From April 20 through May 4, the 2023 Milwaukee Film Festival will screen 135 feature films and 148 short films at the Oriental Theatre, the Avalon Theater, and Times Cinema. Using the magic of a Milwaukee Record Sponsor Pass (Cinema Hooligante 4ever!), I plan on seeing 40 features, checking out four shorts programs, and attending two parties.

Will I actually pull that off? Probably not. But here’s my wildly ambitious, never-gonna-happen-but-I’ll-die-trying MFF2023 itinerary anyway!

Some notes: I live near the Oriental Theatre, thus the heavy focus on Oriental Theatre screenings. (I love you, Times Cinema!) All of the shorts and some of the features will be available virtually from May 1-7, so I’ll probably catch some additional stuff at home. (Virtual screenings will only be available to All-Access Festival Pass holders.) I had to make some brutal cuts to make this itinerary work, and I didn’t even factor in A.) work responsibilities, B.) family responsibilities, C.) other events and shows happening in the next two weeks, and D.) my sanity. But, like I said, I’m going to give it a shot.

Oh, and I’ll update this article with the stuff I actually get to, and maybe include brief reviews, too. Cool? Cool! See you at the movies!


Opening Night Film: Mom & Dad’s Nipple Factory – SAW IT
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 6:30 p.m.
A sweet, extended home movie about an unassuming Eau Claire couple who create prosthetic nipples for women who have gone through breast cancer/reconstruction. Compelling when it focuses on mom, dad, and their nipple factory, less compelling when it focuses on the filmmaker/son (“I’ve been making movies since I was a kid…”) and his siblings.

Opening Night Party – WENT TO IT
Historic Pritzlaff Building, 8:30 p.m.
Great food! Great drinks! Great set (and dad jokes) from Immortal Girlfriend!


Join Or Die – SAW IT
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 1 p.m.
A persuasive and galvanizing documentary about the importance of joining clubs, groups, and associations. Covers the life and work of famed political scientist Robert D. Putnam, whose 2000 book Bowling Alone detailed the decline of civic and social engagement in America. Smartly addresses questions and concerns about Putman’s arguments seemingly the instant they occur to you. Discussions of modern social media and the pandemic are perhaps too brief, but it’s impossible to walk away from this film without feeling inspired. RECOMMENDED

The Elephant 6 Recording Co. – MISSED IT
Avalon Theater, 3:30 p.m.

Piaffe – SAW IT
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 9:30 p.m.
A hypnotic and erotic journey into ASMR foley work, equine transformation, and plant fetishization. Gorgeous both visually and aurally. Shot on 16mm! A queer sexual awakening that’s part Lynch, part Cronenberg, part One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and part Berberian Sound Studio. Absolutely fantastic. RECOMMENDED

Shorts: The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Shit. – SAW IT
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, midnight
Shorts programs can (and should?) be mixed bags, but wow, this year’s collection of Midnight Shorts is super strong! Some really fun horror comedies (We Forgot About The Zombies, Guts, Live Forever), a disturbing non-fiction documentary (You’ve Never Been Completely Honest), and a sexy body horror nightmare (A Folded Ocean) are just a few of the highlights. Oh, and the hilariously absurd Pennies From Heaven is a highlight among highlights! RECOMMENDED


Squaring The Circle (The Story Of Hipgnosis) – MISSED IT
Avalon Theater, 3:30 p.m.

Karen Carpenter: Starving For Perfection – MISSED IT
Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema, 7 p.m.

