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Cinema Chat: A2 Film Fest Update, 'The Beach Bum,' 'Dumbo,' And More

Michigan Theater
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There's plenty to check out in the movie world, including the 57th Ann Arbor Film Festival!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair and Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins discuss the latest movie news and all of the new flicks hitting the silver screen this weekend.

Ann Arbor Film Festival Voted North America’s No. 1 Film Festival for 2019 in the USA TODAY 10 Best Readers' Choice travel award contest

The Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) was voted No. 1 in North America in the USA TODAY 10 Best Readers' Choice travel award contest for Best Film Festivals.  USA TODAY said, “Move over Cannes! The film festival circuit in North America is packed with fantastic events, from heavy hitters like Sundance to up-and-comers screening tomorrow's biggest names in cinema.  Our panel of event experts have narrowed down the list of North American film festivals to the top 20, and for the last four weeks our readers have been voting for their favorites.  The Ann Arbor Film Festival, one of a handful of Academy Award-qualifying festivals in the country, got its start showcasing 16mm films.  The program has since expanded to include more than 100 screenings in juried competitions, as well as panel discussions, gallery installations and filmmaker retrospectives.”

1.    Ann Arbor Film Festival

2.    Atlanta Film Festival

3.    Chicago International Film Festival

4.    American Black Film Festival

5.    Toronto International Film Festival

6.    Chelsea Film Festival

7.    Seattle International Film Festival

8.    Sonoma International Film Festival

9.    True/False Film Fest

10.  Tribeca Film Festival

“We are a film festival for the people – a tiny little mom-and-pop shop – and we could not do this without the support of so many community members, not just here in Ann Arbor, but folks from around the world who help us with everything from reviewing entries to supporting us with cash and other contributions, and who look forward to attending every year,” said Leslie Raymond, director of the festival.

“More than anything, the honor reflects back on the community that makes the festival possible,” Raymond added.  “The collective values around the festival make it a one-of-a-kind haven for filmmakers worldwide.  We hear from filmmakers every year that there is no other festival like this one – that the community here goes above and beyond.”

AAFF was one of 19 contenders nominated by a panel of experts, including editors from USA TODAY, editors from 10Best.com, expert contributors, and sources from these media outlets and other Gannett properties.  The outcome was determined by an online public vote every day for four weeks, closing on March 12, 2019.

AAFF extends its gratitude to Gannett for the nomination and to the filmmakers, artists, volunteers, sponsors, Ann Arbor community members, and friends around the world for bestowing the honor of a first-place ranking on the 57-year-old festival.


"The Beach Bum"

At the State (Sneak Peek Thursday, Mar. 28 and opens for a full run Friday, Mar. 29): This film follows Moondog (played by Matthew McConaughey), who is a fun-loving, pot-smoking, beer-drinking writer who lives life on his own terms in Florida.  However, if he can put down the drugs for just one minute, he may finally be able to put his talent to good use and finish the next great American novel.  Co-starring Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, and Isla Fisher, this is a refreshingly original and subversive new comedy from director Harmony Korine("Kids," "Spring Breakers").

"The Mustang"

At the State (Sneak Peek Thursday, Mar. 28 and opens for a full run Friday, Mar. 29): This film follows Roman (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), a convict in a rural Nevada prison who struggles to escape his violent past.  As a part of his state-mandated social rehabilitation, Roman is required to participate in an "outdoor maintenance" program.  Spotted by a no-nonsense veteran trainer (played by Bruce Dern) and helped by an outgoing fellow inmate and trick rider (played by Jason Mitchell), Roman is accepted into the selective wild horse training section of the program, where he finds his own humanity in gentling an especially unbreakable mustang.


At the Michigan (Opens Monday, Apr. 1): Adapted from Anna Segher's 1942 novel, this film transposes the original story to the present, blurring periods to create a timeless exploration of the plight of displaced people.  As fascism spreads, German refugee Georg (played by Franz Rogowski) flees to Marseille and assumes the identity of the dead writer whose transit papers he is carrying.  Living among refugees from around the world, Georg falls for Marie (played by Paula Beer), a mysterious woman searching for her husband--the man whose identity he has stolen. 


The 57th Ann Arbor Film Festival

This event will be taking place until Sunday, March 31 at the Michigan Theater.  This is the oldest avant-garde and experimental film festival in North America, founded by George Manupelli in 1963.  Internationally recognized as a premiere forum for independent filmmakers and artists, each year's festival engages audiences with remarkable cinematic experiences.  The six-day festival presents 40 programs with more than 180 films from over 20 countries of all lengths and genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, fiction, and performance-based works! For more information on that, visit aafilmfest.org.


"Get Out"

Jordan Peele’s Oscar®-winning film plays Friday, March 29 at 11:59 PM at the State Theatre as a part of Late-Nights at the State.  Now that Chris and his girlfriend Rose have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean.  At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.  Tickets are only $8! 

