In this week’s “Cinema Chat,” WEMU’s Michael Jewett talks with Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins about all of the films coming your way at the Michigan Theater, the State Theatre, and for your own online viewing pleasure. Also, Michael and Russ reflect on the life and work of acting legend Sean Connery.
R.I.P. SEAN CONNERY
Sean Connery (25 August 1930 – 31 October 2020), a Scottish actor who gained recognition as the first actor to play Ian Fleming’s British secret agent James Bond. He starred in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983. Originating the role in “Dr. No,” Connery played Bond in six Eon Productions’ entries and made his final appearance in the Jack Schwartzman-produced “Never Say Never Again.”
Connery began his career in smaller theatre and television productions until his breakout role as Bond. Although he did not enjoy the off-screen attention the role gave him, the success brought offers from famed film directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet and John Huston. Those films included “Marnie” (1964), “The Hill” (1965), “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975), “A Bridge Too Far” (1977), “Highlander” (1986), “The Name of the Rose” (1986), “The Untouchables” (1987), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), “The Hunt for Red October” (1990), “Dragonheart” (1996), “The Rock” (1996), and “Finding Forrester” (2000). Connery officially retired from acting in 2006, although he briefly returned for voice-over roles in 2012.
His achievements in film were recognized with an Academy Award (“The Untouchables”), two BAFTA Awards (including the BAFTA Fellowship), and three Golden Globes, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award and a Henrietta Award. In 1987, he was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, and he received the US Kennedy Center Honors lifetime achievement award in 1999. Connery was knighted in the 2000 New Year Honors for services to film drama. He was voted by People magazine as the “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1989 and the “Sexiest Man of the Century” in 1999.
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, CINEMAS APPEAR TO BE SAFE PUBLIC PLACES FOR A NIGHT OUT
According to worldwide research done by Celluloid Junkie, the leading online resource dedicated to the global film and cinema business, there have been NO documented cases of COVID-19 infections at cinemas. They recommend that the film industry, government health authorities and the public to consider this as they make decisions regarding cinema opening or remaining open. This is because responsible theater owners are taking extraordinary care in assuring customer safety.
At the State and Michigan Theaters in Ann Arbor, health and safety equipment and protocols include:
- The ventilation systems is calibrated to use fresh filtered air;
- Everyone’s temperature is taken as they enter the buildings;
- Masks are mandatory at all times;
- Seating is strictly limited (to 20% or less of capacity);
- Everyone and everything is organized around socially distancing:
- No-touch ticketing;
- Special computerized ticketing allows you to sit together with family and friends, but keep socially distanced from other audience members;
- Concessions (including the theater’s renowned popcorn) will only be available as patrons leave the theaters.
The Michigan Theater Foundation, operators of the State and Michigan Theaters in Downtown Ann Arbor, are pleased to be able to open their doors again to safely bring back the “normal” joy of getting out of the house and enjoy a big screen movie in a lovely historic theater!
“Tenet” — NOVEMBER 6-8 & 10 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.
“A Call to Spy” — NOVEMBER 6-8 & 10 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER
At the dawn of World War II, a desperate Winston Churchill orders his new spy agency to train women for covert operations. Together, these female agents help undermine the Nazi regime in France, leaving an unmistakable legacy in their wake. Director: Lydia Dean Pilcher. Writer and star: Sarah Megan Thomas. With: Stana Katic.
“She is the Ocean” — NOVEMBER 6-8 & 10 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER
Breathtaking visuals alone would make this a worthy addition to the legacy of surfing documentaries, although the broader aim here is to profile various women, many of them pioneers in their field, who have turned their passion for the Pacific into their life’s work. They include a teenage surfing phenom, a shark conservationist, a professional cliff diver, a water-rescue paramedic, an esteemed marine biologist, and more. The cumulative effect of this documentary conveys appreciation for both the beauty and danger of humans’ relationship with our vast oceans.
“Rebecca” — NOVEMBER 6-8 & 10 AT THE STATE THEATRE
Director Ben Wheatley‘s remake is ravishing to behold… A young newlywed arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death. Starring: Armie Hammer, Lily James, Keeley Hawes, Kristen Scott Thomas.
SPECIAL SCREENINGS DOWNTOWN
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” — NOVEMBER 8 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER
Featuring bravura set pieces, sly humor, and white-knuckle action, this film is one of the most consummately entertaining adventure pictures of all time. Directed by Steven Spielberg, script by George Lucas. Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies.
“Clueless” — NOVEMBER 10 AT THE MICHIGAN THEATER
A funny and clever reshaping of Emma, this film offers a soft satire that pokes as much fun at teen films as it does at the Beverly Hills glitterati. Directed by Amy Heckerling. Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd.
Planning Thanksgiving Holiday Celebratory Film Presentations
The day after Thanksgiving – Friday, November 27,
- 3:30, “Love Actually” – everyone’s favorite R rated Christmas movie
- 4:00, “Frozen” (Granddaughter Ila’s favorite film – let it go & snow)!!
Saturday, November 28
- 7:00, The Michigan Theater’s special screening of “White Christmas”
Sunday, November 29
- 3:00, The Michigan Theater’s special screening of “White Christmas”
Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival 2020 — NOVEMBER 6-8
Founded by Jolanta Nowak in 1993, the Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival has developed into a multifaceted program and currently offers feature films, documentaries and short films selected in a juried competition. The Ann Arbor Polish Film Festival will take place virtually this year. For more information, go to: www.annarborpolishfilmfestival.com.
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.
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.
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.