As the song reminds us (ad nauseam, I might add) - it's the most wonderful time of the year.
What's that, you say? You don't see much to be thankful for, or to celebrate?
Well, I'm right there with ya, sailor. Death, destruction, decay, political turmoil, class warfare, shortsighted fundamentalism (of all stripes), purity crusades, natural disasters ... if this is the most wonderful time of the year, I hope someone saves us all from the other 11 months.
I mean, there's something seriously screwed-up with a world where Lou Reed is dead, but Shia LaBeouf has a new movie out. And not just a new movie, but one that features him in explicit sex scenes. Seriously, what did the human race ever do to deserve such sadistic punishment?
Luckily, there are still a few small, transient joys to cling to: "The Walking Dead" continues to sidle up alongside the shark, without quite jumping over it; the Pixies soon launch a nationwide tour promoting another EP of fresh material; and Savannah still offers a fairly impressive number of independent, alternative film screenings all year long.
Take the next seven days, for example. At three venues, a total of four unique movies will be screened, all for one show only. Their style and subject matter could not be more varied, but all are guaranteed to entertain. Blink and you'll miss them all.
The week's worth of celluloid gems starts with a special, two-night event at the historic Lucas Theatre.
On Dec. 13, they'll screen the 1992 holiday classic "The Muppet Christmas Carol," starring Oscar winner Michael Caine ("The Hand," "The Swarm") and a supporting cast of beloved Muppets, including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Fozzie Bear.
Little known fact: Fozzie Bear actually appears in the background of seven other Michael Caine films, but in uncredited and non-speaking roles.
A sly, musical-comedy adaptation of the timeless Charles Dickens novella "A Christmas Carol," it is set in 19th-century London, with Caine playing Ebenezer Scrooge and Kermit playing Bob Cratchit.
Directed by Muppets creator Jim Henson's son, Brian, it was the first Muppets film made following Jim's untimely death - and the first to be co-produced and released by Walt Disney Pictures.
While not a smash upon initial release, over time, it's become a favorite of many families. Showtime is 7 p.m. and admission is free with a charitable donation (details below).
The next night, at 7 p.m. Dec. 14, the Lucas screens a bona fide cult classic that has become a must-see, even for those who don't celebrate Christmas.
It's the heartwarming (if tongue-chilling) 1983 dramedy "A Christmas Story," starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and the Night Stalker, Carl Kolchak himself, the inimitable Darren McGavin.
Based on a series of quasi-autobiographical stories by the late Midwestern radio personality and author Jean Shepherd, the film details the exploits of young Ralphie Parker, a 9-year-old Indiana boy with eccentric parents who longs to receive a highly coveted Red Ryder BB gun from Santa - despite repeated warnings from virtually everyone that such a weapon is far too dangerous for someone of his age and maturity, and that if given one, he'd wind up shooting out his eye.
Cult film fans may be surprised to learn that before Bob Clark directed "A Christmas Story," he also helmed such low-budget shockers as "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things" and coincidentally, the Yuletide-themed slasher flick "Black Christmas" (a major influence on John Carpenter's "Halloween").
He also achieved great success with the lowbrow sex-comedy franchise "Porky's."
Yet, for many, "A Christmas Story" is the feature he's known for. In fact, public polls consistently rank it the No. 1 holiday-themed movie of all time.
Despite the fact that since 2009, TBS has reliably shown the film in a non-stop, 24-hour marathon starting on Christmas Eve, there's nothing like seeing it on the big screen, uninterrupted by commercials.
As with the preceding night's screening at the Lucas, free admission will be allowed for anyone making a donation to either of two local charitable organizations: America's Second Harvest or the Humane Society.
Second Harvest requests non-perishable canned goods, new and unused basic toiletries and small kitchen wares, such as professional grade hand mixers, large colanders and long-handled stainless steel spoons.
The Humane Society requests durable, washable pet toys other than tennis balls, food and water bowls, Purina brand dry cat, dog, kitten and puppy food and/or kitty litter, used but clean blankets and towels and cleaning supplies.
On Dec. 18, the Psychotronic Film Society hosts a special 46th anniversary screening of the little-known British sci-fi flick "They Came From Beyond Space" at the Sentient Bean.
Highly revered by fans of cheesy, campy, low-budget "drive-in" cinema, critics and viewers alike are divided fairly evenly on this 1967 film: Some find it a laughable failure filled with hokey special effects, while others praise it as a flawed but ambitious attempt at serious science fiction.
Directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer and genre filmmaker Freddie Francis - who shot "The Elephant Man," and even Savannah's own "Glory," but is also known for directing such horror and sci-fi gems as "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" and "Dracula Has Risen from the Grave" - it's the tale of a mysterious meteorite shower that results in a deadly plague, and ultimately, a sinister alien plot to kidnap earthlings and whisk them away to the moon! Made by Amicus Studios (a low-rent knockoff of the better-known Hammer Films), it's a guilty pleasure for late-night movie lovers. Showtime is 8 p.m. with $6 admission.
And last, but not least, at 6 p.m. Dec. 19, the Jepson Center hosts a special screening of "Bayou Maharaja: The Tragic Genius of James Booker," an acclaimed new music documentary on the legendary and controversial New Orleans pianist. Directed by Lily Keber (a former Savannah Arts Academy graduate), it's been turning heads at major film festivals, and now's your chance to catch it. Look for more information on this special show in next week's DO.
See you at the movies, and don't forget to turn off that cellphone.
Jim Reed directs the award-winning Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more from Jim at www.filmsavannah.com.