It almost feels wrong calling Joshua Rothkopf a critic; sounds too negative. Recognize the name? It often flashes across movie trailers with words like “Heartbreaking” or “Spellbinding” emblazoned over it. Rothkopf, senior film editor of Time Out New York magazine, is one of the top film critics in the industry because he leads audiences to the best cinematic experience possible. And it will be no different when he arrives in Key West for the Key West Film Festival starting Nov. 15. Chatting with Rothkopf feels more like meeting a like-minded cinephile with an infectious love for the big screen, which will no doubt make the festival a dynamic event.
“I am flattered to be invited to Key West; the films are cream of the crop,” said Rothkopf. “This festival puts movies first and by extension that puts the viewer first.”
He will be on hand to field questions during the festival after certain films such as “The Shape of Water,” “Last Flag Flying” and “Call Me By Your Name.” Even though he has seen the movies more than once or twice, there is genuine excitement to talk about them again.
“Other festivals have been increasingly dominated by the publicity award machine, the money,” meaning the quality of the film can get lost against the star power. Instead of superstars, the festival will include RothKopf’s’ peer Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Together they will lead festival audience discussions after the movies, a truly unique experience to get behind meaning of the quotes on the screen.
Rothkopf’s recommendations for the festival include:
“Call Me By Your Name”: Director Luca Guadagnino, starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet
“Brace yourself, it knocked me out. It is my choice for best film all year. It’s a coming of age and a coming out story, adult, sophisticated, smart and sexy. Unlike any other film, it leaves you with a great sense of comparison of the joy and pain of being an adult.”
“Last Flag Flying”: Director Richard Linklater, starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne
“A really mighty film. Linklater is such a relaxed director and it’s about the conversation that evolves; that’s the drama. Unfortunate that the movie is so timely and feels like a movie of the moment. It’s about the dignity of soldiers and respect for their country that maybe hasn’t earned it. It tackles the resentment soldiers can feel towards the higher-ups.”
“I, Tonya”: Director Craig Gillespie, starring Margot Robbie and Allison Janney
“It’s the story of Tonya Harding and it’s a powder keg of a movie. It’s about the anti-heroine; it takes Tonya’s side and gives her dignity. A lot of it is about class issues versus being the untouchable ice princess. The things that made her a champion also brought her down, kind of Nixonian. Feels timely and yet a great comedy, very entertaining.”
“The Shape of Water”: critics’ choice, Director Guillermo del Toro, starring Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins
“Essentially it’s a romance not unlike ‘Splash’ but with gender roles reversed. The underwater photography is arresting.”
Rothkopf also recommends “The Square,” a Swedish film about the snobbery of art, and “Lucky,” the last movie made with Harry Dean Stanton, who died Sept. 15.
Rothkopf also isn’t afraid to address recent allegations against movie moguls and directors for sexual misconduct. He agrees that even his industry has a culture of silence. “Hollywood has to change; it doesn’t have a choice. It’s a cultural shift happening right before our eyes. This most certainly will play out over awards season.”
“I am really proud to lend my voice to the festival this year,” Josh RothKopf, senior film editor of Time Out New York magazine
2017 Key West Film Festival
Schedules and tickets: