Sun May 07 2023

Ugh, why does it have to be over already?? It’s been painful paging back through the festival guide and seeing all the titles I highlighted that I didn’t see. Luckily at least a couple of them (JOYLAND, HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE) are screening now as part of the best-of-fest program at the Oriental Theatre. Hopefully I can squeeze some of these in; although going out to the cinema so much the past two weeks made me feel rather hermit-ish, after only a couple days I’m longing to go back there. The Times, The Avalon, hell they even have nice seats in the balcony at the Oriental now! If there’s one way we’re spoiled in this town it’s this festival. It’s not necessarily pulling in landmark films or big names; it’s still about pure discovery, for the most part. Don’t do your research, just follow your instincts and enjoy the atmosphere. I only made it to 14 screenings this year (plus one advance screener) and only once felt duped by the description in the festival program, so that’s a major victory.

Going back to venues for a sec, I’m wondering if next year we’ll be down to just two theaters? I miss going to Downer and Fox-Bay, and the Rivoli was a nice change of pace back in 2019. I can’t deny that it was a little dismaying this year that we had a maximum of two opportunities to see any individual film. Also, it can be frustrating that the ‘Cinema Hooligante’ program, for instance, is entirely relegated to nighttime screenings, with showtimes often overlapping inconveniently. Perhaps we can chalk some of these issues up to a gradual recovery process following a pandemic; that makes sense. It’s a silly FOMO thing on my part I suppose, but I do hope that next year sees the addition of a venue or two and maybe some more variety in scheduling.

I’ll also continue to hope that they bring back the ‘Out Of This World’ shorts program! Because I love sci-fi! And while that genre seems to get less and less love from Milwaukee Film, at least they’ve quietly dropped the entire program devoted to food and cooking. The more I think about it, the more it did seem like a streamlined festival this year. They’ve all but done away with pre-feature shorts. Still no produced festival intro, although I never tired of watching Dwellephant’s characters go about their business! And another thing a friend of mine brought up: why don’t they put a LITTLE more focus on the competition aspect? This year the audience award was…it? Who won, by the way? Seems like they would post that information somewhere on the internet, I dunno.

Milwaukee Film certainly seems to keep easily achieving its fundraising goals. So let’s hope it’s not actually shrinking for some reason. That said, it’s funny to me that film is one area of creative culture where prestige still carries so much critical weight. While we’d all love the chance to see the best possible films in a beautiful theater, this festival’s commitment to local and fringe film and its overall diversity of programming is actually way more important. In the final analysis, I’d rather see something I won’t have another opportunity to see, than something that’ll be on amazon in two months anyway. And also, Madonna.

Here’s what I thought of the movies I saw this year. There were a couple subpar flicks but like I say every year, none of them worse than GLADIATOR.


I was able to screen this one at home prior to the fest and I hope you got to see it. Read all about it here:


This was the super secret midnight screening the first Saturday. Loved it! Now that all the DISCOURSE about the various Jokers has died down, we can all agree that this is the gold standard for Gotham City super(anti?)hero movies. The great thing about this one is there’s almost no shock value; it’s just a very human story masquerading as something more fantastical, its slapdash style allowing a host of visual artists to put their stamp on the film, strung together by director Vera Drew’s narration interludes. You will laugh a lot. If you can find a way to watch the movie. Major props to Milwaukee Film for bringing this one to town; I hadn’t heard of it before and it’s one of several from this year I’d gladly rewatch.


This was the other unannounced title screened at the fest, and it was really enjoyable as well. I wouldn’t say Glenn Howerton was a revelation; his character in this isn’t a far cry from his ALWAYS SUNNY character, only he tones down the ridiculousness and a completely believable human being emerges. When all is said and done you realize you probably shouldn’t have been so invested in what happens to these people, yet I was, and the final scene affected me way more than I ever would’ve guessed. It’s the laughs that carry it, though, and there are plenty of those to go ‘round. Bravo on both surprise movies this year!


A riveting mystery that keeps you so involved in the story and the lives of all its characters that by the time you get to the final revelatory scene you already feel so satisfied that it’s almost an afterthought. Sakura Andō’s performance might’ve been the best I saw at this festival; she had me welling up with tears early and often and had my brain doing gymnastics trying to even fathom the conflicting emotions her character is experiencing, only to arrive at the same simple conclusion as she does when her story arc comes to a close. But I’m still pondering certain scenes, certain images, so much that I know I’ll have to watch this one again and try to pick up on some of the details of the puzzle that still elude me.


