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Cinema Chat: 2019 Oscars Recap, 'Greta,' 'A Madea Family Funeral,' And More

Feb 28, 2019

Oscar Statue
Credit MikeWu / flickr.com

The 91st Academy Awards ceremony is in the books, and it was one to remember.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair and Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins discuss this year's Oscar results and surprises.  Plus, they give a rundown and all of the new films hitting the big screen this weekend.


FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FIVE YEARS – THE OSCARS BROADCAST HAD GROWTH OF VIEWERSHIP

The Oscars has managed to snap its losing streak.  While the Academy Awards show on Sunday, which honored “Green Book” for best picture, had 29.6 million viewers, a 12 percent increase from last year.

Last year’s ceremony, hosted by ABC’s own Jimmy Kimmel, had 26.5 million viewers, a 19 percent drop from 2017 and well below the 43.7 million viewers who had tuned in as recently as 2014.  The 2018 number was a record low, beating out the previous least-watched Oscars, the 2008 broadcast.  A total of 32 million watched that hastily organized ceremony, which came together days after the conclusion of the Writers Guild of America’s strike.  The ceremony on Sunday, which went without a host for the first time in 30 years, was warmly received by critics.

Queen opened the Academy Award broadcast with Adam Lambert singing Freddie Mercury’s vocal lead.  Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, and Amy Poehler delivered a quick satire of the usual opening remarks.  Other entertainers, from Keegan-Michael Key floating down from the rafters with an umbrella, à la Mary Poppins, to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sitting side-by-side on a piano bench for “Shallow,” kept things moving.  Several high-grossing movies — “Black Panther,” “A Star Is Born,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” — remained in contention for major awards to the end, which also may have helped maintain viewer interest.  The broadcast was considerably shorter than recent ceremonies and the second straight to begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time, rather than the old start time of 8:30.  That meant that the final presenter, Julia Roberts, was able to say good night at 11:17.  Several recent ceremonies had dragged on past midnight.

Before this year’s ceremony, the Academy announced it would move four categories off the live telecast altogether and introduce a new best popular movie Oscar.  A Hollywood backlash forced the Academy to walk back both decisions.

OSCAR BROADCAST REVIEW: The Academy Giveth & It Taketh Away, But That Was One Helluva Show

An overdose of "Bohemian Rhapsody" with a "Green Book" kicker can't quite kill a ceremony that benefitted from what's kept the Oscars engaging for 91 years.

No host, no problem.  None of the Oscar staples were cut, and nearly all of them proved to be a huge benefit to the telecast — from the performed songs (including an instant classic “Shallow” staging) to the would-have-been cut categories (the “Skin” creators were the most excited winners of the night) to the length and pacing (this year clocked in as the shortest in at least six years), the 2019 Oscars ran smoother and were far more absorbing than many expected.  Despite some problematic forward-facing winners, this year’s Oscars offered many positive steps forward.  The new voting body led to a historic, long overdue win for Spike Lee; it led to four black women winning the first five trophies; it led to a record number of black winners overall; it led to women directors sweeping the shorts categories (even though no women directors were nominated for feature directing); and, yes, it led to a few surprises, including “Green Book” winning Best Picture.

That last pick doesn’t exactly fit the progressive narrative, but progress takes time.  This is what happens in transitional years: a mixed bag of statement wins and tone-deaf choices.  Plus, less across-the-board cohesion is bound to happen with a larger voting body anyway.  But “Green Book’s” win helps the telecast.  Some viewers may be upset, but they can’t deny the show itself was entertaining, which leads us to the critical takeaway: The Oscars thrived in 2019 because they were the Oscars.  The Academy didn’t so much get out of its own way, as it was forced out of its own way by public opinion.  The pared-down version of the show brought all the attention back to the movies and the people who made them, and what do you know  It came alive!  It was raw, surprising, and heartfelt.

AND THE OSCARS GOES TO…

The State and Michigan Theatres will play more Oscar nominated and winning films than any other theater!!  It’s quality movie season & the State and Michigan are your quality movie places!

CURRENTLY PLAYING AT THE MICHIGAN AND STATE!

Green Book - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali, and Best Original Screenplay
If Beale Street Could Talk - Best Supporting Actress – Regina King
Roma – Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón
The Favourite – Best Actress – Olivia Colman
Free Solo – Best Documentary Feature
Animated Short: Bao – Best Animated Short
Live Action Short: Skin – Best Live Action Short
Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence – Best Documentary Short

PLAYED AT THE MICHIGAN AND STATE!

