It's cold outside right now, so stay warm with a good flick. In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins about the latest developments at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater and State Theatre, as well as the newest films for your online viewing pleasure.
STATE AND MICHIGAN REOPENING PLANS
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.
Currently, the theaters are available for private rental use by any interested person or organization who agrees to abide by government, health department and the theater’s own established health and safety guidelines.
Reopening for Public Screenings and Events
The Theater will reopen in February and March for some cinema and performing arts events presented at both the State and Michigan. There will be:
- Films acknowledging Black History Month (films TBA) – Feb. 20 & 27
- AWARD WORTHY – February 12-14 – "Minari"
- AWARD WORTHY – Coming soon – "Nomadland"
- An Award Worthy Film Series – Continues through April – Films celebrating 2020 best films
- A HERO FOR A NIGHT, a Valentine’s Day screening celebrating the Michigan Theater’s 93rd anniversary and a rare opportunity to see the film that opened the Michigan Theater.
- Program to celebrate State Theatre’s 79th anniversary in the middle of March ("The Fleet’s In")
- Occasional concerts, lectures, educational programs, etc.
VIRTUAL MOVIE TRIVIA IS BACK TONIGHT (THURSDAY, 1/28) AT 7 PM
Log on (michtheater.org), sign up and play this week and be the winner who gets their name on our marquee! Tickets are $5 per team (Michigan Theater members play for free!)
Order in advance and pick up at the Michigan Theater between 5-7 PM. Walk-ups also welcome.
TELL US YOUR MICHIGAN (OR STATE) THEATER LOVE STORY AND SEE IT ON THE BIG SCREEN!!
Do you have a Michigan or State love story? Was your first date at a midnight screening, or did your meet-cute involve jostling for the shared armrest? We want to hear about it! Email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to be featured on the big screen!
NEW THIS WEEK VIRTUALLY
"Cowboys" -- OPENS FRIDAY
Steve Zahn stars as Troy, a troubled but well-intentioned father who has recently separated from his wife Sally (Jillian Bell). Aghast at Sally’s refusal to let their trans son Joe (Sasha Knight) live as his authentic self, Troy runs off with Joe into the Montana wilderness. Meanwhile police detective (Ann Dowd) pursues them, but her resolve about the case is tested the more she learns about Joe’s family. This film, a modern day Western from director Anna Kerrigan, is a tale of rescue, family betrayal and a father and son on the run. Westerns are perhaps the most clearly identifiable genre in all of film. Cowboys on horses, wide landscapes, and a horn-filled score that trots along with the characters. But it’s a genre steeped in very generic ideas of masculinity, which have aged poorly and inspired much discussion over the past decades. In this film, from director Anna Kerrigan, we see a more nuanced vision of the genre and its take on masculinity, with a modern depiction of its perception in society and the nuclear family.
Let’s talk Oscars. Early in January, we launched a virtual series showcasing a new international feature every week that’s been officially selected to represent its home nation at the 2021 Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film.
"Blizzard of Souls" - Latvia’s Official Submission
After losing his mother and his home, Arturs finds some consolation in joining the army. However, war is nothing like he imagined. this is the highest grossing Latvian film in decades and the first narrative feature from documentary director Dzintars Dreibergs. Based on the novel by Aleksandrs Grīns describing his experience as a rifleman in World War I, and later in the Latvian War of Independence, it’s a film that tells the expected “war is hell” narrative but expands beyond that to explore a story of growth, both in its protagonist and in the greater Latvian people.
"Another Round" - Denmark’s Official Submission
Four friends, all high school teachers, test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood.
"Collective" - Romania’s Official Submission
This film is a gripping, real-time docu-thriller that follows a heroic team of journalists as they expose shocking corruption in the Romanian national health-care system.
"My Little Sister" - Switzerland’s Official Submission
Lisa has bid goodbye to her ambitions as a playwright and the Berlin arts scene and now lives in Switzerland with her husband, who runs an international school. When her twin brother falls ill, she returns to Berlin.
"You Will Die at Twenty" - Sudan’s Official Submission
Shortly after Muzamil was born, the village’s holy man predicts that he will die at age 20. Muzamil’s father can’t stand the curse and leaves home. Sakina raises her son as a single mother, overly protective. One day, Muzamil turns 19.
Opens Friday, January 29
"True Mothers" - Japan’s Official Submission
A woman with an adopted child is contacted unexpectedly by the child’s birth mother.
