The 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival concludes today, not with a whimper but instead with the slap-slap-slap of the end of a movie banging against the projector.
The weather threatens some moisture, so don your rain gear. And don't forget to offer thanks to the volunteers who are ripping your tickets, selling you t-shirts and otherwise keeping lines moving. They've put in a lot of work this weekend so you can enjoy the movies.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Friday (8 pm) & Sunday (3:45 pm), April 1 & 3
A three-hour movie about a mass murderer in which nothing happens? You must be talking about the Romanian New Wave. I exaggerate. Stuff does happen in the fascinating Aurora, which was written and directed by Cristi Puiu, whose The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005) is a defining work in Romanian cinema's remarkable flowering. It's just that American moviegoers aren't used to seeing violent sociopaths portrayed this way. Viorel (Puiu) calmly drives around. He goes shopping. He squabbles with his stepfather. He talks with the neighbors about his home-improvement projects. Here and there, he kills people. Puiu creates lengthy, aching silences in which viewers can ruminate on what all this means. I found myself contemplating the traumas of the Ceausescu era. - Kenneth Burns
And Everything Is Going Fine
Monona Terrace, Saturday (5:30 pm) & Sunday (6 pm), April 2 & 3
A heartbreaking documentary about Spalding Gray's staggering genius, this is essentially his posthumous final monologue. Director Steven Soderbergh draws on archival footage and his own filmed conversations with Gray as his subject recounts - in that exquisite Rhode Island diction - the signature episodes of his life, from youth to theater, film, renown and tragic decline, stopping shy of his 2004 suicide. The resulting narrative displays Gray's astonishing ability to recover detailed memories and interpolate them into his monologues on the fly. I came away mourning his death anew, wishing Gray was still alive to organize chaos into monologue. - David Medaris
Wisconsin Union Theater, Sunday, April 3, 11:30 am
A documentary of surpassing beauty set in the high grasslands of eastern Tibet, Summer Pasture transports viewers to remote landscapes where nomads eke out hardscrabble lives - herding yaks amid tensions arising from a modern world encroaching on their isolated subsistence.
Summer Pasture focuses on a young family observing traditions in which everything - milking, churning butter, cooking, tending to the baby, drying yak dung for fuel, collecting water - involves a daily cycle of manual labor as relentless as the serene, verdant foothills where their livestock graze.
"No need to be rich like a king," contends the young patriarch. Yet an impressive hailstorm suggests how fragile this existence is, and a herd gone astray demonstrates how little margin there is to absorb catastrophe. If Summer Pasture feeds your romantic notions regarding nomadic life, it will also disabuse you of them, leaving you to mourn the destiny of simple beauties at risk. - David Medaris
Orpheum main theater, Sunday, April 3, 9 pm
What's that film where Paul Giamatti plays the loser who's unlikable but also, through some miracle of moviemaking, sympathetic? Oh, right, that's most of them, and the formula succeeds again in this enjoyable dramedy written and directed by Tom McCarthy. It's kinda-sorta a sports movie, but don't look for the cheap exaltation that's a cliché of the genre. Giamatti plays Mike, a struggling lawyer and high school wrestling coach who, in a desperate moment, defrauds an elderly man with dementia (Burt Young). It's a severe ethical lapse, and a less clever film wouldn't recover from it. But Win Win works, thanks to Giamatti and a great supporting cast that includes permanently forlorn Jeffery Tambor.
Mike takes in the old man's teenage grandson Kyle, played by first-time film actor Alex Shaffer. He's perfect in this portrayal of a kid who's dealing with a lot of hurt, and who's an improbably good wrestler. A highlight is Bobby Cannavale as Mike's best friend, whose enthusiasm for Kyle's prowess on the mat verges on inappropriate. This feels comically icky but true - some adults do get carried away when it comes to high school athletics. - Kenneth Burns
The Arbor - Wisconsin Union Theater, 3:45
- BBC review: In the footsteps of Rita, Sue and Bob
- Guardian UK review: This groundbreaking study of the life of troubled playwright Andrea Dunbar merges documentary and performance to mesmerizing effect
Boy Stage Door, 5:00
- New Zealand Herald review: Rating: 5/5. Verdict: Funny, heartbreaking, wonderful.
Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone Chazen Museum, 5:15
- Film Threat review
- PBS: POV Doc Soup: Q&A with the Directors
Flush the Fashion Q&A with Filmmakers
- Cinema Without Borders review
How I Ended This Summer Stage Door, 7:00
New York Times Critics' Pick review by Stephen Holden: Standoff in a Frigid Circle of Hell
- Salon review: A thriller from the Russian Arctic
Le Quattro Volte Stage Door, 11:00 A.M.
New York Times Critics' Pick review by A.O. Scott: Eternal Complexities of the Very Simple Life
Village Voice review by J. Hoberman: Celebrating the Cycle of Life
- Film Journal International review: the strength of this pantomime depicting the stages and states of life is its simple beauty.
Pianomania Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 11:30 A.M.
- Guardian UK review: fine documentary about Stefan Knupfer, not so much a piano tuner as a creative collaborator.
- Boston Globe review: The keys are his kingdom
Project Nim Chazen Museum, 7:00
Film Threat review: Is there anything cuter than a baby chimpanzee wearing clothes?
- Park City TV via youtube: In the Can interview with director James Marsh
- Reuters: Sundance review: chimp doc Project Nim
- Village Voice review: Man on Wire director's biography of a chimp and his human double
Summer Pasture Wisconsin Union Theater, 11:30 A.M.
Summer Wars Wisconsin Union Theater, 6:00
New York Times review: Young Math Wizard Stumbles Upon Oz, Deep in the Heart of the Internet
San Francisco Chronicle review: fun and quirky
Boston Globe review: Hosoda's fanciful film straddles two worlds
- Los Angeles Times review by Kevin Thomas: Oz on a virtual, menacing scale
Win Win Orpheum Main, 9:00 P.M.
New York Times Critics' Pick review by A.O. Scott: Riding the Wave of Life's Indignities
Rolling Stone review by Peter Travers
Los Angeles Times review by Kenneth Turan: hard to pin to the mat but pure pleasure to experience
- Boston Globe review: 'Win Win,' Giamatti come out on top
Winter Vacation Wisconsin Union Theater, 1:30
- Eye for Film review (four stars)