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Much Ado About Nothing

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Finally (finally?), Much Ado About Nothing, which was my last Wisconsin Film Fest Film, on Thursday, April 18. Bout time, no?

Now, tickets went on sale for the 2013 Wisconsin Film Fest Film at noon on Saturday March 16 and I got online and started placing my order right away. By 12:15, I tried to put 4 tickets to Much Ado About Nothing in my cart and was told no. 3, no. 2, no. 1...yes. At 12:15 PM, fifteen minutes after the ticket sales opened, I put the last available ticket into my cart. Color me impressed. That sold out fast.

Unsurprisingly, even when I showed up at the theater rather early, there was already quite a line waiting for the seating to open. By the time I got in, things had rather filled up. The one small advantage to going to see it alone was that I could find a single seat in the upper part of the theater. (I have a hard time watching from the lower seats at Sundance. Too close to the screen.)

Now, this is my favorite Shakespeare comedy/romance and Beatrice is my very favorite of his heroines. I first saw the Kenneth Branagh version, which was pretty great but with some questionable casting/acting choices. (Keanu Reeves made Prince John the most wooden villain since silent films and Michael Keaton made Dogsberry almost unbearable to watch.) I also got to see the 2007 American Player's Theater production, with Tracy Michelle Arnold as Beatrice. (I just missed the 1999 production, since my first APT visit was the next year, but Amy Acker and Emma Bates were both in it.)

I was not disappointed. The casting and the acting were superb, even for roles that had always seemed shaky to me in the past. Sean Maher and Spencer Treat Clark brought subtlety and genuine emotion to the roles of Don John and Borachio. The interplay between Tom Lenk and Nathan Fillion (and the rest of the watch) made the clowns amusing, rather than something to be tolerated.

Granted, one problem with fabulous acting is that it does draw your attention a little more to some ridiculous bits of Shakespearean plotting. "Wait, you are going to do what? Why would you think that is a good idea? And you? Why are you going along with him on this?" But that will always be the case in Shakespearean comedies and romances. There tends to be a few doses of "wait, what?!" in order to move the plot along. Ah, Will, we love you anyway.

Needless to say, I highly recommend it. I've seen it three times at this point. Granted, this review and recommendation would have been worth more if I'd written it in April than in August. (I'm working on that. I promise.)

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Comrade Kim Goes Flying

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Comrade Kim Goes Flying was possibly the most charming piece of Communist propaganda ever. Seriously. Western-financed but shot entirely in North Korea, this film shows a good-natured workers paradise where even the coal miners are rosy-cheeked and excited about their work. (I found myself wistfully thinking, "If only this were true.")

The film centers around the eponymous Kim, a pretty and agile young coal miner with dreams of joining the circus as a trapeze artist. Her work sends her to Pyongyang were hijinks ensue and her work comrades (including her avuncular boss) help her to make her dreams come true. Along the way, she also has a classic romantic comedy "feuding their way into love" match-up with the circus' star performer.

Cheesy and silly and fun, it was reminiscent of classic Hollywood musicals and screwball comedies. North Korea in Comrade Kim is candy-colored and entirely good-natured. The movie isn't deep and the herione has pretty much everyone routing for her, but the lack of reality and weight make it is an escapist delight, much like cotton-candy.


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Computer Chess

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Computer Chess started our Sunday morning Film Fest viewing.

While I knew that it was a mockumentary, when the film began, I thought they were using archival footage to introduce the story. But nope. The whole thing was shot on vintage Sony AVC 3260 tube-powered videocameras which, along with the excellent hair, costumes, and props, give it an "archival footage" look. It's an amazing effect.

The cast seemed like it was full of vaguely familiar faces, yet on perusal I discovered that Wiley Wiggins was the only actual familiar face.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was awkward and hilarious and both surreal and very real. That it, I really loved it until the last twenty minutes or so, at which point it felt like it totally went off the rails. As has been my opinion on a number of other films, I think a bit more editing throughout would have made for a much stronger film. There were a few scenes that went on too long, or could have been eliminated entirely. Yet, even with it's flaws, I was happy to have seen it, and might watch it again if the opportunity came around. (I wouldn't necessarily seek it out.)

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Approved for Adoption

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Approved for Adoption was our first Saturday night selection. It was preceded by a short called Blood Brothers.

Blood Brothers was...almost good, in a frustrating way. The stories are stories that need to be told and heard. The camerawork was decent in a beginner way. It really, really made me long for summertime in rural Wisconsin. I can tell that Jonathan Quam has great potential as a filmmaker. This film, however, could have used tighter editing to really make the narratives come through. 30 minutes was definitely not too long, but the way the 30 minutes was used was not the best. Hence, almost good in a frustrating way. I do look forward to seeing more work by Mr. Quam in future festivals.

Approved for Adoption (Couleur de peau: Miel) was the first film of the festival weekend that got a 5 on my audience ballot. It was amazingly well done. Jung used a combination of animation, old family films from Belgium the 70s, and modern footage from his first visit to South Korea since his early childhood. The result was a powerful and complex tale of growing up adopted across cultures, the search for identity, and the meaning of family.

There was a moment, near the end of the film, when I found myself profoundly sad at something that happened and was quietly wiping away tears. Glanced to the right: tears were being dabbed. Glanced to the left: same thing. Somewhere behind me, I could hear sniffling. I am usually at least mildly embarrassed when I find myself crying at a movie, but for this I felt like I was in pretty good company, since most of the people around me were doing so, too. Also, it wasn't a particularly manipulative moment, as far as filmmaking goes. I always feel a little angry when I'm crying at something that feels like "ha ha, *this* will have them bawling". This was honestly sad, but not overstated or cynically overplayed.

Couleur de peau: Miel was a beautiful piece of storytelling, and I would watch it again, if given the opportunity.

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Little Red

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Our second Friday Saturday night film was Little Red, a Wisconsin's Own entry.

The film started out in Milwaukee, with some very familiar sights for me. However, it quickly moved to Florida, where 11 year-old Ruth..."Red" has run away for a secret vacation to enjoy the beaches of Daytona and then see the wild horses of Cumberland Island. While there (in fact, from before her flight even leaves Milwaukee) she catches the eye of creepy Lou (played by Mark Metcalf, best known to me as "The Master" from season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who stalks her for the rest of the movie.

It. Was. So. Uncomfortable. Even when nothing was actually happening, I was gripping the arms of my chair going "oh no, oh no, oh no..." You know what happens in Little Red Riding Hood: whether she gets rescued at the end or not, someone has usually been eaten by the wolf first. And you know how this kind of thing plays out in real life, so waves of dread where washing over me the whole time.

Lucky for Red, she is befriended by another, slightly older, local surfer girl named Kayla. Kayla joins her on her quest for Cumberland Island, and helps her to dodge Lou. The camaraderie between the two girls is believable and sweet, and provided a few moments of respite from the tension, here and there.

Metcalf's Lou is quite the wolf, and the way he played it made my skin crawl. Again, even when nothing was actually really happening yet, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And when things were, I wanted to hit him with a frying pan.

The colors of the Florida scenes were wonderfully saturated. Of *course* just about everything Red owned was, well, red. Several scenes in particular made me want to be there in person, to see the ocean and the Spanish Moss.

Trying to avoid spoilers, but the ending was one that I really didn't seem coming, and yet it was an ending the satisfied me.

It was an interesting choice to watch immediately after 7 Cajas, as I was still carrying around the tension from that first film. As a pair, it did not give us the most uplifting night of cinema ever, but it certainly kept us at the edge of our seats.

It was paired at the start with a very short film called The Evilest of Sorcerers, which also started Metcalf, and which was darkly hilarious. It made for a nice amuse-bouche.

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Flimmer (Flicker)

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Our second Saturday night film was the Swedish film Flimmer (which was translated to "Flicker" in English). It was very, very Swedish, and also quite darkly (sometimes literally) hilarious.

There were a number of moments in the film when things were balanced on the knife-edge between dark comedy and tragedy, and it would only take the slightest breath to cause the while thing to plunge into deeply sad territory. And yet, it maintained that balance to the very end.

Every time the "what, no?!" was about to become too much, the audience (including myself) would dissolve into a cascade of laughter at some bit of absurdity on the screen. While it wasn't exactly a film I would want to see again, it was definitely a film I was glad I had seen.

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Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters was our last film of the festival for the year. Our hopes were high and we were not disappointed.

One worry I had going into the screening was that, as can often be the case with documentaries of this kind, at least some of the subject would be the cringe-inducing type of obsessive, which I find uncomfortable to watch. This was not the case. To be sure, all of the Tetris players had a degree of obsessiveness, which is required to be really good at any skill. You cannot achieve mastery without practice, and you won't get that much practice without at least a little obsession.

But beyond that, all of main folk getting screen time were, for the most part, personable and people with whom I'd happily hang out. I'm not a computer gamer, but they were still my kind of folks. None of them came off as "poorly-socialized gamer geek" or "crazy obsessive". It certainly helped that the filmmaker was not some outsider looking in, but someone who had a love and understanding of the subject.

As a film, it told it's story in a fun and compelling way, and it held my attention and interest for the full time. I'm usually pretty tired by the last film of the weekend, but I was not afflicted by drooping eyes and a nodding head. I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it to other children of the 80's who came of age with Super Nintendo.

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Pink Ribbons, Inc.

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My good friend and Film Fest buddy, M., and I disagree quite a bit about Pink Ribbons, Inc., our penultimate film of the weekend. I really liked it. M. liked parts of it, but disagreed with many of their conclusions and with a good deal of their presentation of the issue.

Full disclosure: My mom had a couple rounds of breast cancer when I was young (as was she), and due to that, I've recently started my own ritual of yearly mammograms. I also worked with and for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin for a good portion of the aughts, and while there some of my co-workers when involved in Komen grant work involving breast cancer education and screening.

I have also, for the past few years, started to become more and more bothered by the trend of pink, pink, pink everywhere to raise money "for breast cancer" and to "raise awareness." Breast cancer is very serious, but it is by no means the biggest health risk that women face. It's just the one with the best marketing campaign.

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Sometime around 2000, I heard, in error, that Maurice Sendak had died. I was sad about this, but did not discover that it was a false report until years later, in 2006. I wept Tuesday morning when I heard, once more, that he had died. I knew that this time, I wouldn't be getting him back. I wasn't as heartbroken as I was when Jim Henson died, but Henson died well before he should have. I knew from recent interviews with Sendak that, at age 83, he was starting to get pissed out about still being alive. He seemed ready to go.

Maurice Sendak, like Henson, had a strong hand in shaping my childhood landscape. Where the Wild Things Are became a favorite of mine very early on, and it remains so to this day. I am not alone in this by any means.) I did find the movie version to be enchanting, but I'd probably rather watch the Scholastic Storybook Treasures version.

However, it wasn't just Wild Things. My sister and I had a cassette of the Off-Broadway production of Really Rosie that we played over and over, memorized, and performed on our own. (I was particularly fond of "The Awful Truth.") We had copies of Pierre and Chicken Soup With Rice that got their share of wear. We also loved listening to Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life on tape, as read by Tammy Grimes.

Like Trina Schart Hyman, he was one of the illustrators whose work I have most admired. I was tremendously excited to find the Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of "Nutcracker", with set a costume designs from Maurice Sendak on VHS in the late 80s. It was a wonder and a delight.

Unsurprisingly, this week I have spent a great deal of time reading other people's memories of Sendak and revisiting my own. We remember and we carry on.

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The Amateur Monster Movie

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I had to be talked into getting tickets for this one. I am not a fan of the monster movie/horror genre, and usually don't even really enjoy the loving send-ups. (Ask me how much I hated Scream. Shaun of the Dead was always the one, notable exception.) But compromise is part of the process in picking out films, so when my longtime film buddy, M. was really excited about The Amateur Monster Movie, I decided to give it a go. I'm so glad that I did.

(Warning: the trailer kind of has spoiler. At the same time, really? It's The Amateur Monster Movie, not Inception. Are you really worried about spoilers? I thought not.)

Hilarious. I laughed harder during this than at any film I've seen in a while. There were a couple of sequences that really didn't work at all, but over all it was spot on. As you can guess from the trailer, it has some...language. I left the theater saying "muther feckin' wer-wolf" at the drop of a hat.

If you are a fan of monster movies or B-movies in general, you ought to get a kick out of this one. And I can attest that you might enjoy it even if you usually can't stand that genre. The Amateur Monster Movie is a winner.

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Before we could go get ourselves some sushi, we were back in line at the Orpheum for Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.

It was amazing because of what it was: After seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, three 12 year old friends, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, began filming their own shot-by-shot adaptation in the backyards of their Mississippi homes.
Seven years later their film was in the can.

My. God. I have never, in all my 36 years on this earth, undertaken a project even half so grand as what these kids did over the course of their teenage years. Certainly never did anything like it when I was actually a teen. The movie was a love letter to Raiders of the Lost Ark and a love letter to cinema. I was amazed at what they were able to pull off, and was rather bummed that we weren't able to stay for the Q&A after the film.

If you grew up on Indiana Jones and you get a chance to see this film, you should not pass up the opportunity.

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

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I didn't see any films on Friday night, since I was at the Overture Center singing in Verdi's Requiem for most of the evening. But first thing Saturday morning, we were off to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi at the Orpheum.

During the pre-show announcements, they mentioned how many sushi restaurants there were within a five minutes walk of the theater. Good thing they did, because I'm pretty sure everyone left the theater dreaming of sushi as well.

While the film wasn't quite as meditative as The Meaning of Tea, it was very peaceful and refreshing. I have an admiration for people like Jiro Ono, who thrive on simplicity and order, and who can do the repetitive work needed to achieve excellence at something. I don't work that way myself: I like the idea of simplicity, but I tend towards complexity, variety, and a wee bit of chaos. But the contrast between my way of life and Jiro's made it particularly pleasant to watch.

The visuals were great. If you didn't want sushi by the end of the film, you probably never liked sushi to begin with. Piece after piece of perfect nigiri was lovingly filmed in lingering close-up shots. Mouth watering. Trips to the fish market were slightly less mouthwatering, but far from disgusting. It is easy to forget how crazy huge tuna are. It's rather a shame how divorced we get from what and where the food we eat comes from.

In some tiny way, I was reminded of Great, a webcomic by Ryan Armand (KIWIS BY BEAT!). Jiro doesn't seem to have much in common with Lyle Phipps (who is often an angry sad sack) but I found myself thinking of Lyle's drive to create the greatest ramen in the world. (I also found myself wanting ramen.)

Later in the day we stopped at T. Sushi, to give the newest sushi restaurant a try. It was good, but definitely no Sukiyabashi. I might go there again, but it won't be at the top of my list of Madison sushi restaurants. (I have a hard time taking a sushi restaurant seriously if you order tea and are given a cup of hot water and a generic food-service tea packet.)

Next up: Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation

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Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night)

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Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night) was the second stop on our festival journey. It was also at Sundance Cinema, so we got to take a brief intermission at the Great Dane Hilldale.

(The trailer lack subtitles, but the subtitled version I found also featured a terrible American movie trailer voice over. Too awful to link.)

The festival write-up describes this as "a thriller with all the boring parts cut out" and they were not lying. My adrenaline was elevated from the first scene to the last, and even though it was very late when I left the movie, I was very keyed up.

There are some very important details that would be spoilers for the very first scene, but I can say that the majority of the film is a tense, high-stakes game of cat and mouse in a loud, crowded nightclub. They skip right over many of the usual cliches that make up the slow moments in action movies and keep you right in the midst of the actual action. I'm sure that they inevitable American remake will have some sort of goofy comic relief and a love interest. I'd recommend seeing this, and not bothering with any Hollywood follow-up.

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"Wisconsin" and "We're Not Broke"

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Our Wisconsin Film Fest journey for 2012 began on Thursday night at Sundance Cinema in Hilldale and a sold out screening of the documentary We're Not Broke and a local short, Wisconsin.

I'd seen Wisconsin when it was first uploaded to YouTube in March of last year, but it was great to see it again. So much has happened since then. Cold, snow, crowds, mud, pizza... Show me what democracy looks like: petitions, boxes and boxes of petitions.

It isn't the best of the little films that came out of the protests (the uncertain focus and camera angles was a bit maddening) but it was great to see and hear a variety of faces and voices.

We're Not Broke was well made, and if there was a person in the theater who didn't find themselves getting furious while watching it, I think they might have been asleep. It detailed the lengths to which American multinational corporations will go to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. and the ways in which they do so. They are literally willing to spend millions of dollars on lobbyists, campaign contributions, lawyers, and accountants in order to reduce or eliminate their tax bills. The things they do *may* be legal at this time, but they are in no way right or ethical.

As is often the case in documentaries like this, there were occasional moments where the protesters came off looking a bit silly, but that was mostly due to the fact that they are not professionals. But it was corporate America that came off looking like jackasses at best.

I particularly enjoyed the interviews with Lee Shephard., who was incredibly droll with a dry and acerbic wit.

I ended up sitting next to two older women, whose sotte voce comments I could overhear during the course of the film. If I was seething internally at the nefarious practices of the corps, they were visibly (and audibly) bristling with indignation.

It was rather a good thing for me that it wasn't the last film of the night, because if it had been, I'd probably have seethed all night long. As it was, I had about an hour after the end to glower about corporate tax dodgers, after which I was plunged into French action sequences, and it was my adrenaline being raised, rather than my blood pressure. It has stayed with me, though, and I will definitely recommend it to other people, if they get the opportunity. This is something we should be made about.

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This year, I am going to try to get them together in a timely manner. Here goes.

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Pina

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Yesterday, I finally got the opportunity to see Pina, which I have been waiting for since December. I was not disappointed in the least.

I saw the 2D version, so I couldn't say whether the 3D aspect was used effectively, but I don't really care for 3d, so that was a feature, rather than a bug.

Overall, I thought it was brilliant. I am not a dance connoisseur, modern or otherwise. I had not heard of Pina Bausch until I first saw the trailer for the film. That being said, it really spoke to me. The dance was a constant juxtaposition of the graceful and the awkward, the beautiful and the homely.

The version of The Rite of Spring that basically opened the film was a violently powerful display of sweat and dirt and fear. It set the tone for obvious effort and exertion.

One thing that struck a chord with me was how many of the movements and gestures reminded me of things I do when I'm feeling a little silly. Pina took that silliness and pushed it to the edge, stretched it, exaggerated it, and it became art.

The soundtrack was also a big winner for me. I think it was the use of Jun Miyake's "Lilies in the Valley" in the trailer that first grabbed my attention. It all really worked.

One more thing: I don't know much about Wuppertal, but man, I really want to ride on their tram now. Wouldn't you?

