The 2012 Wisconsin Film Festival - a first-timer's thoughts

This was our first year attending the Wisconsin Film Fest. I talk about it a little bit in the Madison Podcast episode that I mentioned earlier, but here are some slightly expanded thoughts on all four films my wife and I saw.
 
 
Kill List, Friday at Union South Marquee. Kind of hated it. No, really hated it. Whatever character was present in the method of storytelling was completely squandered by the absence of actual storytelling. Google it and read the spoilers; don't bother seeing it just to find out what the buzz is about.
 
Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Saturday at Orpheum. This was my best-of-fest. Sumptuous visuals of the sushi and its component ingredients, and a delicate, respectful portrayal of this dedicated old man and his sons. Surprisingly, there is a twist at the end that I should have seen coming but didn't; it is the perfect capper to a thoroughly enjoyable film. Love of sushi: certainly helpful, but not required.
 
Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, Saturday at Orpheum. The best part of a double-feature is getting prime seats for the second show. Considering the aforementioned poor video and audio quality inherent in the film itself, plus the poor acoustics (or at least the content-inappropriate acoustics) of the venue, good seats were a must. These kids nailed Raiders, got a girl to take her shirt off -- for the integrity of the gown scene in Belloq's tent, of course -- and actually set fire to a truck and one of their basements. I hope they sign off on, and participate in, a making-of documentary when their book comes out in November. I just want more of this story.
 
Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, Sunday at Bartell. Interesting premise, lots of potential for any of the following: thrilling real-life legal narrative, couldn't-script-this biography, powerful feminist argument, exposition on the value of filmmaking and oral history. Was, in fact: a frustrating bit of all of these. The title comes from a Guatemalan concept of community and shared effort; each person commits a grain of sand to the pile. This is a great philosophy for society, less so for actually making a film. The filmmaker (who, in a slightly self-aggrandizing fashion, conspicuously dropped all mention of her counterpart during the first documentary's filming after a brief bit at the beginning) should have made some cruel edits to the many emotional tales she caught on camera, and just stuck to one documentary archetype.
 
 
I really enjoyed the Union South theater, though I had no experience with the old USouth. But Bartell was nice in the old-theater mold. Orpheum was fine for Jiro, but the sound quality is undeniably poor even for a movie utilizing modern filmmaking technology, to say nothing of Betamax.