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Cinema Chat: Best Of CatVideoFest, 'The Etruscan Smile,' 'Extra Ordinary,' And More

Michigan Theater
Omari Rush

We all have to stay home these days, but the show must go on.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," Michigan and State Theater executive director joins WEMU's David Fair by phone to talk about the latest films that you can watch online and, in some cases, share with others in the virtual world! 


"Best of CatVideoFest: Creature Comforts Edition" -- OPENS FRIDAY, APRIL 10

You asked for it, Oscilloscope delivered!  For the first time ever, CatVideoFest will be available to screen virtually outside of theaters!  Long time CatVideoFest curator extraordinaire Will Braden has crafted a 40-min “treat” of a reel that includes the very best videos from CVF’s illustrious history.  Since the “Best of CatVideoFest” isn’t feature-length, a “Pay What You Want” model will be offered which allows you to rent the film for as a little as $0.99 or as much as you’d like.  Our suggested donation is $10, and your generous support will help us greatly during these difficult times.  This film is sponsored by Wags to Wiskers and is provided by our distributor friends at Oscilloscope.  65% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation, and 10% will benefit the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

"The Etruscan Smile"-- OPENS FRIDAY, APRIL 10
Winner of the Audience Award and Best U.S. Nonfiction Film at the Traverse City Film Festival!  Based on the bestselling novel by José Luis Sampedro, the film stars Brian Cox (HBO’s "Succession" and recent Broadway leading man in "The Great Society") as Rory MacNeil, a rugged old Scotsman who reluctantly leaves his beloved isolated Hebridean island and travels to San Francisco to seek medical treatment.  Moving in with his estranged son, Rory’s life will be transformed, just when he expects it least, through a newly found love for his baby grandson.  This film is provided by our distributor friends at Lightyear Entertainment, and 50% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation! 

"Extra Ordinary" -- OPENS FRIDAY, APRIL 10

Rose, a sweet, lonely driving instructor in rural Ireland, is gifted with supernatural abilities.  Rose has a love/hate relationship with her "talents" and tries to ignore the constant spirit related requests from locals – to exorcise possessed rubbish bins or haunted gravel.  But Christian Winter, a washed up, one-hit-wonder rock star, has made a pact with the devil for a return to greatness!  He puts a spell on a local teenager- making her levitate.  Her terrified father, Martin Martin, asks Rose to help save his daughter.  Rose has to overcome the fear of her supernatural gift & work with Martin to save the girl, get the guy and be home in time for a light snack…maybe a yogurt or something.  This film is provided by our distributor friends at Good Deed Entertainment, and 40% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation! 


"Phoenix, Oregon"-- AVAILABLE SATURDAY, APRIL 11

Defying midlife haze, two friends, a graphic novelist and a chef, seize an unlikely opportunity to reinvent their lives, quitting their jobs to restore an old bowling alley and serve the “world’s greatest pizza.”  This film takes a comedic look at the existential crisis many face when trying to find meaning and relevancy at midlife.  Despite controlling bosses, dead-end jobs, and broken relationships, the two leads must awaken hibernating courage and resilience in order to take new risks and keep dreams alive.  The film stars James Le Gros ("Drugstore Cowboy," "Living in Oblivion"), Lisa Edelstein ("Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce," "House"),Jesse Borrego ("Fame," "Blood In Blood Out"), Reynaldo Gallegos ("Triple Frontier," "American Sniper"), Diedrich Bader ("Napoleon Dynamite," "Office Space," "Veep"), and Kevin Corrigan ("The Departed," "Pineapple Express," "True Romance").  Make sure to stream this title quick, as there will also be a national live Q&A with the filmmaker, cast and crew starting at 8:00 PM on Saturday, April 11.  This film is presented by Cinetopia Film Festival and is provided by our distributor friends at Joma Films, and 50% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation!  
"Akira" -- SATURDAY, APRIL 11 AT 9:00 PM