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Fun, Imaginary Things

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Pascal Witaszek has made a charming and delightful assortment of movie posters for movies that don't exist, but maybe should.

I guess the poster for Walt made a bit of a stir around the net, as people thought perhaps it was real. I'd certainly go see it, if it slipped out of that alternate universe into ours.

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Final Film: Baraboo

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We wanted to like Baraboo, we really did. It was a sold out show with a long rush line, so we weren't the only ones looking forward to it. No by a long shot. Local filmmaker, local actors, local location...there was a lot of buzz leading up to it. Sitting in the theater, I was not at all surprised to notice that APT's Sarah Day was sitting right behind us.

There is no denying that the film had visual appeal. Shot in the rolling hills around Devil's Lake, it made me long to head out and do something in the Wisconsin summer.

The acting had a natural and improvised feeling...perhaps some of it was improvised. Sadly, the actors were not given much to do. Much like the lives of the characters, the plot didn't go anywhere. Things happened. Then there was a shot of the trees. Then more things happened. Then there were more trees. Maybe a tractor. Brief conversation that amounts to nothing. More trees. Wordless shot of character going about their daily activities. More trees. Mildly dramatic interlude that promises to really get things going...then doesn't. More trees. Brief conversation that amounts to nothing.

I don't think I've ever checked the time as often as I did while watching Baraboo. 99 minutes was about 79 minutes too long. I think that this would really have worked for me if it had been trimmed down to a 20 minute short. There was enough plot and character development for that length, but not to sustain a feature.

When I wasn't checking the time or hoping that a moment of conflict I was watching would develop into something more, I was imagining all the things I wanted to do this summer. Hey, they're having a bonfire. Oh, bonfires are great. Hey, that guy is biking. I want to do some real biking this year. Hmm, what a pretty area. I should road trip up and over there some weekend...

As the finale for our Film Fest weekend, it was a bit of an anticlimax. Still, it was a good weekend. Some films were far stronger than others, but even our least favorites were not stinkers. And we couldn't have hoped for better weather.

Here's to next year!

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At the name of this post would indicate, our second stop on Saturday was another shorts program. This one made no promise as to whether we would be unsettled. What we got was an interesting mixed bag.

(I can't exactly remember the order, but that is not the important part.)

Duck Crossing was a charming little mocumentary. 13 or so minutes of clips and "interviews" on the "duck crossing" scene that appears so often in film. More often than I'd ever realized, that's for certain. My one criticism is that the subtitles were extremely hard to read: a small, white font. It gave me a bit of a headache.

The one minute long My Friend, Larry was extremely strange. However, the brevity helped it, for it was over before it could become annoying.

I'm not normally a fan of experimental, but You Will Like This worked. It was funny and peculiar and just this side of unsettling. The fact that it was 4 minutes also helped. Like My Friend, Larry, the joke would have worn very thin had it continued much longer. In fact, a minute less might have made it stronger.

I can honestly say that I barely remember seeing Floatin', a 1 minute stop-motion animation, beyond the fact that it was cute. It just didn't register in comparison. Perhaps if I'd taken notes, but I don't do that.

The two other animations, Subprime and Mariza were more memorable. Both were digital. Subprime was 3 minutes of ever evolving and collapsing houses; Legos meets the Sims meets something new. Mariza was 5 minutes of a fisherman, a dancing donkey, and a battle of wills.

Sinkhole actually was a little bit unsettling. Shot in Centralia, PA, the coal mining town that has be abandoned for years due to a long-burning coal fire in the seam below the town. To say too much would spoil it (if you ever get an opportunity to see it), but I can say that things don't go as expected for the coal company broker how has come to try to buy out the remaining landowner.

I was a little uncertain at the start of Sign of the Times. I didn't know how much of loud, jerky guy being loud and jerky I could handle, regardless of how funny it was. Fortunately, the tale of the stolen morning papers proved to have more going on than just that. It was funny and kind of sweet.

Chili & Cheese: A Condimental Rift was, to borrow a phrase Meg Hamel used to describe one of the other films, a hoot. Good acting, great cinematography. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, though I wasn't always sure of where it was going.

Carjacked was funny in a totally bizarre, barely making sense kind of way. For a project by high school students, it was very well done. The film blurb describes it as "over-the-top" and I have to agree. Kind of funny, very weird.

Only one film to go in my Film Fest Roundup.

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Film Fest, Saturday: A Big Start

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For our first show on Saturday, our group was bigger (M, E, D and I) and the venue was bigger (Orpheum, Main Stage). All appropriate for A Matter of Size, a feature-length narrative about Israeli sumo wrestlers.

Our hero is Herzl (Itzik Cohen), who loses his job as a salad-bar chef because customers complain about his size. He had joined a diet group, but they don't tolerate his weight increases and boot him out. He finds work washing dishes at a Japanese restaurant, where they've tuned in the sumo wrestling match on their satellite TV behind the bar. In this competitive sport, being large brings honor and respect. It's what Herzl craves, and would be good for his buddies, too, for they are all generously sized and have too much free time. Herzl convinces the restaurant's owner, Kitano, to train them in the venerable sport of sumo.

The combination of gentle humor and real conflict made for a funny yet powerful story. It did not rely entirely on slapstick or mockery, as could so often be the case with a plot such as this. It also deals quite deftly with the relationships the men have with each other and with their loved ones. Herzl's mother and his new girlfriend are also characters instead of caricatures.

We all enjoyed the show quite a bit, and afterwards, 3 of us felt compelled to get gyros for lunch, thanks to Gidi's shawarma. (It was that or Japanese--right across the street--but we didn't have too much time before the next show.) Sitting patio in front of Parthenon and watching people walk by in the sunshine, we knew we were off to a good start.

Only two more shows to go.

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Film Fest: Friday Night Part II

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For our second selection on Friday night, M and I had to dash from the Memorial Union Play Circle all the way to the Monona Terrace. Thankfully, resisting the urge to dawdle got us there in time to find some excellent seats. Turns out, the filmmaker and his brother, the subject of the documentary, were sitting right in front of us.

The documentary we saw was Unforgettable, the story of a year in the life of Brad Williams, a La Crosse, WI man who is one of only three known people with hyperthymesia. Which is to say, he has "superior autobiographical memory."

This definitely was the winner for us this year, as far as documentaries went. It was funny and engaging, informative and narrative. There was a voice over giving commentary and explanation where and when it was needed, but it also knew when to show rather than tell.

It was nearing midnight when the film ended, and we had a long walk ahead of us (M was parked at Babcock Hall, at the far end of the UW campus) so we decided not to stay for the Q&A that followed the screening. Under other circumstances, I think we both would have wanted to, but it just wasn't in the cards this time.

Two days down, one to go...

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2010 Film Fest Day 2

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Friday night at the film fest was a challenge at the beginning. Getting there and getting parked in the face of the overwhelming number of people that would be downtown and around campus was tough. Besides the film fest, there was also the UW Varsity Band Concert and the high school State Forensics meet. Lots of people, lots of cars, lots of buses. I biked, in spite of the evening chill. M had to drive, and so parked waaaaaaaaay across campus. But we both made it just it time to take our seats for the first selection.

For the Love of Movies: the Story of American Film Criticism seems like a very appropriate choice for our slate of films, and we liked what we saw. The documentary was a history of film criticism, as well as a love note to both film and film criticism and an examination of the place and direction of professional film criticism in the time of the internet.

It was interesting and fun to watch, though M described it as "lazy Sunday PBS" material, in other words, something she'd definitely be happy watch on television if it were to air on PBS, but not quite on the level of what she usually expects from the festival. I liked it well enough, but couldn't entirely disagree with that sentiment.

We would have liked to have stuck around for filmaker Gerald Peary's Q&A session, but we had to book it up to the Monona Terrace right away for our next film. (More on that one later...)

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Nominations for the 2010 Hugo Awards close next Sunday. As I am still eligible to nominate (having been to WorldCon last year), I have been giving it some thought. I can nominate up to five in each catagory.

Best Novel, current thoughts are:
The Mystery of Grace by Charles de Lint
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The City & The City by China Miéville
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Best Novella, Best Novelette...dunno. I don't think I read any new ones from 2009.

Best Short Story is also a dunno, as I can't quite remember which that I read where new in 2009. I'll have to look it up.
ETA:
I'm liking K. Tempest Bradford's "Élan Vital"

Best Related Work is a category that I know very little about.

Best Graphic Story is going to require more thought, and I'd be happy to take recommendations. (Any science fiction or fantasy story told in graphic form appearing for the first time in 2009.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:
Coraline
Star Trek
Moon

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
"Epitaph One," Dollhouse

Best Editor, Short Form; Best Editor, Long Form; Best Professional Artist...dunno. I'll have to think on it.

Best Semiprozine
I believe Shadow Unit qualifies.

Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, Best Fan Artist, John W. Campbell Award...dunno.

I'd welcome any thoughts and input on categories that are blank or incomplete.

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Countdown

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Just over two weeks until the schedule for this year's Wisconsin Film Fest is announced. I'm getting bouncy with anticipation.

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Restaurant week: dinner at Sardine

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Tonight was our second restaurant week outing. Dinner at Sardine was not a disappointment.

We had a party of five, and managed to order all but one of the Restaurant Week offerings. (Well, we did order all of the main, published dishes. They had added a veggie entree, but while we were strongly tempted by the Potato, gruyere and leek croquettes, we had all pretty much made up our minds before we even arrived.)