“We Forgot About The Zombies” was a perfect start, and “Pennies From Heaven” was hilarious and engrossing even though I still have no idea what the point of it was. After that the persistent lack of story cumulatively got to me. “You’ve Never Been Completely Honest” was interesting and a little disturbing, and “A Folded Ocean” was really the only visual gross-out of the program, surprisingly, and effective as such. I think “Pipes” was the most entertaining one for me, a simplistic black-and-white animated bit about a bear who’s…yep, a plumber. None of the other titles did much for me. There were no complete stinkers but when I think about some of the zany and/or nasty shorts that have been featured in years past (can I mention “Gwilliam” again? I’m mentioning “Gwilliam” again), this bunch seemed a little tame.


I’ll just say this could’ve been marketed as a loving tribute to various people that director Sam Green has known in his life, and then it wouldn’t have been such a letdown. However it was not an immersive sonic experience, even when Green gently asked us to close our eyes. I’ve read that prior screenings of the film had audiences wearing headphones, which I gather is a more appropriate way to experience it, but I doubt it would’ve won me over either way. Green’s delivery and presentation made me feel like I was back in fourth grade watching a film strip, which just isn’t how I personally want to be treated. Yes I know what a whoopee cushion is. Yes I’m familiar with John Cage. Snore.


Truth: when this movie came out I was pretty obsessed with Madonna. She was the only rock-star crush I can recall prior to Liz Phair’s arrival on the scene, and 1990-91 was probably the peak of the obsession. When she was on “Wayne’s World” and Mike Myers said “I dare you…to make out with me” I remember the whole world going into slow motion. And then Dana Carvey dancing in the “Justify My Love” parody with a gourd in his underpants or something. It was the greatest SNL sketch I’d ever seen. When I discovered TRUTH OR DARE was on the Film Fest schedule I thought to myself ‘…have I even seen this movie?’ As it turns out I had not, which boggles my mind, but looking back I guess there was only a brief window there between the movie coming out and me getting into punk rock and almost instantly forsaking anything resembling dancepop for several years. Plus I can’t express how much I hated that DICK TRACY movie; am I correct in remembering that that sucked? Anyway, offering this as the “dance party” replacement for the annual REMAIN IN LIGHT screening…were they thinking this was the BLOND AMBITION tour movie? Because TRUTH OR DARE isn’t really a concert film, and opportunities to dance are kinda few and far between. That said, I think the movie has really stood the test of time and watching it in the theater was a great time despite the extremely polite, quiet audience, and I think I’ve been fully vindicated now in thinking that Warren Beatty has always been a complete tool. Now, if they want to ACTUALLY have a dance party up in that bitch to rival Talking Heads, the obvious choice would be Beyoncé’s HOMECOMING. For future reference.


I ran into a buddy after this screening who felt they could’ve cut 20 or 30 minutes and made a better movie, to which I replied that I could’ve sat there for another four hours and watched as people lavished praise on Ennio Morricone. I learned a ton about him as a person and as an artist, and everything I learned made me love him more. Choosing what to edit out had to be the only difficult part of making the film. Every fan of music and/or movies should watch it.


Still wrestling with this one a bit. I respect it as a zoomed-out commentary on the perils of imperialism and the folly of religion, but my impression while watching it was that Hlynur Pálmason did want to tell a tale about humans. Only I have trouble with the notion that humans in the 19th century hadn’t yet invented empathy. Pálmason sets a tone of harsh cruelty early on and doesn’t let up, making for a miserable viewing experience. No thread of relatability to connect to a single character in this film; to say it’s heavy-handed would be a gross understatement. It is visually gorgeous, a triumph from a technical perspective. A pity that such a beautiful world is so devoid of heart—I get that this is a crucial theme. It really dilutes the point(s) you’re trying to make, though, when every character involved is horrid. The most interesting theme for me had to do with the ‘civilized’ need to document everything photographically; given the lie at the very beginning of the film about how it was inspired by (nonexistent) unearthed tintype photos, I have to assume it’s one of Pálmason’s main foci; are we then supposed to laugh at all of the breathtaking landscapes, the minute period details, the bright colors of the animal carcasses? Self-awareness as exculpation? I credit the film for making me think a lot in its aftermath. And for NOT killing the dog. And for at least avoiding the ‘noble savage’ trope. Ain’t modern life grand? I think I’ll go look for a nice industrial complex or office park and take lots of pictures with my smartphone.


I thought the premise had a lot of potential but in the end there was no story. Director Andrés Ramírez Pulido barely scratches the surface of these characters’ lives, rendering them one-dimensional. You see this a lot in gritty dramas featuring juvenile actors; it’s as if Pulido threatened to whip them if they ever changed their facial expressions. And I realize you have to harden yourself to even get by inside any kind of criminal justice system, especially when you’re coming from a place of abuse; however all of these kids seemed to know everything about each other’s history already, so a tiny thread of interpersonal connection here and there really could’ve helped. There was barely any palpable threat of violence or harm at any point, so why not let us get inside the heads of these characters just a little? Sure, it’s obvious who we’re supposed to be rooting for, but we never find out why.


