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Cinema Chat: Movies 101 Lineup, 'Up From The Streets,' 'On A Magical Night,' And More

Michigan Theater
The Michigan Theater

With the click of your mouse, an entire world of cinema opens to fulfill your entertainment needs.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," Michigan and State Theatre executive director Russ Collins joins WEMU's David Fair to discuss the new films and special screenings coming this weekend from the Michigan Theater's Virtual Movie Palace.


Order online and get your favorite Michigan Theater concessions safely via curbside pick-up under the marquee!  Orders must be submitted before 3:00 PM the day of pick-up.  Go to “michtheater.org


Movies 101: 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," "Bonnie & Clyde," "L’Avventura" and "(500) Days of Summer."  After the lecture, we recommend you watch "Vertigo" on your own time.

Movies 101: Sound

In the beginning, movies only had sound in the form of musical accompaniment provided in the theater. Since then, recorded sound has become an indispensable part of movies.  In this session, we will consider how music, speech, and sound effects can be used to add meaning to the images on the screen.  Our examples will be drawn from "Casablanca," "The Adventures of Robin Hood," "Vertigo," and "The Passenger."  After the lecture, we recommend you watch "Singing in the Rain" on your own time.

Movies 101: Editing – Coming May 17

Movies 101: Mise-en-Scene – Coming May 24


"Up from the Streets: New Orleans - The City of Music" -- OPENS FRIDAY, MAY 15

A film looking at the culture of New Orleans thru the lens of music.  Hosted by Oscar nominee and 6-time Grammy Winner Terence Blanchard.  The film tells the story of how music and culture intersected to create a distinct form of expression.  This is a feature length documentary that looks at the culture, especially the music culture of New Orleans.  

New Orleans has a distinct history as a result of its political and social history.  There is a thread that runs through the city that can be heard from the drumming at Congo Square in the 1700’s through to today’s vibrant music scene.  The music of this city is a powerful form of expression.  It was a vehicle to communicate a desire for freedom, express frustration of the injustices of segregation and Jim Crow laws, a healing force that helped bring the city back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and is still a vital form of expression against ongoing cultural & racial biases.  

Executive Producer and host Terence Blanchard and Director Michael Murphy show how the culture of the city is reflected in its music, how music impacts culture; and how even in the darkest of times, music lifts and unites. 

The film features archival and newly filmed performances by iconic artists, such as Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and The Neville Brothers; and interviews with NOLA musicians Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., and more, as well commentary from Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Sting, and Bonnie Raitt, among others.  

$1 from your ticket purchase will be donated to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation COVID-19 relief fund.

"José" -- OPENS FRIDAY, MAY 15

A 19-year-old’s life in Guatemala City is routine and aimless, until he finds passion, pain, and self-reflection through a relationship with a Caribbean migrant.

"On a Magical Night" -- OPENS FRIDAY MAY 15

After 20 years of marriage, Maria decides to leave.  She moves to the room 212 of the hotel opposite her marital home.  From there, Maria can scrutinize her apartment, her husband, her wedding.  She wonders if she has made the right decision.


At the age of 85, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a lengthy legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon.  But the unique personal journey of her rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans – until now.  RBG explores Ginsburg’s life and career.


“Where Is The Friend's House?” – Abbas Kiarostami Film Discussion -- MONDAY, MAY 18 AT 7:00 PM

Abbas Kiarostamiattained critical acclaim for directing the "Koker" trilogy, "Close-Up," "The Wind Will Carry Us,' and "Taste of Cherry," which was awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.  In lieu of our cancelled Kiarostami retrospective, Programming & Media Coordinator Nick Alderink will be joined by Niloofar Sarlati, University of Michigan LSA Collegiate Fellow,Cameron Cross, Assistant Professor of Iranian Studies, and Ashkan Kazemi, President of the Iranian Graduate Student Association, for a discussion on this film (Available for streaming on the Criterion Channel!)

Abbas Kiarostami was an Iranian film director, screenwriter, poet, photographer, and film producer.  An active filmmaker from 1970, Kiarostami had been involved in the production of over forty films, including shorts and documentaries.

Cocktail Cinema -- TUESDAY, MAY 19 ON ZOOM

Deb Polich (WEMU "creative:impact" host) and Russ Collins will be discussed with WEMU listeners and Michigan Theater fans 1950s Alfred Hitchcock classics, “Rear Window,” starring Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart and Raymond Burr, and “Vertigo,” starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes.  Classic 1950s cocktails – prepared by son Alan, the Sommelier and bar artist at Paesano Restaurant (on Washtenaw).  This is a Zoom film discussion group is free, but you must watch the movies and register in advance at “michtheater.org."

