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Cinema Chat: SAG Awards News, 'Roma,' 'At Eternity's Gate,' 'Into The Spider-Verse,' And More

Dec 13, 2018

Michigan Theater View from the Stage
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Awards season is heating up.  Could it predict the outcome of the upcoming Oscars ceremony?  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about the latest movie news and all of the new films hitting the silver screen this weekend.


SAG FILM AWARDS GO MAINSTREAM

The SAG Awards went mainstream with its annual film nominations, favoring commercial crowd pleasers over critics’ favorites. But it’s easy to read where the strength in the Oscar race lies.  Not every SAG nominee will move on to the Oscars — but, given the overlap between SAG members and the Academy’s actors branch, statistically, the eventual Oscar Best Picture winner is a SAG Ensemble nominee.  Exceptions are rare.

Follow the numbers and the likeliest Best Picture winners are Ensemble nominees:

BEST FILM?

BEST ACTORS?

Not smiling this morning: Annapurna (“Vice,” “If Beale Street Could Talk”) — which settled for acting slots for “Vice” leading male Christian Bale and supporting female Amy Adams — and Universal, as “Green Book” only landed actor nods for lead Viggo Mortensen and supporting actor Mahershala Ali, while “First Man” didn’t score for either Ryan Gosling or Claire Foy.  But these films are playing well for the Academy and are in the running for multiple Oscar nominations on January 22, including Best Picture.

“Roma” — won both the New York and Los Angeles film critics’ groups but no SAG nominees (being made in Mexico, it had no SAG actors.  “Roma” was also nominated for three Golden Globes and eight (often predictive) Critics Choice Awards.  Other critics’ favorites, “First Reformed” (and star Ethan Hawke) and “If Beale Street Could Talk” (and Supporting Actress frontrunner Regina King), were also snubbed by SAG voters, many of whom voted before these groups announced their winners.  Oscar voters often take the higher ground.

On the other hand, showing strong support from actors are Fox Searchlight’s royal period dramedy “The Favourite” and its trio of actresses Olivia Colman (Best Female Actor) and Supporting Female Actors Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, even if the movie didn’t land an ensemble slot.  And Searchlight is also happy to land nods for Melissa McCarthy (lead) and Richard E. Grant (supporting) for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Emily Blunt continues to ride the swells of a good year: She landed two nominations, for both Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns” (Best Female Actor) and “A Quiet Place” (Best Supporting Female Actor), neither of which nabbed any other mention.  Steady as they go this season, Timothée Chalamet (Amazon’s “Beautiful Boy”) and Glenn Close (Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Wife”) both scored nominations as well.

Another surprise Supporting Female Actor nomination went to Australian “I,Tonya” star Margot Robbie for her showy turn as Queen Elizabeth in “Mary, Queen of Scots.”  (Her smallpox scars were irresistible to SAG voters.)  Don’t count out veteran Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh (“At Eternity’s Gate”), who landed a Critics Choice slot (and an Oscar nod last year for “The Florida Project”), but could have used a boost from SAG.  He was snubbed.

Not happening in the awards race this year despite stellar work are Nicole Kidman, Lucas Hedges, Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Russell Hornsby, Keira Knightley, Charlize Theron, Toni Colette, Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, and Rosamund Pike.  They’ll be back.  The SAG Awards will be handed out on January 27.

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT

"Roma"

Nominated for 3 Golden Globes® including Best Picture and Winner of The Golden Lion at The Venice International Film Festival!  This film plays from December 14 to December 20 at the Michigan Theater.  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.

OPENING DOWNTOWN

"At Eternity's Gate"

At the Michigan (Friday, December 14): Golden Globe® nominated for Best Actor!  Academy Award® Nominee Julian Schnabel's film is a journey inside the world and mind of a person who, despite skepticism, ridicule and illness, created some of the world's most beloved and stunning works of art.  This biographical drama film about the final years of painter Vincent van Gogh’s life, starring Willem Dafoe, who won Best Actor at The Venice Film Festival for his portrayal, is based on letters, common agreement about events in his life that present as facts, hearsay, and moments that are just plain invented.  Also starring Oscar Isaac, Mads Mikkelsen, and Rupert Friend.

"The Favourite"

At the State (Friday, December 14): Nominated for 4 Golden Globes® including Best Picture and Best Actress!  This film akes 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.  As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen's companion.  Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics, or rabbit stand in her way.

"Vox Lux"

At the State (Friday, December 14): In this, Celeste is a 13-year-old music prodigy who survives a horrific school shooting in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1999.  Her talent shines through during the memorial service when she sings a song that touches the hearts of the mourners.  Guided by her sister and a talent manager, the young phenom transforms into a rising pop star with a promising future.  Eighteen years later, Celeste now finds herself on the comeback trail when a scandal, personal struggles, and the pitfalls of fame threaten her career.  From Director Brady Corbet and starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law.

