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Film Scene: Catch a myriad of classic, independent, foreign, documentary and cult cinema this week

 

Film Scene: Catch a myriad of classic, independent, foreign, documentary and cult cinema this week

27 Jul 2017


Howdy, adventurous movie lovers. Locals and visitors alike who appreciate classic, independent, foreign, documentary and cult cinema (or even concert films) in theatrical settings are heartily encouraged to attend at least one of the following special engagements over the next seven days. Admission prices to all events are now listed in the sidebar.

First up is the Lucas Theatre’s one-show-only digital simulcast of Part Two of revered playwright Tony Kushner’s award-winning 1992 work “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Part Two: Perestroika” on July 27 (Part One was simulcast in that same historic, 1,200-seat movie palace last week). This newly produced stage production comes to the Lucas’ screen courtesy of the U.K.’s illustrious National Theatre, and is earning great praise from both critics and audiences alike.

This rumination on the early days of the AIDS crisis and its effect on mid-1980s New York City won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and, yes, the Tony for Best Play. You can watch Nathan Lane, Andrew Garfield and the rest of the outstanding cast perform live from Great Britain in stunning high-def clarity at either the Lucas, the Regal Stadium 10 behind the Savannah Mall or the Cinemark in Bluffton, S.C. (Lucas tickets cost as much as 75 percent less than those corporate venues). Showtime at all venues is 7 p.m.

Then, on July 30, the Lucas’ newly launched summer matinee series of classic Disney animated features continues with a 3 p.m. showing of 1951’s glorious hand-drawn musical fantasy “Alice in Wonderland.” Based on Lewis Carroll’s mid-1800s works — Americanized and retooled to appeal to family audiences unfamiliar with those somewhat disturbing novels — the film was a financial and critical disappointment when first released (a handful of feuding directors and producers resulted in its rather uneven tone), but over the following decades has become a revered motion picture and a benchmark for traditional cel animation. It’s a must-see on the big screen.

That same day at both the Regal Savannah Stadium 10 and Bluffton’s Cinemark, Fathom Events marks the 35th anniversary of the release of Director Amy Heckerling’s (“Clueless”) eternally charming yet distinctly bittersweet coming-of-age dramedy “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” with screenings at 2 and 7 p.m. of the restored version of that 1982 sleeper.

Based on a 1981 book of the same name by future Oscar-winning filmmaker Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire,” “Say Anything”), the film vacillates between uproarious humor and contemplative pathos, just like high school. Crowe’s exceptionally youthful looks allowed him to pose for a year as a San Diego high school student to research teenagers’ lives. The film boasts a memorable soundtrack and a flat-out amazing cast, including Phoebe Cates, Sean Penn and Jennifer Jason Leigh. “Fast Times” also marks early (or even debut) screen performances from the likes of Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker. Look for standout turns from character actor Robert Romanus (as conceited misogynist Mike Damone) and the great, old-school TV, film and stage actor Ray “My Favorite Martian” Walston, as unflappable history teacher Mr. Hand. There will be encores at the same venues and times on Aug. 2.

Both the aforementioned Regal and Cinemark multiplexes will also play host to the seventh annual Grateful Dead Fan Meet-Up on Aug. 1. A yearly excuse for die-hard fans of those quintessentially Californian psychedelic rock and granola-blues warhorses to convene across the country in cushioned, air-conditioned comfort quite unlike the environment at fabled Dead shows of yore, each “Meet-Up” features a high-quality digital simulcast of a vintage, professionally shot live concert from the group’s heyday.

Many Dead gigs were archived for posterity decades before any mechanism besides VHS tape existed for marketing them, and this particular show (Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium, July 12, 1989) has never been officially seen before. It features a fairly unique setlist, including such fan faves as “New Minglewood Blues” and “Black Muddy River,” plus covers by Bob Dylan and Traffic. Showtime 7 p.m., Gooney Bird not included.

