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Cinema Chat: Ann Arbor Film Festival, Oscar Winners, 'A Wrinkle In Time,' And More

Michigan Theater
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In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about all of the new and returning films coming to the big screen this weekend.  Plus, special guest Leslie Raymond joins them to discuss this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival!

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?


Today’s guest, Leslie Raymond, is the Festival’s Director.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the oldest avant-garde and experimental film festival in North America.  Founded by George Manupelli in 1963, AAFF started as a critical, alternative venue for filmmakers and artists to share their work publicly.  Today, the festival maintains its focus on the art of film, serving as a premier forum for bold, visionary, experimental, and independent filmmakers. 


"A Wrinkle in Time"

New from Disney and Director Ava DuVernay (Selma), this film opens tonight at the State Theatre!  In this adaptation of the 1962 science fantasy novel, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find their missing scientist father.  The film stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Mindy Kaling.


Opening tomorrow, March 9, this film also arrives at the State which features the last onscreen role of Anton Yelchin.  Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart and together they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems-no matter what the cost.  David Ehrlich of Indiewire has called the film “American Psycho meets Heathers.”

"Before We Vanish"

Also at the State, from Japan, this film follows three aliens who travel to Earth in preparation for a mass invasion, taking possession of human bodies.  From acclaimed horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (not related to Akira).   


Opens tomorrow at the Michigan, starring Stanley Tucci, Kyra Sedgwick, Addison Timlin, and Janeane Garofalo.  Ted Swenson (Stanley Tucci) is a once-acclaimed author who teaches writing at a small liberal arts college.  Though his marriage to Sherrie (Kyra Sedgwick) is comfortable, he finds himself drowning in discontent--stuffy departmental dinners at which he drinks too much, smug colleagues whom he dislikes yet fears he resembles, and an endless stream of students who are as untalented as they are unteachable.  But when a new pupil, Angela Argo (Addison Timlin), shows promise Ted focuses on nurturing her career, and she appears more than willing to devote the one-on-one time required.  Basking in Angela's youth, talent, and admiration, just as she benefits from Ted's wisdom, experience, and professional connections, it's only a matter of time before lines are crossed and it becomes unclear whether Ted is predator or prey and Angela is victim or victimizer.  Based on the acclaimed novel "Blue Angel" by Francine Prose, which slyly updates the 1930 Marlene Dietrich/Josef Von Sternberg classic for today's politically correct times, this is a biting morality play about lust, ambition, power, and living in a world where scandal is as likely to make a reputation as destroy it.  Written and directed by Richard Levine.


"Step Brothers"

This will continue our "Ferrell Child: The Films Of Will Ferrell" series tonight at 9:30pm, the 2008 comedy that reunited Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.  Next week, March 15, "Zoolander."


This will continue the “Enter the Samurai” Film Series next Monday, March 12 at 7:00 PM.  This film from Writer/Director Akira Kurosawa follows a crafty samurai.  This plot may be familiar to Spaghetti Western fans, as it was famously remade by Sergio Leone to A Fistful of Dollars starring Clint Eastwood.

"Kiki's Delivery Service"

At the State Theatre, this film will continue the “Ghibli for Kids” series this Saturday, March 10 at 1:30 PM, 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!  In this friendly fantasy adventure, a young witch, on her mandatory year of independent life, finds fitting into a new community difficult while she supports herself by running an air courier service.

"Pretty Guardian: Sailor Moon The Musical"

This film will play this Sunday, March 11 at 7:30 PM at the State, the exclusive theatrical premiere of the popular Japanese stage musical.  This screening is looking to sell out, but on Sunday, March 18, the film will play again in the Michigan Theater’s Main Auditorium.


“The Shape of Water”

Now the Academy Award winner for Best Picture, this film will move to the Michigan this week to accommodate more guests who would like to catch up or revisit this fantastical sci-fi love story from Director Guillermo del Toro, who was also a winner for Best Director in last weekend’s ceremony.  The film 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.  It also picked up awards for Best Original Score and Best Achievement in Production Design.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Moving from the State to the Michigan after having a successful night at the Oscars, this film saw Sam Rockwell take home the award for Best Supporting Actor while Frances McDormand took home the Best Actress award with one of the most memorable acceptance speeches of the night.

“Call Me by Your Name”

This film also is moving from the State to the Michigan.  Writer James Ivory took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, his first Academy Award in a 60-year career.

"The Party"

Starring Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Cillian Murphy, and Patricia Clarkson, this film will also continue at the Michigan Theater.  From Writer/Director Sally Potter, this film focuses on a party to celebrate host Janet’s new promotion, but once the guests arrive it becomes clear that not everything is going to go down as smoothly as the red wine.

“Phantom Thread”

In this film, which picked up an Oscar for Best Costume Design, 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"

This film continues to thrill audiences at the State Theatre!  The film comes from Director Ryan Coogler, best known for his previous films "Fruitvale Station" and "Creed," and stars his frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther, Daniel Kaluuya of "Get Out," and many more.

“Lady Bird”

From Director Greta Gerwig, stars Saoirse Ronan as an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old coming of age in Sacramento, California in the early 2000s.

“I, Tonya”

This film stars Margot Robbie in the story of competitive figure skater Tonya Harding and features Academy Award Winner Alison Janney in a supporting role.



A dark comedy mixed with white-knuckle action and dramatic intrigue, explores the battle of survival for a businessman when he finds himself crossing the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal.  The film stars Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, and David Oyelowo.

"The Strangers: Prey at Night"

A long awaited sequel to the 2008 horror "Strangers," a family staying in a secluded mobile home park for the night are visited by three masked psychopaths.

"The Hurricane Heist"

From the Director of "The Fast and the Furious," this film follows a group of thieves who attempt a massive heist against the U.S. Treasury as a Category 5 hurricane approaches one of its Mint facilities.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at

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