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Best and Worst of Milwaukee Film Fest 2011

Now that MFF2011 is over for another year, it's going to be hard going back to the mainstream movies of the megaplexes in Milwaukee. That's ok because MFF2011 gave us some good memories. Total films screened for the fest was over 170. Total films I screened was 24. The frustrating thing is seeing everything one wants. The lucky thing is if you missed many of these, some will be coming to the UWM Union Theatre in the coming weeks and months. Many will also be appearing in the near future to Netflix and other similar services.

Tilda Swinton gives an incredible Oscar-worthy performance in the intelligent and difficult "We Need To Talk About Kevin".

Here's a brief rundown of the fests award winners which were announced in full on October 3, 2011, along with my personal winners and losers. For complete details on the awards and the films themselves go to Milwaukee Film's site here.

Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig Audience Awards

Best Feature Film: "Louder Than A Bomb"

Best Short Film: "The Wheel"

Cream City Cinema Award

"Don't Go"

Fiction and Documentary Competition

Fiction Film: "Nothing's All Bad"

Documentary Film: "Somewhere Between"

Formatt Hitech Cinematography Award

"Bibliotheque Pascal" as chosen by Academy Award winning cinematographer Wilmos Zsigmond

Milwaukee Movie Examiner's Best of MFF2011:

  1. (tie) "The Sleeping Beauty"/"The Interrupters"
  2. (tie) "We Need To Talk About Kevin"/"Dragonslayer"
  3. "Wish Me Away"
  4. "Gandu"
  5. "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life"
  6. "The Redemption of General Butt Naked"
  7. "Mumbai Diaries"
  8. "On Tour"
  9. "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"

All of the films in my best of list rated a 5 of 5.

Milwaukee Movie Examiner's Worst of MFF 2011:

  1. (tie) "Green"/"Bibliotheque Pascal"
  2. "Like Crazy"
  3. "The Last Circus"
  4. "Hermano"

The best films in my opinion of this years' fest challenged the audience in deep, profound, and provocative ways. Four of my top films were documentaries. "The Interrupters" and "The Redemption of General Butt Naked" will be showing at UWM Union Theatre in the very near future (check UWM Union Theatre's site here for more info). "Gandu" was a love it or hate it film that is shockingly profane but it takes you on a journey and ultimately you discover the humanity in the title character. "Gainsbourg" was a wildly original biopic. "The Sleeping Beauty" took an adult take on the well known fairy tale with allusions to puberty and a sexual coming of age. It definitely isn't Disney's take but is a fascinating and beautiful journey. "We Need To Talk About Kevin" seems almost a sure thing for a least one or two Oscar nominations. "Wish Me Away" tells the brave story of Chely Wright who becomes the first country singer to come out as a lesbian and begins to connect with the LGBT community. "Mumbai Diaries" tells a story of a love triangle that crosses India's social classes. A sweet and entertaining movie. "On Tour" is a fun road movie about a troupe of American burlesque performers who are on tour with their manager in Italy. "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" is an enchanting romantic comedy from Hong Kong and from a director (Johnnie To) who's mainly known for his action/mafia movies.

The worst films of the fest divided audiences and even some that audience members most hated actually had quite a few defenders. All but "Green", seemingly the most hated movie at the fest, the film is mumblecore at it's worst. The film's two central characters are New York intellectuals who go on vacation out in rural Virginia. They meet a woman who they deem to be uneducated and a hick but eventually warm to. The female half of the couple then has paranoid fantasies that the woman and her boyfriend are having a steamy affair. Annoying and seemingly endless at 75 minutes. "Bibliotheque Pascal" is a turgid fantasy about a half Hungarian/half Romanian woman who is trying to win back custody of her child. What's real and what's not are blended in this extremely unpleasant film and the viewer doesn't really care if she gets her daughter back or not. Want's to be a bleak version of "Amelie" but fails. Still some really enjoyed this and it did win the cinematography award. Similarly, "Like Crazy" wants to be a junior version of "Blue Valentine" but doesn't have the chops and ultimately fails to hold the audience interest. We don't care about the couple we see on screen who are seperated from each other as one is from the US and the other the UK. Complications ensue and they do bad things to each other but neither is human and it leads to a rather blase ending. "The Last Circus" did it for many people at the fest, it had everything they were looking for: machine gun toting clowns, revenge, a love triangle. However, those elements do not a movie make on their own. Halfway through the very interesting tale takes a turn for the bizarre and it never fully recovers. It's hard to believe that it was nominated for so many Cesar awards. "Hermano" is a film that had potential as a tale about two boys who become brothers in a very unique way. A tragedy early on in the film changes it from being about two young brothers with a love for soccer into just another average crime tale. Unfortunate.

What were your winners and losers of MFF2011? Drop me a line in the comment section or email me at You may also follow me on twitter @milwaukeefilmex. Do you have a film that you want me to screen or maybe a suggestion for a film you'd like to see reviewed here. Drop me a line, I'd like to hear from you and I'll do my best to cover it. Are you on facebook? Join the Milwaukee Movie Examiner facebook group here for exclusive content.


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