Jon Anne Willow
Ready, Set, Roll

Milwaukee Film spreads its love all over

By - Sep 4th, 2010 04:00 am
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Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in BLUE VALENTINE

There are so many things to look forward to in the 2010 Milwaukee Film Festival. Eleven days of first class films from around the world, great parties and a reason to go out every night are a few of the most obvious, though what strikes me this year is not the quality of the films – given the experience and talent of the staff, that should be a given – but the breadth of the geography.

Where a former local film festival saw the East side as the center of the universe and only managed to creep (eventually) to Washington Heights in its five-year existence, the Milwaukee Film Festival’s venues dot the map like a tricorn hat. Screenings will be held at the Oriental, of course, but instead of exclusively mobbing the widely-assumed 1-mile square area of the city’s “cultural epicenter,” Milwaukee Film has taken a different approach, choosing New Berlin’s Ridge Cinema (5200 S. Moorland Rd.) and (again) Mequon’s North Shore Cinema (11700 North Port Washington Rd.).

Some would see it as risky. After all, doesn’t everyone know that folks in the suburbs only care about blockbusters starring their favorite A-list actors? It’s an assumption that Milwaukee Film will attempt to thwart.

An advance glance through the program book shows why it’s so crazy that it just might work. Instead of screening each film just once, or twice in the same venue, many of this year’s selections will screen at two different theaters, or even all three. So those who like to experience their art films in a traditional setting can hit the Oriental, while those who prefer easy parking and – in more cases than you might expect – closer proximity to home can breeze in and out of a suburban multiplex. And if you can’t get your first choice of showing, chances are much better that you’ll be able to secure tickets to your second.

It seems to be working so far. Executive Director Jonathan Jackson is looking forward to an exponentially bigger festival this year, and has the numbers to back it up: advance ticket sales to date are almost 50% above last year’s at this time, according to Milwaukee Film’s latest report.

The festival opens Thursday, September 23, with the Cannes and Sundance-acclaimed Blue Valentine (with soundtrack by Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear), an intimate and complex portrait of a disintegrating marriage. It closes Sunday, October 3, with Buried, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes’ heart-stopping tale of a man buried alive (in a coffin, no less) with only a lighter and a dying cell phone – and 90 minutes to figure out how he got there, and how to survive. Crowds will throng to the (finally) definitive cut of Fritz Lang’s 1927 opus, Metropolis, which, curiously, will be accompanied by the renowned Alloy Orchestra, but not be screened the Oriental, the only one of the venues with an orchestra pit. It will be interesting to see how this works in a modern cinema setting. And Milwaukee Film will hold its first children’s film festival, Take One, which closely connects entertainment with media literacy through an integrated curriculum valuable for the whole family.

ThirdCoast Digest is the proud media sponsor of the MKE: Film series, which this year will present the feature directorial debuts of Drew Rosas (Blood Junkies) and Michael Matzdorff (Feed the Fish). Film Wisconsin founding board member and former Milwaukeean and Emmy Award winner Brad Pruitt will screen the documentary feature Mark My Words. Rounding out MKE: Film is the crowd-pleasing “Milwaukee Show”, featuring locally-produced short films of all stripes.

Finally, clear your dance cards now for the evening of Saturday, October 3. ThirdCoast Digest and Milwaukee Film are throwing the closing party to end all, and if you miss it you’ll have to wait until next year to be in the pictures. And you don’t want that. Details soon.

Featured in the 2010 MKE: Film lineup (from the Milwaukee Film program guide)

2010 • 75 min
Saturday, Oct 2, 10:00 p.m. Oriental TheatreThe 80s was a bad decade for deciding to party in the woods. Even with the promise of rampant debauchery, there’s guaranteed to be a mutant virus, murderer or ancient evil waiting in the wings to wreck the good vibes. Made on a shoestring ($6,000) budget and filmed entirely in Wisconsin with a local cast and crew, Blood Junkie follows in the proud DI Y tradition of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead.

Directed by: Drew Rosas

2009 • 92 min
Thursday, Sept 30, 7:30 p.m. North Shore Cinema
Sunday, Oct 3, 4:45 p.m. Oriental TheatreBilled as “the feel-good film of the winter,” Feed the Fish celebrates the eccentric locals who resist being blanketed by the frosty weather in northern Wisconsin. Shot on location in Door County, director and writer Michael Matzdorff tells the story of Joe Peterson, a tired children’s-book author searching for inspiration while “training” for the Polar Bear Plunge in Sturgeon Bay. Along the way, Peterson crosses paths with numerous colorful local characters, including the town’s suspicious sheriff (Tony Shalhoub).

Directed by: Michael Matzdorff
Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Ross Partridge, Katie Aselton

2010 • 90 min
Thursday, Sept 30, 7:15 p.m. Oriental Theatre
Sunday, Oct 3, 4:45 p.m. Ridge CinemaHaving spent parts of his youth in Milwaukee, Film Wisconsin founding board member Brad Pruitt returns to his erstwhile hometown with Mark My Words, a documentary that focuses on 24 hours in the lives of nine local spoken-word poets. With this project, the Emmy-winning Pruitt seeks to reveal the transformative power of words for individuals and communities at large. Showcasing the celebratory and powerful performance of local poetry and music, the film gives audiences intimate access into the poets’ thoughts and the passions and struggles that inspire their stirring compositions.

Directed by: Brad Pruitt

Total running time: 120 min
Saturday, Oct 2, 5:00 p.m. Oriental TheatreCome support homegrown talent as each film competes for the Jury Award and production prize package valued at more than $25,000.

The Death of Triforce—Anthony Lopez, Jon Salimes
The Funeral—Iverson White
Honey-Colored Boy—Fran Kaplan
Kids in Trees—Sean Kafer
A King in Milwaukee—Nicole Brown, Brad Lichtenstein
Mickey Burgermeister—Tate Bunker
Spare Change—Aaron Greer
This is Umberto—Anna Krutzik

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