By Sandy Maxx Special to Published Oct 20, 2006 at 11:18 PM
The Milwaukee International Film Fest is officially underway.

For a goal-oriented person like me, a program full of nearly 140 movies with a corresponding schedule is like a To Do List.  Or more like a menu for a really hungry person where everything looks so delicious, but you've only got so much room in your belly to work with.

I've had practice for this challenge, so I'm ready.  I discovered just what a boon of interesting entertainment an international film festival can be when I lived in Chicago.  Each year, I'd anxiously anticipate the release of the Chicago International Film Festival’s chunky program, poring over the details of each film -- the country of origin, the plot line, the actors, directors, and producers.  I'd grab a highlighter and start marking must-sees and maybes, cross-referencing them with the schedule to figure out just which ones I could make time for.

That habit has carried over to the Milwaukee International Film Fest.  For the second year in a row, the highlighter has come out and my program now resembles a Day-Glo coloring book.  For me, my schedule is the great decider, because if I had the time, I'd just grab the super-jumbo bucket of popcorn and sit through about three films in a row.  Each night.  A full-time job and several extracurricular obligations makes leisure time a little tighter than that.  So, I went right to the source to help me plot out my MIFF movies.

In chatting with Mark Metcalf, who is a member of the MIFF Executive Board and part of one of the MIFF committees who selects the multitude of films, I took the opportunity to compare notes on movies we're both interested in.
you're invited to take a look at my list and Mark Metcalf’s list and see if you can narrow down your own to a dozen or so cant-miss flicks now through October 29th.

The films that I'll be making time for are:

"Stripes," the Bill Murray military comedy film.  Strange listing?  Not when the festival spotlights actor, director, screenwriter, and former Chicagoan Harold Ramis -- who will be in attendance on Saturday, October 20th introducing "Stripes," "Analyze This," and "Groundhog Day."

"The Bridesmaid," a French thriller about a woman testing a man’s devotion to her. Would you kill for love? In a foreign film, I'm thinking he might.

"Men At Work," an Iranian comedy (yes, you read that right) about four guys who try to move a huge rock.

"Wristcutters  - A Love Story," a really original concept about a young man who commits suicide and finds himself in a special section of the afterlife with other suicides, then takes a road-trip with a couple of dead girls to find his ex, who also killed herself. The American film has a Croatian director who calls it a "funny and charming movie."

Most of the films that have piqued my interest are documentaries.

"Black Gold" about an Ethiopian coffee farmer who will be appearing at the festival to discuss the film.

"A Crude Awakening -- The Oil Crash" about oil and alternatives to fossil fuels.

"Our Brand Is Crisis" follows James Carville as he consults a Brazilian presidential candidate.

"Jonestown: The Life & Death of Peoples Temple" examines the power of the minister Jim Jones.

"The Life of Reilly" is a screen adaptation of actor Charles Nelson Reilly’s autobiographical one-man show that delves into his intense childhood.

Two documentaries featured as part of the Midwest Filmmaker Competition caught my eye. "American Blackout" shows the plight of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to expose and explore the suppression of the African-American vote in the two previous presidential elections.  "Reality Show" looks behind-the-scenes of the production of an amateur reality show.  The show never made it to TV, but you can now watch the film about the hell of being stuck in Mexico for five days trying to make a show with an unpaid crew and ten angry contestants.

I don't know it can be classified as a documentary, but "F*ck" looks entertaining in the same way that "The Aristocrats" was.

I like nearly all things English, so the comedy "Keeping Mum" starring actor Rowan Atkinson and Maggie Smith has been highlighted in my MIFF program.

Some of Mark’s picks, in alphabetical order:

"The Ax," a French comedy about an unemployed executive who resorts to truly eliminating his competition.

"Candy," an Australian film starring Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish as heroin addicted lovers. The film and both actors were just nominated for Australian Film Institute Awards.

"Chronicle of an Escape," an Argentinean film based on a true story about a horrifying and violent kidnapping of a soccer player.

"Crossing Arizona," an American documentary about a very hot political topic these days, immigration.

"Elsa and Fred," a romantic comedy about an elderly couple in Madrid.

"The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico," a fake documentary made in Canada about a country music character named Guy Terrifico.  It works in both comedy and cameos by Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and more.

"Lunacy," a movie from the Czech Republic/Slovakia that the director describes as a "philosophical horror film" about a man in insane asylum in 19th century France.

"Mary," a complicated and provocative look at the legend of religious figure Mary Magdalene starring Juliette Binoche, Matthew Modine, and Forest Whitaker.

"The Orange Thief," one of the Midwest Filmmaker Competition entries, is an independent foreign film produced and directed by an American trio that includes Milwaukee brothers Arthur Wilinski and Vinnie Angel.

"Perhaps Love," the lavish Closing Night film that is a movie inside a movie from China/Hong Kong.

"Suffering and Smiling," a Midwest Filmmaker Competition documentary about father and son Nigerian musicians Fela and Femi Kuti.

Hear some of Mark’s insights about these films in the accompanying podcast..
Sandy Maxx Special to
Sandy Maxx is seen weekly on Milwaukee Public Television's show "The Arts Page" and heard six days a week in between the songs on 96.5 WKLH.

Yet she still has more Milwaukee discoveries and delights to share with us here.

You'll be sorry if you ever ask her to attempt a British accent (it's awful), but she's always up for talking about all things English, Elvis and alternative ‘80s music (not necessarily in that order).