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The Best Films and Performances of the 59th New York Film Festival

The 59th New York Film Festival is now in the books. After opening up with Joel Coen‘s The Tragedy of Macbeth and seeing Jane Campion‘s The Power of the Dog as its centerpiece, NYFF wrapped up a few days ago with Pedro Almodóvar‘s Parallel Mothers as its closer. Held both in person and virtually, the festival had a really nice mix of titles to share. There were tiny films like Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, and Flee, as well as blockbusters like Dune. Plus, there was even controversy with Paul Verhoeven‘s Benedetta. The movies were largely the best of other fests, aside from The Tragedy of Macbeth, but that’s fine. Exclusivity is fun for pundits to talk about, and the big reveals are something, but overall, you just want the flicks to be good. As always, NYFF did not disappoint in that regard.

Below, you’ll see my rankings and personal prizes for NYFF. Now, this was an interesting festival for me, as compared to other years, because attending other fests reduced what I needed to see. That and the responsibilities of running Awards Radar as Oscar season kicks off took some of my time. Still, even if the Toronto International Film Festival got most of my first looks, New York still benefited. What I saw at TIFF was then reevaluated here in the Big Apple. Now, on to the best films and performances of the festival…

The Best Films

A24

By far, the best thing I saw at the New York Film Festival was Sean Baker‘s Red Rocket. Not only that, it’s the best movie I’ve seen all year. The flick is just genius. Not far behind, we have one of my favorites from TIFF in The Worst Person in the World from Joachim Trier. The next tier down, which still featured terrific flicks, included Mike MillsC’mon C’mon, Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune, Campion’s The Power of the Dog, and  Julia Ducournau‘s Titane. This group is among the higher profile titles, but they’re all excellent. Frankly, they stand tall with any recent NYFF grouping among the slates I’ve encountered during a decade covering the fest.

The Best Performances

The Worst Person in the World

A number of performances stood out at NYFF. Some, like Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog and Renate Reinsve, in The Worst Person in the World, I’ve previously feted. Others, like Simon Rex (my favorite performance of the fest) in Red Rocket, are brand new. Rex, along with co-stars Bree Elrod and especially Suzanna Son, deserve real Oscar consideration. They manage to take Baker’s wild film and give it a ton of extra personality. Both Woody Norman and Joaquin Phoenix in C’mon C’mon were tremendous as well, while it will surprise absolutely no one that Penélope Cruz is excellent in Parallel Mothers. To be sure, the festival had all kinds of performances, though they almost exclusively were strong work.

NYFF Awards

Warner Bros.

Best Film: Red Rocket (Runner Up: The Power of the Dog and The Worst Person in the World)

Best Director: Denis Villeneuve for Dune (Runner Up: Sean Baker for Red Rocket and Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog)

Best Actor: Simon Rex for Red Rocket (Runner Up: Benedict Cumberbatch for The Power of the Dog and Joaquin Phoenix for C’mon C’mon)

Best Actress: Renate Reinsve for The Worst Person in the World (Runner Up: Penelope Cruz for Parallel Mothers and Agathe Rousselle for Titane)

Best Supporting Actor: Woody Norman for C’mon C’mon (Runner Up: Vincent Lindon for Titane and Kodi Smit-McPhee for The Power of the Dog)

Best Supporting Actress: Suzanna Son for Red Rocket (Runner Up: Bree Elrod for Red Rocket and Kathryn Hunter for The Tragedy of Macbeth)

Best Screenplay: Red Rocket (Runner Up: Titane and The Worst Person in the World)

Final Thoughts on NYFF 59

A24

All in all, NYFF was reliably strong, even if a lot of what I loved were movies I’d already seen elsewhere. You can track all of my festival coverage here, and of course, there will be more to come, both this and next year. Now, we can wrap up with a ranking of the fest’s titles, with links to their reviews where applicable. Behold:

Full New York Film Festival Ranking

NEON

14. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

13. The Velvet Underground

12. Passing

11. The French Dispatch

10. Flee

9. Parallel Mothers

8. The Tragedy of Macbeth

7. Benedetta

6. Dune

5. C’mon C’mon

4. Titane

3. The Power of the Dog

2. The Worst Person in the World

1. Red Rocket

Stay tuned to see how the NYFF titles do throughout the rest of the year!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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