April Late-Nights  – Saturdays at 10 PM

4/6 "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

4/13 "Cornetto Trilogy: Shaun of the Dead"

4/20 "Cornetto Trilogy: Hot Fuzz"

4/27 "Cornetto Trilogy: The World’s End"
"A Little Princess"

This film plays Tuesday, April 2 at 7 PM at the State Theatre as a part of The Films of Alfonso CuarónAlfonso Cuarón’s contributions to modern cinema have been great and varied, earning him a total of 10 Oscar nominations and four wins.  In honor of his recent win for Best Director for "Roma," this April, we will look back at some of the highlights of his already-legendary career.  A privileged, free-spirited young girl tries to adapt to life in a strict boarding school in this charming, critically acclaimed children’s fantasy.  Adapting a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, also the author of "The Secret Garden," the film shifts the story’s setting to World War I.  10 year-old Sara Crewe (played by Liesel Matthews) has been left in a respected New York City boarding school while her British father heads overseas to fight.  Filled with wild stories and a playful attitude, the unconventional Sara becomes popular amongst her classmates but quickly comes into conflict with the harsh headmistress, Miss Minchin (played by Eleanor Bron), who attempts to quash the child’s individuality.

Tuesdays at 7 PM

4/9 "Y Tu Mamá También"

4/16 "Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban"

4/23 "Children of Men"
"The Place in Between"

This film plays Wednesday, April 3 at 6 PM at the Michigan Theater as a part of the UM CEW+, DAAS & ASC 2018-19 African Women Film Series.  This screening will be followed by a film discussion and admission is FREE!  After the death of her father, Amy, a young mixed-raced woman leaves Paris to go to Bobo in Burkina Faso to find her mother from whom she was separated at eight years old.  But only her aunt lives in her childhood home. Amy goes from one family foyer to another, at the same time comforting it is also stifling.  Moreover, she encounters a city in which she no longer has a point of reference.  For several years now, her mother Mariam is but an illusive shadow living on the margins of society.  She recently meets Ester, the manager of a company in Paris where she is the office cleaner.  Ester wants to learn Dioula, Mariam’s maternal language.  Gradually, these two lonely women appreciate each other.

"Tokyo Godfathers"

This film plays Wednesday, April 3 at 7 PM at the Michigan Theater as a part of the Icons of Anime Film Series.  Middle-aged alcoholic Gin, teenage runaway Miyuki and former drag queen Hana are a trio of homeless people surviving as a makeshift family on the streets of Tokyo.  While rummaging in the trash for food on Christmas Eve, they stumble upon an abandoned newborn baby in a trash bin.  With only a handful of clues to the baby’s identity, the three misfits search the streets of Tokyo for help in returning the baby to its parents.

Wednesdays at 7 PM

4/10 "Summer Wars"

4/17 "Ninja Scroll"

Wine-Down Wednesdays

You’ve made it halfway through the week, so you deserve half-off a glass of wine at the State, paired perfectly with a film celebrating our love of wine.  The films will be Wednesdays at 7 PM, but ½ wine is all day!

4/10 "The Trip"
4/17 "A Year in Burgundy"
4/24 "Somm"


"Gloria Bell"

At the Michigan: In this film, Gloria (played by Julianne Moore) is a free-spirited divorcée who spends her days at a straight-laced office job and her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at clubs around L.A.  After meeting Arnold (played by John Turturro) on a night out, she finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance, filled with both the joys of budding love and the complications of dating, identity, and family. 

"Apollo 11"

Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, this film takes us straight to the heart of NASA's most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names.  The film was one of the opening-night documentaries at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, offering a fully captivating look at the mission whose 50th anniversary will arrive in July of this year.


At the State: This is a new nightmare from the mind of Oscar® winner Jordan Peele, writer/director of "Get Out."  Accompanied by her husband and children, Adelaide Wilson (played by Lupita Nyong'o) returns to the beach home where she grew up.  Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows concerned that something bad is going to happen to her family.  Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. Also stars Winston DukeElisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker

"Captain Marvel"

The story follows Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.  Set in the 1990s, this is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Brie Larson ("The Spectacular Now," "Trainwreck," "Room" – Academy Award for Best Actress) stars as Danvers, alongside Samuel L. JacksonBen MendelsohnDjimon HounsouLee PaceLashana LynchGemma ChanAnnette BeningClark Gregg, and Jude Law.  



From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished, and dreams take flight.  Circus owner Max Medici (played by Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (played by Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (played by Nico Parker) and Joe (played by Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus.  But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (played by Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland.  Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (played by Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.  Opens nationwide this Friday, March 29!

"Hotel Mumbai"

A gripping true story of humanity and heroism, this film vividly recounts the 2008 siege of the famed Taj Hotel by a group of terrorists in Mumbai, India.  Among the dedicated hotel staff is the renowned chef Hemant Oberoi (played by Anupam Kher) and a waiter (played by Dev Patel, "Wedding Guest;" "Slumdog Millionaire") who choose to risk their lives to protect their guests.  As the world watches on, a desperate couple (played by Armie Hammer, "Call Me By Your Name," and Nazanin Boniadi, "Homeland") is forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to protect their newborn child.  Opens nationwide this Friday, March 29!

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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

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