Elementary-school animation, a stand-up visit from Roy Wood Jr., eclectic organ journeys with Mike Cammilleri, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY FEBRUARY 21
A group of fourth- and fifth-graders at Crestwood Elementary School on Madison’s west side made it to the Wisconsin Film Festival last year with the short film Isis And Osiris. They created the film in a new animation class led by art teacher Luke Bassuener (who’s also a busy local musician, playing in projects including Asumaya, Faux Fawn, and Disaster Passport), and they’ve kept on using stop-motion techniques to explore themes from mythology. At this event, Bassuener and students will screen 2018’s A Valkyrie’s Tale, which blends a grim Norse myth with charming, texturally rich, cut-paper characters and scenery. It’s a great example of how filmmakers can create a lot of atmosphere with slim resources: One scene uses flickering scraps of green paper to represent a ring of fire in which the tragic heroine Brunhilde is imprisoned, and the film’s score consists of sparse but effective piano, guitar, and thumb-piano figures. In addition to the screening, the students will join Bassuener to give an animation workshop for kids, and will participate in a post-screening Q&A. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 22
Of the current cohort of Daily Show correspondents, Roy Wood Jr. and Dulcé Sloan have perhaps the strongest identities as stand-up comics outside of the show, both with acts that express a relentlessly honed sense of where they stand in this world. Sloan visited Madison in December, and now Wood returns behind his 2019 album and Comedy Central special No One Loves You. Wood is a bit more the beleaguered everyman, but always keenly aware of what it means to be a black everyman in America. The tracklisting of No One Loves You reads like a series of normal-middle-American-dude opinions: “Love The Anthem,” “Love The Police,” “Love McDonald’s.”
But Wood often uses the incisiveness and misdirection of a veteran stand-up to cut to the perverse heart of these subjects. On the track “Love Snitching,” for instance, Wood suggests that we should encourage dirty cops to rat each other out by paying them more. I can’t endorse that but I can’t deny that Wood makes it funny by focusing on how incentives drive human behavior: “Ain’t no brotherhood in a job that pay you a real wage! People snitch left and right. You ever notice doctors don’t stick together…It ain’t a bunch of other doctors in the emergency room talkin’ about ‘Real doctors don’t snitch on other doctors.’ No! ‘That n____ chopped off the leg, come get his ass!'” He walks that line between politics and straightforward observational comedy all across this record, keeping the audience just uncomfortable enough that the punchlines come with a masterful dose of relief. —Scott Gordon
The breathtakingly innovative cinematography of Mikhail Kalotozov’s 1964 film I Am Cuba is so stunning that it could easily go head to head with any present-day Best Cinematography Oscar nominee. Through four vignettes, the film follows the struggles of Cuba’s less privileged citizens in the pre-revolution era. While plot, acting, and other film components don’t necessarily weigh down the film, they play as a conduit for the filmmakers to deliver a technical tour de force. Financed by the USSR and aided by the Cuban government to promote socialism internationally, the filmmakers were free to explore filming techniques without worrying about a budget. It doesn’t take a deep technical knowledge of filmmaking to be mesmerized by the camera techniques cinematographer Sergey Urusevsky incorporates here (see the 2005 documentary The Siberian Mammoth for more about his work).
The film’s opening offers the viewer (a tourist if you will) an aerial view of the island before dropping us on a paddleboat, weaving through river traffic. After disembarking, we dodge sugarcane leaves, patrons of a nightclub, and frolicking bodies in a resort pool. We orbit our subjects, the camera delivering intimate close-ups or shots from aberrant angles feet above or below, often in the same extensive scenes. The film’s use of prolonged tracking shots evokes the works of three-time Academy Award winner Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman, The Revenant), who came to fame four decades later. Directors Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola—the later two being party responsible for releasing this refurbished digital version of the film 30 years later—credit I Am Cuba as an influence upon their work. While it’s common to claim that a film must be seen in theaters, it rings true in this case; go see it. —Caleb Oakley
Madison musician Spencer Bible uses the name Tippy for what are actually two pretty distinct projects, one a four-piece rock band (as captured on a self-titled 2016 album) and the other a solo electronic outlet. What unites them is Bible’s lyrical perspective, eternally playful and smart-assed but spiked with real moments of vulnerability and uncertainty. (Full disclosure: Bible and I sometimes work together on events in our roles at Communication.) He’s reconfigured the solo version of Tippy since releasing 2016’s Public Displays Of Affection, switching out fuzzy Casios and drum samples for a more sophisticated electronic setup and, at his best moments, more sophisticated songwriting and arrangements as well. He plays here to celebrate the resulting release, the seven-track To You At All.
