is one of those films that uses its quiet moments to emphasize a feeling of paranoia and suspicion. Set in the early 1980s in East Germany, we get a glimpse into a story of moral obligations and freedom in the German Democratic Republic. The title character has basically been exiled to a country hospital and now all she wants to do is flee for the west. But leaving might not be possible since she’s constantly watched by the Stasi and has no one to trust. Carefully modulated direction with great performances by the entire cast, Barbara is a quiet and intelligent film, but it’s also extremely human. – Hubert Vigilla [Read his full review here!]

Best Actor

Gael Garcia Bernal Flixist award winner

The man who Gael García Bernal depicts in No was incredible, and anything less than a brilliant performance would be a crime against reality. Fortunately, reality stands unharmed, as Bernal’s performance captures something truly special. I don’t know how close to reality his character was, but it doesn’t really matter. Because of him, Rene Saavedra felt human, and his facial expressions could say what monologues couldn’t. Much of the film’s success fell on his shoulders, especially in the film’s final scenes. His emotions become the film’s emotions, whether they agree with the general feel of a scene or not, and No is all the more powerful for that. Without Bernal at the helm, No would have completely fallen apart, and that too would have been a crime. Instead, it stands as our best of the fest, and Bernal stands proudly next to it, our choice for best actor. – Alec Kubas-Meyer

Tadashi Okuno Flixist Award winner

An unknown who’d only done stage work and bit parts on TV for 50 years, Tadashi Okuno is an indispensable part of Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love. He’s a lonely old scholar who might be falling for a hapless young escort with an abusive boyfriend. A whopper of a lie snowballs into an impending tragedy, but it plays like a slow-burning screwball comedy. Okuno carries himself with the tenderness of a grandfather and the hubris of academic experience, but it’s not enough since real life is more complicated than adages and platitudes. Love turns people into bumbling fools and doddering old men, so it can only be worse for old people. Okuno might have made a great leading man in his youth. – Hubert Vigilla [Read his full review here!]

Best Actress

Cristina Flutur in Beyond the Hills Flixist award

At Cannes this year, the judges gave the award for Best Actress to two women: Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, who played the lead females in Beyond the Hills. As Alina and Voichita, the two of them give excellent performances that deserve awards, but Flutur did it better. Her character is little more than a whiny brat trying to recapture the past, but instead of hating her I felt righteous indignation for her. I understood exactly why she did everything she did, and I wanted her to win, even though she had no right to make the demands that she did. As Alina went further and further over the edge, Flutur handled herself beautifully and created one of best performances I have seen in quite some time. – Alec Kubas-Meyer 

Nina Hoss Flixist award winner

Nina Hoss has collaborated with director Christian Petzold on five films now. That familiarity and friendship with each other may be what helps her performance. (In our interview with Christian Petzold, he admitted to writing characters for his actors.) As Barbara, Hoss plays gentle and guarded, strong and fragile. Her presence is interesting because she’s full of this graceful moxie that’s being quashed by the German Democratic Republic. It’s both a yearning for freedom and this inexhaustible bravery, and Hoss is able to communicate so much in just a cross of the legs or the unexpected appearance of a smile. That smile is a wonder — sun through the clouds, a bloom in the weeds. Hoss is consistently interesting to watch. – Hubert Vigilla


Valeriu Andriuta Beyond the Hills Flixist Award

If Cristina Flutur’s Alina is the protagonist of Beyond the Hills (I would argue she is), Valeriu Andriuta’s priest is the bad guy. Unbeknownst to him, he caused her life in Romania fell apart while she was away in Germany, and now he is the enemy. So his performance has to stand up to Flutur’s, and you already know how I feel about that. His performance isn’t quite as incredible, but he Andriuta holds his own. The man is just an Orthodox priest trying to do his Orthodox priest things, and he gets involved in some very bad things that he doesn’t entirely understand. He tries though; he honestly does. As much as I disliked him for what he did to Alina, I still felt for him, and Andriuta is the reason for that. – Alec Kubas-Meyer

Niels Arestrup in Our Children Flixist Award winner

While Emilie Dequenne’s performance in Our Children is great, her character’s descent into depression and madness would seem maybe flat and simplistic if it weren’t for the rest of the cast. That’s especially true for Neils Arestrup who plays Andre, the much older step-brother to her character’s husband. He’s domineering in an oddly paternal way, and I eventually got a sense that any help he provided to the couple was partly (maybe even mostly) an exercise in guilt and power. Here’s someone who does good things because he cares, but also because he wants the people he helps to feel obligated to him. – Hubert Vigilla [Read his full review here!]

