By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Oct 13, 2004 at 5:08 AM

{image1}It's October again, the air is crisp and the wind buzzes with the electricity of creative genius. Welcome; we are at the cusp of the second annual Milwaukee International Film Festival.

MIFF's 2004 VIP & Press Party at the Villa Terrace was more than just a chance to gather the filmmakers and festival staff for cocktails and appetizers. As Mayor Tom Barrett put it, "This is a celebration of something positive and progressive for the city of Milwaukee." MIFF executive director Dave Luhrssen shared the mayor's perspective, commenting that, "an international film festival has become a city's right of passage into prominence."

Among the party's guests was, appropriately, actor Mark Metcalf, probably best known for his role as Douglas C. Neidermeyer in "National Lampoon's Animal House" and The Maestro on "Seinfeld." Having indulged in the privileged lifestyle that successful acting in L.A. affords, the now Milwaukee resident admitted to the crowd that his preference actually lies here in the heartland. He even snuck in a promotion for the restaurant he opened in Mequon, called Libby Montana.

After the restaurant plug, I headed over to the buffet table where I caught up with Michael Wautier, MIFF's executive consultant. So, what do you ask a man who has been to more film festivals than he can count, worked closely with Milwaukee's festival for two years, and seen every film on the docket?

I wanted to be insightful, I wanted to be challenging, I wanted not to tense up and blurt out the first thing that popped into my head, "So, um, what do you recommend?" And as if no other person in the history of film festivals had ever asked him that question, he put down his plate of stuffed mushroom caps and enthusiastically described director Eytan Fox's "Walk on Water," boldly tagging it as "the perfect movie." And in the spirit of taking Mr. Wautier's advice, he also recommends the following soirees to get you into the festival mode: the pre party at Art Bar in Riverwest on Oct. 16, Opening Night at the Milwaukee Art Museum on Oct. 21, and the Closing Night/Awards Ceremony at the Milwaukee Public Museum on Oct. 30. Fun, fun, fun.

Friday night's party at Club Garibaldi had nothing to do with film, but everything to do with discovering greatness in garbage. Found Magazine is what happens when Davy Rothbart finds a to-do list on a bathroom floor that includes "paddle boating, window shopping and lots of sex," and knows he's not the only one who will find it hilarious. What follows is a published compilation of hundreds of these treasures, submitted by finders across the country. As part of his Slapdance Across America Tour, Rothbart cruised through Milwaukee to promote this publication of his, known for its mysterious intrigue and brilliant simplicity. And we spotted DJ Flavor Dav among the revelers while Wooden Robot played.

The mystery comes from the feelings you get when you read page after page of strangers' lost letters, forgotten love notes or thrown away photos. What is that feeling anyway? Is it a voyeuristic sense of guilt for knowing things about people that you were never intended to know? Or is it a sort of skewed intimacy you feel when you realize other people doodle about the same random things you do? Who knows. But what Davy knows is that the brilliance comes into play when you capitalize on people's natural curiosity about everyone else's personal lives. You can find copies of Found at Atomic Records for $5. It's worth it.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”