There's a few days' lag in between the time the writers whose work appears in Do turn in each week's assignment and when it actually appears in the paper and online. So, with that in mind, as I type these words, it's colder outside than a welldigger's, um, shovel.
Hopefully that dispiriting temperature situation will have resolved itself by the time you, good people, are reading this. Still, it is winter in Savannah (for whatever that's worth), and that means holiday-themed films and cinematic presentations abound. Over the next seven days or so across our area, plenty such programming can be found on the big screen, both traditional fare as well as some decidedly non-traditional features.
The donkey is the star
First up is the Tybee Post Theater's three-day engagement of the just-released, Christmas-themed CGI feature "The Star." All sorts of Hollywood types can be found voicing characters in this comedic re-imagining of the tale of Jesus' birth - including "The Walking Dead" alum Steven Yeun, Kegan-Michael Key of "Key & Peele" and even sassy-frassy pop singer Kelly Clarkson. What makes this film unique from others dealing with the whole "away in a manger" story? Well, this one is told fromâ€¦ wait for itâ€¦ the perspective of one of the donkeys on hand, as opposed to a wise man or even a passing haberdasher.
Both critics and viewers are split on whether "The Star" is any better than average as far as such animated flicks go, but word on the street is that kids dig it. Which is really all that matters, right? Plus, the Tybee Post has heat! 7 p.m. showtimes on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with an added 3 p.m. matinee that final day. Admission prices to all Film Scene events can be found in our accompanying sidebar listings.
Two versions of 'Nutcracker'
A slightly more traditional take on the Christmas story comes a few days later on Dec. 17, when Fathom Events presents a high-def digital stream on the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet's 2014 production of "The Nutcracker" at both the Regal Stadium 10 multiplex behind the Savannah Mall, and the Cinemark multiplex in nearby Bluffton, S.C. Tchaikovsky's score is abetted by Yuri Grigorovich's interpretation of E.T.A. Hoffmann and Marius Petipa's libretto, and this beloved fantasy of a young girl's wooden nutcracker doll that miraculously comes alive (along with several other toys) stars Denis Rodkin (no, not Dennis Rodman, as was earlier rumored) as the Nutcracker Prince. It's a two-hour showcase of fanciful, family-friendly fare that most anyone will find enchanting, regardless of their religious beliefs. One show only, at 12:55 p.m.
Then, in an odd twist, two nights later on Dec. 19, the same two venues play host to a streaming event from Fathom that puts a humorous spin on "The Nutcracker." It's the stage show "The MeshugaNutcracker!" Billed as a "Chanukah musical," it is based around a new, "Klezmer-ized" orchestration of the original "Nutcracker Suite," with newly composed lyrics about the annual Jewish celebration of Chanukah, rather than Christmas.
Self-admittedly silly in places and poignant in others (like most of the best Jewish humor), "The MeshugaNutcracker!" references not only the traditional Chanukah tale of the warrior Maccabees, but the early days of the state of Israel and the trials and hardships those of the Jewish faith persevered through during the Holocaust.
Schmaltzy as it may be, folks who've seen this increasingly popular stage presentation (which replaces most of the instrumental melody lines from Tchaikovsky's score with the new lyrics, sung to those same melodies) say it is both heartwarming and touching, and that it's a welcome addition to the realm of holiday season spectacles. There is finally a full-blown Chanukah musical after decades of nothing but Christmas-themed shows. As if that wasn't enough to motivate you to check out this upstart show that is screening for one night only in 350 cinemas nationwide, the campy, fey comedy writer and Broadway actor Bruce Vilanch is advertised as making a special guest appearance onscreen. Seriously. 7 p.m. showtime.
Screenings for a cause
Dec. 16, head downtown as SCAD's Trustees Theater on Broughton Street does a good deed for the community at large by presenting three popular Christmas-themed films on its state-of-the-art projection and sound system as a benefit for two worthwhile local charitable organizations: America's Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia and the Build a Bridge Foundation of Georgia.
Interested in attending? No need to bring any cash (unless you want to avail yourself of some food or drink from the concession stand). Just show up with your choice of either one nonperishable food item (think cans or boxes) or a new, unwrapped toy for every one of the three films you'd like to attend. Once they've accepted your donation at the door, you're good to go.
The triple-feature starts at 11 a.m. with the recent, half-hour CGI animated comedy special "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas," featuring the voice talents of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, T.J. Miller and Judah Friedlander.
Then, at 3 p.m., the live-action, feature-length adaptation of Dr. Seuss' universally adored children's book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," starring comedian Jim Carrey (not to be confused with the beloved animated TV special from 1966 starring Boris Karloff as the villainous Grinch).
Finally, at 7 p.m. it's the all-time classic of yuletide entertainment, director Frank Capra's Oscar-nominated 1946 dramedy "It's a Wonderful Life," starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. This film, over the past several decades, has been recognized as one of the greatest American motion pictures ever made, despite a meager box-office showing upon its initial release, which posited the movie as little more than a forgettable flop to most of the viewing public at that time.