The Soup du Jour was Butternut Squash puree, and while I was tempted, I decided to try the Apple Salad. I'd made a huge batch of squash soup this fall, and I usually don't make salads for myself. I did not regret the choice, for the salad was light, savory, and well-balanced. Reports from the rest of the table were that the House Salad and the soup were also quite enjoyable.

The Bone in Chicken Breast knocked my socks off. (And if you know the kind of socks I wear, that is quite an accomplishment.) The meat was perfectly juicy and tender, and the Riesling cream sauce was one of the best things I have ever tasted. I had to grab a piece of bread at the end a mop of every last drop.

Oh, how I wanted the Vanilla bean crème brulée. It was actually the deciding factor for me in choosing the restaurant. Alas, it was not to be. A very popular choice, it seems, for they were all out. I had to console myself with the Gateau Victoire. As second choices went, it was pretty choice. The one member of our party who chose the Assorted cookie plate shared bits of it around, so I also got to try nibbles of lavender shortbread, and other delicious tidbits.

There was not a single bite of the meal that was not excellent. We had plenty of room at and around our table. The waitress was friendly and professional. A fine night out, on this cold Wednesday night.

Next restaurant week will be around July. Looking forward to it already.

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The Review

I was completely blown away by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As far as I was concerned, it left the first two movies in the dust. I know he isn't directing Goblet of Fire, butAlfonso Cuarn needs to be the one to direct Order of the Phoenix.

I liked the changes that were made to the set and the costuming. The new exterior for Hogwarts looked more like what I pictured Hogwarts to be. The Hogwarts grounds in the first two films was so flat and manicured. It wasn't bad, but the craggier land seems more magical. The wardrobe changes for the students also helped with the tone. There was nothing wrong with the proper, pressed school uniforms in the first two films, but the little changes really helped emphasize the transition into the teen years. Particularly if you look at the rumples shirts and loose neckties of the boys. They just screams "WE'RE THIRTEEN!" It was also nice to see the kids dressed in "muggle clothes" in their off hours.

The new casting choices continued to be brilliant. While Michael Gambon is not Richard Harris' doppleganger, he carried off the role of Dumbledore so well that it actually took me aout twenty seconds to remember that Harris had died and that a change had been made. Another member of our movie watching group, who had just seen the other two movies this week, didn't even realize that it was a different actor, though he knew there was something going on. He thought that a frame had been flipped.

David Thewlis was just what I'd pictured Professor Lupin to be, and we all know how well Gary Oldman can push the envelope.

There was a lot from the book that was left out in the movie, but most of that was simply streamlining. For example, the headless hunt is given a a brief visual reference but no further explanation. Perfectly fine, because though it is an entertaining episode, it doesn't serve to move the main plot along. On the other hand, I wish that Lupin had given Harry the explanation for "Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs", it wouldn't have added much to the movie in terms of length, but it would have explained a whole lot of things.

Finally, I have to say that I think all the people who have been saying that the cast of kids is going to have to change because Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, et. al are getting too old to play the characters are full of it. They will be 14, 15, 16, and 17 in the next movies...high schoolers. People much older than they have played convincing high school students. I think the only reasons for casting changes would be the regular sort: someone doesn't want to play the role anymore, is asking too much money, etc.

Anyway, I am definitely going to go see the movie again. Probably going to want it on DVD when it comes out, too. I hope Goblet is at least this good.

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The Prince & Me

Not quite The King and I. Julia Style and a Danish prince. No, not that Danish price, though it does seem that Ms. Styles cannot escape the Bard.

Anyway, it was a fairly standard cute romantic comedy. Set in "Manitowoc, WI" and "the University of Wisconsin". And Denmark. Of course, Wisconsin was all filmed in Canada, and while they got the feel right, that was totally *not* the UW. I mean, why name a specific place and then not even bother to make it resemble that place. They even go so far as to have them working in "the Rat", but that was very much not the Rathskellar. Why not just have it be some random bar, rather than an actual place that a good number of people would expect to recognize? Or a random university for that matter? Or why not shoot in Wisconsin. Also, there is a scene in "Manitowoc" at Thankgiving, and everyone is outside without coats, wearing light jackets or light shirts. Hello? Wis-con-sin. No-vem-ber. Accent on the brrrr. That looked more like late August. But they got enough little details right that it still work for me, in spite of the ETF moments.

What I really liked about it was that while it was still a high concept romantic comedy, the characters were believable and likable for the most part. They also managed to solve a damned if you do, damned if you don't, lose-lose plot point, and resolve it is a very graceful way.

See it with a girlfriend.

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Ella Enchanted

The movie version of Gail Carson Levine's wonderful Ella Enchanted is not exactly enchanting. The movie is cute and fun, but a real disappointment is comparison to the book and to the film that could have been made. Instead of going the Harry Potter route of being faithful to the book, and only changing bits here and there to accomadate the adaptation to a cinematic format, the studio went the typical "Hollywood" route. They dumbed it down a great deal ((because kids can't handle complexity, ya see) added anachronisms, fart jokes, and kung fu fighting. Important characters are changed, eliminated or as good as (what a waste of Parminder K. Nagra!) while a slew of useless new characers are added (a talking snake? an evil uncle? a wannabe lawyer elf?).

Very young children may enjoy the movie, please be sure to then go home and read them the book. OK?

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The Other Final

The final film in my film fest journey this years was, appropriately, The Other Final, a documentary by Johan Kramer about a soccer match he organized during the 2002 World Cup between Bhutan and Montserrat, the two lowest ranked teams in the FIFA. Truly a game of good will and good sportsmanship, the "Other Final" becomes a love note to the game itself.

Excellent cinematography and editing, a great soundtrack, and a clever visual devices (the traveling white soccer ball and the foosball game) work together with the compelling story and the cheerfully optimistic subjects to provide a strong piece of narrative cinema.

I hope that the sort of attitude displayed by the players and fans of these two countries could be shared by more people throughout the world. Maybe there will be other "other finals" with future World Cups. At the moment, it looks as though if that were to happen, One of the teams would be returning. Bhutan has moved up 14 places in the rankings, but poor Montserrat has actually dropped a place. It is still in last place, but last place is now 204, rather than 203 (Afghanistan has been added to FIFA since 2002).

Seriously, I would see this film again in a heartbeat, and I recommend it to anyone with even the faitnest of interest in soccer/football or sports in general. Or just a love of a good story. This certainly is one.

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Jockey

The first film of the last day for me was Jockey, by Kate Davis. It was thrilling and funny, and sad and disturbing. The audience as a whole seemed to react together to many parts, such as the collective gasp when Go For Wand stumbled, sending jockey Randy Romero flying and herself head over hoof, breaking a leg.

The documentary focused on three Kentucky jockeys: Chris Rosier, a young "bug boy" or apprentice jockey, Shane Sellers, an accomplished jockey who had injured his knee and had dropped out of racing to recuperate and was trying to decide whether to get back into the game, and Randy Romero, a retired jockey with serious health problems. It takes a close look at the grueling life of thoroughbred racing, including the punishing steps these atheletes take to meet the weight requirements.

I was a little disappointed that there were no female jockeys among the featured riders, but it did make sense to focus on this group of three men at the begining, middle, and ends of their careers, who also knew each other. Maybe the female riders will get their own documentary some day.

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Funny Shorts

And no, we aren't talking about those plaid bermudas, either. The Wisconsin's Own (and Other) Shorts II: Comedy selections were certainly sources of high quality laughs.

The Vest by Paul Gutrecht got the show of to a good start. Skye McCole Bartusiak's performance was charmingly straightforward and believable. The comedy was bittersweet, but without becoming either maudlin or uncomfortable (the was *not* Welcome to the Dollhouse). I'm sure that I wasn't the only one in the audience that saw a little bit of my own childhood in the film.

Greeting Card Writer and Death, both by Aaron Yonda of Wis-Kino fame were less polished but full of joyful silliness. I thought that GCW could have been just a bit shorter (for a short) as a couple of the gags ran a little too long. However, Death had me in stitches. Matt Sloan's looming tag-a-long Grim Reaper was hysterical as he slyly pushed packages of chips into a shopping cart with his scythe.

Brain Dehler's The Glass Bottle was truly short and sweet...and made me thirsty. The above link includes a link to a quicktime file of the movie itself.

Gas 'N Fuel Employee Training Video 4-A Makin' It Happen cracked up the entire audience. I imagine that just about every person in the room had been required to watch a cheesy training video at some point, and this parody had them dead to rights. From the bad acting to the cheesy situations and "please pause the video review with your trainer" directions, we had seen it all before, just never in such a delightfully satiric manner as presented by Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett.

The Climactic Death of Dark Ninja by Peter Craig put my in mind of the "making of" stories told to me by assorted friends concerning high school filmmaking (a particular tale of Romeo and Juliet with ketchup blood springs immediately to mind). I really felt like I knew these kids. I can't give away the surprise ending, but...Bwah!

El Dorko, written by Tom Clark and Harrison Brown (directed by Brown, and starring Clark) had us laughing after the credits had rolled. Just as the laughter was fading to a close, someone in the room chuckled like th "villian" in the film and off we went again.

Festival Express. Woo boy, what a ride!

For those of you who have never heard of the Festival Express, and are too unmotivated to click the link, here's the scoop: In the summer of 1970 there was a series of three rock festivals across Canada--Toronto, Winnipeg, and then Calgary. Instead of the typical "fly in, fly out" method of getting everyone to the shows, the promoter arranged to have a train carry everyone from city to city. It became a non-stop party and jam session. (They actually had to make an "emergency" stop in Saskatoon, because they ran out of booze.)

