HERE WE GO: The 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival runs October 17-31. Roughly 300 films will screen at various Milwaukee-area theaters and venues. Oodles of panels, discussions, and concerts will take over even more Milwaukee-area theaters and venues. There will be chills. There will be thrills. There will be laughter. There will be tears. There will be a late-night 35mm screening of Showgirls.

And there will be so much more! Ahead of Thursday night’s kickoff, here are 11 reasons to get excited for MFF2019. (It’s the fest’s 11th year, you see.) Get your tickets NOW.

The Milwaukee Film Festival is always stuffed with challenging and timely films that hold a mirror to our increasingly fractured society and make us reflect on just what the hell is going on. But save that for the bulk of the 15-day fest, ‘cuz Opening Night is all about feel-good crowd-pleasers. Thursday night at the Oriental Theatre, things get off to a fun start with I Want My MTV, a documentary that “dives into the early days of a 1980s experiment that became a cultural touchstone, as well as its impact on the music and media industries.” Good City Brewing will once again host the subsequent Opening Night Party, which will boast food, drinks, DJs from 88Nine and WMSE, and live music from Browns Crew and Zed Kenzo.

The Oriental is the crown jewel of the film festival, but MFF2019 isn’t just an East Side thing. Avalon Theater and Times Cinema will return as participating theaters, as will the “pop-up” Jan Serr Studio Cinema in the Kenilworth building. Then there are the new additions: the Rivoli Theatre in Cedarburg (W62 N567 Washington Ave.) and the Broadway Theatre Center in Downtown Milwaukee (158 N. Broadway).

Since the dawn of time (a.k.a. 2014), Milwaukee Record has been the proud (and sole) sponsor of the Cinema Hooligante program. A place for all things weird, wacky, bloody, and bizarre, it’s our kind of program. And in 2019, it’s our kind of OH MY GOD THIS YEAR’S LINEUP IS ABSOLUTELY NUTS program. Stars Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise will be here for a screening of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Want a classic film like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds? You’ve got it. Want new films like Tim Heidecker’s Mister America and a documentary about the personal fallout from A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 called Scream, Queen!? Here you go. Want local films like Mark Borchardt’s legendary Coven (screening in 35mm!) and Tate Bunker’s new The Field? Done. Want live events, kid-friendly anime, adult-friendly anime, the latest from Takashi Miike, the return of shorts program “The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t,” and a 35mm screening of Showgirls? YES YOU DO.

Speaking of shorts, the festival’s shorts programs are always the best ways to get the most bang for your buck. There are sports shorts, sci-fi shorts, queer shorts, romantic shorts, kids shorts, trippy shorts, weird shorts, and just plain random shorts. Plus, we have it on good authority that there will be a locally produced short “about a girl starting a band with the ghost of Rocky Rococo.” Which leads us to…

It ain’t called the Milwaukee Film Festival for nothin’. MFF’s ever-popular Cream City Cinema program boasts four shorts programs (including the can’t-miss Milwaukee Music Video Show, the Milwaukee Show, and the new Milwaukee Show: After Dark), 10 features (including the fantastic Give Me Liberty and Frankie Latina’s new Black Licorice), and more. Pro tip: Get your tickets now, because these things sell out fast.

MFF and its programs have evolved over the years (this year’s fest once again 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 11 films and two shorts programs (Family Matters and Find Yourself). And the program will send MFF2019 off in style this year with the must-see Closing Night documentary, The Apollo.

What would a film festival be without live music? Every night at 9:30 p.m., some of Milwaukee’s best artists will set up shop at Hacienda Brewing Co. for the Film Festival Soundtrack series. The shows are free! Here’s the lineup:

October 18
Lex Allen + Rx Drugs

October 19
Klassik + Immortal Girlfriend

October 20
Retoro + Indonesian Junk, Mortgage Freeman

October 21
Nickel&Rose + Ms. Lotus Fankh

October 22
MKE Film Fest: Hip Hop ft. Cine Sin Fronteras

October 23
Devil Met Contention + Social Caterpillar

October 24
MKE Film Fest: Black Lens ft. Doc B

October 25
No No Yeah Okay + L’Resorts

October 26
IshDARR + Paper Holland

October 27
MKE Film Fest: Miles Davis Tribute ft. Lesser Lakes

October 28
Midnight Purchase + Brat Sounds

October 29
Luxi + Amanda Huff

October 30
Coyote Brother + Hughes Family Band

October 31
SeaSaw + Surgeons In Heat

Returning to the festival for the umpteenth 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.

A longtime MFF highlight is a screening of a silent film with live music accompaniment, and this year’s selection is a doozy. Carl Dreyer’s 1928 masterpiece The Passion Of Joan Of Arc will screen on the main screen of the Oriental, complete with a live score from composer George Sarah. If you’ve never seen this close-up-strewn classic, now’s your chance.

All throughout October, we’re bringing you Milwaukee Record LiveSCREAM Theater, a live-on-the-internet viewing party of classic public domain horror and sci-fi films. Want to join us in watching flicks like Night Of The Living Dead and Attack Of The Giant Leeches and comment/joke along as the films roll? Well, you missed those episodes, but you can catch tonight’s screening of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13, with special guests Mark Borchardt, Kara Mulrooney, Tate Bunker, and Tim Higgins (a.k.a. the cast and crew of The Field). Just tune in to the Milwaukee Record YouTube channel at 8 p.m. and join in the fun! Here’s the rest of the schedule:

Tuesday, October 15
DEMENTIA 13 (1963) w/ cast and crew of The Field (Tate Bunker, Kara Mulrooney, Tim Higgins, Mark Borchardt)

Tuesday, October 22
THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE (1962) w/ Mack Bates and Shea Frevele

Monday, October 28
KILLERS FROM SPACE (1954) w/ Rick Katschke and Rob Wieland

More than 300 of ’em! Dig in (and get your tickets) HERE.