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Cinema Chat: 79th Anniversary Of The State Theatre And Upcoming 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival

Ann Arbor Film Fest
Ann Arbor Film Festival

In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair and Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins discuss the celebration surrounding the  79th Anniversary of the State Theatre in Ann Arbor and all of the Oscar-nominated films playing downtown.  Plus, they welcome Ann Arbor Film Festival executive director Leslie Raymond to discuss this year's virtual event that begins next week! 


Safety Odds Better Than Non-Vaccinated Family & Friends at your Home or Grocery Shopping!!!

The Michigan and State Theater’s management is confident that safety protocols implemented when the theaters were briefly reopened in October makes customers as safe as possible when they are in these lovely historic theaters.


Oscars will be bestowed on Sunday, April 25. 


The most popular and acclaimed film of 1942 – the year the State Theatre opened – celebrates 79 years.


Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring Humphrey BogartIngrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid.  Filmed and set during World War II, it focuses on an American expatriate (Bogart) who must choose between his love for a woman (Bergman) and helping her and her husband (Henreid), a Czech resistance leader, escape from the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Germans.  The screenplay is based on "Everybody Comes to Rick's," an unproduced stage play by Murray Burnett andJoan Alison.  The supporting cast features Claude RainsConrad VeidtSydney GreenstreetPeter Lorre, and Dooley Wilson.

About the State Theatre

The State Theatre is an operational former movie palace in Ann Arbor, Michigan, designed by C. Howard Crane in the Art Deco style.  The State was built by W.S. Butterfield Theaters and opened on March 18, 1942.  The non-profit Michigan Theater Foundation has operated the theater since 1999.  The theater's central location and distinctive green, yellow and red marquee have made it an icon of Ann Arbor's downtown. The State was designed by the internationally famous theater architect C. Howard Crane as a cinema-style theater.  It opened to great fanfare on March 18, 1942, showing "The Fleet's In." Although it opened after the USA entered the Second World War, this was allowed because construction had started before the United States entered the war, and that no materials were taken from the war effort.



Established in 1963, it is the fourth-oldest film festival in North America (after the Yorkton Film Festival, 1947; Columbus International Film & Video Festival, 1953; and the San Francisco International Film Festival, 1957); and the oldest experimental film festival.  It is one of the premier film festivals in the world for independent, especially experimental filmmakers, to showcase their work.  It attracts over 3,000 entries from filmmakers in more than 60 countries, and distributes over $20,000 in cash awards.  As a pioneer of the traveling festival concept in 1964, each year the Ann Arbor Film Festival Tour continues to present a collection of short films at more than 30 art house theaters, universities, galleries and cinematheques throughout the world.

Created as an alternative to commercial cinema, the annual six-day festival remains true to its original mission of promoting film as an art form.  The Ann Arbor Film Festival also fosters the growth of emerging and established film and video makers.  The festival is open to film and video of all lengths and genres, including experimental, narrative, animation, documentary, and genre hybrids.  The mission of the Ann Arbor Film Festival is to promote bold, visionary filmmakers through the advancement of film and new media art, and to engage communities with remarkable cinematic experiences.

This Year’s 59th Festival

The 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival will take place online from March 23-28, 2021.  Each program is different.  Films are not rated.  All programs are intended for mature audiences unless otherwise noted. Some films have imagery of a stroboscopic nature.

All short Films in Competition screenings will take place as an online live event during our scheduled programming.  After the initial live event, the programs will be available for on-demand viewing until 12am midnight EDT on 3/31.

Features in Competition and Special Programs will be available for on-demand viewing 3/23–3/31 unless otherwise noted. All programs are presented in Eastern Standard Time (EDT).  While the majority of films will stream online, there are several in-person In The Screen! Installations around Ann Arbor that are viewable from the street.


"The Courier" -- PLAYS AT THE STATE MARCH 19-21

This is a true-life spy thriller, the story of an unassuming British businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history.  At the behest of the UK's MI-6 and a CIA operative (Rachel Brosnahan), he forms a covert, dangerous partnership with Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) in an effort to provide crucial intelligence needed to prevent a nuclear confrontation and defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.


"Promising Young Woman" -- PLAYS MARCH 21 ONLY AT THE MICHIGAN

A black comedy thriller film written, produced, and directed by Emerald Fennellin her feature directorial debut.  Carey Mulligan stars as a woman who seeks to avenge her best friend, who was a victim of rape.  Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, and Connie Brittonco-star.  The film earned five nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Mulligan.  It was named one of the ten best films of 2020 by the National Board of Review, with Mulligan also winning Best Actress, and received four nominations at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Drama.

"The Father"-- PLAYS MARCH 18-21 AT THE STATE

The film earned six nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Hopkins), and Best Supporting Actress (Colman).

Anthony (Academy Award Winner Anthony Hopkins) is 80, mischievous, living defiantly alone and rejecting the carers that his daughter, Anne (Academy Award and Golden Globe Winner Olivia Colman), encouragingly introduces.  Yet help is also becoming a necessity for Anne; she can't make daily visits anymore, and Anthony's grip on reality is unraveling.  As we experience the ebb and flow of his memory, how much of his own identity and past can Anthony cling to?  How does Anne cope as she grieves the loss of her father, while he still lives and breathes before her?  This filim warmly embraces real life, through loving reflection upon the vibrant human condition; a heart-breaking and uncompromisingly poignant movie that nestles in the truth of our own lives.


Winner Best Motion Picture – Drama at the 2021 Golden Globes!  Oscar frontrunner!!


For those curious about how Nomadland director Chloé Zhao got her start, we check out her feature debut "Songs My Brothers Taught Me," now streaming in our Virtual Movie Palace.


Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.  The third feature film from director Chloé Zhao, this film features real nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.


Winner Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language at the 2021 Golden Globes!

If you liked the indie hit “The Farewell” (starring Awkwafina), you will like this film.  A tender and sweeping story about what roots us, the film follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream.  The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother.  Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, Minari shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really builds a home and family.  Starring Steven Yeun ("Burning") and Yeri Han ("Champion").

"Mank" -- MARCH 18 & 20 AT THE STATE

A biographical drama film about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his development of the screenplay for "Citizen Kane" (1941).  Directed by David Fincher, based on a screenplay by his late father Jack Fincher.  The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised its direction, acting (particularly Oldman and Seyfried), cinematography, and production values.  The film earned a leading ten nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Oldman, and Best Supporting Actress for Seyfried.

And many more Oscar worthy films – at the State and Michigan and in our Virtual Movie Palace!

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

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