Let's be honest, the Capra film is the one of the three that truly demands to be seen; however, its pacing and relative stodginess (when compared to most modern-day big-screen holiday entertainment) will likely leave the majority of young people bored silly. So, take the adventurous or unusually mature kids to "It's a Wonderful Life" for a dose of culture and leave the first two selections to the rest of the youngsters.
A classic on Tybee
Speaking of old-school holiday classics, on Dec. 21 out at Tybee Island, the historic Post Theater revives the groundbreaking 1954 box-office smash "White Christmas," starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney (George's aunt) as singing stage performers who join forces to put on a Christmas-themed show at a small inn in rural Vermont that is owned by a former military commander who's fallen on hard times and desperately needs a boost for his business.
Its soundtrack is filled with tunes by none other than Irving Berlin, and earned the equivalent in today's currency of well over $100 million! It was also notable on a technical level, as it was the first feature-length motion picture to be released theatrically in "VistaVision," a special widescreen format that utilized twice the traditional surface area of standard 35mm film stock. Standard tickets to this 7 p.m. screening are $10 (which includes a glass of wine), but if you hustle, $35 in advance will also get you a special early, three-course dinner at the well-reviewed Tybee restaurant 80 East Gastropub, just a few blocks away from the venue. Full details at the theater's website.
The Look Back series
Now, for those who prefer their holiday movies a little on the freaky side, on Dec. 17, Savannah's newly opened LGBT Center (in the Starland District) hosts the second installment of the city's latest niche-oriented cinema series, The Look Back, which is curated by House of Gunt's Maxine Fishpaw and co-produced by the First City Network and the Psychotronic Film Society. The Look Back is Savannah's only regular outlet for queer cinema, and is designed to provide the community with an entertaining and thought-provoking perspective on queer and nontraditional gender issues, as seen through the lens of edgy, critically acclaimed films.
This month's entry in the series is writer-director Sean Baker's award-winning 2015 low-budget ultra-indie "Tangerine," which gained fame and notoriety on the international festival circuit in part for being the first theatrically released narrative motion picture to be shot entirely on consumer cell phones - namely, the iPhone 5. Yes, you read that right. This intense, raw and ribald dramedy about a transgender female sex worker who is sprung from a Los Angeles jail just in time for Christmas, only to learn her boyfriend/pimp is now involved romantically with a cisgender woman, is both heartbreaking and laugh-out loud funny.
It also serves as a confrontational and unvarnished look at the violent and potentially deadly street life endured by a shockingly high percentage of transgender folks in the U.S., and as such is a must-see for anyone interested in the daily travails of those stuck in one of the most treacherous margins of our modern society. Just as eye-opening as Baker's latest feature, "The Florida Project," which proved to be one of the most impressive and unforgettable movies showcased at the most recent SCAD Savannah Film Fest, "Tangerine" is not for the faint of heart, but offers plenty for mature viewers with open minds and adventurous spirits.
Seating is limited to just 50, with free admission and concessions to all (voluntary donations in any amount are gladly accepted, though, to help defray the series' operating costs). This is a very special film, and one deserving of attention. To avoid disappointment, arrive early to this 7 p.m. event, as it may sell out. As one of the co-presenters, I sincerely hope you can make it to the show.
Horror meets comedy
And, last, but not least, on Dec. 20 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society's ongoing weekly series of underappreciated or downright obscure films from around the globe continues with a rare public viewing of the 1987 cult horror-comedy "Street Trash." Gleefully offensive and almost absurdly gory, this unabashedly "politically incorrect" slice of exploitation cinema was made on a shoestring budget and contains enough dismemberment, brutality, anti-social behavior and gratuitous graphic nastiness to fill five more movies.
The plot? A liquor store owner finds a mysterious case of booze in his basement and crassly sells it to his motley gang of neighborhood bums, despite the fact that it has a nasty side-effect. Namely, it causes anyone who drinks it to immediately decompose, from the inside out! Not for the squeamish, but highly recommended to fans of New Zealand director Peter ("The Lord of the Rings") Jackson's early films such as "Dead-Alive" and "The Frighteners." The PFS will screen the fully uncut, widescreen version of this minor gem. 8 p.m. showtime, with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the movie.
Until our next issue, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don't forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
What: "The Star"
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 14-15; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 17
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
What: "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas"
When: 11 a.m. Dec. 16
What: Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
When: 3 p.m. Dec. 16
What: "It's a Wonderful Life"
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 16
Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.
Cost: Free (with nonperishable food or new, unwrapped toy donation per movie)
What: The Bolshoi Ballet HD: "The Nutcracker"
When: 12:55 p.m. Dec. 17
Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave., and Cinemark, Bluffton, S.C.
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 17
Where: LGBT Center, 1515 Bull St.
Cost: Free, donations accepted
What: "The MeshugaNutcracker! - The Chanukah Musical"
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 19
Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave., and Cinemark, Bluffton, S.C.
What: "Street Trash"
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 20
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
What: "White Christmas"
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 21
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
Cost: $10 (includes glass of wine) or $35 (includes dinner)