UWM Union Theatre programmer Brian McGuire
Tucked away on the third floor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s student union is the UWM Union Theatre. It’s an oasis for film lovers, offering a diverse array of pictures that would likely pass the city by were it not for the many intrepid and knowledgeable programmers that have cycled through the position since the 1970s. Before the Theatre begins its “Heroes and Villains”-themed Campus Kickoff Series Friday, Aug. 26, The A.V. Club spoke to brand-new programmer Brian McGuire about the fall schedule, luring in non-cinephiles, and the state of the city’s film scene.
The A.V. Club: The “Welcome Week” program is designed to make new students aware of the Theatre and its mission. How did you go about choosing films, and what do you hope students take away from the experience?
Brian McGuire: I tried to tie in current foreign film with 13 Assassins, which is about heroes and villains, and has a sci-fi sort of feel to it. I thought right away of A Clockwork Orange, because it was just re-released at the Berlin Film Festival. I tried to tie in foreign films along with some older, classic sci-fi stuff—Barbarella is another one we’re doing. Hopefully they’ll say, “Hey, classic films aren’t old, stuffy films.” Maybe they’ll see 13 Assassins or Barbarella or A Clockwork Orange and think, “Maybe World On A Wire might be something I’d be interested in.”
AVC: What about the rest of the semester? Were there any themes or genres that you wanted to highlight?
BM: I don’t know that I had a specific plan. I tend to gravitate towards foreign films—Iranian films specifically, which is funny, because I didn’t schedule any. [Laughs.] I had no idea how to go about doing this, so I just started looking at films. I go to Sundance every year, so I started there, looking at what I liked from Sundance. I knew that I was going to try to have as broad a spectrum as possible. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, but…
AVC: It certainly seems like a great lineup. Which films are you looking forward to the most?
BM: Jess And Moss is one that I’m pretty excited about, and World On A Wire is one that I’m pretty excited about, but I would have to say the one I’m most excited about is Downhill Racer, which is a film I found about 10 years ago. Michael Ritchie directed it, and it stars Robert Redford and Gene Hackman. Redford plays a skier, but the film really has nothing to do with skiing, and nothing to do with winter. The film’s really just about somebody who has one very specific talent, and that’s pretty much all that he’s got. He rides through life like that, without any real social skills, and people pat him on the back and love him for this one very, very specific thing. It’s an exceptional film—visually stunning.
AVC: There’s been a lot of hype in the past few years about the city’s burgeoning film scene. What’s your take on it?
BM: I feel like there’s a place for more and more types of films: foreign films, experimental films, smaller indie films. I think the Milwaukee Film Festival helps bring to light a lot of these outsider films in their 10-day festival, and people become hungry for more and more films throughout the year. I think the Union Cinema fills that space really well.