Plus more events we recommend checking out in Madison, October 3 through 9 edition.
We’re partnering with the wonderful independent email newsletter Madison Minutes to bring you event recommendations every week. Some of these write-ups will appear in Madison Minutes‘ weekly event email, and all of which will appear here.
A few notes: This events roundup is, as before, selective and not comprehensive. Each week, we’ll focus on a handful of things our editors and writers find compelling, and that’s it. We’ll write up a few of them, and just list a few more. It’ll take us a while to get back to full strength with this part of our coverage, because we’ve had so many other exciting, demanding things to work on lately. Please reach out to us with suggestions—and info about your event, as long as you’re able to get it to us a few weeks in advance—at [email protected]SEPTEMBER 21
John: The Last Cowboy at Barrymore Theater. Screening at 7 p.m. $12 advance, $15 doors.
Tatsuya Nakatani, Russell/Sexe at Arts + Literature Laboratory. Doors at 6:30 p.m., music at 7 p.m. $20, $15 for students, ALL members, and Tone Madison Sustainers
Tone Madison and Arts + Literature Laboratory are co-presenting this show from Tatsuya Nakatani, a tirelessly touring veteran of avant-garde percussion. Nakatani will be performing solo here, in improvised sets that usually find him coaxing an astonishing variety of sounds from drumkit, gongs, and singing bowls. What really makes Nakatani’s performances so entrancing is how he uses a range of techniques—bows, fingertips, breath—that bring out not just the explosive power of percussion but also its most delicate harmonics and textures. (He has further explored the sheer possibility of bowed gongs with his Nakatani Gong Orchestra project.) The multifaceted music and dance duo of Tim Russell and Liz Sexe will open. Tickets are discounted for Tone Madison Sustainers and Arts + Lit Lab members. —Scott Gordon
Television Event at UW Cinematheque. Doors at 6:30 p.m., screening at 7 p.m. Free.
Excerpt from Maxwell Courtright’s review:
Television Event, the 2020 documentary by Jeff Daniels (not that one) about the making of The Day After, is a relatively straightforward telling of events, as Daniels gathers a somewhat random collection of people who made the film happen. The Day After director Nicholas Meyer is the star here, positioned as the enfant terrible (hot off his directing of 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan), who insisted on defying censors and filming all four hours of the script despite only two making it to the final cut. His devil-may-care attitude drives the idea of the original film as an heroic act, something necessary that provoked passion in its creators despite their hardship filming it. While censors and restrictive producers feature, the assumed disapproval of the Reagan administration provides most of the conflict.
Television Event shares the same task with many other historical documentaries: showing its audience that now-common tropes were radical in a different context. But the film arguably goes too far in this direction, highlighting nothing but the Sisyphean struggle to get this vitally important story to the small screen. Powers that supposedly made it difficult for The Day After to exist in the first place are also among the ones singing its praises in Television Event.
The Day After (with director Nicholas Meyer in-person) at UW Cinematheque. Doors at 6:30 p.m., screening at 7 p.m. Free.
Excerpt from Maxwell Courtright’s review:
Director Nicholas Meyer appears here in person to introduce his 1983 TV disaster drama, which features a mix of notable actors of the time (Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, and Steve Guttenberg) and local people cast for maximum Kansas-ness, certainly has the quality of something conceived more as a “special event” than a true film. Individual plot threads are played for their hyperbolic human drama while still paling in comparison to the completely blown-out existential stakes of nuclear war.
The Day After’s exposition sets up tourism ad-like idyllic images of rural Kansas and its everyday inhabitants—from the Dahlberg family preparing for their daughter Denise (Lori Lethin)’s wedding, to the students and professors at the University Of Kansas. When someone remarks that Kansas City is functionally “in the middle of nowhere” and not at risk of harm from the impending war between the U.S. and Soviets, John Lithgow’s grad student character responds (with classic Lithgow relish) that “there’s no nowhere anymore.” It’s a line that instills maximum terror in the American viewer-base who’d develop newfound fears of their hometowns no longer being safe from violence. Surely enough, war does break out, and the Kansas residents are sheltering, scavenging, and developing radiation sickness in short order. While it’s full of drama of the highest order, there’s a schematic quality about it in the logical playing-out of its horrors being the entire point.
Mad Lit: Ted Park, Rob Dz, Sincere Life, Dash at 100 Block of State Street. 8 p.m. Free.
With this show, the Mad Lit concert series closes out a second year of making a proud, joyous space for hip-hop in downtown Madison. Since its inception, Mad Lit has emphasized local artists, from the relatively established to the relatively unknown. It’s fitting that the bill includes the ever-gregarious and unflappable MC/spoken-word performer Rob Dz, who has put in a ton of behind-the-scenes work to organize Mad Lit through his connections with the Urban Community Arts Network and Greater Madison Music City Project. Sincere Life, aka Craig Smith, has spent much of the past few years concentrating on his stand-up comedy career, but also has a long track record of sharply written and executed hip-hop. Madison-born breakout Ted Park headlines.
CHAI, Jenny 123 at Memorial Union Terrace. 7 p.m. Free.
Speed Racer at Union South Marquee. 9:15 p.m. Free. (It screens again on October 8 at 6:30 p.m.)
Stuck at Chazen Museum Of Art. Doors at 1:30 p.m., screening at 2 p.m. Free.
Driving home drunk and high, nursing assistant Brandi Boski (Mena Suvari) hits a homeless man, Thomas Bardo (Stephen Rea). Instead of reporting the accident, Brandi goes home and parks the car in her garage, with Thomas stuck halfway through her windshield. The rest of the film is a slow-motion battle of the wits, as Thomas tries to escape while the increasingly desperate Brandi tries to cover up the crime.
Along with Stuart Gordon’s other late-period films King of the Ants (2003) and Edmond (2005), Stuck (2007) depicts ordinary people’s capacity for evil. While all these are not exactly horror films, at times they manage to be more disturbing than Gordon’s genre work due to their real-life settings and grimy, low-budget feel. Gordon once stated in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine that, “as you get older you start realizing that real life is scarier than anything you can dream up, that the things that people actually do to each other are far more bizarre and horrifying than anything that Lovecraft could dream of.” Though Stuck is openly indebted to Misery (1990), Gordon portrays Brandi not as a monster, but as a sympathetic, albeit self-centered character who is capable of doing monstrous things. Featuring impressive performances from both Suvari and Lea, Stuck is a potent swan song from a master of suspense.