The Milwaukee Film Festival is one of my favorite events in Milwaukee. If you haven’t gone to any of the films in the festival in the past, make sure you try to attend in the future. It is really great when something like that is right in your city. If you are a student, it is something you must attend before you graduate. Not only does the film festival allow people to see films they otherwise would not (low budget, foreign, etc.), but it is also allows people to access another almost forgotten side of film, a side that shows that film is more than just entertainment – it is, or at least can be, a legitimate form of art. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend much of the Film Festival this year, but I did get the chance to see a great selection of short films entitled “Date Night.”
In “Date Night,” each short had its own unique flavor and style. They were only truly united by their focus on romantic relationships that tended to be perverse or dysfunctional. Beginning with the brilliant “An Evening with Emery Long,” the story of one middle-aged man’s comical attempt to make meatloaf for his first “date” with his co-worker, and ending with the minute and a half Spanish short called, “The Screamers,” the short film collection was entertaining all the way through. One highlight was the second to last film, “Gayby,” about two friends, one a gay male and the other a female who has given up on relationships, trying to make a baby together. This plot is just one example of the creative twists on relationships that was prevalent throughout the shorts.
Probably the most creatively filmed and edited of all the shorts was “Animal Love.” Featuring Selma Blair (“Cruel Intentions,” “Hellboy”) and Jeremy Davies (Daniel Faraday from “Lost”) as two strangers who arrange to meet up using a date website. Although they seem to meet purely for sexual purposes, it becomes apparent that both characters are actually two lonely individuals looking for something more. The film really shines in the way it is presented, including a dating game show style introduction of the two main characters and a few shots through the point of view of a runaway pet guinea pig. Complete with music by (appropriately) Animal Collective, “Animal Love” was certainly a highlight of the short films, and a great mix of originality and flawed romance.
Overall, “Date Night” was a lot of fun, especially for the couples in the audience. My only complaint was that it dragged a little during the French film, “Dear Abbot,” which was disproportionately longer than the other films and could have been cut about five to ten minutes shorter. Still, I enjoyed each film for the creative ways they presented love, relationships, religion, sexual orientation and even baby-making. The variety in “Date Night” makes it a fun and unusual movie-going experience. It is just one of the many jewels the Milwaukee Film Festival can bring to this city.
by Kevin Benninger
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