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It’s Bong Joon Ho’s Dystopia.  We Just Live in It. (excerpts for a NYT Sunday feature article)

“It’s so metaphorical!” Kim Ki-woo exclaims early in “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho’s new film.  Ki-woo is the college-aged son of one of the two families — the impoverished Kims and the wealthy Parks — whose fates entwine with horrible and hilarious results.  What makes “Parasite” the movie of the year — what might make Bong the filmmaker of the century — is the way it succeeds in being at once fantastical and true to life, intensely metaphorical and devastatingly concrete.

In South Korea, where “Parasite” is already a blockbuster (having taken in more than $70 million at the box office), it has contributed to that country’s continuing debate about economic inequality.  In the United States, where similar arguments are swirling, it has begun to turn Bong from an auteur with a passionate cult following into a top-tier international filmmaker.  Fifty years old, with seven features to his name — most of them available on North American streaming platforms — he combines showmanship with social awareness in a way that re-energizes the faded but nonetheless durable democratic promise of movies.

Winner of The Palme D’or Award at The 2019 Cannes Film Festival!  Bong Joon Ho brings his work home to Korea in this pitch-black modern fairytale.

A comedy about Nazis that’s actually funny?  Yes.  But ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is also deadly serious.  

Starring Sam RockwellScarlett Johansson, and Roman Griffin Davis

Viewers familiar with the antic wit of Taika Waititi — from such comedies as “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “Thor: Ragnarok” — might wonder what he’ll next pull out of his hat.  The answer, “Jojo Rabbit,” might be a trick for the ages.

A sprightly, attractively composed coming-of-age comedy set in World War II Germany, “Jojo Rabbit” is an audacious high-wire act: a satire in which a buffoonish Adolf Hitler delivers some of the funniest moments; a wrenchingly tender portrait of a mother’s love for her son; a lampoon of the most destructive ideological forces that still threaten society and — perhaps most powerfully — an improbably affecting chronicle of moral evolution.

Refracted through the childlike perspective of its alternately sweet and appalling 10-year-old protagonist, the horrors of Germany under Hitler’s Reich aren’t defanged as much as defenestrated: They go flying out the windows of Waititi’s dollhouse world as quickly and decisively as the film’s copious sight gags, punchlines and Mel Brooksian “Heil, Hitler” bits.

OPENING DOWNTOWN

“Pain and Glory”

At the State (Opens Friday, November 8): Nominated for the Palme d’Or and Winner for Best Actor (Banderas) at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival!  This film tells of a series of reencounters experienced by Salvador Mallo (played by Antonio Banderas), a film director in his physical decline.  Some of them in the flesh, others remembered: his childhood in the 60s, his first adult love in the Madrid of the 80s, the pain of the breakup of that love while it was still alive and intense, writing as the only therapy to forget the unforgettable, the early discovery of cinema, and the void, the infinite void that creates the incapacity to keep on making films.  In recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.  Also stars Penelope Cruz.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”— OPENING DECEMBER 19 AT THE STATE THEATRE!  Tickets On Sale NOW (get them before they are sold out!)

This film is produced, co-written, and directed by J. J. Abrams.  It will be the third installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following “The Force Awakens” (2015) and “The Last Jedi” (2017), and the final episode of the nine-part “Skywalker saga.”  A year after the events of “The Last Jedi,” the remnants of the Resistance face the First Order once again—while reckoning with the past and their own inner turmoil.  Meanwhile, the ancient conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its climax, altogether bringing the Skywalker saga to a definitive end.

LIMITED ENGAGEMENTS

“Jay Myself”

This film plays Monday, November 11 and Wednesday, November 13 at the Michigan Theater.  It documents the monumental move of renowned photographer and artist Jay Maisel who, in February 2015 after forty-eight years, begrudgingly sold his home–the 36,000 square-foot, 100-year-old landmark building in Manhattan known simply as “The Bank.”  Through the intimate lens of filmmaker and Jay’s protégé, noted artist and photographer Stephen Wilkes, the viewer is taken on a remarkable journey through Jay’s life as an artist, mentor, and man; a man grappling with time, life, change, and the end of an era in New York City.

