Tag Archives: Wisconsin Film Festival

Filmgoer’s Dispatch: 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival

“Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our life time…” ― Martin Scorsese

The first signs of spring in Madison, Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Film Festival premieres in theaters on the University of Wisconsin campus and near east and westside neighborhoods, usually during the end of March and early April, the terrace chairs return to the UW Memorial Union, and the first Dane County Saturday Farmer’s Market arrives. Continue reading

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The Itchy Restlessness of Spring Fever

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”  ― Mark Twain

It’s true, I came down with a case of spring fever again this year, beginning in February — the symptoms were clear: itchy restlessness, daydreaming, and questioning the choices in my life — wondering what the future holds for me. Desires and appetites grow stronger. I begin to wear clothes outdoors that are inappropriate for the weather, light jackets, short-sleeves, go sockless with canvas shoes or sandals with snow underfoot.   Continue reading

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A Filmgoer’s Guide to the Best Films of 2016

I dedicate this essay to my mother, Ethel Mae Lenzke, who shared her love of movies with me while I was growing up, and to my filmgoing friends and family who join me for movies and post-film discussions. And — as a thank you and a tribute to Roger Ebert — I give you Two Thumbs Up!   

There were some interesting trends and controversies again in 2016, even before all the award shows have named their winners and bestowed their accolades. This year, more than in the past, independent films rose to the surface competing with the studios and their marketing machines. Word of mouth by filmgoers, especially on social media, had a measurable impact. Many franchises and/or remakes didn’t capture the audiences and box office receipts they projected. More options affected where and how we viewed content, from additional film distributors, downloads and subscription services, expanding the choices and the venues, from theaters, to home, to the backseat of a car, or at work during lunch breaks on Smartphones.  Continue reading

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A Filmgoer’s Takeaway: 2016 WI Film Festival

“No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” Roger Ebert

Time can play tricks on a moviegoer when sitting in a darkened theater.  A good story ends too soon, while sometimes it’s challenging to remain in your seat until the closing credits.  It already seems like the 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival was a long time ago. Daily life has a way of altering time. Years pass and some memories seem like they happened yesterday. Days go by and recent experiences often feel like they existed in the distant past. Hopefully this dispatch from the 18th Wisconsin Film Festival will help preserve the experience for me and other cinephiles of sitting in darkened movie theaters with filmgoing friends in Madison, Wisconsin from April 14 -21. Continue reading

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Filmgoer’s Guide to the Best Films of 2015

First, as a filmgoer I want to begin by acknowledging that 2015 was an excellent year for movies.  Blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens both entertained the filmgoing audiences and made money for the studios. Dramas and biopics told stories about people and events that shaped politics and culture, including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys in Love and Mercy, Steve Jobs in both documentary and narrative films about his life, the Cold War in Bridge of Spies, and the Blacklist of screenwriters accused of being Communists in 1950s Hollywood in Trumbo.  The mortgage banking and financial crisis of Wall Street was portrayed in The Big Short, and one of the best films of the year, Spotlight, revealed the pervasive abuse of vulnerable children by Catholic priests in Boston and beyond by the investigative reporters of the Boston Globe. Continue reading

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2015 WI Film Festival Fandom (and More!)

Spring break is now behind us. I hope everyone is refreshed and ready to enjoy both work and play, and the season ahead. We’ve made it through another Wisconsin winter — though there was more light snow and cold temps this week (welcome to Wisconsin!).  Students took a break from their day-to-day routines of books and laptops, lectures and classrooms while working folks and others have been to that sunny beach and returned home to see the trees bud and flowers bloom. Thousands of others, including me, have emerged from darkened movie theaters after eight days and more than 150 films during the 17th Annual Wisconsin Film Festival.  Continue reading

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A Filmgoer’s Guide to the Best Films of 2014

“You know how everyone’s saying ‘seize the moment’? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”— The character, Nicole, from the film Boyhood.

There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” — Stephen Hawking from The Theory of Everything.

First, as a filmgoer, I want to acknowledge that 2014 has been a good year for movies.  For my filmgoing preferences, independent films rose to the top of the list of the best films of the year.  It was also difficult to limit myself to ten best films, so you’ll notice my honorable mention list is extensive. There were also a number of films that have not premiered yet in Madison, or I missed them in their limited runs.  Some of those films may have risen to the top ten. Lastly, I wanted to recognize documentaries separately from narrative films. Continue reading

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Journal/Journey

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” ― Gabriel García Márquez

Years before I started writing for others, I wrote poetry and journaled for myself. Sometimes I would share a poem with the person who inspired it yet seldom a journal entry. Journaling by its very nature is a private act, a conversation with oneself, often a daily record of happenings, experiences and observations. Sometimes our loved ones or curious friends or colleagues surreptitiously read our journals. Much is written about the consequences of reading someone’s journal without the author’s permission.

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Wisconsin Film Festival Fandom

A Filmgoer’s Guide to the 2014 Wisconsin Film Festival

Each year at the end of March or early April, I take a week’s vacation. Let me clarify. I still show up at work each day, I don’t leave the city, yet I’m transported to places all over the world; I time travel, and meet unforgettable people both on the screen and the filmgoers in line waiting to see the movies and sitting next to me inside the sold-out theaters. I’m an old-school movie fan. I still enjoy being in the audience of a movie theater sharing the experience with companions and anonymous others. One of the fandom features of the film festival is that people actually talk to each other while waiting in the queues to buy tickets, or to see the movie. Festival filmgoers chat each other up inside the theater too, before and after the films. The Wisconsin Film Festival (WFF) is one of the annual rituals for which I’m grateful I live in Madison. Continue reading

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Conversations w/My Next Girlfriend: Episode 5

Note: This is the fifth in a series of imaginary conversations with my next girlfriend.

Dear Next Girlfriend,

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked with you. There’s something about winter that makes some of us isolate and retreat to our homes. I count myself in that group this year. It has been a particularly challenging season and like so many others this winter I found comfort and solace in my home, snuggled up on the couch like an ole’ hibernating bear. Now that the first real hints of spring have arrived, I’m awakened again and so are many of my desires. For many creatures, including us, spring is mating season. Continue reading

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