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Expanding our film footprint

Despite uncertainties in our midst, Tone Madison’s film team remained engaged throughout 2022.
A photo shows a screening of "David Lynch: The Art Life" on a lawn outside of Tandem Press in September 2022. The audience is spread across the grass, sitting on lawn chairs and blankets. They are shown from behind, facing the screen, on which a shot of David Lynch smoking a cigarette is visible.
“David Lynch: The Art Life” screened outdoors at Tandem Press in September.

Despite uncertainties in our midst, Tone Madison’s film team remained engaged throughout 2022.

Following film in 2022 has been as exciting as it’s been dizzying, frankly, with significant shifts in the greater Madison area. In a swell of encouraging news, we saw the first full year of theatrical exhibition since 2019, which really felt like a reaffirmation of the communal value of moviegoing.

Leopold’s Books Bar Caffè on Regent Street started an outdoor patio series in July, which wrapped-up in October, but there’s hope of future indoor screenings during the winter and early spring months of 2023. Experimental film and video art series Mills Folly Microcinema (of which I am a committee programmer) resumed regular events every month at Arts + Literature Laboratory, with additional showcases of local work in the seasonally ongoing “Project Projection.”

But there’s growing concern about traditional moviegoing within the city limits. Market Square suddenly shuttered in February without warning after a strong reopening last September, and AMC Madison 6 at Hilldale also closed down this past week, a month ahead of their initially announced final day. A dependable resource for new art house and international film, Spotlight Cinema at MMoCA, halted (perhaps for some obvious reasons). UW Cinematheque resurrected a Thursday premiere series (sort of) in its place. And that’s kind of been the recurring theme, not only in terms of how Cinematheque’s Vilas Hall space remains a downtown haven, but where our coverage has guided readers—the UW Cinematheque.

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As local film venues continue to find their footing in an endemic world, we promise to continue reporting on the industry’s ups and downs — and where you can get your cinema fix in Madison. But we can only do this with your help. Will you make a donation to sustain our film coverage?

For the first part of the year, we continued with our established long-form reviews of Cinematheque screenings. In late January, made a splash with a dual piece on Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s buzzed-about and inevitable Oscar-winner Drive My Car, which also featured a conversation with acclaimed composer behind its music, Eiko Ishibashi (later referenced by Shy Thompson at Pitchfork!). Our writers ambitiously tackled Cinematheque’s extended series—from a two-part celebration of Stuart Gordon‘s films on Sundays at the Chazen, to the transgressive La Movida Madrileña movement in Spain in February, to kung fu flicks over a long weekend in March. We also made time for a WUD Film miniature retrospective of Spike Lee.

The Wisconsin Film Festival brought out perhaps the most substantial and diverse coverage we’ve ever had. Bookending our coverage with  write-ups of microbudget indies like Retrograde and Shared Resources (accompanied by interviews with their directors), we also lent a wide lens to Hollywood classics, new international gems, and more outré cult phenomena. For the undecided, several of us even proposed an accessible last-minute itinerary with six capsule reviews. And then, as we have grown accustomed, we recapped and processed our experiences with diaristic eyes for detail, an approach that separates us from other Madison publications.

The early heat wave of post-festival season brought about the most significant changes, as we returned to our pre-pandemic events calendar when things seemed to solidify each week, sometimes last-minute. In weekly digests published every Sunday, we tried to offer more succinct takes and excerpts of forthcoming reviews for readers who may just want a firm impression rather than a rigorous interpretation. Around that time, we also eagerly got together at Four Star Video (with new contributor C Nelson-Lifson) for what I think is our best podcast yet, on Martha Coolidge’s Valley Girl, before planning a more low-key reminiscence of all the outdoor cinema in the city’s archival past and erratic present. This late summer talk, featuring a curtailed appearance by The Cap Times‘ Rob Thomas, also coincided with further coverage of sunset screenings on Memorial Terrace, from Marie Antoinette to Sharknado.

You’ll always be able to rely on Tone Madison’s film archives and event calendar to take you to the most adventurous corners of local cinema — but our coverage relies on reader support. Will you pitch in so we can keep you up-to-date on the latest events for film-lovers in Madison?

Some of our most valuable and stand-out writing, though, ultimately came from our eye on community events untethered from campus affiliation. Aaron Granat and Gracie Wallner shared how their short documentary Winter Is Alive from the “cooler world carnival” of 2021 encapsulated the spirited insight of the artist community; Maxwell Courtright shed light on a Peregrine Forum screening of Jane: An Abortion Service in the wake of the leaked Dobbs draft majority opinion. Jason Fuhrman visited Tandem Press to reveal the depths of David Lynch’s Madison connections as a multi-media artist, while also contextualizing their screening of The Art Life on the lawn that ushered in the autumn. Hannah Keziah Agustin previewed the wealth of homegrown talent as part of Arts + Literature Laboratory’s Midwest Video Poetry Festival in October.

I’m proud of what we’ve been able to muster in 2022, despite some of the uncertainty in our midst. It also helps to have an outlet to openly reflect upon cinematic philosophies and how movies can shape one’s sense of self, part of the routine attention we allocate for personal essays on Tone Madison. Before the month is out, expect to see a collective meditation by our film team on all that’s changed for them over the last 12 months.

As I’ve done throughout the year with several director interviews (including Sean Baker and David Easteal most recently), I’m committed to connecting with the voices who make up our filmmaking identity in 2023. Whether narrative, documentary, experimental, or a format somewhere in-between, if you’re a local microbudget artist, I’d like Tone Madison to be a space for reciprocal dialogue. I encourage you to share your project with me at [email protected].

You can help us continue to give Madison’s film scene the attention it deserves by becoming a sustainer today. Your new monthly donation will be matched 24x! Thank you so much for reading.

Up and at ’em,

Grant Phipps, Film Editor

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