The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony is now in the books!  In this week’s “Cinema Chat,” WEMU’s Michael Jewett and Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins discuss this year’s winners and surprises.  Plus, they’ll talk about all of the new films heading to the silver screen this.

ACADEMY AWARDS RECAP

“Parasite” won four Academy Awards Sunday night.  The South Korean film’s triumph as the first non-English language best picture winner is a result in part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ efforts to diversify its voting base by race, gender, and nationality.  It has added hundreds of new members from outside the U.S.  According to many critics, it seems as if “Parasite” director, Bong Joon Ho saved the Oscars – His smile.  His crazy hair.  The way he walks, and, yes, the way he talks, but especially the way he directs — all of these (literally) winning attributes not only contributed to a history-making 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, but kept it from ranking among the worst telecasts of all time.  Thanks to “Parasite’s” four wins — especially its dark horse victories for Best Picture and Best Director — the 2020 Oscars show stands as one of the best ever.

From the Oscars red carpet, our chief fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman, writes that, “Janelle Monáe, in silver crystal-covered, hooded Ralph Lauren, had the best dress.  She looked like the ruler of an entire galaxy.” But the fashionista firepower wasn’t enough for TV viewers: The audience fell 20 percent, to an all-time low of 23.6 million.

BONG JOON HO – Filmography

A South Korean filmmaker who garnered international acclaim for his second feature film, the crime drama “Memories of Murder” (2003), before achieving commercial success with his subsequent films, the black comedy monster movie “The Host” (2006) and the dystopian sci-fi “Snowpiercer” (2013), both of which are among the highest-grossing films of all time in South Korea.  Two of his films have screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival—”Okja,” which premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and “Parasite,” which won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.  He became the first Korean director to win the Palme d’Or.

 

DIRECT FROM SUNDANCE – Two Special Films With Michigan Connections Coming February 26 & 27

For the 15th year, the Michigan Theater and the Cinetopia Film Festival will bring a film directly from the Sundance Film Festival.  The Michigan Theater’s national reputation provides the opportunity to get great films from Sundance even before a distribution deal is set. This year there are two great films:

THE LAST SHIFT – review excerpt from Hollywood Reporter

Richard Jenkins plays a career fast-food worker whose pride in his job is upended as he trains his young replacement in [Ann Arbor native] Andrew Cohn‘s serio-comedy about the politics of class, identity and race. …This funny-sad chamber piece … [has a] perceptive script and the incisively etched characterizations of a sterling ensemble make it warmly satisfying.  Stanley (Jenkins) is a high school dropout who has worked the graveyard shift at Oscar’s Chicken & Fish for 38 years in Albion, Michigan …

Stanley is entrusted with the training of his replacement Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie), a once-promising young African American writer… Jevon is clearly too smart to be slinging sandwich patties for minimum wage … While the setup seems to point to the two polar opposites finding a mutually respectful, even friendly, middle ground that opens both their eyes to other realities, Cohn has subtler, less predictable ideas in mind.  To some extent, Stanley and Jevon do break the ice, but issues of racial bias, class and misguided assumptions about privilege all factor into the way the writer-director subverts expectations.

The Last Shift announces a promising voice [in writer/director Andrew Cohn].  It also stars Da’Vine Joy RandolphBirgundi BakerAllison Tolman and Ed O’Neill.  Plays the Michigan Theater Wed., Feb. 26.

DINNER IN AMERICA – Direct from Sundance AND Detroit

There are bits of “Repo Man,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” [the movies of Michigan-native Joel Potrykus} and other literally or just philosophically “punk rock” cult comedies in the DNA of [Director] Adam Carter Rehmeier’s rude yet ingratiating “Dinner in America” [which was made entirely in Detroit] … This rambunctious mix of anarchic humor and misfit romance …[has an] infectiously high-energy execution.

Best of all, it’s got a knockout lead performance by Kyle Gallner (soon to headline CBS All Access series “Interrogation”), who turns an admittedly showy role into something quite likely to become the favorite movie character ever for a small but fervent minority.  As the saying goes, a star is born. …this playfully surreal “Dinner” [will premiere at the Michigan Theater on Thursday, February 27].

 

A SPECIAL VALENTINE’S DAY SCREENING 

“Titanic”

This film plays Friday, February 14 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan – preceded by a members-only Valentines Day reception in the Grand Foyer, 5:30 – 6:30 PM!  Michigan Theater members get free access to both the reception and the film!  RSVP to Sarah Madsen at smadsen@michtheater.org to reserve your seats.  This spectacular epic re-creates the ill-fated maiden voyage of the White Star Line’s $7.5 million R.M.S Titanic and the tragic sea disaster of April 15, 1912.  From writer-director James Cameron and starring Leonardo DiCaprioKate WinsletBilly ZaneBill Paxton, and Gloria Stuart, this 1997 blockbuster became the first film ever to surpass a worldwide box office gross of $1 billion and tied the record for the most wins in the Academy Awards’ history (11 wins out of 14 nominations).

