You may be running out of days at the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival, but you’re certainly not out of great movies to see.
There are still dozens of fascinating films remaining on the schedule across all genres – from dramas sure to represent on top ten lists at the end of the year to musical docs that’ll move your feet and heart; rap battle satires with hard-hitting bars and even harder-hitting social commentary to just plain freaky horror tales. (It is Halloween, after all.) There are movies made right down the street and movies made oceans away – all terrific and all awaiting your eyeballs.
Here are just five of the terrific films you can (and really, really should) still catch at the Milwaukee Film Festival.
1. "Hale County This Morning, This Evening"
Beautiful and fascinating in its simplicity, "Hale County This Morning, This Evening" simply follows the residents of a black, rural town in Alabama – sitting in a locker room, preparing for a local basketball game; a baby running around a living room, with a seemingly unlimited amount of energy; meandering around the empty streets on horseback. Making his feature film debut, RaMell Ross avoids easy frames or narratives – pretty much any narrative at all – in the name of presenting day-by-day black life in the American South as it is rarely seen: as it is, in its joys and heartbreaks, mundanity and mesmerizing wonder.
Plus, in a world of Hollywood epics and 150-minute running times, "Hale County" is a gloriously brisk 76 minutes. A bite-sized doc with massive humanity.
"Hale County This Morning, This Evening" screens on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre.
Let’s play some word association. If I say rap battles and race commentary, you say … of course, we all agree: Taylor Swift.
Indeed, this scathing, scorched earth satire on rap culture and privilege comes from the mind behind T-Swift’s most famous music videos, Joseph Kahn. But don’t hold that against him or "Bodied," because "Bodied" holds nothing back, flinging words and ideas like fists in this musical comedy about a white college student who immerses himself deep into the world of rap battles to the point of becoming an underground sensation – and causing outrage at his university.
A little bit of Kahn’s hyper-slick direction goes a long way (the CGI roaches and cats might be a bit much) but you can’t help but respect, and be entertained, by a movie that spits so much energy and ferocity – both in its battle scenes and in its tricky script, giddily knotting itself in the hypocrisies and complexities of race, art and free speech. In fact, "Bodied" spits so hard, you might want to bring a poncho.
"Bodied" screens on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 9:30 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre.
No big deal: It’s only my favorite movie of the entire 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival – and potentially the year.
Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or winning drama will beautifully warm and break your heart – without seemingly trying. There’s no tear-jerking or excessive melodrama in this tale of a poor makeshift family on the margins, working crappy odd jobs and, yes, shoplifting to get that takes in a new child when she’s left outside, cold and abused, by her actual family. Instead, Kore-eda’s lovely movie simply follows the family through the sweet, kind lives, eating makeshift dinners together and gathering to watch fireworks they can’t even see. Then the walls come down on the perfectly imperfect life they’ve created in crushing ways. It’s a profoundly empathetic tale, told with glorious leisure, low-key beauty and deeply-felt humanity.
It’s easy to see why it won big at the Cannes Film Festival – and hopefully at the Oscars too next year.
"Shoplifters" screens on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Avalon.
4. "Madeline’s Madeline"
Making art is a work of insanity, pulling ideas out of your brain with the help of others hopefully on your same mental wavelength. And never has art felt more insane than while watching "Madeline’s Madeline," a dreamlike woozy fever dream into the mind of a young actress, escaping – or maybe embracing – her own issues with the help of a local theater group and its overenthusiastic, boundary-aloof director.
Josephine Decker’s borderline-experimental film isn’t for everybody, blending reality and art into an unnerving slurry, but it’s a fascinating journey into a girl’s fractured, surreal mind – and all the people around her trying to tap into it in the name of art. Also, newcomer Helena Howard is an absolutely gem, a brave performance that you never quite fully understand but always need to follow.
"Madeline’s Madeline" screens on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 3 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre.
5. "Support the Girls"
Who would’ve guessed one of the most cathartic cinematic feminist battle cries – quite literally by the film’s end – would be served up in a breastaurant? The great underappreciated Regina Hall ("Girls Trip") stars as a Hooters-style bar manager trying to hold onto her sanity – and her job – during a rough day at the office, between bad bosses, a thwarted thief stuck in the ceiling and the usual unruly customers.
Fueled by great performances from Hall, a delightfully bubbly Haley Lu Richardson ("Columbus") and newcomer Shayna McHayle, writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s workplace dramedy is warmer than a batch of wings right off the grill, creating a family of strong women holding each other together as the bar around them falls apart and the cold, calculated world of business tries to split them up. A funny movie with feeling – and the perfect flick for anyone who’s worked their ass off for a job they hated. (So … that’s just about everyone.)
"Support the Girls" screens on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre.
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.