 

SPECIAL SCREENINGS DOWNTOWN

“Red Trees”

This film plays Thursday, November 7 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater.  This screening is presented in partnership with the Penny Stamps Speaker Series, who will be featuring Marina Willer in-person on Thursday, November 7 at 5:10 PM at the Michigan Theater.  Award-winning filmmaker Marina Willer creates an impressionistic visual essay as she traces her father’s family journey as one of only twelve Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague during World War II.  Photographed by Academy Award® nominee Ce’sar Charlone (“City of God”), the film travels from war-torn Eastern Europe to the color and light of South America and is told through the voice of Willer’s father Alfred (as narrated by Tim Pigott-Smith, “Quantum of Solace”), who witnessed bureaucratic nightmares, transportations, and suicides but survived to build a post-war life as an architect in Brazil.  As the world struggles with the current refugee crisis, the film is a timely look at a family besieged by war who finds peace across an ocean.

26th Annual Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival

This event kicks off Friday, November 8 and ends on Sunday, November 10 at the Michigan Theater!  This festival is an annual event organized by the Polish Cultural Fund – Ann Arbor in cooperation with: the Ann Arbor Polonia Association and the Polish Student Association UM.  Founded by Jolanta Nowak in 1993, the Festival has developed into a multifaceted program and currently offers feature films, documentaries and short films selected in a juried competition, as well as meetings with Polish filmmakers. Documentary and Short Film Competition was established in 2005 and currently the Festival grants the following awards: Best Documentary, Best Debut and the Best Short Narrative.  The children’s program, including films and the Children’s Book Fair, was added in 2015.

“Give Me Liberty”

This film plays Friday, November 8 at the Michigan Theater.  It played Monday and Tuesday this week and is back for one more additional day!  Medical transport driver Vic is late, but it’s not his fault.  Roads are closed for a protest, and no one else can shuttle his Russian grandfather and émigré friends to a funeral.  The new route uproots his scheduled clients, particularly Tracy (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer in a breakout performance), a vibrant young woman with ALS.  As the day goes from hectic to off-the-rails, their collective ride becomes a hilarious, compassionate, and intersectional portrait of American dreams and disenchantment.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

This film plays Friday, November 8 and Saturday, November 9 at 10:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of the Late-Night Film Series.  A German emigrant living in a trailer in Kansas is the victim of a botched sex-change operation.  Adapted from the critically acclaimed off-Broadway rock theater hit, it tells the story of the “internationally ignored” rock singer, Hedwig, and her search for stardom and love.

Late Nights – Fridays & Saturdays at 10:00 PM at the State!

Grab some popcorn and come watch our favorite late night movies.

“Paris to Pittsburgh”

Join the UM School for Environment and Sustainability and the City of Ann Arbor for a FREE screening of National Geographic’s documentary, playing Tuesday, November 12 at 6:00 PM at the Michigan Theater.  Set against the national debate over the United States’ energy future — and the explosive decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement — the film captures what’s at stake for communities around the country and the inspiring ways Americans are responding.  Following the screening, join Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Manager, City of Ann Arbor, Sara Hughes, Assistant Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability, and Douglas Kelbaugh, Professor of Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning for a brief discussion about the film and what other cities are doing to implement climate action plans.

“Pierrot Le Fou”

This film plays Tuesday, November 12 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater a part of our Les Femmes Essentielles Film Series.  From Director Jean-Luc Godard, comes the story of Ferdinand (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo), unhappily married and recently fired from his job, who abandons his family and runs off to the Riviera with the enigmatic Marianne (played by Anna Karina in her sixth collaboration with Godard).  Ferdinand, whom Marianne calls “Pierrot,” tries to find artistic fulfillment between bouts of criminal adventure but keeps getting entangled in Marianne’s violent life.

 

Les Femmes Essentielles  –  Tuesdays at 7:30 PM at the State!

This series features three of the most legendary actresses of French cinema from three of the most impactful filmmakers of the French New-Wave.

“Beyond Measure”

This film plays Wednesday, November 13 at 6:30 PM at the Michigan Theater as a part of our Independent Thinker Film Series, which is a film and discussion series FREE for kids 18 & under that explores learning and child development, and societal forces impacting them.  Sponsored by the independent schools of Ann Arbor, including Greenhills SchoolAnn Arbor AcademyEmerson SchoolSummers KnollRudolf Steiner School, and Daycroft School.  The film follows a new vanguard of educators across the country who are pioneering a fresh vision for American schools.  Pulling from expert research in education, child development, and cognitive and neuroscience, these leaders are creating a new type of classroom.  They’re leading schools that redirect our focus away from homework, prizes, top grades and test scores.  And they’re making room for curiosity, engagement, creativity, collaboration and independent thinking.  There will also be a post-film discussion lead by Dr. Siân Owen-Cruise, School Administrator for Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor.

