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Cinema Chat: Venice Film Festival News, 'The Bookshop,' 'Operation Finale,' And More

Michigan Theater
Wikipedia Media Commons

Summer vacation is coming to a close, so let's get in another trip to the movies!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's Patrick Campion talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about the latest movie news and all of the new films coming to theaters this Labor Day weekend.

Venice Film Festival: Award Season Festivals Begin!

Until a few years ago, the Venice International Film Festival wasn’t viewed as much of an awards-season bellwether.  After the success of “La La Land”and “The Shape of Water,” it’s hard to imagine it as anything else. And while this year’s edition of the world’s oldest film festival boasts Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” Luca Guadagnino’s “Suspiria,” and Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born,"--that’s all the more reason to dig a little deeper.  It’s also worth anticipating Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate,” and Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly as siblings in “The Sisters Brothers.” But with all of those offerings generating hype across the fall festival season, the under-the-radar options look all the more enticing.

The Venice Film Festival runs August 29 – September 8.

‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’: Quentin Tarantino Finds His Charles Manson in Australian Actor

The search for Quentin Tarantino’s Charles Manson is over. The Wrap confirms the director has cast Australian actor Damon Herriman (best known for playing Dewey Crowe, his role in “Justified”} as the infamous serial killer in his ninth feature, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”  The casting news arrives as Tarantino is already well into production on the 1969-set movie, which is shaping up to be his penultimate effort if he sticks to his plan to retire after ten movies.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a television actor trying to break into the film industry alongside his friends and stuntman, played by Brad Pitt.  The characters live next door to Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, played by Margot Robbie and Rafal Zawierucha.  Tate and four others were murdered by members of the Manson Family cult on August 9, 1969.

Sony will release “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” in theaters July 26, 2019.


"The Bookshop"

At the Michigan: This film takes place in England 1959, where free-spirited widow Florence Green (played by Emily Mortimer) risks everything to open a bookshop in a conservative East Anglian coastal town.  While bringing about a surprising cultural awakening through works by Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov, she earns the polite but ruthless opposition of a local grand dame (Patricia Clarkson) and the support and affection of a reclusive book loving widower (played by Bill Nighy).  As Florence's obstacles amass and bear suspicious signs of a local power struggle, she is forced to ask: is there a place for a bookshop in a town that may not want one?

"Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood"

At the Michigan: This is the deliciously scandalous story of Scotty Bowers, a handsome ex-Marine who landed in Hollywood after the Second World War and became confidante, aide de camp, and lover to many of Hollywood's greatest male--and female-stars.  In the 1940s and '50s, he ran a gas station in the shadow of the studio lots where he would connect his band of friends from the military with those who had to hide their true sexual identities from the public.  An unsung Hollywood legend, Bowers would cater to the sexual appetites of celebrities - straight, gay, and omnivorous - for decades.

"Juliet, Naked"

At the State: Based on the novel by Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity," "About A Boy"), this is a comic account of life's second chances.  Annie (played by Rose Byrne) is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan (played byChris O'Dowd) - an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (played by Ethan Hawke).  When the acoustic demo of Tucker's hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, its release leads to a life-changing encounter with the elusive rocker himself. 


"The Producers"

The Michigan will be wrapping up the SavCo Hospitality Summer Classic Film Series with two great classics this week!  On Sunday, September 2 at 1:30 PM and Tuesday, September 4 at 7:00 PM, this film will play, where two producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom make money by producing a sure-fire flop.


On Monday, September 3 at 7:00 PM, the much-loved romantic melodrama will play, where a cynical nightclub owner protects an old flame and her husband from Nazis in Morocco.

Celebrating Pasek & Paul – Sing Along "The Greatest Showman" – Friday, September 14

Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum in “The Greatest Showman,” the 2017 musical celebration of the life of one of America’s true original entertainment pioneers, the producer of the most famous touring circus in history, and the spiritual godfather of marketing.  Zac Efron plays Barnum’s playboy protégé, Zendaya is his trapeze-artist star.  Music and lyrics for "The Greatest Showman" are by UM Musical Theatre graduates and 2017’s showbusiness rock stars Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. They won the Oscar for Best Song for “City of Stars” from The Greatest Showman, wrote the songs for academy award nominated Best Picture “La La Land” and the Tony bestowed Broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Fatally Yours: A Film Noir Series

Special Guest Eddie Muller, president and founder of the Film Noir Foundation and host of TCM’s Noir Alley will kick off this film series with a special series introduction and a post-film discussion of the opening film, Orson Welles' "The Lady From Shanghai!"

The ‘Femme Fatale’ is a character archetype that uses cunning, charm, and sexuality to provoke the downfall and disaster of men.  In Fatally Yours, we will celebrate the women that drive the plots of these 1940s crime thrillers that defined and inspired decades of film history.