And finally, on Aug. 2 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, the Psychotronic Film Society’s weekly series of underappreciated and/or obscure features pays tribute to writer-director George A. Romero, an international icon of fantastic cinema who died July 16 after a short battle with lung cancer. Known primarily as the driving creative force behind the game-changing 1968 low-budget indie shocker “Night of the Living Dead” (which gave birth to modern “zombie apocalypse” culture), Romero was a gifted iconoclast whose best films turned established horror movie protagonists (e.g., vampires, zombies, violent deviants) on their sides, repurposing them as fodder for socio-political allegories rooted in Romero’s fiercely individualistic personal outlook.

Through subsequent, subversive, message movies such as 1978’s “Martin,” 1979’s “Dawn of the Dead,” 1985’s “Day of the Dead” and 1993’s “The Dark Half” (the last a collaboration with his pal, author Stephen King), Romero set himself apart from virtually every other horror film auteur at the expense of attracting mainstream viewers. The exact title of the Romero film to be screened remains a secret until showtime (folks are encouraged to take a chance, buy a ticket and be pleasantly surprised), but it’s one of his best, yet least-discussed features, and one that deserves wider appreciation. The PFS will show the uncensored, unrated director’s cut, which was never seen in theaters, but is exactly as Romero intended. Showtime 8 p.m., with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the film.

Until 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 psychotronicfilms@hotmail.com.

 

Jim’s Notes:

By the time Walt Disney Studios completed their 1951 musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books (as “Alice in Wonderland”), Disney had been trying to create a feature-length film based on those works for almost a quarter of a century. In the early 1930s, he toyed with the idea of mixing both live-action cinematography and hand-drawn animation in such a film, with America’s Sweetheart Mary Pickford starring in the title role of Alice. However, another studio released a lackluster live-action Carroll adaptation first, and Disney abandoned the project, focusing on the animated classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Before settling on the approach that resulted in the 1951 classic, Disney himself had even hired controversial British novelist, poet and philosopher Aldous Huxley (“The Doors of Perception”) to write a screenplay, which was ultimately rejected for being too close to Carroll’s books to allow for a successful film.

The talent on display in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is most impressive for a small-budget teen-oriented exploitation picture. In fact, many of the young stars of the film went on to far greater success in Hollywood. For example, Nicolas Cage (who made his onscreen debut in this film under his real name, Nicolas Coppola), Sean Penn and Forest Whitaker would all eventually win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Before George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” hit screens in 1968, the cinematic depiction of zombies was basically that of mute, re-animated corpses used by evil or greedy plantation owners/business people as mindless slave labor. Romero’s imagining of zombies — or, as he initially termed them, “ghouls”— as bloodthirsty, flesh-eating cannibals which could only be felled by the destruction of their brains, forever altered the trajectory of the zombie genre and inspired countless books, comics, films and TV shows, including the AMC network’s blockbuster success “The Walking Dead.” While Romero admitted to resenting the financial success built on the back of his original, groundbreaking “Living Dead” franchise, and openly dismissed “The Walking Dead” as an apolitical “soap opera with the occasional zombie in it,” the creators of that graphic novel series and its spinoff cable series openly praised Romero and acknowledged their creative debt to his work.

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IF YOU GO:

What: National Theatre Live: “Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika”

When: 7 p.m. July 27

Where: The Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.

Cost: $15 adults; $10 for military/seniors; $5 kids under 15 (Free with SCAD ID)

Info: lucastheatre.com

What: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”

When: 2 p.m. July 30; 7 p.m. Aug. 2

Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, Cinemark (Bluffton)

Cost: $13.38

Info: Fathomevents.com

What: Disney Summer Classsics: “Alice in Wonderland”

When: 3 p.m. July 30

Where: The Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.

Cost: $8 adults: $5 seniors/military/kids under 15 (Free with SCAD ID)

Info: lucastheatre.com

What: Seventh annual Grateful Dead Fan Meet-Up

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 1

Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, Cinemark (Bluffton)

Cost: $13.38

Info: Fathomevents.com

What: George A. Romero Memorial Screening

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 2

Where: The Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, 13 E. Park Ave.

Cost: $9

Info: instagram.com/pfssav 

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