Thanksgiving weekends are inextricably linked with big box-office films as families tired of being cooped up in the house together take advantage of any opportunity to get out for some relative peace and quiet. This year’s holiday blockbusters include the already-ubiquitous Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, and Pixar’s Coco. If none of those sounds like a good time, thank your stars you live in NYC, where festivals, special screenings, and art houses cater to urbanites with exacting taste and a love for challenging movies.
(At IFC Center, Cinepolis Chelsea, and SVA Theatre through November 16)
What You Should Know: The largest documentary festival in the United States, DOC NYC offers more than a week of nonstop feature and short film screenings, workshops, and director talk-backs. The bulk of the films are shown at IFC Center’s five theaters, with overflow handled at SVA and Cinepolis a short walk away in Chelsea. Last year’s programmers managed to include every one of the Academy Award documentary feature nominees within the lineup. Jane, Kedi, Faces Places, City of Ghosts, and Chasing Coral are all odds-on early favorites for 2018 Oscar consideration, and they’re all playing at the festival. An array of ticket packages to the fest is available, including discounted 10-ticket packs and—for the truly insatiable—a full series pass.
Perfect if…you want a taste of more than 100 new documentaries, covering everything from the plight of an endangered species of Andean frog to war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Skip it if…you only watch documentaries when they’re available on Netflix.
(At Museum of Modern Art through January 12, 2018)
What You Should Know: MoMA’s yearly Contenders series offers attendees early preview screenings of yet-to-be released major films and takes a last look back at the year’s most acclaimed movies. Many films include post-screening discussions with the directors and stars, a remarkable bonus considering that tickets to these shows are free to anyone with a museum membership. The only catch is that the theater fills up quickly, so consider booking your tickets now for Molly’s Game, which includes an after-show discussion with director Aaron Sorkin and star Jessica Chastain, and The Shape of Water, with a post-screening talk with director Guillermo del Toro.
Perfect if…you want to get a jump on next year’s Oscar pool.
(At Metrograph through November 12)
What You Should Know: Prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike recently released his 100th film, an adaptation of the popular manga Blade of the Immortal. That milestone movie is showing now at the Quad, but, not to be outdone, Metrograph has assembled a mini Miike retrospective that boasts a newly restored and uncensored director’s cut of his stylish and supergory gangster film, Ichi the Killer. Other films in the Metrograph series include Miike’s thoroughly nutty comedy/fantasy/musical, The Happiness of the Katakuris; his U.S. breakthrough horror movie, Audition; and the Yakuza romance–beat-’em-up, The City of Lost Souls. Miike first-timers should be warned that all these films are very much in lockstep with the director’s unique grind-house vision; his work isn’t for the faint of heart.
Perfect if…you have a taste for anarchic, clever, and often uncomfortably transgressive films.
Skip it if…ultraviolence is a turnoff.
(At Film Forum, November 17–23)
What You Should Know: Austrian screenwriter and director Michael Haneke has crafted a phenomenally acclaimed body of work, focusing primarily on his characters’ sense of disconnection and isolation from society. His last feature film, Amour, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the best picture Oscar in 2013 (but came out on top in the foreign language film category). In anticipation of his new work, Happy End, Film Forum is screening a nine-film retrospective of the master’s work. If you’re new to Haneke, all of his movies are must-sees, but Code Unknown, Cache, and The White Ribbon might be the most easily accessible.
Perfect if…you like provocative, difficult, and highly considered films.
Skip it if…subtitles and moral ambiguity sound more like homework than a night out.
(At BAMcinématek through November 16)
What You Should Know: Screening side by side with the critically acclaimed new release, Mudbound, about an African-American soldier returning home to a deeply racially divided 1940s Southern farm settlement, BAM’s series Strange Victories explores the freedoms and the prejudices encountered by black World War II soldiers both at home and abroad. Modern full-length dramas (Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna, Norman Jewison’s A Soldier’s Story, and George Lucas and Anthony Hemingway’s Tuskegee Airmen biopic Red Tails); documentaries (The Negro Soldier and The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords); and even a musical (Dorothy Dandridge’s star-making turn in Carmen Jones) are included in the lineup.
Perfect if…you’d like a more complete look at the unseen men of the greatest generation.
Skip it if…war stories hit home a little too hard.
(At Spectacle, November 11–27)
What You Should Know: If you spend as much time on the Internet as I do, you’ve likely come into contact with Lasagna Cat, a live-action retelling of individual Garfield comic strips with surprisingly high production value. These shorts are followed by lengthy and distinctly warped postscript bits of absurd Adult Swim–style Grand Guignol. Spectacle Theater, champion of all things outrageous, is screening Lasagna Cat highlights along with an experimental film take on the Garfield Minus Garfield phenomenon and an interactive media lecture on Garfield fan art.
Perfect if…your sense of humor skews twisted.
Skip it if…you’re having a hard time believing I’m serious about this.
(At Quad Cinema, November 15–21)
What You Should Know: In the early 1970s, filmmaker Ely Landau created the American Film Theatre, a short-run and limited-release series of film adaptations of popular Broadway plays. Would-be highbrow moviegoers could subscribe to a “season” of performances via mail order and present a pass at any theater screening the film. The well-meaning project lasted only two seasons, but produced 14 still highly regarded films, all featuring major name actors of the time. Quad Cinema will screen 12 of these underseen classics, with a lineup that includes Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros; Katharine Hepburn in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance; and a four-hour, two-intermission version of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, starring a clean-shaven Lee Marvin.
Perfect if…you’re in the mood to catch a play and a movie. You can split the difference!
Skip it if…you go to movies because they’re not plays.
(At Anthology Film Archives, November 17–30)
What You Should Know: Anthology’s Generation Wealth series, a collaboration in conjunction with the International Center of Photography’s Lauren Greenfield gallery show of the same name, features a selection of modern classics on the dark art of capitalism. Screenings include Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring on November 17 and 30; American Psycho on November 18 and 24; Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street on November 19 and 25; and Clueless on November 20 and 26.
Perfect if…you aspire to Trumpian levels of grossly rococo status. Or you’ve yet to see these “greed is good” classics on the big screen.
Skip it if…flagrant displays by the 1 percent make you break out in hives.
(At IFC Center, November 24)
What You Should Know: If you know anything about Hedy Lamarr, it’s probably her lengthy and highly successful career as a pinup actress in the ’40s and ’50s. What you may not know, at least in part due to Lamarr’s late-in-life and often-litigious demand for seclusion, is that she was also an accomplished engineer whose contributions to radio technology set the stage for the modern advent of wifi and Bluetooth. This Susan Sarandon–produced documentary explores Lamarr’s complex and mostly untold history, with the inclusion of a newly uncovered interview with the bombshell herself.
Perfect if…you’d like to learn the secret history of Hollywood’s only great combination inventor–glamour girl.
Skip it if…you don’t consider people famous unless they made films in color.
(At Museum of the Moving Image, November 24–26)
What You Should Know: After a day of nonstop cooking, the stress of a houseful of little ones might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. If you’re looking for a way to get a bit of adult time back over your Thanksgiving weekend, the Museum of the Moving Image has got you covered with Friday, Saturday, and Sunday back-to-back matinee showings of Pixar’s Ratatouille; Jim Henson’s The Great Muppet Caper; and a drop-in, all-ages interactive animation project starring the Muppets’s Swedish Chef.
Perfect if…you’ve got a houseful of kids who need somewhere to go.
Skip it if…you don’t like the Muppets, you don’t like Pixar, and you don’t like Thanksgiving. You sound like you might really need a hug, though.
Craving a dedicated dinner-and-a-movie date? Get in touch with our experience advisers.