We've reached the midpoint of this year's 44th annual New York Film Festival but there's still plenty of stellar cinema to come. Here's a few flicks Gothamist has caught that we've loved.

Volver
2006_10_arts_nyffvolver.jpgThis year the festival's centerpiece movie is Pedro Almodóvar's newest, Volver starring Penélope Cruz. Fans of old school, high women's melodrama Almodóvar will stand up and cheer for this new film; it's a ghost story and a five hanky weepie about the bonds between women. Raimunda (Cruz) and her sister Sole (Lola Dueñas), along with Raimunda's daughter, leave Madrid for the countryside to visit their aging aunt and their parents' grave. But something seems not quite right with Aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave) as she's clearly infirm, yet has an exercise bike in the bedroom and can still whip up amazing wafers. Their longtime neighbor, Agustina (Blanca Portillo) promises that she keeps an eye on Aunt Paula but tells the women that the rumor in town is that their dead mother's ghost (Carmen Maura) takes care of Paula. Superstitions, matriarchal bonds and the amazing resiliency of women is at the heart of this beautiful, affecting film. It's no surprise that Volver has already won major awards at the Cannes Film Festival (the whole cast shared the best Actress prize) and will be Spain's entry into the best foreign language Oscar race. [Screenings Saturday at 9 pm and Sunday at noon. Volver is slated for limited theatrical release November 3.]

The Host
2006_10_arts_nyffhost.jpgAsian cinemas really have been producing some of the smartest scary movies in the last few years and Korea's The Host is a strong addition to that continuing trend. Directed by Bong Joon-ho and already a smash in his native country, this monster movie will have you on the edge of your seat (or maybe hiding underneath it). As the film opens a menacing American scientist forces a Korean scientist to pour countless bottles of chemicals down the drain, despite the Korean's protesting that they'll end up in Seoul's Han River. Over the years, no one thinks too much of the strange little mutations fishermen discover in the river, until a giant four-legged fish beast with massive teeth leaps out of the water and carries off a few by standers. One of the people it grabs is teenage girl Park Hyun-seo, and so her dysfunctional, and primarily inept extended family bands together to try to rescue her. Bitingly funny, genuinely freaky and not afraid to demonize the West for their callous, imperialist ways, The Host is a Godzilla for the 21st century. [Screenings Saturday at midnight and Monday at 3:30 pm. The Host should be out in U.S. theaters in late January.]

Special Events
Other special screenings happening this weekend with the festival are a showing of two Alejandro Jodorowsky movies, the bizarre Spanish films, El Topo from 1970 and his follow up in 1973, The Holy Mountain, which are a major part of the midnight movie tradition. [El Topo plays tonight at 9 pm and The Holy Mountain screens Saturday at midnight.]

On Saturday at 3 pm, Vogue's film critic, John Powers will be discussing with director Michael Apted his newest installment in the "Up" documentary series, 49 Up which screened at the festival yesterday and is out in theaters this weekend.

Also, the tenth annual Views From the Avant Garde starts this weekend with a whole slew of shorts programs. Particularly of note, in the riches of new experimental work, are films by Jean-Luc Godard, Kenneth Anger, Bruce Conner and Paolo Gioli.