12 reasons to get excited for the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival
For the past five years, Milwaukee has been in the midst of an identity crisis, eager to shake its “beer-and-brats” image and redefine itself for the 21st century. Is Milwaukee an innovation city? An art city? A water city? How about an innovative artistic water city? But while the powers that be continue to hold press conferences about upgrading Milwaukee’s image, one organization has simply gone ahead and done it. In five short years, Milwaukee Film’s annual film fest has become one of the city’s premiere events, and has put the Brew City firmly on the festival map. This year promises to be another winner, with 240 films from 44 countries lighting up the screens of the Landmark Oriental Theatre, the Landmark Downer Theatre, and the Fox-Bay Cinema Grill over the course of 15 days.
Before the celluloid/digital madness kicks off this Thursday, The A.V. Club once again discontinues its Netflix account, silences its phone, and brings you 12 reasons to get excited for this year’s fest.
1. Opening night party (Sept. 26 at Discovery World)
Milwaukee Film’s opening night extravaganza is the perfect place to get dressed up, yak about films with other cinephiles, enjoy some terrific live music, and hobnob with the hobnobbers. For the 2013 party, Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble—subjects of fest documentary Brothers Hypnotic—will be on hand, along with Milwaukee’s DJ Bizzon, DJ Madhatter, the Florentine Opera, Evan Christian, Dead Man’s Carnival, and Video Villains.
2. Altos: Earth (Oct. 4 at Oriental Theatre)
Past festival highlights have included bands providing live, original scores for silent films. Cambridge, Massachusetts group Alloy Orchestra supplied the music for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in 2010, and returned for Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail in 2012. For 2013, however, Milwaukee Film has tapped the city’s own Altos to perform a score during a screening of a rare 35mm print of Aleksander Dovzhenko’s silent Soviet classic Earth (Zemlya). Normally a 12-piece, Altos will boost themselves to 18 for this one-off, can’t-miss event.
3. Music documentaries (Sept. 27-Oct. 10 at various locations)
Like peanut butter and jelly or Simon and Simon, film and music compliment each other—and, in many cases, can’t live without each other. Recognizing this intrinsic relationship, Milwaukee Film has put together yet another stellar lineup for its music documentary program, “Sound Vision.” The fest will feature eight music docs, including Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense.
4. Live music (Sept. 27-Oct. 10 at The Hotel Foster)
For the second year in a row, Milwaukee Film is bringing some of the city’s best bands to The Hotel Foster with its “Soundtrack” lineup. For every night of the fest (excluding opening night), bands like Fable & The World Flat, The Delphines, The Championship, Painted Caves, Vic And Gab, and Young Holidays will set up shop at the storied East Side building. Consider it a musical comedown from an entire day spent soaking up a visual medium.
5. Milwaukee love (Sept. 27-Oct. 10 at various locations)
Thanks in large part to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s excellent film program, the city is flush with talented filmmakers. MFF’s “Cream City Cinema” recognizes these artists with a roster of locally produced films. Former Milwaukeean Drew Rosas will screen his ’80s-slasher-film throwback, Billy Club, while Faythe Levine and Sam Macon will give local viewers another change to catch their latest documentary, Sign Painters. There’s plenty more, including the perennially sold-out “Milwaukee Show,” which features a dozen locally produced short films.
6. Cinema Hooligante (Sept. 27-Oct. 9 at various locations)
The A.V. Club is once again proud to sponsor Milwaukee Film’s “Cinema Hooligante” program—a late-night genre film series dedicated to all things gory, raunchy, and offensive. In addition to tales of bloody road trips and exploding breasts, this year’s “Hooligante” program includes 35mm screenings of two stone-cold cult classics…
7. 7 words: Enter The Dragon on the big screen
Saturday, Oct. 5 at 10:30 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre. Be there.
8. 8 words: 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen
Saturday, Sept. 28 at midnight at the Oriental Theatre. Seriously: be there.
9. Bloody Sunday (Sept. 29 at The Hotel Foster)
Half-intoxicated midnight screenings are great, but they can be brutal on both mind and body. The only way to survive? Get up early the next morning, head to The Hotel Foster, order a Bloody Mary (or two), eat some cold pizza, and watch non-stop horror movies. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing the first Sunday of the fest at the A.V. Club-sponsored “Bloody Sunday.” Hangovers be damned.
10. Shorts (Sept. 27-Oct. 10 at various locations)
One of the most criminally underrated aspects of any film festival are the shorts. Bite-sized, compact, and always unexpected, these films make for the perfect snacks before the cinematic main courses. The Milwaukee Film Festival has a host of stellar shorts programs this year, including ones dedicated to love, obsession, the supernatural, and animation. And then there’s our favorite shorts program: “The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t.”
11. The Dissolve (Sept. 28 at Colectivo Coffee)
Thanks to things like the “Internet” and “the constantly eroding importance of journalism,” film criticism is currently in a state of flux. Luckily, recent upstart website The Dissolve is here to bring some critical sanity to a world gone insane. Dissolve staffers Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias, Tasha Robinson, and Nathan Rabin (all of whom you may remember from the national A.V. Club) will be on hand for a free “State of Cinema” panel discussion, moderated by our old pal, Steve Hyden. Following the panel, the group will present Brian De Palma’s classic Hitchcock/Antonioni mash-up, Blow Out, at the Oriental Theatre.
12. Oh, and everything else (Sept. 26-Oct. 10 at various locations)
In addition to parties, music, and panel discussions, the Milwaukee Film Festival features a whole lot of, well, films. Things kick off Sept. 26 at the Oriental Theatre with Break Up Man, a crowd-pleasing German film about a professional “break up artist.” MFF’s closing night film, meanwhile, is Blood Brother, a moving documentary about one man’s mission to care for woman and children in India suffering from HIV and AIDS. In between the opening and closing films will be more than 200—count ’em, 200—other selections. Enjoy, Milwaukee (and remember to turn off your phones).