Let’s keep the spirit of watching movies together alive and join the Michigan Theater staff on Twitch this Saturday, April 11 at 9:00 PM for a live virtual watch party of the iconic post-apocalyptic cyberpunk film.  In 1988, the Japanese government drops an atomic bomb on Tokyo after ESP experiments on children go awry.  In 2019, 31 years after the nuking of the city, Kaneda, a bike gang leader, tries to save his friend Tetsuo from a secret government project.  He battles anti-government activists, greedy politicians, irresponsible scientists and a powerful military leader until Tetsuo's supernatural powers suddenly manifest.  A final battle is fought in Tokyo Olympiad exposing the experiment's secrets.  You can watch Akira on your own at Hulu.  Tune in as we watch the film on our own and hit play together to experience the film in real-time as a community.  Our staff will be providing movie trivia and background, as well as lend their own comments and opinions, and take comments and questions from you!

"The Ten Commandments" -- SUNDAY, APRIL 12 AT 3:00 PM

Missing the sounds of our 1927 Barton Organ?  Well, we have a perfect solution to get you by!  This Sunday, April 12 at 3:00 PM on YouTubewe will be screening this film with organ accompaniment from our own organist Andrew Rogers!  33 years before director Cecil B. DeMille cast Charlton Heston for his 1956 religious epic that has aired on television every Easter Sunday for decades, he made made this silent version of the biblical tale starring Theodore Roberts as Moses, The Lawgiver, in a film that recreates the biblical story of the Exodus as well as tells a modern story concerning two brothers and their respective views of the Ten Commandments.  Lauded for its "immense and stupendous" scenes, use of Technicolor process 2, and parting of the Red Sea sequence, the expensive film proved to be a box-office hit upon release.  It is the first in DeMille's biblical trilogy, followed by "The King of Kings" (1927) and "The Sign of the Cross" (1932).  This is one of many works from 1923 that entered the public domain in the United States in 2019.

"Bedlam"-- TUESDAY, APRIL 14 AT 7:30 PM

Through the intimate and brave stories from families, medical providers, activists, and people in-and-out of ERs, jails, and homeless camps, this film tells the story of America’s mental health crisis.  What is being done?  How can we support our communities and care for people with serious mental illness?  Hear their stories and discover how you can make a difference by joining us for a special Indie Lens Pop-Up online screening of the film.  Participate in a virtual chat with producer Peter Miller and mental health experts from NAMI(National Alliance on Mental Illness).  For more information and to RSVP, visit ovee.itvs.org/screenings/ngcev.


"Slay the Dragon" 

A secretive, high-tech gerrymandering initiative launched 10 years ago threatens to undermine our democracy.  The film follows everyday people as they fight to make their votes matter.  This film, presented by Cinetopia Film Festival and Magnolia Pictures, is provided by our distributor friends at Magnolia, and 50% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation!

"And Then We Danced" 

A passionate tale of love and liberation set amidst the ultraconservative confines of modern Georgian society, this film follows Merab, a devoted dancer who has been training for years with his partner Mary for a spot in the National Georgian Ensemble.  The arrival of another male dancer, Irakli--gifted with perfect form and equipped with a rebellious streak--throws Merab off balance, sparking both an intense rivalry and romantic desire that may cause him to risk his future in dance as well as his relationships with Mary and his family.  This film is provided by our distributor friends at Music Box Films, and 50% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation!

"The Whistlers"

In this film, not everything is as it seems for Cristi, a police inspector in Bucharest who plays both sides of the law.  Embarking with the beautiful Gilda on a high-stakes heist, both will have to navigate the twists and turns of corruption, treachery and deception.  A trip to the Canary Islands to learn a secret whistling language might just be what they need to pull it off.  This film is provided by our distributor friends at Magnolia, and 50% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation!


