Posts Tagged ‘2010 Wisconsin Film Festival’

Chattin’ ’bout film fests

April 21, 2010

With the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival now a thing of the past (to borrow a phrase from a dear friend: “Shh-laters!”), it’s only natural that Madison cinephiles would try to place it in context, to reflect on how the WFF compares with other American film festivals. Well, as you might already know, the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival begins tonight in NYC. J. Hoberman has an article in this week’s issue of the Village Voice in which he critiques the typical TFF experience relative to that of other film festivals—Cannes, Sundance, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Rotterdam, what have you. Hoberman arrives at the conclusion that it’d really behoove the TFF if it were to try to be more like Rotterdam or South By Southwest than like a fourth- or fifth-rate Cannes. Someday I’ll be getting invited to these festivals and I’ll let you know whether I agree with his take; until then…

Obligatory end-of-film-festival top 5 list

April 19, 2010

Well, the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival has officially come and gone. It was an incredible (and incredibly exhausting) five days. I attended ten full screenings, while also ducking in and out of a few others (thanks for the press pass, Isthmus!). My thoughts on everything I saw are a bit of a jumbled mess at the moment, but I’m pretty sure that this list reflects the films that left the most indelible impressions on me. Forgive my failure to elaborate on these picks; my opinions of “Daddy Longlegs” and the Phil Solomon shorts can be found here and in my Isthmus article. Definitely jump at the opportunity to see any of these five should it present itself.

1. “Daddy Longlegs” (2009)

2. “Rehearsals for Retirement”/“Last Days in a Lonely Place”/“Still Raining, Still Dreaming” (2007-2009)

3. “Seventeen” (1983)

4. “Harmony and Me” (2009)

5. “Collateral” (2004)

Thanks to Manohla Dargis, David Bordwell, J.J. Murphy, John Powers, Bob Byington, and Alyssa and Athena Lobit for giving me the time of day at one point or another during the festival. Thanks again to Isthmus for hooking me up on Saturday. Thanks to the volunteers who never questioned my press credentials. Thanks to the friends who kept me company at screenings and social functions alike. And last but not least, thanks to y’all for giving this blog so much traffic throughout the festivities. Onward!

The ecstasy and the agony, the exhiliration and the exhaustion

April 18, 2010

Yesterday—Day 4 of the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival—was long, rich, enlightening and tiring as all get-out. From about 8AM on I was running all over town—chatting with folks, ducking in and out of screenings, collecting my thoughts, eating rarely, drinking too much coffee, etc. I’m pleased to present the fruits of my labor of love: my debut article for the Isthmus. Kudos to Kenneth Burns for giving me the opportunity to write for somebody other than myself or the student press.

I should mention that “Still Raining, Still Dreaming,” the program of avant-garde shorts by Phil Solomon and Mark LaPore, curated by UW PhD candidate John Powers, was probably the coolest and most beautiful thing I’ve seen at this year’s festival. As I mentioned in the article, Solomon has taken his former teacher Stan Brakhage’s approach to making astonishingly poetic films without a camera to a completely new, almost unprecedented plateau. If the opportunity to see these films—“Crossroad” (made by Solomon and LaPore in collaboration), Solomon’s eulogistic trilogy of “Rehearsals for Retirement,” “Last Days in a Lonely Place” and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming,” and LaPore’s “The Glass System”—ever presents itself, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of it. The friends who accompanied me to the screening can attest to the fact that my jaw dropped during the first film and didn’t come back up until I noticed that everybody was filing out of the Cinematheque at the end.

But what about today (Day 5)? I’m planning to see “The Art of the Steal” at the MMOCA at 1:15, “Seventeen” at the Cinematheque at 4, and “The Train” at the ‘theque at 6:45. Why not go out with a bang, eh?

The WFF continues

April 16, 2010

Although Wednesday was Day 1 of the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival, it seems fair to say that the fest didn’t kick off in earnest until last night. I caught two films: Benny and Josh Safdie’s revelatory “Daddy Longlegs” (2009) and Bong Joon-ho’s ridiculous and ridiculously fun “The Host” (2006).

“Daddy Longlegs,” formerly known as “Go Get Some Rosemary,” overflowed with feeling, charm and painful honesty; Ronald Bronstein’s performance as Lenny, a film projectionist who apparently attended the William Burroughs school of parenting, is the strongest and most magnetic I’ve seen so far this year, trumping even the excellent work of Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwig in “Greenberg.” “Daddy Longlegs” will screen again at 11 on Saturday morning at the MMoCA; there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be there for seconds.

“The Host” had its Orpheum audience in the palm of its slimy, mutant-reptilian hand. The film was hammy as hell, unsubtle in its politics and grandly operatic in its overall sensibility. The visual texture of “The Host” was really something: dirty, damp, bloody at times, scaly—and then abruptly sterile, clean, white. It certainly helped that I had plenty of good company with me at the screening, of course.

For more on yesterday’s proceedings, check out Sally Franson’s coverage over at the Isthmus. (A line formed at the Orpheum for “The Host” at 9:30? Yeesh. I walked in at 10:10 and had no trouble finding a prime seat.)

