Now that the dust has finally settled on the fun and fury that was the 2013 Savannah Film Fest, it's possible to reflect on the highlights (for me, at least):
â€¢ Seeing the Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's latest (and phenomenal) dramatic masterpiece, "The Past" on the big screen;
â€¢ Having iconic actor Bruce Dern draw me close to whisper that I "made his day" by explaining how his 1972 sci-fi message movie "Silent Running" changed my life for the better;
â€¢ Being surprised by how much the flawed-but-somehow-still-stellar U.K.-made nuclear war survival tale "How I Live Now" recalled the stylistic flair and Summerisle-ish desperation of 1970s underrated British end-of-civilization gem "No Blade of Grass";
â€¢ Receiving heartfelt appreciation and encouragement from "Sideways" director Alexander Payne for running a quirky local film society;
â€¢ Being one of the first to see the soon-to-be-released (and sure to be a smash) film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "August: Osage County" despite its feckless new ending tacked-on by studio honcho Harvey Weinstein;
â€¢ And running into ethereal actor Jeremy Irons at breakfast, only to have him copycat my choice of omelette ingredients (thus making our meals "Dead Ringers").
Longtime repeat attendees of this annual festival tut-tut routinely afterward, reflecting back to earlier installments and comparing the relative worth or import of any given year with the fests which came before.
The simple truth is that while some years of the SFF do seem to boast greater star power or a larger number of so-undeniably-great-they-knock-you-on-your-ass movies, this is a shindig that never really disappoints.
No doubt there will be a mad rush for passes to the 2014 event when they go on sale Dec. 1.
That leaves us looking to the next seven days for the crop of noteworthy alternative cinema screenings - and, boy, do the trio of films on tap this coming week run the proverbial gamut!
Local film society CinemaSavannah kicks things off Nov. 9 at Muse Arts Warehouse with a special, one-day-only engagement of a tiny, offbeat, indie comedy that's flown almost completely under the radar, but which is garnering tremendous acclaim.
Loosely adapted from the award-winning 2011 Icelandic film "Either Way," "Prince Avalanche" takes place in 1988 and stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as two bickering co-workers painting traffic lines on a deserted stretch of rural country road after a devastating wildfire in what many critics have called one of the most refreshing (and least known) comedies of the year. A deceptively simple tale of an introvert and an extrovert who are forced to deal with each other under adverse conditions, it's been likened to "The Odd Couple."
The Chicago Sun-Times calls the inexpensively made sleeper (budgeted at less than $1 million) a "gently existentialist buddy movie," and the Birmingham Mail describes "Prince Avalance" as "an engaging variation of David Lynch's film "The Straight Story" - meaning it's a slow, thoughtful character study with subtext to burn. Tomasz Warchol, who runs CinemaSavannah, says he was "specifically looking for a comedy to lighten up (his series)."
"Its premise promises a very unique comedy," he opines. "Sort of a blend of Larry David's humor with a healthy dose of Beckett's absurdity."
The film screens twice only, at 5 and 8 p.m. Admission is $8.
Also on Nov. 9, the SCAD Cinema Circle's ongoing series of classic features centered around "Dynamic Duos" presents director John Hughes' sardonic 1987 holiday favorite "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," starring Steve Martin ("The Jerk," "Roxanne," "Shopgirl," "Bowfinger") and the late John Candy ("SCTV," "Spaceballs," "Uncle Buck").
It's the raunchy and crude, but ultimately heartwarming, story of an easily stressed marketing executive (Martin) who winds up inadvertently attached at the hip to an oafish and pushy sad sack (Candy) when the flight they're sharing from NYC to Chicago at Thanksgiving time gets re-routed to Kansas due to bad weather. For the next three days, the two men (polar opposites in terms of temperament, outlook and hygiene) suffer together through a series of comedic misadventures on the way to their respective family dinners, which leave Candy's extroverted character increasingly bemused and Martin's uptight character increasingly enraged.
Written in just three days by Hughes (best known for such era-defining gems as "The Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles" and the "Home Alone" series) after he himself was unexpectedly stranded during a long plane trip, it's an anti-buddy movie of the highest order that proved a smash with critics and a hit at the box office. It has become a perennial staple of holiday season cable TV broadcasts, but often in an edited form that neuters many of the film's most uproarious gags. Martin himself has declared "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" to be his own personal favorite of all the films he's starred in (which certainly counts for something, despite the numerous duds he's done for a quick paycheck), and if you have never seen this film on the big screen, you probably owe it to yourself to do so now.
It's rated R for occasional profanity (but not much else), and is certainly suitable in this day and age for anyone 13 and older who hasn't led a brutally sheltered life. Showtime is 7 p.m. at Trustees Theatre and admission is $8.
On Nov. 13, there are two vastly different screenings taking place downtown, and fleet-footed film fans could easily attend both.
First, the Jepson Center will present a rare, big-screen presentation of a notorious piece of controversial video art: the 1975 short film "The Eternal Frame," produced by California-based counterculture art collectives T.R. Uthco and Ant Farm.
This 25-minute film documents provocative performance art in which members of these groups, dressed as JFK, Jackie Kennedy and their entourage, videotaped a recreation of the assassination in Dealey Plaza - on its actual site - eliciting bizarre responses from onlookers and the local media. This footage was intercut with segments from the infamous Super-8mm "Zapruder" film of the real assassination.
Those unfamiliar with experimental video shorts of that time period may find this work awkward and surprisingly low-fidelity.
However, it is a key and revered piece of transformative cinematic art, and will be shown in conjunction with the modern art museum's current and lengthy exhibition "Warhol/JFK: November 22, 1963." Showtime is 6 p.m., and admission is free.
Later at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society presents one of the great horror icon Boris Karloff's final (and least known) films, 1967's "The Sorcerers." Directed by Michael Reeves (best known for Vincent Price's awesome 1968 thriller "Witchfinder General," but also an uncredited co-director of 1964's "Castle of the Living Dead"), this cult gem is the story of two elderly British hypnotists who develop a machine that allows them to project their minds into other people's bodies, and thus control them.
Being that 1967 London was a pretty swinging place (a la "Austin Powers"), Karloff's character and his wife get vicarious kicks enjoying the sex, drugs and rock music of the younger set, all from the comfort of their recliners. However, things soon take a deadly turn. Never released on DVD in the U.S., this is a bizarre and campy find that is as enjoyable as it is creepy - and also stars Ian Ogilvy (TV's "The Saint"). 8 p.m. showtime, $6 admission.
See you at the movies, and don't forget to turn off that cellphone.
Jim Reed directs Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at filmsavannah.com.