From everyone here at the Michigan Theater Foundation, we first want to thank you for your continued support of our theaters. This year has been difficult for all of us, but when our doors closed last March something came out of it that we never expected: we were able to bring the movie theater experience to your living room with the Virtual Movie Palace and Curbside Concessions. And although nothing can compare to the real art house theater experience, it has been a gift to curate your weekly film options from home and write about them here on this blog.

So as we rid ourselves of 2020 forever, let’s not forget there’s a silver lining in everything. The pandemic has been tragic and depressing enough for us to remember it for the rest of our lives, but we have seen slivers of good come out of it in the form of innovative methods to communicate and watch movies together. And I hope we can go into 2021 with a renewed respect for institutions like the Michigan and State Theatre that we may have taken for granted as a constant in our lives.

Around this time, like many, I create a Top 10 list of my favorite films that I’ve seen over the year. This year, one list isn’t good enough, so I made three. One for the best films currently playing in our Virtual Movie Palace, one for films we played this year, and one for all the movies I’m excited to see with you in 2021.

Best of What We Have

  • Martin Eden
  • Diana Kennedy: Nothing Special
  • Another Round
  • Collective
  • Coded Bias
  • We Are Little Zombies
  • Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n Roll Magazine
  • The Fight
  • Meeting the Beatles in India
  • Love & Busking (‘Fiction & Other Realities’)

What a year for documentaries. When the news was bursting with political and social unrest, films like The Fight, Collective, Coded Bias, as well as Softie and John Lewis: Good Trouble in the list below, were my best sources for hope and inspiration to keep pushing for all that’s good in the world.

Martin Eden and Another Round presented compelling narratives and provocative ideas that gave me plenty of thoughts to share in my weekly essays to you.

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Special and We Are Little Zombies left a smile on my face long after the credits rolled, and Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n Roll Magazine, Meeting the Beatles in India, and Love & Busking drowned the silence and monotony of my home office with delightful music.

Sure, maybe we didn’t get the movies we were expecting, but we certainly got the movies that we needed this year.

Best of What We Had

  • Shirley
  • Welcome to Commie High
  • Vinyl Nation
  • John Lewis: Good Trouble
  • Tenet
  • Softie
  • Nomad
  • Up From the Streets
  • The Booksellers
  • Driveways

While we’ve been stuck indoors, we’ve also had so many tremendous documentaries that took us on virtual expeditions across the globe. In Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin, we followed Werner Herzog on a deeply personal journey across three continents, while in Vinyl Nation and Up From the Streets we took road trips across the U.S. to explore this country’s musical roots.

Hitting closer to home, Welcome to Commie High was not just a testament to everything that’s special about Ann Arbor’s Community High School, but a celebration of all that’s possible in public education. Meanwhile, in The Booksellers, we were reminded of all that is special about the independent bookstore, whose store fronts are disappearing in the modern age. Stores like Dawn Treader, just a stone’s throw away from our marquee, which we can’t wait to explore again.

On the narrative side, Shirley provided two of the most outstanding performances of the year with Elizabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg taking on the deeply flawed personalities of Shirley Jackson and Stanley Hyman, and their rather unique relationship. Driveways provided a sincere and touching performance from Brian Dennehy in his final on-screen role.

And although we only had Tenet on our screens for a short time, and it is not the typical art house programming, the film was an experience that reminded us why the act of visiting a movie theater is incomparable to anything else, and a hopeful encouragement that it hasn’t been lost.

Best of What is Yet to Come

  • The Reason I Jump
  • Some Kind of Heaven
  • Nomadland
  • Last Night in Soho
  • The Beatles: Get Back
  • The French Dispatch
  • In the Heights
  • Dune
  • Top Gun: Maverick
  • No Time to Die

In the next few weeks, we’re thrilled to be participating in the virtual release of The Reason I Jump and Some Kind of Heaven, two documentaries seen by our staff at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Quite different in scope, but both with messages about finding meaning and happiness in life.

And then there are the films whose release dates were delayed, which we will hopefully get the chance to finally see in 2021, from exciting, inventive directors like Chloe Zhao (The Rider), Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) and Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) whose new films Nomadland, Last Night in Soho and The French Dispatch are sure to be well worth the wait for the big screen.

On the musical front, director Peter Jackson has been digging through hundreds of hours of footage from The Fab Four in their “Get Back” sessions to restore them for the upcoming documentary The Beatles: Get Back, which Disney+ recently released a teaser for that looks INCREDIBLE. And for those who enjoyed Hamilton on Disney+ last July, you’re surely excited to see In the Heights from director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), the live-action adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda’s first hit musical.

And then, of course, there’s the long-anticipated blockbusters like Dune, Top Gun: Maverick, and No Time to Die that, like Tenet, may not be the typical art house fare, but are experiences that are likely to make the theater feel special again.

There’s so much to look forward to and we are so grateful to be in a position to keep sharing these experiences with you. Onwards and upwards, and we will see you on the other side.


Have a happy New Year!

Nick Alderink