"Mary Poppins Returns"

At the Michigan (Wednesday, December 19): Nominated for 4 Golden Globes® including Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Actor!  In this film, Michael (played by Ben Whishaw) and Jane (played by Emily Mortimer) are now grown up, with Michael, his three children and their housekeeper, Ellen (played by Julie Walters), living on Cherry Tree Lane.  After Michael suffers a personal loss, the enigmatic nanny Mary Poppins played by (played by Emily Blunt) re-enters the lives of the Banks family, and, along with the optimistic street lamplighter Jack (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda), uses her unique magical skills to help the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives. 

SPECIAL SCREENINGS DOWNTOWN

"Love Actually"

This film plays Friday, December 14 at 9:30 PM at the State Theatre as a part of Late Nights at the State: Holiday Horrors.  Nine chilling tales are told which examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love.  Among the characters explored are David (played by Hugh Grant), the handsome newly elected British prime minister who falls for a young junior staffer (played by Martine McCutcheon), Sarah (played by Laura Linney), a graphic designer whose devotion to her mentally ill brother complicates her love life, and Harry (Alan Rickman), a married man tempted by his attractive new secretary.  Also starring Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman, Andrew Lincoln, Bill Nighy, Rowan Atkinson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more!

"The Nightmare Before Christmas"

This film plays Saturday, December 15 at 11:59 PM at the State Theatre as a part of Late Nights at the State: Holiday Horrors.  The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown's beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the "real world." When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life -- he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role.  But Jack soon discovers even the best-laid plans of mice and skeleton men can go seriously awry.  Tickets are only $8!

"It's a Wonderful Life"

The Holiday Classic Film Series presented by Old National Bank and Sesi Lincoln will be wrapping up this week with this film, which plays Sunday, December 9 at 1:30 PM at the Michigan Theater.  Free and open to the public!  Director Frank Capra's classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey (played by James Stewart) who wishes he had never been born. When an angel (played by Henry Travers) is sent to Earth to make George's wish come true, George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there.  Nominated for 5 Academy Awards®: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Sound, Recording, and Best Film Editing.

CONTINUING DOWNTOWN

"Maria By Callas"

At the Michigan: This film by Tom Volf is the first film to tell the life story of the legendary Greek-American opera singer, Maria Callas, completely in her own words.  Told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs-nearly all of which have never been shown to the public-the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time.

"Green Book"

Moving from the Michigan to the State: 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. 

"Burning"

At the State: Winner of the FIPRESCI and Vulcain Prize, and a nominee for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival!  In this film, Jongsu is a frustrated introvert whose already difficult life is complicated by the appearance of two people into his orbit: first, Haemi, a spirited woman who offers romantic possibility, and then, Ben, a wealthy and sophisticated young man Haemi returns from a trip with.  When Jongsu learns of Ben’s mysterious hobby and Haemi suddenly disappears, his confusion and obsessions begin to mount, culminating in a stunning finale.  Starring Steven Yeun ("The Walking Dead," "Sorry to Bother You"), Jeon Jong-Seo, and Yoo Ah-In.

"Border"

Winner of The Un Certain Regard Award at The Cannes Film Festival!  This film by director Ali Abbasi follows customs officer Tina, who is known for her extraordinary sense of smell.  It’s almost as if she can sniff out the guilt on anyone hiding something.  But when Vore, a suspicious-looking man, walks past her, her abilities are challenged for the first time ever.  Tina can sense Vore is hiding something she can’t identify.  Even worse, she feels a strange attraction to him.  As Tina develops a special bond with Vore and discovers his true identity, she also realizes the truth about herself. 

"Mirai"

Mamoru Hosoda, the Japanese director of hit animated features "Summer Wars" and "Wolf Children," has reunited with high-profile banner Studio Chi-zu for this film.  When four-year-old Kun meets his new baby sister, his world is turned upside down.  Named Mirai (meaning “future”), the baby quickly wins the hearts of Kun’s entire family.  As his mother returns to work, and his father struggles to run the household, Kun becomes increasingly jealous of baby Mirai… until one day he storms off into the garden, where he encounters strange guests from the past and future, including his sister Mirai, as a teenager.  Together, Kun and teenage Mirai go on a journey through time and space, uncovering their family’s incredible story.  But why did Mirai come from the future? 

"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.

OPENING AT THE MULTIPLEX

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative minds behind "The Lego Movie" and "21 Jump Street," bring their unique talents to a fresh vision of a different Spider-Man Universe, with a groundbreaking visual style that's the first of its kind. Bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales suddenly develops mysterious powers that transform him into the one and only Spider-Man.  When he meets Peter Parker, he soon realizes that there are many others who share his special, high-flying talents. Miles must now use his newfound skills to battle the evil Kingpin, a hulking madman who can open portals to other universes and pull different versions of Spider-Man into our world.  Opens in theaters nationwide Friday, December 14!  

"The Mule"

From star and director Clint Eastwood, a 90-year-old horticulturist and WWII veteran is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Michigan for a Mexican drug cartel.  Also stars Bradley Cooper, Dianne Wiest, and Laurence Fishburne (IMDB).

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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