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Cinema Chat: Michigan Theater And State Theatre Closed Again, 'Coded Bias,' And More

Michigan Theater
Bradley Pritts

The latest COVID-19 restrictions have forced the Michigan Theater and State Theatre to close their doors once again.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair gets in touch with Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins to discuss the impact the latest closure and some of the  films that will available through the Michigan Theater's Virtual Movie Palace.


From 5-7 PM at the Michigan Theater!  Then we'll be back every Tuesday and Friday in December—including extended hours as part of Midnight Madness in the State Street shopping area on Fridays.

NEW THIS WEEK VIRTUALLYhttps://vimeo.com/414917737">"Coded Bias" -- OPENS FRIDAYH.A.L, Terminator, Replicants, Droids: this is what Hollywood has told us to expect from artificial intelligence in the 21st century.  But today there are nine companies building A.I., all in the U.S. and China, and what they’ve created is much more sly and devious than predicted by Kubrick, Lucas, and the like.

Modern society sits at the intersection of two crucial questions: What does it mean when artificial intelligence increasingly governs our liberties?  And what are the consequences for the people AI is biased against?  When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that most facial-recognition software does not accurately identify darker-skinned faces and the faces of women, she delves into an investigation of widespread bias in algorithms.  As it turns out, artificial intelligence is not neutral, and women are leading the charge to ensure our civil rights are protected.https://vimeo.com/330877843">"Welcome to Commie High" -- OPENS FRIDAYDid you catch the rough cut at Cinetopia 2019?  Now see the finished documentary!This film explores an experiment in public education — Community High School.  The film follows its humanistic, anti-establishment origins in the early 70s through its survival into the 90s, when sudden demand for this alternative, small school led to a phenomenon of lines, camping and lottery systems.  Today, Community High stands as one of the few remaining public schools from America’s “free school” movement.  Filmed over the 2016 – 2017 school year, we see how the “Commie High” model has evolved and continues to reflect the world around it.

Virtual Movie Trivia Returns!On Thursday, Nick Alderink, will host join us tomorrow at 7 PM via Zoom for an evening of trivia.  Tickets are $5 per team (free for members).  It will have a Holiday Twist from now until December."Jingle Bell Rocks" -- OPENS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27

An exclusive backstage pass into a fascinating underground world of alternative Christmas music.  Starring an eclectic cast of characters – The Flaming Lips, Run DMC, John Waters – plus two dozen amazing & original songs,  This film is a cinematic sleigh ride into the strange and sublime universe of alternative Xmas music."Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" -- OPENS FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4

In the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 meters deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas.  The time has come to dig it up.  This Christmas, everyone will believe in Santa Claus.



This is a feature-length documentary that explores the nexus of art, race, and justice through the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes “Aggie” Gund’s life.  Emmy-nominated director Catherine Gund focuses on her mother’s journey to give viewers an understanding of the power of art to transform consciousness and inspire social change. 

"Oliver Sacks: His Own Life"

NY Times Critic’s Pick!  Renowned neurologist and literary giant Oliver Sacks is posthumously celebrated in this profound, highly engaging, deeply personal memoir by Ric Burns.  Sacks was a fearless explorer of unknown mental worlds who helped redefine our understanding of the brain and mind, the diversity of human experience, and our shared humanity.


An intimate portrait of an unlikely rock star: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers explore how her early legal battles changed the world for women. 50% of all purchases will be donated to the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, which was co-founded by Justice Ginsburg in 1972.

"Meeting the Beatles in India"

In 1968, the Beatles travel to Rishikesh, India, to study transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

"Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President"

Part-rockumentary, part-presidential portrait, this doc traces how music helped propel Jimmy Carter to the White House, and the significant role that music has played in President Carter’s life and work. 

"Love & Busking (Fiction & Other Realities)" 

Bobby Choy, a.k.a. singer-songwriter Big Phony, makes his directorial debut with this intimate semi-biographical musical drama.

"Space Dogs" 

The story of Laika, the first dog in space.  Remarkable archival footage recounts the story of her selection, and directors Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter powerfully document the lives of her descendants, offering insight not only into the past and space travel, but also life today on Earth.


