Todd Phillips made a gritty, dark drama about The Joker? The Joker from the Batman comics? Isn’t Phillips the guy who makes potty mouth comedies about drunk white guys? Yeah. He is. But, then, this happened.
“Joker” is the story of a mentally ill man who is down on his luck and stepped on by his coworkers, his mother and the public at large. He’s an aspiring stand-up comic with no skills and no prospects. During one of his regular beatings by strangers on the street, he finally fights back and discovers a feeling that had been hidden not-so-deeply inside.
The film gives the iconic comic book villain the whole dark-and-gritty treatment, as we’ve seen with so many cartoon figures, from Batman to Spiderman to Razzy winner “The Fantastic Four.” But this one has some extra baggage to say the least. Though set in the ’80s, the film makes a connection with our troubled current times and tries to find a touchstone with a maniacal murderer as hero.
We had a lot of questions with this one. Can themes of mental illness and societal unrest, which connect all-too-firmly in our current climate, be tackled in a film about a comic book villain? Can the maker of “Old School” handle such an ambitious and complicated message? Can Joaquin Phoenix really dance? Tune in to Cinebuds to hear our takes. Same Bat-time. Same Bat-channel.
We’re 88Nine’s Justin Barney and Milwaukee Film’s Kpolly. We’re buds, we like cinema — we’re Cinebuds.
The Milwaukee Film Festival is IMMINENT and the Film Festival guide books are officially out! With the release of the guide we want to give a little run down of how things are gonna go. We preview some of the festival’s highlights in this week’s episode.
If you have not been to the fest before or if you are festival curious, the fest starts on Oct. 17 and goes through Oct. 31. There will be literally hundreds of movies. Tickets are on sale NOW at mkefilm.org and the guides are everywhere. As Cinebuds we will be doing daily episodes pointing to a movie to see every day. But let’s start with a couple here!
Opening night will feature “I Want My MTV.” Ever complain about MTV not even playing music anymore? Complain with an audience! The doc talks about the rise, the glory, and the change in Music Television.
The Centerpiece is “Chained for Life.” The director of “Teeth” takes on Hollywood’s representation issues in what is sure to be weird, eye-opening, and insightful.
Closing it out is “The Apollo.” Using archival footage and behind-the-scenes access to the theater and it’s staff, Oscar-winning director Rodger Ross Williams takes a look at the institution of American music that is The Apollo theater.
“Hustlers” is a fantastic movie. Let’s just start there. Get it out of the way. “Hustlers” is great. Go see it. End of story. Now. Go.
Okay, let’s get into it a bit. “Hustlers” is written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. This is her third full length release as a director. The movie is based on a true story and follows main character “Destiny,” who is played by Constance Wu. Destiny is a stripper who comes up in New York in 2007. Things are good. Money is flowing. USHER IS THERE. Then, you know what’s coming. The 2008 recession hits and it effects everything, including strip clubs. Destiny has a kid, she gets out of stripping. She hits a low. And then she needs money so she calls up her old friend Ramona, played WONDERFULLY by Jennifer Lopez. And they get into some stuff that they maybe shouldn’t get into.
There are cameos galore. Lizzo is in this. Cardi B is there. Both leave you wanting more. The movie is grounded in a sense of place. It’s about greed, family, friendship. Getting by day-to-day. We LOVED this thing. It took a world that we know nothing about and brought us right in. We loved the music, the acting, the direction, the craft, WE LOVED EVERYTHING. In the podcast we gush about the whole thing and go into detail about exactly what we loved. Check it out.
The Milwaukee Film Festival is just around the corner. This year’s festival will take place Oct. 17-31. One of my favorite series during the festival is the Black Lens program, which spotlights the work of African-American filmmakers.
The films in this year’s program cover a wide variety of topics from the iconic Apollo Theater to legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis to hip-hop fashion.
In addition to the screenings, Black Lens will host a talk Milwaukee natives Michael Starrbury and Terilyn Shropshire about the Emmy-winning series “When They See Us.” Starrbury was nominated with Ava Duvernay for an Emmy in the Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special category.
Other guests include Lisa Cortes, who produced the documentary “The Apollo” and “The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion” which is about two women’s underrated impact on hip-hop style since the ’80s.
Another documentary that I’m very excited to see play during the festival is “Boss: The Black Experience in Business,” which debuted on PBS earlier this year. Directed by Stanley Nelson, it tells the history of black entrepreneurship in America. There will also be a community forum that will feature local black business owners discussing the challenges and opportunities that come with doing business in Milwaukee.