A few years from now… Bacurau, a small village in the Brazilian sertão, mourns the loss of its matriarch, Carmelita, who lived to be 94.  Days later, its inhabitants (among themSônia Braga) notice that their village has literally vanished from online maps and a UFO-shaped drone is seen flying overhead.  There are forces that want to expel them from their homes, and soon, in a genre-bending twist, a band of armed mercenaries, led by Udo Kier, arrive in town picking off the inhabitants one by one.  A fierce confrontation takes place when the townspeople turn the tables on the villainous outsiders, banding together by any means necessary to protect and maintain their remote community.  The mercenaries just may have met their match in the fed-up, resourceful denizens of little Bacurau.  This film is provided by our distributor friends at Kino Lorber, and 50% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation!

"Saint Frances"

Flailing 34-year-old Bridget (played by Kelly O’Sullivan) finally catches a break when she meets a nice guy and lands a much-needed job nannying six-year-old Frances (played by a scene-stealing Ramona Edith-Williams).  But an unwanted pregnancy introduces an unexpected complication.  To make matters worse, she clashes with the obstinate Frances and struggles to navigate a growing tension between Frances’ moms.  This film is provided by our distributor friends at Oscilloscope, and 50% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation!

"Fantastic Fungi"

When so many are struggling for connection, inspiration and hope, this film brings us together as interconnected creators of our world.  The film, directed by Louie Schwartzberg, is a consciousness-shifting film that takes us on an immersive journey through time and scale into the magical earth beneath our feet, an underground network that can heal and save our planet.  Through the eyes of renowned scientists and mycologists like Paul Stamets, best-selling authors Michael PollanEugenia BoneAndrew Weil, and others, we become aware of the beauty, intelligence and solutions the fungi kingdom offers us in response to some of our most pressing medical, therapeutic, and environmental challenges.  This film is provided by our distributor friends at Area 23a, and 40% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Michigan Theater Foundation!


National Theatre at Home

Join us every Thursday for much-loved National Theatre Live productions, free to stream on YouTube for seven days!  Enjoy world-class theatre online while they are unfortunately closed.  This week, catch "Jane Eyre," which is a bold and innovative reimagining of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece uncovers one woman’s fight for freedom and fulfilment on her own terms.  Streaming will be available Thursday, April 9 at 7 PM until Thursday, April 16.  For more information, visit nationaltheatre.org.uk/nt-at-home.

Penny Stamps Lecture Series

With the health and well-being of our community in mind, all live Penny Stamps Speaker Series events have been canceled for the remainder of the semester.  The series continues online with video presentations as allowed by special arrangement with the speakers: check out the latest presentations below.  In a new partnership designed to keep the community curious, engaged, and connected, the entire Penny Stamps Speaker Series video archive is also available to stream online through Detroit Public Television.  DPTV will also livestream select Penny Stamps Speaker Series events Fridays at 8 PM.  For more information, visit stamps.umich.edu/stamps.

Met Opera Streams

During this extraordinary and difficult time, the Met hopes to brighten the lives of our audience members even while our stage is dark.  Each day, a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is being made available for free streaming on the Met website, with each performance available for a period of 23 hours, from 7:30 PM until 6:30 PM the following day.  The schedule will include outstanding complete performances from the past 14 years of cinema transmissions, starring all of opera’s greatest singers.  Here is this week’s schedule from Friday, April 10 to Thursday, April 16 respectively: Wagner's "Parsifal," Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette," Donizetti's "Don Pasquale," Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte," Dvořák’s "Rusalka," Mussorgsky’s "Boris Godunov," Puccini’s "La Rondine," and Rossini’s "Le Comte Ory."  For more information, visit metopera.org/user-information/nightly-met-opera-streams.

TheatreWorks Anywhere -- NEW ADDITION!

TheaterWorks Anywhere aims to give young people a fun and active way to use their imaginations while learning the process of creating theater and adapting a book or story for the stage.  We’ll show you video clips from TheaterWorksUSA productions, take you behind the scenes with our artists, and provide theater activities and crafts for you to make and share with us!  For this content, visit the TheaterWorks Anywhere site at twusa.org/shows-artists/on-tour/anywhere.

For more information on our virtual screenings and content available, visit michtheater.org/screenings.  Stay safe.  Stay strong.

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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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