There was some delightful modern-day interviews, as some of those involved reminisced and relayed anecdotes. However, most of the film was simply footage, with occasional voiceovers. The footage was full of jewels. From the joyful comradery of musicians giddily (and sometimes tipsily) jamming together on the train, to the skinny "children" of Canada dancing with abandon in the summer sun, to Janis Joplin flinging her body and soul into "Tell Mama".

I've been at movies where the audience applauded at the end. However, this was the first film that I've ever seen where the audience applauded after the musical numbers. We did, and it felt totally right. There was no way that you could hear The Band smoke their way through "The Weight" like that and *not* burst into cheers along with the original festival crowds. I think it would have felt unnatural to sit in silence after that.

The "cinematography" was that of a guy with a handheld camera in the 70's. Very much a home movie feel. However, the editing was great. There were some great split screen moments, allowing us to see close-ups of different angles at the same time, or near/far juxtapositions.

Some of the thoughts I had while watching:

*How priviledged the "music must be free" kids were that protested the $14 ticket charge. When you demand that you should be able to attend a concert for free, you have an extreme sense of entitlement, and very little idea of how the world works (are you prepared to feed and clothe the musicians and sound techs, since you are demanding their services for no compensation? It's their livelyhood, duded.) When you are ready to get violently up in arms about the price of a rock concert, there are probably not a whole lot of real problems in your little world.

*Janis Joplin was an amazing performer, and yet probably wouldn't have gotten very far in this day and age. Not a pretty face, not a pretty body, not a pretty voice. Given how shallow and obsessive the entertainment business is at the moment, it seems unlikely that a non-petite, husky-voiced woman, with a thick chin and acne would get very far. Which is crazy, because onstage she *was* sex and drugs and rock and roll.

*What was really great was that even with the close quarters, the lack of sleep, the sun, the chemical "additives", etc...there seemed to be very little negative energy. As far as what we were shown, at least, everyone seemed to be genuinely positive and at peace with themselves and each other. Now, it may be that they just left out an petty squabbles, hangovers, and other small upheavals to focus on the good, but even so it looks like it was an absolutely amazing trip.

It was certainly an amazing evening of film. My face started to ache from the grinning. Here's to tomorrow night.

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Miracle

Last Sunday I saw Miracle and found it to be quite enjoyable. I don't watch much hockey (I don't watch much sports in general) but I respect it as an exciting sport.

As far as the Disney underdog sports team genre goes, this was above average. For one thing, there were no heart warming and scrappy misfit children (the fat kid, the nerdy smart kids with glasses, the black kid, the tomboyish girl, the troubled kid, and the sweet average kid), no washed up has-been trying to make a comeback and win the love of a good woman, no court-ordered rehabilitation of a jerk who comes to see the true meaning of sports, and no wicked rich team/team owner/real estate developer who must be defeated. Instead of the cliches we get something a little closer to reality. Certainly to film bears the warm glow of Hollywood, but we never get beaten into submission by the sentiment.

Most of the film is spent on the ice, and the game is the real star of the movie. It really was gorgeous to see the game on the big screen. It is a shame that real hockey games could never be filmed like that (obviously) since I've always thought that it really doesn't translate very well to television. (You either need to see it live or not at all.) The cinematography really works, and by the time we get to see The Big Game, even hockey novices should be able to follow the gist of the action.

I give Miracle my tiny little recommendation. Also, as a little hint: of you stay to the end of the credits, you will get a small extra.

The movie's website, on the other hand, earns the designer time in the penalty box for excessive and gratitous use of Flash. Plus, the little hockey plaer that follows the mouse is cute for the first five secings, and gets progessively more annoying after that.

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Big Fish

Another movie that I have seen recently is Tim Burton's Big Fish. I've always love Tim Burton pictures, but the last one I'd seen, Sleepy Hallow, had left me disappointed. I must say, though not all reviewers that I've read were impressed, I very much enjoyed the film.

The movie's framing devise has Billy Crudup as Will Bloom, an expectant father visiting his own ailing father (Albert Finney) and trying to come to terms with the man he knows but doesn't know while he still can. The majority of the movie is a series of flashback to the story of Ed Bloom's life, or at least the the story as he has always told it. Ed Bloom is a master teller of grandious tall tales, and it is difficult for those around him, particularly his son, to seperate the fact from the fiction.

The movie is much more vivid and alive during the tall tales, with the trademark Burton surreality and whimsy. The colors are brighter, the contrasts are deeper, the hair and costumes more stylized, and the music more...Elfman-y. Ewan McGregor plays Ed Bloom as a younger man, while Alison Lohman is eerily perfect as the younger version of Jessica Lange's Sandra Bloom.

The scenes in the framing section are fairly straight forward and movie-ish. Less enthralling, but just as important, they ground us in the reality from which the tall tales can spring. Being able to see Ed Bloom the way others see him helps us to appreciate it when we get to see Ed Bloom the way he sees himself. The scenes are well-acted in that they convey the emotion and gravity of the family situation without becoming mawkish.

Toward the end of the film, the two worlds come together is a very satisfying way. I don't want to give much away, but if you are at all a crier, bring some kleenex with you when seeing this movie.

To be true, there were a few moments here and there that had me shifting in my seating and waiting for them to be over, but as a whole I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and was happy to see it all on the big screen.

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Peter Pan

This weekend I went to see the new Peter Pan. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, though I had heard that it hit on some of J. M. Barrie's darker themes. I was hoping and praying that I would like it ever so much more than the 1953 Disney version. I was not disappointed. It was worlds better than 1953. Not complete perfect, but certainly good enough to have me smiling as I left the theater.

To begin with, the casting for most characters was pretty brilliant. Oliva Williams *was* Mrs. Darling; glamourous and sweet at the same time, you could see her being just the sort of mother that children would fly away from Neverland for. Jason Isaacs (recently seen as the despicable Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) played the double casting of Mr. Darling/Captain Hook so well that it took me nearly half the movie to realize that the deliciously wicked pirate was also the nervous and stuttering bank teller. Richard Briers' Smee had me smiling. Not quite the bumbler of Disney's picture, this Smee was truly a rascal with a wee bit of good still in his heart.

None of the children had that grating child-actor cuteness that is so often a risk. Rachel Hurd-Wood was a perfect Wendy Moira Angel Darling, and a blessed antidote to the simpering Wendy of 1953. This Wendy actually told the sort of bloodthristy tales that you could actually see little boys crowding around to hear. (Cinderella encounters pirates at the ball!) She can handle a sword and longs to have pirate adventures herself. God bless progress! Yet isn't made into a tomboy. She is allowed to love sword fighting and fairy dances.

I have heard several complaints about Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan himself. For some, his American accent among the Brits was jarring. For others, they don't think he adequately portrays Pan's feelings. I had neither of those problems. Perhaps he wasn't the very perfect Pan that has been in my mind's eye since childhood, but he conveyed the boyish exuburance, carelessness, confidence, confusion, arrogance, vulnerability, etc. that is everyboy. He wants so very much never to grow up, but when he meets Wendy he has a few stirrings that growing up might not be such a bad thing entirely, and that is an unsettling notion.

The tragedy of the story is that Pan can't win whicheve choice he makes. He can stay in Neverland, a boy forever with all the joy that it entails, but he must leave behind family and love to do so. On the other hand, it is very true that if he returns to the world and allows himself to grow up, he must face school and work and the daily grind of decisions and responsibility that go along with adulthood. (The Mr. Darling/Captain Hook connection really helps to illustrate this.) Yet even with that note of sadnes, the story is not allowed to become bogged down by it, and such is it's brilliance.

As for the movie, I do agree with those who said that the PG rating might not be quite strong enough, and that it probably should be PG-13. I know children, and how bloodthirsty they can be in their imagination and play. However, parents might not want to expose their children to quite to much of it, and very young children might easily become scared at some scenes. I did hear on child start crying at one point in the show.

Overall, I liked it and would go to see it again if given the opportunity.

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Follow the bouncing ball.

Ok, there was no bouncing ball. In fact, the Sing-along Sound of Music was more Rocky Horror than Sing-along With Mitch. A PG13, less organized Rocky Horror. With accordians.

Charmaine Carr, who played Leisl in the movie, was present to co-host the event. (I'm pretty sure that the other host was Big Gay Al, from South Park.) As we entered the theater, everyone was handed a small plastic bag filled with props: a couple of picture cards, a square of "curtain" cloth, a sprig of artificial edelweiss, and a party popper. They told us to hold up our props at certain times, given a bit of hand gesture choreography for "Do-Re-Mi", and asked to do things like boo whenever the Nazi's appeared onscreen, and to bark "Rolf, Rolf" when he appeared. The crowd was quite mixed, with many small children, so we were asked to go no further than innuendo in any other comments.

From the beginning of the film, the audience was quite noisy. Unlike Rocky Horror, during which the audience participates with standard responses, many people shouted out whatever came to mind, whenever it came to mind. The 4 year-old girl sitting next to me kept shouting out the most random things. It was extremely difficult to hear dialogue over the collective "cleverness". We also discovered that the audience's idea of the tempo differed slightly than the actual tempo of the recorded music. We could have used the bouncing ball over the subtitles.

