You’ve seen a version of this film before. But most likely what you saw wasn’t called Whiplash and wasn’t set in a music school. We’d have to go to Fame for that.

In 1973, it was called The Paper Chase. We’re at the Harvard Law School. John Houseman is Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. and Timothy Bottoms is James T. Hart, law student.

Charles W. Kingsfield Jr.: Mr. Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.
James T. Hart: [pause, as he is leaving the room] You… are a son of a bitch, Kingsfield!
Charles W. Kingsfield Jr.: Mr. Hart! That is the most intelligent thing you’ve said today. You may take your seat.

In 1988 it was called Stand and Deliver. Edward James Olmos as Jaime Escalante – a high school math teacher. Lou Diamond Phillips as Angel Guzman, a likely high school drop out. The subject is calculus.

Jaime Escalante: [to his students] … There will be no free rides, no excuses. You already have two strikes against you: your name and your complexion. Because of those two strikes, there are some people in this world who will assume that you know less than you do. *Math* is the great equalizer… When you go for a job, the person giving you that job will not want to hear your problems; ergo, neither do I. You’re going to work harder here than you’ve ever worked anywhere else. And the only thing I ask from you is *ganas.* *Desire.*

But it isn’t always a teacher or a professor. Sometimes it is a Drill Sergeant.

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The Imitation Game – Day Five at the Mill Valley Film Festival

Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine…

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Benedict Cumberbatch‘s name included in the lists of Oscar finalists in the Male Lead Actor category. Yes, he’s that good as Alan Turing in the film The Imitation Game which screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival on Monday afternoon. For the record, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, and Keira Knightley also turned in riveting performances that may garner Oscar’s attention as well.

The Imitation Games is the story of a scientific breakthrough that may have saved millions of lives, and per historians – shortened World War II by as many as two years. Turing can be called the grandfather of computers as it was his work, with a forerunner of the computer that broke the code of the German’s encryption machine known as Enigma. The British had been intercepting Germany’s coded messages soon after the war broke out but a simple translation from German into English was of no value.

The Enigma machine was reset every day – so any work by the folks attempting to break the code, on any particular day, had to be completely scrapped if the code had not been broken that same day. Calculations determined that the machine created  as many variables as the number 159 million, million, million which is actually the number 159 followed by 18 zeros. A needle in a hay stack was a walk in the park when compared to the task. of breaking the Enigma coding.

Turing was an odd fellow by any stretch of the imagination. He lacked social graces, and was extremely focused. He really didn’t know how to get on with people, and what’s more he didn’t even try. On his initial interview with a Royal Navy Flag Officer – one Commander Denniston, played marvelously by Charles Dance, who continued in the grand and so very British manner of his famous predecessors like Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, James Robertson Justice, and C. Aubrey Smith – Turing almost lost the job before he had it.

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A Wolf at the Door – O Lobo atras da Porta – Mill Valley Film Festival – Day Four

A Wolf at the Door (O Lobo atras da Porta) played at the Lark Theater in Larkspur. It was Day Four of my coverage of the Mill Valley Film Festival. The date – October 5th.

Directed and written by Fernando Coimbra, this is his first feature film, and it has been garnering accolades. The film has taken awards at Guadalajara, Havana, Miami, Rio de Janeiro, and San Sebastian.

Per the IMDB

A journey to the dark cutting edge of desires, lies and wickedness of a love triangle, from the moment a child is mysteriously kidnapped.at the school

The film opens with a mother facing her worst nightmare. Her six-year-old daughter has already been picked up at the school. The teacher released the child after taking a phone call from a woman who said she was the mother and would need to take the girl out of school earlier than usual.

Interviewed by the police, the mother denied making the call. What’s more, she said she had no idea who this Silvia is. The school teacher is interviewed, and her story stood up. A woman called, said she would pick up the girl Clarinha for the mother. What’s more, the child seemed to know the woman .

The father and husband are called in. He denies any knowledge of any Silvia which was true. Under pressured grilling by the police, the husband, Bernardo, said he was having an affair with a woman named Rosa.

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Diplomatie – Mill Valley Film Festival – October 4th

General Von Choltitz: You die only once
Consul Raoul Nordling: But you remain dead for a long time.

Diplomatie aka Diplomacy (in English) screened at the CineArts Sequoia 1 Theater on Throckmorton Avenue in Mill Valley. This was Day Three of the Mill Valley Film Festival.


The film begins on a particular August night in 1944.

THe Germans had occupied Paris for some time, but the French Resistance, as well as the Allied Forces, now a mere two hours outside of Paris and were advancing quickly, had weakened them. The German garrison had possibly 2000 remaining soldiers, and the headquarters staff, housed in the Hotel Meurice, numbered no more than 20 men.

Orders, from the German High Command, meaning Hitler himself, had arrived a while back, They were stark, and blunt and horrific. Since the Allies had bombed Berlin, Hamburg, and Mannheim into rubble, Hitler’s dream, of making Berlin as beautiful as Paris was no longer possible. Hence, if Paris could not be defended by the German Wehrmacht, then it had to be razed, blown up as it were. Leveled. As part of a last gasp effort, and as act of pure malice.

