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Cinema Chat: Oscar Nominations, Sundance Film Festival, 'Veteran,' 'Resident Evil,' And More

Michigan Theater
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The 2017 Oscar nominations have been announced, and the Sundance Film Festival is in full swing!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater executive director and CEO Russ Collins about the movie business and the films available to you this weekend.

"Wilson" Comes Direct from Sundance to Ann Arbor!

The Michigan Theater and Cinetopia are thrilled to carry on the tradition of “Direct from Sundance” with an exclusive Midwest premiere of "Wilson," selected from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival!  Woody Harrelson stars as Wilson, a lonely, neurotic, and hilariously honest misanthropic dog lover who reunites with his estranged wife (Laura Dern) and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter he’s never met.  In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, Wilson sets out to connect with her in what could be his last chance at having a family.  "Wilson" plays Friday, February 3 at 8 PM.  Get your tickets now!

Other Sundance Films:

An Inconvenient Sequel – Al Gore’s follow up to his environmental documentary

Dolores – about political activist that co-lead farm worker’s movement in the 1960s-70s

The Yellow Birds – Iraq war drama

Thoroughbred– didn’t see it, but big buzz picture

The Big Sick – didn’t see it, but big buzz picture

Mudbound – wonderful post WWII story about racist social attitudes faced even by war heroes

Chasing Coral – tough documentary about coral bleaching (death) because of global warming

78/52– a documentary about Alfred Hitchcock

So many, many more (and LOTS of snow).

Oscar Nominations: 12 Biggest Snubs and Surprises

“La La Land” beat out all other films, with a record-tying 14 nominations (on par with “Titanic” and “All About Eve”).  “Arrival” and “Moonlight” followed up with eight each.  And in other good news, after two years of #OscarsSoWhite, 35% of this year’s acting nominees are people of color, including previous winners Denzel Washington (“Fences”) and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”).

Here are the 12 most glaring snubs and surprises:

    1.      SNUB: “Deadpool”

In the end, Oscar voters got cold feet when it came to recognizing the 20th Century Fox mega-hit starring Ryan Reynolds. Sadly, “Deadpool” got shut out.  However “Suicide Squad” got a best makeup nomination and “Doctor Strange” received a visual effects nod.

    2.      SNUB: Amy Adams, “Arrival”

The five-time Oscar nominee was left out of the best actress category, even though “Arrival” scored eight nominations overall.  It’s possible that Adams, who also had a lead role in “Nocturnal Animals,” divided her own vote, allowing for Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) and Ruth Negga (“Loving”) to zoom past her.

    3.      SNUB: Annette Bening, “20th Century Women”

It wasn’t a great year for the Beatty-Bening household.  Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” wilted at the box office, and Bening, who was thought to be a lock in the best actress race early in the season, got pushed out of this year’s unusually competitive category for her portrait of an eccentric single mom.

    4.      SNUB: Tom Hanks, “Sully”

It’s one of the strange mysteries of the Oscars that Hanks, who has two wins but hasn’t been nominated in 16 years (since “Cast Away”), wasn’t included among the acting nominees for playing “Miracle on the Hudson” hero Sully Sullenberger.  The movie was a box-office hit, and director Clint Eastwood is usually an Academy Awards darling.

    5.      SNUB: Hugh Grant, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Many predicted that Grant would earn his first Oscar nomination ever for playing the husband of a terrible opera warbler.  But the Paramount comedy was less of an Oscar movie than a showcase for Meryl Streep.

    6.      SNUB: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, “Nocturnal Animals”

Winning the Golden Globe for best supporting actor for playing a rogue bad guy gave Taylor-Johnson a boost just as ballots were being filled out.  Yet Oscar voters preferred his co-star Michael Shannon, who portrays a no-nonsense sheriff in the Tom Ford thriller.

    7.      SNUB: Martin Scorsese, “Silence”

Scorsese has been nominated for best director eight times, but Oscar voters were indifferent to “Silence.”  The drama about Jesuit priests in Japan received only a lone nod for best cinematography.

    8.      SNUB: “Finding Dory”

In 2004, “Finding Nemo” became the first Pixar movie to win an Oscar for best animated feature. Its sequel, “Finding Dory,” was overlooked in favor of other Disney favorites (“Zootopia” and “Moana”).