Opens Friday, February 5
"Two of Us (Deux)" - France’s Official Submission
"A Hero for a Night" -- SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14 AT 3:00 PM
The silent-era romantic comedy that opened the Michigan Theater in January 1928, will be presented this year as our special Valentine’s Day presentation, Sunday, February 14 at 3:00 PM. A limited number of seats will be put on sale for Michigan Theater members next week. Any remaining tickets will be put on sale to the general public on Monday, February 8.
Hiram Hastings (Glenn Tryon), who drives a taxi at an eastern United States summer resort, wants to become an aviator. He takes a correspondence course in aviation and builds his own aircraft, hoping to enter a race from New York to Europe. Samuel Sloan (Burr McIntosh), a wealthy soap manufacturer, arrives with his daughter Mary (Patsy Ruth Miller), a trained nurse (Ruth Dwyer), and his confidential secretary (Lloyd Whitlock), the last two secretly plotting to get Sloan's holdings. Hiram, infatuated with Mary, crashes a banquet in honor of a visiting French aviator and takes it upon himself to be the speaker of the evening. Although he is ejected, Hiriam perseveres. Mary learns of the plot against her father and with the aid of Hiram and his aircraft sets out for New York, but Hiram pilots them across the ocean into Russia and there makes a forced landing. The success of the flight, however, saves the Sloan fortune.
The film will be presented with musical accompaniment on the Michigan Theater’s recently restored theater organ played by our primary organist Andi Rogers, who will create and play an original musical score. A short newsreel from the period about first solo transatlantic flight by the Spirit of St. Louis, flown by Charles Lindbergh, will be part of the program. Before the programs starts the pre-show program will be short interviews with people who have met and fallen in love with and because of the Michigan Theater. The emcee for this festive Valentine’s Day and Michigan Theater anniversary event will be Michigan Theater Foundation Executive Director, Russ Collins.
If the limited number of ticket sell out (320 ticket will be sold for a 1600 seat auditorium to assure proper social distancing), the event will be made virtually on the Michigan Theater website.
With the COVID-19 vaccine being implemented and a new administration in Washington, D.C., bringing general feelings of hope and optimism, the film opening this week in our Virtual Movie Palace, this film, from director Jeremy Sims and starring Sam Neill and Michael Caton, will further bring you a feeling of quirky optimism and reconciliation. This film is an Australian, English language remake of an acclaimed Icelandic film of the same name that played at the 2016 Cinetopia Film Festival, who would have thought that a film that begins with a bacterial outbreak could be perfect for this moment. But nevertheless, it comes to us with reminders and themes that we can take to heart.
Based on the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, this film is an immersive cinematic exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world. The film blends Higashida’s revelatory insights into autism, written when he was just 13, with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people. It opens a window for audiences into an intense and overwhelming, but often joyful, sensory universe. Moments in the lives of each of the characters are linked by the journey of a young Japanese boy through an epic landscape; narrated passages from Naoki’s writing reflect on what his autism means to him and others, how his perception of the world differs, and why he acts in the way he does: the reason he jumps. The film distils these elements into a sensually rich tapestry that leads us to Naoki’s core message: not being able to speak does not mean there is nothing to say.
With this film, first-time feature director Lance Oppenheim cracks the manicured facade of The Villages, America’s largest retirement community – a massive, self-contained utopia located in Central Florida. Behind the gates of this palm tree-lined fantasyland, the film invests in the dreams and desires of a small group of Villages residents – and one interloper – who are unable to find happiness within the community’s pre-packaged paradise. With strikingly composed cinematography, this candy-colored documentary offers a tender and surreal look at the never-ending quest for finding meaning and love in life’s final act.
In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, an abandoned water reservoir just outside the bustling metropolis, the Enache family lived in perfect harmony with nature for two decades, sleeping in a hut on the lakeshore, catching fish barehanded, and following the rhythm of the seasons. When this area is transformed into a public national park, they are forced to leave behind their unconventional life and move to the city, where fishing rods are replaced by smartphones and idle afternoons are now spent in classrooms. As the family struggles to conform to modern civilization and maintain their connection to each other and themselves, they each begin to question their place in the world and what their future might be. With their roots in the wilderness, the nine children and their parents struggle to find a way to keep their family united in the concrete jungle. With an empathetic and cinematic eye, filmmaker Radu Ciorniciuc offers viewers, in his feature debut, a compelling tale of an impoverished family living on the fringes of society in Romania, fighting for acceptance and their own version of freedom.
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.