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Cinema Chat: Oscars Preview, 'The Death Of Stalin,' 'The Party,' 'Red Sparrow,' And More

Michigan Theater
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The 90th annual Academy Awards are just days away, so let's talk movies!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about the latest movie news and all of the new flicks heading to theaters this weekend.

Cinetopia Presents--Direct From Sundance: "The Death of Stalin" – Friday, March 9 at 7:15 PM at the Michigan.

This special screening is a Michigan Theater tradition!  See this film festival HIT, on the same day audiences in New York and Los Angeles!!!  ONLY AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER!!

The one-liners fly as fast as political fortunes fall in this uproarious, wickedly irreverent satire from ARMANDO IANNUCCI(Veep, In the Loop).  Moscow, 1953: when tyrannical dictator Joseph Stalin drops dead, his parasitic cronies square off in a frantic power struggle to be the next Soviet leader.  Among the contenders are the dweeby Georgy Malenkov (JEFFREY TAMBOR), the wily Nikita Khrushchev (STEVE BUSCEMI), and the sadistic secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria (SIMON RUSSELL BEALE).  But as they bumble, brawl, and backstab their way to the top, just who is running the government?

ACADEMY AWARDS – Sunday evening, March 4!

Hollywood trade outlets Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, along with Entertainment Weekly, all predict a Best Picture win for The Shape of Water (and for that movie’s director, Guillermo del Toro) out of the category’s nine-movie field.

In the other big Oscar categories, all of the above media outlets are in agreement on Gary Oldman (for his turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour) and Three Billboards‘ Frances McDormand will likely win for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively.  Meanwhile, Three Billboards‘ Sam Rockwell and I, Tonya‘s Allison Janney both seem to have tight grips on their respective Supporting Actor/Actress races.

Vegas odds – It appears that Las Vegas oddsmakers are not in total agreement with movie experts.  Three Billboards (20/23) is the odds-on bet to win the Best Picture race over the likes of The Shape of Water (7/5), Get Out (11/2), and Lady Bird (14/1).  (The U.K. odds comparison website OddsChecker similarly favors Three Billboards over The Shape of Water.) As far as the acting awards, though, Oddsmakers picks are in line with critics and journalists, with the best odds going to Oldman, McDormand, Rockwell, and Janney in their respective categories.

Best Picture

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”


“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Best Director

Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water

Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”

Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Best Actor

Timothée Chalamet “Call Me by Your Name”

Daniel Day-Lewis “Phantom Thread”

Daniel Kaluuya “Get Out”

Gary Oldman “Darkest Hour”

Denzel Washington “Roman J. Israel Esq.”

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins “The Shape of Water”

Frances McDormand “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Margot Robbie “I, Tonya”

Saoirse Ronan “Lady Bird”

Meryl Streep “The Post”

Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe “The Florida Project”

Woody Harrelson “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Richard Jenkins “The Shape of Water”

Christopher Plummer“All the Money in the World”

Sam Rockwell “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige “Mudbound”

Lesley Manville “Phantom Thread”

Octavia Spencer “The Shape of Water”

Allison Janney “I, Tonya”

Laurie Metcalf“Lady Bird”

Best Animated Feature

“The Boss Baby”

“The Breadwinner”



“Loving Vincent”– a HUGE Michigan Theater hit

Best Foreign Language Film

“A Fantastic Woman”

“The Insult”


“Of Body and Soul”

“The Square”– Opened State Theatre

Best Documentary


“Faces Places”


“Last Men in Aleppo”

“Strong Island”

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049”Roger Deakins – long-time and talented DP who has never won

“Darkest Hour” Bruno Delbonnel

“Dunkirk” Hoyte van Hoytema

“Mudbound” Rachel Morrison – excellent work and first woman nominated for Cinematography

“The Shape of Water” Dan Laustsen

Best Original Song

“Mighty River” Mudbound

“Mystery of Love” Call Me by Your Name

“Remember Me” Coco

“Stand Up for Something” Marshall

“This Is Me” The Greatest Showman--LOCAL, Pasick and Paul

Best Documentary (Short Subject)

“Edith+Eddie,” Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright– LOCAL Laura Checkoway

“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Frank Stiefel

“Heroin(e),” Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon

“Knife Skills,” Thomas Lennon

“Traffic Stop,” Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Best Short Film (Animated)

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant

“Garden Party,” Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon

“Lou,” Dave Mullins, Dana Murray

“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata

“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Best Short Film (Live Action)

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk

“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, Josh Lawson

“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr.

