Thursday, September 30, 2010

#mff2 Part 1 - Opening Weekend

Last week I shared my anticipatory Milwaukee Film Festival schedule that included a - for me - quite strenuous run of films.

Well, it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind. More importantly, if you know me, then you know I'm a bit on the spontaneous side and not wont to follow a schedule too closely.

Therefore, I must now present to you my actual Milwaukee Film Festival schedule - as has happened thus far, and broken down into 3 parts for your reading pleasure. Here is Part 1 - Opening Weekend.

Blue Valentine
I'm not sure how I feel about this film. That I'm still trying to work it out should tell you something favorable. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling gave great performances - genuine, heartfelt, and all those other buzzword accolades you've likely been hearing.

But I'm just not sure how I feel about this film.

For one, I'm not sure that I ended up where I was supposed to. I heard two reactions from my non-random sampling of friends who saw the screening - either they were right there with the film to the very end, or they were like me and left convinced there's more to the story.

If the former is supposed to be the case, then I don't buy it and I think the plot is too simplistic and easy to be the gritty, honest, intimate portrayal of a relationship that it's been billed to be.

If the latter is the case, then I think it truly is a thought-provoking film - as evidenced by my continued musings, 6 days after the screening. If the end - rather than wrapping up the dual-timeline plot - is instead meant to leave us wondering, hoping, and drawing our own conclusions...then I think it truly is an honest view of falling in and out of love. Because that process is never ending, always evolving, and, ultimately, leaves you questioning.

Kids Shortz: Size Medium
They tell you when you sign up to volunteer with the film festival that you won't be able to see any films while you are actually volunteering. This is probably more true than not, but I was fortunate enough to be able to jump in the theater during a slow morning.

Not only is this the first year North Shore Cinema is screening, it is also the first year for the Children's Festival, which includes films, shorts, education, and activities.

My thoughts on the Size Medium (ages 7+) shorts:

Favorites: Story

Cherry on the Cake
This story of the plight of the middle child made me scrunch up my face, hold my breath, and try not to bawl like a baby. I'm no middle child, but the metaphor of poor little Cherry getting smaller and smaller as her family ignores her on her birthday is one that any of us can relate to.

Gerald's Last Day

It's clear why some of these shorts are meant for older children and not the toddler set. Poor, fat (but cuddly) Gerald has one more day to find an owner and doesn't seem to be having much luck. Personally, this short made me want to run to the humane society and adopt every animal on site. Don't worry, though, the end is a happy one.

Sooner or Later
This cute little film is about two formerly solitary animals - one nocturnal, one not - coming together when the world experiences a little hiccup and time gets a bit, er, rescheduled.

Favorites: Humor


Don't you just love it when they put 'em on YouTube?

Pigeon: Impossible

Yep, totally awesome.

Favorites: Art & Style

Breaking the Mould
Life through the eyes of an apple. Not what you'd normally think of as an enticing short film, but it is harvest season in Wisconsin, and I do love myself some cider.

View it here.

Life Leaf
This was my absolute favorite of the bunch. As the description says, "a little girl finds the whole world inside of a leaf." It's a great metaphor for our interconnected natural world. You can read environmentalism and conservation into it if you want. The Pacific Northwest aboriginal artwork is absolutely breathtaking.

You can read an interview with the award-winning animator and creator here.

FYI - If I could buy the soundtrack for each of these short films - or if they could be packaged together in one low, Milwaukee film festival price, then I would pay whatever you wanted me to...within reason, if I'm being honest.

Azur & Asmar
I heard this film was beautiful, but that just doesn't do it justice.

If they sold framed prints of the film's screenshots I'd buy them and decorate my house.

This film has won so many audience awards you know something's gotta be right. The documentary balances just the right amount of humanity with education and technical merit. It was filmed over three years, primarily in Gramacho Garden - the ironically named world's largest garbage dump, and even with the lowly setting still manages to be beautiful. It's as much a story of the individuals who work as recyclables pickers as it is of world-reknown artist, Vik Muniz, as he struggles with the documentarian's greatest dilemma - how to share the important stories of others without fundamentally changing their lives.

Ultimately, lives are changed - some for the better, some not. Above all, I think the greatest accomplishment of this film, is showing how much beauty can be found in what we perceive to be garbage.

It's films like this one that make me proud to live in a city with such a fantastic arts and culture community. The Milwaukee Film Festival is just one example of an organization giving us the means to change our perspectives and learn more about global issues through art.

I'll elaborate more on this in #mff2 Part 2, but I encourage you to get out to the cinema while there's still time and see some films you likely won't get the chance to see elsewhere. Challenge yourself - your tastes, your perspectives, what you thought you knew about the world.

Give these films a chance, but most of all, support the rich arts and culture community in Milwaukee.

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