- Film Guide
It's not all that surprising to see 1/2 of our marketing department talk about marketing materials instead of films. But Milan's insistence on having his list be about posters stems more from the fact that before he was our Marketing Coordinator, he made his living as a designer and artist, making more posters than he can count for all sorts of shows and events. Here are his ten favorites of 2013, in no particular order.
Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker
(dir. Lily Keber)
Though it was a pleasure using Anton Corbjn’s photo in our promotional materials when this film screened as part of MFF 2013’s Sound Vision program, this poster has been on my “favorites” radar since it was unveiled earlier in the year, and captures the film's subject so incredibly well.
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Berberian Sound Studio
(dir. Peter Strickland)
I’m an enormous fan of posters that are tops in both form and function, and Berberian Sound Studio seems to have multiple posters that do just that. This one is my favorite of the bunch.
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Ship of Theseus
(dir. Anand Gandhi)
I liked this one, however, because it's just plain beautiful.
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The Pervert's Guide to Ideology
(dir. Sophie Fiennes)
Of all the posters hanging in this office, Akkiko Stehrenberger’s poster for The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is my favorite from MFF 2013. Akkiko's workload this year included posters for Kiss of the Damned, Spring Breakers, and a couple of hilarious ones for Jacob Vaughan’s Bad Milo. She also created posters and one sheets for We Need to Talk About Kevin (MFF 2011) and the second season of Louie. Go on. Bookmark her website. I'll wait.
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(dir. Spike Lee)
If you’ve never seen the original Oldboy, but saw this poster and wondered why in the heck Josh Brolin was popping out of a trunk in the middle of a field where a girl with an umbrella was standing, you should watch the original Oldboy (2003, dir. Park Chan-wook). Spike Lee having his remake's poster reference one of the more peculiar situations in a film full of them made me a little less skeptical of the remake. (Note: I still haven't seen the remake.)
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(dir. Alexander Payne)
This poster is a really lovely complement to its film and Bruce Dern’s character. It also constantly reminds me of the Eraserhead poster for some reason. It was designed by BLT Communications, who did a poster for Blue is the Warmest Color, as well as seemingly every blockbuster feature known to man. (Including those X-Men: Days of Future Past ones I’m admittedly a big fan of.)
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The Central Park Five
(dirs. Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon)
This simple concept is so well executed, I hate whoever designed this because they are a gifted genius.
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(dir. Alexandre Moors)
Everything about this poster reminds me of exactly how I felt when these shootings were happening in real life. (I'm also a sucker for large amounts of well-used negative space.) And the agency responsible? Gravillis Inc. They also made posters for MFF 2013 alum Narco Cultura, MFF 2012 alum The Imposter, and one of our most well-received Member Screenings, 20 Feet From Stardom.
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August: Osage County
(dir. John Wells)
See that face Juliette Lewis and Abigail Breslin are making? That’s the face I made when I first saw this poster.
This film is so star-studded it should fall victim to that generic Hollywood poster format, where the image is nothing more than a heavily photoshopped arrangement of cast members looking off in arbitrary directions, while the names above are listed in an order determined by contract instead of how they actually appear in said image. Instead, we get this rectangle of awesomeness.
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Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
(dir. Molly Bernstein)
This could have gone in a really weird direction, like, say, putting Ricky Jay in a top hat and cape, shuffling cards in mid-air, while grinning like the kind of salespeople you see in terrible stock photography. Instead we get a really tasteful poster for a documentary about the man who's appeared in everything from the X-Files to Magnolia, and also happens to be a life-long student of magic tricks, slight of hand, memory feats, and card throwing.
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READ PREVIOUS YEAR-END BEST OF LISTS FROM OUR STAFF:
• Kyle, our Managing Director
• Kristopher, our Membership Coordinator
• Benjamin, our Development Director
• Anna, our Shorts Programmer
• Angela, our Programming Manager
We're taking a slight detour out of the cinema proper, and exploring some very film-like video games with Managing Director Kyle. Read on to see what his favorite video games of 2013 were.
In my years of working with Milwaukee Film, those who know me have gotten to know my passion for video games. 2013 was the year I finally convinced the staff that video games can have enough of a tie to the film world to include them in our annual "Best of the year" lists.
Below are my Top Five Video Games for 2013:
5: Civilization V: Brave New World (PC/Mac)
In terms of time spent playing, this is hands down my most-played title for 2013. The improvements that Brave New World brought to the Civ V formula dramatically improved the game. However, this game also has a tie to the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival. At our Closing Night Film, Blood Brother, director Steve Hoover asked our Artistic & Executive Director, Jonathan Jackson if he played Civilization. Unfortunately, Jonathan does not. And though I do, I didn't get a chance to talk to him. So if you are reading this Steve Hoover, make more amazing films and come back to Milwaukee so we can talk Civ!
