Monday, March 8, 2010

Milwaukee Film blog has moved

Hello Readers of the Milwaukee Film blog,

For any of you who may not have noticed yet, we have made some changes with our blog, so it is now hosted directly on our website. To continue receiving updates from our blog, please update your bookmarks with the new url:

Thank you and we hope to hear from you if you have any comments, questions or suggestions for our blog.

Milwaukee Film

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Because Reality TV is Lame.

// By Anna Krutzik //

Today is Tuesday, also known as New DVD Day!

There are several notable films this week, a couple of which I feel contractually obligated to mention, as both screened at the 2009 Milwaukee Film festival: $9.99 and Shall We Kiss. $9.99 is an exquisite stop-motion animation by Israeli animator Tatia Rosenthal about one man's quest for the meaning of life. Shall We Kiss is a french romantic comedy about two friends who would like to kiss each other. You should rent these two ends my shameless film festival plug.

The film that I'm most interested in promoting is the DVD release of Sorority Row. Directed by relative newcomer Stewart Hendler, this remake of 1983's House on Sorority Row delivers a surprisingly good rendition of pop culture via cheesy horror film stereotypes and a good dose of bitchy girl power thrown in.

The cast includes the who's who of today's IT girls (Briana Evigan, Margo Harshman, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Leah Pipes) whose names you might not recognize, but that doesn't matter because none of them were chosen for their great acting skills and some are already on their way out of America's collective consciousness (The Hill's Audrina Patridge). The dialogue is uncharacteristically smart (sometimes) and even funny (in a good way).

The film doesn't pretend to be anything but a bunch of popular girls wearing cool (a.k.a slutty) clothes that run around and get slaughtered. But it does what it does well. Once the killer comes around there isn't an endless 15 minute chase scene, people start dying and they do so in a big way. But the best part of Sorority Row has to be Carrie Fisher who plays the shotgun-wielding house mother of the girl's sorority.

Pop culture on celluloid, sparkly and fun.

*Still image from Sorority Row

Friday, February 19, 2010

See You at the Movies!

// By Anna Krutzik //

So, it is a nondescript Friday in February and once again you're looking to go out and enjoy a movie in your local cinema because frankly there isn't much else to do in February in Wisconsin (*which I know is a false statement. There is a lot to do in Milwaukee on the weekends, but this is a film blog so we pretend that all that other stuff doesn't exist. It's a little biased but it makes for a more consice blog).

There is always the UWM Union Theatre which is showing Beeswax (directed by Max Von Sydow, Patricia Clarkson, Ted Levine, and Jackie Earle Haley

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Silver Lining on the Silver Screen

// By T.J. Fackelman //

Lest you all begin to think it´s nothing but "doom and gloom" at the 60th Anniversary of the Berlinale, I´d like to tell you about a few of the less bleak titles I´ve enjoyed so far. The one that has elicited the most laughs from myself and fellow audience members by far has been TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL. This hilarious (yet slightly gory) comedy follows a group of college frat boys and their female friends on a camping trip into the Appalachian woods. At the same time, Tucker and Dale, two good ole´boys who like nothing more than downing a few beers and fishing, are on their way to Dale´s recently purchased "summer house," a rundown cabin deep in the forest. What begins as the perfect vacation for both groups turns into a grisly nightmare as limbs get hacked off and bodies begin to pile up. Is it the "pure evil lurking in the forest" that the local sheriff warned them about, or is it something worse? Could there be a suicide cult??

One thing is for sure...this ain´t DELIVERANCE!

Another wild ride is also one of the most hyped films of both the Berlinale and the recent Sundance Film Festival, Banksy´s EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, which according to the press materials, directed itself. The mysterious Banksy may be the main draw of the film, but it´s the eccentric and fanatical filmmaker Thierry Guetta who gets the most screen time and steals the show. But Banksy full on admits this right off the bat in the opening interview segment which distorts both his voice and face, concealing his true identity. Guetta´s cousin is a street artist named Space Invader who specializes in creating and displaying mosaics in the likeness of baddies from the classic arcade game of the same name. It´s through this relationship that Guetta first meets fellow street artist Shepard Fairey, best known for his blue and red image of Barack Obama used in the 2008 Presidential Election Campaign, as well as many other artists using urban walls, sidewalks and streets instead of canvasses. Guetta´s excitement over filming these street artists is overly infectious, and his excitement becomes a full on obsession when he begins his mission to find the elusive Banksy. The artists agree to let Guetta film them because he claims he´s making the definitive street art documentary, but he confesses that he has no such intention. He just wants to film them.

In the dead of night, we witness Guetta and his subjects scaling walls, and climbing onto rooftops to create their art without being seen. And this stuff truly is art, not just ugly graffiti or simple tags, proven by the hundreds of thousands of dollars some collectors have paid to own a Banksy.

In the end, it´s up to the viewer to try to decide who´s putting on who and what´s real and what isn´t in this post-modern meta-documentary (the film that "directed itself"). No matter what you decide, it´s impossible to not have a blast watching this film that´s unlike anything you´ve ever seen before.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Exquisite Gloom and Doom

// By Jonathan Jackson //

Film festivals sometimes cast a dark shadow over their audience. It is a full-on eclipse at the 60th Berlinale.

My two fiction favorites thus far are no exception. Sundance Jury Prize winner WINTER'S BONE from Debra Granik and Thomas Vinterberg's return to form, the Danish SUBMARINO, both center on a subject many of us, maybe all if we are honest, can relate to: being the child of a dysfunctional parent(s).

Fulfilling the promise of her 2004 debut DOWN TO THE BONE, Debra Granik's WINTER'S BONE is a riveting, slow burn thriller that follows an Ozark mountain teenage girl, Ree (Jennifer Lawrence in a breakout role). Ree is desperately searching for her out-on-bail father so that her family does not lose their home and land, which he put up for bail. When not taking care of her catatonic mother, or two younger siblings, Ree must stand-up to an entire, seemingly lawless community whose only common value is to remain silent.

WINTER'S BONE could easily have become a cliche-riddled melodrama, in Granik's hands it becomes first rate thriller with the best depiction of a lost American mountain community this side of DELIVERANCE.

While Granik fulfilled the promise of her debut film immediately, Vinterberg has not. His three films following his hugely influential, masterful Dogme 95 debut film THE CELEBRATION all flopped with audiences and critics.

SUBMARINO will change that, at least with critics.

Me leading contender for the Berlinale Golden Bear, SUBMARINO is an unsparring, unflinchingly realistic look at two estranged brothers who are struggling to overcome an abusive and alcoholic mother, an absent father, drug addictions, poverty and the death of their little brother as an infant. Basically your typical date night movie!

Apaprently, SUBMARINO is the term for a type of water torture where the victim's head is held underwater until just before the moment of drowning. Vinterberg does the same to his two leads.

Soul bearing, pitch-perfect performances from the brothers, Danish actors Jakob Cedergren and Peter Plauborg, anchor the drama and allow you to actually empathize with their situations.

In addition to securing stellar performances from the entire cast, Vinterberg nails the right pacing and color palette to reinforce, but not overwhelm the drama.

Simply devastating.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Berlinale Streaming Restored METROPOLIS

// By Jonathan Jackson //

"One of the most important film archival discoveries in history," Roger Ebert writes about the newly restored version of the Fritz Lang 1926 classic METROPOLIS. The newly restored version is set to premiere tonight at the Berlinale and live on the web at the same time (1:30pm Milwaukee time).

Apparently at least a half hour of footage of this landmark film that was thought to be lost forever was found in a film archive in Buenos Aries, full story via The Hollywood Reporter.

I can't guarantee the langauge of the subtitles, but here is the supposed location of the German live stream.

Here is to hoping that The Magnificent Ambersons ending is discovered next!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Guten tag!

// By T.J. Fackelman //

Guten tag!

Jonathan and I arrived in Berlin for the 60th Annual Berlinale this morning around 10am, after a full day of travel narrowly skirting blizzards (including the flight to Berlin from JFK with nearly the entire NYC independent film industry, including actor Ben Foster, who's on the Jury this year). For those of you who don't know, Jonathan has been returning to the Berlinale year after year, but this is my first time (and it's my first time crossing the Atlantic since a trip to Ireland back in '97). Needless to say, I've been looking forward to this for years.

After leaving the airport, the first thing I noticed was the ice. Sure, we get a ton of snow in Milwaukee, so I'm used to it, but I didn't expect several layers of uneven ice layering every single walking surface. (It seems they put gravel down on the ice, but certainly no salt.) Jonathan and I even have a standing bet to see which of us will be the first to land face-first on Berlin ice. Keep an eye on this blog and you'll see who wins and who loses.

Getting past the weather, Berlin is an incredible city. The architecture of the buildings and the layout of the streets themselves creates an awesome blend between the old and the very new. Well, more about the city in the next few days as I see and learn more...

We are here for the MOVIES!

The thing is, with a festival of this size, it takes far more than two individuals to cover everything, but we are going to try our hardest, which means we'll be at completely different movies at all times. With that, here are a few of the highlights we're each looking forward to.

The film I'm probably most excited to see is Sylvain Chomet's THE ILLUSIONIST. Chomet was the creator of the incomparable animated tale THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (I'm still peeved that FINDING NEMO took its Oscar for Best Animated film in 2004.) I've been waiting for years to see his follow-up.

Next up was my most-wanted-to-see-at-Sundance. Well, I didn't get to see it there, but it was an eleventh hour addition to the Berlinale lineup: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP. It's a documentary by the equally legendary and mysterious UK graffiti artist Banksy. Sundance described it as such, "Banksy turns the tables on the only man who has ever filmed him, creating a remarkable documentary that is part personal journey and part an exposé of the art world with its mind-altering mix of hot air and hype."

