In Movies & TV

You can still go to the movies (kind of) with the help of Milwaukee Film's Sofa Cinema.

Wealth and witch hunting: Now showing at MKE Film's Sofa Cinema

The Oriental Theatre may be closed, but Milwaukee Film has still found a way to bring excellent new movies to you during this strange time: Sofa Cinema.

Found at Milwaukee Film's website, Sofa Cinema is a virtual theater, offering a number of indie gems to stream on your screens at home while their screens at the Oriental are temporarily dark. Best of all, your digital rentals not only provide you with quality cinema but also provide support for Milwaukee Film during these unusual and strained times, as each purchase splits a significant percentage of the proceeds with the Brew City cinephile nonprofit.

So the next time you're looking for an escape from the news and quarantine life, and you've already binge-watched that sitcom 17 times from beginning to end, try one of the following Sofa Cinema options. It's some good entertainment that helps fund an even better local cause – and right now, it's the closest thing we've got to going to the movies.

"Capital in the Twenty-First Century"

Get ready for the most exciting and informative economics and history class of your life. OK, an admittedly low bar to get over, but "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" – a documentary based on the popular book by economist Thomas Piketty – does it and then some, combining slick and clever direction with a fascinating explanation of economics in modern history, digging through the clutter of an often-complicated subject in pursuit of clarity, explaining how we got to such a massive wealth divide today and what could potentially happen next if we don't rethink the status quo. (A five-day rental pass costs $12, with 50 percent of the proceeds going toward Milwaukee Film.)

"The Witch Hunters"

No, not "The Last Witch Hunter," the Vin Diesel movie based off his "Dungeons & Dragons" character. And no, not "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," the gory action fantasy about the two fairy tale children becoming traveling witch exterminators. This is "The Witch Hunters," a family-friendly Serbian dramedy about a reserved ten-year-old who goes on a quest with a classmate to defeat her wicked stepmother – and also he occasionally has vivid dreams of becoming a caped superhero. Somehow that's the most grounded and normal movie of the three I've mentioned here – but it's also the most well-reviewed too, scoring a place at last year's Milwaukee Film Festival. (A 72-hour rental costs $10, with 50 percent of the proceeds going toward Milwaukee Film.)

"The Painter and the Thief"

A documentary that plays like a twisty thriller, "The Painter and the Thief" follows, yes, a painter and the thief who stole two of her works without a trace. The two, brought together by fate, start to kindle a friendship. But while they get closer, with the artist even using the thief as the model for some of her newest paintings, is she simply using this friendship to find out where he took her stolen artwork? Does he know more than she's telling him – including how he knows about why they're spending so much time together and talking? Produced by the Oscar-winning director of "20 Feet From Stardom," it's a true-life art world thriller that might just be a work of art in its own right.

"Life in Synchro"

Thanks to my older sister and her time with the Wisconsin Edge, I've been immersed in the world of synchronized ice skating – from going to the Midwestern rinks to watching the tricky moves on ice and even harrumphing about the judges – for most of my life. And now you will too, with the new hour-long sports doc "Life in Synchro," taking you behind the scenes of this unique sport, featuring teams learning to move and pull together on the ice with a combination of smooth beauty and intense strength. Witness all the drama, excitement and inspiration of this growing but still underground sport – all without having to sit in a frosty ice rink in Michigan all day long, eating vending stand hot dogs for all three meals.

"The Cordillera of Dreams"

You learn something new everyday. For instance, today I learned that a cordillera is a long chain of mountain ranges – and you'll learn even more from director Patricio Guzman's personal and political documentary "The Cordillera of Dreams," the winner of the 2019 Cannes Golden Eye, its top doc prize. The cordillera in the title refers to the mountain range that watches over and literally shapes his native country of Chile, a place he fled more than 40 years ago in order to escape Augusto Pinochet's growing government dictatorship and now looks back on in all of its beauty and complexities, its past, present and future. (A two-day rental costs $12, with half of the proceeds going toward Milwaukee Film.)

"Driveways"

The world of stage and screen lost a giant this year when Brian Dennehy passed away last month at the age of 81. He left behind an incredible resume of work, earning two Tony awards ("Death of a Salesman," "Long Day's Journey Into night") and putting in performances in beloved movies like "First Blood," "Ratatouille," "Tommy Boy" and, in one of his final on-screen appearances, "Driveways," a moving indie drama about a widowed veteran who befriends his young neighbor. It's a lovely and fitting final bow for an excellent actor. (A three-day rental costs $12, with 45% of the proceeds going toward Milwaukee Film.)

"Spaceship Earth"

If you're looking for more stranger-than-fiction stories to get you through this lockdown, book yourself a stay at "Spaceship Earth," a documentary about the 1991 Biosphere 2 project which locked away a crew of scientists inside a giant futuristic enclosed natural research facility to learn more about Earth's various ecosystems and inspire knowledge on how to potentially recreate them on other planets. Instead, they learned a lot about escalating interpersonal tensions and psychological breakdowns, and inspired the Pauly Shore movie "Bio-Dome." A film about a bunch of people stuck inside a building, slowly going mad? Not relatable content at all!

"Straight Up"

A returning pick from the 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival, "Straight Up" follows a 20-something gay man having a quarter-life crisis, questioning if he's actually gay in the hopes of decreasing his odds of dying alone. In the midst of this stressed-out and confusing time, he begins a relationship with a struggling actress based on rapid-fire repartee rather than romance, intellectual interest rather than sexual interest. But what is the line between a relationship and a friendship? What does it mean to be gay or straight? The resulting indie comedy is a modern take on classic rom-com conundrums.

"Fantastic Fungi"

Last we saw mushrooms on the big screen, they were serving as an unusual relationship aid in "Phantom Thread." In this hit documentary, though, we see this fascinating fungi fully take the spotlight in its natural habitat as experts (and narrator Brie Larson of "Captain Marvel" fame and "Room" acclaim) teach us about these remarkable organisms, their complicated place in the ecosystem, their incredible medicinal qualities and their unique, gorgeously shot beauty. So make room for 'shrooms – the cinematic kind, I mean, not the psychedelic – in your schedule this week!


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