Well, the big news around these parts this week in alternative cinema screenings is surely the launch of the 2018 Savannah Jewish Film Fest.
Held at the Jewish Educational Alliance, this unique and highly anticipated annual event features nine of the most acclaimed, entertaining and/or educational feature films released to the festival and/or theatrical circuit in the past year or so that deal on some level with matters pertaining to Jewish or Israeli art, culture or history.
It's always a safe bet that pretty much none of these films would ever be shown publicly in this market (unless they were booked by either CinemaSavannah or the Psychotronic Film Society, the only two community film organizations that regularly present foreign or niche indie features around these parts). That means if you have any hope of seeing any or all of these worthwhile flicks on the big screen, this is your only chance.
Full details on all the films in this showcase can be found in my standalone article elsewhere here in Do, and I encourage everyone to not only try and catch at least one of these esteemed movies, but also to consider making plans to arrive early for one of the freshly prepared lunches or dinners that can be ordered in advance for an extra fee. It's a chance to relax and visit with all manner of nice film lovers (many from the local Jewish community) and expand your culinary horizons a bit as well. Just remember, those meals have to be ordered in advance at savannahjea.org. Tell 'em Film Scene sent ya.
Also, as I mentioned in last week's column, one of my all-time favorite dramedies receives the SCAD Cinema Circle treatment the evening of Jan. 25 at Trustees Theater. Director Hal Ashby's wondrous counterculture tearjerker "Harold and Maude" - which is also an all-time fave of so many different kinds of folks for so many different kinds of reasons - is practically required viewing to understand what made the independently minded California film scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s so special and influential.
For example, if you're a fan of Wes Anderson's films, just know that it's a virtual impossibility that they would have even been made (or at least resemble themselves in any way, shape or form) were it not for "Harold and Maude." SCAD Film and TV professor Michael Chaney will introduce the movie and lead an audience discussion afterward on its importance and legacy. So, don't miss it, OK?
Tickets are cheap for the general public and free for anyone with a SCAD ID. But, hey, students of the self-absorbed variety: Please resist the temptation to natter incessantly throughout this rather quiet and twee classic. Just zip your lips and let this movie breathe at its own pace. You and everyone else will be very glad you did. 8 p.m. showtime.
A few nights later, on Jan. 28, just around the corner from Trustees, the Lucas Theatre for the Arts will present the amazingly restored 50th anniversary digital re-release of director David Lean's epic 1962 historical drama "Lawrence of Arabia," starring Sir Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn, Claure Rains, Omar Sharif and - of course - the late, great Peter O'Toole.
Named the third greatest British motion picture of all time by none other than the British Film Institute, it was also named the fifth greatest movie ever made by the American Film Institute.
Based on the real life of the famed British archaeologist, military officer and writer, it spans several countries and a few decades. One of the most mesmerizing widescreen pictures ever lensed, it deals with Lawrence's difficult experiences during WWI in and around the Arabian Peninsula.
It's been a few years since the last time this winner of seven Oscars was shown in Savannah (at the Lucas then as well), and there's no way to know when such a presentation will be sponsored again, so do make the scene if this would be a new experience for you. Keep in mind, though, "Lawrence of Arabia" is shown in two parts, with an intermission, and runs close to four hours long. That's why it starts at 5 p.m. Hey, I said it was an epic â€¦
The next night, Jan. 29, the Lucas' new Arthouse Series of just-released indie, foreign and specialty features continues with the "Mary and the Witch's Flower," a Japanese-made anime-fantasy that was made by a team of filmmakers and animators who got their start working with Japan's legendary feature-film animation factory known as Studio Ghibli.
As with Ghibli's films, expect plenty of charming whimsy and inventive visuals that are designed to enchant rather than browbeat. Unfamiliar with Japanese anime fantasy films? No worries. This is as good a place to start as any, and it might lead you down a path of beautiful, unforgettable movies that awaken your inner child and suspension of disbelief. While this film is being released in its original spoken Japanese with English subtitles, it is my understanding the Lucas will be opting to show the version dubbed in spoken English by such established actors as Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent and - wait for it - Morwenna Banks! 7 p.m. showtime.
Then, on Feb. 1, the history Tybee Post Theater screens director Robert Zemeckis' 1994 international box office smash "Forrest Gump," which is something of a local favorite around these parts as a healthy chunk of it was shot in and near Savannah and Tybee.
It's almost impossible to imagine there are folks who are not familiar with this tale of a simple-minded fellow who finds himself nonplussed while standing at several different crossroads of history. Tom Hanks turns in an affecting performance in that role, but again, you knew that, didn't you? 7 p.m. showtime, with admission price including a piece of chocolate and a drink of your choice (beer, wine or soda).
'Tosca' digital stream
For opera lovers, Fathom Events will digitally stream a live performance of The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Puccini's "Tosca" at 12:55 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Regal Stadium 10 behind the Savannah Mall. This fictionalized and rather violent take on Napoleon's 1800 invasion of Italy will be shown with English subtitles for those who won't be able to follow the sung Italian. This run of performances features the debut of singer Sonya Yoncheva in the title role. If you can't make that Jan. 27 matinee, the same performance will be reshown at both 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the same venue.
And last but not least, if you dig over-the-top exploitation flicks from days gone by, on Jan. 31, you may want to make a beeline to the Psychotronic Film Society's weekly Wednesday night series of overlooked and underappreciated feature films from around the world at The Sentient Bean. They'll screen the uncut version of the ultra-rare Mexican biker picture "Intrepidos Punks," which was made in 1980 but not released in that country until 1985, and never officially released on DVD in the U.S.
Packed with crazy behavior, delinquency of all forms (i.e., fightin', killin', and treatin' women poorly) and south-of-the-border punk rock-inspired fashions and attitudes (multi-colored Mohawks, anyone?), it's virtually unknown even in Mexico - let alone here in the States. This is a great quality Spanish-language print with English subtitles and terrific theme music. Not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. Can you dig it? 8 p.m, showtime, with discounts on organic wine and craft beer during the show.
Until next week, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don't forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Email email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Jewish Film Fest
When: Through Feb. 3
Where: Jewish Educational Alliance, 5111 Abercorn St.
Cost: $10 or $8 for members
What: "Harold and Maude"
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 25
Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.
Cost: $8 or free with SCAD ID
What: "Lawrence of Arabia" 50th anniversary restoration
When: 5 p.m. Jan. 28
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
Cost: $5-$8 or $2 with SCAD ID
What: "Mary and The Witch's Flower"
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 29
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
Cost: $10 or $5 with SCAD ID
What: "Forrest Gump"
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 1
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
What: The Met Live in HD: "Tosca"
When: 12:55 p.m. Jan. 27; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31
Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St.
What: "Intrepidos Punks"
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 31
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.