Monday, April 19, 2010

Madison Weekend: WI Film Festival

Tulips and the state capitol building in Madison, WI

It was a glorious Spring weekend, and we got to spend it in Madison at the Wisconsin Film Festival.  The place was jumping because it was also the first weekend of Dane County Farmers Market on the Square, the Wisconsin High School Forensics Association state competition, and I'm not sure what else.  It was wall-to-wall people, on the street, in restaurants, at the movies, everywhere.

Ramp to parking at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, Lake Monona

In several past years we saw four or five movies a day, hiked up and down State Street, caught food in stray moments in between, but this time we only saw three movies on Saturday and two on Sunday, and left ourselves lots of time in between to wander and snack.  As you can see in this photo, skies were blue and on Sunday the winds were calm, so that from the top of the Monona Terrace Convention Center we could see all the trees around the lake leafing out, boats and birds on the lake, bikers and runners on the paved paths around Lake Mendota.

Runners on the path around the lake

Plaque at the Monona Terrace dedicated to Otis Redding, 
whose plane crashed into Lake Mendota in 1967

We loved attending the film festival, and haven't missed one for ten years.  We have seen dozens of documentaries, animated features and shorts, foreign and domestic films over the years.  Some we enjoyed, some not so much, but we have never been bored.  There is something really wonderful about overdosing on movies in crowds where everyone is there for the same reason: they want to watch films. There's excitement in the air at a festival like this, anticipation, discussion.  We have heard actors, producers, directors, and the subjects of documentaries speak here.  We sat in the middle of a crowd of excited extras one year.  We watch the vast majority of our movies at home on DVD (often with the cat on one of our laps), and that's affordable, comfortable, and convenient.  But it just isn't as exciting as sitting in a filled up movie theater and reacting along with hundreds of other fans to what is happening on the screen.

Here what we saw this year in my order of enjoyment:

I was fascinated by an insider look at Disney animation from 1984-1994.  The director, whose parents live in Madison, answered audience questions thoughtfully.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo feature film from Sweden
I may have been the only person in the packed Orpheum Theater who had not read the book, but I still was sucked into the story, violent as it was.

Eggshelland documentary
How did I not know about the folks near Cleveland who have been decorating their front lawn for 50 years with thousands of brightly painted eggshells?  The audience started out snickering, but fell in love by the end of the movie.  Both the director and producer (who had a minor role in, and helped cast A Christmas Story) spoke at length.  It was great, but I couldn't help wondering if they had a thing for bunny suits.

A Town Called Panic stop motion animation
My husband loved it, and apparently so did most of the audience.  I fell asleep for the middle of it, and I'm OK with that.

Scrap  documentary
I wanted to love this movie that documents some of the eccentric artistic accomplishments of Jim Bishop and Tom Every, especially since I have visited the Forevertron park of recycled scrap metal, and the man himself was in the audience. But I thought the film rambled and failed to reveal anything much about what motivated either Bishop or Every.  The director spoke afterwards and said nothing to change my mind. This was a missed opportunity.

No comments: