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 films...so 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!