NYFF 2013: The Festival’s Best Films, Performances, and Crafty Little Details

By  · Published on October 14th, 2013

With Saturday night’s closing night premiere of Spike Jonze’s very stirring Her, this year’s New York Film Festival (in its fifty-first outing) came to a rousing, romantic close. The end of the weeks-long festival also signaled the steady conclusion of the year’s big guns festivals in general (and thank goodness for that, we’re still not quite recovered from the joys of Toronto), finally allowing us time to consider and appreciate some of the truly wonderful stuff we’ve been treated to over the past few months.

Of course, that also means we’re also able to consider the films that made up NYFF, including the program’s finest performances and special attributes. After attending screenings for nearly a month, there was plenty to review, but most of our best of honors came quickly – there were plenty of winners at NYFF, but there were also plenty of very clear winners. After the break, relive the glories of this year’s NYFF, complete with evaluations of best films, performances, food, cats, and hair, because we’re nothing if not totally professional.

Best Films of NYFF 2013

The quality of the New York Film Festival improves with each year, and this one was no different, with a slate packed with must-sees like Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Nebraska, All Is Lost, and Captain Phillips, NYFF delivered big time, thanks to both world premieres and NYC-centric bows of previous festival winners.

Best Films of NYFF 2013 We Didn’t Get to See

Every festival comes with a unique set of regrets, and this year we’re sad that our schedule couldn’t allow for buzzy titles like Only Lovers Left Alive, The Square, Gloria, and Bastards, all of which garnered plenty of critical acclaim (and a spot on our must-see lists).

Best Male Performance

If there’s one thing that NYFF delivered on this year, it’s stunning male performances from accomplished stars. From Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips to Robert Redford in All Is Lost, it was a great year to be a guy at NYFF, but our hearts are set on Bruce Dern’s mumbly-magical turn in Nebraska, a fitting return to leading man status for a fitting leading man.

Best Female Performance

Physically demanding performances ruled for the ladies at NYFF this year, and we can’t help but single out both Isabelle Huppert for the haunting, painful, full body work she put into her turn in Abuse of Weakness and Adele Exarchopoulos for her unbelievably brave (and beautiful) role in Blue Is the Warmest Color.

Best Supporting Performance

While I may be personally biased when it comes to costars of the fuzzy and furry variety, the orange tabbies of Inside Llewyn Davis aren’t just adorable, they’re also essential plot drivers in the Coen brothers’ latest epic.

Best Supporting Performance (Non-Animal)

Fine, there were also plenty of human supporting turns at NYFF to keep all you non-animal-lovers happy (how dare you), especially Joanna Scanlan’s ever-evolving turn as Charles Dickens’ jilted wife in The Invisible Woman and June Squibb’s uproarious role as Bruce Dern’s wife in Nebraska. While neither lady was the main event of their respective films, both shined too brightly to be ignored.

Best Breakout

Adele Exarchopoulos wins this one by a mile – her work in Blue Is the Warmest Color is achingly real (especially during the messy, confused teen years of her character, early in the film) and heartbreakingly beautiful. She’s wonderfully expressive throughout the film, and her numerous (very graphic) sex scenes only highlight her bravery and dedication to her craft.

Best Hair

Anyone who has seen Adele Exarchopoulos’ wild mane in Blue Is the Warmest Color knows she’s the only possible winner for this one. Even when her Adele is piling up a messy bun or shaking out her unhinged locks, every strand tells its own story. (It looks just as good in person, too.)

Best Food

Another win for Blue Is the Warmest Color, as the film links food and sex and emotion throughout, with a rich spaghetti Bolognese constantly reappearing in the feature, looking more delectable with each shot.

Best Father-Son Feature

Ha, trick question – there were actually two father-son relationship films at NYFF, and one of them was mighty unexpected. Sure, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is the clear pick here, with Bruce Dern and Will Forte playing very different characters who come together after an ill-advised road trip and family reunion, but Richard Curtis’ time-traveling rom-com About Time also contains its own highly emotional father-son bond. Are romantic comedies supposed to make you cry? When they feature Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleeson as a pair who share a unique genetic makeup, a special secret, and a tearjerking bond, yes, they are.

Best Music

Not only is Inside Llewyn Davis a great film, but it really does feature flat-out awesome jams. The clear winner, however? A rousing roundabout with stars Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Adam Driver asking President Kennedy to not shoot them into space. No, trust us, this is going to be your new favorite song in just a few weeks. It’s inescapably wonderful.

Best Use of Iceland and/or Greenland

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may have proven to be critical divisive, but its middle act, featuring Ben Stiller traveling around the mentioned ‘lands, looks and feels just superb, making us hungry for more films set up at the top of the world (well, sort of).

Best Romance

There’s a reason why I haven’t completed my review of Jonze’s Her just yet – because it’s almost too sad to process. It’s also a weirdly beautiful combination of modern and classic love, a relationship story about a man and his operating system that doesn’t actually need to be about a man and his operating system, that’s how oddly universal it is.

Best “This Has to Be True-Life, Because What?” Feature

Catherine Breillat’s Abuse of Weakness could haunt viewers on its own, but once people realize it’s based on the filmmaker’s own life, there’s no way they’ll be able to stop talking about it (and giving its nebulousness a true-life pass).

Best Computer Operating System

Her’s Samantha, who may be literally the only choice, but is also just the only choice. Good luck not falling in love with her, just like Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore.

Click here for all of our NYFF 2013 coverage

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