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Friday
Oct202017

Middleburg Day 1: Delightful Fest / Darkest Hour

by Nathaniel R

Thursday. Though a cab accident* and a missed flight threatened to derail day one, somehow The Film Experience's second annual trip to Middleburg, VA commenced just in time for the opening night festivities. The Middleburg Film Festival is now in its 5th year and growing each time.  It's still small enough, however, that it feels like a discovery.

This year's fest kicked off with Joe Wright's Darkest Hour which holds up incredibly well to a second viewing. It's both muscular and fabulous, so it feels like a blend of impulses that, say, Scorsese and Baz alike might thrill to. And in place of their shared muse Leo DiCaprio a fat-suited bejowled Gary Oldman...

McCarten with one of his multiple BAFTAsThis time through, I concentrated more on the structure and economic precision -- it's essentially a character study / biopic with just one month of a life on view. King George himself Ben Mendelsohn, Oscar nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten (Theory of Everything) and producer Lisa Bruce were in tow for the presentation. It was amusing to realize halfway into the Q&A that an Aussie, a Kiwi, and an American were the spokespeople of this very British story.

McCarten has multiple BAFTAs but he's still waiting on an Oscar. Having been around the campaign block he's forthcoming about certain liberties he took with the Churchill story.  I love the way he puts it. He does just enough research but then he "transposes" it. You make sure it's truthful since wholly accurate is impossible, history being an incompete record. Sometimes you write something that you hope is true and further research backs you up (like Churchill being the one who thought up the rescue mission using civilian boats -- as dramatized in another film this year, Dunkirk). 

One amusing anecdote was that they had to build a fake House of Commons. They were allowed to shoot in many historic places but not that one because of a law that doesn't allow civilian asses in those particular seats. Mendelsohn shifted in his chair, indicating his own ass and joked "except this one. It's welcomed in fact" Seeing Mendelsohn (best known, arguably, for Bloodline and Animal Kingdom) directly after the screening is kind of alarming as his demeanor and speech has next to no correlation with his stiff royal in the film. 

Aside from the chance to binge cinema, festivals are also far more social than moviegoing otherwise is... at least for yours truly who tends to see a lot of movies alone given press screenings and general impatience (if I waited for my friends to be available / convinced to see something, I'd miss so much!). I caught up with my dear friend Jazz from Awards Daily (it's our second year at Middleburg together), Clayton from Awards Circuit, and their wives. Everyone loved the movie.

(Shhhh... don't tell anyone but when we went to take this photo to your left, yours truly fell backwards** knocking out one of the walls on the photo booth.)

The Oscar verdict? Same as before. It's a formidable Best Picture contender with a strong shot at nominations across-the-board with Kristin Scott Thomas more of a threat than people think for a Supporting Actress nomination (despite a now more robust competition than evident before Lady Bird and I Tonya crushed ideas about that particular race). Darkest Hour proved to be one of the few things we all agreed on when it came to Oscar prospects with Best Actor and Best Actress chatter quickly proving divisive as to who might contend and why. 

* I am fine, unscratched. The cab got banged up, though. Remarkably, given the way cabbies drive in NYC, it was not the cabbie's fault. A truck hit us and then DROVE AWAY!

** I am fine, only my pride was hurt. The kind photo booth operator assured me it had already happened once that evening and the makeshift booth was repaired in mere moments. 

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Reader Comments (8)

Strangely, one more time we can't know how you feel about Oldman's performance.

October 20, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

You make repeated references to "multiple BAFTAs" (as if Anthony McCarten has won several for different films) but, in fact,, he only has ever been nominated for/won (two) BAFTAs for *one* film: The Theory of Everything. He's not exactly overdue, although I do hope the Darkest Hour (and his forthcoming Freddie Mercury biopic) turn out of be good. Fingers crossed!

October 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

P.S. Hope you're alright! Bless.

October 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Nathaniel, that sounds scary! So glad you're OK.

Love Gary Oldman, but he's stepping into pretty big shoes. Albert Finney was so wonderful in The Gathering Storm.

October 20, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

When you write your movie biography, you can say how you went to the Middleburg Festival in the early days, complete with picaresque adventures.

October 20, 2017 | Unregistered Commenteradri

PS: glad you are okay!

October 20, 2017 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I'm glad to hear you're OK too.

Looking forward to seeing Oldman's performance. I find it hard to tell from the trailer if the film will be good or not.

October 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

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December 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTony

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