April 2006 Archives

The Milk Can

Our first movie of the day on day two of our Wisconsin Film Festival 2006 odyssey was The Milk Can by Matt Kresling.

The Milk Can is the satirical story of a long standing high school football rivalry between two small California towns, Ferndale and Fortuna, that escalates to civil war after a flood in Ferndale caused by Fortuna's levee. What had been merely a (mostly) good-natured competition for the possession of an old milk can soon grows to sabotage, to vigilante justice, and then to outright warfare with all the accompanying propaganda, jingoism, espionage, and atrocities. Of course, all this must be kept secret from the outside world...

It was entertaining, though at times confusing and difficult to follow. It probably would have been more effective if it had been about 30 minutes shorter.

This 95 minute digital film was produced on a very low budget, and over the course of a few years. From his talk following the screening, Kresling revealed that had been more a labor of frustration than a labor of love. He distrubuted a "making of" DVD entitled "Quagmire: The Making of 'The Milk Can'", whichm at 68 minutes, is almost as long as the film itself. I have not yet watched the DVD, as I am hoping that M and I will be able to find a time to watch it together.

Dan Savage is right

They really are out to get us. And by "us" I mean anyone who doesn't subscribe to a completely puritanical view of sex.

Not lazy, just busy

Well, maybe a little lazy, too. There will be six more Wisconsin Film Fest film reviews coming soon. I promise.

Gone Savage

Tonight I went to see Dan Savage speak at the Union Theater as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series. As has been the case every other time I have heard him speak, he was a very entertaining speaker.

As is the case in his writing, he can be hysterically fun and totally serious, often within the same breath. Generally unafraid to state his opinion, he doesn't hesistate to call people on their bullshit. (That includes himself, as he spoke of how completely his opinion on the Iraq war has changed. At the beginning he was a supporter. Now, he jokes that ITMFA is a way for him to do penance for that.)

Some of the best moments of the night were Savage's interactions with the ASL interpreters on the stage. One interpreter in particular was partiulary animated, and got a couple of good laughs on her own. There is nothing like watching sex advice being depicted in sign language to give an audience a case of the giggles, especially when Dan noticed and repeated a couple of really good phrases.

Having been a Madisonian for a while, he has a very good interaction with the audience. He got a good bit of applause right away when he came out on stage with a pitcher of beer and a giant pretzel from the Stiftskellar, poured his "speaker's glass" of water back into its pitcher and refilled the glass with beer. Hee!

Among the many topics he covered tonight were sex education, gay marriage rights, "straights rights" (ie getting the government out of our bedrooms), being GGG, kinks, and ITMFA.

At one point, about 15 minutes in, he suddenly realized "Oh god, someone brought a kid!" (I believe they had stood up to leave after a round of "motherfucker"s.) He then vocalized the question that the rest of us were thinking, "Who brings a kid to here a Dan Savage lecture? I have a kid of my own, and *I* don't want him to here me talk."

I'm looking forward to his next visit.

You tax dollars at work

The ATF, keeping America safe, one ninja at a time.

Red Wagon

I've been wanting to get a wagon for a while now, so as to be able to walk to the store or the library and bring stuff back without my arms screaming. I really want a Radio Flyer, specifically the #18 Classic Red Wagon, but they are a little out of my price range at the moment.

I stopped in to the hardware store this afternoon while I was up at the library and the grocery store, and got sticker shock at the one Radio Flyer they had in stock. I had told myself I could spend up to $20 on a wagon, but that was it. Disappointed, I left and headed over to Pierce's. As I passed by the Family Dollar, I decided on a whim to see if they had any wagons. Lo and behold, there it was--a little red, plastic wagon for $20.

True, I had to assemble it myself from lots of little parts and hard to read directions. True, it has snap-together plastic wheels and can only carry up to 87lbs (no wagon riding). True, it will probably fall apart on me after a brief life. However, it is just right for right now, to carry my groceries back from the store. I like my little red wagon, wobbly wheels and all.

Day Two

For me, the second day of the Film Fest began with Roger Ebert at the University Bookstore. It was a pleasant little gathering on the lower level, in a bit of floorspace borrowed from the textbooks.