On opener “Posicomp,” Bible chops up samples from a motivational tape about time management, but uses that as a lead-in for reflection on the lonelier moments of the creative life, taking swipes at gentrification and the shortcomings of arts funding in Madison. A staple of solo-Tippy’s hyped-up live sets, “Bob Barker,” holds up in a more subdued version here, with Bible layering on cleanly defined synth hooks and bass lines, multi-tracking his own vocals, and using far more fleshed-out drum patterns than on Public Displays, particularly a hi-hat figure that helps to build up suspense in the song’s pre-choruses. The song is indeed about the retired The Price Is Right host, but focuses more on the first time Bible got “iPhone fact-checked” and began to question the instant access to information that came along with it: “And I felt kind of angry that it was as simple as this / Yeah I was running my mouth, but I feel like it fucked up the free exchange of ideas.” Tippy shares the bill here with two frequent collaborators, electro-R&B artist Mr. Jackson and lovably eccentric house producer Cop Circles. —Scott Gordon
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 23
Of the eight films in Cinematheque’s ongoing Jacques Becker series, Casque D’Or (1951) may offer the most thrilling marriage of the director’s affinity for romance and crime. In capturing the mood of 1930s poetic realism and ’40s noir in the period aesthetic of the Belle Époque (late 19th-early 20th century), the film takes its cues from a notorious true case in 1901 as well as the work of fellow Frenchman Jean-Pierre Melville, whose gritty, tragic, and cool chronicles of the underworld are considered precursors to the French New Wave.
Becker’s opening shot may gently glide over a river in the idyllic Joinsville countryside, but the location is only a temporary haven within an otherwise fraught urban tale of doomed mustachioed men competing for the affections of the alluring “demimonde” Marie (1960 Academy Award-winner Simone Signoret). Under the watchful eye of conniving gang boss Félix Leca (Claude Dauphin), the stoic, recently reformed carpenter Georges Manda (Serge Reggiani) instantly falls for Marie after an introduction by his former inmate friend Raymond (Raymond Bussières). However, this chance encounter provokes the ire of not only fellow mob member Roland (William Sabatier) but also a certain twisted and obsessive envy from Leca himself.
The waltzing rhythms of the former half are jostled a bit by primitive sexual politics and machismo of the film’s era, which encourage some unintentionally absurd dialogue. But Becker also successfully creates a deeper commentary on the spontaneous complications of lust and its inextricably sorrowful link to an inescapable specter of violence. With a concluding act that equally evokes Hitchcock and Truffaut’s Jules And Jim (1962), Casque D’Or remains a timeless exploration of the evil that men do in vengeance and attempted redemption. —Grant Phipps
The annual International Festival’s full schedule spans about three dozen performances in the Overture Center’s various spaces, all of them featuring Dane County-based artists who draw on music, dance, and literary styles from across the globe. On top of that, the day-long festival features family-friendly activities like a community mandala project, an “international market,” and food from vendors including Spice Yatra, the Italian Workman’s Club, and the Polish Heritage Club of Madison. It’s definitely worth checking things out at random throughout the day, but a few of the highlights include the UW Russian Folk Orchestra (11:30 a.m., Overture Hall), Cris Plata’s blend of country with Mexican folk (12:40 p.m., Overture Hall), Sufi storytelling from Ali Jamnia (2:15 p.m., Wisconsin Studio), a Taiwanese puppet troupe (3:35 p.m., Rotunda Stage), an a cappella performance of Eastern European music by Tri Bratovchedki (4:30 p.m., Promenade Hall). —Scott Gordon
Madison musician Mike Cammilleri has carved out a very specific niche for himself as a Hammond organ player. He not only owns a few of the unwieldy vintage instruments—and plays live with them, bass pedals and spinning speaker cabinets and all—but also grasps the role the organs began to play in American nightlife during the 1950s, anchoring versatile trios that crowds expected to play everything from jazz workouts to on-request covers of pop hits. Hammond organs also had a place in the Wisconsin tradition of supper clubs, and Cammilleri channels that warm but kitschy aesthetic, often decked out in a suit and sipping old fashioneds between songs.
