Now that the first night of this year's Wisconsin Film Festival has come and gone, more than a few persons attending the annual celebration of cinema in Madison are sharing their experiences online.
Blogging about the first day of the festival follows below.
To begin with, members of The Daily Page Forum attending movies this weekend are sharing their reviews online:
- The screening of Chalk at the Wisconsin Union Theatre didn't meet expectations for one film-goer. The reviewer explains:
I felt the movie had it's really good moments that gave us a peak into the social environment of high school from an adult's perspective. What it lacked was inspiration to be it's own movie, to let the characters come into their own being, and to create any sort of antagonistic feelings to keep the viewer involved.
- The screening of Air Guitar Nation at the Orpheum Stage Door was another matter, however:
The video was very well done and didn't seem amateur. The documentary entertained as well as taught -- what exactly did I learn that I will use again? Just that there are events such as this that the average closet guitar hero has an outlet to express themselves in. Also a euphemism for all the average folk in the world can aspire to be somebody in something, someday!
- Then there was The District!, which screened late Thursday night in the Orpheum Main Theatre. 'What an exciting, energetic film," wrote one reviewer. "It was kind of a mash-up of City of God, The Cosby Kids, and a Ralph Bakshi film." He continued:
The adult oriented stuff was pretty heavy at first, until the children were introduced, then it got very whimsical. It was extremely fast paced, and where a different film may have lingered on a particular story element, this film left no time for such nonsense. I couldn't help but get mesmerized by the energy and pace.
- A review of Toots is very positive, along with the kudos for the festival volunteer staff at the Orpheum Stage Door. The reviewer writes:
In a way, Toots Shor sort of reminds me of Timothy Leary -- they both became famous (at least in part) because aspects of their personality interacted with specific developments going on in the culture around them in a complimentary way; if their careers had started ten or even five years in either direction I doubt they would have had anywhere near the same impact.
More reviews from the first night of the fest are also starting to get published online:
- Jeff Kuykendall attended screenings of two revivals on Thursday evening, subsequently reviewing each film. First up is the '70s Spanish classic The Spirit of the Beehive. He explains:
There isn't a frame of this film which isn't preoccupied with its central subject, and despite the film's deliberate pace, not a moment is wasted as it lures you into its world and brings you gradually to its brilliant final scene.
Kuykendall also has some thoughts about Road On, another '70s revival, this time from Great Britain. He writes:
You would expect a Wenders style given the subject matter -- a DJ sets off on a trip to Brighton after his brother is found there, dead in a bathtub -- but in fact he doesn't spend too much time on the road, and despite some tonal similarities to early Wenders (in particular The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick), it seemed to me that director Christopher Petit was after Antonioni instead. This is L'Eclisse or The Passenger for the bitter, disenfranchised British youths of the late 70's.
- John Benninghouse reviewed Killer of Sheep, which screened early Thursday evening at Cinematheque. "The film lacks a 3-act plot and is more akin to Italian neo-realism with it's slice-of-life story and use of non-actors," in its look at African-American family life in Los Angeles in the early '70s. Benninghouse shares the image the most memorable image from the film, one set in the workplace of the father working to keep his family going. He writes:
The shot that sticks with me is one in the slaughterhouse. Two Judas goats are in the foreground while a herd of sheep are in the back blissfully unaware of their collective fate. I found this is be a very potent picture and actually feared for Stan after seeing it.
- Erik Weiss reviewed a pair of films screening at the festival. Manufactured Landscapes "itself isn't very well made," he notes, "but the content is something everyone should see." Then there's The District!. "I always love watching movies from other countries, because it allows you to see cultural differences in a very interesting way," he writes of the animated satire. "First off, without an MPAA-like organization, apparently anything can be in a mainstream Hungarian film."
- Adam Schabow reviewed the two marquee opening night films on Dane101. He described Chalk as "a genuinely funny movie that had me reliving a year of high school without having to, thankfully, relive a year of high school." He had more mixed feelings about Heart of an Empire, though. "Now, even though the stories are truly inspiring, sweet and sometimes heartbreaking, the movie just isn't that good," he explains. "It's not well made, not that entertaining and in parts you even feel a bit manipulated in the process."
- Jason Dean also reviewed Chalk on Dane101, noting that the fake documentary "is very funny and kept the crowd laughing for close to 90 minutes."
- One of those Stormtroopers seen before the screening of Heart of an Empire concludes, "and I hope it gets out there and shows people that we aren't just a bunch of nerds who have no lives but people who can make a difference with these costumes."
There are also a number photo galleries from the festival environs appearing online:
- Angela Richardson published a photo gallery from opening night, which includes images of the Orpheum right before the storm hit, Stormtroopers making their way to the screening of Heart of an Empire, and festival co-founder James Kreul introducing Killer of Sheep at Cinematheque.
- A UW student spotted these Stormtroopers at nearly the same time, and published a photo essay about traveling with them across campus. She also watched Heart of an Empire, and had only good comments about it. "It was both tear-jerking and empowering (and...hillarious), and fun was had by all," the student concluded.
- Chris Norris published several photos on Dane101 of the scenes around the Orpheum prior to the screening of Manufactured Landscapes.