The movie world is starting to reopen. The Michigan Theater and State Theatre in Ann Arbor are both up and running again, albeit on a limited basis. In this week’s edition of “Cinema Chat,” WEMU’s David Fair gets in touch with Michigan Theater Foundation president and executive director Russ Collins to discuss the latest in-person and online films available to you.
STATE AND MICHIGAN THEATER OPENED AND PEOPLE LOVED IT!!
Having been closed for seven months, the historic Michigan Theater and State Theatre in downtown Ann Arbor opened safe and triumphantly last Friday, October 9th.
Both theaters are now open for one screening per day (to allow for special cleaning) weekends and Tuesdays (our special member day, but everyone is invited. The ventilation systems are calibrated to use fresh air, masks are mandatory, seating is strictly limited (to 20% or less of capacity), socially distanced everything, no-touch ticketing, and everyone’s temperature is taken as they enter the buildings. Concessions (including the renowned popcorn) will only be available as patrons leave the theater. Well over 200 people excitedly returned and are looking forward to coming back.
Mid-October, the leaves are falling, and we’re getting ready to show Halloween movies at the Michigan—just like old times. While we cannot exactly bring the old times back to theaters right now, we’re committed to putting on some safe, creative, and fun Halloween events, both in-theater and virtually. There will be a special spooky edition of Virtual Movie Trivia, and, of course, a week of Halloween favorites coming to the Michigan Theater.
“On the Rocks” — OCTOBER 16-18 & 20 AT THE STATE THEATRE
Set in a world of privilege and sophistication, Laura (Rashida Jones) thinks she’s happily married with two daughters. But when her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) starts logging late hours at the office with a new co-worker, Laura begins to fear the worst. She turns to the one man she suspects may have insight: her charming and impulsive father Felix (Bill Murray), who insists they investigate the situation. As the two begin prowling New York at night, careening from uptown parties to downtown hotspots, they discover at the heart of their journey lies their own relationship. This is a charming father-daughter tale about rekindling fractured relationships and understanding the frazzles life can throw at you.” Directed by Sofia Coppola.
“Kajillionaire” — OCTOBER 18 & 20 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. Writer/director Miranda July. Starring Richard Jenkins (“The Last Shift”), Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, DaVine Joy Randolph (“The Last Shift”).
“Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” — OCTOBER 18 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER (ONE NIGHT ONLY)
The adventure continues in this “Star Wars” sequel, which premiered in theaters 40 years ago! Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) face attack by the Imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda. Only with the Jedi master’s help will Luke survive when the dark side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (David Prowse).
“Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something” — OCTOBER 18 & 20 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER
Harry Chapin’s life story receives the big screen treatment with a loving documentary. The release date, October 16, is also World Food Day — a respectful gesture to the late singer, who co-founded the influential hunger non-profit WhyHunger. Chapin was a songwriter’s songwriter, weaving detailed imagery in his songs, guided by his moral compass. “Taxi,” “Cat’s In The Cradle,” “Circle” “Remember When The Music” are among the few songs that have become standards worthy of an induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The film includes archival concert footage of Chapin and his band, along with vintage and new interviews with those who knew him best: his wife Sandy, brothers Tom and Steve, along with commentary from Billy Joel, Pete Seeger, Kenny Rogers, Robert Lamm (Chicago), Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Pat Benatar, Bob Geldof, Ken Kragen, longtime bassist John Wallace, and WhyHunger co-founder Bill Ayres.
“The Personal History of David Copperfield” — OCTOBER 23-25 & 27 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER
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.
A brilliant documentary on the late great member of Congress and civil rights leader. Using interviews and rare archival footage, this film chronicles Lewis’ 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration.
“Tenet” — OCTOBER 23-25 & 27 AT THE STATE THEATRE
This is a 2020 action-thriller and science fiction film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son), Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh. The plot follows a secret agent (Washington) as he manipulates the flow of time to prevent World War III. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema shot on 70mm film. Scenes of time manipulation were filmed both backwards and forwards. In excess of a hundred vessels and thousands of extras were used. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances, production value, and visuals, which hangs together despite a complex plot.
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!
