Mill Valley Film Fest ends but its scope will be remembered

I searched and searched but couldn’t find a single soul at the Mill Valley Film Festival’s jam-packed closing night party unhappy with his or her choices.

They’d begun dribbling into the Elks Lodge in San Rafael at its 7 p.m. starting time, but less than an hour later the food lines were extremely long and the entire venue loaded with a diverse crowd — whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians.

Martin Rosen of Ross, who told me he’s attended each of the 41 annual festivals except for three years when he was living in Paris, caught “five or six” screenings this year. One of his favorites was the opening night’s “Green Book.”

Hyacinth Parker of San Francisco provided a study in opposites.

This MVFF was her first, but she gushed about the lone movie she saw, the closingevening’s entry, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” director Barry Jenkins follow-up to his Oscar-winning “Moonlight.”

She found it “powerful and different.”

John Benus of Larkspur’s fave was “Museo,” a subtitled heist flick he relished “because it had a lot action and was intense without all the blood the younger generation seems to like.”

Yes, the 41st annual Mill Valley Film Festival is over. But I’m not likely to forget it soon since, for me at least, it was one of the best ever.


Because of the phenomenal selections I could extract from a list of more than 200 options.

While many festivalgoers will especially remember the two opening night films (“A Private War” as well as “Green Book”) and in-person appearances by Hollywood luminaries Rosamund Pike, Mahersahali Ali, Carey Mulligan, Paul Dano and Maggie Gyllenhaal, mymemory banks will overflow with less populist items.

Hugh Jackman (center) stars as media-badgered, adulterous presidential candidate Gary Hart in “The Front Runner.”

Like, for example, “The Front Runner,” an intense, sharp retelling of presidential candidate Gary Hart’s falling from grace and dropping from contention in 1988 shortly after his extra-marital affair was exposed — an incredibly sharp contrast with the 2016 national election when even the revealing “Access Hollywood” tape couldn’t keep Donald J. Trump from being elected, or the 2018 Senate hearing that couldn’t stop Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

Forever burned into my brain, too, is “The Guardians,” a scary Canadian documentary about vulnerable seniors being financially and emotionally raped by a horrific Nevada system of legal guardianship controlled by corrupt officials for 30 years, even more chilling when we learn the elder abuse is ongoing.

Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy star in a film about a real-life literary forger, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

I’ll also remember Richard E. Grant’s out-acting Melissa McCarthy in the true tale of a literary forger, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” — plus his charming, disarming, clever Spotlight appearance at the Rafael Film Center.

And because I inherited from my father a love of silent two-reelers, particularly those by Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, I relished “The Great Buster,” with 100 minutes of copious classic film clips and commentary from talking heads like Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Richard Lewis and Bill Hader.

Other major highlights of this year’s MVFF for me included the Lucas Hedges-Nicole Kidman-Russell Crowe starrer, “Boy Erased,” a controversial look at “conversion therapy” whereby religious zealots try to “cure” kids of same-sex attractions; “One Voice,” an upbeat doc that focuses on the 55-voice Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, whose concerts I’ve enjoyed many times; and “Seder Masochism,” a bizarre peek at the biblical Exodus story via animated musical comedy.

But mostly, if truth be told, I’ll remember the Mill Valley festival for its scope, its variety, its fervor.

And for the mini-repast offered at Debbie Ghiringhelli Catering’s table at the three-hour closing night gala — delicious cheese tortellini in a creamy tomato sauce, delicious grilled prawns and grilled veggies, delicious Italian sausage and delicious bruschetta.

If you missed any of the movie gems I’ve mentioned, though, I’d strongly suggest you catch them as soon as they open for regular runs near where you live.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at or, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →