Today’s Pick: Flyway Film Festival 2012
The Flyway Film Festival—now in its fifth year—may be tucked away in the two small towns of Pepin and Stockholm, Wisconsin, but once you arrive, you feel at home and welcomed to their wonderful safe haven. The 700 townsfolk are friendly, the quaint shops are alive with energy and positivity, and more and more visitors are attending the festival as a long holiday from the Twin Cities, Chicago, Madison, and even the East Coast. This year’s slogan, “Fall Into It,” is accompanied by an image of a woman falling in what looks into a pile of leaves; while it looks dangerous, it nicely suggests the idea of “falling” into something unexpected. Festival founder and director Rick Vaicius has raised Flyway into a festival of not only movies but also events and shindigs with film industry folks.
Today’s Pick: “Tornado Alley” at the Science Museum of Minnesota Omnitheater
I’m not the only Minnesotan with vivid memories of being herded down to Grandma’s basement when the tornado sirens blew. Residents of plains states are justly terrified of the swirling storms that show no mercy, which is why scientists are working to learn more about tornados so as to be able to better predict when and where they will strike. That quest is the subject of Sean Casey’s Tornado Alley, an often majestic Omnifilm now playing at the Science Museum of Minnesota. While the movie is a bit anticlimactic—the giant poster hanging in the lobby promises more flying fences than you’ll see on screen—it’s still an incredible opportunity to see these deadly but majestic phenomena on a giant scale.
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Today’s pick: “China Heavyweight” at St. Anthony Main
A great documentary film can shrink distance, erase time, and create surprising connections between viewer and subject. Such is the case with Yung Chang’s documentaries about China, including the acclaimed Up the Yangtzeand Last Train Home. China Heavyweight follows a boxing coach into rural China, where he recruits teenagers looking for a shot at escaping their lives as farmers.
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Today’s Pick:”The Renegades: American Avant Garde Film, 1960-1973” at the Walker Art Center
As curated by Sheryl Mousley, The Renegades is a small but powerful exhibit that you navigate like a maze, a series of strange and unforgettable encounters with landmark experimental films from the 1960s and 70s. The show builds from Hollis Frampton’s coolly Warhol-esque Lemon (1969) to an epic installation of Bruce Conner’s Three Screen Ray, a statement about the 60s that’s notable less for thematic coherence than spellbindingly kinetic energy. Gunvor Nelson’s My Name is Oona (above) suggests that there might be a lucrative market for avant-garde video portraits of children—though getting minimalism pioneer Steve Reich to personally remix a recording of your kid saying her name is gonna cost you extra.
Today’s Pick: “The Sound of Small Things” at the Trylon Mincrocinema
On September 12, local audiences will have a unique opportunity to see the aclaimed Minnesota-made film The Sound of Small Things up-close-and-personal with the director and cast members, all squeezed into the tiny Trylon Microcinema. Catch this flick before the buzz begins.
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Today’s Pick: “Compliance” at the Lagoon Cinema
Jim Brunzell and I don’t agree on everything—Beasts of the Southern Wild, for example, which Jim liked and I didn’t—but we agree that the chilling and controversial Compliance is the best movie of the year to date. Read my review, which is featured in the film’s trailer; and Jim’s interview with the director and stars of the gripping film based on the true story of a con artist who talked ordinary fast-food employees into committing unspeakable acts. Compliance opens at the Lagoon Cinema on August 31.
Today’s Pick: Juan of the Dead
Cuban director Alejandro Bruges smuggles social commentary into Juan of the Dead, a zombie picture that’s actually a pointed satire of the nation’s Communist government. When zombies begin turning up in Havana, the government declares them dissidents and suggests that the U.S. must be behind the invasion. In response, underachiever Juan decides to launch a for-profit zombie-hunting enterprise…but he may not be the Juan to demonstrate the benefits of the free market. The film makes its Minnesota premiere on July 30 and 31 at the Trylon Microcinema.
Several years ago I experimented with making short films—recording video and setting it to different soundtracks, varying the speed of the video to match the length of the audio tracks. In the process I made a fascinating discovery: no matter how I synced a video to a soundtrack, there would be moments of uncanny synchrony, moments I would never have believed could be coincidental if I hadn’t just created the coincidence.
It’s surprising that there haven’t been more experiments with chance in filmmaking, since by its nature the medium lends itself much more to a sense of inspired randomness than do music or writing. In the spirit of John Cage and other avant-garde pioneers, Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation have created what may be the world’s first randomly generated art film. Whiteonwhite: algorithmicnoir (rolling your eyes at the title is very permissible) incorporates fragments of narration, music, and video into a neverending film experience generated by an algorithm—the processes of which are displayed at the side of the screen.
Like The NeverEnding Story and the Endless Bridge, though, this film will come to an end—on July 8, when its tenure at the Walker Art Center concludes. If the premise intrigues, there’s no time like the present.