By MSGR. JOHN MYLER | Culture Columnist
When the Academy Awards are presented on Sunday evening, March 12, two of the best films of the year will go unmentioned.
THIRTEEN LIVES is director Ron Howard’s story of the amazing, true-life 2018 cave rescue of twelve young soccer players and their coach in northern Thailand. Howard – whose past directing credits include “Apollo 13”, “A Beautiful Mind” and “Frost/Nixon” – has filmed the thrilling rescue mission using mostly unknown Thai actors. But at its center is a trio of veteran film stars: Colin Ferrell, Viggo Mortensen and Joel Edgerton, as veteran cave-rescuers who come from around the world with the self-sacrificing intent to save the young lives threatened by ever-rising waters. The action takes place not only in claustrophobic underwater scenes, but in the crowd of anxious parents standing by, in the maneuvering of the media trying to cover the story, and in the spirits of the men risking their lives to bring the boys out to safety.
The world knows how the story ends; this excellent film is about the courageous hearts that overcame nature’s real dangers.
GOOD NIGHT, OPPY isn’t nominated for Best Documentary, but it ought to be. “Opportunity” is the name of an unmanned vehicle assembled and sent by NASA scientists to rove and explore the surface of Mars. It was built to last on the surface of the Red Planet for 90 days – but “lived” there for nearly fifteen years!
Through those years, the NASA scientists would awaken the rover every Martian sunrise – collecting data throughout the day – and then sign off each evening with “Good night, Oppy”, their affectionate nickname for the vehicle.
Just as remarkable as the scientific data is the bond that developed between the rover and its human creators. From many millions of miles away, several generations of scientists talked to and cared for Oppy from its “birth”, through old age until its “death”.
This intelligent and charming documentary not only offers a rare positive insight into a wholesome relationship between humanity and technology; it may also show us how to better care for one another. (“Thirteen Lives” and “Good Night, Oppy” are both streaming on Amazon Prime Video.)