An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Posts tagged “film

Causes That Can’t Wait, Kony 2012


Jason Russel is an activist that has taken film and narrative to new heights to raise awareness of a long hidden conflict in central Uganda. The West has seen glimpses of social, political and economic violent crimes prevalent in the African continent through Hollywood dramatizations like Blood Diamond and documentaries like Ghosts of Rwanda, but what started out as Russel’s campaign against injustice and violence has become the global communities’ campaign.

The Kony 2012 movement wants the world to know Joseph Kony. For twenty years, he remained largely nameless, just a blurb on on the back pages of mainstream media. During that time he has tortured, maimed and killed thousands of his own people. In your own way you can participate in the effort to stop more lives from being hurt. Follow the link to find out how to help Russel spread the word about what’s happened to the families and children of central Uganda and what’s bound to happen to more without intervention.

Last Reel, Times Cinema

A buzz always hits the entertainment world around this time of year, the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science rolls out the Red Carpet for the A-listers to shimmer, pop culture mavens to swoon, and buffs to admire from afar. This year a solemn hum vibrates the Milwaukee art news, as the Times Cinema, an independent cinema that made a tradition out of bringing a piece of Oscar magic to the area, prepares to transition into a new phase of its movie house life span.

The Times, and its sister cinema the Rosebud, continue their tradition of screening Academy nominated films in the weeks leading up to Oscar night. Tonight, as in years past, you can also watch the Academy Awards on the big screen at the Rosebud Cinema, possibly for the last time ever.

The Times will screen the Oscar nominated Animated Short Films at 4:30p today as well. Local Trolley checked them out yesterday and they were surprisingly gripping and thoughtful with short features that deviated from the Pixar-style films, and some that were equally entertaining done in the modern vein.

The Short of It

Wild Life in particular stands-out among the nominees, produced by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby. For some reason Canadians have an amazing knack for adult oriented cartoons. The short story is told by a simplistic almost Impressionist form of animated illustration that strings together several accounts from towns people of an well to do Englishman settling in Canada for a chic cowboy adventure, set in contrast to the narration provided through the Englishman’s letters home. The Englishman’s life is subtly mirrored by a parable of the mysterious celestial Comet, and by the end of the short, likewise demystified.

The other Animated Short nominees the Times will show in about thirty minutes from now are Dimanche/Sunday, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, La Luna, and A Morning Stroll.

The Times Cinema is located on 59th and Vliet, and the Rosebud Theatre is located on 68th and North Avenue.

Frankie Latina, Modus Operandi

Not many Milwaukee-based film efforts have maneuvered to that corner seat at the bar ready to be dubbed instant cult-classic, the way Frankie Latina slid his production Modus Operandi on to the screen in 2009. Although for many different reasons, pretty much the only other film (documentary) of like birthplace I can think of doing this was American Movie (1999 according to IMBD, but I’m certain it was out before that locally). Just so happened that Frankie actually cast Riverwest’s Emperor Mark Borchardt in Modus Operandi and landed perpetual film villain Danny Trejo as well.

This past weekend, Frankie Latina hosted a one night only gallery showing of Modus Operandi inspired art including the master painting of the movie poster and portions of his photo journal from travels in South America. Intentionally a crude mock up of the simplistic grind-house action genre invented by Russ Meyers in the 1960’s perfected in the 1970’s, until Motus Operandi the genre in it’s purest form had been mostly lost to the world.

Dare I say some self-indulgently nibbled on it, namely and most infamously a winy movie-store clerk turned cult-puba named Quentin Tarantino with Pulp Fiction and more explicitly in Jackie Brown. On the other side of the hive-five, when Frankie went back in time to revive his version, he skipped the nylon era of the 1980’s, and dressed his piece in torn fishnets, trashy and hot, unapologetically and exceedingly melodramatic.

Rumor had it that Frankie nearly scored Pam Grier to co-star another flick called Skinny Dip that was in the works this past summer. Hopefully, Frankie will muster another effort on par with Modus Operandi in the future, even if not, if nothing else it was surely a wonder.

Oriental Theater, Almodovar, The Skin I Live In

At the Oriental Theater on Farwell Avenue, filmmaker Pedro Almodovar took refuge in his versatility to deliver a vexing psychological thriller with recently released The Skin I Live In. Taking Antonio Banderas out of his cartoonish American film typecast, Almodovar spins a convoluted tale oriented around the tightly wound life of renown surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard (Banderas).