There was no set topic on which he was to lecture us. Rather, he asked those assembled what movies they had seen and liked recently. There was a back-and-forth dialogue on what made these movies resonate with us as viewers, and how our connections with certain films can change over time.

He highlighted the fact that the experience of watching a film is a personal one, and that movie reviews were subjective. The best a reviewer can do, he said, is to tell you what they thought of the movie and why. It is a mistake for a reviewer to think that his or her opinion is the last word on the subject.

I didn't get to hear all of his talk. The noon event started a little bit late, as Ebert was waylaid for a television interview on the way in. I had a movie starting at 1:30 at the Bartell, and so had to leave the discussion around 1, so as to make it up State Street and past the Square with enough time to meet M and get a good seat. However, it was very difficult to pull myself away. He is an engaging personality and I really enjoyed hearing what he had to say.

Night of the Living Dorks

Our first evening of festival films ended with Night of the Living Dorks (Die Nacht der lebenden Loser), a wonderfully funny German horror film spoof. I laughed so hard at some parts that I nearly cried.

Actually, as I think about it the movie was more a spoof of teen fantasy comedy than horror. Think Revenge of the Nerds only instead of taping up their glasses, the nerds staple-gun their decayed bits back to their bodies. And you don't just show up those guys that were mean to you...you eat them!

One of the best things about it was how easy it was to forget that it was in a foreign language with subtitles. There have been some movies that I've seen that never let you forget that you aren't listening to your native tongue.

After seeing it M declared that she wanted to get it on DVD if it was available. I talked it up to everyone I knew to get them to catch the next night's show. I'd have seen it again if we didn't already have another movie lined up for that time slot.


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Something I pointed out in an open thread got moved to a front page post on Making Light. And I am just enough pf a nerd that I find that totally thrilling.

Back atcha!

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I'm so sick of getting tons of credit card offers in the mail. I've started to do something with them besides throwing them out, especially afetr reading this. I tear up everything that came in the orignal envelope and stuff it all into the pre-paid reply envelope. I write "stop sending" on one of the larger scraps, and then I stic it in the mail. They can put it in *their* trash.

Czech Dream

Czech Dream (Ceský sen) was the second movie that M and I saw on Friday. It was at the Orpheum, so we sat in the first row balcony and enjoyed the ambience...and the popcorn. (Mmmm, real butter.)

We had read the write up in the Wisconsin Film Fest guide:

A pair of young Czech filmmakers, Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda, stand in a parking lot, next to a frozen field. This, they tell us, will be where they build the front of a massive supermarket, a hypermarket. But there is a catch: the store “will never exist. It will just be a front wall.” They will call their hypermarket Czech Dream. It will be the object of an intense marketing campaign, with street posters, television and radio commercials, newspaper and magazine ads, consumer research, and a theme song sung by a children’s choir, all designed to attract thousands of people to the grand opening. Why? “We won’t answer,” one of the directors says, “hoping the film will answer that for you.” The cameras follow the filmmakers step by step, as they enlist advertisers and marketers, run shopping focus groups, interview Czech consumers about their love of supermarkets, tailor their ad campaigns, and build the hype for the opening of the nonexistent store. Is this an exposé of the deep roots of consumerism, an ingenious social intervention, or a duplicitous hoax? Winner, 2005 Best Documentary Feature, San Francisco International Film Festival; 2004 FIPRESCI Prize, Llubljana International Film Festival. - Stew Fyfe

But we still weren't entirely sure what to expect. So, we were pleased to discover that it was clever, witty, and well made. It could be tempting to call it a mockumentary but I don't think that would be accurate. Rather, it was a documentary that not only followed the course of the prank, but took a close look at the nature of advertising, consumerism, and desire.

We found it particularly interesting to contrast our own American consumer and shopping culture with that of the Czech people. In the film, a manager of on the the hypermarkets talks about his youth and standing in line just to get one kilo of bananas. For them, the line from famine to feast has only recently been crossed. So what is our excuse?