Still, there’s more to it than nostalgia; Cammilleri really tries to explore the organ’s full range, from hefty bass tones to shimmery gospel chords to fleet staccato leads, and mixes in more contemporary material alongside blues and swing classics. Cammilleri will play here with Vince Jesse on guitar and Al Falaschi on drums. This iteration of the organ trio is already working on a new EP, and Cammilleri says the audience at North Street can expect covers of artists including Christopher Cross, Bobby Brown, Jane Childs, and Michael Jackson, in addition to a more traditional mix of jazz standards, blues, and ballads. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 26
Before writer-director Kenneth Lonergan was receiving 2017 Oscar nods for his seaside chronicle of familial grief, Manchester By The Sea, he pored over the involving character Margaret for nearly a decade. While the film did not see a wide release until 2012 due to a turbulent post-production that failed to yield a cut that satisfied Lonergan, it was actually shot in Manhattan seven years prior. Whether in its ultimate theatrical presentation at 150 minutes or its extended, epic version at 186 that the Wisconsin Film Festival’s Tuesday Night Movie Club series will present here, Margaret holds up as a time capsule of the mid-aughts’ social and existential anxieties and an influence to the self-reproach and atonement that drives the Dardenne Brothers’ The Unknown Girl (2016).
Working in the spirit of independent cinema pioneer John Cassavetes, Lonergan binds a fearless filmmaking ardor with a true screenwriter’s ear for layered, confrontational dialogue worthy of a great American novel, or perhaps just as fittingly, the poem by Gerard Hopkins that informs the title. Lonergan’s sentiments are largely channeled into the experiences of conflicted, quick-witted 17-year-old high school student Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin), whose attempts to chase down a bus one afternoon end up distracting the driver (Mark Ruffalo) into a fatal collision with a pedestrian. Initially, Lonergan positions the film as an urban coming-of-age drama, but it develops into a complex moral play about the bureaucratic legal process and the fraught relationships born from tragedy, particularly Lisa’s clinging to the victim’s best friend and motherly figure, Emily (Jeannie Berlin). —Grant Phipps
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 27
Racism In Healthcare: A Dialogue On The Experiences Of Black Women. Monona Terrace, 6:30 p.m. (free)
Pervasive racial inequality leaves all kinds of marks on healthcare and health outcomes, in all sorts of overt and systemic ways. People of color in America widely report facing discrimination and hostile behavior from doctors and nurses, and bear the brunt of the economic imbalances that limit access to quality care. These disparities have a harrowing impact: For instance, the infant mortality rate among African-Americans is more than double the infant mortality rate among white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, if Americans are serious about grappling with both racism and with reinventing our health-care system, we can hardly afford to ignore how those issues intersect. At this event, presented by Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood chapter, longtime healthcare advocate Sarah Noble will lead a panel discussion about the injustices black women face in the health care system, with a particular eye toward reproductive rights. The panel will also feature Sabrina Madison of the Progress Center for Black Women, Adrian Jones of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, and doula and childcare specialist Micaela Berry. The event is free, but attendees can register in advance. —Scott Gordon
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