“Night Moves”: Think globally, bomb locally

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Night Moves” has its Madison premiere Friday at 7 p.m. at the UW-Cinematheque screening room, 4070 Vilas Hall. R, 1:52, three and a half stars out of four.

I would be very surprised if Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Moves” isn’t inspired at least in part by the 1971 Sterling Hall bombing on the UW-Madison campus. Four anti-Vietnam protesters tried to blow up the Army Mathematics Research Center using an Econoline van filled with ammonium nitrate, and a university researcher was accidentally killed in the explosion. Many would call them murderers, but they thought they were saving lives.

A similar moral ambiguity, or at least moral distance, infuses Reichardt’s film, which looks at three eco-terrorists planning a siimlar attack. What they’re doing is a crime, but they speak with the fervent urgency of freedom fighters. (“People are going to start thinking. They have to.”) All the while, the film, co-written by Reichardt and her longtime screenwriting partner Jon Raymond (“Meek’s Cutoff,” “Wendy and Lucy”) prefers to observe rather than judge.

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Nine reasons to get out of bed for the fall UW-Cinematheque schedule

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Movie-wise, we’re languishing in the doldrums right now between the summer blockbuster season and the fall awards season, which is why the hottest movies at the multiplex right now seem to be old movies like “Ghostbusters” and “Forrest Gump.”

But one of the many virtues of living in a college town is that the on-campus series are firing up right now. While the Union South Marquee has second-run showings are more mainstream fare, it’s the UW-Cinematheque that really has movie lovers ready for fall. The series, which screens films for free Thursdays through Sundays at its home base at Vilas Hall as well as at the Marquee and Chazen Museum of Art, has a terrific lineup of Madison premieres, classic series featuring great directors and actors, series built around genre (horror) and theme (World War I), and other movies that are just plain fun to see on the big screen.

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