The ‘Vous – SAW IT
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 9:30 p.m.
A fantastic documentary on legendary Memphis BBQ joint The Rendezvous. The shots of the restaurant’s ribs are hunger-inducing, but the film is more about the many families that populate the long-running spot. Greek-owned and Black-run, The Rendezvous is home to both multi-generational blood families (the Vergos family) and multi-decade work families (the famed Rendezvous waiters, some of whom have worked there for 50 years). No cutesy animation and overbearing filmmaker-narrators here (both the scourge of so many modern-day docs)—just an intimate-access celebration of a Memphis institution and the people who love it. RECOMMENDED

Ultra Secret Midnight Screening – SAW IT
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, midnight
Can I say what this was? I think I can. It was The People’s Joker! The film has been attracting some notoriety on the festival circuit, not because of its subject matter—a queer/trans coming-of-age story that uses Batman villain the Joker as its avatar—but because it uses the Joker, period. But look past the cease-and-desist orders from Warner Brothers and you’ll find a deeply personal film that’s hilarious and pointed one minute (it has a real bone to pick with the world of stand-up comedy, as well as Lorne Michaels), and tragic and heart-wrenching the next (the main character’s evolving relationship with her mother is especially touching). The film’s mid-’00s Adult Swim/Tim And Eric aesthetic can be a bit much (Tim Heidecker makes a brief appearance), but its clever use of the Joker to speak to trans issues is wonderfully effective. RECOMMENDED


La Jauría – MISSED IT
Avalon Theater, 3:15 p.m.

Godland – SAW IT
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, 6:45 p.m.
Can a character suffer a crisis of faith if they were never all that faithful to begin with? Find out in this wonderfully slow, meditative, and moody film that follows a 19th-century Danish priest sent to a remote region of Iceland to build a church. The landscapes are utterly gorgeous, the 4:3 aspect ratio is perfect, and the There Will Be Blood-esque feud that emerges between two characters is harrowing. Prepare for a long journey. RECOMMENDED

The Warm Season – MISSED IT
Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema, 10 p.m.


Love, Charlie: The Rise And Fall Of Chef Charlie Trotter – MISSED IT
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, noon

The Milwaukee Show I – MISSED IT
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 6:15 p.m.

How To Blow Up A Pipeline – SAW IT
Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema, 9:30 p.m.
Strip away the eco-terrorist angle and the eco-minded politics (pipeline = BAD), and you’re left with a wickedly entertaining and incredibly tense heist flick. And that’s good! Fans of movies where characters assemble a team, plot a job, and then attempt to pull off that job will love How To Blow Up A Pipeline. Highlights include solid work from all the actors, and a flashback structure that sheds light on current action and leaves room for a twist or two. RECOMMENDED


Shorts: Stories We Tell – MISSED IT
Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema, 1 p.m.

A Common Sequence
Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema, 6:15 p.m.

Give Me Pity!
Avalon Theater, 9 p.m.


The Punishment
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, 12:30 p.m.

Finding Satoshi
Avalon Theater, 9:30 p.m.


Shorts: Stranger Than Fiction
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, 1:15 p.m.

Metropolis feat. Anvil Orchestra
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 7:30 p.m.


32 Sounds
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, noon

A Man
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, 2:45 p.m.

Milwaukee Record Presents: HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS pre-premiere Beaver Bash!
Von Trier, 6:30 p.m.

Hundreds Of Beavers
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 9:30 p.m.


DOUBLE FEATURE: We Live In Public & The New Americans: Gaming A Revolution
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, noon

Casa Susanna
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, 7:15 p.m.

Madonna: Truth Or Dare
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema

Unicorn Wars
Oriental Theatre: Herzefeld Cinema, 11 p.m.


Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 10 a.m.

Avalon Theater, 12:15 p.m.

Last Flight Home
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 5 p.m.


All Man: The International Male Story
Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema, 1:30 p.m.

And The King Said, What A Fantastic Machine
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 3:30 p.m.

Cinebuds LIVE: Enter The Dragon
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 7:30 p.m.

Beyond Human Nature
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, 9:15 p.m.


1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture
Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema, 1 p.m.

Hung Up On A Dream
Avalon Theater, 6:30 p.m.

Smoking Causes Coughing
Times Cinema, 8:45 p.m.


Avalon Theater, 4:15 p.m.

Time Bomb Y2K
Times Cinema, 9:15 p.m.


Little Richard: I Am Everything
Avalon Theater, 1:30 p.m.

The Grab
Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema, 4:30 p.m.

Closing Night Film: A Disturbance In The Force
Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema, 7:15 p.m.

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