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Lost in the Fog
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by Erik Childress

"There's Something In That Fog"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 CINEVEGAS FILM FESTIVAL: As a child, between all those westerns, Lone Ranger reruns and trips to Arlington Park with my dad it was hard not to develop a love of horses. Not in that Zoo sorta way (and thanks to that documentary, all manner of horse love must be predicated with a disclaimer), but an unblinding appreciation for one of the most magnificent creations put upon this Earth. Horse racing became a staple of my youth on television and summer afternoons standing right next to the finish line. Not that I wasn’t immune to the occasional tragedy, but they seemed few and few between compared to the national attention the sport of kings has received due to millions witnessing the careers (and lives) of Barbaro and Eight Belles playing out right before them in search of the Triple Crown. More than ever the public could use a film that either reclaims the beauty of the spectacle or answers a few questions that advocates might have about the treatment of these animals. John Corey’s Lost in the Fog may not quite be that film, but there’s enough wonderment in the story of just this one horse that it may spark both an awe in casual followers to seek the necessary queries.

87 year-old Harry Aleo has owned a small real estate company in San Francisco since the 1940s. Living in the culture of “latte-sippin’ loonies”, Harry loves to taunt his liberal neighborhood with large portraits of Ronald Reagan and displaying signs in his window that reads sayings comparing his left wing neighbors to aliens from the Weekly World News. He’s also been a small fry in the racing business for close to thirty years, never going further than the local tracks, but always holding out hope for that one great horse. In 2005, Harry may just had found him. Paying more than he ever had before and outbidding high rollers from businessmen to sheiks, Harry couldn’t resist falling for the animal with a name perfectly suited for his hometown. Referring to him as a “blue-collar horse”, Harry and his trainer, Greg Gilchrist, would soon become introduced to a whole other level of winning.

Watching Lost in the Fog on the track was an enthusiast’s dream. Running almost perfect races and leaving competition in the literal dust, if this were a baseball player he’d be accused of being on super steroids. It almost wasn’t fair and you could tell by the way the odds would fluctuate from race to race that the bettors respected him. But it was his owners that loved him. Breaking one track record after the next, Lost in the Fog seemed liked a prime candidate to enter the Kentucky Derby, a field of major runners that go through intense preparations in order to sell a lot of Mint Julips to people in funny hats. Harry and Greg didn’t care about all that though, pulling a Seinfeld (“I CHOOSE not to run!”) on the reporters and racing experts trying to subtly coax him into entering this horse or putting him out to stud. Instead, Lost in the Fog continued his winning ways and would define the term of champion in a way they could never have helped for.

As beautiful as the animals are and as bright as the sun shines off that infield grass, horse racing remains a monetary enterprise; something that the legend aspect of Gary Ross’ Seabiscuit usurped all too much. Bettors may not have seen much on their investment at Lost in the Fog’s 1-9 odds, but Aleo certainly couldn’t have done too bad. It will be interesting to see how Harry is received by audiences. His in-your-face politics have a jokey enough quality to dismiss as a quirk, but will his true love of this horse be questioned after seeing his reaction to his first defeat. Perhaps instinctual, but it does play more like the old rich man with the glue factory on speed dial than the lovable old coot from a Disney film. By contrast it’s Gilchrist, the trainer and Vietnam veteran, spending all his available time with the horse that comes off as the most sincere in his appreciation for everything this horse has accomplished.

In less than 80 minutes, John Corey brings us into aspects of the industry (such as the bidding stages) that we may not have seen before. But it would have been nice to see more of Lost in the Fog’s training routine or researching the danger constantly alluded to that can end a horse’s life in just a single misstep. Aside from a brief prologue of legend, the history of the sport is left in the past and little is revealed about how this champion measured up to the likes of Man O’War and Secretariat (although they do get a brief shout-out during a speech for an award accepted on The Fog’s behalf.) Like the horse itself, the film is left without much of a final act, sparing us the struggled fate of Barbaro but also a larger epilogue of reminiscence that the horse deserved. But what a horse though; the kind where money be damned if you had a chance to just see him stride-for-stride, out-in-front in a finish that’s worth a photo even if he’s all by himself. John Corey’s film is that living photo and it’s a joy to cough up a few bucks to see it.

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originally posted: 05/17/08 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2008 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

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5/21/08 jennifer ok 4 stars
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