As the evening wore on, the crowd settled down a bit. There were still moments of hubbub, but as the novelty wore off, so did the urge to shout. Even when I couldn't hear the soundtrack, it was pretty amazing to see the film up there on the big screen. And, when all is said and done, singing along with a huge crowd of people is always a bit of a rush.

They kicked off the evening with a costume contest. I think, if I ever go to this event again, I may have to go in costume as well. The favorite costume of the evening was the big, bearded Mother Superior. But the "aaaaaaaaaaah" went to the tiny little girl dressed as Maria when she first arrived at the VonTrap villa.

Best audience participation moments:

Cries of "Free Bird!" and "Play Stairway!" everytime the guitar came out.

The waved lighter at the climax of "Climb Every Mountain".

During the escape, when the Captain relates a plan to walk up into the mountains and cross the border out of the country, someone yelled, "Those mountains border Germany!"


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S-P-E-L-L-B-O-U-N-D

I missed it at the Wisconsin Film Festival, having chosen instead to see the excellent yet brutally sad film about Rwanda, 100 Days. I missed it when it was playing at the Hilldale theater, because I'm dumb, and not as fond of that theater as I should be. I saw that it was going to be playing at the Memorial Union Film Circle in a few weeks, and planned to see it then. However, as my luck would have it, it was playing at the local budget cinema while I was in the area looking to see a film. So, yesterday I finally saw Spellbound.

The film is documentary about eight students, male and female, from various areas, backgrounds, and ethnicities, all on their way to the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. At times, it would be very easy for a film such as this to creep into Christopher Guest territory; ordinary people, extreme dedication, nerdiness, parents... Yet though you sometimes cringe at awkward moments caught on film, everyone involved comes out with dignity. During the spelling bee scenes, you could actually hear other people in the theater holding their breath while a tough word was spelled, only to sigh in relief or disappointments at the results. I am sure that I wasn't alone in silently mouthing the spelling of some words along with the students.

The speller who moved me the most was Ashley, the D.C. area participant. When she describes her life as being like a movie, with lots of trials and setbacks to overcome, I found myself really pulling for her; not just in the Bee, but in life. I really hope she suceeds, and manages to overcome the many obstacles placed in her path. I was similarly moved by Angela, yet I found it easier to see a happy ending for her. I think the difference was inner-city poverty vs. rural poverty. Neither are easy, but it seems more likely that violence will play a bigger role in Ashley's life than it will with Angela. God bless the children. Honestly, I liked all of the kids, and their parents all seemed like good people, too. It was difficult to watch everytime someone was eliminated from the competition, even though it was inevitable.

There were also some nice interviews with former winners, including Frank Neuhauser, the very first winner in 1925, with "gladiolus". Dr. Alex J. Cameron, the pronouncer (who died this past February), gave some interesting insights into the reasons behind the earliest spelling bees: the fact that education was a means for success and that the ability to read was seen as a major asset.

If you get a chance to see this charming film, I highly recommend that you take it.

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Take Two

Down With Love

This movie has been carefully cryogenically frozen in 1963 and lovingly thawed and released forty years later. Well, not quite, but very damn close. I've heard many a comparison to the films which paired Rock Hudson and Doris Day, and I'd have to agree.

Lighthearted and cheery without becoming a piece of fluff, Down With Love won me over right away. From the stylized animation of the credit sequence to the Sinatra-heavy soundtrack, to the extremely cheesy split-screen technique, it all came together into a finished product that was stylish and fun.

I don't think this is the movie for everyone; people who don't like the 60's movie style from which this sprang, for example, will not get much of a kick out of this. Those who can appreciate a clever romantic comedy, however, will be rewarded. Down With Love exploits the classic conventions of sexual comedy, to great effect. Not a "chick flick", but a good date movie.

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Matrix: Reloaded

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This second Matrix movie didn't have quite the same resonance of the first. Thrilling and engaging, for certain, but not resonant. The Main Idea, rabbit-hole of reality, had already been set out in the first. Yes, there were twists and new developments, but nothing so mind-bending that I had to carry the concept out of the theater and chew on it for awhile.

That having been said, I was gripped by the action from the very first flicker of light to the very last fade to black. The much-hyped freeway car chase had me at the edge of my seat with sweaty palms. Sure, in many ways a car chase is a car chase is a car chase. Never-the-less, I found myself holding my breath at all the right moments. The much-hyped "fight with 100 Smiths" left me less enthused. The fight choreography and film technique were interesting, but I kept thinking, "Dude! You can fly, just go." The Zion "rave" scene goes on far too long, but you certainly won't be getting jipped for nipple displays.

I was a little disappointed to see that Gina Torres only had a few brief moments of screen time, especially since I am still jonesing for Firefly. I was, however, quite happy to see my favorite Mercutio, Harold Perrineau Jr. in a supporting role...and living through the movie. Boo-yah. Sing Ngai aka Collin Chou made a favorable impression as the program "Seraph". To tie in a Madison connection, the amazing

Another word of advice: stay to the very end of the credits for extra fun.

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Identity

After seeing X-men, I theater hopped over to Identity, the thriller starring John Cusack. It certainly provided its fair share of thrills and chills, with a few moments of "ew". Not quite Hitchcock, of course, or even quite Christie for that matter, but it was a bit removed from the usual run of hack-and-slash horror. Sure there was hacking, and there was slashing, but we generally didn't see it happen on screen. The end was double twisty. First comes the clever twist that you never see coming. That one is followed up by a less satisfying and more standard "ha-ha" twist which bugged me just a little.

Cast-wise it isn't that stellar. This is not John Cusack's best film by a long shot, and I've never cared for Ray Liotta or Jake Busey to begin with. Poor Clea DuVall isn't given much to do except shriek. Rebecca DeMornay gets a similarly one-note part.

I haven't got any particularly strong feelings about the movie to recommend it one way or another. Avoid it if you are terribly squeamish or jumpy, though it is more psychological than gorey. Decent matinee fare, I'd say.

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X2

Yesterday I saw X2 or X-Men United, which I think sounds very much like a football team. I can't say after just one viewing as to how it compared to the first movie. I think I'd need to see them together, so that both were fresh in my mind.I can say that I enjoyed myself very much.

I was happy to see all the characters that I enjoyed from the first movie return, and the ones that I didn't either not return (Sabretooth) or else have minimal screen-time (Cyclops). Storm, who I found irritating the first time around was much improved, though I still think it should have been Angela Basset, rather than Halle Berry. As for new characters, Alan Cumming did an excellent turn as Nightcrawler, although the writers chose to make him a little more....hesitant than the Nightcrawler I know from the comics. Pyro was mildly interesting as a bad guy in potentio.

I wish they had done a little bit more with Lady Deathstrike. They set her character up with the potential to rebel against her "master", but she met with a fairly anticlimactic end. I was also frustrated to once again be given teeny-tiny glimpses of Kitty Pryde and nothing more. I don't care if they leave Jubilee in the background. I am perfectly happy to have Rogue be Wolverine's little female sidekick/hanger-on instead of Jubilee, but I want Kitty Pryde, dammit! Still, I guess with such a huge list of available characters from the comic books, they can't use everybody. Nice cameo from Dr. Hank McCoy. (Remy LeBeau is listed in the credits on IMDB but I only remember seeing his name appear in the movie, not the character. Either I missed it or his scene was cut.)

As for plot, I thought it was well-developed and nicely paced. There was balanced tension and action, and though there was a lot going on, it avoided getting lost in sub-plot. Motives and motivations made sense, and there wasn't anything that left me scratching my head in confusion. I also appreciated the ending, which gives a very strong clue as to the plot of X3...I'm sensing some Phoenix coming on.

All in all, I'd say this is a movie to check out at least once, and worth a full price admission. I'll probably see it again, myself.

Coming soon: Identity

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Hoppin'

As the weather went from beautiful on Tuesday to absolute crap the rest of the week, I decided to spend the day at the movies. I saw:

Phone Booth, which starred Colin Farrell, Keifer Sutherland's voice, and a NYC phone booth. It was an interesting concept, taking place in real-time, primarily in only one small location. True, it was a little bit ridiculous and"high concept" (especially the "mwa-hah-hah" ending).

Farrell was pretty convincing both as a complete asshole and as a guy frightened out of his mind. Sutherland (recently of the high concept, real-time TV drama 24) was suitably psychotically creepy, yet had me rolling my eyes once or twice (whether it was the script or his delivery is hard to say. The supporting cast was decent, though they neither made nor broke the show.

All and all, fairly gripping, but see it as a matinee.

On a side note, the website seems to have been designed by whomever did theDonnie Darko website. It has the same look and feel, though not nearly as intiguing or compelling (just like the movie itself).

Following Phone Booth, I hopped over to see View from the Top, comedy so lightweight that it would blow away in a stiff wind. There was a degree of cuteness that kept me in the theater, but overall it was a lot of really good actors with not much to do. It streched believability like a Hooters' t-shirt played for cheap laughs. I'd have to say that the "hits of the 80's" soundtrack had me longing for earplugs.

I liked it, because I saw it for free. If you really want to see, might I suggest waiting until it airs on USA, or what ever cable station takes it. Some people need to have a chat with their agents, and maybe consider reading the scripts carefully before signing on.

Incidentally, for fans of The West Wing, both Rob Lowe and Joshua Malina had bit parts. OK, Joshua had a bit part, Rob had a microscopic cameo.

After that, I also went and re-saw Chicago, and liked it just as much the second time around.