Biggest Disappointment

Tabu Most Disappointing film NYFF 2012

I’d heard so many good things going into Tabu — it was surreal, it was magical, it was strange. What no one seemed to mentioned was that it was also unbearably boring for the first hour. We watch a woman eat leftover prawns. We watch a woman go to the movies. We watch a woman meet someone at the airport. I had no reason to care and nodded off a couple times. The second half is where all the potent material is. I think it was supposed to make me understand the inner tragedy going on in the first half of the movie, but I mostly wonder why the first half of the movie was even necessary. There’s something in the movie about crocodiles, but who cares? Honestly, I may have slept through the important, boring bit. – Hubert Vigilla [Read his full review here!]

Hyde Park in Hudson runner up most disappointing NYFF 2012

I should have smelled the Oscar bait from miles away. Bill Murray is stunt cast as Franklin Roosevelt and winds up doing a great impression of Cary Grant doing a half-decent impression of FDR. Murray’s not bad, but he’s just not quite right in the role, and the movie never feels cohesive. The light comedy of manners between the stodgy and stuttery British royals is where the film feels most comfortable, but it’s yoked by a trite love story that turns the usually strong Laura Linney into a withering little girl. Hyde Park on Hudson is one of the handful of movies at this year’s NYFF that I like less now than when I first saw it. – Hubert Vigilla [Read his full review here!]

Worst Film

Leviathan Worst film at NYFF 2012

Leviathan’s existence makes me angry. The fact that people enjoyed it makes me angrier. Usually if I disagree with a person’s taste, it will be at least somewhat in jest, but this is not. The notion that anyone could praise Leviathan is horrifying. The people behind it should be publicly flogged for what they did, because what they did was awful. If what I’m saying makes you want to see it, because you don’t believe that a film could actually be bad enough to inspire this kind of vitriol, do yourself a favor and burn down whatever venue near you thinks it’s worth showcasing. You’ll spend some years in jail, but it will be better than spending 87 minutes watching Leviathan. Probably. – Alec Kubas-Meyer [Read Hubert’s full review here!]

The Paperboy runner up worst film of NYFF 2012

Lee Daniel’s follow-up to Precious is a pile of junk. Not good junk either. Everyone talks about Nicole Kidman peeing on Zac Efron, but she also does air fellatio and gets brutally raped in a scene that goes on way too long and feels uncomfortable in a tacky way rather than in a disturbing way. While the actors are mostly good — Kidman’s brave, John Cusack plays Nic Cage on bath salts — the material is just unengaging. There was talk of Pedro Almodovar once being attached to the project, which would have been great. Either he or John Waters would have been great for the movie, playing up the melodrama and trashy camp. Instead, Daniels made barely competent schlocky garbage. – Hubert Vigilla [Read his full review here!]

Everything Else


No – 87 (Exceptional) Editor's Choice

Leviathan – 30 (Bad)

Tabu – 40 (Sub-par)

Our Children – 77 (Good)

Kinshasa Kids – 55 (Average)

Caesar Must Die – 79 (Good)

Like Someone in Love – 82 (Great) Editor's Choice

The Paperboy – 30 (Bad)

Nothing But a Man – 81 (Great) Editor's Choice

Araf – Somewhere in Between – 76 (Good)

Room 237 – 60 (Decent)

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay – 68 (Decent)

Life of Pi – 77 (Good)

Bwakaw – 73 (Good)

Barbara – 85 (Exceptional) Editor's Choice

The Bay – 50 (Average)

Frances Ha – 83 (Great) Editor's Choice

Hyde Park on Hudson – 58 (Average)

Berberian Sound Studio – 55 (Average)

Passion – 39 (Bad)

Camille Rewinds – 63 (Decent)


Flixist’s biggest New York Film Festival regrets

Flixclusive Interview: Barbara director Christian Petzold

Flixclusive Interview: Room 237 director Rodney Ascher


Behold the original ending of Little Shop of Horrors

The 2012 New York Film Festival kicks off tonight

It’s time for another New York Film Festival