Bianca Martin and Chris Lay discuss the highlights of the low-budget film series, which returns September 13. | By Bianca Martin and Chris Lay
The Micro-Wave Cinema Series got its start in early 2014, as curator (and UW-Madison film scholar) Brandon Colvin sought to fill a void in Madison’s independent-film offerings. Namely very low-budget new films—films that might be made for hundreds of dollars rather than hundreds of thousands, hence the “Micro”—and ones that take narrative and aesthetic chances. The free series will be starting up its seven-film fall season on Sunday, September 13 at Vilas Hall with God Bless The Child. Each screening will feature a post-film Q&A with the filmmakers, mostly by Skype but one in-person. Two Tone Madison contributors, Bianca Martin and Chris Lay, managed to watch between them four of those films, and joined me at WORT-FM studios this week to talk about the highlights. See below for a rundown of the schedule and our notes. Thanks to Dylan Brogan at WORT for producing this segment. Notes from our conversation below.
September 13: God Bless The Child (Directors: Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck)
Chris: Of the three I watched, it’s my personal favorite. It’s also the best introduction to what Micro-Wave does. It’s the story of four boys and their older sister who wake up and their mother is just gone. It’s a whole day of these children’s lives, and through their experience of the day, you get a lot of the aspects of childhood all in one place—the way that kids can be incredibly cruel to each other, but also wonderful kindness and affection.
September 27: The Winds That Scatter (Director: Christopher Jason Bell)
Um… Chris had some trouble getting through this one.
October 11: L For Leisure (Directors: Whitney Horn, Lev Kalman)
Bianca: This has a fun, campy energy that reminds me of watching an Alan Watts video where he is traipsing alongside the Big Sur and making big connections. I had some initial good laughs and some awkward feelings. If you are, have been, or know a graduate student, the film can be hysterical. It is definitely making fun of itself and the kind of what could be considered as bogus uses of one’s time or in ways that might not seem like good uses of one’s time. You basically follow a group of graduate students across 10 vacations, and see them relaxing and kind of poke fun at them. It’s shot in a lo-fi 16mm format, giving it a ’90s flair. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the semi-pedophilic scene where four of the male graduate students have a rendezvous with a group of high school students. I can stomach a lot, but that scene, an aberration compared to the others in style, stood out and was pretty awkward.
October 25: How The Sky Will Melt (Director: Matthew Wade)
Chris: The intersection of pointedly uncomfortable artsy fare, old school David Lynch, and low-budget drive-in grindhouse sleaze in Matthew Wade’s first feature film is certainly … something. Taking three years to complete, Wade shot the whole thing on Super 8 to get just the right graininess and beaten-up-filmstock look for the film, which, minus the clear ’90s nostalgia, would’ve fit right in alongside Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! or The Girl From Starship Venus on a weathered 42nd Street marquee. The plot itself is fairly impressionistic and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it involves an alien that needs colors, tiny weird space eggs that are used to make a colorful cake, and a chunky View-Master type device that you wear like glasses and plays cassette tapes into your eyes somehow. There’s a lot to like here, including the general menacing ambiance that’s created and maintained throughout with a lot of help from the excellent synth score, also by Wade, that wears its John Carpenter influences on its sleeve proudly. That said, lots of scenes drag a bit and seem padded to stretch the vibe as well as the running time.
November 15: Secret screening
Micro-Wave says the only way to find out what they’re screening this time is to come and see it.
November 22: The Idiot Faces Tomorrow (Director: Cameron Worden)
Bianca: Basically it starts out with the musings of this kid /young guy who does nothing for himself, lives in full hedonism, probably out of anxiety, and the one sure thing is that he is consumed with finding a job. However, due to lack of experience and what is referenced a lot his laziness, he is SOL. The idiot, as he is characterized, devises a plan to feign Down Syndrome to get into a work-placement program. Throughout the film you are following the main character’s drug-addled mind, with the mundane musings right next to the extreme experiences. You are kind of with him and watching him. There’s a lot of disorientation, aligned with the character’s general ebbs and flows on drugs. The film’s narrative techniques are very experimental. It would be hard to say that there is anything uniform bout the film, besides potentially a logical narrative that he needs a job he gets one. There’s experimental cutting—jump cuts, fades, experimental uses of sound with some trippy color use. It’s a very psychological film. It actually puts the viewer in a bit of a psychological diagnostic role.
December 6: Funny Bunny (Director: Alison Bagnali)