INT. MILWAUKEE MAGAZINE OFFICES. DAY.
A short, odd-looking man sits at a desk cluttered with coffee-stained Styrofoam cups, magazines and crumpled maps of the Antarctic. A small bust of Hunter S. Thompson rests next to his lunch bucket full of crab legs. He hunches over a laptop, his back bent to near-Quasimodo levels, a scummy toothpick protruding from his torn, chapped lips. This is our protagonist, ARCHER.
Pan back. We see that ARCHER’s coworkers have all moved their desks far from his and keep watch on the creepy little dude from a distance. Clearly, this is a man who smells bad and makes people uneasy. But ARCHER doesn’t notice. He’s too engrossed in his typing.
ARCHER’s phone rings. His ringtone is “The Gummy Bear Song.” He answers.
ARCHER: Hello. This is John. No, I mean, Archer. I’m sorry. I was thinking about The 1845 Franklin Expedition, led by Captain John Franklin and how the 129 sailors under his command wandered in the barren Arctic for weeks before succumbing to lead poisoning, exposure and death. Did you know their tinned food was made using a brand-new patent that hadn’t been adequately tested? They had no idea what was happening to them. I’m sorry. Who is this?
A man speaks over the phone, his voice threatening and low. This is NILES, a character we’ll come to know well.
NILES: Have you posted Archer’s Agenda, Week 2?
ARCHER: I’m working on it.
NILES: Not good enough, pal. We need your film picks for the second week of the Milwaukee Film Festival. We promised the readers more picks.
ARCHER: I’m trying, Niles. But there’s a lot of work to do besides writing that agenda. You know I’m the managing editor at this magazine, and I actually have a lot of responsibilities. I mean, right now, I’m working this interesting story about—
NILES blows a long, disgusting raspberry into the phone.
NILES: Shut up. You’re a loser, Archer. You exist for one purpose and one purpose only and that’s to pay off your debt to the Gambini family, and the Gambini family demands lighthearted and slightly unhinged articles full of your favorite movie picks for this week of the festival. If you don’t file that story right now, you know what happens.
ARCHER holds his head in his hands. The weight of the world is threatening to crush him. But despite being a pathetic little creature, he has a reserve of hidden strength, built over many years spent as a professional cage fighter. We can see in the complex contours of his expression that he is calling upon that strength now.
ARCHER: Ok, Niles. I can write Archer’s Agenda Week Two right now. No problem.
NILES: It better be good.
ARCHER: I know.
NILES: And it dang well better be way too long and have a totally unnecessary introduction that will alienate at least 90% of potential readers. Or you’re going down, omelet boy.
ARCHER: Understood. It’ll be live by the end of today
NILES hangs up. ARCHER looks back to his laptop. His coworkers are all staring at him. He ignores them and begins typing frantically.
We pan around to get a look at his computer screen. He has milwaukeemag.com open and is writing a new post, “Archer’s Agenda: Your Guide to the Second Week of the Milwaukee Film Festival.”
We see him begin to type: “Ok, folks…”
Ok, folks, the first week of the Milwaukee Film Festival is in the rearview. And it was pretty awesome. The opening night screening of Mom & Dad’s Nipple Factory at the Oriental Theatre lived up to my hopes. After the heartwarming movie, the director went up on stage with his mom, siblings, and the film’s producers for a Q&A. Afterward, everyone headed for the Pritzlaff Building for a little opening night party, where Immortal Girlfriend performed some super intense synth music. If you saw a little guy not talking to anyone and staring at his phone the whole time, uncomfortable and overwhelmed – well, that was me.
The weekend was full of other great screenings, too. You can read some of MilMag’s staff reviews movies here.
Now, I’m super excited for what the second week holds. Here’s what I’m looking forward to most. (Note that these movies are only showing this week, so if you miss the last screening, that’s it. )
MONDAY, APRIL 24 AT 6:15 P.M. | ORIENTAL THEATRE
My dream is that someday I’ll walk into the film festival’s annual Milwaukee Show and my short film, The $auce Man Delivers the Goods will be playing on the big screen to the rapturous applause of hundreds. But for now, my avant-garde, psychedelic exploration of one man’s journey to invent the greatest sauce known to mankind remains “unfit to be seen by any man, woman or child,” according to my mom, so I don’t know. I’m workshopping it. Anyway, this film festival event is always a highlight – they screen a bunch of talented local filmmakers’ shorts, which is always fun. I’m looking forward to seeing what MKE moviemakers are up to right now (although I have to say I doubt anything will top the raw pathos of my musical number “Baby Got Barbecue” at the end of $auce Man.)
Know an individual or group committed to bridging divides in our community? Nominate them for a Unity Award by Oct. 31.
MONDAY, APRIL 24 AT 8:30 P.M. | ORIENTAL THEATRE
Raw Muffin Nuggets. Real Men Necking. Retrograde Mercury Nonsense. Rapping Mercilessly Now. Rapid Mongooses Napping. Reeking Meals Nation. Really Mean Narwhals.
Ok, I’ll stop. R.M.N. is actually a Romanian acronym that means nuclear magnetic resonance, The movie is set in Transylvania (Before you ask, it has nothing to do with Dracula.), and it follows a man who returns to his small, remote village to find work. His ex causes a local scandal when she hires three Sri Lankan men to help at the bread factory she helps run. The story looks intense and gloomy, in a good way, and I’m looking forward to the experience.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26 AT 12:30 P.M. | ORIENTAL THEATRE
This 85-minute movie was shot in one take with a single camera. That’s quite the stylistic gamble, and I’m interested to see how it plays out. Early reviews of the Chilean flick have been positive. It follows a couple that leaves their son on the side of a rural road to frighten and discipline him for his bad behavior. They return minutes later to pick him up and find that their son has disappeared. Things unravel from there. Gotta say, this one looks harrowing. Maybe not one for the faint of heart.
THURSDAY, APRIL 27 AT 7:30 P.M. | ORIENTAL THEATRE
I like movies how I like people – silent. So I’m looking forward to the screening of this 1927 silent German sci-fi epic with live musical accompaniment at the Oriental.
THURSDAY, APRIL 27 AT 12:45 P.M. | AVALON THEATER
When Russia invaded Ukraine, a group of Ukrainian journalists started filming the chaos from inside Mariupol, a city under heavy siege. This documentary is a crucial record of history unfolding right now.
6. La Civil
TUESDAY, APRIL 25 AT 1 P.M. | AVALON THEATER
THURSDAY, APRIL 27 AT 3:15 P.M. | AVALON THEATER
After her daughter is abducted by a cartel, a mother in Northern Mexico goes full vigilante, partnering with a rogue Army officer to save her child. All I know about this movie besides that description is that the thumbnail the film festival uses – the mother standing in front of a raging fire – is intimidating as heck.
THURSDAY, APRIL 27 AT 6:30 P.M. | TIMES CINEMA
Like every sad, pretentious, aging man without purpose, I own In the Aeroplane Over the Sea on vinyl. And I listen to it quite frequently alone, sitting on the floor, with my head in my hands, gritting my teeth and groaning. So I’m super excited to see this documentary about the music collective THAT Neutral Milk Hotel sprang from, especially the interviews with the mysterious giant himself, Jeff Mangum.
TUESDAY, APRIL 25 AT 4:15 P.M. | AVALON THEATER
FRIDAY, APRIL 28 AT 6 P.M. | ORIENTAL THEATRE
I’m a sucker for one particular type of story. It’s a variation on this theme: Older, unhappy dude has nothing to live for except his child (or surrogate child), whom he loves (or learns to love). It gets me every time. Aftersun, Manchester by the Sea, Logan, Kramer vs. Kramer, Leave No Trace, Galveston, etc. Scrapper looks like it might just scratch that itch. Harris Dickinson (the guy from Triangle of Sadness) plays an absent father, forced to reconnect with his 12-year-old daughter after her mother’s death.
9. Land of Gold
MONDAY, APRIL 24 AT 6:15 P.M. | AVALON THEATER
FRIDAY, APRIL 28 AT 12 P.M. | TIMES CINEMA
Remember when I said I was a sucker for a simple formula? Well, I am, and this is my agenda, so I picked two that hit the same father/child thing. Land of Gold follows a Punjabi American truck driver who finds an girl who is undocumented hiding in a container he’s driving. They set out on a cross-country trip to find her family.
SATURDAY, APRIL 29 AT 12 P.M. | ORIENTAL THEATRE
Ah, the double feature. The ol’ butt-number. Gotta love it. This year, the film festival is combining two documentaries by Ondi Timoner, her 2009 flick We Live in Public and her new 2023 film, The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution. Both films share thematic thread, exploring the internet, social media, memes and this new digital life we’ve all found ourselves living. That’s a topic I find fascinating, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what she has to say with these movies. Also, did I really just write “thematic thread?” What a dumb phrase. Ooh, look at all the themes in that thread. Better watch out while you’re sowing those thread themes with your metaphor needle. I disgust myself. Speaking of…
11. Sick of Myself
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26 AT 9:30 P.M. | TIMES CINEMA
SATURDAY, APRIL 29 AT 9:30 P.M. | TIMES CINEMA
This Norwegian satire looks super weird, dark and funny. It’s probably one of the movies I’m most excited to see in the whole festival. It follows a couple, the male half of which suddenly finds some fame for his artwork, which makes the ignored woman intensely jealous. In an attempt to gain attention, she begins taking a Russian drug, notorious for causing disgusting rashes. Her increasingly disfigured appearance draws sympathy toward her (and attention away from her partner), and soon her social media presence skyrockets. Fashion brands begin seeking her out as an icon of bravery. It looks like this one isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to social media culture and self-obsession, and I am more than on board for that.
THURSDAY, APRIL 27 AT 5:00 P.M. | ORIENTAL THEATRE
SUNDAY, APRIL 30 AT 9:15 P.M. | ORIENTAL THEATRE
Milwaukee writer/director Martin Kaszubowski is returning to the festival with his feature debut, Earlybird, which follows a struggling theater owner who puts on an outlandish play to drum up some interest. The trailer looks quite funny, and I always enjoy a good story of artistic underdogs.