89.1 WEMU

Cinema Chat: 'Boy Erased,' 'The Yellow Ticket,' 'The Grinch,' And More

Nov 8, 2018

The Michigan Theater
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Now that everyone has been to the voting booth, it's time to head to the ticket booth and catch a good flick!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair and Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins talk about the latest Hollywood news and all of the new movies coming to the big screen this weekend.


Spike Lee is set to direct “Frederick Douglass Now,” his third movie adaptation of a one-man stage show by Roger Guenveur Smith.  This year is Douglass’ Bicentennary celebration.  “Frederick Douglass Now” will mark the latest collaboration between Lee and Smith, who has played distinctive roles in 10 of Lee’s movies, stretching back to his second feature, “School Daze” (1988).  Douglass was one of the most extraordinary figures in U.S. history: a self-liberated slave, orator, publisher, and pioneering feminist who pleaded the case for abolition before Abraham Lincoln and made plans with the President for moving freed slaves to the North during the Civil War.  Douglass lived from 1818 to 1895.  Smith began work on “Frederick Douglass Now” when he was an undergraduate at Occidental College in Los Angeles.  He began performing the hour-plus monologue more than 20 years ago, and has been honing and updating it ever since.  The film adaptation will be accompanied by jazz artist Branford Marsalis and Marc Anthony Thompson.

This week, Roger Guenveur Smith will interview Lee onstage Friday at Mexico’s Los Cabos Film Festival, where Lee will receive a tribute for his contribution to cinema history and talk about his career and approach to directing.


"Green Book"

Opens Wednesday, November 21.  Bouncer from the Bronx, played by Viggo Mortensen, hired to drive gifted African-American pianist, played by Mahershala Ali ("Moonlight"), on tour in 50s America.


"Hello Sunshine x Together Live" 

This event will be Sunday, November 11 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  At this two-hour evening event, our speakers will share their authentic stories, sing songs, and make you laugh (often through tears).  Come join us as Glennon Doyle, Abby Wambach, Cameron Esposito, Priya Parker, and MILCK share their raw, hilarious, vulnerable, authentic stories.  This is Together Live’s third year on the road and they are partnering with Hello Sunshine, founded by Reese Witherspoon.  As partners, they are dedicated to amplifying diverse and inclusive female voices worldwide.


"Boy Erased"

At the State: This film tells the story of Jared (played by Lucas Hedges), the son of a Baptist pastor in a small American town, who is outed to his parents (played by Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) at age 19.  Jared is faced with an ultimatum: attend a conversion therapy program - or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends, and faith.  This is the true story of one young man's struggle to find himself while being forced to question every aspect of his identity. 


The Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival

This will be taking place at the Michigan Theater from Friday, November 9 to Sunday, November 11.  This is an annual event made by the Polish Cultural Fund, in cooperation with Ann Arbor Polonia Association and the University of Michigan’s Polish Student Association.  Since its inception in 1993, the festival has featured contemporary Polish documentaries, animated shorts, feature films, and children’s films (along with the Children’s Book Fair) offering diverse perspectives on a range of Polish and global issues.  The Festival features a juried film competition in three categories: documentary film, short narrative film and film debut.  To get more information and view the program, visit annarborpolishfilmfestival.com.


This film plays Wednesday, November 14 and Thursday, November 15 at the Michigan Theater.  A Mexico City suburb, circa mid-1980s: A motley pair of underachievers (played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Leonardo Ortizgris) pull themselves away from video games long enough to hatch a scheme – a Christmas Eve museum heist to remove priceless ancient Mexican artifacts that are so unmistakable, they prove impossible to fence.  Inspired by the true story of the largest heist in Mexico’s history and shot in the never-before-filmed National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.  


"The Yellow Ticket"

The acclaimed 1918 Pola Negri silent-era film plays Monday, November 12 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  There will also be live musical accompaniment from fiddler Alicia Svigals (founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatic) and pianist Marilyn Lerner performing the award-winning score!  Legendary silent film star Pola Negri in Director Victor Janson and Eugen Illes’ rarely seen adaptation of The Yellow Ticket.  Negri plays Lea, a bright adolescent girl who lives in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw.  When her father dies suddenly she goes to Russia and learns that Jewish women are only allowed to work as sex workers with the benefit of a “yellow passport”, otherwise they will be taken to prison.