I also can't wait to see MAMMUTH, the new comedy from Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern, who made the film AALTRA, possibly one of the greatest laugh out loud dark comedies ever. The pair make a perfect team behind and in front of the camera, creating brilliantly bleak comedy out of the everyday.

Jonathan, the Berlinale vet., has several films on tap. First up is WINTER'S BONE, one of the Sundance Award Winners he wasn't able to catch amongst the hundreds of others in Park City last month. After seeing a poster while walking around Berlin, Jonathan mentioned how interested he is in seeing Thomas Vinterberg's latest film SUBMARINO. Vinterberg was the co-founder of the influential Dogme 95 film movement. He's also been talking up another award winning director, Jasmila Zbanic (who won the Golden Bear two years ago here with her debut film Grbavica).

Stay tuned to the Milwaukee Film blog to hear more about the films and our adventures in Germany. And start placing your bets on who falls first. Odds are on me as the new guy, but I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen.

We're Loving:

// By Kyle Heller //

Ataque de Pánico! (Panic Attack!)

A YouTube movie that lists its budget at $300. I know this is old for the internet, but it is a testament of the rapidly increasing capabilities of independent/at-home filmmaking. The filmmaker Fede Álvarez, was offered a $30 million Hollywood deal to develop and direct a full-length film to be produced by Sam Raimi.

BROOKFIELD - All Recovered Monster Footage
A video assembled by our friends at Firestarter Films. Event organizers, Shawn Monaghan and Phil Koch assembled user submitted snippets and segments to create this Cloverfield parody, only this time the movie takes place here in Milwaukee. The digital effects used in the film are similar to Ataque de Pánico! in that something as uneventful as Wisconsin Avenue can turn into the next great monster scene.

If independent/at-home filmmaking does not continue, this is what happens...

The Muppets: Beaker's Balad
A reminder that while YouTube may be a great platform for independent/at-home filmmaking, the commentary and critiquing of pieces still need to grow up some.

*Still image from Ataque de Pánico! (Panic Attack!)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Collaborative Cinema: Filmmakers Workshop

// By Anna Krutzik //

This past Saturday February 6th a group of talented local film professionals got together at RDI Stages to give a crash course in film making to 35 Wisconsin high school students. The event was presented by Milwaukee Film as part of its Collaborative Cinema program, a unique education program that provides high school students the chance to experience all aspects of film, from scriptwriting to working on an actual film set. The event was free for students and made possible by the incredible generosity of the film professionals who donated their time, equipment, and knowledge. The Collaborative Cinema program is generously funded by the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation.

During the Filmmakers Workshop students rotated to different stations to learn about the art department, camera, and production and shadowed crew members as they shot a scene from the animated Pixar film Up, using live actors (including Collaborative Cinema's project director Mark Metcalf) instead of computer generated ones. Carlo Besasie (amazing local filmmaker and creator of the 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival sponsor and commercial trailers) directed the scene along with AboutFace Media's Ryan Dembroski as the assistant director. Local production companies like Independent Edit, North American Camera, and Blue Moon Lighting also helped out in filming the scene. DocUWM was on hand to document the excitement. All in all, it was a great example of the local film community coming out and supporting the future filmmakers. It was amazing to see the students' eagerness to learn. And kudos to all the film industry professionals. You guys make great teachers!

Of the 35 student participants, 5 will be chosen to work as interns during the film shoot this summer as Collaborative Cinema turns the winning script from its high school screenplay competition into a short film that will premier at the 2010 Milwaukee Film Festival. But first, the Collaborative Cinema mentors must chose the top 15 scripts to move on in the competition and attend the second writing workshop to be held February 27 at Discovery World.

Good luck to all the participants in the program and thanks to those who made Saturday such a great success!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

See You at the Movies

// By Jonathan Jackson //

Bored by the prospect of seeing all 100, I mean 10, films nominated for a Best Picture Oscar this year? Thankfully, you are in luck, as the 13th Annual UWM Festival of Films in French is playing NOW at the UWM Union Theatre.

No country in the world has as a rich a cinematic history as France, so it is with just cause that Milwaukee has its very own festival dedicated to French film.

From February 5 - 14, the festival will unfurl 16 films, a mix of acclaimed new films and rare classic titles, almost all free and open to the public. The festival includes three films from the 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival, Seraphine, The Beaches of Agnes and Azur and Asmar; the US premiere of Germaine Dulac's 1927 surrealist masterpiece The Seashell and the Clergyman; and the LONG OVERDUE Milwaukee premiere of the acclaimed 2007 film The Secret of the Grain.

Unfortunately, as with every year of this venerable festival, I will be out of town at the Berlinale for its duration. I hope to hear from everyone after my return about the treasures that unfolded during this year's UWM Festival of Films in French.

