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Cinema Chat: Toni Morrison Remembered, 'Them That Follow,' 'The Kitchen,' 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 the latest movie news and all of the new films landing on the big screen this weekend.  Plus, there's a special event in remembrance of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison.


"Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am"

This film will play Friday, August 9 through Sunday, August 11 at the State Theatre in remembrance of the late Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, who passed away Monday, August 5 at the age 88.  This documentary offers an artful and intimate meditation on the life and works of the acclaimed novelist.  From her childhood in the steel town of Lorain, Ohio to ‘70s-era book tours with Muhammad Ali, from the front lines with Angela Davis to her own riverfront writing room, Toni Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, America, history and the human condition as seen through the prism of her own literature.  Woven together with a rich collection of art, history, literature and personality, the film includes discussions about her many critically acclaimed works, including novels “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula” and “Song of Solomon,” her role as an editor of iconic African-American literature and her time teaching at Princeton University.


"Them That Follow"

At the Michigan (Opens Friday, August 9): Cinetopia 2019 Official Selection!  This film takes place deep in Appalachia, where Pastor Lemuel Childs (played by Walton Goggins) presides over an isolated community of serpent handlers, an obscure sect of Pentecostals who willingly take up venomous snakes to prove themselves before God.  As his devoted daughter, Mara (played by Alice Englert) prepares for her wedding day, under the watchful eye of Hope Slaughter (played by Academy Award® Winner Olivia Colman), a dangerous secret is unearthed, and she is forced to confront the deadly tradition of her father's church.  Also starring Kaitlyn Dever, Jim Gaffigan, Thomas Mann, and Lewis Pullman


At the State (Opens Friday, August 9): This film is the story of how Tracy Edwards, a 24-year-old cook in charter boats, became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World yachting competition in 1989.  Tracy's inspirational dream was opposed on all sides: her male competitors thought an all-women crew would never make it, the chauvinistic yachting press took bets on her failure, and potential sponsors rejected her, fearing they would die at sea and generate bad publicity.  But Tracy refused to give up: she remortgaged her home and bought a secondhand boat, putting everything on the line to ensure the team made it to the start line.  Although blessed with tremendous self-belief Tracy was also beset by crippling doubts and was only able to make it through with the support of her remarkable crew.  With their help she went on to shock the sport world and prove that women are very much the equal of men. 


2019 New York Cat Film Festival

This event plays Thursday, August 8 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  The NY Cat Film Festival™ is an annual celebration of the cats who share our lives, through short films from around the world that inspire, educate and entertain, benefiting local animal welfare groups that bring people and pets together.  10% of proceeds go to the  Humane Society of Huron Valley!

"Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk"

This film plays Thursday, August 8 at 7:00 PM at the State Theatre.  The sport of golf began in Scotland in the 15th century and arrived in the U.S. in the late 1800s.  Today, Tiger Woods and other players are full-blown celebrities.  But what about the mysterious people carrying their bags around the golf course?  Director Jason Baffa shifts the spotlight to these individuals.  At one time, the prevailing expectation for caddies was this: show up, keep up, and shut up.  However, this inspiring documentary paints a different picture of these essential, unsung heroes, who often act as advisors, counselors, and confidants.  The job has become so vital to victory there are training programs to teach these skills.  Narrated by comedy legend (and former caddie) Bill Murray.  Sponsored by Kerrytown Market & Shopsand O’Neal Construction.

2019 Detroit Voices Encore Screening

This event plays Saturday, August 10 at 7:00 PM at Michigan Theater.  Detroit Voices is a local short film competition that champions Michigan filmmakers by showcasing the talent and creative spirit of our state.  Join us for an encore screening of this year’s Detroit Voices Program and a chance to meet some of this year’s filmmakers.  Bring your 2019 Cinetopia Pass for Free Admission!  Sponsored by Knight Foundation, Michigan Medicine, Applebaum, Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, Barb & Jeff Duncan, Ruth Bardenstein & Jim Roll.

"Sing-a-Long Sound of Music"

This film plays Sunday, August 11 at 1:30 PM and Wednesday, August 14 at 7:00 PM at Michigan Theater as a part of The SavCo Hospitality Summer Classic Film Series, presented by the University of Michigan Credit Union with media support from MLive.  All summer long, we will be celebrating generations of filmmakers and their nostalgic treasures!  Calling all Nuns, Goat herders, hills, Alps, Baronesses, Brown Paper Packages Tied up with Strings or any of your favorite things!  Get ready to yodel in North America!  This is your chance to sing-a-long to the most successful movie musical of all time.  This is one of the funniest, most liberating nights out you will have for a long time.  "Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music" is not just a chance to see the classic movie on the big screen in magnificent Technicolor and glorious Cinemascope, it’s a major audience participation event with subtitles for all the songs.  Featuring on-screen lyrics, a goody bag filled with interactive props, and more!


"Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love"

At the Michigan: This film is renowned filmmaker Nick Broomfield’s ("The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," Lily Tomlin; "Kurt & Courtney" about American musicians Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love) most personal and romantic film of his storied career.  The documentary starts on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960, where Leonard Cohen, then a struggling and unknown fiction writer, and Marianne Ihlen, a single mother with a young son, became part of community of expat artists, writers and musicians.  Never-before-seen footage shot by Broomfield and legendary documentarian D.A. Pennebakermake for a unique portrait of an idyllic 1960’s bohemia.  It was a time that left a lasting imprint on both Marianne and Leonard, whose friendship would last another fifty years before their deaths in 2016.

"Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood"

At the Michigan: Quentin Tarantino’s film visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore.  The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.  Also stars Bruce DernLuke PerryDakota FanningAl Pacino, and many more!


Jack Malik (played by Himesh Patel, BBC's "Eastenders") is a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie (Lily James, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again").  Then, after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed... and he finds himself with a very complicated problem, indeed.  Also stars Ed Sheeran and Kate McKinnon.  

"The Farewell"

At the State: Cinetopia 2019 Audience Award winner for Best U.S. Narrative!  In this film, Chinese-born, U.S.-raised Billi (played by Awkwafina) reluctantly returns to Changchun to find that, although the whole family knows their beloved matriarch, Nai-Nai, has been given mere weeks to live, everyone has decided not to tell Nai Nai herself.  To assure her happiness, they gather under the joyful guise of an expedited wedding, uniting family members scattered among new homes abroad.  As Billi navigates a minefield of family expectations and proprieties, she finds there’s a lot to celebrate: a chance to rediscover the country she left as a child, her grandmother’s wondrous spirit, and the ties that keep on binding even when so much goes unspoken.

"Echo in the Canyon"

This film celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The ByrdsThe Beach BoysBuffalo Springfield, and The Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound.  It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles, and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music.  Featuring Jakob Dylan, the film explores the beginnings of the Laurel Canyon music scene.  Dylan uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today. 


From the visionary mind of Ari Aster ("Hereditary") comes a dread-soaked cinematic fairytale where a world of darkness unfolds in broad daylight.  Dani and Christian are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart.  But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village.  What begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing. 


"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark"

It's 1968 in America.  Change is blowing in the wind... but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities is the small town of Mill Valley where, for generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large.  It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time--stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah's terrifying tome.

"The Kitchen"

Based on the Vertigo comic book series from DC Entertainment, the film stars Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss as three 1978 Hell's Kitchen housewives whose mobster husbands are sent to prison by the FBI.  Left with little but a sharp ax to grind, the ladies take the Irish mafia's matters into their own hands--proving unexpectedly adept at everything from running the rackets to taking out the competition... literally.

"Dora and the Lost City of Gold"

Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle with her parents, nothing could prepare Dora (played by Isabela Moner) for her most dangerous adventure ever -- High School.  In this film, Dora quickly finds herself leading Boots (her best friend, a monkey), Diego (played by Jeffrey Wahlberg), a mysterious jungle inhabitant (played by Eugenio Derbez), and a rag tag group of teens on a live-action adventure to save her parents (played by Eva Longoria and Michael Peña) and solve the impossible mystery behind a lost city of gold.

"Brian Banks"

The inspirational true story of Brian Banks (played by Aldis Hodge), an All-American high school football star committed to USC who finds his life upended when he is wrongly convicted of a crime he didn't commit.  Despite lack of evidence, Banks is railroaded through a broken justice system and sentenced to a decade of prison and probation.  Years later, with the support of Justin Brooks (played by Greg Kinnear) and the California Innocence Project, Banks fights to reclaim his life and fulfill his dreams of playing in the NFL.

"The Art of Racing in the Rain"

Based on the best-selling novel by Garth Stein, this is a heartfelt tale narrated by a witty and philosophical dog named Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner).  Through his bond with his owner, Denny Swift (played by Milo Ventimiglia), an aspiring Formula One race car driver, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition and understands that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life.  The film follows Denny and the loves of his life - his wife, Eve (played by Amanda Seyfried), their young daughter Zoe (played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and ultimately, his true best friend, Enzo.

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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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