Here we go again: From Thursday, October 18 through Thursday, November 1, the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival will transform this old black-and-white town into a glowing Technicolor dream. (Not that there’s anything wrong with black and white films, of course.) More than 300 films will light up the screens of the Oriental Theatre, Avalon Theater, Times Cinema, Fox-Bay Cinema Grill, and the new Jan Serr Studio Cinema (located inside the Kenilworth Building). Dozens of filmmakers and special guests will hobnob with the hobnobbers. Oodles of events will keep the city in a tizzy. We’ll host a horror-movie-themed axe-throwing party at AXE MKE. You’re welcome.
Need more reasons to get excited for the 10th annual fest? Grab some popcorn and/or Sour Patch Kids (oh, and your tickets) and settle in…
Opening night film and party
There are plenty of challenging films spread throughout MFF2018’s schedule, but the opening night film, Science Fair, is an unabashed crowd-pleaser. Directors Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster (the former a Milwaukee native) follow nine students as they compete for the top prize in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Think this science fair is all baking soda volcanos and Max Fischer tidal waves? Think again. Milwaukee Film calls it “Spellbound for the STEM set.”
After the film, hustle over from the Oriental to Good City Brewing for the opening night party. WMSE and 88Nine DJs will spin, drinks will flow, food will be had, and Rio Turbo and B~Free will play in the tent out back. And so it begins.
Long the home of all things bloody, raunchy, and gleefully offensive, the Milwaukee Record-sponsored Cinema Hooligante program has grown up in recent years. Okay, there are still “veritable menageries of malevolent thrills” (The Devil’s Doorway) and “experimental fever dreams that rip through your cerebral cortex like a load of buckshot” (Let The Corpses Tan), but there are also feminist spins on bloody revenge thrillers (Revenge) and a 30th anniversary screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Why is Roger Rabbit included in the horror-happy Hooligante program, you ask? Perhaps you’ve forgotten about this scene:
It ain’t called the Milwaukee Film Festival for nothin’. MFF’s ever-popular Cream City Cinema program once again boasts four shorts programs (including the can’t-miss Milwaukee Music Video Show), six features (including a doc on the venerable Riverwest Film & Video), and oodles of pre-feature shorts. Pro tip: Get your tickets now to the two Milwaukee Show short film programs (featuring works from Andrew Swant, Jenny Plevin, Wes Tank, and many more), ’cause those things sell out quick.
MFF and its programs have evolved over the years (this year’s fest includes a program solely for teens, by the way), but few programs have grown as dramatically as Black Lens. Dedicated to spotlighting films by established and emerging black filmmakers, Black Lens is practically a festival unto itself; this year’s program includes eight films and two shorts programs. And the filmmaking world at large has taken note: Black Lens was recently awarded $7,500 (for the second time) from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as part of its FilmWatch grant, and it was also awarded $10,000 from HBO.
If you’re looking for films directed by women, the Milwaukee Film Festival is for you. Nearly half of the films screening at this year’s fest—46.71%, to be exact—are directed by women. That’s a 19% jump from last year alone, and part of a concerted effort by Milwaukee Film. Plus, the inaugural Women In Film Audience Award will give a cool $2,500 to the top-rated feature film directed or co-directed by a woman.
Stop Making Sense (again!)
Returning to the festival for the sixth year in a row is Stop Making Sense, Jonathan Demme’s untouchable, unstoppable, and unbelievable document of a 1984 Talking Heads show. Oh, but it’s not your normal MFF screening: In honor of the film’s long Friday-night run at the Oriental in the mid-to-late ’80s, Milwaukee Film encourages the audience to applaud, cheer, and dance, dance, dance! throughout the 90-minute musical masterpiece. Bring your best giant suit (and/or boombox with a tape you want to play) and prepare to burn down the house.
So You Signed Up For An Axe Murderer-Themed Party At AXE MKE
What do you get when you combine the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival, the East Side’s hottest axe-throwing bar, and the city’s foremost authority on cheesy horror movies featuring axe murderers? Axes! Zombie targets! Horror movies! More surprises! Join Milwaukee Record at AXE MKE for a night of chills, thrills, and, well, axe-throwing. Did we mention the zombie targets? Oh, and feel free to dress up as your favorite horror movie character…just as long as that character doesn’t wear open-toed shoes, because open-toed shoes aren’t allowed at AXE MKE. Tickets are $10, which gets you some axe-throwing time and some beer. Get ’em now.
A Page Of Madness, with live accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra
A longtime MFF highlight is a screening of a silent film with live music accompaniment—usually courtesy of the Alloy Orchestra. This year the Orchestra returns for an especially unnerving gig: providing music to the 1926 silent Japanese film A Page Of Madness, which is set in an insane asylum “where the janitor finds the line between reality and his nightmares blurring.” Fun! Thought lost for decades, the film makes its way to the Oriental for this can’t-miss event.
Shorter Is Better
Looking to get the most bang out of your film fest buck? Then go all in with MFF’s always-entertaining shorts programs. The Shorter Is Better program is separated into themes like “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Let’s Get Animated,” and “Out Of This World” (and don’t forget “The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t.”), while Cream City Cinema, Rated K: For Kids, and Black Lens have their own shorts collections, too.
Movies! Movies! Movies!
More than 300 of ’em! Here are just a few not mentioned above that we’re looking forward to seeing: Wild Nights With Emily (starring Molly Shannon), Pet Names (directed by MFF alum Carol Brandt), General Magic, Borg vs. McEnroe (starring Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe), Five Fingers For Marseilles, and Spoor (a “Polish Twin Peaks”). Get your tickets now.