"Killer Klowns from Outer Space" -- SATURDAY, MAY 16 AT 9:00 PM

Join the Michigan Theater staff on Twitch Saturday, May 16 at 9:00 PM for a live virtual watch party of the Chiodo Brothers’ 1988 campy sci-fi/horror classic as we watch the film on our own (available on Netflix) and hit play together to experience it 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!  This low-budget horror spoof stars Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder as Mike and Debbie, a couple that witness a meteorite crashing over the horizon.  When they investigate, they find a circus tent and discover an invasion of malevolent clowns.



In honor of the late actor Brian Dennehy, his last film. 

Kathy (Golden Globe Nominee Hong Chau), a single mother, travels with her shy eight-year-old son Cody (newcomer Lucas Jaye), to Kathy’s late sister’s house which they plan to clean and sell.  As Kathy realizes how little she knew about her sister, Cody develops an unlikely friendship with Del (Golden Globe, Tony winner and longtime acting legend Brian Dennehy), the Korean War vet and widower who lives next door.  Over the course of a summer and with Del’s encouragement, Cody develops the courage to come out of his shell and, along with his mother, finds a new place to call home.

Nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, this is a beautifully observed, bittersweet drama about our lifelong search for a sense of community.  With a genuine script and impeccable acting from Chau and Dennehy, this little gem doesn’t coax tears, but earns them.

"What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael"

In a field that has historically embraced few women film critics, Kael was controversial, witty, and fiercely discerning.  Her decades-long berth at The New Yorker energized her fans (“Paulettes”) and infuriated her detractors on a weekly basis.  Her turbo-charged prose famously championed the New Hollywood Cinema of the late 1960s and ‘70s (BONNIE AND CLYDE, NASHVILLE, CARRIE, TAXI DRIVER) and the work of major European directors (François TruffautBernardo Bertolucci), while mercilessly panning some of the biggest studio hits (THE SOUND OF MUSIC, MIDNIGHT COWBOY, DIRTY HARRY). 

"The Booksellers"

Antiquarian booksellers are part scholar, part detective and part businessperson, and their personalities and knowledge are as broad as the material they handle.  They also play an underappreciated yet essential role in preserving history.  This documentary takes viewers inside their small but fascinating world, populated by an assortment of obsessives, intellects, eccentrics and dreamers.

"Best of CatVideoFest: Creature Comforts Edition"

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.


In this black comedy of middle-aged masculinity gone awry, Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin ("The Artist") is a recent divorcee who becomes obsessed with a vintage fringed deerskin jacket that begins to exert an uncanny hold on him.  Set in a sleepy French alpine village, he falls into the guise of an independent filmmaker and befriends a trusting bartender and aspiring editor (Adèle Haenel, "Portrait of a Lady on Fire") who becomes his collaborator on a movie that will document a surprising new goal he sets himself.


Following the crossing of the inner German border by the families Strelzyk and Wetzel from the GDR to West Germany in the summer of 1979.  Desperate to leave the GDR, they flee in a homemade hot-air balloon. German and English with English subtitles.

"Capital in the Twenty-First Century"

Adapting one of the most groundbreaking and powerful books of our time, this is an eye-opening journey through wealth and power, that breaks the popular assumption that the accumulation of capital runs hand in hand with social progress, shining a new light on the world around us and its growing inequalities.

"Our Mothers (Nuestras Madres"

Guatemala, 2018.  The whole country is immersed in the trial of the military officers who started the civil war.  Spanish with English subtitles.

"Spaceship Earth"

This is the true, stranger-than-fiction, adventure of eight visionaries who in 1991 spent two years quarantined inside of a self-engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem called BIOSPHERE 2.  The experiment was a worldwide phenomenon, chronicling daily existence in the face of life threatening ecological disaster and a growing criticism that it was nothing more than a cult.  The bizarre story is both a cautionary tale and a hopeful lesson of how a small group of dreamers can potentially reimagine a new world. 


Arab Film Series Online: Arab World Shorts Program

Emerging from the Arab Film Festival, the Arab Film Series Online brings a wide range of new and classic films each week for free.

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.  For more information, visit nationaltheatre.org.uk/nt-at-home.  

Penny Stamps Lecture Series

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.  

Theatreworks Anywhere

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 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

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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