“Up There”

This film plays Wednesday, November 13 and Thursday, November 14 at 7:30 PM at the State Theatre.  Journalist Jack Cohen (Daniel Weingarten) is desperately searching for the big story that will change his career.  His current underwhelming assignment lands him in a sleepy mining town in Michigan where nobody speaks to strangers, especially reporters.  When a local girl, Emma (Zoe Kanters), offers to help, Jack begrudgingly accepts.  Unbeknownst to her, Jack uncovers details of her tragic past, and with it, the story he has been looking for all along.  Gaining Emma’s trust, he writes a story, exploiting her tragedy for his own gain.  Emma’s instability, threats from her veteran brother, and Jack’s own ambitious treachery send him hurtling towards an explosive conclusion.  There will be a post-screening Q&A with writer, actress, UM grad, and Michigan native Zoe Kanters and special guests!

“Anthropocene: The Human Epoch”

This film plays Thursday, November 14 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan Theater as a part of Science on Screen, an initiative of The Coolidge Corner Theatre, with major support from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Arbor Research Collaborative.  Join us for this encore screening of a documentary that follows the research of an international body of scientists, the Anthropocene Working Group, who, after nearly 10 years of research, argue that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century as a result of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth.  This film is sponsored by University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability and Michigan Sustainability Cases and is followed by a post-film discussion featuring special guest Professor Adam Simon from UM Earth and Environmental Sciences!

 

CONTINUING DOWNTOWN

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?”

At the Michigan: This is a thriller-like expose focusing on Roy Cohn, who personified the dark arts of American politics, turning empty vessels into dangerous demagogues – from acting as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist-hunting subcommittee to molding the career of a young Queens real estate developer named Donald Trump.

“The Lighthouse”

From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind modern horror masterpiece “The Witch,” comes this hypnotic and hallucinatory tale shot in black-and-white.  This film follows two lighthouse keepers (played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.  The two are faced with solitude and start to lose their sanity and become threatened by their worst nightmares.

“Jojo Rabbit”

At the State: Writer director Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”), brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic.  Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (played by Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.  Also, don’t miss “The Great Dictator,” a Charlie Chaplin satire playing in associating with this film on Thursday, November 21 at 7:30 PM!

“Joker”

Winner of the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival!  Director Todd Phillips‘ film centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen.  Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society.  A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him.  Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.

 

OPENING AT THE MULTIPLEX THIS WEEKEND

“Doctor Sleep”

This is the continuation of Danny Torrance’s story 40 years after the terrifying events of Stephen King’s “The Shining.”  Still irrevocably scarred by the trauma he endured as a child at the Overlook, Dan Torrance has fought to find some semblance of peace.  But that peace is shattered when he encounters Abra, a courageous teenager with her own powerful extrasensory gift, known as the “shine.”  Instinctively recognizing that Dan shares her power, Abra has sought him out, desperate for his help against the merciless Rose the Hat and her followers, The True Knot, who feed off the shine of innocents in their quest for immortality.  Forming an unlikely alliance, Dan and Abra engage in a brutal life-or-death battle with Rose.  Abra’s innocence and fearless embrace of her shine compel Dan to call upon his own powers as never before-at once facing his fears and reawakening the ghosts of the past.

“Midway”

This film centers on the Battle of Midway, a clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  The film follows the story of US Navy sailors and aviators who persevered through the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, the elation and daring of Doolittle’s Raid, and, finally, the Battle of Midway itself.  This is based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, tells the story of the leaders and soldiers who used their instincts, fortitude and bravery to overcome the odds.

“Playing with Fire”

When straight-laced fire superintendent Jake Carson (played by John Cena) and his elite team of expert firefighters come to the rescue of three siblings in the path of an encroaching wildfire, they quickly realize that no amount of training could prepare them for their most challenging job yet — babysitters.  Unable to locate the children’s parents, the firefighters have their lives, jobs and even their fire depot turned upside down and quickly learn that kids — much like fires — are wild and unpredictable.