Movies often take advantage of the big screen to tell epic stories drawn from history. But two movies running as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival this week tell much smaller tales to bring humanity to history.
One is the documentary "Cooking History," running tonight at 9:30 at the North Shore Cinema, a frequently funny look at the role military chefs play in wartime.
This Austrian-Czech-Slovak production, directed by Peter Kerekes, mines history over the past 70 years for its look at the topic, mostly through the tales of veterans of the field kitchen.
With an absurdist Middle European bent, we meet an aged cook from the World War II siege of Leningrad, a German submarine cook who survived the sinking of his sub in the 1950s, a Croat military chef still bitter at his early days in the old Yugoslav Army.
Through the eyes of the cooks, we see the Russians invade Hungary in 1956, and Czechoslovakia in 1968, we see Jewish cooks try to poison SS officers in post-war Germany, and we witness the collapse of Yugoslavia, and the brutal French war in Algeria.
It's a cock-eyed view of history, but in addition to the laughs, it offers some subtle insights into the insanity of war.
Here's a trailer:
Then there's "All That I Love," a Polish film that's been pushed for its punk music theme. Frankly, the music isn't the really the focus of this story of 18-year-old Janek, the son of a naval officer living at the Baltic Seacoast in the early 1980s.
Instead, it's a personal story of the dark days of late 1981, when the president of communist Poland, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, sent in the military to crush the Solidarity movement. It's martial law that disrupts the love story between Janek and Basia, the daughter of a local Solidarity activist.
The true power of punk in the '80s comes in a climactic scene at a high school concert. The youthful exuberance of Janek's band intersects with the politics of the moment to provide a taste of the emotions of that time and place in history.
The conflicting feelings of a group of kids on the verge of adulthood is universal. Against this backdrop, there's a heightened drama. Unlike the characters, we're lucky enough to know that the tragedy of Poland in 1981 is followed just eight years later by the disintegration of the country's communist government.
Hope follows frustration.
"All that I Love" runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the North Shore.
Here's a video that includes clips from the film, Poland's official entry in the Oscars:
On the air: It's official, Fox's "Lone Star" is the first of the new fall shows to get the ax. Monday's second episode was the last to air. As of next Monday, Fox will start airing Tim Roth's "Lie to Me" in the 8 p.m. time slot.
- That decision, of course, was based on ratings for "Lone Star," which declined in the second week, dooming the show. Also declining in their second weeks were NBC's "The Event," (by 19 percent) and CBS' "Hawaii Five-0," (by 10 percent). Premiere week ratings are usually created by hype, rather than the show itself.
- Monday night's Packers-Bears game averaged 344,500 southeast Wisconsin households for Channel 12, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers. That was 38.2 percent of all TV households in the area.
- Ben Merens focuses on the 1st Congressional District on WHAD-FM (90.7) starting at 5 this evening with Democratic challenger John Heckenlively, followed at 5:30 by Republican incumbent Paul Ryan.
It's another "Law & Order": Viewers mourning the loss of the original "Law & Order" have another option starring tonight, as the fall TV schedule fills out, NBC launches "Law & Order: Los Angeles" at 9 p.m. on Channel 4.
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.