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4: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
My favorite animator is Hayao Miyazaki, so when I found out that Level 5 was making a game alongside Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, I knew I would have to play it. The game is as close to playing an actual Miyazaki film as I could possibly hope for. It combines basic RPG (that's role-playing game, for you non-gamers reading) elements with Pokemon. The graphics and music steal the show, though, as-- like I said-- it is literally the spitting image of a Studio Ghibli film.
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3:The Stanley Parable (PC/Mac)
When it comes to fictional films, I prefer ones that don't have a narrator. However, in The Stanley Parable, the entire game is about the narrator. A typical game of The Stanley Parable lasts about ten minutes, however there are a seemingly infinite number of possibilities in how to complete the actual game. The game's nonlinear storytelling leads to a different ending every time, and most are laden with dark humor and excellent writing. The entire game is narated by Kevan Brighting who does an expert job in reading the hilarious (and often dark) script written by the game's designer and creator Davey Wreden.
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2: Bioshock: Infinite (PC/XBox 360/PS3)
I often fall for movies that have parallel dimensions and sci-fi elements that get the mind thinking regardless of plot holes and other shortfalls (see the second Matrix film) . Kevin Levine's Bioshock fits this criteria (minus the plot holes/shortfalls). In the past, it has taken gamers to intriguing worlds like Rapture, the failed underwater utopia. This time around, it's the floating city of Columbia. Without spoiling too much, the game ventures heavily into parallel universes and investigates the origins of this less-than-magical city. It also features the expert voice work of one of gaming's most ubiquitous voice actors, Troy Baker. (Who shows up again below.)
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1: The Last of Us (PS3)
If ever there was a game that emotionally moved me as much as a film, this is it. The Last of Us might seem like your typical zombie apocalypse game but it is far more than that. Naughty Dog studios, who produced the game, were already known for their amazingly detailed and gorgeous landscapes, but not so much their ability to tell a solid story. Troy Baker (that voice actor we mentioned above) voices Joel, who is tasked with getting a young girl to a variety of destinations. The scenes showing the decline of both the world and humanity stick with you throughout your playing time, and well beyond the game's conclusion. In addition to the voice work, this game features the actors performing motion capture, which makes the scenes even more realistic. (Watch a NSFW motion capture demo.) This attention to detail makes The Last of Us not only my game of the year, but probably also one of my favorite games of all time.
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You may know him as the man you fall in love with at every monthly Members-Only Screening. We know him as Membership Coordinator Kristopher Pollard. And when he wasn't busy managing our membership program or creating the fantastic illustrations for this year's festival campaign art, he watched a lot of films. Here are his ten favorites:
10. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
(dir. David Lowery)
I was thrilled by this last-minute addition to the festival this year. If you were just shown a handful of stills from this beautifully photographed film you’d have no trouble understanding what it was about. Trouble is on the way, for sure. Lovely, sepia-toned trouble. And why am I constantly surprised that Casey Affleck is a good actor? I’m sorry, Casey. I’ll try to remember.
(dir. Pablo Berger)
This is a wonderful retelling of the Snow White story from Spain. (Snow’s a toreador. What?!?) Ah, Spain: Where everyone you see is the most beautiful person in the world. Filmed as a black and white silent film– wait, wait! Don’t stop reading. It really captures the look and feel of an old silent film, but with a contemporary pace. Very clever, funny, touching and extremely skillful story-telling. Did I mention that everyone is stunning?
8. Blood Brother
(dir. Steve Hoover)
This film has the distinction of being the movie that made me ugly-cry the most. I’m talking about "stop the movie for a minute so I can gather myself" kind of sobbing. (Luckily, no one saw.) Though there is an element of tragedy in this documentary about a man and his adopted country and family, there is also an impressive amount of joy. The relationship between Rocky and this group of amazing kids will leave a lasting impression.
7. Stories We Tell
(dir. Sarah Polley)
Sarah’s family has a secret and she made this film to delve into it. The secret is a great reason to watch this film. An even better reason is that Polley and her family are extremely interesting to listen to. They're funny, fascinating, and complicated, and the way they all tell this story is a pleasure to watch. My favorite documentary of the year, for sure.
6. This Is The End
(dir. Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg)
I wasn’t super impressed with the selection of comedies released this year, but this one made me laugh a lot. Lowbrow? Sure. These kids work blue, to be certain. But there are also some pretty clever and observational moments. Not to mention, it’s great to see these folks don’t take their celebrity statuses too seriously. All the actors play terrible versions of themselves.