Tinkering with biogenesis  Dr. Ledgard begins receiving attention from the Spanish scientific community for breakthroughs in medicine that enhance human genetics, even in mature adults. From the surface, Ledgard hides his source of passion for his research. The veil of scientific integrity, and an impeccable BMW and severely opulent mansion, make Ledgard appear to be another detached brainiac savant enjoying his intellectual superiority by methodically solving the the world’s problems in his spare time as a favor to humanity.

As the complete picture of Legard’s life unfolds, circumstances of several traumatic life events erode the illusion of Legard’s power and control over his own life, and his altruistic calling. Quietly, fanatical emotion sweeps Legard to a line drawn in the sand by reason, and it’s hard to tell whether he knows he’s standing on the beach. A wife, a daughter, a childhood nanny and a female house-guest of considerable mystery ensure that Legard never knows where he stands, no matter how hard he tries to dictate his own footsteps.

Spanning the Spectrum

Stylistically, Almodovar accents the screenplay with ample allusion, literary parallels, and foreshadowing with his cinematography alone. As the characters’ M.O.’s collide, Almodovar also calls to question our sense of morality, as several difficult themes including sexual abuse, chauvinism, marital fidelity and retribution gird and create tension in the script’s plot.

The Skin I Live In touches on golden age horror and film noir genres, quickly going from believable to I-can’t-believe-I-just-saw-that absurdity that makes fun of itself with a straight face. The non-chronological storyline adds further intrigue to the film’s characters.

The Verdict

Receiving mixed reviews from the film world, this film does two things well, keep you guessing and skin crawling with sufficient morbidity, but without the use of gore. The film is Spanish language with English subtitles and co-stars Spanish starlet Elena Anaya who brings considerable depth to the film as she burns through a gamut of emotions as Legard’s primary subject Vera (the mysterious house-guest).

You can go see for yourself or get a pretty detailed description from the Shepherd Express, and here’s apparently a review from Cannes that thought the film was terrible. If you do go to the show, get there early and be entertained by the Kimball Organ that is still warming up the shows at The Oriental courtesy of the Dairyland Theater Organ Society

Dwelling on Cities, Gary Hustwit, Urbanized

Riding down Devon Street, on the way to Wrigleyville’s celebrated Music Box Theater, mothers wrapped in saris guide their children along by the hand. Cabs lurch from cross-streets attempting to join the main traffic line heading uptown. The sun slings low in the West beaming off building facades, some outfitted from the 1970’s with large, conventional, yellow-tinted lightbulbs wrapping marquees advertising Punjabi cuisine.

Feet have no fear of the sidewalks, neither people’s hindquarters of public benches. Faces greet known neighbors, and peer curiously at strangers. Bodies enter grocery stores and exit Bollywood movie variety shops. Arms carry gifts of jewelry and clothing from South Asian themed boutiques. Heading South on Clarke Street, the drive turns through a completely new global community. These way markers display the contours of City life.

Design By Design

An Urban Planner’s delight, Gary Hustwit takes his previous glances at how design influences us, in Helvetica and Objectified, and magnifies them to City scale in his latest work Urbanized. Never looking to impose definitions on his audience, Hustwit lets decision-makers, and descion-shapers, discuss the finer points of city design imperatives from perspectives in their corner of the globe.

Since cities rise and fall around economic and social activity, the forces guiding both pull tight the philosophical threads along the continuum of urban design practice. Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses and Oscar Niemeyer place major landmarks on the dialog. Hustwit then captures reverberations of these themes within contemporary echoes of the activist, developer and high modernists.

Urban champions, like Bogota’s former Mayor Enrique Penalosa, enrich the discussion of cities further and, more importantly, highlight practical quality of life considerations that make America’s civic values and local politics look ridiculous in comparison. Milwaukee, although not featured in Urbanized, benefited greatly from Mayor John Norquist’s experiments with New Urbanism, giving sweet kool-aid from which future domestic urban champions could develop their own flavors.

Providing more than a primer on Urban Planning, Urbanized also logs Hustwit’s travels during production of his previous two films. The cinematography energizes wanderlust as Hustwit wisks from Brighton, UK to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (I bet you can’t guess which is older) and a bunch of famous and not so famous stops in-between.

Urbanized screened in Chicago last weekend, stopping next in London on October 21st.

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