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Wisconsin Film Festival....last review

The last film I saw at the festival was The Real Old Testament, which screened with Antiquities Roadshow (another short by Aaron Yonda).

Antiquities... was an amusing little spoof of Antiques Roadshow, though overall, it wasn't as funny as Yonda's Questions had been. The joke started out very funny, but proceeded to grow less so as the short wore on. Never-the-less, anyone who is familiar with the format and style of the original Roadshow would have to at least crack a smile at its spoof.

RTO, by Curtis Hannum and Paul Hannum, similarly riffed on MTV's The Real World and the Biblical Old Testament. "Find out what happens when Biblical patriarchs stop being hallowed religious figures, and start getting real!"

Extremely low budget, and entirely improvised by its cast, RTO did have quite a few moments of hilarity, but I also found it a little long, at almost two hours. The film spanned the Old Testament from Creation to Jacob and his wives. They did stick fairly close to the source material as far as the "what happened", veering off into comedy for the why and how.

The filmmakers were present at the screening, and spoke to the audience while the staff sorted out a numer of problems concerning the projection equipment. They spoke of the sheer amount of material they had to work with going into editing (I think they said something in the neighborhood of 59 hours?). Yet, I think the movie would be improved with a little more trimming. The story skipped from Ambraham's sacrafice to Jacob meeting Laban's daughters. Rebekah and Esau were left out, which was probably for the best, yet the sequences with Abraham streched on for-----ev-----er. They also included a rather extensive scene of Lot and his family fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah including the "sin of Lot's daughters". Granted, it is a story in the Bible, but the whole effect was pretty much one big Faralley brothers' style gross out. It kind of lost me at that point.

I have to say, the best sequence was at the very end when they staged the "Reunion Show". That was a Real World parody in fine form. I especially loved it when "God" became upset at the rest of the cast and stormed off the set. Classic.

That's it. That's all I saw at the festival this year. By the by, it seems to have been a good year for the festival, and a record number of tickets were sold, and most shows sold out early. Festival organizers are talking of further expansion next year. I'm sure it will be great.

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Counting

On Sunday, the first film I saw was Unprecedented: The 2000 Election. As one would gather, it concerns the voting irregularities of the Florida vote, from the purge of "felons" from the voter rolls, to the confusion at the polls on election day, to the turmoil of the recount.

Even though I'd followed those events but a short time ago, the documentary added to my understanding of them by laying out the chronology, and explaining the more obscure detail. It was well made, and though the bias was obviously not for Bush and his people (the audience actually hissed at Katherine Harris) its tone was mostly one of calling things as they were. Gore's camp was not let entirely off the hook, either. They made a big mistake in asking for manual recounts in only four heavily Democratic counties rather than the entire state, and the filmmakers did not hesitate in calling them on it.

I am still outraged at the whole affair, and the way the right is so ready to dismiss any examination of it. This film might go a long way to convince some of the more moderate and broad minded on the right of the legitimacy of these concerns. However, as a member of the audience pointed out, it is mostly preaching to the choir. Those who seek this documentary out will generally be those who are already convinced. Those who really need to see it will probably pass it by...unless we can bring it to them?

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Never Again?

Just after Vote for Me!, I ran to another theater to see 100 Days, a story of the genocide in Rwanda. I knew, even as I'd bought my ticket, that it would be a difficult movie to watch. I was a high school senior when the killings took place in 1994. I knew nothing of the history, or even the geography of the country. Still, what I saw on the news horrified me, and it still does to this day.

The story follows a teenage Tutsi girl, her family, her boyfriend, and his family as they face the horror of the killings. As I watched the UN peacekeeping forces pull out, and the machete bearing Hutus move in for the kill, I kept asking why? Why? Why?

When I got home, I started looking in to why the UN pulled out, and though the articles I read gave me a better insight into other things that were happening at the time, the killing of the 10 Belgians for example, I still get angry at the lack of concern displayed, and the beaureaucratic falling down that allowed this to go on.

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Vote for Me!

Saturday morning I went to see Vote for Me!, which was preceeded by two shorts: Dubya's Big Day.

Questions, by Aaron Yonda and Matt Sloan, was incredibly funny. Honestly, it was three minutes of laughter. Even after the credits were rolling, people throughout the theater continued to chuckle. Low-budget and simply made, it demonstrated that quality does not equal budget

Dubya's Big Day, by Paul VanDeCarr, was amusing, but not nearly as much as
Questions had been. It was the same sort of "look what I edited together to make sound funny" clip that circulates the internet at least once a month. Nothing terribly witty or original.

Vote for Me!, by Nelson Antonio Denis, was the feature of the screening. It was both interesting and confusing by turns. There were quite a few things that were never explained (what was with the guy pushing the wheelchair?) or that took longer than they should have to become clear. It definately had it's prize moments (Mme. La Bimboo's smile, for example) but it could have been far stronger if it hadn't relied so heavily on the absurd, or perhaps if it had pushed the absurdity just a little bit farther. As it was, the movie seemed as though it dodn't know where it stood at all times.

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The Fab Four Are in my Living Room

Last night I took in the festival screening of A Hard Day's Night, introduced by Roger Ebert. I've seen that film a number of times, both on the small screen and in the theater, and every time it has put a huge grin on my face. This time was no exception. The sheer energy and joy displayed in the film are contagious. The other Beatles can be fun and silly, but this one is simply a classic. Even forty years after it was made, it really doesn't feel dated. Seeing it with a theater full of people (the Orph was packed) added to the excitement, as did seeing it with a friend who had never seen it before.

Ebert spoke both before and after the film, and his remarks reminded me why I respect him so much as a critic. He was witty and intelligent. You could really tell that he'd given thought to what he was saying, and that he meant every word of it.

Following the movie and the talk, my friend and I attended a festival party in the Orpheum lobby, with an excellent food spread from their restaurant (We're not talking tiny hors d'oeuvres, either. It was an actual buffet with things like quiche, salmon, turkey, green beans, rolls, and chocolate dipped strawberries.) and music (mostly Beatles covers) by the Gomers. I ate way too much food, and stayed as long as the band played. There were cardboard fans on all of the tables, cutouts of the Beatles faces from the HDN photographs glued to colorful popsicle sticks. I managed to collect all four. Go me!

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Brilliant

Thanks to two Harry Potter movies, and now Bend it Like Beckham, that word is soon to replace "cool" in my vocabulary.

I really liked Bend it... and I hope it plays in Madison after the festival, because I'd love to see it again, and get some of the people I know to see it as well. For one thing, it (along with last years World Cup) really make me want to become a soccer...er...football fan. It also gave me a huge craving for samosas.

The story itself was pretty standard: a feel-good coming-of-age, daring to be different, meeting of cultures, plucky sports story. What Billy Elliot (another fun movie) did for boys and ballet, Bend it... does for girls and sports. The story was cute, the acting was fun, and though it was montage-heavy, they weren't the sort of montage that make you roll your eyes in embarrassment. The cast had good chemistry, and it seemed to me that the actors really took on their characters.

I was glad to have seen it, and it made a good start to the festival for me. The audience (a sold out Orpheum Theater) seemed to be just as happy with it as I was, if that's anything to you. If you get the chance, I highly recommend checking it out.

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And now, the long promised Chicago review:

can it be that the movie musical is really making a comeback? First there was Everbody Says I Love You back in 1996. (Ok, it sucked, but in a fun way.) 2000 brought us Love's Labour's Lost (which I haven't seen). In 2001, Baz Luhrman wowwed us with Moulin Rouge. And now there is Chicago.

I went to the theater expecting to enjoy myself, and I was not disappointed. As many times as I have seen Fosse's A Chorus Line, I was unfamiliar with Chicago.

The casting was solid. I particularly loved Queen Latifah's turn as Matron 'Mama' Morton. I have never thought the term "ample bosom" so appropriate as when she sang "When You're Good to Mama". Even the cameos were fun.

The cinematography was very MTV, but in a positive way. It doesn't hurt the film. In fact, the flashy jumpcuts and sparkling color give it a vitality that the old Hollywood style of stationary, head-on shots (made necessary by the technical limitations of early filmaking) would have lacked. The fact that it covered any shortcomings in anyone's dance skills is also a plus. I'm sure that Richard Gere is not the tap-master that was Gene Kelly.

Also of note, the movie was directed by Rob Marshall, who was born in Madison. Local boy!

All in all, quite fun, and something I'd be tempted to see again.

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Finally saw Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this weekend. It took quite a while for me to see it, as life has been rather busy of late, but it was worth the wait.

Following the movie, I got into an interesting conversation with my companion on the game of quidditch. On the surface, it does seem that since the game ends when the snitch is caught, and the snitch is worth 150 points, the whole point of the game is to catch the snitch. After all, getting the quaffle throught the hoops only earns 10 points. However, given that there is no time limit for the game, points can certainly rack up. Catching the snitch may not mean much to a team that has been leading, but it can make the difference for a team that is trailing badly. Also, if I recall from the books, the overall point spread makes a difference for long term standing. Still I suppose, the snitch might have been a little more reasonable at, say, 50 points or so......

Good lord, am I really discussing the scoring of quidditch? At this hour?

Off to bed now.

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Spirited Away was amazing. I am considering going back to see it again tonight. I was everything I look for in an animated movie (for children) and so much of what Disney has been failing to provide in recent years: true magic, complexity, and beauty. It made me laugh, it made me wonder, and it made me sit up and take notice of everythig that was happening onscreen. It was an exciting film; one hair-raising moment on a stairway had me clinging to my chair in sympathy. At the same time, I left the movie feeling relaxed, as if I had been meditating.