 

OPENING DOWNTOWN

“Downhill”

Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other.  Inspired by the motion picture “Force Majeure” by Ruben Östlund.  Stars Julia Louis-DreyfusWill Ferrell, and Zach Woods.

“American Factory”

A 2019 American documentary film directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, about Chinese company Fuyao’s factory in Moraine, a city near Dayton, Ohio, that occupies Moraine Assembly, a shuttered General Motors plant.  The film had its festival premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.  It is distributed by Netflix and is the first film produced by Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground Productions, and won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.  Strong critical praise: “It’s a great, expansive, deeply humanist work, angry but empathetic to its core.  It gestures toward the end of the working world we know – and to the rise of the machines.”  The film won Best Documentary Feature at the 2020 Academy Awards.

 

SPECIAL SCREENINGS DOWNTOWN

“Princess Mononoke”

This film plays Friday, February 14 at 9:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of the Late-Night Film Series.  In the 14th century, the harmony that humans, animals and gods have enjoyed begins to crumble.  The protagonist, young Ashitaka – infected by an animal attack, seeks a cure from the deer-like god Shishigami.  In his travels, he sees humans ravaging the earth, bringing down the wrath of wolf god Moro and his human companion Princess Mononoke.  His attempts to broker peace between her and the humans brings only conflict.

Late-Night – Fridays at 9:30 PM grab some popcorn and come watch our favorite late-night movies.

“Goodbye My Love, North Korea”

This film plays Saturday, February 15 at 1:00 PM at the Michigan as a part of the Korean Cinema Now Film Series presented by the Nam Center for Korean Studies.  FREE and open to the public!  This documentary looks back on the lives of eight young North Koreans who went to study at the Moscow Film School in Russia right after the Korean War and formed a lifelong bond as political exiles across several Eurasian countries.

“Harriet”

This film plays Sunday, February 16 at 3:00 PM at the Michigan – Nominated for 2 Golden Globes, including Best Actress – Cynthia Erivo!  Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, the film tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. Stars Cynthia Erivo as Tubman, with Leslie Odom Jr.Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monáe in supporting roles. Thank you to our community partners at the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County.

“Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue”

This film plays Monday, February 17 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan featuring a post-film discussion with the film’s director, Miki Dezaki.  The “comfort women” issue is perhaps Japan’s most contentious present-day diplomatic quandary.  Inside Japan, the issue is dividing the country across clear ideological lines.  Supporters and detractors of “comfort women” are caught in a relentless battle over empirical evidence, the validity of oral testimony, the number of victims, the meaning of sexual slavery, and the definition of coercive recruitment.  Credibility, legitimacy and influence serve as the rallying cry for all those involved in the battle.  In addition, this largely domestic battleground has been shifted to the international arena, commanding the participation of various state and non-state actors and institutions from all over the world.

“Gimme Danger”

This film plays Tuesday, February 18 at 9:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of the Jim Jarmusch Retrospective film series.  Director Jim Jarmusch chronicles the story of The Stooges, one of the greatest rock-n-roll bands of all time who emerged from Ann Arbor amidst a countercultural revolution.  Their powerful and aggressive style of rock ‘n’ roll blew a crater in the musical landscape of the late 1960s, assaulting audiences with a blend of rock, blues, R&B, and free jazz, and planted the seeds for what would be called punk and alternative rock in the decades that followed.

Jim Jarmusch Retrospective – Celebrating one of American cinema’s most idiosyncratic filmmakers Tuesdays in February.​

“No Defense: The U.S. Government’s War on Water”

This film plays Wednesday, February 19 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan featuring a post-film discussion with filmmakers.  FREE and open to the public!  This documentary tells the story of the Americans who are fighting against one of the largest-known polluters in the country — the United States military.  For decades, it’s been documented that a category of chemicals known as PFAS are harmful to life, yet the military continues to mandate its use at hundreds of sites across the country, contaminating surface water and drinking water.  With no plan in place to clean it up, the Department of Defense is instead pressuring regulators to keep this toxin legal. the film highlights the people who are suffering, who are blowing the whistle, and who are fighting the United States military’s war on water.

“Tokyo Drifter”

This film plays Thursday, February 20 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of the Art of the Camera Film Series sponsored by The University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies.  In this jazzy gangster film, reformed killer Tetsu’s attempt to go straight is thwarted when his former cohorts call him back to Tokyo to help battle a rival gang.  Director Seijun Suzuki’s onslaught of stylized violence and trippy colors is equal parts Russ MeyerSamuel Fuller, and Nagisa Oshima—an anything-goes, in-your-face rampage. The film is a delirious highlight of the brilliantly excessive Japanese cinema of the sixties.  This screening will include a 10-minute introduction from a University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies lecturer about the featured cinematographer, Shigeyoshi Mine.

Art of the Camera – Celebrating Japan’s great cinematographers Thursdays at 7:30 PM from January to April.