NEW THIS WEEK VIRTUALLY
“Resisterhood” — AVAILABLE FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16-SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1
Showcasing the inspiring stories of six incredibly diverse activists as they work tirelessly to enact change to protect our civil rights and to motivate others to do the same—including peace movement leaders from the African-American, Latina, Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities—this is the feature film debut of producer/director Cheryl Jacobs “CJ” Crim—a longtime producer, director and editor of television documentaries, who has won 12 regional Emmy Awards and two Silver Tellys, among others. Crim’s camera captures the initial two years+ of this peaceful and historic female resistance that led to the groundbreaking, 2018, mid-term election putting a record number of women into the U.S. Congress.
Says Crim, “Resisterhood embodies the idea that when we join together to support and uplift each other, we are all better off. The character and diversity of the people profiled in the film are what is exceptional about America. We are the Resisterhood, ordinary people standing up in an extraordinary time, and that is what Democracy looks like today.”
This is a feature-length documentary that explores the nexus of art, race, and justice through the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes “Aggie” Gund’s life. Emmy-nominated director Catherine Gund focuses on her mother’s journey to give viewers an understanding of the power of art to transform consciousness and inspire social change. Aggie is internationally recognized for her robust and prescient support of artists– particularly women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) – and her unwavering commitment to social justice issues. After falling in love with art as a high-school student, Aggie discovers a new way of looking at the world. The film opens with Aggie selling Roy Lichtenstein’s “Masterpiece” for $165 million to start the Art for Justice Fund. The proceeds from one of the highest grossing artworks ever sold fuel a monumental effort to reform the American criminal justice system and end mass incarceration. The film captures Aggie as a true maverick who demonstrates the unique role and potential of collectors and benefactors to use art to fight justice. This is untapped terrain, and we see Aggie leading the way.
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.
Filmmaker Paul Saltzman retraces his journey of 50 years ago when he spent a life-changing time with the Beatles at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram on the banks of the Ganges River. In 1968, he discovered his own soul, learned meditation, which changed his life, and hung out with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Fifty years later, he finds “Bungalow Bill” in Hawaii, connects with David Lynch about his own inner journey as well as preeminent Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, Academy Award nominated film composer Laurence Rosenthal, and Pattie and Jenny Boyd. And much of this is due to Saltzman’s own daughter, Devyani, reminding him that he had put away and forgotten these remarkably intimate photographs of that time in 1968.
If it hadn’t been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Gregg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th President of the United States. The documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan and others. Low on campaign funds and lacking in name recognition, Carter relied on support from these artists to give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. Once Carter was elected, the musicians became frequent guests in the White House. The surprisingly significant role that music played throughout Carter’s life and in his work becomes a thread in this engaging portrait of one of the most enigmatic Presidents in American history.
2018 Cinetopia audience favorite! Jo, a witty 9-year old terminally ill girl is taken back to her rural village to live out the rest of her short life. Her only comfort during these dull times are her dreams of being a Superhero, which prove to be something her rebellious teenage sister Mwix, overprotective mother Kathryn, and the entire village of Maweni think they can fulfill.
2019 Cinetopia Audience Favorite! Bobby Choy, a.k.a. singer-songwriter Big Phony, makes his directorial debut with this intimate semi-biographical musical drama. Bobby, a struggling Korean American singer-songwriter in New York, is suddenly given an opportunity to travel as a roadie for his best friend’s electro-pop band on a world tour. When they arrive in Seoul, Bobby decides to ditch the band and stay in this “land where everyone looks like him” to investigate a feeling that could potentially fill a major void in his life. He befriends Ina, a Korean busker facing her own personal struggles. They seem to find success as they lean on each other for support.
Laika, a stray dog, was the first living being to be sent into space and thus to a certain death. According to a legend, she returned to Earth as a ghost and has roamed the streets of Moscow ever since. Following her trace, and filmed from a dog’s perspective, the film accompanies the adventures of her descendants: two street dogs living in today’s Moscow. Their story is one of intimate fellowship but also relentless brutality, and is interwoven with unseen archive material from the Soviet cosmic era. A magical tale of voyagers scouting for unknown spaces.
Warning: SPACE DOGS is Not Rated, and contains some graphic content and scenes of animal violence that some viewers, especially cat lovers, may find distressing. Viewer discretion is advised.