It would do the movie a great disservice if I tried to sum up the plot. Comparisons to Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass are a little over used these days, but it would work. Really it fits in with a whole spectrum of movies with a "girl goes on quest to rescue lost/enchanted loved one(s), makes friends, influences people" motif. And I must say, I love a tale with a strong heroine at the center. Who says adventure and rescuing are for the boys?

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Bowling for Columbine was, to use a hugely over-used phrase, thought provoking. Some parts were funny, some were sad, some made me angry, and some made me uncomfortable. The mood swung back and forth from minute to minute.

Michael Moore raised more questions that he gave answers , but that is not surprising. The subject of violence in general, and gun violence in particular does not lend itself to pat answers tied up in neat little ribbons. The movie did an excellent job at raising questions, and Moore's earnest concern for those who are hurting propelled his quest for answers.

His deep empathy for the downtrodden, combined with an artful naivete puts him at odds with those in positions of power, be they movie-stars, politicians, or PR managers. I admire the childlike logic about the way the world should work; which sends him into KMarts headquarters to return the bullets lodged in a high school student's body; which send him door to door to see if people in Canada really don't lock their houses; which sends him after celebrities to hold them accountable for their actions. He wants people to play fair, just like we were taught in kindergarten.

Of course, he doesn't play fair, either. Over and over in the movie, we see him putting people on the spot, forcing them into no-win situations where they will either lose outrigth, or win, but look like an asshole. His editing skill with sound bites allows people's own words t play them the fool, leaving them hoist on their own petard. The emotions of the viewer (in this case, me) are made fresh and raw by clip after clip of real life violence. No matter how many times I see the second plane flying into the south tower, the pain of that moment does not lessen. Seeing the actual security and crime scene footage of the Columbine shooting was also unsettling. On the whole, the multiple clips of people shooting themselves and others began to feel like a snuff film. Real death and real pain made larger than life for our viewing pleasure. Even as Moore critiques our culture of violence and voyeurism, he feeds that same beast.

That aside, there were some startlingly good interviews (Marilyn Manson!) and many good points to ponder. I found it as a whole to be brash yet sensitive. I would like to see it again. Perhaps once more on the big screen, and then again as a recording, so that I can stop and jump around, fact check (I'd love to check on some of the stats) and examine some thoughts more thoughroughly.

I recommend this movie for the curious and the open minded, but warn that it is not for the faint of heart.

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I saw M. Night


I saw M. Night Shyamalan'sSigns yesterday. A very satisfying movie. (The website's kinda fun, too.) Similar in certain respects to The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable but not so much so as to predictable or stale. There was a strong tension throughout the movie that was only marred for me twice; once by an ill-cast cameo decision and once by an unconvincing news bulletin. (Fast breaking news doesn't generally look like a news magazine documentary.) While I don't think it will be up for awards the way Sixth Sense was, I do recommend checking out this movie.

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I just got done


I just got done watching the DVD of The Sixth Sense. Still very scary, even though I know when not to jump now. The DVD had some very nice bonus footage as well. I really appreciate it when work goes into making an all-around package with a DVD release, rather than just the movie. The deleted scenes and the "rules and clues" were especially fun. I may have to rewatch Unbreakable again this week, too.

I still haven't caught Signs but that will happen eventually. Summer is not so much a movie going time for me, when there is so much to do outside, that you can't do in winter. (Probably why they release so much crap in the summer.)

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I went to see


I went to see Goldmember today. It was amusing, though far short of the original. The dance numbers cracked me up, but I could have done without all of the scatalogical humor. Hell, I could have done without *any* of that. Beyonce Knowles did a good job with the character she was given. I wish they had made more use of Seth Green, but then again, you can *always* use more Seth Green

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Here is my Minority


Here is my Minority Report review:

Good, but not so good that I'd rave about it. (Granted, I saw it for free, and that always helps my opinion.) It had some good visual effects, and the plot had some good tension. There were a couple of stomach-turningly gross moments, including one involving ancient fridge leftovers that almost made me lose my sushi.

The acting was unremarkable, for the most part. I was pretty much drawn in by the visuals and the plot. I also realized most of the ending about 3/4 of the way in....which seems to have been a little earlier than they wanted you to get it.

It doesn't give away too much of the plot to mention that a big part of the movie hinges on the stopping crime before it happens vs. punishing people who haven't done anything yet question. (Which is due to become the big media "wag the dog" cliche of the summer, given our "Homeland Security" situation.) What I would like to know is why it never occurs to anyone to combine those two. Find out a murder is going to happen, stop it from happening, and let everyone go. Sure, maybe provide counseling, or charge them with disorderly conduct, or keep an eye on them in the future.....maybe probation or something. Sure, knowing that if you even think about murder will get you put away forever might be a deterent, but wouldn't knowing that you would never be allowed to go through with the act also be a deterent? (Granted, that would still leave the question of ethical treatment of precogs, but that's another story. Just a movie, after all.)

All in all I think you could see this movie at full price without shame. (There were also some great trailers before the feature.)

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Movie review time. The


Movie review time.

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

A much better book than a movie. The book was an excellent piece of literature. The movie was a mildy enjoyable chick-flick that I got to see for free. Not a movie for guys. Take your sister or your girlfriend or your mom. However, I don't quite recommend it as a full price thing, unless money isn't a big deal to you at all. Matinee, second-run budget cinema, or rental. No doubt you will be able to catch it on Lifetime in a year or so.

Panic Room

This movie, on the other hand, I would have seen for full price if I hadn't been so damn broke when it first came out. Very well done. The camera work was impressive, the acting was solid, and the plot was suspenseful and well paced. The time flew by while the movie played, and I had to remind myself to relax. A movie for either gender, though not for the squeamish.

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Followed up Key Largo


Followed up Key Largo with 12 Angry Men(the Sidney Lumet version, not the remake). It is such a compelling film, and should be required viewing for anyone in favor of the death penalty. It certainly throws a light on the ideas of reasonable doubt and the fallibility of the justice system.Besides the ethical issues, the dialogue, acting, and cinematography are superb.

After viewing the movie, I looked at several excellent commentaries on the film. They are worth a look if you have seen the movie. If you haven't seen the movie....well, you should.

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This town is a


This town is a carnival tonight.

I suppose it is the fact that spring is really and truly here. Maybe it is the warmth, maybe it is the pollen,doing funny things to our psyches. Maybe itis the fact that this town is relatively crazy even on a "normal"day. Who knows, but I am having fun.

I was downtown at the Richard Shindell concert. The show was great. Richard is one of those singer/songwriters that is a real storyteller, and he has something amusing to tell between each song. Long ago he was a seminary student, before he realized that he was an atheist, and therefore probably shouldn't be a minister. Nevertheless, many of his songs have a religious theme or feel, and his ancedotes are punctuated by occasional heavenward glances, as if to check on a different audience. There were two encores.

Leaving the show, I wandered out onto Library Mall, which was filled with colored lights. The UW Glass Department's outdoor neon and light exhibition was going in full swing. Pieces ranged from the lame to the amazing. I was mesmerized by a box on a podium containing a few tubes of neon that slowly changed colors. The box had a plexiglass window in the front, and all the other internal walls were mirrors, so the neon appeared to go on for etenity. I was also amused by a guy with a boombox and a huge box of kitchen matches. He would start a song on the boombox (always stadium rock), light a match, and holding it in the air screaming, "Queen! Yeah!" About five seconds of the song would play, then he would cue up a new song, light a new match, and start again."Deep Purple! Yeah!" There was an enormous pile of matches at his feet. There are people of all ages punking out to Irish rock at the student uinon (where I am blogging this now) and all up and down State Street, people in various stages of intoxication are singing and dancing to the street musicians that can usually be found busking there. One man plays flute, another steel guitar. A rather old, almost homeless looking man plays guitar for songs like "Margaritaville" and "Brown Eyed Girl", with the lyrics written in magic marker on large, laminated cards for drunken, happy sorority girls to wail. This isn't a holiday, it is just the town.

Times like this I can see why I haven't moved on yet.

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Review time. So far,


Review time. So far, the Film Festival has been a blast for me. I saw two features and a short last night.

13 Conversations About 1 Thing was excellent. The vignettes were woven together in such a way as to mask the actual chronology at first. Characers in one storyline have brief encounters with characters in other, but it isn't always revealed until the end as to what point in each tale the interaction occurs. There is a satisfying mix of humor and sadness to the writing, and the acting is very strong. This film was directed by Jill and Karen Sprecher, Madison natives who were also responsible for Clockwatchers, another favorite of mine. (Watch it with Office Space sometime.)

Pickup Polka was a comic short that screened with No Sleep till Madison. Basket ball and accordians, who'da thunk it? I laughed my butt off.

No Sleep till Madison was both funny and sad (though more of the funny, thank goodness). I got a kick out off all the local color, and it was an excellent commentary on obsession, growing up, friendship and nostalgia. Oh, and hockey. can't leave out the hockey.

Kandahar is playing at the Orpheum for at least the next week, so I might catch it after the festival. I am considering hitting the 5 PM showing of Promises. However, I am seeing Nerissa and Katryna Nields in concert tonight, so that limits my festival time today.I can see a bit more tomorrow, and then I am road tripping to Minneapolis for a wedding. It is a full weekend for me.

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