Full Schedule of Films

*Still image above is from The Secret of the Grain

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

JJ's Loving

// By Jonathan Jackson //

Best Online Videos of 2009 According to Sight & Sound

I Heart Zooey

Ariana Delawari on David Lynch Foundation Television

Question of the Day: Why are There So Few Female Filmmakers? Read the Comments!

For a Mere 700 Million You Could Own Miramax

*Behind the scenes image from Ariana Delawari music video directed by David Lynch

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Because Reality TV is Lame.

//By Anna Krutzik//

If you are like me, then it doesn't even matter what films are being released on DVD today because all you can think about is the season premiere of Lost tonight on ABC beginning at 7pm. I mean, does anyone else hear that ticking sound? That's the deafening crescendo of the hands on your wristwatch, ever so slowly ticking down the seconds until you can turn on your TV tonight and your life is complete. The title of this Tuesday blog post says it all: because reality TV is lame, watch Lost.

But if you want to rent a DVD tomorrow to take your mind off of the long week ahead until the next episode of Lost airs (Tuesday nights, 8pm) then you should definitely rent The House of the Devil, a delightful throwback to the heyday of '80s horror films and an Official Selection at the 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival. The film is directed by Ti West who at only 29 years old already has four feature films under his belt and is steadily making a name for himself as a new master of horror. Jocelin Donahue plays the central character, Samantha, who accepts a shady babysitting job at the last last minute on the night of a full lunar eclipse to get the money she desperately needs to move into her dream one-bedroom apartment. And actually, that pretty much is the whole plot. So to recap: young college girl, babysitting, alone, night of lunar eclipse, huge old house. That is all it takes to set the stage for one of the scariest films I've seen in a long, long time.

I was fortunate enough to see this film at its Midnight screening to a packed house at the Oriental Theatre during the 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival. The look and feel of the film seemed to be very authentic '80s, from the music to the hair and clothes, even the use of camera and editing resembled a time when people had longer attention spans than today's current YouTube generation. The film does an amazing job at building extreme tension out of virtually nothing, following Samantha as she explores the house, tries to delay boredom and put herself at ease, playing on the audiences' sense of dread and knowledge of the inevitable (it is called The House of the Devil, that should be your first clue). Which is the other thing I love about this film, the title. It's slightly over the top, and yet sort of comes across as confidence, as in "FACT: this is the devil's house" and you can't help but keep that in the back of your mind through the entire film. The tagline on the film's promotional poster reads: Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch TV. DIE. Brilliant. Simple. I love it. The expectation of horror and tension is building before you even press play on this DVD.

If you're the type of person who enjoys that moment in a horror film when you just have to look away from the screen because you know something bad is about to happen and you simply can't stand the tension of waiting for it, then you will love this movie because the entire film is that moment. (A quick tip: If you have a boyfriend, and he has a shoulder, it definitely helps to be clutching his shoulder in a deathgrip for the first 40 minutes of this film to relieve that tension, otherwise it might be too much for you.) And if you're not that person, it should be worth sitting through this movie anyway because the ending definitely delivers on what the title promises and does not disappoint.

All in all, The House of the Devil is a must see for horror fans, '80s fans, and Lost fans suffering withdrawal.

*In an attempt to harness even more of the spirit of the '80s (which is almost impossible at this point) The House of the Devil is being released on a special edition VHS tape (that's right, VHS, like the thing you need a VCR for) in addition to the standard DVD and Blu-ray DVD. Awesome!

Friday, January 29, 2010

See You at the Movies!

// By Anna Krutzik //

If you're headed out to see a brand new film at your local Milwaukee cinemas this weekend, I will warn you that there are some slim pickings. Of course, you could just see Avatar again. Everybody's doing it. But as the Friday blog spot is dedicated to reviewing and recommending just released feature films, I am relegated to writing about When in Rome (the latest "I'm-smoking-hot-but-just-can't-find-the-right-guy-and-when-I-search-for-him-hilarity-ensues" film) or Edge of Darkness.

So, Edge of Darkness is an emotionally charged thriller set at the intersection of politics and big business, according to its website. The film is directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), and stars Mel Gibson in his first leading role since M. Night Shyamalan's Signs in 2002. Yeah, 2002. I guess Mel's been really busy doing, um, other things.

My initial reaction to the trailer for Edge of Darkness was that it seemed to closely resemble the 2008 film Taken starring Liam Neeson, in which a grizzled old man goes on a rage-fueled rampage for the truth because of his daughter being kidnapped, the only difference being that in Edge of Darkness the daughter is murdered. However, IMDB tells me that Edge of Darkness is actually based on a 1985 BBC mini-series of the same name, which was also directed by Campbell. I find it interesting that the director would choose to make a scaled-down movie version of his own 6-hour mini-series, which is often cited as one of the best and most influential pieces of British television drama ever made.