Stanely Nelson also directed “Miles Davis: The Birth Of Cool,” which is also part of the Black Lens program. The film highlights the life and career of this iconic musician and features never before seen archival footage, studio outtakes and rare photos.
Besides the films and panel discussions, Black Lens will feature a series of four late-night social mixers hosted by XO Parlor and sponsored by Miller Brewing Company.
The Black Lens kickoff party will take place on Friday, Oct. 4, from 7-10 p.m. at The Cooperage and will feature film previews, music and refreshments. Below is the complete film lineup for the Black Lens program during the Milwaukee Film Festival.
1 Angry Black Man
Always in Season
Black Lens Shorts: Family Matters
Black Lens Shorts: Find Yourself
Boss: The Black Experience in Business
Miles Davis: The Birth of Cool
The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion
You can purchase tickets for the Milwaukee Film Festival via its website.
Few things infuriate film diehards quite like Netflix’s theatrical release strategy. The streaming giant has landed features from some of the world’s top directors, only to give them brief (or nonexistent) theatrical runs, much to the frustration of fans who’d prefer to see those movies on the big screen.
The good news is Netflix is getting better about bringing its newer offerings to theaters. And while there’s still no word on whether Milwaukee audiences will have a chance to see Martin Scorsese’s mob epic “The Irishman” in theaters, they will be able to check out another feverishly anticipated offering: The “Breaking Bad” movie “El Camino.”
The Oriental Theatre will host multiple screenings of “El Camino” on Saturday, Oct. 12, and Sunday, Oct. 13, shortly after the film begins screening on Netflix on Friday, Oct. 11.
So far little is known about the movie’s plot, other than it follows fan-favorite Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in the aftermath of the show’s series finale. You can watch a new trailer for for the film below.
The film follows a hard-drinking and generally unhealthy Brittany as she realizes she needs to make some changes. Begrudgingly and reluctantly dipping her toe into the world of running (not away from danger, but on purpose), she starts to discover a new side of herself.
Of course, discovering a new side of yourself means a lot of complications along with all the stuff that’s good and nice and good. And Jillian Bell (Brittany) plays this with her usual quick and acerbic wit delivered with Grouch Marx-like rapid fire.
You’ve probably seen Bell in a number of broad comedies over the years such as “22 Jump Street,” “Office Christmas Party,” or “Bridesmaids.” She always pops up in a small but memorable role — usually to deliver an intense and funny punch to a main character. But she’s also caught the eye of indie goliath, Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson has a notorious penchant for comedians and has cast Bell in two of his films (Inherent Vice and The Master). But, in Marathon she has found a vehicle to let her stretch her wings.
The story touches on a very American subject – our bodies and obesity. The internet is, of course, buzzing with reaction. Either it hit the mark perfectly or it grossly misrepresented the experience. So, did a thin, athletic, handsome young man (Colaizzo) accurately portray the issues of obesity and the struggles of body-image in American women….? Let’s hope that Jillian had some input, too.
“It Chapter Two” is the sequel to the 2017 movie, which is a remake of the 1990 TV mini-series, itself an adaptation of the 1986 book by Stephen King.
Chapter One followed a group of rag-tag kids as they fight against a truly terrifying clown named Pennywise, who haunts the city of Derry, Maine where they live. At the end of one, they made a blood oath that if the clown ever came back that they would reunite to take him down for good.
They wouldn’t really make a Chapter Two if they had killed
him then, or at least, it would be a fun and nice movie about a happy little
town in Maine. That’s not what happens here. Sure enough, 27 years later, the Losers
Club have all gone their separate ways, but fine themselves coming back to
Derry to fight the evil clown.
The kids are grown up. Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader and Isaiah Mustafa play just a couple of the many characters in this film and it’s peppered with flashbacks from the old crew, too.
I (hi, Justin here) watched the original TV mini-series as
well as Chapter One in the theater. Kpolly is going in BLIND. Together we come
to some differing opinions on why we liked or didn’t like the return of It.
So we’ll be honest: There aren’t a lot of worthwhile films in theaters right now that we already haven’t discussed on this podcast. So as a result, this week we saw “Good Boys,” the latest comedy from Seth Rogen and company. And you know what? It wasn’t terrible. You know what you’re getting when you see it — lots of scenes of kids saying words they shouldn’t — and yet the movie has heart.
It’s not just raunchy and mean. There are parts of the film that are surprisingly innocent and touching. It had more depth than we imagined. To be clear: We did not love “Good Boys.” It’s not nearly as good as “Booksmart.” But there’s a lot about this movie that worked. We go in depth on this week’s episode.
There has been a lot of discussion on health issues in communities of color. Recently, John Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight” addressed medical bias in the health system. Oliver talked about a study that bias against communities of color caused nearly 83,000 deaths in the African American community. He also talked about the U.S. maternal mortality rate among black women, which is the highest in the developed world.
Milwaukee Film has announced a new Minority Health Film Festival to discuss these issues and more. The festival is the first of its kind in the country and will take place from Sept. 12 to Sept. 15. The Minority Health Film Festival will feature unique film screenings, community forums and interactive health fair dealing with these issue in communities of color.
Featured speakers for the festival will include Charlamagne Tha God discussing mental health issues, Styles P discussing health and wellness, and Harriet Washington discussing the politics around medical issues.
Charlamagne Tha God, co-host of the nationally syndicated iHeartRadio program “The Breakfast Club” and New York Times bestselling author will kick off the festival with a moderated discussion at Turner Hall on Sept. 12. The social media influencer and podcaster (“Brilliant Idiots”) is recognized as a leading public advocate for mental health awareness.
The Resource Fair which takes place on Sept. 14 will cover topics on financial fitness, juicing, trauma care, and more. On Sep. 15, there will discussions on cancer and mental health. These discussions will take place at Kenilworth Square.
In addition to the panel discussion and speakers, Milwaukee Film will screen eight films that cover a wide variety of topics surrounding health issues in communities of color. The films will all be screened at the Oriental Theater.
What began as a Hmong-American play presented at UW-Milwaukee in 2018 by local Southeastern Milwaukee students has become an essential work of art, exploring issues of mental and emotional health in Milwaukee’s Hmong community. Save Me features a young Hmong girl who loses her mother and falls into depression until she meets a mysterious person who teaches her to find acceptance. The film reveals the challenges of living between the two worlds of Hmong and Western life.
When he was six years old, Dinesh Das Sabu’s parents died. Raised by his older siblings, he had little idea who his parents were or where he came from. Through making Unbroken Glass, he attempts to piece together their story and his own. Uncovering a silenced family history and disturbing truths, Dinesh and his siblings must finally reconcile the past, confronting the trauma of losing their parents and the specter of mental illness.
An exploration into the developments of medical studies where conditions like heart disease can be linked to childhood experiences, Resilience provides the basis for a new understanding of what our culture is facing and how to best treat families dealing with “toxic stress.”
“Salud Sin Papeles: Health Undocumented” – Sept. 14 at 1 p.m. – Tickets
Sparked by a neo-Nazi march, a ragtag group of activists organize the community to build a free clinic for undocumented immigrants, breaking the cycle of oppression perpetrated by healthcare disparities.
“The Interrupters” – Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. – Tickets
Profiling a year in the life of a city grappling with urban violence, The Interrupters follows members of the activist group CeaseFire as they work to curb violence in their Chicago neighborhoods by intervening in street fights and showing youths a better way to resolve conflicts.
Spilled Milk captures straight talk from doctors about the inexperience many hospital staffers have with Sickle Cell and the consequent stigmas that can plague African Americans seeking treatment for pain.
“The Invisible Vegan” – Sept. 15 at 3 p.m. – Tickets
Foregrounding the health and wellness possibilities enabled by plant-based vegan diets and lifestyle choices, The Invisible Vegan explores the problem of unhealthy dietary patterns in the African American community.
You ever lie to your grandma about her medical test results? We’ve all been there…. No? Not a familiar scenario? This week on Cinebuds, we’re talking about the new film from director Lulu Wang, “The Farewell.”
The film stars rapper-turned-actor Awkwafina in a rare dramatic turn as a granddaughter caught between her Western sensibilities and her family’s Eastern traditions. The grandmother, who she talks with frequently from half a world away, has been diagnosed with late-stage cancer and has months to live. The family has decided not to tell her she’s dying, which is apparently not uncommon in China. They don’t want the grandmother to spend her final days worried and afraid, so they stage a wedding as an excuse to gather one last time as a family. Billi (Awkwafina) must try to keep her composure as she struggles to keep a secret that goes against everything she feels is right.
Wang went to the mat for this film. Getting financial backing in Hollywood (and in China, she discovers) for an American film with an all-Asian cast is still a struggle. “No white guys?!” But she stuck to her guns and created a film that held its own in a summer line-up with superheroes, and birds who are, by all estimations, quite angry…
Listen to the cast and see if we felt the lack of Caucasians affected the film poorly. (Spoiler: we did NOT.)