If you're looking for a snapshot that demonstrates the breadth of the offerings at the Milwaukee Film Festival, two movies airing back-to-back today at the Oriental take you from distant Pakistan to the familiar setting of Baraboo.
The story of Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani leader assassinated after returning from exile in 2007, runs at 5 p.m. Friday, and tells a tragic story that is crucial to understanding one of the most dangerous spots in the Islamic world.
It's a long (nearly two hours) but straightforward telling of the complicated story of her life, against the backdrop of the history of Pakistan. It's also the story of the Bhutto family, with comparisons to the Kennedys. Her father and role model, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup, and ultimately executed.
The time is well-spent, as we witness how crucial Pakistan became in the Islamist movement that spawned the Taliban in Afghanistan and helped shelter Osama Bin Laden and his gang of terrorists.
There is actually a local connection to this global story. Executive Producer Glenn Aveni is a native Milwaukeean.
In addition to today's 5 p.m. screening, you can see "Bhutto" at 6:15 p.m. Sunday at the North Shore in Mequon. Tickets are $10 and available at the Milwaukee Film Festival website, by calling (414) 727-8468 or by going to the box office after noon today.
Here's the trailer for "Bhutto":
World's away from "Bhutto" in every sense is the Wisconsin drama called "Baraboo" running at 7:30 tonight at the Oriental. There's little real drama in this slow-paced 99-minute slice of life in a cluster of rental cottages that will look very familiar to most of us.
The standout performance comes from Ruth Schudson, a veteran of Milwaukee theater, as bossy Bernice (pronounced BER-nis), who moves into the "motel" when her farm is sold in an auction.
There are beautiful postcard shots that sometimes seem excessive, but writer-director Mary Sweeney lovingly and subtly creates a world on film.
"Baraboo" is also screened at 2 p.m. Sunday at the North Shore, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Ridge Cinema in New Berlin.
Here's the trailer for "Baraboo":
For more on the Milwaukee Film Festival, check out yesterday's column, and tune in the TV version of OnMedia on Time Warner Cable's Wisconsin On Demand Channel 411. I chat with Jonathan Jackson, the executive director of the film festival.
On TV: First lady Michelle Obama shuts down Nickelodeon and its sister cable channels for three hours at 11 a.m. Saturday in an annual effort to get kids away from TV and go outside.
- Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making the rounds of TV outlets during his New York visit. His sit-down with Shepard Smith airs at 6 this evening on Fox News Channel.
- Lifetime has ordered new seasons of "Army Wives" and "Drop Dead Diva."
- The CW has ordered six additional scripts for its Wednesday night cheerleader drama "Hellcats." Yes, cheerleader drama.
This weekend's new stuff: As the fall TV season moves into its first weekend, NBC's "Saturday Night Live" resumes at 10:30 p.m. Saturday on Channel 4 (amazingly, when I don't put the time in, people grouse).
Amy Poehler hosts and lovely Katy Perry -- whose video with Elmo was too hot for "Sesame Street" -- is the musical guest.
The only new show launching over the next three nights is CBS' "Blue Bloods" at 9 tonight on Channel 58. It's Tom Selleck's return to TV.
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.