What it all boils down to is that Edge of Darkness just isn't my type of film, really. But please don't misunderstand my lack of enthusiasm for this movie and take it as a bad review. It looks like it would be an entertaining conspiracy theory action-filled 2 hours complete with a bad-ass ultimate hero. And if that floats your boat, more power to you. Maybe I'm just bitter because I couldn't write a review for Saint John of Las Vegas which stars Steve Buscemi and also comes out today but only in New York and LA. Or maybe I should have reviewed When in Rome, which isn't my type of film either, but I might have enjoyed making fun of that one more.

I guess Crazy Heart is still playing at the Downer Theatre. And that film won two Golden Globes recently, one for Jeff Bridges as Best Actor and one for Best Original Song ("The Weary Kind"). I do love T Bone Burnett who was a producer of the film in addition to co-writing the music and lyrics of "The Weary Kind". Darn it, I change my mind. This review is no longer about Edge of Darkness and is instead urging you to see Crazy Heart, a film about a broken-down hard-living country music singer on his road to salvation, starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, and Colin Farrell, in a directorial debut by Scott Cooper.
I hope you like it.

And if you go see Edge of Darkness, I hope you like that too.

And if you were really looking forward to seeing When in Rome, I'm sorry.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rodrigo Garcia Saves The Melodrama

// By Jonathan Jackson //

Director Rodrigo Garcia has stayed relatively under the radar. An astonishing feat considering his impeccable directing and writing track record, which includes the 2005 Milwaukee International Film Festival Closing Night film Nine Lives and countless hours of the best television of the last decade (Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Big Love and In Treatment).

He is a gifted storyteller whose direction, which comes across as effortless, creates a lyricism that supports, not distracts, the complex character studies he creates. I would argue that no other writer/director working today creates characters with the same degree of psychological depth.

Actors must be dying to work with him.

Mother and Child features Annette Benning, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smitts and David Ramsey in a multi-character drama centered on love and parenthood. The scandalously under seen Annette Benning, the luminous Kerry Washington (in her second 2010 Sundance appearance), and the masterful Naomi Watts all deserve awards consideration at next year's Academy Awards.

Most melodrama in television and movies today is not generated from the characters, it is manufactured by vacant plot twists, over dramatic acting and vomit inducing scores. It is reassuring that we have an master/writer director choosing to work in the genre, reminding us of the potential it has to generate a profound connection with audiences.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm Pat Fucking Tillman

// By Jonathan Jackson //

Three days into the 'rebellion,' the same trend is emerging as last year: documentaries rule at Sundance. Not necessarily an indictment of the fiction films unfurling, it is more a sign of how the documentary form has grown in the last few years as the best technology has become more accessible and more artists are choosing the documetary form over fiction.

From the entertaining, fly-on-the-wall view of a social networking nightmare in "Catfish," to the poetic and heartfelt stories of love from 70 different women found in "His and Hers," to the more investigative, interview orientated "The Pat Tillman Story" it has become clear that the only thing that eclipses the range of documentaries styles on display are the depth of emotions and insights found within them.

More on "Catfish" and "His and Hers" some other time, but for now I can't stop thinking about "I'm with Pat Tillman." I have seen plenty of films and read plenty of analysis that has made me sick about the actions of our elected officials and military leaders during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I am not sure that any of them have hit me on a personal level quite the way this film did.

What makes "I'm with Pat Tillman" great though, is not the staggering revelations of improper actions by our leaders, or the virtuoso filmmaking for that matter, it is the incredible portrait of an honest family and their fallen son who only ever had two wishes: that they know the truth of the circumstances surrounding their son's death and that the government respects his wishes.

The Tillman family was lied to, manipulated and used as a marketing tool during the aftermath of Pat's death and their search for answers. Pat's documented wishes for his funeral and privacy we're betrayed.

To this day the officials responsible have still not been held accountable.

Pat Tillman and his family come across as some of the most real Americans I have ever encountered. The Tillman parents raised their boys to be open, honest and human. To navigate the World through their own eyes, their family's eyes and their country's eyes. It is simply a tragedy that the American government and military ran over them and betrayed them.

Prior to its premiere at Sundance, "The Pat Tillman Story" was actually titled "I'm Pat Fucking Tillman." The director Amir Bar-Lev changed the title, likely for obvious reasons.

The original title comes from the moments just before Tillman's death. As friendly fire rained down on Pat Tillman from only 40 yards away, in desperation he shouted to the American soldiers firing at him:

"I'm Pat fucking Tillman! Why are your shooting at Me?"

"I'm Pat fucking Tillman!"

Friday, January 22, 2010

This is Your Guide to CInematic Rebellion

// By Jonathan Jackson //

Earlier this week, as I was getting ready for my annual trek into Mormon country, I found myself less enthusiastic than ever before to attend arguably the nation’s leading film event.

I could point to a number of possible reasons: John Cooper’s ascendancy to the top post, the ridiculous slogan on the cover of the guide “This is Your Guide To Cinematic Rebellion,” the avalanche of work I was planning to bring with me that had nothing to do with the pleasures of movie going or maybe it was just my anticipated homesickness.

Whatever the reason was, it was misplaced.

