Posts Tagged ‘Madison’

Thinking aloud

May 25, 2010

Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” won the Palme d’or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (check Daniel Kasman’s review out) won the Palme d’or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “The White Ribbon” opened at Madison’s Sundance Cinemas in March, playing there for a few weeks before enjoying a shortish run at the Orpheum. “Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives” will open here… never would be my best guess. Write a letter to your favorite state-level politician. Below is the film’s trailer. Dig it.

Modest, almost trivial, slowly developing, almost static

May 21, 2010

If you haven’t already picked up a copy of this week’s Isthmus, I encourage you to do so—not just because I’m in it, but also to read Kenneth Burns’s review of “Police, Adjective” (for those of you who are allergic to the printed word, the review can also be accessed here), which played at the Orpheum last week.

I’m pleased to see that Kenneth found the film’s more divisive aspects—its sluggish pacing and its self-conscious intellectualism, to name a couple—as admirable as I did. Moreover, I echo his surprise at the fact that “Police, Adjective” has received so many runs here in recent months; going into the spring semester, I certainly didn’t foresee that happening.

Whether “Police, Adjective” will be remembered as the greatest achievement of the new Romanian cinema (the title of “film that defined the new Romanian cinema” seems all but locked up by Cristi Puiu’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”) remains to be seen. I think it’s got a pretty good shot, but what do I know. How much time must pass for a “new” or “young” cinema to become “mature” or “adult”?

The roof, the roof, the roof is…

May 20, 2010

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art just announced the first four events in its Rooftop Cinema series and, if you ask me, they look pretty damn promising.

On June 4 they’ll present “Associations: The Short Films of John Smith,” which is comprised of six shorts by a filmmaker who MMoCA bills as being “one of the avant garde’s leading humorists.”

On June 11 it’s “H2O,” a program of films that take as their subject—what else—agua, eau, water, etc. Included in the program are Stan Brakhage’s “Commingled Containers” (1997), Kenneth Anger’s “Eaux d’artifice” (1953) and J.J. Murphy’s “Sky Blue Water Light Sign” (1972). “Commingled Containers” is utterly mesmerizing; having only seen it on Criterion’s “by Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume One,” I can’t wait to experience it projected off 16mm.

Also of note is Bruce Conner’s “Looking For Mushrooms” (1996), which is the central attraction in the June 18 program, “The Sight of Music Part 2.”

Head on over to the MMoCA’s website for details on the rest of June’s screenings. Let’s breathe a collective sigh of relief that avant-garde cinema will continue to have a presence in Madison, at least for the summer.

The Orpheum: Soon to become Madison’s largest arthouse theater

May 17, 2010

Spatially speaking, that is.

This isn’t exactly news but I missed my initial chance to comment on it when I was tied up with graduation stuff last week: 77 Square’s Rob Thomas reports that all summer long the Orpheum will be bringing an assortment of non-commercial (for lack of a better word) films to town for their first runs in Madison. This would be genuinely exciting news but, alas, the lineup is pretty underwhelming.

Yes, “Police, Adjective” (opening on Friday) is a phenomenal piece of work, but it already played here at the Play Circle in February and during the Romanian and Wisconsin Film Festivals. I tend to doubt that anybody who passed on it then is going to jump at the opportunity to see it now.

As for the rest of the films, only “The Most Dangerous Man in America” (opens May 28) and “House” (opens August 1) stick out to me as potential musts. Everything else screams “we took what we could have gotten without having to make much of an effort” (which is just the opposite of Sundance Cinemas’ attitude; to have a theater downtown that has Sundance’s exhibition mentality, though perhaps with truer aim, would be invaluable).

Finally, I’m totally clueless as to what Thomas likes about the Orpheum as a movie-watching venue:

One of the many good things about the Wisconsin Film Festival is that it reminds you what a great place the Orpheum Theatre is to see a movie. Granted, it’s unlikely that a regular screening there will draw a rapt crowd of 1,500 (like “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” did during the fest, which was a great moviegoing experience), but the charm of the elegant old dame can’t be beat.

I went to three different screenings last semester alone in which the Orpheum’s projector broke down—once when there wasn’t a projectionist anywhere near the booth, thereby turning a 90-second bump-in-the-road into a 25-minute gargantuan annoyance. Plus the place has one of the worst sound-systems I’ve ever heard. When I attended a screening of “Collateral” there during the Wisconsin Film Festival, I asked Manohla Dargis what she thought of the theater’s sound-system, knowing perfectly well how’d she’d respond to my query; she said something to the effect of “Horrible. Just awful.” “Elegant old dame” or decrepit old hag?

The last column

May 6, 2010

Today’s edition of the Daily Cardinal also happens to be the last of the semester. In it, amongst other readable things, you’ll find my final column as the paper’s film columnist, a piece that’s every bit as column-y as the fourteen columns that preceded it.

