We’ve named Michigan’s 50 Essential Movies. Here are 12 that we missed.



What do you call a list of 50 essential movies set in Michigan?

A good start.

Last month’s roundup of notable Free Press movies set somewhere in our Fair State (ranging from “8 Mile” to “American Pie” to “Somewhere in Time” and beyond) generated the genre of comments you expect from people who are passionate about cinema.

We made a lot of choices, but missed some crucial movies, according to readers. Why do you ask? Well, a few titles have fallen through the cracks. Others were left out for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a real framework in Michigan. (Sorry, “The Big Chill” fans, but those fictional University of Michigan alumni chilling out to Motown tunes have been reunited out of state).

Following: These are the 50 most essential movies set in Michigan

In response to your feedback, we took a look at the nominees and decided to give praise to nine more films, plus three films made for TV or cable, an area that some felt should have been part of the mix.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on these additions, because the only thing better than watching movies is to debate them.

And then be sure to come back on Sunday, when we unveil Michigan’s 10 best films, as voted by the readers of our original 50-ballot.

“The Real Romance” (1993)

This violent romantic / criminal drama begins in Detroit before its main characters, a prostitute played by Patricia Arquette and an Elvis Presley fan played by Christian Slater, flee to Los Angeles. The cast and crew filmed briefly in the Motor City. Murder, chaos, lively dialogue, a suitcase full of cocaine and Gary Oldman’s twisted performance as a pimp named Drexl Spivey (with dreadlocks and golden teeth) can only mean one thing – yes, Quentin Tarantino wrote the script.

“Lost River” (2015)

Ryan Gosling was so inspired by Detroit while filming here in 2011 for “The Ides of March” that he made his own arthouse film here a few years later. “Lost River,” set in the title’s crumbling fictional metropolis, was something of a love letter to the city’s beleaguered beauty. Shot in mid-2013, while the economic crisis was still gaining international media attention, the film boils down to a feverish, fantastical dream of bizarre subplots and gripping cinematography. Detroit, meet “Blue Velvet”. You must love that Gosling, who grew up a two-hour drive from London, Ont., Has a long-standing emotional connection to Detroit. “It seemed like everything cool was from Detroit, you know? Eminem, Model T, and the whole iconic American Dream idea,” he reportedly said at a media event for the film.

“Detroit Unleaded” (2012)

The boy-girl genre gets a refreshing update in this romantic comedy directed and co-written by Rola Nashef. It’s a funny, tender, and slice-of-life look at young Americans of Lebanese descent in Detroit – specifically, Sami and Najlah (played by first-time actors EJ Assi and Nada Shouhayib), who fall in love with the one another and also find theirs. voice while respecting their family obligations. Set against the backdrop of Sami’s immigrant family gas station, “Detroit Unleaded” was filmed in 23 vivid days, and much of it took place at a closed gas station in Detroit, as well as Belle. Isle and a private house in Dearborn. It made a strong impression on its Toronto International Film Festival debut and has continued to garner good reviews from critics. Nashef’s debut feature is definitely worth watching (and a site like Netflix should ask him to do two or three sequels).

“The Five Russians” (2018)

This documentary about the charismatic quintet of Russians who were recruited to play for the Detroit Red Wings and became local heroes had a winning streak, naturally. It won the Spirit of Michigan Award at the Freep Film Festival, as well as the Audience Award for Best Non-Fiction Film at the Traverse City Film Festival. And his theatrical run through Michigan and beyond state lines proved just how effective “The Russian Five” was at uniting audiences through the team’s emotional race to Stanley Cup glory. (and the tragedy that marked the triumph). As director Joshua Riehl told Free Press via email, “We watched and cheered on our Red Wings together at Joe’s, so being able to watch the movie in a theater full of Red Wings fans, with everyone coming back to life. these memories together is truly the ultimate visual experience. ”

Following: Detroit Red Wings Documentary “The Russian Five” Charts New Path to Box Office Victory

“Scarecrow” (1973)

In the wake of “The Godfather” and “The French Connection,” Al Pacino and Gene Hackman pooled their newfound star power in this drifting character study of two imperfect men (Pacino is a sailor and Hackman is a ex-convict) on a road trip from California to Pittsburgh to start a car wash business. Detroit becomes a stop because the character of Pacino sent money there to his wife and a child he has never seen. The James Scott Memorial Fountain scene in Belle Isle has long been one of Detroit’s most iconic screen images.

‘Superior’ (2015)

A coming-of-age movie set in 1969 about two friends looking to cycle around the Great Lake border bearing the title name, “Superior” is an independent charmer who captures the natural beauty of the summit of the upper peninsula. . Director Edd Benda eschews routine sentimentality by focusing on one last childhood adventure for Derek (Paul Stanko), a goofy charmer awaiting his military service in Vietnam, and Charlie (Thatcher Robinson), who is on the verge of enter Michigan University of Technology at Houghton. Wrote The Free Press: “There is a certain eccentricity of Yooper to the story, but the film – made on a low budget, but nonetheless beautiful – is accessible to anyone who’s ever gone in search of the world with a pal and has formed a bond that is unforgettable. “

“Zebra Head” (1992)

Although this feature debut by New York filmmaker Anthony Drazan is relatively obscure today, his high school romance between an African-American girl (N’Bushe Wright) and a white Jew (Michael Rapaport) has been hailed for its sensitivity. and his love and prejudice realism. “Detroit can take credit for making this movie work,” the Free Press said in its review, noting that Drazan filmed real students inside Cody High School and sprinkled his script with drawn dialogue. of his recorded conversations between high school students.

“For the love of the game” (1999)

Kevin Costner plays an aging Detroit Tigers pitcher who is in New York for a streak against the Yankees in this middle-aged meditation on what matters most in life. Faced with an exchange with another team by a new or retired owner, Costner’s 40-year-old ace reflects on his relationship with the woman (Kelly Preston) who is now leaving her life for a job overseas. Oh, and once the game starts, Costner is on the right track to delivering a perfect game. Metro Detroit native Sam Raimi pulled off this sentimental sports romance and Costner presented it as convincingly as some members of the Tiger reliever pen of recent years. Sigh.

‘Hardcore’ (1979)

Director Paul Schrader returned to his hometown of Grand Rapids to film the opening sequence for this grim look at a conservative Christian (George C. Scott) who sees his missing daughter in a porn movie and travels to Los Angeles to his research. As Roger Ebert wrote in a 1978 story about the filmmaker, the film resonates with his upbringing: “Schrader was brought up as a strict Calvinist in a city where, for many people, fundamentalism is a way of life. He remembers the long dining table. conversations during family vacations, when parents and loved ones were discussing some of the finer points of grace, virtue, and sin. He didn’t attend a movie until he was 17. This ban included all movies: it wasn’t just the bad movies that were a sin, you see, but the very idea of ​​the movies itself. “

TV movies

Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian in a scene from “You Don’t Know Jack”.
Abbot Genser, HBO

Detroit starred in several television and cable films that made an impression. Here are three in particular: “One In a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story,” the 1978 TV movie that starred LeVar Burton as the Detroit Tigers star who rose from prison to the big leagues; 1983’s “Tiger Town”, the first TV movie made for the Disney Channel, which starred Roy Scheider as a declining Detroit tiger and Justin Henry as the young fan who brings him luck by attending every game, and “You Don ‘ t Know Jack, ”the 2010 HBO bio-pic with Al Pacino as the controversial figure in physician-assisted suicide Jack Kevorkian.

Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or jhinds@freepress.com.



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