The Middleburg Film Festival 2022 — Some of the Most Exciting Films of the Year

Posted on September 22, 2022 at 2:53 pm

Copyright 2022 Netflix
In just ten years, the Middleburg Film Festival has become one of the most thrillingly curated festivals of the year. The 2022 program includes some of the most highly anticipated films of 2022. Launching the four-day festival is “White Noise” from Academy Award-nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach. Based on Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name, the black comedy stars Adam Driver as a renowned professor of Hitler studies who along with his wife (Greta Gerwig) and children face an “airborne toxic event” hanging over their town that threatens everyone’s lives. Don Cheadle, Jodie Turner-Smith, Sam Nivola and Raffey Cassidy also star. Baumbach will be returning to MFF to accept the 10th Anniversary Spotlight Filmmaker Award – he attended in 2019 with his Oscar nominated film “Marriage Story.”

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The “Knives Out” sequel “Glass Onion” will screen on Friday, October 14 as the Friday Centerpiece Film and will include a discussion with writer/director Rian Johnson where he will receive the Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Additionally, Johnson and his film editor Bob Ducsay will be presented with the inaugural Variety Creative Collaborators Award and participate in a separate conversation that will not only focus on their current film but take a look back at their previous collaborations including “Looper,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and “Knives Out.” In “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Daniel Craig returns as detective Benoit Blanc who time travels to Greece to uncover a fresh mystery involving a new cast of colorful suspects, played by Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick, and Madelyn Cline.

Screening as the festival’s Saturday Centerpiece film is “Somewhere in Queens,” written, directed by, and starring Ray Romano. It is a family dramedy and love letter to New York’s largest boroughs and it is produced by MFF Advisory Board members Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa (“Nebraska,” “Little Miss Sunshine”). They will join Romano at the festival to discuss the film following the evening screening on Saturday, October 15. Co-written by Mark Stegemann, the film features an ensemble cast that also includes Laurie Metcalf, Jacob Ward, Tony Lo Bianco, Sadie Stanley, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Jennifer Esposito.

Copyright 2022 A24
The Friday Spotlight Film is “The Whale,” directed by Darren Aronofsky, adapted by Samuel D. Hunter from his play. Brendan Fraser has received extended standing ovations for his performance as a reclusive English teacher living with severe obesity who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter. The film also stars Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins and Samantha Morton. Fraser and Hunter will be on hand for a post screening conversation to discuss their collaboration.

MFF will recognize Stephanie Hsu with the Rising Star Award for her breakthrough performance in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” opposite Michelle Yeoh. She will participate in a conversation following a special screening of the film after which she will be presented with the award. The box office hit film broke records by becoming A24’s first film to surpass the $100 million benchmark.

The event I look forward to most every year is the tribute to a composer. In honor of the 10th anniversary, many of MFF’s previous Distinguished Composer and Songwriter honorees will each have a selection of their works performed by a 40-piece orchestra. Joining the 10th Anniversary Concert celebration are songwriter Diane Warren, composers Mark Isham, Marco Beltrami, Kris Bowers, Charles Fox and the 2022 Distinguished Composer Award recipient Michael Abels. Abels is known for his genre defying scores for Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” “Us” and this year’s “Nope.” He also composed the upcoming LA Opera production “Omar,” which is premiering October 22.

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Middleburg Film Festival 2021: Belfast, Cyrano, Red Rocket, C’mon C’mon and Much More

Posted on October 13, 2021 at 2:02 pm

In just seven years Virginia’s Middleburg Film Festival, set in the fabulous Salamander Hotel, has become a great way to see the films we’ll be talking about all awards season and to talk to the people who created them. Sheila Johnson has made MFF one of the post prestigious and coveted places to premiere a film. Following a “hybrid” year with online access in 2020, the festival is back in person in gorgeous, gracious, Virginia hunt country, always spectacular in the fall.

I’ll be speaking in the “Talk Back to the Critics” panel again this year, with my friends Travis Hobson, Susan Wloszczyna, and Tim Gordon. And some of the films I’m most looking forward to are “Cyrano,” starring Peter Dinklage and two ready-for-stardom up-and-coming young actors, Hayley Bennett and Kelvin Harrion, Jr., Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical “Belfast,” “Red Rocket” from “Florida Project’s” Sean Baker, and “C’mon, C’mon” with Joaquin Phoenix. Stay tuned for more!

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Middleburg Film Festival 2020

Posted on October 8, 2020 at 9:13 pm

The Middleburg Festival begins October 15, 2020 and, as always, it has an impressive line-up of hotly anticipated films including some arriving with a lot of plaudits from other festivals, like “Nomadland,” starring Frances McDormand, and “Ammonite” with Kate Winslet. This year’s honorees include Hollywood legend Sophia Loren, composer Kris Bowers, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, and director Chloé Zhao. And I’ll be on the critic panel again with my friends and colleagues Tim Gordon, Travis Hopson, Jason Fraley, and Susan Wloszczyna.

Check out the full schedule.

There will be some in-person, socially distant events and screenings but much of it is available virtually, so anyone can attend!

