By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Sep 08, 2014 at 9:16 AM

Ever since the release of the Milwaukee Film Festival's complete lineup last Friday, I've been non-stop planning, scheduling, organizing, reorganizing and building the perfect film festival schedule, so much so that my apartment has enough paper and connective yarn webbing on the walls that I look like an insane conspiracy theorist. 

The good news? As with every year, the lineup of movies is overflowing with terrific options. If you say there's a day with nothing you want to see, either you're lying or you make me very, very sad.

The bad news? Unfortunately, save for some kind of planetary revolution halt, divine intervention or new time machine development, there are only so many hours in the day. Some might say that you need to fit some sleep and some meals and maybe some sort of social activity or job within those limited hours of the day. I beg to differ.

But, in the case you're not insane and have some respect for your health and mental state, here are some picks for the film festival selections you should definitely make the time to see. I'm sure I'll see you there ... unless my body collapses in on itself from exhaustion, which in that case, it's been real, everybody!

"Jimi: All Is By My Side" 

For Wisconsin-born screenwriter John Ridley, Oscar night all the way back in March was supposed to be a chance to highlight and reward his incredible work with "12 Years a Slave." And then Oscar night actually happened, and what should have been a celebration wound up being about controversy. Thanks to director Steve McQueen's perfectly gif-able fake clap, Ridley found himself answering questions about a disputed screenplay credit, his relationship with McQueen on set and his past screenwriting tiffs – including one with David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook," "American Hustle") about "Three Kings."

So for his next film – the Jimi Hendrix biopic "Jimi: All Is By My Side" – it only makes sense that Ridley would want to work with a director that he knew extremely well and would have no issues working with: himself. 

The movie serves as the centerpiece for this year's Milwaukee Film Festival and deservedly so. I'm very intrigued to see what Ridley does with the biopic genre; the formula has gotten a little stale, but Ridley seems to be trying some interesting things for "Jimi," like focusing on one section of the legendary rocker's life – his time in London before the release of "Are You Experienced" – rather than trying to give the CliffsNotes version of his entire life. With that and a lead cast filled with people who should be stars (Andre Benjamin, Imogen Poots and Hayley Atwell), there's no way "Jimi: All Is By My Side" can be missed. 

"Man With a Movie Camera" 

In a time when movie theaters are desperately trying any and all gimmicks (3-D! 4-D! Your seat shakes! Interpretive dance!) to stay relevant, there is no theatrical experience greater and more memorable than seeing a film in a theater with a live orchestra. It's truly a mesmerizing and intoxicating experience, with expressive silent movie visuals and beautiful live music coming together to form something incredible. 

Few groups do it better than Alloy Orchestra, which previously performed at the Milwaukee Film Festival alongside the classics "Metropolis" and "Blackmail." The group is back this year with "Man With a Movie Camera," one of the greatest documentaries of all time. The film is barely over an hour long (68 minutes, to be exact), but it should serve quite nicely as a quick, sharp shot of cinema adrenaline to reinvigorate your love for the movie-going experience ... until the next screening when somebody talks through the first third of the film and spends the middle third loudly trying to open their bag of Reese's Pieces. But hey, enjoy it while you can; no glasses needed.  

Wesley Morris: The State of Cinema 

In the past two years, the Milwaukee Film Festival has honored the head writers at The Dissolve and, now this year, Wesley Morris from Grantland. In other words, the Milwaukee Film Festival has honored two of the best critical voices currently working today.

I already said a great deal about Morris – about not only his insanely good critical writing and film mind, but his ability to convey those so clearly and compellingly to his readers – in my blog about the tributes, but in short, he's a genius who loves movies and writing about said movies. Hearing him talk about movies and picking his brain should be the perfect energy boost to get me through two weeks of non-stop coverage. Plus, he's bringing "Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys," because nothing says joy and excitement quite like Michael Haneke, right?

"Ernest & Celestine" 

People first heard about the little animated gem "Ernest & Celestine" last year when it got nominated for Best Animated Picture back in March. It looked adorable and received great buzz from critics across the nation. Even though it was crushed underfoot at the Oscars by the unstoppable Adele Dazeem-driven tank that was "Frozen," I was very much looking forward to checking out "Ernest & Celestine" when it came to Milwaukee. 

Seemingly almost a year later (okay, only half a year, but it sure feels longer), the tiny little story of a bear and mouse who become friends is finally coming to a theater near you.

It's been quite the wait, but thanks to Milwaukee Film, "Ernest & Celestine" is finally hitting Milwaukee, and I can't wait. The movie looks light, sweet and charming. It could be the perfect tasty little palate cleanser in between all the documentaries about corruption, abuse, oppression and other similarly depressing topics. 

