Cinema Chat: Oscar-Nominated Shorts, 'Elle,' 'The Room,' 'The LEGO Batman Movie,' And More

Feb 9, 2017

Michigan Theater Lobby
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Catch a flick with that special someone this Valentine's Day weekend!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins about the movie business and all of the films heading to the big screen this weekend.


Opening Downtown

"Elle"

Michèle (Isabelle Hupert, nominated for an Academy Award for her performance) is the head of a leading video game company; she brings the same ruthless attitude to her love life as to business.  Being attacked in her home by an unknown assailant changes Michèle’s life forever.  When she resolutely tracks the man down, they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game - a game that may, at any moment, spiral out of control.  “Elle” opens Friday.

See all the Oscar nominees for Best Animated, Live Action, and Documentary Shorts before the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on February 26!  Oscar-nominated shorts play at the Michigan Theater starting Friday, February 10.  Check the Michigan Theater web site for times and complete details.

ANIMATED SHORTS 

     ·         Borrowed Time (USA—directed by Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj).  A weathered sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget.  With each step forward, the memories come flooding back.  Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on. (7 min.)

   ·         Pearl (USA—directed by Patrick Osborne) Set inside their home, a          beloved hatchback, PEARL follows a girl and her dad as they crisscross the      country chasing their dreams.  It’s a story about the gifts we hand down and their         power to carry love and finding grace in the unlikeliest of places. (6 min.)

   ·         Piper (USA—directed by Alan Barillaro) Directed by Alan Barillaro and produced by Marc Sondheimer, PIPER, the new short from Pixar Animation Studios, tells the story of a hungry sandpiper hatchling who ventures from her nest for the first time to dig for food by the shoreline.  The only problem is, the food is buried beneath the sand where scary waves roll up onto the shore. (6 min.)

   ·         Blind Vaysha (Canada—directed by Theodore Ushev) Vaysha is not like other young girls; she was born with one green eye and one brown eye.  But her odd eyes aren’t the only thing that’s special about her gaze.  Her left eye sees only the past.  Her right, only the future.  Like a terrible curse, Vaysha’s split vision prevents her from living in the present.  Blinded by what was and tormented by what will be, she remains trapped between two irreconcilable temporalities. (8 min.)

   ·         Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Canada and UK—directed by Robert Valley) Drink and smoke...that's what Techno Stypes really liked to do.  And fight.  He was in no condition to fight.  He was sick, really sick.  His disease had whittled him down to a shadow of his former self.  He was crippled from a car accident when he was 17 but that’s not how he lost his big toe.  He lost that in a motorbike accident.  Yeah, he was broken alright… what was he fighting for and what was he still doing in China?  His father had given me two clear instructions: 1. Get Techno to stop drinking long enough to receive the liver transplant, and 2. Get him back home to Vancouver.  This was not going to be easy.  Parents' warning: The final film to be screened in the animation portion of the program, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, contains adult themes, language, violence and drug use and is not appropriate for children. (35 min.)

LIVE ACTION SHORTS 

   ·         Sing (Hungary—directed by Kristof Deak) Zsofi is struggling to fit in at her new school–singing in the school’s famous choir is her only consolation, but the choir director may not be the inspirational teacher everyone thinks she is.  It will take Zsofi and her new friend Liza to uncover the cruel truth. (25 min.)

   ·         Silent Nights (Denmark—directed by Aske Bang) Inger volunteers at a homeless shelter and falls in love with the illegal immigrant Kwame.  Both live a hard life.  Kwame finds comfort in Inger's arms, but says nothing about his family and children in Ghana.  When his daughter becomes ill, he is forced to steal money from the homeless shelter to pay the hospital bill.  Inger believe his lie about the theft, and when Kwame moves in with Inger, they are happy for a while… until the day when Kwame’s mobile phone reveals everything about his life in Ghana. (30 min.)

   ·         Timecode (Spain—directed by dir. Juanjo Gimenez Pena) Luna and Diego are the parking lot security guards. Diego does the night shift, and Luna works by day. (15 min.)

   ·      Ennemis Interieurs (France—directed by Selim Aazzazi) An interview at a local police station turns into an inquisition during which a French-Algerian born man sees himself accused of protecting the identities of possible terrorists.  This close-up on France's troubled history with its former colonies has one man controlling the fate of another with the stroke of a pen during a turbulent period in the 1990s. (28 min.)