The other thing we found fascinatig were the various reactions of people in the movie. For starters, there is a great scene with one of the ad men puts his foot down about one thing that he refuses to allow into the ads if he is going to be involved with the project, "I won't lie to people." Then there are the reactions from the public at the "Grand Opening" when they discover the hoax. A surprising number of them laughed and said that they were happy to have such a nice day out in a field to get some sunshine and exercise. Others were extremely upset by the joke.

Interestingly, among those who were angered, the conversation turned towards whether they should vote to join the EU. They drew parallels between this empty ad campaign and the ads surrounding the EU vote.

As we left the theater that night, we were fairly please that so far, we were two for two on good film choices. Would our luck hold?

The Real Real Thing

If you like Coca Cola, get yourself to the store right now to look for the Kosher-for-Passover Coke. I first heard about it on NPR. Not only doe sit not contain high fructose corn syrup, but it tastes just like the Coke I remember from my childhood, before they made "New Coke" and then jumped back to "Classic Coke"....which was never quite the same.

It will only be around for a little while, so get it while you can.

Grace Lee

The first film the M and I saw on our 8 film odessey this weekend was The Grace Lee Project.

Truth be told, I arrived at the theater with my heart racing... I'd gotten the time wrong. Even though every time I had written down the schedule, I had written the start time as 5:00 PM, somehow in my head I had changed it to 5:30. I was just crossing the Capital lawn, heading toward the Monona Terrace, when my phone rang. It was M. The movie started at 5! Needless to say I raced the rest of the way, and fortunately only missed the first minute or so. Thankfully, it was not a sold out show, or I would have been sad.

The Grace Lee Project was started by Korean-American filmmaker Grace Lee. Growing up in Missouri, she was the only Grace Lee that she knew, but as she traveled in adulthood, it seemed that everyone she met seemed to know another Grace Lee. What struck her was the way all of these Grace Lee's where described: quiet, smart, polite, studious.... She started to wonder about her own identity and the perceptions and realities surrounding Asian women. What's in a name?

She started a website and began to seek out and interview some of the many Grace Lee's that contacted her through the site. She conducted a survey and constructed the "statistically average Grace Lee". She met a newscaster, a car dealer, a black power activist, a gay rights activist, a high school student, and many many more.

The documentary was very well put together. It mixed humor and poignancy in an exploration of identity: personal, racial, sexual, social. It made me laugh and it made me think. All in all, it set the festival weekend off to a great start for me, even if I did fumble the start time.

And so it begins

M and I began our annual ritual of crazed springtime filmgoing tonight. The Fest itself began last night, but I was attending a swing dance at the Great Hall and M was unwinding after a week of work and a long drive.

We saw three films tonight, all excellent. I wish I could do the full reviews right now, but I'm sleepy and I need to get up tomorrow (so as to spend another day in the theater).

They were:

The Grace Lee Project, in which a Korean-American filmmaker named Grace Lee goes in search of other Grace Lees in a moving and witty exploration of identity.

Czech Dream, in which two Czech film students set out a slick, well-produced ad campaign for the grand opening of a new "hypermarket"...which didn't exist. It touched on the nature of persuasion, desire, and a comsumer culture. Funny and moving.

Then there was Night of the Living Dorks, a hilarious zombie comedy from Germany. Not a big fan of zombie moves, not even as comedy, but I laughed my ass off. Though it may be a while before I'm able to eat anything with red sauce and cheese again...

I will do fuller reviews later, though it will take me a while. I've got a lot of stuff to see this weekend, and good write-ups take time.

However....ROCK ON!!

To market, to market

I finally got to check out the new Pierce's Market that has opened up in Sherman Palza. I didn't need anything, so I just windowshopped, but it seems like a really sweet store. Well designed, both in terms of layout and asthetics. The selection looked good and the prices seem competitive at first glance. There was also a very strong "community" vibe throughout the store, though that may just be a temporary high, since we are all giddy with delight to have a neighborhood grocery again.

I will certainly become a regular shopper. Copps will still see me when I need something I can't find at Pierce's (I'm still a sucker for the $.99 Italian bread) or when I need to shop late at night, but it is so nice to have a choice again. Plus, considering that it is an easy walk or bike ride, and near to things like the library and the park, it will certainly have a high convenience factor for me. Color me happy.

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