"Dr. Strangelove" 

Last year, the Milwaukee Film Festival showed a 35mm print of Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey." It was one of my most anticipated movies of the festival ... so of course I missed it. As it turns out, after four days, 16 movies, maybe two meals, countless hours writing and zero hours of sleep, my body rebelled against me and pretty much passed right the heck out. I will never forget such a betrayal, me.

So there's no way I'm missing yet another 35mm presentation of a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, this time the genius political satire "Dr. Strangelove." If you've never seen it before (which, if that's the case, SHAAAAAAAAME), this is a golden opportunity not to be squandered. If you have seen it, now it's on the big screen in glorious 35mm. No matter the case, movie fans should be tripping over themselves like George C. Scott pointing at the big board to get into the Oriental on Friday, Oct. 3. 

"Mood Indigo" 

A world in which Michel Gondry is making entertainment is a lovely, lovely world indeed. In a world where phrases like "visionary" and "inventive" get tossed around the way "The Wolf of Wall Street" used cocaine and the f-word, Gondry – from his early music video days to his filmography – actually qualifies. He basically helped invent bullet time, and "Eternal Sunshine" is constantly named as one of the best films of the last decade (no biggie). 

Unfortunately, the disappointment and experience with "The Green Hornet" seems to have chased Gondry out of Hollywood, but I guess that just means he can make personal movies like "Mood Indigo," unfettered and unhassled by studio execs. The film follows a romance between a young man and a young woman, complicated by an illness caused by the flower growing in her lungs (hate it when that happens). With a premise like that, I can't wait to see what whimsical wonders Gondry has in store. 


Last year, the Cannes Film Festival had features from the likes of the Coen Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, Jim Jarmusch, Nicolas Winding Refn, Paolo Sorrentino, Alexander Payne, James Gray, Asghar Farhadi and Roman Polanski. Yet it was "Heli" and Amat Escalante that came away with the festival's Best Director prize. And when Cannes gives your movie an award like that against names like those (I mean, seriously, look at those names), you have my attention. 

The film, an unflinching look into the Mexican drug world after a family inadvertently gets involved, is expected to be a difficult, brutal affair. It's the first time I can think of that a movie received a warning in the Milwaukee Film Festival program about the violence. So no, I would bet "Heli" won't be the feel-good heartwarming crowd pleaser of the festival, but it's certainly got the resume to potentially be one of the overall best movies in the lineup. 

"Art and Craft"

The bizarre premise of "Art and Craft" sounds like some sort of odd "Ocean’s 11" prequel, sequel or spinoff: An art forger named Mark Landis goes around the world in various aliases, donating handmade counterfeit paintings to museums, who proceed to hang the brilliant fakes on their walls. The best part? It’s all true.

The documentary – from the trio of Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker – could be the sleeper hit of the festival, telling a story about the always nebulous definition of art that’s already fascinating on paper. Why does he do it? Because of the art? Because of the thrill? Because he’s bored? Because he’s secretly Johnny Knoxville in old man makeup again? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.


And the award for The Most Anticipated Movie Of The Milwaukee Film Festival That’s Likely To Make Me Puke In My Shoes is … "Wetlands"!

"Wetlands" got a nice bit of notoriety after its premiere at Sundance earlier this year thanks to its story of a young German woman and her fascination with her body, her sexuality and all of the bodily fluids in between. The movie sounds like an insane time, and judging from the energetic, already cringe-inducing trailer and the mildly unpublishable things I’ve heard, it seems to be exactly that.

But I’ve also heard that there’s a method to its gross-out madness, that there’s a surprisingly sweetness to its electrifying shock and that the lead actress – Carla Juri – is a star in the making. At face value, it may sound like an endurance test, but in the end, I’m looking forward to "Wetlands" being something much more. 

"We Are the Best!"

The Milwaukee Film Festival, and the independent film scene in general, has a fairly robust supply of coming-of-age films. If you’re going to make the time to see one, however, make it "We Are the Best!", a film about three young Swedish girls who decide to form a punk band and won’t let their lack of instruments, the withering state of punk music or their young age stop them. The movie has been charming critics and audiences seemingly across the nation all year; it only seems fair that Milwaukee gets to have its turn now.

Also, I’m obviously looking forward to "The Imitation Game," the new, very Oscar buzzy film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode and Tywin Lannister. However, the film comes out quite literally a month later on Nov. 21.

If Oct. 5 rolls around and you’re stuck between this and one of the other options showing ("The Forgotten Kingdom," "Zero Motivation," "The Case Against 8" and the Kids Shorts: Size Large), I’d say go with one of the potential little gems that you may never get to see otherwise. However, if you have no interest in those and want to have the smug superiority of seeing a potential Oscar contender before everyone else (which, fair enough), have at it. Make sure to let me know if the good guys win WWII again this time.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.