For a city its size, Madison does pretty well when it comes to getting movies on the big screen. Between Sundance Cinemas, the Wisconsin Film Festival, WUD Film, the UW-Cinematheque, the MMOCA Spotlight Cinema series, Micro-Wave Cinema and more, we get to see films theatrically that the big boys in Milwaukee and Minneapolis have to wait to see on DVD or Netflix.
But with hundreds of movies being released every year, many of them getting the barest theatrical runs in New York and L.A. before heading straight to video-on-demand, we can’t get everything. That’s where the Missed Madison Film Festival comes in.
Pick of the week: “Selma” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Instead of a tidy history-class lesson on the civil rights movement, Ava Duvernay presents the messiness of history in all its forms, focusing in on the three-month period where Martin Luther King, Jr. (a masterful David Oyelowo) leads a savvy protest movement to sway public opinion behind his cause. The images of violence against the protesters are immediate and horrible, and one comes away with a profound sense that history does not just have to happen, but has to be worked for, step by step.
From the outset, you think you know what sort of independent movie John Magary’s “The Mend” is going to be. Two brothers, one a straight-arrow, the other a ne’er-do-well rebel type, have been estranged for years, but manage to bond over one crazy weekend in New York City. The rebel learns to be a little responsible and, hey, maybe that stuffy straight arrow learns to loosen his tie and be a little more spontaneous, right? Maybe one of them could be played by Josh Lucas, the blandly handsome actor from the NBC version of “The Firm” and doing voice over ads for Home Depot.
“The Mend” does have many of those elements in place, including Lucas. But it is a bracingly different sort of film, a funny and scabrous look at family dysfunction that lives many loose ends both narrative and visual untied. Magary always wants to show rather than tell, suggest rather than show, and it makes for a film that gets its hooks in more deeply than you might anticipate.