Upcoming: Cinetopia International Film Festival, Ann Arbor + Detroit (June 4-8, 2014) + my Top 5 list

Some of you may know that I'm a University of Michigan alum (class of 2009), so I was excited to hear that Cinetopia will be returning to Ann Arbor (one of my favorite cities), and I will be attending as media. It promises to be a whirlwind of screenings, and right now I plan on seeing 10+ movies during it. (!)

The festival takes place in both Ann Arbor (Michigan Theater, State Theater, and UM's Modern Languages Building, or MLB) and Detroit, and showcases 50 films, in 10 venues, and 110 screenings overall (wow!).

You can click here to see the full schedule, or here to purchase tickets.

More about the festival:
Created for the people of southeastern Michigan, the Cinetopia International Film Festival features the best feature-length dramas, comedies, and documentaries from the world’s best film festivals (e.g. Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, etc.).

The extensive festival program is selected exclusively for Cinetopia by a team that includes Indiewire Influencer Russ Collins (from the Michigan Theater) and the national “dean” of art house programming Elliot Wilhelm (from the Detroit Film Theatre).

Cinetopia honors the rich heritage of cinematic culture and Michigan’s proud legacy of outstanding cinema artists through special pre- and post-film events, including presentations, discussion panels, and Q&A sessions with directors, writers, and stars.

*The festival will also have a special screening of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing (1989), with Lee in attendance - click here for more info. The screening is by invitation only and has an attendance cap of 200 people, but patrons who purchase Cinetopia passes have a chance to win an invite.

(I actually haven't seen Do The Right Thing and would love to attend that - check back in a week or so for my write-up of Cinetopia, and we'll see if I got to attend or not!)

Without further ado, here is my top 5 list of movies that I am most looking forward to seeing at Cinetopia:

RELEASE DATE (WIDE): September 2014
U.S./English, Sundance festival
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson

Two of Saturday Night Live’s outstanding comedians, Kristen Wiig & Bill Hader star as estranged twins Maggie and Milo in this dramedy that picked up the Best Screenplay Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The twins, unexpectedly reunited after a failed suicide attempt by Milo, bond over their disparate agonies. Milo, who is gay, is reeling under the burden of multiple ill-fated relationships and Maggie is lying to her humdrum husband about wanting to have a baby. Milo attempts to pick up the pieces by trying to hook up with guys at local bars while Maggie endeavors to infuse some excitement into her life by joining scuba-diving classes run by a dishy instructor. Along the way, the twins realize that the key to fixing their lives, lies in mending their fractured relationship. Also starring Ty Burrell and Luke Wilson.

93 minutes, not rated, 2014, U.S./English, Cleveland festival
Starring: Blake Robbins, Laura Kirk, Matthew Del Negro

When a terrible tragedy strikes a family in a Kansas suburb, days before Christmas, patriarch David (writer/director Blake Robbins) must come to terms with his devastating grief, while trying to maintain a grasp on his home life. Like any person in his situation, David does whatever he can to hold on. But he is also forced to make decisions that will test the limits of his mortality. With powerful performances by Robbins and Laura Kirk (as David’s wife Kelly), The Sublime and Beautiful is a searing look inside the life of a man who at one point had it all, but is now forced to reprioritize with everything being taken away. How far will David go in his search for closure, and how close is he to his breaking point? The Sublime and Beautiful provides artistic integrity and riveting storytelling, all the while reminding the viewer to remember what’s really important in life. – Cleveland International Film Festival

122 minutes, not rated, 2013, from France, in English, @ Cannes
Starring: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, Paul Giamatti

The Congress is set in an alternate reality that reinvents itself at every turn. Actress Robin Wright is about to sell her body to Hollywood mega-studio Miramount, who will scan every inch of her and digitally control her image. The studio can now cast her in any role they’d like: Oscar-bait, sci-fi movies, even pornography. While the digitized Robin is out earning the studio massive profits, a new technology emerges whereby people can become other people through an advanced chemical form of virtual reality. Suddenly, Robin finds herself in a surreal animated world full of magical wonder and not-so-earthly delights. But as she falls further down the virtual rabbit hole, she also fades from the ones who love her most. Part live action and part spectacular animation, The Congress is an ambitious sci-fi allegory from the mind of Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir). With Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, Paul Giamatti, and Danny Huston. –Cleveland International Film Festival


Hanna is a beautiful young German woman traveling to Israel to work with cognitively disabled adults and visit a Holocaust survivor. However, this journey isn’t what it seems; it has been carefully planned to impress a board considering her for a position at a huge consulting firm. In other words, it looks good on her resumé. What she didn’t plan for was Itay, the handsome young Israeli counselor who becomes her mentor. She also didn’t expect to come across an elderly female survivor who sees through Hanna’s motives and reveals some startling facts about Hanna’s own past. A brief trip to establish some credentials for her prospective employers becomes a journey across cultures and into the very center of her heart and mind. Hanna’s Journey does not avoid the sensitive issues of history. It uses honesty, humor, and compassion to make this an unforgettable journey. –Cleveland International Film Festival

98 minutes, not rated, 2014, US/English, Sundance/SXSW
Starring: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner, Jonny Mars, Annalee Jeffries

Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis star in this heartbreaking drama that acutely captures the misdirected angst of teenage years. Thirteen-year-old Jacob is spiraling out of control. Motocross-obsessed, he and his delinquent friends trash things out of boredom and frustration that they hold inside because of the dire circumstances of their lives. All hell breaks loose when Jacob enlists his younger brother, Wes, as a partner in crime. Still reeling from his wife’s death, Jacob’s dad, Hollis, spends more time drowning his sorrows in alcohol than taking care of his sons. When Child Protective Services sends Wes to live with his Aunt Pam, Hollis and Jacob are forced to face their culpability as they strive to bring Wes home. Set in rural Texas, this 2014 SXSW Film Festival Winner is a heartbreaking portrayal of grief stricken families who struggle to cope with the consequences of their loss.

Honorable mentions (most of which I also plan on seeing):

Hope to see you there!

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