 

CONTINUING DOWNTOWN

“Three Christs”

At the Michigan (CLOSES TODAY!  DON’T MISS IT!)  Based on a remarkable true story, this film is a fascinating and moving look at one man’s journey into the deepest mysteries of the human mind.  In 1959, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stone (played by Richard Gere) arrives at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan armed with the radical belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated not with confinement and electroshock therapy but with empathy and understanding.  As his first study, he takes on the particularly challenging case of three men (played by Peter DinklageWalton Goggins, and Bradley Whitford) who believes they are Jesus Christ.  Hoping that by getting them together in the same room to confront their delusions he can break through to them, Dr. Stone begins a risky, unprecedented experiment that will push the boundaries of psychiatric medicine and leave everyone involved-including Dr. Stone himself-profoundly changed.

Oscar-Nominated Short Films

For the 15th consecutive year, the Oscar-Nominated Short Films will play the Michigan Theater, with all three categories offered – Animated, Live Action, and Documentary. This is your annual chance to predict the winners (and have the edge in your Oscar pool)!  A perennial hit with audiences around the country and the world, don’t miss this year’s selection of shorts.

Animation

  • Daughter (Dcera) – Czechia
  • Hair Love – USA
  • KitbullUSA – USA
  • Mémorable – France
  • Sister – USA

Live Action

  • A Sister – Belgium
  • Brotherhood – Tunisia, Canada
  • Nefta Football Club – France
  • Saria – USA
  • The Neighbors’ Window – USA

Documentary

  • In the Absence – USA
  • Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl) – UK
  • Life Overtakes Me – USA
  • St. Louis Superman – USA
  • Walk Run Cha-Cha – USA

“Little Women”

Nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actress and Winner of Best Costume Design!  Writer-director Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) has crafted a Little Women that draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott and unfolds as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects and forth on her fictional life.  In Gerwig’s take, the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on her own terms — is both timeless and timely.  Portraying Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March, the film stars Saoirse RonanEmma WatsonFlorence PughEliza Scanlen, with Timothée Chalamet as their neighbor Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March.

“Clemency”

At the State: 2019 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner!  Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams (played by Alfre Woodard) in this film.  As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.  Directed by Chinonye Chukwu.

“Color Out of Space”

In this film, after a meteorite lands in the front yard of their farm, Nathan Gardner (played by Nicolas Cage) and his family find themselves battling a mutant extraterrestrial organism as it infects their minds and bodies, transforming their quiet rural life into a technicolor nightmare.  From cult director Richard Stanley (“Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau,” “Hardware”).

“Weathering with You”

This highly-anticipated film is from director Makoto Shinkai and producer Genki Kawamura, the creative team behind the critically-acclaimed, global smash hit “Your Name,” which you can catch Friday, February 7 at 9:30 PM at the Michigan!  The summer of his high school freshman year, Hodaka runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly finds himself pushed to his financial and personal limits.  The weather is unusually gloomy and rainy every day, as if to suggest his future.  He lives his days in isolation, but finally finds work as a writer for a mysterious occult magazine.  Then one day, Hodaka meets Hina on a busy street corner.  This bright and strong-willed girl possesses a strange and wonderful ability: the power to stop the rain and clear the sky.

“1917”

Nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Director and Best Picture and Winner of Best Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Sound!  In this film, at the height of WWI, two young British soldiers, Lance Corporal Schofield (played by “Captain Fantastic’s” George Mackay) and Lance Corporal Blake (played by “Game of Thrones’” Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission.  In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers, Blake’s own brother among them.

“Jojo Rabbit”

Nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress and Winner of Best Adapted Screenplay!  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.

“Parasite”

Nominated for 6 Oscars including Best International Film and Winner of Best Director, International Film, Picture, and Original Screenplay!  Bong Joon Ho brings his work home to Korea in this pitch-black modern fairytale.  Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth.  And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else.  Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity.  Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist, to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. This week, we will also play a special black and white cut of this film! 

 

OPENING AT THE MULTIPLEX THIS WEEKEND

“The Photograph”

In this film, famed photographer Christina Eames unexpectedly dies, which leaves her estranged daughter Mae Morton (played by Issa Rae) hurt, angry and full of questions.  When a photograph tucked away in a safe-deposit box is found, Mae finds herself on a journey delving into her mother’s early life and ignites a powerful, unexpected romance with a rising-star journalist, Michael Block (played by LaKeith Stanfield).

“Sonic the Hedgehog”

This is a live-action adventure comedy based on the global blockbuster video game franchise from Sega that centers on the infamously brash bright blue hedgehog.  The film follows the (mis)adventures of Sonic, as he navigates the complexities of life on Earth with his newfound, human best friend Tom Wachowski (played by James Marsden), who join forces to try and stop the villainous Dr. Robotnik (played by Jim Carrey) from capturing Sonic and using his immense powers for world domination.

“Fantasy Island”

In Blumhouse‘s new spin on the classic TV show, the enigmatic Mr. Roarke makes the secret dreams of his lucky guests come true at a luxurious, but remote tropical resort.  But when the fantasies turn into nightmares, the guests have to solve the island’s mystery in order to escape with their lives.