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INEQUALITY FOR ALL (2013, dir. Jacob Kornbluth) Available on Netflix. With Labor Day (and not the one where Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin sensually make pies) just past, what better way to celebrate the prosperity born off the backs of hard-working Americans than with this sobering portrait of the ever-widening income gap between the wealthiest […]

INEQUALITY FOR ALL (2013, dir. Jacob Kornbluth)
Available on Netflix.

With Labor Day (and not the one where Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin sensually make pies) just past, what better way to celebrate the prosperity born off the backs of hard-working Americans than with this sobering portrait of the ever-widening income gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else? Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich provides impish charm throughout the doc as our guide into this heart of financial darkness, imbuing what could be a despairing look at the haves and have-nones with a sense of unflagging optimism and a delightful sense of gallows humor. Director Jacob Kornbluth also does a nice job working with Reich to make what could’ve been unrelatable or esoteric facts and figures clear and concise. Work yourself into a lather on the proletariat’s behalf this September.

DETENTION (2011, dir. Joseph Kahn)
Available on Netflix.

School has just reconvened (I feel your pain, kids), and I can see no better way to pay homage to that fact than through Joseph Kahn’s dizzying genre pastiche. Take parts The Breakfast Club, Donnie Darko and Scream, then throw it in the blender with a pound of Pixie Stix and that begins to scratch the surface of the lunacy this film achieves. I stumped for this movie a while back as one of 2012’s very best, and I remain adamant that this is a cult classic in waiting, a movie whose audience will be discovering it anew for years and years to come. The plot is impossible to capsulate – from its very first moments as narrated by the most popular girl in school to its finale that reclaims the pop magic that was Hanson’s 1997 “MMMBop,” Detention and its relentless director never stop to take a breath. This film is so good, it doesn’t even matter that it features Dane Cook! I desperately want to connect as many people as possible with this movie’s deranged magic, so take a chance and give yourself over to its myriad charms. Plus, Josh Hutcherson plays an integral role so anybody on Team Peeta owes it to themselves to check this out.

THE FRESHMAN (1925, dir. Fred Newmeyer)
Available on Hulu Plus.

Bridging the gap between movies celebrating our return back to school and the much-welcomed return of football season (let’s ignore last night’s result and tap into the unbridled optimism we all shared just 24 hours ago) is the classic silent film comedy, The Freshman. He’s been lost to the annals of time (perhaps best known for the iconic image of dangling from the face of a building’s clock tower instead of the very funny movie that image is pulled from, Safety Last!) as the argument has simplified itself to a binary Chaplin vs. Keaton (vs. Predator) contest but Harold Lloyd was every bit their equal in the eyes of film audiences of the ‘20s and ‘30s. This film sees him as a fresh-faced college entrant aiming to make a splash on the social scene by joining the football team. Lloyd finds a wonderful middle ground between Keaton’s stoicism and Chaplin’s humanism and this is one of his very best pictures. If you’ve never acquainted yourself with his work, there’s no better time than now. Fun Fact: The Verve Pipe’s hit song is actually just a recitation of this film’s plot: “Now I’m guilt-stricken sobbing with my head on the floor/Step right up and call me Speedy.”

LET THE FIRE BURN (2013, dir. Jason Osder)
Available on Netflix.

We appear doomed to repeat ourselves ceaselessly in the realm of senselessly escalating racial relations in America, and with the wounds reopened (quite honestly, never closed to begin with) by the events that have transpired in Ferguson in recent weeks, it seems as good a time as any to watch Jason Osder’s stunning portrait of the Philadelphia Police Department’s clash with black liberation group MOVE nearly 20 years ago. Comprised entirely of historical footage compiled from the era, this is an intimate and intense portrait of a forgotten moment in America’s history and one that seems sadly apropos given recent events. Once again, we see brutal force and tactics employed against our very own citizens by the force sworn to protect us and until we come to terms with the very different realities that exist for people of color in America and discuss them honestly and openly, these inhumane moments will continue to pick at the scabs on our conscience, never allowing them to heal. Devastating appointment viewing.

 

A MINI-MILWAUKEE FILM FESTIVAL:

ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME (2013, dir. Chiemi Karasawa)

 

Available on Netflix.

 

STORIES WE TELL (2012, dir. Sarah Polley)

 

Available on Netflix, Amazon Prime.

 

THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY (2012, dir. Sophie Fiennes)

 

Available on Netflix.

 

SHORT TERM 12 (2013, dir. Destin Cretton)

 

Available on Netflix.

 

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (2010, dir. Panos Cosmatos)
Available on Netflix.

SIGHTSEERS (2012, dir. Ben Wheatley)
Available on Netflix.

The end of this month sees the return of our beloved local institution The Milwaukee Film Festival and with the schedule set for release tomorrow, let’s prime ourselves for the all-you-can-eat cinematic buffet we’ll soon be gorging ourselves on by throwing a mini-festival of films from recent MFF’s – three documentaries and three feature films. We lost Elaine Stritch earlier this year, and while many of us who attended the screening of her documentary portrait got a lovely glimpse of the riotously candid actress during the post-film Q&A, those of us who didn’t would be well-served to catch this inside look at a fiercely independent woman’s twilight years. Stories We Tell was Sarah Polley’s absolutely incredible look at a secret family history, one of my favorite films of 2013 and one of the most moving documentaries you could ever hope to see. On the opposite end of that spectrum is the engaging and delightful trip down the cinematic rabbit hole with philosopher Slavoj Zizek in his sequel (you needn’t have seen it to enjoy this) to his Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Looking at how ideology is reinforced by the myths we tell on the big screen, Zizek is an awesome guide through these wildly disparate films, allowing you to look at them anew with his curious speech patterns and insightful observations.

On the feature film front, we’ve got the mesmerizing Short Term 12, yet another film that made my best of list last year, an absorbing story of one short-term foster care facility’s foibles with a performance from Brie Larson that in my estimation was the very best that the previous year had to offer. Beyond the Black Rainbow is a trippy exercise in mood following one troubled girl’s escape from the menacing facility that is looking to exploit her (if you’re into substances of the mind-altering variety, this would be the film during which to avail yourself of them) filled with audacious shot compositions and sound design. Finally, Sightseers is a pitch-black comedy from British cult director Ben Wheatley (not so cult that he didn’t take the time to direct the two most recent episodes of my beloved Doctor Who, however) following the blood-soaked vacation taken by two wayward souls through the British countryside, a film that has lingered in my mind ever since I saw it at last year’s festival.

If there’s any unifying theme to this mini-festival I’ve programmed for you (and for the record, here’s my ideal order: Stritch, Stories, Sightseers, Ideology, Short Term, Rainbow), it’s simply that the Milwaukee Film Festival offers Milwaukeeans the rare opportunity to catch these films amongst like-minded cineastes on the big screen, an exquisite panoptic selection of unique viewpoints and voices you won’t get through simple multiplex attendance throughout the year. So take some time out ahead of September 25th and gear yourself up for another year’s worth of mind-altering/expanding cinema!

 

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