"The Yellow Ticket"– A Silent-Era Classic presented with live music

Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals (founder of the Klezmatic) and pianist Marilyn Lerner perform live-on-stage Svigals' award-winning score to the acclaimed 1918 Pola Negri silent-era film. 

Set in in Tsarist era, when sex work (prostitution) was legal and regulated.  For Eastern European Jewish women of the era, a "Yellow ticket" allowed young women to move out of rural shtetls and seek greater opportunity.  Thousands of young women, seeking higher education and opportunity beyond the confines of their shtetl, moved to Moscow and St. Petersburg, but access opportunity they took on the stigma of prostitution and the burden of degrading biweekly medical check-ups.

In the film, Pola Negri plays Lea, a bright adolescent girl who lives in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw with her ill father. She loves to read, and intends to study medicine at a university in St. Petersburg to help her ailing father.  She goes to Russia, where she learns that Jewish women must be sex workers to live in the city. Having limited options, she applies for the required “yellow ticket” and takes up residency at a brothel.  Lea applies to the University and is accepted.

So begins an unhappy life of studying by day and receiving scholastic honors, while reluctantly working as a party girl at night. Her fellow students, including a boy named Dimitri who is in love with her, then find her out.  Dimitri, in particular, is crushed to learn of Lea's double life.  Lea realizes that this will be the end of her scholastic career.

Plot complications start to build, but in this wonderful film, with a stunning performance by Pola Negri – a HUGE silent-era star, love and happy circumstance conquers all.


"Crazy Rich Asians"

At the State: This film is based on a global bestseller and follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu accompanying her longtime boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend's wedding in Singapore.  She's also surprised to learn that Nick's family is extremely wealthy and he's considered one of the country's most eligible bachelors.  Thrust into the spotlight, Rachel must now contend with jealous socialites, quirky relatives and something far, far worse - Nick's disapproving mother. 


From visionary filmmaker Spike Lee comes the incredible true story of an American hero.  It's the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) is the first black detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.  Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan.  The young detective soon recruits a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver), into the undercover investigation of a lifetime.

"Three Identical Strangers"

Three strangers are reunited by astonishing coincidence after being born identical triplets, separated at birth, and adopted by three different families.  Their jaw-dropping, feel-good story instantly becomes a global sensation complete with fame and celebrity, however, the fairy-tale reunion sets in motion a series of events that unearth an unimaginable secret -- a secret with radical repercussions for us all. 

"Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

This film takes an intimate look at America's favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers.  A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination.


An intimate portrait of an unlikely rock star:Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  With unprecedented access, the filmmakers explore how her early legal battles changed the world for women.

"The Cakemaker"

At the Michigan: In this film, Thomas, a young German baker, is having an affair with Oren, an Israeli married man who has frequent business visits in Berlin.  When Oren dies in a car crash in Israel, Thomas travels to Jerusalem seeking for answers regarding his death.  Under a secret identity, Thomas infiltrates into the life of Anat, his lover's newly widowed wife.  The encounter with the unfamiliar reality will make Thomas involved in Anat's life in a way far beyond his anticipation, and to protect the truth he will stretch his lie to a point of no return.

"Eighth Grade"

This year’s Cinetopia Film Festival opening night film follows thirteen-year-old Kayla who endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school, the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year before she begins high school.


At the Michigan: This film about a woman who has a talent for assembling jigsaw puzzles sneaks away from her suburban town and goes to New York City, where she partners with a man for a puzzle tournament in Atlantic City.  As she experiences independence for the first time, she begins to view her value and the pieces of her own life in a whole new light.  Produced by local filmmaker Eddie Rubin, it premiered at Sundance.


"Operation Finale"

Fifteen years after the end of World War II, Israel's intelligence agency Mossad and security agency Shin Bet - led by the tireless and heroic agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) - launched a daring top-secret raid to capture the notorious Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), who had been reported dead in the chaos following Nazi Germany's collapse but was, in fact, living and working in a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina under an assumed identity along with his wife and two sons.  Monitoring his daily routine, Malkin and his operatives plot and execute the abduction under the cover of darkness just a few feet from Eichmann's home.  Determined to sneak him out of Argentina to stand trial in Israel, Malkin and Eichmann engage in an intense and gripping game of cat-and-mouse.  Directed by Chris Weitz.  Written by Matthew Orton.


A pulse-pounding crime thriller with a sci-fi twist, is the story of an unexpected hero destined for greatness.  Chased by a vengeful criminal (played by James Franco), the feds, and a gang of otherworldly soldiers,​ a recently released ex-con (played by Jack Reynor) and his adopted teenage brother (played by Myles Truitt) are forced to go on the run with a weapon of mysterious origin as their only protection.  Opens in theaters this Friday, August 31! 

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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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