Theaters across Michigan are finally seeing the light at the end of their tunnel, and we have all the details! In this week’s “Cinema Chat,” WEMU’s David Fair chats with Michigan Theater and State Theatre executive director Russ Collins about what the re-opening will look and feel like, and they discuss some of the opening weekend films you have the opportunity to see. Additionally, the Michigan Theater Virtual Movie Palace continues streaming films that are available at your convenience in your own home.
STATE AND MICHIGAN THEATER WILL OPEN NEXT WEEKEND!!
Great movies! Limited screenings. Lots of work and concern about customer (and staff) safety!
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”— OCTOBER 9 & 10 AT THE STATE THEATRE
Aaron Sorkin’s film is the rare drama about the 1960s that’s powerful and authentic and moving enough to feel as if it were taking place today. Sorkin doesn’t just re-stage the infamous trial, in which a motley crew of anti-war leaders were charged with plotting to stir up violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. He jumps into the trial, goes outside the trial, cuts back to the demonstrations, and leads us into the combustible clash of personalities that was going on behind the scenes — the way, for instance, that the Yippie ringleader Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), with his viper’s grin and showbiz-ready revolution-for-the-hell-of-it bravura, and Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), the buttoned-down, furrowed-brow cofounder of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), neither like nor trust one another, in part because they have a deep rift: Do you work to change the system from within, or jolt the system with shock therapy? (The movie’s answer is: both.)
The Chicago 7 trial was a circus, an outsize burlesque of a trial, yet it was also a deeply serious battle over who can say what — and how — in America. And that’s the level of import that Sorkin keys into. Early on, John Mitchell (John Doman), the U.S. attorney general under Nixon, summons Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Thomas Foran (J.C. Mackenzie), the ’50s-straight-arrow prosecutors he has chosen to handle to case, to his office, and tells them that a Justice Department investigation concluded that the Chicago demonstrations violated no federal law.
The performances are rich, avid, juicy, and, in several cases, memorable. Sacha Baron Cohen may be a head taller than the real Abbie Hoffman, but he catches the exuberance of Hoffman’s rascal Jewish charisma — the haughty Boston accent and fun-loving literacy, and the moral gravity that centered everything he said. Eddie Redmayne, pale with gravitas, makes Tom Hayden the slightly uptight soul of the New Left, and John Carroll Lynch, as Dellinger, has one of the most moving moments in the film when he lets down his pacifist guard and slugs a court official. A delectable actor I won’t name plays Ramsey Clarke, the previous (uncorrupt) attorney general, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II invests Bobby Seale with an incendiary awareness of how a rotting legal system is out to railroad him. The 82-year-old Frank Langella, as Judge Hoffman, does something uncanny. With his shiny reptilian eyes and lordly scowl, he digs into this grumpy old man, full of bitter decorum, and makes him the embodiment of a world that will do anything to hold onto its power.
The trial, as Sorkin presents it, is really about the soul of America — the ability to protest, to question the most fundamental actions of the government. The overlap between the 1968 Chicago protests and the Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place this year is all too obvious. Yet the true parallel, I think, is that “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is really about what it looks like when a society starts to treat people speaking freely as if they were doing something dangerous. The movie reminds you, quite stirringly, that the Chicago 7 weren’t attacking America. They were upholding it.
“The Personal History of David Copperfield”–OCTOBER 11 & 13 AT THE STATE THEATRE
A fresh and distinctive take on Charles Dickens’ semi-autobiographical masterpiece, this film, set in the 1840s, chronicles the life of its iconic title character as he navigates a chaotic world to find his elusive place within it. From his unhappy childhood to the discovery of his gift as a storyteller and writer, David’s journey is by turns hilarious and tragic, but always full of life, color and humanity.
“The Forty-Year-Old Version”–AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER
Radha is a down-on-her-luck NY playwright, who is desperate for a breakthrough before 40. Reinventing herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime, she vacillates between the worlds of Hip Hop and theater in order to find her true voice.
“On the Rocks”–OCTOBER 16-18 & 20 AT THE STATE THEATRE
A New York woman and her impulsive, larger-than-life father try to find out if her husband is having an affair.
“Kajillionaire”–OCTOBER 18 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER
Whether you see this film as refreshingly unique or simply bizarre will depend on your cinematic adventurousness — and fans of writer-director Miranda July wouldn’t have it any other way.
Two con artists have spent 26 years training their only daughter to swindle, scam, and steal at every turn. During a desperate and hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger into joining them, only to have their entire world turned upside down.
NEW THIS WEEK (VIRTUALLY)
These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary people and Oliver Sacks, the late neurologist and author, was just that. Though he died five years ago, his eccentric personality uplifts the new documentary as he recounts his career and upbringing while ailing from terminal cancer.
Sacks would not allow his diagnosis to dampen his desire to remain a shining example of empathy and positivity; traits that could find energy and life in his most destitute patients. And in this practice, and in the lining of this film, Sacks shows us that he is not a rare extraordinary person but rather that we are all, in fact, extraordinarily unique individuals.
You can read a wonderful essay by Nick Alderink, Programming & Media Coordinator about this film at the Michigan Theater website: michtheater.org.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg developed a lengthy legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon in her 80s. From Betsy West and Julie Cohen, and co-produced by Storyville Films and CNN Films, the Oscar-nominated documentary explores the unique personal journey of her rise to the nation’s highest court. A journey that was largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans.
Is your cat hilarious? Is your dog a ham? Does your marmot love to perform? Submit your footage to the A2 Quarantine Creature Feature, our own compilation film starring your pets to be released virtually. Deadline for submissions is October 23, so get recording!
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