   ·         La Femme et la TGV (Switzerland—directed by Timo von Gunten) Elise Lafontaine has a secret routine.  Every morning and evening for many years, she has been waving at the express train that passes her house.  One fateful day, she finds a letter from the train conductor in her garden and her lonely life is turned upside down.  She engages in a promising correspondence through poetic and thoughtful letters – two anonymous writers sharing their world with each other… until the day the train line gets canceled.  The story is inspired by true events and stars César Award nominee Jane Birkin. (30 min.)

OSCAR SHORTS -- DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

        ·         Extremis -- Dan Krauss

·         4.1 Miles -- Daphne Matziaraki

·         Joe's Violin -- Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen

·         Watani: My Homeland -- Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis

·         The White Helmets -- Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Special Screenings Downtown

Midnight Movie--"The Room"

This is a bona fide classic of midnight cinema.  Tommy Wiseau’s misguided masterpiece subverts the rules of filmmaking with a boundless enthusiasm that renders such mundanities as acting, screenwriting, and cinematography utterly irrelevant. You will never see a football the same way again.  “The Room” plays Saturday, February 11 at 11:59 PM.  Tickets just $8!

Family Film--"Chicken Run"

Set on a Yorkshire chicken farm in 1950s England, the stop-motion animated film follows the turbulent romance between Rocky the Rooster and Ginger the chicken, both of whom yearn for freedom and are planning a daring “prisoner of war” style escape.  Both chickens are tired of being repressed and know they face an eventual certain death, so in planning their escape, they rally with their fellow chickens.  “Chicken Run” plays Sunday, February 12 at 1:30 PM.  Free admission for kids 12 and under!

"Pigs and Battleships"

The "Kuro: The Dark Edge of Japanese Filmmaking" series continues!  Dishonor among thieves runs rampant as the port town of Yokosuka is placed into a power play from rag-tag gangsters and corrupt businessmen, all looking to profit from a ravaged, post-war Japan.  The film focuses on the plight of one young couple as they fall into the trappings of this frenetic and near-absurd new world order to twisted, chaotic results.  Plays Monday, February 13 at 7:00 PM.

    ·         Pale Flower -- Monday, February 20 at 7:00 PM.

    ·         A Fugitive from the Past -- Monday, February 27 at 7:00 PM.

    ·         Dragnet Girl -- Monday, March 6 at 7:00 PM. SPECIAL SILENT FILM PRESENTATION W/ JAPANESE BENSHI ICHIRO KATAOKA and ELECTRONIC DJ ARWULF! 

    ·         Ichi the Killer -- Monday, March 13 at 7:00 PM.

    ·         The World of Kanako – Monday, March 20 at 7:00 PM

"Bringing Up Baby"--Special Valentine Day Screening – special Michigan Theater member screening, but everyone’s invited

An inspired comedy about a madcap heiress with a pet leopard who meets an absent-minded paleontologist and unwittingly makes a fiasco of both their lives.  David Huxley (Cary Grant) is the stuffy paleontologist who needs to finish an exhibit on dinosaurs and thus land a $1 million grant for his museum.  At a golf outing with his potential benefactors, Huxley is spotted by Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn), who decides that she must have the reserved scientist at all costs.  She uses her pet leopard, Baby, to trick him into driving to her Connecticut home, but the real trouble begins when another leopard escapes from the local zoo and Baby is mistaken for it, leading Huxley and Susan into a series of harebrained and increasingly more insane schemes.  “Bringing Up Baby” plays Tuesday, February 14 at 7 PM.

Opening at the Multiplex

"John Wick: Chapter Two"

Legendary hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins' guild.  Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world's deadliest killers.  “John Wick: Chapter Two” opens Friday.

"The LEGO Batman Movie"

In the irreverent spirit of fun that made "The LEGO Movie" a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble - LEGO Batman - stars in his own big-screen adventure.  But there are big changes brewing in Gotham, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker's hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.  “The LEGO Batman Movie” opens Friday.

"Fifty Shades Darker"

In the next installment in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, when a wounded Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) tries to entice a cautious Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson) back into his life, she demands a new arrangement before she will give him another chance.  As the two begin to build trust and find stability, shadowy figures from Christian's past start to circle the couple, determined to destroy their hopes for a future together.  “Fifty Shades Darker” opens Friday.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu