It's opening day at the Wisconsin Film Festival and all over Madison, film fans are marking up their schedules, looking for extra tickets on Facebook and Twitter, and kissing their loved ones goodbye.
The festival kicks off with evening screenings at four campus venues Thursday night — Union South, UW-Cinematheque, UW Chazen and UW Elvehjem — before expanding Friday to daytime screenings and Sundance Cinema screenings.
I'll be posting reviews every day at 77square.com and on my Madison Movie blog. Every morning, check out captimes.com for a daily festival round-up, including links to preview stories, trailers and reviews from around the Internet. And follow me on Twitter at @robt77 for up-to-the-minute coverage from the fest.
First off, by way of introduction, watch festival directors Christina Martin-Wright and Jim Healy explain the festival for Madison's "The Morning Blend."
Tickets for Thursday's shows will be on sale at the venues. Even if a film sold out in advance, there should be a few rush tickets available at every screening if you get there early enough. In addition, tickets for upcoming days are still available online at wifilmfest.org.
If you're looking for eleventh-hour ideas about what movies to see, I came up with a dozen films for this week's 77 Square, broken down for different film-fan demographics (horror fans, classic movie fans, etc.) Most of the screenings featured still have advance tickets on sale.
Now, onto Thursday's films. I'm very excited to see Pablo Berger's "Blancanieves" (6:30 p.m., Union South), a bold retelling of the "Snow White" fairy tale as a black-and-white silent film, set in southern Spain in the 1920s. (By the way, here's a fun thing: come find me at the festival tonight and get me to try and pronounce "Blancanieves." You'll be glad you did.)
The New York Times did a wonderful slideshow online that features both lovely images from the films as well as storyboards, all with Berger's commentary.
Another much-anticipated film opening tonight is "I Am Divine" (6 p.m., UW Elvehjem), a documentary about the outrageous gay artist (and John Waters muse) Divine. The film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival, and Film School Rejects raved that the doc exuberantly celebrates how a middle-class Baltimore kid became a proudly, defiantly outsider icon. Director Jeffrey Schwarz will be at the screening, and it also screens at 9:30 p.m. Friday night at Sundance.
Also appealing is "The Institute" (6:45 p.m., UW Chazen) a documentary about an "alternate reality game" (ARG) played on the streets of San Francisco, involving clues, mysterious characters and real-world locations. The film blurs the line between "real world" and "game world," according to an article last fall from Wired that included reactions from a screening of the film in San Francisco. "The Institute" plays again at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at Sundance, and co-producer Uriah Findley will be at that screening, but not Thursday's.
Lastly, the comedy "The Smart Ones" (8:30 p.m., UW Elvehjem) mixes grad-school angst and larceny in its tale of grad students who commit robbery to stay financially afloat. Over at Dane 101, Sean Weitner says it could be tighter and sharper, but is overall a pleasant Wisconsin-grown way to kick off the festival. Directors Travis Torok and Kyle Probst will be there.