By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Apr 16, 2021 at 5:01 PM

The Oriental Theatre may be temporarily closed, but Milwaukee Film has still found a way to bring excellent new movies to you during this strange time: Sofa Cinema.

Found at Milwaukee Film's website, Sofa Cinema is a virtual theater, offering a number of indie gems to stream on your screens at home while their screens at the Oriental are temporarily dark. Best of all, your digital rentals not only provide you with quality cinema but also provide support for Milwaukee Film during these unusual and strained times, as each purchase splits a significant percentage of the proceeds with the Brew City cinephile nonprofit.

So the next time you're looking for an escape from the news and quarantine life, and you've already binge-watched that sitcom 17 times from beginning to end, try one of the following Sofa Cinema options. It's some great entertainment that helps fund an even better local cause.

"The Man Who Sold His Skin"

Trying to get through all the 2021 Oscar nominees before the ceremony on April 25? Sofa Cinema is here to help with "Another Round," "Collective" and now "The Man Who Sold His Skin," a Best International Film nominee from Tunisia about a refugee who allows an artist to use his back as his latest canvas. But what starts as an unconventional way to earn some money quickly reveals itself to cost far more than it's paying in this art world drama. 

"Small Town Wisconsin"

Just in time for Milwaukee Day on April 14 – but just as good any other day too – this winsome and funny locally made MFF2021 alum follows a father about to lose custody of his son, so he plans the best possible way to spend their final time together: a trip to Milwaukee and all of its glorious lakefront landmarks. A tribute to family as well as a tribute to Milwaukee, Niels Mueller's indie dramedy is a sometimes silly, sometimes sincere staycation through Brew City right from your couch.


Another winner from last year's Milwaukee Film Festival, this coming-of-age import from the country up north follows two best friends whose childhood bond forged together in a Quebec Innu reserve comes at risk when one of the two falls for a white boy from beyond their community, challenging their tight connection and challenging the boundaries of her dreams once confined to her small home. The Canadian tale weaves a heartwarming and heartbreaking look at growing up as well as young love between friends and one's community. 

"Shiva Baby"

You thought your holiday gathering was an awkward nightmare? YOU DON'T KNOW THE MEANING OF THE WORDS – at least compared to Danielle (breakthrough star Rachel Sennott), whose separate worlds horrifyingly and hilariously collide when her ex-girlfriend, her sugar daddy and her parents are all at the same shiva. It's uncomfortable manna from heaven for fans of "Force Majeure" and similar films that are either the most intense comedies you've ever seen or the funniest thrillers you've ever seen. 


For far too long, homosexuality was considered an official diagnosed mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, lending medical legitimacy to legal, medical and social discrimination and abuse of the LGBTQ community. The powerful documentary "Cured" tells the story of the activists who, in the early 1970s, pushed against the contorted bigotry of the psychology status quo and took a massive step toward equal rights and toward a better, and truer, understanding of human sexuality. 


Yet another returning film from last year's Milwaukee Film Festival, "Landfall" captures the beautiful but precarious state of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck in 2017. As locals attempt to rebuild – and attempt to make sure the suffering they endured doesn't happen again – they also push back against businesses and those flocking to the island to take advantage of a crisis. A nuanced documentary portrait of gorgeous nature and galling neglect, of hazy happiness and hardened anger, all under America's often detached eye. 

"2021 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Shorts"

Want to claim victory in your Academy Awards predictions pool? The secret is never winning the major categories, but winning the small ones like Best Production Design – or, say, the short film awards. So time to do the most entertaining research possible and watch the five nominated live-action short films, featuring Netflix's entry "Two Distant Strangers," a landmark movie starring a DeafBlind actor in its leading role and a mustachioed Oscar Isaac.

"2021 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts"

Looking for some of the most interesting and inventive animation going on right now? Check out the annual Oscar-nominated animated shorts collection, this year featuring everything from a burrowing bunny to a tour of an apartment's many tenets and a symbolic history of the human race's struggles. Plus it comes with a bonus three additional shorts from the Academy's short list – so now you might have a new category to complain about snubs!

"2021 Oscar-Nominated Documentary Shorts"

Incredible real stories in bite-sized pieces, the five Oscar-nominated documentary short films – "Colette," "A Concerto Is a Conversation," "Do Not Split," "Hunger Ward" and "A Love Song for Latasha" – are now available for you to watch, to pick your own winner in the bunch and to expand your knowledge of the world. They might be smaller than regular docs, but they pack just as powerful of a punch with their short running times. 


A political documentary only any other, "Mayor" follows the mayor of Ramallah in Palestine, a man running a city without a country, as he tries to handle everyday governance like branding, event planning and city planning disputes – all while managing one of the most intensely watched and debated parts of the globe, firestorms erupting from within and without. An true insider's look at life inside the Israeli-Palestinean conflict, with all sorts of humor, humanity and hectic intensity. 

"Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan"

Using a blend of brand new archival footage from family and bandmates, as well as animation from iconic illustrator Ralph Steadman (most famous for his gonzo collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson), "Crock of Gold" pays raucous, rollicking tribute to famed Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and the musical cocktail of traditional Irish music and punk rock rebellion and fervor that he helped pioneer. A fine way to ring in St. Patrick's Day a few months early. (Hey, it's a pandemic; we deserve it.)

"Another Round"

Apparently some scientists believe human beings are supposed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood streams to better open their minds. That's definitely a hypothesis I can get behind – and one that four friends (including "Casino Royale" and "Hannibal" villain Mads Mikkelsen) decide to actually test by getting drunk every day, all day. Wow, what brutal commitment to science. Hard to believe, but their drunken quest goes off the rails – but also might discover something new about themselves and all of humanity. A intoxicating premise with a chaser of pathos to make it go down great, give "Another Round" a shot.


Get ready for the Romanian "Spotlight" – except this time, you're right there alongside the real people breaking the news and holding the powerful acccountable. That's the story in the critically acclaimed documentary "Collective," following the real reporters of the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they attempt to break a horrific scandal involving massive healthcare fraud, a deadly 2015 fire and corruption at the very top of the country's government and high society.

"Fantastic Fungi"

Last we saw mushrooms on the big screen, they were serving as an unusual relationship aid in "Phantom Thread." In this hit documentary, though, we see this fascinating fungi fully take the spotlight in its natural habitat as experts (and narrator Brie Larson of "Captain Marvel" fame and "Room" acclaim) teach us about these remarkable organisms, their complicated place in the ecosystem, their incredible medicinal qualities and their unique, gorgeously shot beauty. So make room for 'shrooms – the cinematic kind, I mean, not the psychedelic – in your schedule this week!

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.