Bohemian Rhapsody – Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Actor – Rami Malek
BlackKklansman – Best Adapted Screenplay
Black Panther – Best Original Score, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design
First Man – Best Visual Effects
A Star Is Born – Best Original Song “Shallow”
Vice 
– Best Makeup and Hairstyling

LAST BUT NOT LEAST! 
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Best Animated Feature

OPENING DOWNTOWN

"Greta"

At the State (Sneak Peek Thursday, Feb. 28 and Opens Friday, Mar. 1): This suspense thriller from Academy Award®-winning director Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game") follows Frances (played by Chloë Grace Moretz), who finds a handbag on the New York subway and doesn’t think twice about returning it to its rightful owner.  That owner is Greta (played by Isabelle Huppert), an eccentric French piano teacher with a love for classical music and an aching loneliness.  Having recently lost her mother, Frances quickly grows closer to widowed Greta.  The two become fast friends, but Greta’s maternal charms begin to dissolve and grow increasingly disturbing as Frances discovers that nothing in Greta’s life is what it seems. 

"Never Look Away"

At the Michigan (Opens Friday, Mar. 1): Nominated for 2 Oscars® including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography!  Inspired by real events and spanning three eras of German history, this film tells the story of a young art student, Kurt (played by Tom Schilling) who falls in love with fellow student, Ellie (played by Paula Beer).  Ellie’s father, Professor Seeband (played by Sebastian Koch), a famous doctor, is dismayed at his daughter’s choice of boyfriend, and vows to destroy the relationship.  What neither of them knows is that their lives are already connected through a terrible crime Seeband committed decades ago. 

"Captain Marvel"-- SUPERHEROES AT THE STATE:  OPENS MARCH 7! 

The story follows Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.  Set in the 1990s, this is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Brie Larson ("The Spectacular Now," "Trainwreck," "Room" – Academy Award for Best Actress) stars as Danvers, alongside Samuel L. JacksonBen MendelsohnDjimon HounsouLee PaceLashana LynchGemma ChanAnnette BeningClark Gregg, and Jude Law.  Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, a tandem filmmaking team best known for their collaborations on "Half Nelson," "Sugar," and "Mississippi Grind."

The initial screenwriter, Nicole Perlman, wrote about creating Marvel Studios' first female superhero.  “We've been talking a lot about archetypes and what we want this movie to be about and just how to write a strong female superhero without making it Superman with boobs ... we'll catch ourselves and say, 'Wait a minute, what are we saying [here] about women in power?'  Then we have to say, 'Why are we getting so hung up on that?  We should just tell the best story and build the best character.'  And then we have this constant back-and-forth about how to tell a story that is compelling, entertaining, moving, kick-ass, and fun, and also be aware of what those larger implications might be.”  From the studio that created Black Panther.

SPECIAL SCREENINGS DOWNTOWN

2019 Fly Fishing Film Tour

This event is headed to the Michigan Theater on Friday, March 1 at 7 PM.  Grab your fishiest friends and we’ll see you at the show!  The original and preeminent exhibition of fly fishing cinema, The F3T is a one of a kind experience.  Each year, anglers of all ages gather in big cities and small towns alike to soak up films from around the world, spin a few yarns amongst friends and dream about casts yet unmade.  In its 13th lap around the globe, the Fly Fishing Film Tour is packed with remarkable films, topnotch stories and imagery that will fuel your dreams for months to come!  With an emphasis on the people, places and fisheries that help make up the vast world of fly fishing, the 2019 F3T will take you from Alaska to Florida, South Dakota to French Polynesia, British Columbia to the coast of Australia and more!  This remarkable evening of outdoor cinema is in itself an adventure you won’t soon forget.  Grab your fishiest friends and we’ll see you at the show!!

"The Last Resort"

This film plays Sunday, March 3 at 2:15 PM and Monday, March 4 at 4 PM at the Michigan Theater.  Viewers embark on a journey to the iconic Miami Beach of yesterday thru the lens of young photographers Andy Sweet and Gary Monroe.  With camera in hand, they embarked upon an ambitious 10-year project to document the aging population living in the sunburned paradise of 1970’s Miami Beach and into the changing, turbulent 1980’s.  Working in different styles and approaches they captured the end of an era through engrossing black and white images by Monroe juxtaposed with Sweet’s captivating candy-hued color photos.  The result is one of the most fascinating photographic documentations of a community ever caught on film.

"Cleo from 5 to 7"

This film plays Tuesday, March 5 at 7:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of our Celebrating Women Filmmaker series continuing throughout March!  A selfish pop singer Cléo (played by Corinne Marchand) has two hours to wait until the results of her biopsy come back.  After an ominous tarot card reading, she visits her friends, all of whom fail to give her the emotional support she needs.  Wandering around Paris, she finally finds comfort talking with a soldier in a park.  On leave from the Algerian War, his troubles put hers in perspective.  As they talk and walk, Cléo comes to terms with her selfishness, finding peace before the results come back.  This film was directed by Agnès Varda, who in 2017, became the first woman to receive an Academy Honorary Award for her lifetime achievements.