    9.      SNUB: “Weiner”

The Sundance documentary about Anthony Weiner’s failed New York mayoral race was a favorite all year long.  Then came the election.  Weiner’s role in possibly spoiling the presidency for Hillary Clinton may have alienated voters from celebrating a movie about his downfall.

    10. SURPRISE: Ruth Negga, “Loving”

At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Negga was crowned an instant Oscar contender for her nuanced performance as half of an interracial couple behind an influential 1967 Supreme Court Case.  But the competitiveness of the best actress category — with the likes of Annette Bening and Amy Adams — made her more of a longshot on pundits’ list as the season progressed.

    11.  SURPRISE: Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

After a strong reception at Toronto, “Nocturnal Animals” faded from the awards conversation.  But when the movie re-emerged at the Golden Globes, it was in the form of a win for Aaron Taylor-Johnson.  So that Shannon ended up squeaking into the best-supporting actor race is a surprise.  This marks his second Oscar nomination, after 2008’s “Revolutionary Road.”

    12.  SURPRISE: Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Gibson’s comeback story is now official, given that the “Braveheart” winner is back in the best director race for his World War II drama.

Continuing Downtown

"La La Land"

This film tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.  “La La Land” is nominated for 14 Academy Awards.

"Manchester by the Sea"

After the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee (Casey Affleck) is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, and is forced to deal with a past that separated him from his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the community where he was born and raised.  "Manchester by the Sea" is nominated for six Academy Awards.


This is a searing and intimate portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman).  The film places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband's assassination.  Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a psychological portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband's legacy and the world of "Camelot" that they created and loved so well.  Also starring Peter SarsgaardGreta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup.  "Jackie" is nominated for three Academy Awards.

Special Screenings Downtown

"Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened"

One of the truly legendary musicals in the history of Broadway, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, opened to enormous fanfare in 1981, and closed after sixteen performances.  The film “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened” draws back the curtain on the extraordinary drama of that show’s creation – and tells the stories of the hopeful young performers whose lives were transformed by it.  “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened” plays Thursday and Friday, January 26-27.


The Korean Cinema NOW series continues.  A dimwitted detective meets the tyrannical heir to a mega-corporation and, after a series of offenses, decides to deliver the spoiled heir with some heavy blows of justice.  "Veteran" plays Saturday at 1 PM.  Presented by the Nam Center for Korean Studies at U-M.  Admission is free.  

2016 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour

Showcasing a wide variety of stories and styles, the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour features some of the best short films that won awards at last year’s festival, which over the course of its more than 30-year history has been widely considered the premier showcase for short films.  Including fiction, documentary, and animation from around the world, the 2016 program traverses vibrant styles from wild comedy to quiet poetry.  Each short breaks through its limited timeframe with a high level of artistry and storytelling that will resonate with audiences long after it ends.  The 2016 Sundance Shorts play Sunday at 1:30 PM at Tuesday at 7 PM.

"Zero Focus"

Director Yoshitaro Nomura’s Hitchcockian adaptation of Seicho Matsumoto’s popular Japanese mystery novel, a woman is forced to play detective in a frantic, winding and harrowing search for her missing husband.  But, when the clues start to come together, the man she married may not be who he seems.  Her desperate investigation sets off a chain of events that finds her final fate increasingly grim.  "Zero Focus" plays Monday at 7 PM.  Part of the Kuro: The Dark Edge of Filmmaking film series.

Opening at the Multiplex

"A Dog's Purpose"

This film shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.  "A Dog's Purpose" opens Friday.


Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), a prospector desperate for a lucky break, teams up with a similarly eager geologist and sets off on an amazing journey to find gold in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia.  "Gold" opens Friday.

"Resident Evil: The Final Chapter"

The human race's last hope against apocalyptic obliteration is super soldier Alice (Milla Jovovich), but she's been stripped of her psychic powers.  She must form alliances and rally survivors in Raccoon City for the climactic battle against the Umbrella Corporation and its ravenous hordes of the undead.  "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" opens Friday.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Russ Collins is the executive director of Marquee Arts, the nonprofit that oversees the Michigan Theater and State Theater in Ann Arbor.
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