As I dug deeper into the program guide on my flight here, I was excited to discover that many of my favorite contemporary filmmakers were premiering new work at the festival.

Here are the five I am most looking forward to seeing:

12th & Delaware

Directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady (The Boys of Baraka)


Directed by Spencer Susser (I Love Sarah Jane)

Casino Jack and the U.S. of Money

Directed by Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side)

Freedom Riders

Directed by Stanley Nelson (Jonestown: the Life and Death of the People’s Temple)

Wisdom Teeth
Directed by Don Hertzfeldt (Everything Will Be Okay)

*Above still image from the film Hesher

See You at the Movies!

by T.J. Fackelman //

As you’ve probably heard by now, tonight will mark Conan O’Brien’s last show as host of The Tonight Show. And I know it will be tempting to stay in and watch CoCo deliver his final monologue and reminisce over the last 7 memorable months, but that’s why we have DVRs. So we can go to the movies! So, while my DVR faithfully records Conesy’s last moments on NBC, I will be out at the theater. Care to join me?

One film in particular that I’ve been looking forward to seeing is Until The Light Takes Us, a documentary by Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell that explores the world of Norwegian ‘black metal.’ But black metal isn’t just a music genre, it’s more of a cultural phenomenon that veers into cult territory. The black metal scene emerged in Norway in the 1980s, but it took a string of controversial crimes in the ‘90s to really raise the profile of the scene. The crimes range from dozens of cases of arson (all involving churches burned to the ground) to murder and from alleged Satanism to cannibalism.

In order to examine the complex and misunderstood beliefs and principles of the Norwegian black metal scene, documentary filmmakers Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell packed up and moved to Norway for several years, living amongst the musicians and establishing a good rapport that grants them never-before-seen access. With this access, Aites and Ewell choose to focus on several of the most prominent musicians in the scene to tell the storied history.

If you decide to go, just don’t expect a concert film. In fact, don’t expect to hear much of the black metal music they’re discussing at all. In an interesting judgment call, Aites and Ewell prefer the use of electronic atmospheric sounds to the brutal, crushing sounds of Norwegian bands like Burzum, Darkthrone and Mayhem. I’m really curious to see how effective the use of music is in this documentary, as well as learn some more about this rather mysterious European musical and cultural scene.

Until The Light Takes Us (93 min.)

Times Cinema
5906 W. Vliet St.
Milwaukee, WI 53208
(414) 453-2436

Friday, Jan. 22 at 9pm & 11pm
Saturday, Jan. 23 at 9pm & 11pm

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We're Loving:

by Jonathan Jackson //

Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election) begins next film and George Clooney introduces Wes Anderson as only he can

Top 25 Films of the Decade, American made for under $1,000,000

Project Taliban: Malick or Bigelow?

The Sundance Film Festival begins tomorrow, here are Filmmaker Magazine’s Most Anticipated Films

Finally, what I am thinking about as I head to Sundance

*Still Image from David Gordon Green's George Washington

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Because Reality TV is Lame

The Hurt Locker
- Out on DVD/Blu-ray now!

by Mark Metcalf //

Kathryn Bigelow directs films that a man should direct. That’s wrong. She directs films that you would expect a man to direct, but she directs them even better.

The protagonist of The Hurt Locker is an arrogant, self-involved soldier just dying to be a hero. Bigelow looks at that directly; does not comment on it, does not shy away from it, any more than she shies away from the war he is involved in. And I think she comes away from the experience of directing this film understanding that it may just take that kind of person to fight a war like this, a war that probably should not be fought at all.

The war is Iraq. The year is 2004. It is the year in which four Blackwater “contractors” were killed, mutilated and burned, and then dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge for everyone to view. It is the year in which the United States lost its 1,000th soldier to violent death in that war. The story centers on Staff Sgt. William James who takes over the EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) unit in Bravo Company. Disarming an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), as you can imagine, is the most dangerous job in war. James loves his job. He puts his partners’ lives at more risk than necessary because he loves his job so much. He leaves his wife and his infant son to go back to Iraq for more. But he is much more than an adrenaline junkie who likes to risk his life. He is a man who chooses death over life. Certainly the possibility of death.

Bigelow’s camera and editing, her absolute concentration on the task at hand, with no obvious showboating, takes you on an extremely visceral ride. I think a male director might have let us know that he was there; would have removed us, and himself from the experience by taking the god position. Bigelow puts the camera right inside the helmet of Staff Sgt. James as he approaches an IED. She faces it directly with little or no ego other than what we imagine it must take to do the job at hand.

It is a remarkable war movie, although, I think it is a little patchwork in its story telling. There is an attempt to fill it with as many of the experiences of that war as possible. But one of those extra scenes, in the desert, when the EOD team has to transform itself into a sniper team, and Bigelow again allows us to experience the long agonizing wait, in the sun, with total stillness, and the purest concentration on the task at hand that I have ever seen in a film, while one sniper team waits until the other makes the mistake of motion so that they can be seen and killed. That scene may be the best one in the film. But somehow it is extraneous to the primary story.

