I saw nine films over four days at Southeast Michigan's annual Cinetopia film festival, beating my record of eight last year. While I enjoyed many of movies, the one I truly loved was opening night’s Eighth Grade.
The film follows 13-year-old Kayla during her final week of middle school as she tries to overcome her classmate’s perception of her as shy. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at Sundance and is Bo Burnham’s directorial debut. If you recognize that name, it may be from Burnham’s early 2000s YouTube videos, successful comedy specials, or supporting roles in recent films including The Big Sick and Rough Night.
Michigan native Jeffrey Eugenides told the crowd at the Michigan Union's Rogel Ballroom on Sunday that he never set out to be a regionalist. His three novels, The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and The Marriage Plot, all revolve around characters from Detroit in their youth. Eugenides said that his time growing up in Detroit still makes up some of his most vivid memories, and that writing about something so innate to himself just “makes my job easier.”
Eugenides was joined by Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus, to discuss his recently published first book of short stories, Fresh Complaint. The collection contains 10 stories, including two that relate to his previous novels. One is an outtake from Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex and another, “Airmail,” is made up of letters written by Mitchell, the main character in The Marriage Plot.
In Shaker Heights, Ohio, if your lawn reaches a certain height, the city will mow it -- then send you a bill. Your house cannot be the same as any others on your street, but the paint color has to be approved so that it doesn’t clash. Your trash is not placed on the curb for pickup; instead, a small vehicle similar to a golf cart will speed down your driveway, collect your cans, and bring them to the garbage truck on the street. These are some of the quirks Celeste Ng shared at Literati on Friday about her hometown, which is the setting for her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere.
The first weekend of Cinetopia is over and I saw eight films in total. Sure, that’s more than the average person sees in a weekend but far fewer than the 400 seen by the programming team to select the 68 that make up the festival. Deciding what to see was difficult, and with so many intriguing options I often just chose on a whim. While I found something to admire in all that I saw, I really want to tell you about two of my favorites.