Backing the wrong horse

“Of Fathers and Sons” (Image copyright Kino Lorber / Basis Berlin Filmproduktion)

No, this isn’t a post about next month’s Kentucky Derby. It’s a post of cinematic regret.

I often have harsh words for Academy members who vote for the wrong film, and for critics who compile faulty “best of the year” lists. Well, now I can direct those harsh words at myself, as I made the same mistake for the same reason almost everyone else does: We simply don’t see all the films in time to write our articles or vote for the Oscar winners.

In this case, I was rooting for Free Solo (4 stars on 0-5 scale) for best documentary of 2018, and, to my joy, it won the Academy Award! (Admittedly, Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old (4 ¼ stars) was better, but I’m not certain that its limited release during the last week of the year qualified it for the Oscar. Look for that film to qualify next year.)

But it was another one of the five nominated films I should have been rooting for: Of Fathers and Sons (4 stars), a stunning, can’t-believe-they-filmed-that doc about violent, religious extremism in Syria. It’s proof that “best of the year” lists are never truly finished. They live, breathe and evolve long after the year has ended. So I will try not to dwell on my regret and instead congratulate director Talal Derki on his success — unless, of course, I find a better doc among the other 2018 films I’ve yet to see.

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