And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Jockey

Jockey is a sports drama that is purposely light on action and heavy on character study. It’s more trot than sprint. More arty than mainstream. Get the picture?

The film follows aging jockey Jackson Silva (Clifton Collins Jr.) as he chases one last hurrah on a potential championship horse acquired by his longtime trainer– and maybe more— Ruth (Molly Parker). Decades of rough riding have taken a toll on Jackson’s body, and it’s probably time to hang up the spurs. But horse racing is in his blood; it’s his entire world. At least, until a young rookie rider named Gabriel (Moises Arias) shows up, claiming to be his son. Jackson takes Gabriel under his wing and teaches him some tricks of the trade. It’s a bittersweet bond, with implications both personal and professional.

Review: King Richard

If you’re at all into tennis, this is a must see. Even if you’re not, you can’t help but be aware of the amazing Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. King Richard is their origin story, and at the center is their father Richard played by Will Smith in what is sure to be an awards contender performance. I remember when they exploded onto the scene in the 90s. The media made a lot of their dad and his presence and his style. A lot of it was not positive. This film serves as a corrective to that depiction, showing a devoted and driven father with an audacious plan, a family who bought into his dream for them, and two extremely talented young Black girls who broke the mold when it came to the polite white tennis world. It’s a totally uplifting flick!

AFIDOCS 2021: Arty Chick’s Download

This year was a distance festival. There were opportunities to be in the theaters in DC, but I chose to watch everything online from afar, on my couch. That’s a mixed blessing. No running from theater to theater. No missing something because it overlapped with another film. No frozen feet from arctic-cooled theaters. Lots of good snuggles with my dog. But also no standing in line with other festival-goers and talking about what we’ve seen and loved. No Q&A’s after the films. (There were some that were available, but it just didn’t seem the same taped from a distance.) And no watching films in some of DC’s beautiful landmarks like the National Archives. A slew of distractions that made it very different from sitting in a dark room with an audience. And for me the worst part was that I don’t have a big screen television, so some of the films were definitely shortchanged.

Nevertheless, it was a good festival and there were several films I will be thinking of for a while. The Audience Award for Best Feature went to one of my faves for sure, Storm Lake. It is a smaller film and I hope that the award will mean it gets seen by a lot more people.

The films I saw were: The First Step – Radiograph of a Family – Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer – LFG – Storm Lake –  The Neutral Ground – The One and Only Dick Gregory – Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union –  Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain – The Story Won’t Die –  Daughter of a Lost Bird –  and The Lost Leonardo.

Review: Slalom

Competitive sports are hell on the body and the mind. Even more so when you’re a teenager with no support system. In Slalom, Lyz (Noée Abita) is an ambitious and talented young skier who eyes the fulfillment of her dreams when she’s accepted at a prestigious ski training school in the French Alps. She’s just 15-years-old and still in high school, and pretty naive about the world. But ski pro-turned-coach Fred (Jérémie Renier) sees something in her and takes her on as his special case, training her hard and pushing her to be the best. And it works. She starts winning all the big prizes. But that’s not all he wants from her. He’s a predator, a control freak, and a sleaze. And she’s too young to have to deal with that, especially when her mother is nowhere to be found. Writer-director Charlène Favier, herself a former competitive skier, says the film isn’t exactly autobiographical, but it depicts the uneven power dynamic between athletes and their coaches that can and has crossed the line all too frequently in the sport. It’s a powerful #metoo film with great performances.

Review: The Way Back

Ben Affleck was fresh out of rehab when filming began for The Way Back, and that had to make the process extra challenging, awkward, even painful – for the actor, his costars and the filmmakers. Affleck, an alcoholic who acknowledges that his addiction contributed heavily to the implosion of his marriage plays an alcoholic whose addiction (compounded by personal tragedy) contributed to the implosion of his marriage. Now both are on the path to redemption. Hopefully.

Review: Olympic Dreams

Olympic Dreams is an odd little indie meet-cute that takes elements of a romantic dramedy, sports movie and documentary, puts them in a blender, and spits out an uneven story that is overshadowed by a very cool setting: the 2018 Winter Olympic games in PyeongChang, South Korea. It’s about a relationship that develops between cross-country skier Penelope (Alexi Pappas) and volunteer dentist Ezra (Nick Kroll). They are two lost souls at a crossroads in life.

Review: What Men Want

What men should want is not to be dragged to this movie for Valentine’s Day. And what men – and women – deserve is a stronger spin on a plot device that worked quite well in Nancy Meyers’ 2000 romantic comedy What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. Gibson (before he went all weird on us) played a chauvinistic executive who learned something about himself – and his treatment of women – after a mishap gave him the ability to hear women’s inner thoughts. This time around, the genders are reversed. Taraji P. Henson plays Ali Davis, a successful sports agent in Atlanta who gains the ability to hear men’s inner thoughts. She hopes to use her newfound power (a blessing and a curse) to score a high-profile client, and land the promotion she is entitled to in the boy’s club that is her workplace.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2018

It’s insanely difficult to do a “Top 10 Movies of 2018” list when you’ve seen about 200 movies in 365 days – everything from blockbusters, to arthouse films, to documentaries, to films that simply defy classification. I reviewed some of them for Chickflix; others I just bantered about on the Cinema Clash podcast; still others I never got around to reviewing, ‘cuz sometimes, Life happens and the catch-up game aint worth playin’.

Movies are subjective – and so is my list. And no movie is a “bad movie” if somebody out there “gets” it and likes it. My list is different today than it was yesterday. And it will surely be different tomorrow. But at this particular moment in time – as we enter 2019 – this is where I stand with my top picks, and why.

Review: Creed II

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Creed 2 hitting theaters by 2018.” That’s the last line of my 2015 review of Creed, the solidly entertaining spin-off of the Rocky franchise starring Michael B. Jordan as up-and-coming boxer Adonis Creed (son of Apollo) and Sylvester Stallone as his mentor, Philly boxing legend Rocky Balboa. As predicted, here it is – Creed II. And while not as strong as its predecessor, Creed II is still very satisfying, especially if you’re a fan of Rocky IV, one of my favorite films of 1985!

Review: The Miracle Season

The Miracle Season is one of those inspiring and bittersweet sports dramas about athletes overcoming adversity. In this case, the athletes are members of a high school girls’ volleyball team who struggled to regroup — and play on — after the tragic death of their team leader and star setter Caroline ‘Line’ Found. Here’s what the movie has going for it: The uplifting story is basically true; And, it stars two Oscar winners, Helen Hunt as tough-love coach Kathy Bresnahan and William Hurt as Caroline Found’s grieving father Ernie, who lost his wife to cancer just one week after his daughter died in a moped accident. Here’s the rub: Hunt and Hurt are all-stars. The rest of the cast is junior varsity. Not exactly a level playing field.