Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Oscars, Docs and Queers: Mill Valley Film Festival Has It All

The Mill Valley Film Festival is back with a vengeance. And, now you need to travel no further than our living rooms – or if local the drive-in.

In its 43rd year, the festival has been a long-standing and eclectic festival, that programs a lot of documentaries and independent films as well as many with Academy Award buzz. Here’s a few highlights of their Oct. 8-18 festival.

Of the Oscar buzz pictures, the most notable is “The Father” starring Anthony Hopkins. This story of an aging man who must face the realities of getting older has Hopkins as the front runner (at the moment) to win Best Actor, according to Gold Derby, who has experts and others predict all major awards and nominations. Fellow Oscar winner Olivia Colman also is getting a lot of attention.

“Ammonite” is extremely Oscar buzzworthy. Not only is it a follow up to the critically acclaimed “God’s Own Country,” but it stars an Oscar queen (Kate Winslet) and an Oscar princess (Saoirse Ronan). Rumor has it that the passion between these actresses is palpable. The chemistry and great talent will likely elevate this love story.

Don’t think it’s got any award buzz – yet – but the opening night film “Blithe Spirit” brings to the screen Noel Coward’s 1940s play, which had remained on tour for the last several decades. The last time on Broadway and tour it featured Angela Lansbury. The movie screen matches her with Oscar winner Judi Dench. Should be a spiritual awakening.

“One Night in Miami” has Oscar written all over it. Not only is the ensemble cast of actors playing four iconic celebrities at an evening that had one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, but it’s directed by Oscar-winning actress Regina King who is currently high on the list of Best Director contenders.

The last big Oscar-possible movie is “Nomadland.” Not only is Frances McDormand currently in the lead for Best Actress per Gold Derby, but her Asian female director Chloe Zhao is also leading the pack. This talent probably will enhance this road-type movie and offer us another winner from MVFF.

MVFF’s documentary segments are subtitled Valley of the Docs. There are some impressive profiles on many famous people – will be very exciting to get a closer look.

“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” shares insights into the famed band and as the song and movie title suggestions, their lives weren’t always uplifting and happy.

“Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time” takes us to a place in time – clever use of a title – to a musical world of LA where the famous musicians of the 1960s – Mamas and the Papas, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, among others – found some tranquility and comradery above the hectic life of Hollywood.

“Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story” puts a spotlight on the trumpeter who may have been overshadowed by Johnny Carson.

“Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words” could not have come out at a better time in this topical and current look into Ginsburg’s views.

“Alice Street” offers a bit of love to the Bay Area where an Oakland muralist must battle with the city over the construction of a new high rise.

On the LGBT front, besides the Winset/Ronan match-up, we’re offered “Uncle Frank,” in which a young Southern girl travels to New York to learn of her Uncle’s secret life – from Alan Ball, the writer of “American Beauty.”

Also, “I Carry You With Me” has become a film festival favorite and could be the sleeper hit of the year. Terrific sounding story of two men who exchange glances that lead to plans to move to be in the same country. Is this truly love at first sight?

The options are endless and should be explored. If you’re not up for a movie but want to talk to filmmakers, MLFF43 will virtually have on hand some big talent. You can enjoy chats with Sophia Loren, Regina King, Kate Winslet, Judi Dench, Viola Davis, Delroy Lindo and Claire Dunne.

Check out the full program and get tickets at

#MVFF43 #OscarWinner #GoldDerby

Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 156 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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