As far as today (Day 3) is concerned, there’s much to do and see. In today’s DC you’ll find a batch of recommendations from my colleagues Kevin Slane, Kyle Sparks, Mark Riechers and Todd Stevens; it looks to me like they made some good picks.

Me, I’ll be attending “Collateral” at the Orpheum at 4:30 (the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis will introduce), “Harmony and Me” at the Union Theater at 7:45 (director Bob Byington will be in attendance and will do a Q&A after the screening) and “It Came from Kuchar” at the Play Circle at 9:45 (to be preceded by George Kuchar’s “500 Millibars to Ecstasy”). I’ve got big-time expectations for all three.

Whatever you do, go see some goddamn movies.

It has begun…

April 14, 2010

Let’s get it.

The most wonderful time of the year (a day early, too)

April 14, 2010

This morning I was slightly surprised to find that my DC column (a brief primer on the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival) was published a day early in order to coincide with the first day of the fest. Luckily, that suits me just fine, seeing as how I’m only planning to check out one film today myself (and what a film it promises to be).

For the sake of being comprehensive, I should also mention that tonight Bradley Rust Gray’s “The Exploding Girl” will screen at 7:30 at the Chazen, Jessica Hausner’s “Lourdes” will screen at 7:15 at the Orpheum’s Stage Door Theater, Don Argott’s “The Art of the Steal” will screen at 7 at the MMoCA and Radu Jude’s “The Happiest Girl in the World” (which I wrote about last month when it screened at the Romanian Film Festival) will screen at 9:15 at the MMoCA; if the press these flicks respectively received is any indication, all four deserve a look. Opening night, opening night…

An extraordinary week

April 13, 2010

The suspense damn near killed me, and yet here we are: on the eve of the first day of the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival. This week’s DC column will be a (highly subjective) primer on navigating the WFF’s 192 films; however, that won’t be published until Thursday—so what’s worth checking out tomorrow?

I’m only planning to see one film on Day One, but, at 245 minutes long, it promises to be a doozy: Mariano Llinas’ Historias extraordinarias (2008). IMDb synopsizes the film as follows:

In this adventurous experiment in storytelling, secret identities, missing persons, lost treasures, exotic beasts and desperate criminals are only a few of the elements woven into a grand tapestry of mysteries.

And here’s an excerpt from the WFF’s film guide:

Historias Extraordinarias is four hours long – but it’s a page turner, not an endurance test, and moves at such a graceful clip that it feels intimate rather than epic. Boldly against the grain of the contemporary art cinema that tracks inscrutable protagonists at a snail’s pace (and which, to be fair, has yielded some miraculous films), Historias Extraordinarias is brimming with narrative detail, almost all of it relayed through an omniscient narrator whose loquacious descriptions don’t always match what’s onscreen.

The prospect of a 4+ hour movie shot on DV is very intriguing, and it’ll be particularly exciting to see just how novelistic the proceedings really get (the film’s narrative is divided into 18 apparently distinct chapters). Rest assured that I’ll be keeping a mental count of the number of walk-outs. Historias extraordinarias will screen at 7 tomorrow night at the Play Circle.

For good measure, here’s one of the film’s trailers:

What I’ll be seeing at the Wisconsin Film Festival

March 22, 2010

This came up often enough over the weekend that it deserves an entire post: what I’m planning to see at the upcoming Wisconsin Film Festival (April 14-18). I was very pleased to hear from a number of my amigos and acquaintances that they’ve already bought or will soon buy their tickets for the fest. I wasn’t as pleased to wait nearly 30 minutes in line at the Union today to buy my own tickets. Anyhoo, without further ado:

“Historias Extraordinarias,” “Daddy Longlegs,” “The Host,” “Collateral,” “Harmony and Me,” “It Came from Kuchar,” “Wild River,” “The Art of the Steal” and “The Train.”

Some new stuff, some old stuff. Some fiction films, some documentaries. Some screenings with the filmmaker(s) present, some screenings with the filmmaker(s) absent. All will be great in their ways. And don’t you dare forget that tickets are a mere $3.50 per screening for UW students.

Above all else, one thing is crystal-clear: if you’re not planning to see “It Came from Kuchar,” then you probably haven’t seen the ridiculous and ridiculously poignant “Hold Me While I’m Naked” (1967).

The entire program and schedule is available at the WFF’s website.

The wait is over, again

March 18, 2010

In this week’s issue of the Isthmus you’ll find the program for the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival, which will begin on April 14 and end on April 18; there are 192 films scheduled to screen over those five days, so get your eyes and ears good and rested. (The program is also available as a .pdf on the WFF’s website.)

I haven’t yet had a chance to read through the entire program but a handful of titles immediately leap out at me as being must-sees (I’ll keep ’em to myself for the time being). The NY Times’ Manohla Dargis is coming to town to speak about UW-Madison alum Michael Mann’s “Collateral” (2004). I wonder whether she’d be down to join me for a beer at the Plaza after the screening. I’m buyin’, Manohla.