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Cinema Chat: 'So B. It,' 'Victoria And Abdul,' 'Blade Runner 2049,' And More

Michigan Theater
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In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's Patrick Campion sits down with Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins to talk about the movie business and all of the flicks you can check out at your local movie house this weekend.

Special Screening of film based on story by Ann Arbor Native (and High School classmate of Russ’s) "So B. It" – Opens 10/20, Q & A with author Sarah Weeks Sunday 10/22

For as long as Heidi can remember, her mother has had only 22 words in her vocabulary.  And that’s fine with the precocious 12 year-old.  She and Mama live happily in the bubble of love and protection provided by their remarkable neighbor, the nurturing but agoraphobic Bernadette.  Then, one day, a new word pops out of Mama’s mouth – the mysterious “soof” – and it changes everything.  Heidi is propelled on a solo cross-country journey of discovery and loss, truth and identity.  Secrets boil to the surface, long-hidden fears are faced, and Heidi finally learns who she is and where she and her childlike Mama came from.

"Victoria & Abdul:" How Costumes Convey a Controversial Friendship

The costumes have their own arcs in Stephen Frears' period drama about the clash of East and West that's relevant in our divisive times.  Director Stephen Frears (“Florence Foster Jenkins”) continues his fascination with odd pairings and female empowerment with “Victoria & Abdul,” which explores the mysterious, controversial, and loving friendship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and Indian clerk-turned-confidant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). And what better way to shed light on that friendship (both literally and metaphorically) than through their wardrobes?

“I did wide research into the social and historical world of the Royal English family [from 1887 at the Queen’s Jubilee celebration until her death in 1901], and this woman who was burdened with formality and rigidity and the absurdity of the hierarchy within the household,” said long-time Fears costume designerConsolataBoyle (twice Oscar-nominated for “The Queen” and “Florence Foster Jenkins”).  “Every nuance had to be completely right so you could turn your back on it and concentrate on the friendship.”

Overcoming the Queen’s Black Wardrobe

Since Victoria wore black for most of her life (and was in mourning for her late husband, Prince Albert), the primary challenge for Boyle was to be authentic while conveying a dramatic arc through her wardrobe.  Boyle’s work inevitably underscored the clash of East and West.  The vibrant color of Abdul’s clothes stand in stark contrast to the dark and rigid formality of Victoria’s.  Thus, the costume designer used fabric with different weights and textures to reflect the difference between the two worlds.  All of Dench’s and Fazal’s clothes were made from scratch in London and India and were highly detailed. it was a forensic journey into costuming for Boyle.  “The contrast between the heaviness of Victorian structure and the lightness of the Indian structure is so eloquently perceived,” she said.

Opening Downtown

"Victoria and Abdul" 

Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) arrives from India to participate in Queen Victoria’s (Judi Dench) golden jubilee.  The young clerk is surprised to find favor with the queen herself.  As Victoria questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance that her household and inner circle try to destroy.  As their friendship deepens, the queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes, joyfully reclaiming her humanity.  “Victoria and Abdul” opens Friday, October 6, with special advance screenings beginning Thursday, October 5.

Continuing Downtown

"Battle of the Sexes"

In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women's movement, the 1973 tennis match between women's World #1 Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men's-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as the “Battle of the Sexes” and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world.  As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles.  Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions in bedrooms and boardrooms that continue to reverberate today.  

Limited Engagements


When a renowned architecture scholar falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour, his son Jin (John Cho) finds himself stranded in Columbus, Indiana – a small Midwestern city celebrated for its many significant modernist buildings. Jin strikes up a friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young architecture enthusiast.  As their intimacy develops, Jin and Casey explore both the town and their conflicted emotions.  “Columbus” plays throughout the week of October 6.

"Ex Libris: New York Public Library"

Legendary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman brings his incisive vision behind the scenes of one of the world’s greatest institutions of learning, capturing the vast programmatic scope of NYC’s library system.  The NYPL is blessed with uniformly passionate staff and deeply devoted, appreciative bibliophiles and beneficiaries across its 92 branches.  The film reveals a venerable place of welcome, cultural exchange, and intellectual creativity.  “Ex Libris: New York Public Library” plays October 8 and 10.

Special Screenings Downtown


Inspired by the hit TV series “Stranger Things,” the Michigan Theater’s “Stranger and Stranger” film series kicks off with the horror/sci-fi classic “Firestarter!”  As youths, Andy McGee (David Keith) and his future wife, Vicky (Heather Locklear), participated in secret experiments, allowing themselves to be subjected to mysterious medical tests.  Years later, the couple’s daughter, Charlie (a young Drew Barrymore), begins to exhibit the ability of setting fires solely with her mind.  This volatile talent makes the youngster extremely dangerous, and soon she becomes a target for the enigmatic agency known as “The Shop.”  “Firestarter” plays Thursday, October 5 at 9:30 PM.

"Frankenstein" And "Bride of Frankenstein"

All of your favorite villains from the 1930s and 1940s come to the Michigan Theater in the Classics Monsters film series!  In “Frankenstein,” an obsessed scientist attempts to create life by assembling a creature from body parts of the deceased.  Dr. Frankenstein succeeds in animating his monster (played by Boris Karloff) but, confused and traumatized, it escapes to the countryside and begins to wreak havoc.  In the follow-up film, “Bride of Frankenstein,” the doctor finds himself under the control of his former mentor, who coerces Frankenstein into constructing a mate (Elsa Lanchester) for the Monster.  Meanwhile, the Monster remains on the run from those who wish to destroy him.  “Frankenstein” plays Monday, October 9 at 7 PM; “Bride of Frankenstein” plays Monday, October 9 at 8:45 PM.

"The Thing"

The “Stranger and Stranger” film series continues with the horror/sci-fi classic “The Thing!”  In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog.  When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp, and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims.  A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one. “The Thing” plays Thursday, October 12 at 9:30 PM.

Opening at the Multiplex

"Blade Runner 2049"

30 years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos.  K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.  “Blade Runner 2049” opens Friday.

"The Mountain Between Us"

Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow covered mountain.  When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across hundreds of miles of wilderness, pushing one another to endure and discovering strength they never knew possible. Starring Kate Winsletand Idris Elba, “The Mountain Between Us” opens Friday. 

"My Little Pony: The Movie"

A dark force threatens Ponyville and the Mane 6 - Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rarity - embark on an unforgettable journey beyond Equestria where they meet new friends and exciting challenges on a quest to use the magic of friendship to save their home.  “My Little Pony: The Movie” opens Friday.

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— Patrick Campion is the WEMU Program Director.  You can contact Patrick at734.487.3363, on twitter @WEMUPC, or email him at pcampion@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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