"Life and Nothing More"

This film plays Thursday, March 7 at 8:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  In his remarkable second feature, Spanish-born filmmaker Antonio Méndez Esparza follows-up his debut drama "Here and There" ("Aquí y allá") with another sensitive portrait of a struggling family.  Stressed by her job in a diner, single mother Regina is raising her two children in northern Florida.  When her 14-year-old son Andrew has another brush with the law, she worries he’ll wind up in prison like his father.  Méndez Esparza employs documentary-style realism in this snapshot of race, class, and the bonds of family in contemporary America.

CONTINUING DOWNTOWN

"Capernaum"

Nadine Labaki‘s film follows the journey of Zain, a gutsy, streetwise 12-year-old boy, as he flees his negligent parents and survives the dangers of the city streets by his wits.  Along the way, he takes care of Ethiopian refugee and her baby son, ends up being jailed for a crime, and, ultimately, seeks justice in a courtroom against his parents for the “crime” of giving him life. 

2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films

At the Michigan:  As in previous years, the 2019 Oscar® Nominated Short Films program will present all nominees of the three shorts categories - Live Action, Animation, and Documentary.  Pick your favorites and see the winners announced live during the Oscars broadcast on Sunday, February 24.

LIVE ACTION NOMINEES:

Madre – Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Maria del Puy Alvarado, Spain
Fauve – Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon, Canada
Marguerite – Marianne Farley and Marie-Helene Panisset, Canada
Detainment – Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon, Ireland
Skin – Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman, USA--Oscar Winner

ANIMATION NOMINEES:

Bao – Domee Shi and Becky Neimann-Cobb, USA--Oscar Winner
Late Afternoon – Louise Bagnall and Nuria Gonzalez Blanco, Ireland
Animal Behaviour – Alison Snowden and David Fine, Canada
Weekends – Trevor Jimenez, USA
One Small Step – Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas, USA

Plus a selection of additional Animated shorts:
Wishing Box – 6 minutes
Tweet Tweet – 11 minutes 

DOCUMENTARY NOMINEES:

Black Sheep – Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn, UK
End Game – Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, USA
A Night at the Garden – Marshall Curry, USA
Lifeboat – Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser, USA
PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE. – Rayka Zahtabchi and Melissa Berton, India--Oscar Winner

"Roma"

Nominated for 10 Oscars®, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress!  The most personal project to date from Academy Award-winning director and writer Alfonso Cuarón ("Gravity," "Children of Men," "Y Tu Mama Tambien"), this film follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City.  Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s.

"Cold War"

At the State: Nominated for 3 Oscars® including Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography!  Set against the background of the Cold War in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris, it's the tale of a couple separated by politics, character flaws and unfortunate twists of fate - an impossible love story in impossible times. 

"Shoplifters"

Oscar® nominated for Best Foreign Language Film!  Understated yet ultimately deeply affecting, this film adds another powerful chapter to director Hirokazu Koreeda's richly humanistic filmography.  After one of their shoplifting sessions, Osamu and his son come across a little girl in the freezing cold.  At first reluctant to shelter the girl, Osamu's wife agrees to take care of her after learning of the hardships she faces.  Although the family is poor, barely making enough money to survive through petty crime, they seem to live happily together until an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets, testing the bonds that unite them.

"If Beale Street Could Talk"

Nominated for 3 Oscars®, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay!  Directed by Barry Jenkins ("Moonlight").  Set in early-1970s Harlem, this film is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple’s unbreakable bond and the Black family’s empowering embrace, as told through the eyes of 19-year-old Tish Rivers (played by screen newcomer KiKi Layne).  A daughter and wife-to-be, Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect, and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (played by Stephan James).  The couple dream of a future together but their plans are derailed when Alonzo is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

"The Favourite"

Nominated for 10 Oscars®, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress!  This film takes place in the early 18th century, while England is at war with the French.   A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne's ill health and mercurial temper.  When a new servant Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.  Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots.  

"Green Book"

Nominated for 5 Oscars®, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor!  In this film, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on "The Green Book" to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans.  Confronted with racism, danger-as well as unexpected humanity and humor-they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime. 

"Free Solo"

Oscar® Nominated for Best Documentary!  From award-winning documentary filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin comes this National Geographic Documentary Film, a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world's most famous rock... the 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park... without a rope.

OPENING AT THE MULTIPLEX

"Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral"

This film opens in theaters on Friday, March 1.  This is Tyler Perry’s 11th and last time playing his long-running Mabel “Madea” Simmons character on-screen.  A joyous family reunion becomes a hilarious nightmare as Madea and the crew travel to backwoods Georgia, where they find themselves unexpectedly planning a funeral that might unveil unsavory family secrets.

And "Greta" opens in theaters on Friday, March 1 nationwide!

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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