So…capitalism = bad? Hard agree! I think I was unable to put myself in the position of needing to receive the messages of this film; it all struck me as self-evident, which is not the fault of these filmmakers. I was not their intended audience. I just wanted to know more about the achoque.


Dang it! I should’ve gone to this last Friday instead of The Best Damn F*#@ing Shit ‘cause it was way sold out for the second screening on Tuesday so I didn’t get to see it. This was the only movie I wanted to see and didn’t get into, suggesting that PERHAPS my earlier plea for more venues comes from a place of…not understanding supply and demand and the organizers are actually doing a pretty darn good job hahaha?


Highly recommended for dudes who have a lot of thinking to do about their relationships with their fathers or with close dude friends or about how they define themselves in their current mode of dudeness. There are women who pop in briefly from time to time but the movie is mainly a couple of dudes and lots of mountains, and given the author of the source novel, Paolo Cognetti, is a dude approximately my age, I reckon he has dealt with a lot of the same existential quandaries as I have, so I absolutely loved this movie.


I really enjoyed this one but not as much as I wanted to. The whole premise is absolutely ludicrous and you start poking holes in it as soon as the endeavor begins. The filmmakers obviously knew this, and kudos to them for going ahead and making the film anyway! It’s just that the movies I dreamed up in my head as I watched it were way more outrageous and interesting than the rather deadpan comedy that this amounted to. There were emotional and tense parts; I’m not suggesting it’s boring! I actually like thinking of it as an allegory for AI and the endless string of random complications that it will never be able to compensate for. I hope eventually we all have the revelation that VIKING’s main character has, that we CAN simply choose to extricate ourselves from the silly melodrama technology has lured us into, and we’ll be okay again. Let’s actually all do that right now.


This is another one I haven’t stopped thinking about since watching it. The second-to-last scene felt like having a rug pulled out from under me, because I felt I’d been set up for something different, something more definite or more explosive. The sense of suspense throughout the film is so dynamic, I’m not accustomed to being scooped up and deposited back into something resembling mundane life like that. Manuela Martelli in her directorial debut has made a film that keeps you so keyed up as a viewer you’re constantly looking forward, so I suppose it’s only natural that it took me another two hours of winding down for the fullness of the story to dawn on me. The transformation that Aline Küppenheim’s character undergoes is so subtle that when I’d finally reached back in my memory to the first scene of the film I could hardly believe it was supposed to be the same person. Now I realize that CHILE ‘76 put me through her life in a powerfully direct sense; it’s just that she made sense of it more quickly than I did. And then we both had to go back to real life, somehow. The more I think about it, this was my favorite movie of the festival.


Back in the napster era my roommate at the time (erstwhile you-phoria contributor Swatty) and I downloaded the hallowed/maligned thing known as the STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL. It was just about the dumbest half hour my eyes ever spent staring at a computer. Little did we realize, this was only a truncated portion of the full two-hour special, which when it originally aired in 1978, did NOT feature any subtitles during the lengthy stretches featuring a family of wookiees just moaning and groaning at each other. Some fan had ‘judiciously’ edited the thing and added their own made-up translations?? I learned this and much more at this closing-night screening. What’s that? You thought I hated STAR WARS? Well that’s true, I do hate STAR WARS. At first I just hated the Disney corporation for buying it, but since then I’ve grown to hate the whole universe of it. And watching this, I realized that I have even more reason to hate STAR WARS, because it was an industry-changing marketing odyssey before it was a movie, and I hate the way it brainwashed my generation. I hate how much I loved it for most of my life and I’m really happy to be mostly free of it. However they can’t take the HOLIDAY SPECIAL away from me. And now I’m really looking forward to watching the actual full version, not to mention the Donnie & Marie STAR WARS special that I had never even heard of until seeing A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE. Kris Kristofferson as Han Solo??? After all, even before I started hating SW, I always loved anything that made SW look stupid and ridiculous. (HARDWARE WARS, never forget!) And I loved that this documentary didn’t dwell on behind-the-scenes movie-star dirt; it was really about the folks who were living through bizarre times (i.e. 1970s television in general) and trying to make something worthwhile out of the dumbest idea ever. In 100 years people might even acknowledge that the HOLIDAY SPECIAL is in fact the greatest of all the SW movies

Cal Roach

Cal Roach is a word whore currently being pimped sporadically by Milwaukee Record and the Journal Sentinel, and giving it away for nothing right here at He also co-hosts the Local/Live program on 91.7 WMSE FM every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and spouts nonsense on twitter as @roachcraft.

  • All content © Copyright 2006-2018, Cal Roach. Do not reuse or repurpose without permission.