(I should point out that the following 5 films are a part of my cinematic “Year of Weird.” I saw a lot of amazing movies that didn’t always make sense to me at first. Or movies that were simply, or not so simply, cuckoo banana pants. And I loved them.)
5. Vanishing Waves
(dir. Kristina Buozyte)
A neuroscientist ventures into the mind of a comatose patient in this visually amazing… artscape (I thought I just made that word up, but I Googled it, and turns out I didn’t). Apparently when you travel into the mind of a stranger, your surroundings will be a wonderful mix of cutting edge architecture, sexual absurdity and feasts of super slimy food. If this sounds good to you, hang up your best black light poster and warm up the lava lamp.
4. Upstream Color
(dir. Shane Carruth)
Based on all the responses I’ve heard, you either love or hate this film. Me? Love it. Admittedly it took me two viewings and a couple of articles to understand everything that happened, but when you look back and see how he communicated this story, it’s pretty overwhelming. It's a truly original film with stunning photography and a sense of storytelling that doesn’t pander or lay out familiar road signs for the viewer. Carruth gives us more credit, which is refreshing.
3. Post Tenebras Lux
(dir. Carlos Reygadas)
So, weird…. I don’t even know wh…. I…
2. The Rambler
(dir. Calvin Lee Reeder)
If David Lynch, the X-Files and Samuel Beckett all had a baby using some sort of wholly unnatural science, and then that baby was adopted by an insane chicken and a giant bucket of drugs, that baby's name would be The Rambler. Make sure you’re in a safe environment when you watch this. Sit perfectly still. No sudden movements. Wait! What was that?!?
(dir. Alex van Warmerdam)
A vagrant and member of some unexplained underground society insinuates himself into the home and lives of an upper-class family and causes some bizarre trouble. People throw around the word ‘absurdist’ a bit too much, so I shall do the same. Absurdist filmmaker Alex van Warmerdam is one of my new favorites. After watching Borgman, I immediately caught up on all eight of his films and was never disappointed. Strange and funny and strange. This was my favorite of the year.
*Honorable Mentions: Blackfish; The Act of Killing; Before Midnight; Blue is the Warmest Color, Iron Man 3 and War Witch. And Short Term 12…. and….
Hope you enjoyed Anna's Favorite Shorts of 2013 blog yesterday, because we're moving back to feature films. Next up to bat in our year-end staff favorites lists? Benjamin, our Development Director.
When asked what my favorite anything is, I usually respond with some variation of, "That's impossible to answer. It's like choosing your favorite kid." But this is a blog about my favorite film moments of the year, so I guess it's not going to hurt anyone's feelings to say sorry Iron Man 3, but you're not my favorite.
I'm choosing film moments, not films per se, because I believe the experience of viewing a film with a group is about more than just the composition on the screen. It's the collective emotional journey that the audience takes. Enough with my philosophical meanderings. Here are my top film moments of 2013:
(dir. Marta Cunningham)
I cried. A lot. And I don't usually cry at films. This heartbreaking film hit really close to home as I thought about my own experiences growing up and coming out at a young age. It's a documentary that tells the story of Larry King, a transgendered eighth grader who was killed by a classmate, and Brandon McInerney, the fellow eighth grader who shot him. Nothing will surpass the experience of viewing this film at 10 a.m. with hundreds of high school students in the main house of the Oriental Theatre for one of our Education Screenings during the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival.
(dir. Woody Allen)
Cate Blanchett can do no wrong. I even liked her in Bandits. But with Woody Allen behind the camera (and the script), she bloomed into a woman on the edge (off the edge?). I loved how delicately she captured mental illness. This film's ability to take the country's financial collapse, distill it down to a personal narrative, and intertwine it with a conversation on mental illness is simply brilliant.
Earth with Altos
(dir. Aleksandr Dovzhenko)
This film isn't on this list because silent Soviet films are my shtick, but because as Centerpiece FIlm for the Milwaukee Film Festival, it was accompanied by a live original score from Milwaukee band Altos. And the experience of seeing the Oriental Theatre's main house filled with people ready to experience something they have no context for? I loved that! Let's be honest: there's something magical about having an original score to a silent film being performed in the Oriental!
Oma & Bella
(dir. Alexa Karolinksi)
This tender story of two Jewish grandmothers discussing their experiences as Holocaust survivors to one of their granddaughters...this is what a good documentary looks like to me. It was personal and delicate, yet didn't shy away from the difficult issues at hand.
(dir. Greg "Freddy" Camalier)
Halfway through this year's festival, I was exhausted, as was the entire staff. I introduced this film and then took a break to watch it. I ended up dancing in my seat, and that was just what the doctor ordered.
