Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Union’

So long, Starlight Cinema

April 23, 2010

Last night I attended an excellent though somewhat saddening event: the final program of Starlight Cinema, Memorial Union’s series of experimental/avant-garde cinema and performance art. Starlight, along with the rest of WUD Film’s series, has been dissolved in anticipation of the move to the new Union South (where WUD Film will receive an exhibition space all to itself). At the risk of sounding vaguely hypocritical, I hadn’t attended a Starlight screening before last night’s, but I’m certainly glad that I did—I enjoyed myself tremendously.

The event was called “Cream of the Crop,” a showcase of contemporary Wisconsin-based visual artists working with video, 16mm and animation, as well as one performance artist. My favorites included Brandon Bauer’s “A Short and Incomplete History of Experimental Film and Video” (2006; at 44 seconds long, it lived up to its name marvelously) and “Fractured Landscapes” (2008); Isaac Sherman’s “Eerieality” and “Things Familiar and All in the Same Place” (2009; both of these manic films reminded me of Ken Jacobs’s early work with Jack Smith, though with occasional bombardments of visual abstraction reminiscent of later Jacobs); Ross Nugent’s “Spillway Study/Carpe Diez” (a mesmerizing performance that involved three 16mm projectors running simultaneously); and Lisa Danker’s self-consciously Brakhagesque “Photo-Synthesis” (2005).

Suffice it to say, I’m now a bit disappointed with myself for not having gone to check Starlight out before it had already climbed under the covers of its death bed. “Cream of the Crop” was a truly satisfying experience for lovers of avant-garde cinema, and I’m really looking forward to keeping an eye out for future work by Bauer, Sherman, Nugent and Danker.

However, this isn’t all to suggest that avant-garde cinema’s presence in Madison is now nil: on Sunday night, now-former Starlight director Reo Fordecor, under the name Life Prism, will host a multimedia performance by the artists Jacob Ciocci and David Wightman. Ciocci and Wightman’s performance is entitled “2 Blessed 2 B Stressed”; it will begin at 7 at James Madison Park (on East Gorham). Here’s a description of “2 Blessed,” courtesy of Fordecor:

Jacob Ciocci, a founding member of the renowned art collective Paper Rad, and collaborator David Wightman will be presenting an evening of raucous videos and musical mayhem. In addition to presenting recent videos and animations, including Booty Melt and The Peace Tape, Ciocci will perform his latest I Let My Nightmares Go, which uses video projection and live dance moves to “grapple with mental demons, web 2.0, G.O.D., 21st-century breakdown, real lies and fake truths, cartoon violence, and awareness bracelets”. Wightman will appear as “Fortress of Amplitude”- a guitar-wielding minstrel from another time and place. Accompanied by a drum machine, he will execute a musical composition focused on fantasy, repetition, and ecstasy.

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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“The Cove” at the Play Circle

April 20, 2010

Lovers of documentary cinema might be interested to know that “The Cove” (2009), which won the “Best Documentary” award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and “Best Documentary Film” at the 2010 Oscars, will screen tomorrow night at 7:30 at the Play Circle in Memorial Union. The screening will be, as always, free to attend.

I don’t know much about “The Cove,” nor will I be in attendance for the screening (I’ve got 10 pages worth of Islamic History research paper due by Friday), but the least I can do is share the doc’s trailer with y’all. So, without further ado:

Plasticity and the plastic arts?

March 10, 2010

Not sure whether there’s a correlation between “blah” weather and continental philosophy, but the French philosopher Catherine Malabou is giving a talk tonight at the Chazen Museum of Art. Her lecture, entitled “Is Plasticity a New Name for Freedom?”, begins at 7:30 and promises to be very interesting. Here’s the abstract from the Center for the Humanities’ website:

The most recent research in biology aims at putting into question the concept of genetic programming. Today, epigenetics tends to be more important than genetics itself. Three main discoveries explain this shift: the discovery of interfering RNA; the discovery of stem cells; and the discovery of neural plasticity. In this lecture, philosopher Catherine Malabou focuses on plasticity, which explains that our brain develops itself for the most part after birth and is modeled by experience, education, and learning. Malabou considers how the discovery of neural plasticity challenges philosophical and political conventions, in particular the belief that philosophy and technoscience are opposed. She explores what happens to a politics of emancipation and resistance when science no longer is the name of the enemy, and asks what is the future of philosophy in an era of plasticity and epigentics.

I know only a little about Malabou and her philosophical project, but her points of reference include deconstruction (she studied under and co-authored a book with the late Jacques Derrida), Hegel, psychoanalysis, feminism and contemporary neuroscience (neuroplasticity in particular). Perhaps Malabou’s philosophy can serve to unite the science and liberal arts crowds, if only for just one night of intellectual labor (listening to these types of lectures can often be just as much if not more work than writing).

Moreover, I’m interested to see what, if anything, she says about the arts (seeing as how she’ll be lecturing in the basement of an art museum). Depending on how frisky I’m feelin’, I might even try to ask her a question about cinema and the philosophical/political implications of its material effects upon the brain.

