The Wisconsin Film Fest still has a few more days to run, but all those shows will be out at the Sundance movie theaters, which makes this as good a time as any to make a few interstitial comments about the festival in general:
We started going to the WFF because we love watching movies, but we didn’t start taking time off from work until we experienced the fun of wringing as many films out of the schedule as possible. We did that by making a list of must-see movies, then puzzle-piecing them together as tightly as we could. This often required dashing from one theater to another. Sometimes the theaters were almost next door to one another, but sometimes we ended up running from the university campus to capitol square. One year we had to trot all the way from the Union theater to the Bartel and didn’t miss the start of the movie. I’m still well-chuffed about that.
The films are still wonderful and we still take the time off to watch as many as possible, but this year the nature of the festival has changed fundamentally. I don’t know what it was like in the beginning, but when we started to attend in earnest, it was a walking festival. We would park the car in a lot downtown, walk to the first movie and wouldn’t return to the car until the end of the day, strolling from theater to theater, or running, as the case may be. When we had time between screenings we would do a little window shopping, or actual shopping, or step into a restaurant for a meal.
That element of the festival was gone this year entirely. Most of the films shown over the weekend were on campus at the Chazen, the Cinamateque or Union South, far enough from State street to keep us from wandering over there, to say nothing of capital square. The rest of the films were at the Sundance theater in Hilldale, which is not a bad theater at all. I like it quite a lot, not least because of the comfy seats, all that legroom and the fact that I can buy a beer and nachos and take them into the theater with me. But the location rules out walking much.
So it’s not a walking festival any longer, and that bums me out just enough to mention it here. Last year and the year before that, and the year before that, we had quite a lot of fun walking back and forth across town from one theater to another. This year, we spent a lot of time driving to theaters and, not incidentally, paid quite a lot of money for parking. Which is not to say we won’t do it again next year. The films are really good, after all. But I miss the old festival. Just saying.