Cinetopia is less than a month away, and the summer movie season is in full swing. In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins about the movie business and all the flicks coming to the big screen this weekend.
Cinetopia International Film Festival June 3-12
Cinetopia Film Festival, once again named as the best Detroit area film festival by the Metro Times. A full list of the films is attached here and also available at cinetopiafestival.org - the final schedule of screenings is now posted on the website.
Some of the 55 films being screened at the festival include:
• Tyrus: The Tyrus Wong Story, a documentary that takes the viewer into the world of a 105 years-young Chinese immigrant to the USA who not only overcame prejudice, but persevered to become one of the most culturally relevant artists today. As an artist in Hollywood, Wong inspired Walt Disney and helped bring us the delicate, majestic beauty of Bambi. Director Pamela Tom carefully weaves interviews with best-selling author Lisa See, Hollywood film historian Joe Musso, art curator Sonia Mak, studio animation notable Don Hahn (who also is executive producer), and many more, alongside interviews with Wong’s family to give a rare, candid look at this unique man. Director Pamela Tom will take part in a Q&A following the Detroit screening. The Ann Arbor screening of this film will be followed by a rare theatrical screening of the original 1942 “Bambi.”
• Operator, Ann Arbor natives Sharon Greene and Logan Kibens wrote and directed this comedic look at a married couple, Joe and Emily (Martin Starr of Silicon Valley and Mae Whitman). Joe is an obsessive self-quantifier programmer working on cutting-edge digital customer service software and Emily is a hotel concierge who moonlights in a local comedy troupe. After a major project at work goes awry for Joe and his best friend Gregg (Nat Faxon), he enlists Emily’s help, crossing streams to achieve the satisfaction of his client, but also putting Joe’s home life into a conundrum. With the added factors of his mother (Christine Lahti) taking a turn for the worse by just being her lovable self and Emily beginning to see what she really wants out of life, the film examines the emotional lines that get crossed when the two involve themselves in the others’ work lives and how that changes the dynamics of their relationship. Sharon Greene, Logan Kibens and Martin Starr will take part in post film discussion following the Ann Arbor and Dearborn screenings of the film.
• American Premiere of Iggy Pop Basel Concert film. There’s a reason why many consider Iggy Pop the godfather of punk — every single punk band of the past and present has either knowingly or unknowingly borrowed a thing or two from Pop and his band, the Stooges, who reunited in 2003 and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. Iggy Pop, an outstanding artist known for his outrageous and unpredictable stage antics, sings at the Baloise Session in Basel, Switzerland, where he was honored with a 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. This fantastic performance features all of Iggy Pop’s top hits, including “I Wanna Be Your Dog," “The Passenger,” “Lust for Life,” and many more.
Cinetopia passes are on cinetopiafestival.org and include Festival Passes (offering unlimited film screenings, priority admission, opening night parties and other hospitality events), Movie Passes (unlimited film screenings and priority admission) and a Student Passes for those with valid student identification. Tickets to individual films are $12 for the general public and go on sale May 16, while members of the Arab American National Museum, Cinema Detroit, DIA, Charles H. Wright Museum, The Henry Ford, and Michigan Theater can begin to purchase tickets on TODAY May 12 at the member price of $9. All tickets can be purchased at cinetopiafestival.org.
This film charts the incredible life of Srinivasa Ramanujan (“Slumdog Millionaire’s” Dev Patel), whose genius for mathematics takes him from the slums of India to Cambridge University in the early 20th-century. Spurred on by his mentor G. H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), Ramanujan overcomes racism and the rigidity of academia to revolutionize the field with his startlingly original theorems, which he attributes to divine inspiration. “The Man Who Knew Infinity” opens Friday at the Michigan.
At once blistering and poetic, the ravages of colonialism cast a dark shadow over the South American landscape in “Embrace of the Serpent.” Shot in stunning black-and-white, the film centers on Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and the last survivor of his people, and the two scientists who, over the course of 40 years, build a friendship with him. The film was inspired by the real-life journals of two explorers who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century in search of the sacred and difficult-to-find psychedelic Yakruna plant. Nominated for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, “Embrace of the Serpent” opens Friday at the Michigan.
From director John Carney (“Once”), this film takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor, who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents' relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina, and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band's music videos. There's only one problem: he's not part of a band...yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he's promised - calling himself "Cosmo" and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos. “Sing Street” opens Friday at the State.
Special Screenings Downtown
In 1964, author Samuel Beckett set out on one of the strangest ventures in cinematic history: his embattled collaboration with silent era genius Buster Keaton on the production of a short, titleless avant-garde film (referred to as FILM). The film they made has been the subject of praise, condemnation, and controversy for decades. Yet, the eclectic participants are just one part of a story that stretches to the very birth of cinema, and spreads out to our understanding of human consciousness itself. “NOTFILM” is the feature-length documentary on “FILM’s” production and its philosophical implications, utilizing additional outtakes, never before heard audio recordings of the production meetings, and other rare archival elements. The short “FILM” will screen following the documentary “NOTFILM” May 17-19 at the Michigan.
Locally made, this science fiction short film follows four friends who discover a mysterious smartphone that takes pictures of the future. Things go from bad to worse as their darkest secrets are revealed. Inspired by the unanticipated consequences of modern technology, “Force Touch” leads the audience through the familiar landscape of a college town, but also the uncharted question of what the side effects of technology do to love and the images of ourselves. Neutral Zone teens assisted in the production aspects of the film, providing them a first-hand experience with independent filmmaking – from script rehearsals with the actors, to assisting on the crew with lighting and sound. “Force Touch” premieres at the Michigan on Thursday May 19 at 7 PM.
Opening at the Multiplex
Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a bombastic TV personality whose popular financial network show has made him the money wiz of Wall Street. But after he hawks a high-tech stock that mysteriously crashes, an irate investor takes Gates, his crew, and his ace producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) hostage live on-air. Unfolding in real time, Gates and Fenn must find a way to keep themselves alive while simultaneously uncovering the truth behind a tangle of big money lies. Directed by Jodie Foster, “Money Monster” opens Friday.
As a family returns home from vacation at the Grand Canyon, they innocently bring home a supernatural force that preys off their own fears and vulnerabilities, threatening to destroy them from within, while consuming their lives with terrifying consequences. “The Darkness” opens Friday.