In addition, the renowned neurologist V.S. Ramachandran is this week’s speaker in WUD’s Distinguished Lecture Series; his talk tonight at Memorial Union also begins at 7:30. Some friends of mine are pretty excited about Ramachandran’s visit, and for good reason: As evidenced by this set of his TED lectures, he’s both a brilliant scientist and a genuine wit.

If you’re interested in brains, you can’t go wrong with the public lectures on campus tonight.

“Police, Adjective” at the Play Circle

February 24, 2010

Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you that something like this might happen: Corneliu Porumboiu’s excellent “Police, Adjective,” which I’ve addressed both on here and in the Cardinal, will be screening at 9:30 this Friday and Saturday nights at the Memorial Union’s Play Circle Theater.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure (and I have to assume that very few have), “Police, Adjective” is more than deserving of a good long look. A month ago I said the film “is like an episode of ‘Law and Order’ written by a tag team of Jim Jarmusch and Ludwig Wittgenstein”; seeing as how I haven’t watched it again since I wrote that column, I stand behind my description.

And if you won’t be able to catch one of the two screenings this weekend, worry not: This won’t be your last opportunity to see “Police, Adjective” in a Madison theater this semester. Alright, I’ve said too much. End transmission.

Finally, a fantastic Friday

February 9, 2010

I wasn’t planning to let the cat—er, fox—out of the bag this early, but I can’t help myself: WUD Film will be showing Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” this Friday and Saturday night at the Play Circle. As always, there’ll be two showings on each night, at 7 and 9:30 respectively.

I’ve written about “Fantastic Mr. Fox” ad nauseum (Exhibit A: my review of it in the Cardinal), so you have to figure that I’m sick of seeing and/or talking about the film, right? You guessed it: I’ll almost certainly attend one of the four showings, provided that they don’t get too crowded (which I hope they do).

Oh, so that’s where they are

February 5, 2010

I likely should’ve mentioned this yesterday or even the day before but WUD Film Committee is screening “Where the Wild Things Are” tonight and tomorrow night at—where else?—the Play Circle, a venue as iconic as it is mediocre. There’ll be two showings on both nights, at 7 and 9:30 respectively.

I’ve yet to see “Where the Wild Things Are,” but plenty of folks seem to dig it, so I just might have to march my lazy bones on down to the Union for a beer and an inquiry into whether childhood was really all it’s cracked up to be. Here’s what J. Hoberman and Manohla Dargis made of the film when it was released last October.

If you haven’t done so already, go see “Fantastic Mr. Fox” at the Orpheum. The only showing tonight is at 7. Be sure to stop by the Orpheum’s notorious Happy Hour (free mussels!) on your way into the theater.

Free on-campus screenings for this, our beloved weekend of 12/4-5

December 4, 2009

Quite a weekend for those of you who don’t neglect the robust film scene here at UW.

Tonight at the Cinematheque: the final film in the ‘theque’s Vincente Minnelli retrospective, Home From the Hill (1960), starring none other than Hollywood’s original Hercules, Robert Mitchum. The Minnelli series has really been one home run after another, so I’m inclined to believe that Home From the Hill will be every bit as engaging and borderline psychedelic as the rest of V.M.’s Technicolor melodramas. I haven’t personally seen this one, but here’s Jonathan Rosenbaum’s capsule review (courtesy of his website):

One of Vincente Minnelli’s best ‘Scope and color melodramas (1960), adapted by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank from William Humphrey’s novel. Set in a small town in Texas, the plot centers on a troubled family: a promiscuous patriarch (Robert Mitchum) and his frigid wife (Eleanor Parker) compete for the loyalty of their son (George Hamilton), who discovers that he has an illegitimate half brother (George Peppard). With Luana Patten, Everett Sloane, and Constance Ford. 150 min.

The screening begins, as always, at 7:30PM.

Saturday night at the Cinematheque: a trio of documentary shorts by Alain Resnais entitled Art/History. The triptych will consist of Guernica (1950), Les statues meurent aussi (1953) and the paradigm-shifting Nuit et brouillard (1955). More information on the Cinematheque’s series of six films (directed) by Resnais can be found here. In my mind, this is the main event of the Cinematheque’s Fall schedule; seeing Nuit et brouillard at least once in one’s life is something of a moral imperative. Resnais may be known primarily for his excursions into the territories of high modernism (such as Hiroshima mon amour, Muriel and L’année dernière à Marienbad [which the ‘theque is screening next week]) and high theatricality (Mélo, Privates Fears in Public Places), but these documentaries constitute an essential chapter in the oeuvre of one of cinema’s all-time innovators. Your attendance at this screening (which begins, believe it or not, at 7:30PM) is mandatory, as far as I’m concerned.

And now for something totally different: South African sci-fi flick District 9 (2009) is screening at the Play Circle Theater in Memorial Union on both Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00PM and 9:30PM. Didn’t get a chance to see this one myself but the buzz was surprisingly ecstatic, so you could definitely do worse than to swing by.