“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton

“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen


"The Party"

Starring Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Cillian Murphy, and Patricia Clarkson, this film is a British black comedy that sees a celebration unravel as more guests arrive with dramatic news.  A night that began with champagne soon ends up with arguments, shouting and a pointed gun. 


"The Hidden Fortress"

The “Enter the Samurai” Film Seriescontinues next Monday, March 5 at 7:00 PM.  In this next film from Writer/Director Akira Kurosawa, two greedy peasants escort a man and woman across enemy lines, lured by gold.  However, they do not realize that their companions are actually a princess and her general.

"Me, the Other"

Back by popular demand, this film returns to the Michigan following a sold out show last January on Martin Luther King Day in our Main Theater.  This locally-made documentary follows 12 students at 3 Washtenaw County Campuses to tell stories of differences due to prejudice, ignorance, and discrimination and found “otherness” is never one thing.

"Free the Mind"

The Science on Screen seriescontinues next Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30pm with this documentary, which focuses on Dr. Richard Davidson, a brain specialist, who experiments with meditation and yoga as a means of helping soldiers with PTSD and children with ADHD.

"Step Brothers"

This will continue our new film series "Ferrell Child: The Films Of Will Ferrell"next Thursday, March 8th at 9:30pm.

"My Neighbor Totoro"

At the State Theatre, a new film series will premiere, perfect for families and kids of all sizes:“Ghibli for Kids” will present a selection of films from the acclaimed Japanese animation Studio Ghibli, exploring the idea of growth and change–both internal and external–through the eyes of pint-sized heroes. This Saturday, March 3, the series kicks off with this film at 1:30pm, and because it’s also part of the Toyota Family-Friendly Film Series Presented by the Benard L. Maas Foundation, kids 12 & under get in free!


"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool"

At the Michigan Theater, this film continues, based on Peter Turner’s memoir of the same name.  The film follows the passionate relationship between Turner (played by Jamie Bell) and the eccentric Academy Award winning actress Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening) in 1978 Liverpool.  But what starts as a vibrant affair quickly grows into a deeper relationship, and their lust for life is tested to the limits by events beyond their control.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts

Presented in Live Action, Animated, and Documentary categories, the Oscar-Nominated Shorts honor the best of short filmmaking from 2017, including Edith + Eddie in the Documentary category from Ann Arbor native Laura Checkoway with Thomas Lee Wrights.

"The Post"

Stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in the true story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

“Phantom Thread”

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman who becomes his muse and lover. 

"Black Panther"

At the State Theatre, this film continues to play and break box office records nationwide!  From Director Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, the film finds T'Challa, a.k.a the Black Panther, returning home after the death of his father to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king.  However, a vengeful outsider arrives to challenge T’challa’s place at the throne.

"Call Me by Your Name"

A seventeen year-old (played by Timothee Chalamet) begins a relationship with his father’s visiting research assistant (played by Armie Hammer), with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.

"Lady Bird"

From Director Greta Gerwig, Saoirse Ronan plays as an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old coming of age in Sacramento, California in the early 2000s.  The film also stars Laurie Metcalf as her headstrong mother who maintains a turbulent bond with her daughter.

"I, Tonya"

Stars Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding who rose amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the late 80s and 90s, only to find her future in thrown into doubt after her ex-husband (played bySebastian Stan) intervenes with a rival.

"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Stars 5-time Academy Award nominee Frances McDormand as a mother who commissions three signs leading into her town with a message directed at the town's revered chief of police after months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case.

"The Shape of Water"

Stars Sally Hawkins as a mute custodian working in an isolated government laboratory where she develops a friendly relationship with a scaled creature living in a water tank.


"Red Sparrow"

Opening with early screenings tonight, this film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Ballerina Dominika Egorova, who is recruited to "Sparrow School," a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon.

"Death Wish"

Noted horror director Eli Roth's re-imagines the 1974 revenge thriller in this modern take starring Bruce Willisand Elisabeth Shue. In the film, a family man becomes a vigilante killing machine when his family is violently attacked by robbers.

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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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