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New York Film Festival 2021 viewing and noshing guide

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The New York Film Festival has pulled a 180. 

Last year, not a single screening at NYFF was in-person. A dude in sweatpants could have experienced the Big Apple in the Big Easy, or Big Sky, or at a Big 10 school. This year, by contrast, you can’t watch a single film online. So New York cinephiles can once again gather and, like Cher in “Moonstruck,” make a night of their trip to Lincoln Center Plaza.

And the lineup doesn’t slouch, either. The stacked roster of major awards favorites and international headliners would be impressive in any normal, mask-less year. 

Here are five of the hottest titles at NYFF, which takes place Sept. 24 to Oct. 10.

‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand play Shakespeare's power-hungry Scots in "The Tragedy of Macbeth."
Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand play Shakespeare’s power-hungry Scots in “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”
Alison Rosa

Beg, borrow or steal to score a ticket to Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” — just don’t murder a sitting monarch like Mackers does. That never turns out well. This opening-night film, starring Academy Award-winners Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as scheming hubby-and-wife usurpers, is a shoo-in for major Oscar nods. The black-and-white film is the best Shakespeare adaptation in a long, long time. Better than Roman Polanski’s 1971 version, in fact. In a twist, the most memorable part of this movie is Kathryn Hunter, who plays all three witches. 

Friday, Sept. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 9.

‘Titane’ 

French flick "Titane" has a plot that's all revved up.
French flick “Titane” has a plot that’s all revved up.
Courtesy of NYFF

The feel-good Best Picture win for “Parasite” in 2020 was a necessary reminder not to ignore Cannes Palme d’Or victors. This year’s top dog on the Côte d’Azur was a French film called “Titane” that’s a smidgeon weirder than Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece. In the thriller, a woman gets preggers after having sex with a car. You’ll never look at “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” the same way again.

Sunday, Sept. 26; Monday, Sept. 27; and Wednesday, Sept. 29.

‘The French Dispatch’

"The French Dispatch" is director Wes Anderson's first live-action film in seven years.
“The French Dispatch” is director Wes Anderson’s first live-action film in seven years.
20th Century Studios

We missed you, Wes. “The French Dispatch” marks playful director Wes Anderson’s first live-action film since 2014’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” His latest stars many actors we now expect to see in his films — Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand — but also throws in young faces like Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan. The film is set at a Parisian magazine. 

Saturday, Oct. 2; Sunday, Oct. 3; and Sunday, Oct. 10.

‘Parallel Mothers’

Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit star in "Parallel Mothers."
Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit star in “Parallel Mothers.”
Courtesy of NYFF

Pedro Almodóvar is a regular at NYFF, and the star of his latest, Penélope Cruz, is a regular with Almodóvar. She plays a 40-year-old soon-to-be mother who meets a pregnant 17-year-old in a maternity ward, and their lives take dramatic turns. Almodóvar has reached a soulful phase in his career, as we saw with the deeply personal “Pain and Glory,” and it’s been lovely to take in.

Friday, Oct. 8.

‘Passing’

Black women played by Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga are able to pass as white in 1920s New York in "Passing."
Black women played by Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga are able to pass as white in 1920s New York in “Passing.”
Netflix

An unexpected New York story directed by Rebecca Hall, this drama is about two black women — played by Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga — who are able to pass as white in the 1920s. Clare, played by Negga, uses the misconception to climb the social ladder (and marry a typically angry Alexander Skarsgård), while her long-lost friend Irene (Thompson) looks on in awe. And perhaps a little bit of disgust.

Sunday, Oct. 3; Monday, Oct. 4; and Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Here’s where to grab a bite or drink

The cucumber gazpacho at Bar Boulud, part of “restaurant row” at 1900 Broadway, will help you muse.
The cucumber gazpacho at Bar Boulud, part of “restaurant row” at 1900 Broadway, will help you muse.
Tamara Beckwith/New York Post

Eating options close to Lincoln Center are as diverse as the celluloid offerings at the New York Film Festival. They’re not equally wonderful, of course, but if history’s any guide, neither will be the movies.

The absolute best place close to the screenings is Bar Boulud, which is part of “restaurant row” at 1900 Broadway across from the arts complex. Its French and American menu famously includes an outstanding charcuterie selection.

The chicken tagine is a must at Boulud Sud on W. 64th St.
The chicken tagine is a must at Boulud Sud on West 64th Street.
Zandy Mangold

Its sister eatery, Provencal- and Mediterranean-inspired Boulud Sud, just reopened next door as well after a long hiatus — don’t miss spicy Moroccan chicken tagine. Note: Both restaurants are open for dinner only.

For cheerful, all-American normalcy after any of the mordant, funky or otherworldly films, it’s hard to beat P.J. Clarke’s (44 W. 63rd St.) and The Smith (1900 Broadway). Bring earplugs when they’re crowded, as they usually are.

Like the Boulud spots, The Smith has lively outdoor seating in the Broadway tower’s arcade. So does longtime Italian favorite Cafe Fiorello next door, where I gravitate to ultrathin crust pizza, especially the variety with, as the menu accurately says, “a lot of pepperoni.”

"Ants climbing a tree" at Shun Lee West on W. 65th St.
Try the poetic “Ants Climbing on Tree” at Shun Lee West on West 65th Street.
Zandy Mangold

For a nostalgic time trip to 1980s Manhattan, it’s hard to beat Shun Lee West’s (43 W. 65th St.) plush, dragon-wrapped dining room, which features that era’s pricey, pan-Chinese cuisine and some of the coziest booths in town.

But if you want a contemporary perspective, head for modern American Robert on the top floor of the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. The views of Central Park and the Upper West Side are as transporting as anything you’ll see on cinema screens.

The pork loin at the iconic Leopard at Des Artistes is only a ten-minute stroll from Lincoln Center.
The pork loin at the iconic Leopard at Des Artistes is only about a 10-minute stroll from Lincoln Center.
Zandy Mangold

If you’d rather leave the festival hubbub behind, The Leopard at des Artistes (1 W. 67th St.) is only about a 10-minute stroll from Lincoln Center. The beautifully restored Howard Chandler Christy murals of frolicking nymphs make a seductive backdrop for hearty northern Italian cuisine in a subtly elegant atmosphere.



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