As impressive as this roster may seem, I’m undoubtedly omitting a screening or two. Looks to me as though you’ve got a lot to consider, Madison.

Bruce McClure performing tonight at the Play Circle

November 19, 2009

I haven’t been exhibiting much love for WUD Film as of late. My bad. Anyway, they’ve got an intriguing act lined up for this evening: NY architect/film-artist Bruce McClure. I’m unfamiliar with McClure, but this is how WUD Film’s website describes his work:

Bruce McClure doesn’t make films, he performs them. McClure, a New York-based architect and expanded-cinema artist, plays his film projectors as if they’re instruments of light and sound, creating intensely immersive aural and visual environments. Exploring sensory and perceptual phenomena, the ephemeral live experiences he creates invoke transcendent states of being. By using cinema’s basic and mechanical elements of light, darkness, and sound, he is forging a new language. Working from a ‘score’ of alternating flicker films or, according to him, “ink sneezes,” he projects his filmstrips simultaneously to create an illusory sense of movement and a density of abstract textures. McClure uses multiple modified film projectors, film loops, and guitar effects pedals.

Twirling knobs, flipping switches, and adjusting lenses, he coaxes a bank of whirring projectors into producing images impossible to record. […] Biennale. Each performance is unique, shaped by precise and certain parameters McClure intuitively works within. McClure will be performing two new works for this evening’s program.

Seems kinda Ken-Jacobs-y, no? Suffice it to say, this strikes me as being worth checking out, provided that one is able to do so. McClure will take the stage at 8:00PM. Don’t forget your epilepsy meds.

Madison Weekend Cinema Roundup (10/23-10/24)

October 23, 2009

As I alluded to yesterday, this is going to be quite a weekend to see movies in Madison; what’s more, all the screenings listed below will run you a whopping $0.00 to attend. Find it in your heart to give cinema a chance.

Friday night, 7:30PM at the Cinematheque: Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three (1961) — This one’s screening as part of the Cinematheque’s three-film series on border politics/psychology. Personally I’m not crazy about Wilder’s style, but many many are and they can’t all be wrong, can they? Anyway, One, Two, Three features James Cagney pushing up a Cold War comedy as a character named MacNamara. If this doesn’t strike your fancy, get ready for the Chantal Akerman doc that the Cinematheque will be screening next weekend as the second film in this weirdly eclectic, alluring lil’ program.

Saturday night, 7:00PM at the Overture Center: Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. (1924) — This film’s title and the name “Buster Keaton” probably speak for themselves, and I’m by no means an expert on Keaton, so I’m going to abstain from providing much exposition here. Sherlock Jr. is screening as part of the Overture Center’s tragically infrequent Duck Soup Cinema series. Of all the films screening this weekend, Sherlock Jr. is the shortest (45 minutes) and perhaps the most loaded-with-yucks; thus, it just may be the best bang for your non-existent buck.

Saturday night, 7:30PM at the Cinematheque: Grigori Aleksandrov’s The Shining Path (1940) — These Aleksandrov films are getting progressively rowdier with each screening, and I fully expect this, the final film in the Cinematheque’s Aleksandrov series, to be the rowdiest yet, though it’ll certainly be tough to top the remarkably rowdy Volga-Volga. Alright, I think I’ve made my point vis-à-vis Soviet musicals and rowdiness.

Friday and Saturday night, 7:00PM at the Play Circle Theater in Memorial Union: Fear(s) of the Dark (2009); followed by Dead Snow (2009) at 9:30PM — Well, I’m gonna pass on these two, but if you happen to like spooky stuff, Nazis, zombies, and/or Nazi-zombies, this will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If neither of these do it for ya, Zombieland is opening at the Orpheum today as well.

Saturday night/Sunday morning, midnight at the Play Circle Theater in Memorial Union: Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) — Perhaps Kubrick’s best-known, best-liked, most-reviled puddle of dystopian, misanthropic quotability. I haven’t seen this one in a number of years, but in my estimation it’s probably worth revisiting. WUD Film finally got it pretty much right with its choice for a midnight movie, though let’s keep our fingers crossed for some much more obscure, out-there selections in the months to come.

So there you have it. For at least this weekend, Madison will be the film capital of south-central Wisconsin. Go see a free movie, you bums.

‘Grey Gardens’ tonight at the Play Circle

October 22, 2009

As part of its semester-long documentary series Real to Reel, WUD Film is hosting a screening of Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer and the Maysles Brothers’ Grey Gardens (1975) tonight at the Play Circle Theater in Memorial Union. The screening begins at 7:30PM and there’s no telling how crowded the theater may get—somewhere between “not at all crowded” and “shit, I’m sitting 6 ft. from the screen at a brutal angle.” Though I haven’t personally seen Grey Gardens, the film’s reputation certainly precedes it. Promises to be a bizarre and/or mesmerizing experience, as well as a tremendous appetizer for the cine-smorgasbord being offered up to UW students this weekend (more on this tomorrow).