Bad technical start at Mill Valley Film Festival…and 2 movies

I have written and lectured on how to enjoy streaming video. Yet trying to watch my first films at this year’s virtual Mill Valley Film Festival turned into an annoying problem.

But it had a happy ending…sort of.

According to the festival’s FAQ, Mill Valley supports three different device types for sending streaming video from the Internet to a television: Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. Any one of these should send a signal to your television. I have Chromecast capabilities built into my TV. I also have a Roku device. I do not have an Apple TV, so I can’t help you with that one.

I soon discovered that Chromecast didn’t work with the festival’s streaming capabilities. Well, not entirely. The festival trailer worked fine, but when the movie started, it stopped. This happened routinely. I got it working only once, but with two annoying bars on the screen.

I gave up on Chromecast and looked for other ways to watch the movie. (My capsule reviews are below.)

So, I tried my Roku, but that caused some problems as well. I needed a nine-digit PIN to get into Roku’s CAFilm channel (in the Roku world, apps are called channels). I found the PIN in my Order Confirmation email and entered the channel with no trouble.

But once I was in, I couldn’t actually access the movies. It took me awhile to discover that the Order Confirmation email had a different PIN for every film. With that, I was able to watch the films on the big TV.

Of course, you can watch a movie on a computer or a phone, but you want a big screen. You can cast a video from a computer or phone to a TV, but that requires a certain amount of technical capabilities.

Now, onto the movies:

B+ Home

Sarah Outen set out to do something amazing. She circled the world using only her own muscle power. She crossed continents by bicycle, but much more impressive, she crossed the Pacific and Atlantic in row boats. Okay, they were very high-end rowboats, but they were still rowboats. Nor did she do it all at once, flying back to home in England occasionally and then flying back to where she left off. Outen comes off as extremely optimistic, but with significant mental problems. You can’t help admire her determination to do the seemingly impossible.

C+ Clouds

There’s no easier way to pluck heartstrings from an audience than showing a good-lucking teenager dying of cancer, and director Justin Baldoni sure plucks those strings in this biopic of singer-songwriter Zach Sobiech. Yes, Fin Argus makes a likeable dying kid, and everyone who knows him loves him. But the film feels scattered, without any real structure. For instance, the sequence where the family goes to France has no meaning at all. Good intentions, good-looking people, good music, but nothing else beyond that.