"The Seventh Seal"

This film plays Tuesday, November 13 at 7:00 PM at the State as a part of the new series titled “Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema: A Centennial Retrospective.”  This series will continue Tuesdays throughout November.  When disillusioned Swedish knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) returns home from the Crusades to find his country in the grips of the Black Death, he challenges Death (Bengt Ekerot) to a chess match for his life.  Tormented by the belief that God does not exist, Block sets off on a journey, meeting up with traveling players Jof (Nils Poppe) and his wife Mia (Bibi Andersson) and becoming determined to evade Death long enough to commit one redemptive act while he still lives.

Cinetopia and the Washtenaw County Peacemaking Court Present: "Dawnland"

This film will play Wednesday, November 13 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan.  For much of the 20th century, social workers stole Native American children from their homes and placed them with white families.  They were given new names and forced to act, dress, and talk like white Americans.  These methods were an effort to once again wipe Native Americans from our history.  The film focuses on the recent formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission by the Wabanaki tribes and the state of Maine that aims to help those affected by this atrocity.  Join us after the film for a panel discussion with 22nd Circuit Court Judge Timothy Connors, Maine Wabenaki Truth, and Reconciliation Commissioner (and on-screen subject) Sandy White Hawk, and other special guests!

"The Glory of Life"

This film plays Sunday, November 11 at 4:00 PM at the State as a part of the “Electric Shadows” film series presented by the Confucius Institute at U-M.  Free and open to the public!  This documentary uncovers the production process of Wang Qingsong’s seminal art pieces from 2003 to 2018, including the most celebrated pieces such as “China Mansion” (2003), “Competition” (2004), “Come!Come!Come!” (2005), and “Follow You” (2013).  Attempting to narrate the complex and chaotic composition of the world through his large-scale photos, Wang’s works display the surreal realities of incessant transformations in the world.


"Beautiful Boy"

At the Michigan: Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, this film chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.  Teenager Nicolas Sheff seems to have it all -- good grades, editor of the school newspaper, actor, artist and athlete.  When Nic's addiction to meth threatens to destroy him, his desperate father does whatever he can to save his son and his family.  Starring Steve CarellTimothée ChalametMaura Tierney, and Amy Ryan.

"Tea with the Dames"

In this film, viewers are invited to see happens when four legends of British stage and screen get together.  Dame Maggie SmithDame Judi DenchDame Eileen Atkins, and Dame Joan Plowright are among the most celebrated actresses of our time, with scores of iconic performances, decades of wisdom, and innumerable Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and BAFTAs between them.  They are also longtime friends who hereby invite you to join them for a weekend in the country as they catch up with one another and reminisce.

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

Moving from the Michigan to the State:  Based on a true story, this film stars Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel, the best-selling celebrity biographer who made her living in the 1970's and 80's profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estée Lauder, and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen.  When Lee found herself unable to get published because she had fallen out of step with the marketplace, she turned her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack (played by Richard E. Grant). 


At the State: In this film, young American dancer Susie Bannion arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Co.  When she vaults to the role of lead dancer, the woman she replaces breaks down and accuses the company's female directors of witchcraft.  Meanwhile, an inquisitive psychotherapist and a member of the troupe uncover dark and sinister secrets as they probe the depths of the studio's hidden underground chambers.  

"Free Solo"

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.

"A Star is Born"

Bradley Cooper plays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers--and falls in love with--struggling artist Ally (Lady Gaga).  She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer... until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight.  But even as Ally's career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.


"The Grinch"

This film opens this Friday, November 9.  The Grinch and his loyal dog, Max, live a solitary existence inside a cave on Mount Crumpet.  His main source of aggravation comes during Christmastime when his neighbors in Whoville celebrate the holidays with a bang.  When the Whos decide to make Christmas bigger and brighter, the disgruntled Grinch realizes there is one way to gain peace and quiet.  With help from Max, the green grump hatches a scheme to pose as Santa Claus, steal Christmas, and silence the Whos' holiday cheer once and for all.  This film will be narrated by Pharrell Williams, and starring the voices of Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Cameron Seely, and Angela Lansbury.  


“Star Wars” and “Star Trek” guru J.J. Abrams’s film opens this Friday, November 9.  With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers drop into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that's crucial to the invasion's success.  Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a fortified church, the desperate soldiers join forces with a young French villager to penetrate the walls and take down the tower.  But, in a mysterious Nazi lab beneath the church, the outnumbered G.I.s come face-to-face with enemies unlike any the world has ever seen.  From producer J.J. Abrams, this is a thrilling, pulse-pounding action adventure with a twist. 

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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