The film follows the time-tested path of the “war movie,” with a scene of action followed by a scene of introspection followed by another scene of action. It executes those scenes with a certainty, and intelligence, and a desire to see the truth that has been rare in films about the endless war in Iraq. However, because it lacks originality in its structure it is not a great film, but it is the best war movie I have seen since A Walk In the Sun.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Five Cool Film Links for the Week 1/15/2010

Still Image from Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank

By Jonathan Jackson

Feeling down lately? You MUST have a case of the Avatar blues!

I was elated when I found out that the brilliant Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar) was in talks to direct the shattering novel The Lovely Bones. Then I cried when Peter Jackson elbowed his way in. Surprise, it looks as if the novel lost its soul on screen.

Speaking of UK directors, Andrea Arnold’s (Wasp, Red Road) latest and possibly greatest, Fish Tank, opened today in NYC.

I love looking at movie posters and some of the ones in this collection are insane: X-Rated - Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s.

Seems like a great idea for a book: Screen Epiphanies: Filmmakers on the Films that inspired them.

Cinema to See This Weekend: Broken Embraces

By Anna Krutzik

 As you finish reminiscing about the great art you saw Friday evening at Gallery Night, you settle in to your Saturday afternoon and you’re wondering “What movie should we see this weekend?”, remember that you read the Milwaukee Film blog and they recommended Broken Embraces, Pedro Almodóvar’s newest feature film (his 17th film to date, if you’re keeping track) starring Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, and a slew of other Almodóvar regulars.

Opening today at the Downer Theatre, Broken Embraces is the story of a writer and film director (Homar) who was blinded 14 years earlier in a tragic car accident that also took from him the love of his life, Lena (Cruz). The story is told mostly in flashbacks, jumping between the two personas of Homar’s character, Harry Caine and Mateo Blanco. The plot twists around the intense love between Lena and Harry/Mateo and the jealousy and betrayal that affect them, incorporating a film-within-a-film and numerous references to Almodóvar’s other features all while keeping a neo-noir theme.

The film has been getting mostly favorable reviews and looks to me like a fun throwback to the noir genre that shows off the best of Almodóvar’s sensibilities: his use of color, strong female characters, unexpected plot twists, and the overwhelming sense of perseverance through it all.

Broken Embraces has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Golden Globes, which air this Sunday on NBC beginning at 6pm (CST). So go check out the film and then watch it win! Well, maybe. I don’t actually know the outcome of the Golden Globes, but I do know that Broken Embraces will be going on my list of cinema to see this weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Decade of Amnesia

 by Jonathan Jackson

 We live in a society of the present. Information, media and advertising bombard us in every conceivable way. It has brought our World closer together, but it has also marginalized the past and with it the value of knowledge.

Everyone has always had an opinion, but now everyone has a platform to voice those opinions. Not that this is a completely negative occurrence, but it should not cause the death of serious journalism and make intellectualism a bad thing. Today, everyone is a critic. Unfortunately, this has marginalized our best critics, thinkers, writers who have devoted their lives to their field.

It may just be a product of my growing older, but I am horrified that today, more than ever before, the value of history has been forgotten. Many of the financial, political and cultural missteps of the past decade could have been avoided by learning from our past.

As we hurdle forward into a new decade at a staggering pace, it is reassuring to me that our leading film artists tried to remind us that we do not in fact all have collective amnesia. Amongst my favorites of the decade, no theme is more dominant than the importance of the past.

Ten Best Fiction Films of the Decade
7. Donnie Darko (Original Theatrical Version)
6. Zodiac
5. Time Out 

Ten Best Documentaries of the Decade
3. Stevie

Ten Best Television Shows of the Decade
10. The Daily Show
9. Deadwood
8. Freaks and Geeks
7. Curb Your Enthusiasm
6. Dexter
5. Arrested Development
4. 30 Rock (Pre-Writers Strike)
3. The Office (BBC)
2. Six Feet Under
1. The Wire

Ten Best Albums of the Decade
10. Air: Talkie Walkie
9. Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP
8.Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
8. Bob Dylan: Love and Theft
7. OutKast: The Love Below/ Speakerboxxx
6. LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver
5. TV on the Radio: Dear Science
4. Hot Chip: The Warning
3. Gnarls Barkley: The Odd Couple
2. M.I.A.: Kala
1. M. Ward: Post-War

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blu-ray/DVD Release of the Week: Big Fan (2009)

Welcome to a new weekly section of the Milwaukee Film blog dedicated to keeping you up to date on some of the best new Blu-ray/DVD releases. On the docket for this week is Big Fan, an Official Selection of the 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival.

Big Fan
is the directorial debut from Robert D. Siegel, former Madison resident who took time out of his busy schedule to attend a screening of Big Fan at the 2009 Milwaukee Film Fest. Siegel's established his place within the international film community with his critically acclaimed screenplay for the 2008 Oscar-nominated film The Wrestler.

