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Cinema Chat: 'DOCtoberfest', Met Opera At The Michigan Theater, 'Joker,' And More

Michigan Theater
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Plenty to expect at your local movie house this week, from numerous documentaries to crazed clowns!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair and Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins talk about the latest movie news and all of the new flicks worth checking out this weekend.


Motion pictures have their own special language that enables them to communicate action, ideas, and emotions.  Over the past month, we have been looking closely at four basic linguistic tools that most films use by drawing from classic and contemporary films, as well as watching a complete feature film during each meeting.  This week’s final session is Narrative Structure.  While we often expect the action of films to unfold in chronological order, there are many other possibilities.  In our final session, we will look at various components of film narrative and how they can be manipulated to create anticipation, tension, and resolution.  Our examples will be drawn from "Casablanca," "Sunset Boulevard," and "Run Lola, Run."  We will screen "Citizen Kane" in its entirety.  This class will meet from 12:00—3:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 6 at the Michigan Theater and will be taught Russ Collins.  To register visit michtheater.org.

DOCTOBERFEST – Documentaries in October

To celebrate our love for documentaries, we will show a new documentary every Wednesday at 7:30 PM in October!  But wait there’s more!!  It is also Wine Wednesday, which means all wine is 50% off at the State and Michigan.

Brewmaster – Wednesday, October 9 at 7:30 PM at the State Theatre

In 1998, there were less than 1,500 breweries in the United States – now there are over 7,000.  BREWMASTER tells the story of the rise of craft beer through two young men pursuing their dreams in the world of beer.  2018.  95 min.  Documentary.  NR

John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection– Wednesday, October 16 at 7:30 PM at the State

Revisits the rich bounty of 16-mm-shot footage of the left-handed tennis star John McEnroe, at the time the world’s top-ranked player and a "man who played on the edge of his senses.”  Far from a traditional documentary, writer/director Faraut probes the archival film creating a lively and immersive look at a driven athlete.  2018.  95 min.  Documentary. NR

A Murder in Mansfield -- Wednesday, October 23 at 7:30 PM at the State Theatre

Filmmaker Barbara Kopple explores the legacy of the 1989 murder of Noreen Boyle in Mansfield, Ohio.  Her 12-year-old son Collier gave a devastating videotaped testimony.  Collier’s depth of character is a wonder to behold from childhood to adulthood.  Out of this tragic story, we witness the power of human resilience.  2017.  88 min.  Documentary.  NR

Memory: The Origins of Alien – Wednesday, October 30 at 7:30 PM at the State Theatre

Official selection at the Sundance Film Festival 2019!  Take an in depth voyage into the sci-fi masterpiece ALIEN with the visionary filmmakers who created it.  See how one of the most terrifying movies of all time burst to life 40 years ago, inspired by ancient mythology and our universal fears.  2019.  93 min.  Documentary.  NR


The Metropolitan Opera’s award-winning Live in HD series premiere at the Michigan Theater this October!  All live events take place on Saturdays, with special encore presentations of each screening the following Wednesday.

Turandot – October 12 & 16

Franco Zeffirelli’s spectacular production returns to cinemas, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director, conducting his first Puccini opera with the company.

Manon– October 26 & 30

Massenet’s tale of passion, excess, and their consequences stars rising soprano Lisette Oropesa in the effervescent title role.

Madama ButterflyNOV 9, NOV 13

Anthony Minghella’s vividly cinematic staging returns to cinemas, featuring soprano Hui He in the devastating title role.

Akhnaten -- Nov 23, DEC 4

Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo headlines American composer Philip Glass’s transcendent contemporary creation, with Karen Kamensek conducting.

The Magic Flute -- Dec 7

Julie Taymor’s (Broadway’s LION KING) kaleidoscopic production returns to select cinemas this holiday season in an encore presentation of the company’s first-ever Live in HD transmission.  English-language version of Mozart’s classic fable.

Wozzeck -- JAN 11, JAN 15

Berg’s 20th-century shocker stars baritone Peter Mattei in the title role, with Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium and soprano Elza van den Heever as the long-suffering Marie.

The Gershwins’Porgy and Bess – FEB 5, FEB 8

The Gershwins’ modern American masterpiece has its first Met performances in almost three decades, starring bass-baritone Eric Owens and soprano Angel Blue in the title roles.

And many more through May.



At the State (Opens Thursday, October 3): Winner of the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival!  Director Todd Phillips' film centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen.  Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society.  A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him.  Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.  


"Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivens"

This film plays October 5, 7, and 8 at the Michigan Theater.  This documentary tells the story of media firebrand Molly Ivins, six feet of Texas trouble who took on the Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it.  Her razor sharp wit left both sides of the aisle laughing, and craving ink in her columns.  She knew the Bill of Rights was in peril, and said, "Polarizing people is a good way to win an election and a good way to wreck a country."  Molly's words have proved prescient.  Now it's up to us to raise hell!  

"Tigers Are Not Afraid"

This film plays October 9, 10 and 14 at the Michigan Theater.  A haunting horror fairytale set against the backdrop of Mexico's devastating drug wars, this film follows a group of orphaned children armed with three magical wishes, running from the ghosts that haunt them and the cartel that murdered their parents.  Filmmaker Issa López creates a world that recalls the early films of Guillermo del Toro, imbued with her own gritty urban spin on magical realism to conjure a wholly unique experience that audiences will not soon forget.  


"Mean Girls"

This film plays Thursday, October 3 at 7:00 PM and 10:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of “Mean Girls Day.”  Teenage Cady Heron (played by Lindsay Lohan) was educated in Africa by her scientist parents.  When her family moves to the suburbs of Illinois, Cady finally gets to experience public school and gets a quick primer on the cruel, tacit laws of popularity that divide her fellow students into tightly knit cliques.  She unwittingly finds herself in the good graces of an elite group of cool students dubbed “the Plastics,” but Cady soon realizes how her shallow group of new friends earned this nickname.

Manhattan Short Film Festival 2019

This event plays Thursday, October 3 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater.  Join us for the 22nd Annual Manhattan Short Film Festival, taking place in over 350 venues across 6 continents between Thursday September 26 and Sunday October 6, 2019.  Upon entry, festival attendees are handed a Voting Card and an Official Program and asked to vote for the ONE Film they feel should win.  Votes are tallied by each host venue then emailed to the festival’s NYC headquarters.

"Ashes in the Snow"

This film plays Friday, October 4 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater, presented by CREES (The Center for Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies at the University of Michigan) and Nicola’s Books.  This screening is free and open to the public!  In 1941, a 16 year-old aspiring artist and her family are deported to Siberia amidst Stalin’s brutal dismantling of the Baltic region.  One girl’s passion for art and her never-ending hope will break the silence of history.  Also join us for a meet and greet with author Ruta Sepetys from 4-5 pm – signed books will be available for purchase.  At 5:30 pm, Ms. Sepetys will give the CREES Distinguished Lecture “From the Soviet Gulag to Franco’s Spain: Historical Fiction’s Power for Global Dialogue.”  The screening of "Ashes in the Snow" will follow.

"Night of the Living Dead"

This film plays Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5 at 10:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of the Late-Night Horrors Film Series.  Director George A. Romero’s revolutionary horror classic that set the template for the zombie genre!  The dead come back to life and eat the living.  Several people barricade themselves inside a rural house to survive the night.  Outside are hordes of relentless, shambling zombies who can only be killed by a blow to the head.

"Monty Python & The Holy Grail"

This film plays Saturday, October 5 at 7:00 PM at the State Theatre.  Join us in celebrating 50 years since the first broadcast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus!  History is turned on its comic head when, in 10th century England, King Arthur travels the countryside to find knights who will join him at the Round Table in Camelot.  Gathering up the men is a tale in itself but after a bit of a party at Camelot, many decide to leave only to be stopped by God who sends them on a quest: to find the Holy Grail.  After a series of individual adventures, the knights are reunited but must face a wizard named Tim, killer rabbits, and lessons in the use of holy hand grenades.  Their quest comes to an end however when the police intervene – just what you would expect in a Monty Python movie.

NT Live: "Fleabag"

This plays Monday, October 7 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater as an encore screening!  See the hilarious, award-winning, one-woman show that inspired the BBC’s hit TV series "Fleabag," broadcast live to cinemas from London’s West End.  Written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge ("Fleabag," "Killing Eve") and directed by Vicky Jones, this is a rip-roaring look at some sort of woman living her sort of life.  Fleabag may seem oversexed, emotionally unfiltered and self-obsessed, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.  With family and friendships under strain and a guinea pig café struggling to keep afloat, Fleabag suddenly finds herself with nothing to lose.


This film plays Tuesday, October 8 at 9:00 PM at the Michigan Theater as a part of Halaloween: A Muslim Horror Film Fest presented by The Global Islamic Studies Center.  These screenings are free and will be every Tuesday at 9:00 PM in October!  A master class in cinematography and editing for horror movies.  The first half of the movie is essentially silent, as the protagonist regains consciousness in a shallow grave, learns the gruesome fate of his wife, and flees an unknown enemy through the pristine Indonesian forest.  The ending only doubles down on the mystery; this is Lost for horror fans, but taut, beautifully paced, gorgeous and well-acted.  The violence is horrific, but mostly off-screen. 

