You know, it’s a strange world we live in these days.
Since I penned the last installment of Film Scene, Bob Dylan, the man who directed one of the longest and most self-indulgent faux-European art films of all time (1978’s “Renaldo & Clara”) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
And, as if that weren’t enough pop-culture oddness for one year, veteran actor Sylvester Stallone, the man who wrote the screenplays to the motion pictures “Rhinestone” (co-starring Dolly “Class Act” Parton), “Cliffhanger” (co-starring Janine “Too Bad I’m Crazy” Turner) and “Staying Alive” (the ill-fated sequel to “Saturday Night Fever” starring John Travolta) is rumored to have been approached to chair the National Endowment for the Arts by President-elect Donald Trump.
Developments like these make me almost giddy with absurdist delight, and are in many respects the only things keeping me going these days.
So, there’s that.
As the year winds down, dear readers, allow me to sincerely wish you and yours nothing but peace, prosperity and good health in the coming mayhem that is 2017.
Christmas love story
Now, as I mentioned in last week’s column, this Thursday night, Dec. 22, the historic Tybee Post Theater (just blocks from the beach on Tybee Island) offers up its latest installment in an ongoing series of well-known, romantic-themed features called “Girls Night Out at the Movies.” I’d be remiss if I did not point out that these films are quite suitable for folks other than those of the female persuasion. I should also note that admission to this series includes a complimentary glass of wine (if you’re old enough) and a small pack of facial tissue (as the Post management assumes you’ll shed a tear or two during the proceedings).
Their selection this time out is director Richard Curtis’ 2003 British rom-com “Love Actually,” which is set around the Christmas holidays and boasts a phenomenal ensemble cast (including Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor). It’s a delightfully enchanting blend of bittersweet drama, awkward humor and heartwarming romantic vignettes that is mightily hard to resist. It’s a perennial favorite around this time of year on cable, but if that’s the only way you’ve ever caught it in the past, treat yourself to a big-screen display. Showtime is 7 p.m., with $10 admission (including that wine and Kleenex).
Mike Hammer hits Japan
Dec. 28 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society offers up another in its ongoing weekly treasure trove of little-known, overlooked or simply underappreciated feature films from around the world. This selection can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates a good mystery yarn, but will be especially enticing to those who consider themselves fans of classic Hollywood suspense and crime flicks.
“The Most Terrible Time in My Life” is an unlikely title for such a terrifically entertaining “popcorn movie,” yet that’s how the original Japanese title “Waga jinsei saiaku no toki” translates into English. Originally released in Japan in 1994, and not shown publicly in the U.S. until the year 2000 (and then, only for a special screening in New York City), it’s a knowing homage to the entire, old-school genre of hard-boiled detective movies — but especially those featuring crime fiction writer Mickey Spillane’s famous gumshoe Mike Hammer.
It’s the first in a trilogy of Japanese theatrical films centered around young and brash private detective “Maiku Hama” (a phonetic play on the name Mike Hammer that’s made an even more clever pun by the fact that Maiku’s private investigation business is based out of the city of Yokohama), whose office is located above an old movie theater that screens classic Hollywood films, and who drives a vintage automobile and comports himself with the sartorial style and snarky panache of Spillane’s iconic crime solver. “The Most Terrible Time in My Life” is shot in glorious B&W, with all the stylistic hallmarks of golden era film noir.
Everything from the convoluted plot to the characters’ sinister motivations to the stark lighting and off-kilter camera angles screams “vintage moviemaking.” Plus, there are a couple of fistfuls of inside jokes and references peppered throughout the script that only devoted movie lovers will likely notice. However, even if you are not a devotee of Mike Hammer films (or the beloved TV series that starred Savannah native Stacy Keach in the title role), or old movies in general, this picture, which is set in the then-present day of the early ’90s, is still extremely enjoyable.
Plus, it stars none other a charismatic screen presence than Masatoshi Nagase in the title role of Maiku Hama.
Don’t recognize the name? You may remember his face, as he played the Japanese hotel guest who is fixated on rockabilly singer Carl Perkins in director Jim Jarmusch’s 1989 dramedy “Mystery Train.” In fact, Nagase also makes a touching cameo appearance as a Japanese poet in Jarmusch’s latest feature “Paterson,” which screened at the most recent Savannah Film Festival. This film has been commercially unavailable in the U.S. for years now, and will be shown in the original spoken Japanese, with English subtitles. Showtime is 8 p.m., with $7 admission.
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 Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
What: “Love Actually”
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 22
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
Cost: $10, includes glass of wine
What: “The Most Terrible Time in My Life”
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 28
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
For reasons unknown, at least two of the songs on the soundtrack of “Love Actually” differ between the versions shown to British and American audiences. In one instance, U.S. viewers heard a Kelly Clarkson track substituted for a cut by the U.K. group Sugarbabes. That group’s song was then shifted to the end of the film and played under the closing credits.
Starting in 1947, Mickey Spillane’s character of Mike Hammer appeared in 22 books either written solely by Spillane or in conjunction with co-writer Max Allan Collins. Mike Hammer has since been a popular go-to detective on both the big and small screens. Actors who have played Hammer in either films or TV series include: Biff Elliot, Ralph Meeker, Robert Bray, Darren McGavin, Armand Assante, Kevin Dobson, Rob Estes and Stacy Keach.
In the 1963 feature film “The Girl Hunters,” Hammer author Mickey Spillane was actually allowed to appear as Mike Hammer himself. This is one of the very few occasions in which someone who created a fictional literary character wound up being cast to portray that same character on film.