The setting -- the rooftop of the Overture Center on a summer night -- couldn't be more beautiful for an outdoor film. That's part of the allure for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Rooftop Cinema Series, which kicks off its fourth year of outdoor movies this Friday.
But these aren't summer blockbusters, or even movies you might find at Orpheum or Sundance. Programmer Tom Yoshikami, a former programmer at the UW-Cinematheque, assembles a slate of avant-garde shorts that aim to be offbeat and stimulating but not alienating.
"I'm not trying to challenge people to the point that it's going to turn people off," Yoshikami said. "But I want to give the people the opportunity to see things they certainly wouldn't see in the art theaters in Madison, and that they may not even have ever heard of."
The outdoor cinema series runs all four nights in June, with screenings starting at about 9:30 p.m. Admission is free for museum members, $5 for the general public, and audience members are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs. Popcorn and beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) are available for sale.
The movies tend to be more light-hearted and playful than what audiences traditionally think of as experimental film. For example, this year's schedule includes an anthology of music-related films that includes shorts on Elliott Smith, R.E.M. and Devo, as well as a series of films about, of all things, frogs.
"It is very playful," Yoshikami said. "Humor has played very well on the rooftop. And a lot of visual humor, because there is sometimes noise from State Street. I remember one time there was construction, and we had to contend with the noise of machines moving at 10 o'clock at night."
Yoshikami also keeps each screening to under an hour, thinking that going much longer might tax an audience that's just looking for entertainment on a warm weekend night.
"I'm not a fan of very long avant-garde screenings," he said. "Give them a few things, some interesting things, and let them chew on those for a while. It's really about the experience of being up on the roof and watching the movies."
The summer Rooftop Cinema series includes:
Friday -- "The Short Films of Emily Hubley" features the personal and playful short animated films of Hubley, who has worked with musicians like Yo La Tengo. Hubley is tentatively scheduled to come to Madison in September to take part in the second Tales From Planet Earth Environmental Film Festival.
June 12 -- "Above and Beyond" features short films with a sky theme, appropriately enough for an open-air film series. The screening includes shorts on a lunar eclipse, workers repairing the Louisiana Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, and U.S. bombers during the Vietnam War.
June 19 -- "Ribbit, Ribbit" is a series on (you guessed it) frogs and toads. The centerpiece is the cult classic "Cane Toads: An Unnatural History," an offbeat documentary about toads infesting Australia.
June 26 -- "The Sight of Music" is a series of short films about music, including "Lucky Three," a portrait of the late Elliott Smith, and the video for R.E.M.'s "Nightswimming" by experimental filmmaker Jem Cohen.
For more information, visit mmoca.org.
Source: "Rooftop Cinema Series starts Friday" By Rob Thomas. Read full article at: http://77square.com/movies/features/story_453379