Although Big Fan stars notorious funnyman Patton Oswalt, and it was written and directed by a former Senior Editor of The Onion, it's a far cry to call it an ordinary sports comedy. Oswalt stars as Paul Aufiero, the titular anti-hero who's obsessed with the NY Giants. Working as a parking lot attendant, Paul spends his evenings calling in to sports talk radio shows and his weekends watching his beloved Giants on a tiny TV from the stadium parking lot. Following a violent confrontation with one of the stars of his favorite team, Paul is forced to put his entire belief system into question. As his life spins out of control, Big Fan raises the stakes and hurtles towards an ending you don't see coming.

You can read an interview with Robert Siegel and A.V. Club Milwaukee Editor Steve Hyden here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Multiple Milwaukee Film Festival Alumni need your votes to win awards

Carlo Besasie nominated for People’s Choice Award

Local filmmaker and 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival Alum Carlo “Vinnie” Besasie attended the American Film Market in Los Angeles back in November and participated in their Favorite Film Pitch contest. Carlo was given 2 and a half minutes to make a pitch for his movie idea entitled All the Queen’s Men. When the Market was over, 5 movie pitches were nominated for a People’s Choice Award, and All the Queen’s Men was one of those selected. Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open to the public, and you can vote as many times as you’d like. To see Carlo’s movie pitch and vote for it, click here.

In addition to receiving the Favorite Film Pitch award, the winner will also receive an AFM 2010 package that includes full access for two to the AFM, including seminars and conferences; airfare for two to Los Angeles; hotel for five nights in Santa Monica; and scheduled meetings with producers and distributors.

Though he needs your votes to win this award, Carlo is no stranger to winning accolades for his filmmaking. Most recently, he was awarded the Allan H. (Bud) & Suzanne L. Selig Audience Award for his short film The Violinist at the 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival. Two of Carlo’s other short films, Wishtaker and The Cherry Tree, were also award winners at the now-defunct Milwaukee International Film Festival. Not one to rest and be content with his past awards, Carlo is also phenomenally prolific. For the 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival, Carlo directed a team of filmmakers who produced the fun, promotional trailer, as well as the beautiful sponsor trailer shot in the remarkable home theater belonging to Racine resident Fred Hermes, which hides a treasure trove of decades worth of film equipment. Carlo, always willing to lend a needed hand, also donated his time to fill the role of Cinematographer for the Collaborative Cinema/Milwaukee Film produced short film The Waiting Room, written by former Brookfield Central High School student Emily Downes for the 2008 screenwriting contest.

Andrew Swant & Bobby Ciraldo nominated for four PILL Awards

Local filmmakers and 2009 Milwaukee Film Festival Alumni Andrew Swant and Bobby Ciraldo have entertained you with ballet dancers prancing around to the spoken words of William Shatner, their hilarious music video for Samwell’s What What In The Butt was parodied on South Park, and they keep the stoners and drunks busy with their late-night comedy show Something Theater, but now they need your help to win the four PILL Awards for which they have been nominated. Andrew and Bobby have the following videos nominated in the following categories:

#03. PARODY PILL - "Samwell Goes To The Woods" by Samwell
#11. BEST ANIMATION/FX - "What What (In the Butt)" by Samwell
#15. BEST MUSIC VIDEO - ELECTRO - "What What (In the Butt)" by Samwell
#23. BEST EPISODE - "Episode 53: ELECTRO"

Click here to go to the PILL Awards website and vote!

Collaborative Cinema

This Saturday January 9th, Milwaukee Film hosted the first workshop for its Collaborative Cinema program at Discovery World. 41 high school students from Milwaukee and surrounding areas (out of over 100 who submitted) were picked to attend the workshop based on their idea for a short film. During the workshop, the students learned tips and tricks from film industry professionals to help guide them in turning their ideas into a full screenplay. The goal of the program is to continue working with the students and their screenplays until ultimately one is chosen to be made into a short film which will premiere at the 2010 Milwaukee Film Festival. Past participants of the Collaborative Cinema program including Vinnie Balistreri (She Never Screams, winner in ’06), Katrina Schwarz (Small Talk, winner in ’07) Emily Downes (The Waiting Room, winner in ’08), and Natalie Mullins (Ward Three, winner in ’09) also attended to offer guidance and suggestions to this year’s 41 hopefuls. With Project Director Mark Metcalf (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seinfeld) at the helm, the day was filled with fun, learning, and for 41 high school students, the chance of a lifetime.

Ryan Sarnowski and the wonderful film students that are part of the DocUWM program were on hand all day capturing the action and excitement that unfolded to make a short documentary about the Collaborative Cinema program. I can’t wait to see the final product!

All in all, it was an intense workshop and a big thank you goes out to the mentors and students for making the day such a success!

Good luck to everyone participating in the Collaborative Cinema program this year!