"Two A.M."

This film plays Wednesday, October 9 at 7:00 PM at the State Theatre, presented in partnership with the Ann Arbor Film Festival.  Free for AAFF & MT Gold Card members!  Sanna is pitted against an overbearing family of mind-reading “Watchers.”  As a telepathic police state manipulates social unrest in a city in flames, Sanna attempts to reconnect with her sister Algin, a blacklisted pop singer.  On the run from her unpredictably sinister Watcher cousins, Sanna is soon joined by her lover Franz.  But just as the possibility of freedom seems finally within reach, a drug-fueled party takes a turn for the worse.


This film plays Wednesday, October 9 at 7:30 PM at the State Theatre as a part of our new Doctoberfest Film Series.  To celebrate our love for documentaries, we will show a new documentary every Wednesday at 7:30 PM this month! In 1998, there were less than 1,500 breweries in the United States – now there are over 7,000. Brewmaster tells the story of the rise of craft beer through two young men pursuing their dreams in the world of beer. Drew is a New York lawyer who wants to start his own brewery. He uses every free moment to make this a reality while preparing for a pitch with a potential investor. Brian, an ex-telemarketer, is studying to become a Master Cicerone – the beer equivalent of a sommelier – which requires taking a test only 13 people have ever passed. Set in the craft beer community, the film features successful brewers Sam Calagione, John and Jen Kimmich, Jim Koch, Garrett Oliver, and Rob Tod.



At the Michigan: It is Winter 1968, and showbiz legend Judy Garland arrives in Swinging London to perform a five-week sold-out run at The Talk of the Town.  It is 30 years since she shot to global stardom in "The Wizard of Oz," but if her voice has weakened, its dramatic intensity has only grown.  As she prepares for the show, battles with management, charms musicians and reminisces with friends and adoring fans, her wit and warmth shine through.  Even her dreams of love seem undimmed as she embarks on a whirlwind romance with Mickey Deans, her soon-to-be fifth husband.  Featuring some of her best-known songs, the film celebrates the voice, the capacity for love, and the sheer pizzazz of "the world's greatest entertainer.

"Downton Abbey"

The worldwide phenomenon becomes a grand motion picture event, as the beloved Crawleys and their intrepid staff prepare for the most important moment of their lives.  A royal visit from the King and Queen of England will unleash scandal, romance, and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance. The television series followed the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who worked for them at the turn of the 20th century in an Edwardian English country house.  Over its 6 seasons, the series garnered 3 Golden Globe Awards, 15 Primetime Emmy Awards, 69 Emmy nominations in total, making Downton Abbey the most nominated non-US television show in the history of the Emmys – even earning a Special BAFTA award and a Guinness World Record for the highest critically rated TV show along the way.

"Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice"

Moving from the Michigan to the State: In this film, Ronstadt is our guide through her early years of singing Mexican canciones with her family; her folk days with the Stone Poneys; and her reign as the "rock queen" of the '70s and early '80s.  She was a pioneer for women in the male-dominated music industry; an early advocate for human rights, and had a high-profile romance with California governor Jerry Brown.  Ultimately, her incredible voice was lost to Parkinson's disease, but her music and influence remain as timeless as ever.


At the State: This film takes audiences on a deeply cinematic journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water.  Captured at a rare 96 frames-per-second, the film is a visceral wake-up call that humans are no match for the sheer force and capricious will of Earth’s most precious element.  From the precarious frozen waters of Russia’s Lake Baikal to Miami in the throes of Hurricane Irma to Venezuela’s mighty Angel Falls, water is the film’s main character, with director Victor Kossakovsky capturing her many personalities in startling cinematic clarity.

"Ad Astra"

Astronaut Roy McBride (played by Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father (played by Tommy Lee Jones) and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet.  His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.  Also starring Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland.

"IT Chapter Two"

Evil resurfaces in Derry as director Andy Muschietti reunites the Losers Club in a return to where it all began in the conclusion to the highest-grossing horror film of all time.  Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise, he has returned to terrorize the town of Derry once more.  Now adults, the Losers have long since gone their separate ways.  However, kids are disappearing again, so Mike, the only one of the group to remain in their hometown, calls the others home.  Damaged by the experiences of their past, they must each conquer their deepest fears to destroy Pennywise once and for all…putting them directly in the path of the clown that has become deadlier than ever.  


"Joker" opens in theaters nationwide!
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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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