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Doc5 Middleburg: 5 Highly-Anticipated Documentaries Premiere at the Middleburg Community Center, September 22 – 26, 2020

Posted on September 4, 2020 at 12:05 pm

CMP has announced its inaugural ​Doc5 Film Festival will take place at the Middleburg Community Center (200 W. Washington St., Middleburg, Virginia 20117) from Tuesday, September 22 through Saturday, September 26, 2020.

Doc5 is the traveling “little sister” to CMP’s flagship Doc10 Film Festival, which launched in Chicago in 2015 and has continued its reign as the taste-making festival in the Midwest, with dozens of titles earning Oscar nominations and trophies. CMP’s mission with its festival series is to celebrate independent documentary filmmaking and the filmmakers who tell those stories. Doc5 Film Festival is more intimate, bringing these incredible films on the large screen so film lovers in smaller communities and locales can watch them in a festival experience.

“We’re so proud of the success of our Doc10 Film Festival and we want to share the experience across the country,” said CMP’s ​Co-Founder and Board Chair, Steve Cohen​. “We’re really excited to launch Doc5 with a slate of film premieres especially curated for the film-lover community of Middleburg, Virginia.

Doc5 opens on Tuesday, September 22 with ​OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES, ​which ​follows famous chef Yotam Ottolenghi on his quest to bring the sumptuous art and decadence of Versailles to life in cake form at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Director Laura Gabbert’s film credits include feature length ​No Impact Man and the popular Netflix series ​Ugly Delicious. ​OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES perfectly captures the heights of human achievement and the frailty of decadence, adding taste as one more sense with which to experience the Met.

The festival closes on Saturday, September 26 with ​DEAR MR. BRODY, a story about how a 21-year-old hippie heir to a margarine fortune announced to the world that he would be giving away his $25-million inheritance to anyone in need. Set in 1970, Michael Brody, Jr. and his wife Renee were soon flung into a psychedelic spiral of events and overwhelmed by the crush of personal letters responding to their extraordinary offer. Fifty years later, an enormous cache of these letters are discovered–unopened. In this riveting follow-up to his acclaimed ​Tower, award-winning director Keith Maitland reveals the incredible story of Michael Brody, Jr. and the countless struggling Americans who sought his help.

The full slate of films featured at Doc5 include:
● 9/22: OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES ​ (Dir. Laura Gabbert, U.S.)
● 9/23: THE SIT-IN: HARRY BELAFONTE HOSTS THE TONIGHT SHOW (Dir. ​Yoruba Richen, U.S.​)

● 9/24: TIME ​(Dir. Garrett Bradley, U.S.)
● 9/25: WHIRLYBIRD​ (Dir. Matt Yoka, U.S.)
● 9/26: DEAR MR. BRODY​ (Dir. Keith Maitland, U.S.)

CMP’s Chicago-based Doc10 Film Festival is known for its ancillary programming, including special talk backs with filmmakers and subjects, so audiences can expect some surprises during Doc5 Middleburg.
All screenings will be held outdoors to a capacity of 75 guests who will find it very easy to maintain a safe social distance in the venue’s large amphitheater. In case weather conditions force an indoor event, the festival will be moved indoors to a 50-person capacity ballroom that will still easily adhere to social distancing guidelines. Attendees will each receive swag bags with hand sanitizer, masks, and bug spray at the entrance.

Admission to each film is $25, or guests can purchase a pass for all 5 films for $100. These will be available online at doc5filmfest.org, and guests can also purchase tickets onsite at the venue’s concessions.

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SDCC2020@Home: Charlize Theron, Robert Rodriguez, LGBTQ Characters, and Bill and Ted Face the Music

Posted on July 26, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Copyright 2020 Orion

Instead of waiting for days to get into the cavernous Hall H to hear Guillermo del Toro talk about the upcoming film “Antlers,” you can watch it here.

Do not call Charlize Theron a warrior. I wrote about why and her interview on action movies, or you can watch it here.

Copyright ReFrame 2018

The Women Rocking Hollywood panel is always tops on my list. It was great to hear of the increasingly widespread adoption of ReFrame’s seal of gender equity awarded to films that meet their goals.

I was very moved by the panel about LGBTQ characters on television. Who knew a toothbrushing scene could be so romantic, or that there was such a big difference between “There’s something I haven’t told you” and “There’s something we haven’t talked about?”

The His Dark Materials panel had a thrilling revelation: the character played by Andrew Scott has a daemon who will be voiced by his “Fleabag” co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The trailer for Season 2 looks thrilling.

I always love the behind-the-scenes panels, and I “attended” conversations featuring stunt coordinators, composers, editors, a writer/director/editor, a cinematographer, and a make-up artist.

There was no panel at the Con more fun than the celebration of Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday, with Leonard Maltin and three actors who have followed Mel Blanc in voicing the rascally rabbit. A forthcoming anniversary box set will included several cartoons never before released for home viewing. Panel attendees got a sneak preview.

But my favorite was the “Bill and Ted Face the Music Panel.” Of course the panelists all “arrived” by animated time travel machines shaped like phone booths.

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