And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Thirteen Lives

Thirteen Lives is one of those inspiring movies that you can’t really find much fault with (unless you’re claustrophobic). It’s based on a true story that screamed “miracle movie” from the instant the story played out on international television in 2018. Then, it got Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Rebuilding Paradise, We Feed People) onboard as director, so you could rest assured the vibe would be compelling, authentic and uplifting. If you like documentaries and dramas inspired by actual events, it’s worth diving into Thirteen Lives. The film runs nearly two and a half hours but as you become immersed in the story (and the watery cave), time pretty much stands still. Most people (who weren’t living under a rock in 2018) know how the story ends (yay!). What the movie hangs its dramatic hat on is all the little details we didn’t know about at the time or weren’t quite captured in last year’s excellent, Oscar-nominated documentary The Rescue (which you should see before or after the dramatized version).

Review: Green Book

Who’d have thought that the director of Dumb and Dumber would bring us the best movie of 2018? With two great performances from Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Green Book is based on the true story of a working-class New York Italian bouncer (Mortensen) who was hired to drive a classically trained black pianist (Ali) on a tour through the Jim Crow South. It’s the best road trip flick in ages as it explores race and class through an unexpected friendship. And it is by turns sad and funny and sweet and horrifying. It’s a must see!

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2018

Another year at a fabulous festival! I wonder how long this little Virginia horse country festival can keep it up. It’s sure to burst its seams soon. This year’s slate was amazing, as usual. I was only able to fit in 10 of the 29 films offered in my three days of the festival and missed quite a few I really wanted to see. But what I saw was impressive. The big winner for me (it won the audience award, too) was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which will certainly be vying for the Oscar. But there really were quite a few standout films. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Mainstream Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download (2018)

Despite a few (hotel reservation and RSVP) potholes on the road to this year’s Middleburg Film Festival, all’s well that ends well! And what an ending it was. The closing film was my favorite film – by far – securing my only four-star ballot after four days of movie madness in the Virginia countryside.

So, without further ado, here’s what I saw, and how I ranked ‘em:

Captain Fantastic

I really liked this film. It’s another that was somewhat under the radar that I think audiences would love if they knew a bit more about it. So… Captain Fantastic is about a single father raising six kids somewhere in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He’s teaching them to be resourceful and both intellectually and physically rigorous. But a death forces the family to leave their paradise for the real world and confront the pros and cons of their cut-off existence. It’s funny, touching, and thought provoking.

A Dangerous Method

Michael Fassbender has been one extremely prolific actor this year, first as the arrogant Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, then playing Magneto in X-men: First Class, then as the tortured sex addict in Shame, and now he gives us psychoanalyst Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method. What a range of characters! I think Jung may be his best performance (I didn’t see Magneto, but…), and A Dangerous Method is the best film in the bunch.

The Road

Another post-apocalyptic movie? Seems there can’t be too many of them these days. The difference though with The Road is that it has a real story and isn’t reliant on special effects to tell it. Adapted from the brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, it stays very close to the book’s original plot. And that may be why it never gets beyond being a good movie.