Strings of Colors
(dir. Sharan Mohanadoss)
One of the cool things about my job is that I get to meet filmmakers when we're introducing their films, and doing Q & A's. That's how I met Sharan Mohanadoss, a local filmmaker who is finishing up his degree at UWM's Film Department. His short film Strings of Colors was screened before Sign Painters. Sharan's film is visually stunning, mesmerizing, and quirky. His film transported the audience for 11 minutes into a swirl of colors, sounds, and textures.
Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker
(dir. Lily Keber)
Amazing archival footage, virtuosic piano playing, and a dramatic life story. I knew a little bit about James Booker before seeing the film. But afterwards, I sought out all of his music. What more could I ask for from a Sound Vision documentary? I loved this film!
In the House
(dir. Francois Ozon)
It was sexy, smart, and utterly French. What's not to love? When we screened this to our members in June, I was floored by how smartly written it was. (And how creepy!) I love when a film takes a great narrative and exploits it to hold a mirror up to society. When poorly done, it's farce. When brilliantly done, it's cinematic genius.
Stop Making Sense
(dir. Jonathan Demme)
Going into the festival, this wasn't on my "must see" list, mostly because I'd never seen it before and didn't know how epic it was. But our Marketing Director Blyth was so excited after the first screening, that I made it a mission to go to the second one. I am SO glad I did. This film had me dancing in the Oriental's main house along with other members of our staff (Jonathan, our Artistic and Executive Director, led a conga line at one point), sponsors, members, and all around cool people. It was one of those moments when I had to pinch myself. I was "working," yet I was also having a TON of fun dancing to the awesome music from a great documentary screening in a beautiful theatre.
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We continue our Staff Favorites of 2013 with a list from Shorts Programmer Anna. It's her ten favorite short films of the year, and we highly recommend you seek them out.
Every year I watch hundreds of short films from around the world so that we can screen the best of them in the Milwaukee Film Festival's Shorter is Better programming section. And every year it seems filmmakers are taking to heart our motto of "Shorter is Better" as they continue to push the cinematic artform to the limits of shortness. It was a task of monumental proportions picking out just ten short films for this list, but I did it for you because you deserve it.
(dir. Meghna Gupta)
This gorgeous documentary follows the path that unwanted clothes take through India as they are turned into yarn and woven anew into blankets, offering a glimpse at one culture as they sort through the scraps of another.
9. The Cub
(dir. Riley Stearns)
An ingenious excersise in filmmaking restraint, Stearns tells the story of a young girl given up by her parents to be raised by wolves.
(dirs. Karni Arieli, Saul Freed)
A fantastically strange tale of one man's deal with the insects that torment him. This short delights and repulses in equal measures, making its audience painfully aware of each and every buzz from its expertly animated co-stars.
7. Peach Juice
(dirs. Callum Paterson, Nathan Gilliss, Brian Lye)
Adolescence can be a difficult time, especially when your rough-housing cousins literally knock your head off with a football and your hot aunt decides to do yoga on the beach. Peach Juice takes those raging adolescent hormones and channels them into an adorable and quirky tale of misguided feelings.
6. Edmond Was a Donkey
(dir. Franck Dion)
This animated tale of a misunderstood office worker who escapes into the vision of his true self as a donkey packs a powerful punch at the end and touches on very real emotions along the way.
(dirs. Ewan McNicol, Anna Sandilands)
It took me several minutes into my first viewing of this short to determine if this documentary was incredibly well-written satire or a true account of one man's mission as the keeper of the nation's UFO sightings. The truth in this short really is stranger than fiction.
4. Anna and Jerome
(dir. Melanie Delloye)
This is a heartbreaking tale of a mother who just wants to spend some time with her estranged son. The short portrays a series of touching moments between mother and son while both take a break from the way things are.
3. My Favorite Picture of You
(dirs. Dan Lindsay, TJ Martin)
Here's another short to tug at your heartstrings--this one told in memories. The haunting interview heard throughout the film is a beautiful illustration of love.
2. Mud Crab
(dirs. Igor Coric, Sheldon Lieberman)
This film is the definition of adorable. And good parenting. Watch and learn, laugh and cry. And then check out the rest of this series here!
1. Oh Willy...
(dirs. Marc James Roels, Emma de Swaef)
There's not much I can say about this gorgeously animated short that would do it justice. The sound design and attention to detail throughout the film are both amazing. And if you're willing to give it a chance, this tale of a man called back to his nudist roots will take you to a place you never knew existed.
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READ PREVIOUS YEAR-END BEST OF LISTS FROM OUR STAFF:
• Angela, our former Programming Manager