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The Judge – Mill Valley Film Festival – October 3rd, 2014

When you talk about actors, any meaningful discussion must include two of Hollywood’s finest. Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall.

abf5d57bdff0d4971d2ea92e09f6ac64For Downey, this film, The Judge, is a return to earth. Because unlike the vastly successful Iron Man franchise, as well as The Avengers where Downey’s Tony Stark jetted around in the skies, bringing criminals or arch villains to justice, here, in The Judge, Downey Jr, plays a fast talking, fast living, big city lawyer named Hank Palmer. He lives with a Ferrari in his driveway, and a beautiful trophy wife, and a string of rich defendants that are walking free due to Palmer’s courtroom skills rather than the fact of their innocence.

Palmer loses no time in telling us that if we are average citizens, we can’t afford him. Hence the Ferrari and other trappings of a successful defense attorney.

Duvall, now in his eighties, plays the righteous and conservative Judge Joseph Palmer, living in a small Indiana town. In his many years of presiding from the bench, Joseph has been the one person who could be counted on to pursue the truth. He’s well-respected, and well liked, almost a pillar of what’s good in life. The elder Palmer is everything that his lawyer son is not.


Not surprisingly, the Palmer’s, father and son are estranged. In fact Hank has not been anywhere near his hometown in many years. But the death of Hank’s mother has brought him back to the family home in the fictional town of  Carlinville, Indiana.

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Laggies – Opening Night at the Mill Valley Film Festival


You can’t keep putting off something you want for some imaginary future. You just got to suck it up and go with your gut.

Words to live by? Maybe not for everyone, but you’ll hear these words spoken by Keira Knightley as Megan in the new film from Lynn Shelton (Your Sister’s Sister ) called Laggies. I caught this film on Opening Night of the Mill Valley Film Festival at the Rafael 1 in San Rafael, CA.

Shelton had previously screened this film at Sundance and more recently at film festivals in San Diego and Aspen before tonight.

The cast is headed up by Keira Knightley who has been working regularly and steadily. This is the 3rd film I’ve seen her in THIS year (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Begin Again being the first two. This is the third, and The Imitation Game, which will screen here at the MVFF, in a few days will be the 4th.

Also on board are Chloë Grace Moretz who played in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo back in 2011, and is in your local theaters these days with Denzel Washington in The Equalizer.

Sam Rockwell and Jeff Garlin (from Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm) are the main guys in the film, and they’ve been give billing AFTER Keira and Chloë

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Day One aka On the Ground in San Francisco & Marin County for the Mill Valley Film Festival

Excuse the lengthy title – but I don’t have an editor breathing fire on me.

After my super long day on Wednesday which included a no-sleep Tuesday night – I wasn’t burning the candle on both ends, or living the fast life. It was just that having to wake up for a 6:00 AM flight, which meant leaving home at 4:30 AM sort of left me with a feeling of I can’t miss this flight, So no sleep.

But, I am fully rested having turned out the lights even before 9:00 PM last night.

After a coffee and blueberry muffin, I departed San Anselmo and headed to downtown SF to pick up my Press ID. So I buckled in, and got on the roller coaster also known as US Highway 101. It’s a hilly and curving road, and not having driven on this road southbound ever before, it was a bit daunting.

This is northbound - but I can't drive and take pictures at the same time so this a borrowed image

This is northbound – but I can’t drive and take pictures at the same time so this a borrowed image

Soon I had crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and I flowed straight in to Lombard Street, which if I remember correctly, it was on this road that Steve McQueen’s Mustang had snuck in behind the Dodge Charger that had been tailing him and the high-speed chase began. That was the film Bullitt.

Anway, Lombard to Van Ness, Van Ness to The Embarcadero and with a few more turns, ultimately I found the office of Larsen & Associates, a PR firm where I picked up my Press ID.


Since Ritch St is just a stone’s throw from AT&T Park, which means it is virtually right near the Bay Bridge, that’s where my GPS system sent me. Of course this meant crossing the Bay twice – once heading out of SF toward Oakland/Berkeley, then via I-580 heading west toward San Rafael. It was a better road, and if not a shorter trip, it was at least faster.

This jaunt meant I drove right past San Quentin Prison. I didn’t stop or wave, just kept going right on by.

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I’m Going to the Mill Valley Film Festival

Go West young man, were words spoken long ago. I never heard them personally, but that’s what I am going to do tomorrow.

When it was first uttered so many years ago, it was good advice, and is still worthwhile today. That’s why I’m following those words. In a few hours I’ll be boarding a jet to take me from Sarasota, Florida to San Francisco, California, with a change of planes, and some time to kill in Atlanta.

I’ll be leaving the hot, humid, and raining everyday weather of Florida, and heading for the land of the Redwoods – Marin County.

I’m heading west to cover the first five nights of the Mill Valley Film Festival which begins on Thursday, October 2nd and runs through October 12th.

There will be an Opening Night Gala at the Town Center in Corte Madeira, and by the time I leave, I will have attended films in San Rafael, Mill Valley, and Larkspur.

I also hope to see the Point Reyes National Seashore, Mt. Tamalpais, and Muir Woods. While I have been to San Francisco and the Bay Area a number of times, this will be my first time in that city in a car that I am driving myself. Wish me luck. First stop out of SFO, the San Francisco Airport, will be a stop on Ritch Street in downtown SF to pick up my Press ID and my movie passes.

Then I head for the Golden Gate Bridge and then up US Highway 101 to San Anselmo, where I’ve booked a rustic cottage for my stay.

Below are some of the films playing during my time at MVFF37:

The Homesman:


Directed by Tommy Lee Jones and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, James Fichtner, James Spader (Blacklist), John Lithgow, and Meryl Streep.

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