Ripping back the curtain on legendary rock rag CREEM Magazine’s wild and disruptive newsroom; a dysfunctional band of unruly outsiders who weren’t all that different from the artists they covered.

"Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind"

An exploration of the career, music, and influence of legendary Canadian musical icon Gordon Lightfoot, from his evolution from Christian choirboy to troubled troubadour to international star and beloved Canadian icon."Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy"

Filmmaker Elizabeth Carroll examines the vibrant and unconventional life of Diana Kennedy, widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on Mexican cuisine.

"Desert One"

From Two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, this film tells the incredible tale of America’s secret mission to free the hostages of the 1979 Iranian revolution, which has been called “the most audacious, difficult, complicated, rescue mission ever attempted."Capital in the Twenty-First Century"

Assembing accessible pop-culture references coupled with interviews of some of the world’s most influential experts delivering an insightful and empowering journey through the past and into our future."Tommaso"

Director Abel Ferrara reunites with his frequent lead Willem Dafoe, who delivers a career-best performance as the title character, an older American expat living in Rome with his young wife and their daughter.

"Martin Eden"

After Martin Eden meets Elena, he tries to achieve a place among the literary elite through self-education."Once Upon A River"

Based on Michigander Bonnie Jo Campbell’s novel of the same name, this “midwestern gothic Americana story” tells the story of a young Native American woman’s odyssey on the Stark River, which introduces her to a world filled with wonders and dangers."The Artist's Wife"

Claire Smythson, wife of the renowned abstract artist Richard Smythson, is plunged into a late-life crisis when her husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and is in danger of not completing the paintings for his final show."John Lewis: Good Trouble"Using interviews and rare archival footage, this film chronicles Lewis’ 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration.

"We Are Little Zombies"

When four young orphans first meet, their parents’ are dead and yet none of them can shed a tear.  They are like zombies.  With no family, no future and no way to move forward, the young teens decide to start a rock band… and conquer the world.

"Made in Bangladesh"

100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes!  Ugly walls of resistance arise when a Dhaka woman attempts to organize her garment factory co-workers.

"The Fight"

At this defining moment in American history, this film follows a scrappy team of heroic ACLU lawyers in an electrifying battle over abortion rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.

"Jazz on a Summer's Day" - New 4K Restoration!

Legendary photographer Bert Stern’s groundbreaking concert documentary is considered one of the most extraordinary and possibly the “best feature-length jazz concert movie ever made.”


Writer and director Romola Garai explores the story of Tomaz, a haunted ex-soldier from an unnamed foreign conflict, living in strained circumstances in London.

https://vimeo.com/410199444">"Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba"

The story of Miriam Makeba, a South African singer and crusader against apartheid, with a look at her life, career, and activism through the lens of archival footage.

https://vimeo.com/406015222">"Vinyl Nation"

A documentary that traces the revival of record stores in the last decade.


The latest documentary from Oscar®-nominated director Hubert Sauper is an immersive portrait of "utopian" Cuba and its resilient people.

https://vimeo.com/438352409">2020 Sundance Shorts Tour

A 80-minute theatrical program of six short films selected from this year’s festival that is widely considered the premier American showcase for short films and the launchpad for many now-prominent independent filmmakers.

"I Used To Go Here"

Following the launch of her new novel, 35-year-old writer Kate Conklin (Gillian Jacobs) is invited to speak at her alma mater by her mentor and former professor (Jemaine Clement).

"Stage: The Culinary Internship"

A group of interns do a nine-month apprenticeship at one of the best restaurants in the world, Mugaritz.

"Kinshasa Makambo"

A Cinetopia 2019 selection!  Congolese director Dieudo Hamadi exposes the political crisis in the Congo through the stories of three young political activists."The Last Tree"

A semi-autobiographical story of Femi (as a child played by newcomer Tai Golding), a British boy of Nigerian heritage who, after being fostered in rural Lincolnshire, moves to inner-city London to live with his birth mother.

"Pioneers of Queer Cinema"

Celebrate Pride Month with this newly restored trio of classics from the early days of queer cinema, each far ahead of its time.  Rent each film separately, or purchase a pass for all three for $15.00!

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU todayto keep your community NPR station thriving.

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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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