Big screens, small screens, it doesn’t matter: The Milwaukee Film Festival is the best.

Okay, fine—big screens would be great, but that ain’t happening this year. Instead, the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival—which runs October 15-29—will be an all-virtual affair. Passes are on sale NOW ($140 through October 14; $160 starting October 15; $75 for Milwaukee Film members), while individual tickets go on sale October 15 ($8; $5 for Milwaukee Film members).

You can find the full 197-film lineup HERE. Want it in a printable PDF format? Click HERE. As for how to watch the films (what apps to use, time windows, etc.), please check out an incredibly handy guide HERE. Oh, and check out our nine reasons to get excited for the big fest below!

Milwaukee Record is once again proud to sponsor the Cinema Hooligante program—a.k.a. the midnight movie stuff, the trippy stuff, and the just plain weird stuff. What’s in store for 2020? How about “one of the more unorthodox sex scenes ever brought to the screen” (Jumbo), a “sci-fi critique of the gig economy” (Lapsis), and “a film with the hyperstylization of Guy Maddin, the hilarious subversion of John Waters, and the whimsy of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” (The Twentieth Century)? And don’t forget a 4K restoration of the 1981 animated freak-out Son Of The White Mare!

Who doesn’t love documentaries? No one we want to know. Documentaries abound throughout most MFF2020 categories, including the Centerpiece Selection Coming Clean (“…examines the opioid crisis from the inside, exploring the painful experiences of those in recovery and of policymakers working to undo the systems and industries that perpetuate—and even thrive off of—addiction”) and the Art & Artists feature The Capote Tapes (“…examines [Truman] Capote’s unfinished final novel, which caused a scandal when published excerpts exposed the secrets of a Manhattan social aristocracy that had adopted Capote as its own”). Then there’s the dedicated Documentary Festival Favorites category, which, well, is positively overflowing with timely and incredible-sounding films. Here’s one about dogs!

We Don’t Deserve Dogs
This heartwarming documentary asks why humans have earned the unconditional love that dogs give us. Filming companionships from around the globe, We Don’t Deserve Dogs is a portrait of the human connection to canines. This kaleidoscopic film moves from former child soldiers in Uganda, to a small-town pub in Scotland, to a dog walker in Istanbul. We Don’t Deserve Dogs is a beautifully photographed ode to man’s best friend—perfect for your dog’s first film festival experience.

They don’t call it the Milwaukee Film Festival for nothing. This year’s homegrown Cream City Cinema program is loaded with Milwaukee-focused documentaries (America’s Socialist Experiment and Real Soul: A Gospel Music Story), Milwaukee debut features (Kristin Peterson’s Ringolevio), and two—count ’em, two!—packages of the ever-popular “music-videos-and-shorts” Milwaukee Show. Is there a Fuzzysurf video involved? Of course there is!

Speaking of shorts, there are oodles of bite-sized films sprinkled throughout MFF2020. Programs like Black Lens, GenreQueer, and Rated K For Kids all have their own shorts, but there’s also the Shorter Is Better program. Themed packages like “Date Night,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” and “Let’s Get Animated” all make their returns this year, along with our perennial favorite: “The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t.” You don’t have to watch the latter at midnight, but come on.

This year’s Black Lens program features films about immigrants (Farewell Armor), drummmers (River City Drumbeat), and leaders of Chicago’s Black Lives Matter movement (Unapologetic). There’s also a little bit of Milwaukee, too. Here’s the synopsis for Tyshun Wardlaw’s Growing Up Milwaukee:

Growing Up Milwaukee
Tyshun Wardlaw’s feature documentary debut follows three young Black people growing up in the heart of our city as they grapple with daily experiences of racism and segregation, while fighting to avoid becoming a statistic. Stark yet hopeful, Wardlaw’s film is essential viewing for all of Milwaukee, to see through the eyes of these young folks and build empathy around their singular, yet all too familiar, experiences.

Will the stay-at-home nature of the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival put an end to the fest’s annual Stop Making Sense screening/dance party? No it will not. On Saturday, October 24, at 9 p.m., stream the official Greatest Concert Film Ever Made (that would be Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, featuring the Talking Heads) on one screen, and dial in to a virtual dance party on another. Fun! Oh, and if you see us online, ask us about the first time the festival screened Stop Making Sense and Dave Monroe (R.I.P.) got hilariously bent out of shape about people dancing in the aisles.

While this year’s fest may not be as star-studded as the time Samwise Gamgee and the guy who played Hank on Twin Peaks appeared in the same film (we kid!), it does some have some bright spots. Oh, hell, who are we kidding, the bright spots are terrific: Gillian Jacobs stars in the in Opening Night Film I Used To Go Here, and Aubrey Plaza stars in the American Independents selection Black Bear! Here are the synopses for both:

I Used To Go Here
Thirty-something Kate (Gillian Jacobs) has just published her first book. She should feel proud, but with all of her friends getting married and having kids, she feels like she’s missing out. Things look up when she gets invited to her alma mater by her favorite professor (Jemaine Clement) to talk about her success as a writer. But her trip isn’t quite the victory lap she imagines and hilarious hijinks ensue in this heartfelt crowd-pleaser from Kris Rey (Unexpected).

Black Bear
A filmmaker (the fantastic Aubrey Plaza) embarks on a rural retreat to recharge her creative batteries. In no time, she’s pulled into the host couple’s internecine drama. Things reach their boiling point, when suddenly everything we as the audience understand to be true is shaken up and tossed aside. Filled with hairpin twists and turns reminiscent of Mullholland Dr., Black Bear is the type of movie you’ll want to begin again the moment it ends.

We’re already two weeks into the glorious return of LiveSCREAM Theater—a.k.a. our “let’s watch old public domain horror movies on Facebook Live” series. If you missed out on The Last Man On Earth and A Bucket Of Blood, you still have two weeks to go: Join host Matt Wild on Friday, October 16, at 9 p.m. for the 1963 “Boris Karloff puttering around an old castle for 80 minutes” classic The Terror! Then join Matt again on Friday, October 23, at 9 p.m. for the 1962 creeper Carnival Of Souls! It’s all on the Milwaukee Record Facebook page! Sit back, make some jokes in the comments, and enjoy!

Let’s be honest: it’s hard to put a positive spin on not seeing films on the big screen and not enjoying all the events and concerts and parties that usually highlight the film festival. BUT, by staying at home and not breathing on people for two weeks, we’re all helping the 2021 Milwaukee Film Festival become an in-person reality. So stay at home! Make some popcorn! Mix one of those weird rum-and-Cokes-in-a-can that the Oriental sells! Watch some movies! See you soon!