10 reasons to get excited for the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival
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For the past four years, Milwaukee Film has done the seemingly impossible and staged a world-class film festival in our relatively humble, sometimes camera-shy backyard. The 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival (Sept. 27-Oct. 11) promises to be another top-shelf blowout, and it may be Milwaukee Film’s most ambitious undertaking yet. More than 200 films will light the screens of the Landmark Oriental Theatre, the Landmark Downer Theatre, and the Fox-Bay Cinema Grill over the course of 15 days, and a slew of parties, panel discussions, and live music showcases will also fill the already packed schedule.
Before the celluloid/digital madness kicks off next week, The A.V. Club discontinues its Netflix account, stocks up on Sour Patch Kids, and brings you 10 reasons (complete with bonus features) to get excited for this year’s fest.
1. The opening night party (Sept. 27 at Discovery World)
Last year’s opening night party was a motion blur of beautiful people, terrific music, and hobnobbers hobnobbing with hobnobbers. This year’s “Behind The Screen” party will feature film previews, interactive entertainment, and music from Milwaukee soul legend Harvey Scales and the Kings Go Forth rhythm sections. Toss in a beauty bar from Neroli and hors d’oeuvres from Bartolotta (and booze, plenty of booze), and you have the makings of the can’t-miss shindig of the year.
Bonus feature: The “Cream City Cinema Party” at Landmark Lanes Oct. 4, which follows a screening of 10 Milwaukee-made short films.
2. The U.S. première of Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God (Oct. 5 at the Oriental Theatre)
Undoubtedly the centerpiece of this year’s fest, Mea Maxima Culpa finds Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney following four deaf men as they fight to expose the St. Francis Catholic priest who sexually abused them in the ’70s. With its deep (and disturbing) Milwaukee ties, it’s no wonder the film is making its U.S. première at MFF.
Bonus feature: Gibney—whose resume of Taxi To The Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room proves he knows a thing or two about criminals—will be on hand for the screening, as will the film’s subjects.
3. The music documentaries (Sept. 28-Oct. 11 at all theaters)
Film may be a visual medium, but it would still be stuck in the nickelodeon dark ages without sound. This year’s “Sound Vision” program presents a handful of documentaries covering a wide range of musical subjects: Andrew Bird (Andrew Bird: Fever Year), Charles Bradley (Charles Bradley: Soul Of America), Bad Brains (Bad Brains: A Band In D.C.), and, just for shits and giggles, Rick Springfield and Journey (An Affair Of The Heart; Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey).
Bonus feature: I Want My Name Back, a documentary about the rise, fall, and rise of The Sugarhill Gang.
4. The live music (Sept. 28-Oct. 11 at The Hotel Foster)
If an intimate portrait of Rick Springfield just isn’t enough, Milwaukee Film is partnering with The Hotel Foster for a series of live concerts featuring some of the city’s best bands. Heidi Spencer And The Rare Birds, Hello Death, Hot Coffin, I’m Not A Pilot, The Delta Routine, and Klassik are just a few of the acts scheduled to perform throughout the duration of the fest.
Bonus feature: The Hotel Foster is just around the corner from the Oriental Theatre. No matter how pale and bleary-eyed you are after 14 straight hours of movie-watching, there’s no excuse for skipping out on some homebrewed music.
5. The Milwaukee love (Sept. 30-Oct. 11 at all theaters)
Thanks in large part to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s excellent film program, Milwaukee is flush with talented filmmakers. MFF’s “Cream City Cinema” recognizes these artists with a roster of locally produced films. Brad Lichtenstein’s As Goes Janesville follows embattled union members fighting against Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate collective bargaining, while Chris Thompson’s The Jeffrey Dahmer Files mixes archival footage with recreations to get inside the mind of the notorious serial killer. Walker and Dahmer may be the last things Milwaukeeans’ ever want to think about again, but there’s something to be said from learning from past mistakes.
Bonus feature: The world premiere of Milwaukee filmmaker Tate Bunker’s Little Red, Sept. 30 at the Oriental Theatre.
6. 6 words: “John Axford Presents: The Princess Bride” (Oct. 6 at the Oriental Theatre)
When he isn’t busy with the whole “baseball” thing, Milwaukee Brewers ace pitcher John Axford is something of a film buff. A guest at last year’s opening night party, this year finds Axford presenting the Rob Reiner classic The Princess Bride as part of the Milwaukee Children’s Film Festival. Andre the Giant, Rodents Of Unusual Size, and Milwaukee’s star closer: together at last.
Bonus feature: The Children’s Film Fest also features “The Milwaukee Youth Show,” a collection of short films from local kids age 18 and under.
7. 7 words: “Mark Borchardt Presents: The Giant Spider Invasion” (Oct. 6 at the Oriental Theatre)
One program we’re really looking forward to (and sponsoring) is the newly christened “Cinema Hooligante,” which features all things gory, raunchy, terrifying, and deliciously offensive. In addition to six feature films, the program will include the festival’s delightfully named midnight shorts program, “The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t.” But the biggest highlight will undoubtedly be the first installment of “Mark Borchardt Presents,” in which the Milwaukee legend screens a classic cult film. For his inaugural film, Borchardt has chosen the Wisconsin-made B-movie classic The Giant Spider Invasion, directed by Bill Rebane.
Bonus feature: Rebane will be in attendance for the screening, and will sit down with Borchardt for a sure-to-be bizarre and delightful chat.
8. The shorts (Sept. 28-Oct. 10 at all theaters)
One of the most criminally overlooked aspects of any film festival is the shorts. Bite-sized, compact, and always unexpected, these films make for the perfect snacks before the cinematic main courses. MFF has a handful of intriguing themed shorts programs this year, including everything from “Date Night” and “Let’s Get Animated” to “Quiet Riots” and “Whodunit?”
Bonus feature: The all-local “Milwaukee Show” shorts program was one of the most well-attended screening last year. This year should prove no different.
9. The a-holes talking about films (Sept. 29-Oct. 10 at various locations)
Writing about music may or may not be like dancing about architecture, but talking about films remains a vital exercise for casual movie fans and cinema geeks alike. This year’s panel discussions—most of which take place in Kenilworth Square East—include talks on film distribution, financing, and ethics in documentary filmmaking. But our choice for can’t-miss panel is “Three A-Holes Talk About Web Videos” (Oct. 6 at Y-Not III). Three Milwaukee filmmakers—Funny Or Die’s Jack Packard; and Red Letter Media’s Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman (of those epic Star Wars prequel takedowns)—will sit down with Gal Friday Films’ Kara Mulrooney to discuss forging a filmmaking career on this crazy thing we call the “Internet.”
Bonus feature: Former Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman will be in town to discuss his new book Film After Film: (Or, What Became Of 21st Century Cinema?), as well as screen the David Lynch opus Inland Empire.
10. Oh, and the rest of the movies (Sept. 27-Oct. 11 at all theaters)
Did we mention there’s going to be an awful lot of feature films at this year’s film festival? Things kick off Sept. 27 with Starbuck, a French-Canadian film about a 42-year old doofus who discovers he’s fathered 533 children through years of sperm donation. (The film is slated for a Hollywood remake starring Vince Vaughn, natch.) MFF’s closing night film for 2012 is The Sessions, which tells the tale of a 38-year-old man (John Hawkes) who sets out to lose his virginity with the help of a “sex surrogate” (Helen Hunt). In between the opening and closing films will be more than 200—count ‘em, 200—other selections.
Bonus feature: Take a bathroom break. You need it.