If you're a film buff, you're surely geeked about Cinetopia, the Michigan Theater's new film festival. Spanning everything from the silent era to contemporary films and from box-office gold to indie cred, it's a grab bag of the kind of eclectic programming the Michigan normally features. But with premieres of films such as the Oscar-nominated Bullhead (about a crazed, hopped-up cattleman involved in mayhem), The Ambassador (in which the director is a "performative journalist" wading into the African blood diamond trade), and The Queen of Versailles (a buzzed-about documentary depicting a super-rich American family), it puts Ann Arbor squarely on the festival circuit map.
Works of the silent film comedian Harold Lloyd--both features and shorts--are sprinkled in with movies written by U-M screenwriting grad David Newman (Bonnie and Clyde, What's Up, Doc?, and Superman), and even the boobs-in-your-face early 3-D hit, The Stewardesses.
Many cineastes prefer Lloyd to both Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and his sheer physicality and exuberance match anything ever attempted on film, notably in his famous clock scene in Safety Last!, included in the festival. Also screening is Martin Scorsese's wonderful Hugo, a movie that pays homage to Lloyd and his clock scene in the service of a solid story about cinematic pioneer Georges Melies. By placing this film into an 11 a.m. Saturday slot, the festival seems to be giving families a nudge to see it. But make no mistake--Hugo is much more than a kids' movie. Everyone who loves cinema should see it on a big screen. If you haven't by now, here's your chance.
Unfortunately, the only new festival film I was able to screen is advance was a clunker, Teddy Bear. This import from Denmark won the best international directing award at Sundance in 2012, so you can't blame the festival for booking it. But not every low-budget indie film has merit, and this is a very dull story of a mama's boy bodybuilder who finds a bride in Thailand. Once you're convinced that--surprise!--a weightlifter doesn't have to be macho, you could lift the plot with one finger.
But you can't judge a festival by a single movie--or even a single year. Cinetopia is a promising project. Let's give it a go.
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