John Axford Talks Film Fest, Kubrick and a Little Baseball

For the third year the former Milwaukee Brewer pitcher and film festival sponsor will present a film by the iconoclastic and reclusive late director Kubrick.

John Axford’s first loves are surely family and baseball.

But Stanley Kubrick and the Milwaukee Film Festival have to be a close second.

For the third year in a row, the former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher and film festival producing sponsor will present a film by the iconoclastic and reclusive late director Kubrick.

This year it’s a 35mm screening of the creepfest The Shining. He previously showed 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned to Love the Bomb.

He was introduced to the festival while pitching for the Brewers in 2011 and introduced The Princess Bride in 2012. He spent the 2015 season with the Colorado Rockies.

In a few short years he has become the film festival’s Mr. October.

“I would love for him to be involved” with the festival “forever,” said festival creative and executive director Jonathan Jackson.

In an e-mail exchange Axford, who has a degree in film and TV from the University of Notre Dame, talked about his enthusiasm for the fest and Kubrick. The Shining shows Tuesday at 9:45 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre.

–I suppose its futile to ask what you plan to do or say in your presentation before the movie. There is scene in which Shelly Duvall uses a baseball bat in to protect herself from Jack Nicholson on the stairs of the Overlook Hotel.

–Well…let me answer that question with a question. If I was planning to do something for my presentation of the film, do you think I would go as cliche as the baseball bat scene? (Even though I do know it is a child’s Carl Yastrzemski bat)

–This is third Kubrick film you’ve presented. What is it about him that appeals to you?

–Everything. His attention to detail. His stubbornness. The beauty in his shots…no matter how simplistic. His use of space on screen. The man is incredible. I also love that he began as a photographer, and even more so now that I’ve been getting into photography. I read on a Zeiss (photography lens) photography page that they once were commissioned by NASA to make ten f/0.7 lenses back in the 1960’s. So NASA could take images of the dark side of the moon. Stanley Kubrick bought three of those lenses so he could shoot his low light scenes in Barry Lyndon with only candle light! Amazing!

–How do you feel about his other films? My favorite is the anti-war Paths of Glory. But I can do without Lolita.

–I love his other films. That’s why I’ve screened three now. 2001 is my favorite. I can get lost in that film every time.

–Have you seen this Kubrick super cut about the use of one point perspective in all his films. And have you seen Room 237, a documentary about the alleged secrets inside The Shining?

–I haven’t seen that super cut…but I love it. Makes perfect sense. His use of space on screen is one of his auteur finger prints. That super cut just proves it. – I have Room 237 downloaded and ready for viewing in my iTunes library. I was waiting to watch The Shining again before I jumped into that doc.

–Why have you stuck with the film festival despite leaving Milwaukee? Will you continue your support of it?

–Milwaukee Film is amazing and it’s growing every year. When you see the contributions you’ve made in the past help create and build some the great Milwaukee filmmakers of today, you have to take pride in that. I’ve always loved this city. I’ve met some good people and made even better friends. Milwaukee Film has been so kind to me dating back to Opening Night in 2011. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Being a part of this helps me continue my love for film and filmmaking. I hope I can continue to be a part of this for years to come.

–I hear you will be here through Thursday’s closing night film. What do you look forward to seeing?

–I always rely on Jonathan for my “films to see.” He doesn’t let me down.

–When we spoke a few years back, you suggested you were interested in making films at some point. Have you reached that point?

–I would love to be a filmmaker at some point in my life. I continue to write, and I have an outrageous film rig at home that I play around with all the time. And I actually have Executive Producer credits on a Music Documentary that should be out before years end, so I’m keeping my foot in the door when I can.

–And a few baseball questions. Any thoughts on the Brewers season? Expect to be back in Colorado next year? Did you have to adjust to pitching in that altitude? 

— I didn’t really watch the Brewers season, unless we were playing each other. I do believe the Rockies and Brewers ended up with the same records! I love Denver. It’s a gorgeous city, and it has some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen at a ballpark. Those mountains are great. As far as adjusting, there’s a few things you need to keep in mind while at a higher altitude, but you can’t let that get in the way of what you’re trying to accomplish. Once you let factor in to your game, it might be all you think about.  



Duane Dudek is a Milwaukee native. For more than 30 years, he was film critic and television columnist at the Milwaukee Sentinel and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He continues to apply his expertise at