The subject: my ten favorite movies that came to Madison over the past school year (my senior year, don’tcha know); I explain the rules of the list in the article, so check it out. If you’ve kept up with this blog at all, my picks won’t even come close to being a surprise.

I suppose I ought to sign off in a relatively classy way, so: many thanks to the entire DC crew for putting up with me these past two semesters; for letting me write about whatever the hell I wanted every week; for never pissing me off with overzealous edits; and for letting me come to your parties. Au revoir, Dirty Bird.

Reevaluating indie

May 4, 2010

Yesterday J.J. Murphy posted something that I think is very much worth reading: an attempt to make sense of the recent debate being waged by bloggers and filmmakers alike about what indie cinema is and can do in 2010.

I won’t pile much of my own commentary on top of J.J.’s because I think that his take on indie cinema’s present predicament ought to be read on its own terms. But I will add that I echo his sentiments on the following point: indie cinema always has an audience, even in smallish markets like Madison, and we definitely need distribution networks that can deliver contemporary indie films to these smallish markets while the critical buzz about them is at its height. (This then begs the question, to be answered at a later date: in the internet age, are conversations about individual movies ever really dead?)

Some screentime for the snobs

May 4, 2010

Today’s edition of the Daily Cardinal features my esteemed colleague Justin Stephani’s last music column of the semester; in it, he grapples with audiophilia (which he makes seem quite similar to cinephilia) as a sociocultural phenomenon through an outstanding reading of Stephen Frears’s surprisingly epochal (if you know the people I know, that is) comedy “High Fidelity” (2000). The following passage is especially relevant, given all the attention that film culture and cinephilia get on this blog:

Rob [John Cusak] and friends compete with each other in utterly immature ways. At one point or another, they all look like assholes who enjoy the title of “snob” way too much, and they all deal with similar social ineptitudes. These—even moreso than the aspirations above—can be associated with the breed of music-lovers. And when audiences are forced to get to know Rob in these personal ways on top of his superficial snobby qualities, it’s easier to look past the pretentiousness and sympathize with his inadequacies. This is the hope and envy of audiophiles: To be judged not by the sometimes snobby color of their language, but by the content of their character (and music libraries). [my emphasis]

My own tear-soaked swansong will be delivered in Thursday’s paper. Until then…

“The Sun” at Sundance Cinemas

April 30, 2010

Sheez, my post titles have been works of art today.

Eminent Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov’s 2004 feature “The Sun,” which received its first (limited) run in American theaters last November, is now playing at Madison’s Sundance Cinemas. For local cinephiles, this is cause for serious excitement: Sokurov is one of the boldest, most dazzlingly grandiose film artists working today. (Anyone who has seen his 2002 film “Russian Ark,” which is as much a dance performed by a cast of thousands as it is a singular cinematic achievement, can attest to the boldness and dazzling grandiosity of which I speak.)

“The Sun” was showered with praise by critics like Manohla Dargis and J. Hoberman during its November release; I’m pleased to see that my editor at Isthmus, Kenneth Burns, also found it thoroughly thought-provoking. I’m hoping to catch “The Sun” at some point this weekend—tornadoes permitting.

“It leaves a hole.”

April 30, 2010

My second article for Isthmus, on the implications of WUD Film’s decision to dissolve its various series, can now be accessed on the paper’s website; in it I grapple with a few of the issues I probed in yesterday’s DC column, though in a much more journalistic style than I’m used to. All tips on reporting are more than welcome. Nothing better than learning on the job, eh? And goddamn Reo, what a suit!

“Design for Living” at the Cinematheque + A symposium dedicated to Kristin Thompson

April 30, 2010

Is that a mouthful of a title or is that a mouthful of a title?

Tomorrow night the Cinematheque will screen a restored print of Ernst Lubitsch’s “Design for Living” (1933), regarded by many as one of the high priest of classical Hollywood comedy’s greatest achievements. The film’s story is well-known and—dare I say it—timeless, following a woman (played by Miriam Hopkins) and two men (Gary Cooper and Frederic March, who happens to be the Play Circle’s namesake) who vow to “forget sex” and enter into a Platonic ménage à trois. As you might expect, hijinx ensue—“The Mother and the Whore” it ain’t. The screening will begin at 7:30 at Vilas Hall.

“Design for Living” was selected by former UW professor Kristin Thompson as the capstone for a symposium dedicated to her work entitled “Movies, Media, and Methods.” The scholarly festivities will begin tomorrow morning at 9 and will run practically all day long.

Thompson is, of course, the co-author of the film studies bible that is Film Art: An Introduction. Several of the papers scheduled to be delivered at the symposium sound very interesting—in particular, a paper by University of Chicago professor Yuri Tsivian entitled “Chaplin and the Russian Avant-Garde: The Law of Fortuity in Art” (10:45AM) and a paper by University of Texas-Austin professor Janet Staiger (who co-authored The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 with Thompson and David Bordwell) entitled “Nuking the Fridge: Great Expectations and Affective Reception” (1:15PM).

Who knows, you (and I) just might learn something.