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Film Scene: Plethora of movies hit Savannah thanks to two film festivals

 

Film Scene: Plethora of movies hit Savannah thanks to two film festivals

17 Jan 2018

If you’re in the mood for catching a movie or other specialty program in a cinematic setting, you’ve found the right column. Each week Film Scene takes a look ahead at the next seven days’ worth of alternative cinema events taking place around the greater Savannah area.

First up in our cornucopia of celluloid (or zeroes and ones, as it were) is the Tybee Post’s one-night-only Jan. 18 revival of one of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s all-time classic features, the 1939 romantic drama “Gone with the Wind,” with Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and Olivia de Havilland. Set during the Civil War, this sweeping historical epic is fairly long in the tooth and has not aged nearly as well as some of its adherents might have you believe. Still, it’s a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen, and this 200-seat restored theater just a few minutes’ walk from the ocean is just the place to catch it.

Even if you have seen one of the myriad of cable and satellite TV airings of “Gone with the Wind,” it’s really something else in a darkened theater in a town that was famously spared from the brutal wartime arson depicted in the movie. Showtime is at 7 p.m., and admission price includes your choice of a beverage (beer, wine or soft drinks). Admission info on all events covered in Film Scene can be found in our accompanying sidebar listings.

Mountainfilm on Tour

That same night marks the opening of the eagerly awaited Mountainfilm on Tour — Savannah film fest at downtown’s Trustees Theater. The touring version of Telluride Co.’s Mountainfilm Festival, this collection of the best award-winning documentary shorts and features from around the world focuses on the beauty and wonder of our natural environment and the connection between humans and that environment. It is curated in part by our own local organizers because each community across the globe that arranges for this tour to stop in their neck of the woods is allowed to collaborate with Mountainfilm’s own administration to compile titles from that year’s bounty that they feel will resonate most with the inhabitants of and visitors to their area.

Over the course of three consecutive evening screenings at 7 p.m. and one 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, an incredibly wide variety of motion pictures will be shown on the Trustees’ state-of-the-art projection and sound system. Best of all, the overwhelming majority of these films would never play anywhere else in Savannah (or even the Southeastern region, for that matter) were it not for this particular festival. Even if you don’t consider yourself the “outdoors type,” the average person, young or old (and this is definitely afamily-oriented event) cannot help but be dazzled and inspired by the beauty and the stories on display in these films.

This year’s festival kicks off with the regional premiere of the newly released feature-length doc “Take Every Wave: The Laird Hamilton Story,” which is the definitive portrait of the world-famous surfing icon and extreme water sports innovator. For more info on that film, please see my interviews with both Laird and the film’s director, Rory Kennedy (daughter of the late Robert Kennedy), elsewhere on DoSavannah.com. Tickets for all shows are available in advance at savannahboxoffice.com, but they can almost always be purchased at the door right before each screening as well.

‘Harold and Maude’

A few nights later, on Jan. 25 at the same venue, SCAD’s Cinema Circle presents what surely must be one of my most favorite films. It’s director Hal Ashby’s wondrous realization of writer Colin Higgins’ original story “Harold and Maude,” starring Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon as an unusual pair of (seemingly) mismatched lovers.

Released in 1971 and featuring a soundtrack by the great British pop singer-songwriter Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam), it wa sa flop when first shown in theaters. In fact, it took 12 years for the film to simply break even on its production and marketing costs. However, over time, it gained a reputation as a cult sensation and is now revered by many as one of the finest examples of counterculture narrative cinema that the U.S. has ever produced.

As with all Cinema Circle screenings, it features a live host with an academic background in film who will both introduce the movie and moderate an informative and lively post-show discussion with the audience, to enhance their enjoyment and appreciation of the movie itself and its context and legacy. This time around, SCAD Film and TV Professor Michael Chaney is doing the honors, and I am told this is one of his most favorite films, as well. That fact, coupled with his boundless enthusiasm and knack for public speaking, should result in a memorable evening all around.

Seriously, if you are unfamiliar with “Harold and Maude,” I strongly encourage you to not research it in any way before attending this screening. It’s far too easy in this day and age to inadvertently stumble upon information that results in spoilers that may instantaneously ruin the nuanced depiction of this quirky courtship.

I also strongly encourage folks who may have seen the film years ago to re-investigate it via this presentation. It’s truly a film that improves with age and one that serves as a phenomenal time capsule of one of the more daring eras of American filmmaking .Showtime is 8 p.m., with inexpensive tickets for the public, and free admission to anyone with a SCAD ID.

‘The Room’

At the Regal Stadium 10 behind the Savannah Mall on Jan. 19, Fathom Events presents an encore showing of the infamously flawed drama “The Room,” directed by and starring novice filmmaker, actor and screenwriter Tommy Wiseau.

Wiseau is currently being depicted on big screens around the country in an award-winning performance by James Franco in the film “The Disaster Artist” (which chronicles the behind-the-scenes strangeness surrounding this gloriously failed vanity project). His burst of mainstream notoriety at the moment is pushing “The Room,” previously known mainly to bad-movie aficionados, into a pop-culture moment of its own.

I attended a screening of this film a couple weeks ago at this same venue, and while it was nice to see it on a big screen in high-definition, for me at least, the experience was marred by people who came prepared to heckle the film on autopilot. Their rote “callbacks” and uninspired jabs at the film’s continuity errors and the actors’ drab dramatic skills became tiresome almost immediately and interrupted the peculiar pacing of the film which is why it is so revered and loathed in the first place. So, in a very real way, first-time viewers in screenings where folks yell and throw things at the screen are actually deprived of experiencing the very aspects of “The Room” which have made it so notorious and entertaining.

All of this is to say that if you have seen the film before, and know it by heart, and are curious to see how an audience participation cult has sprung up around it a la “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” then by all means check out this screening. But, if you have only heard of “The Room,” rent or buy it instead and watch it at home in stunned silence. Then and only then will you really understand what makes this film so special. 7 p.m. showtime.

Bolshoi Ballet

Shifting gears drastically, on Jan. 21, the world famous Bolshoi Ballet digitally streams live its new production of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” in sumptuous high-def video and audio to cinemas around the globe. That same stream will be shown at two different venues in our area. It will hit the screen live as it happens in Moscow at 12:55 p.m. at the Regal Stadium 10, and then will be shown with a time-delay at 7 p.m. that night at the Lucas Theatre downtown.

It’s the exact same program either way; however, the Regal on the Southside charges way more to get in than does the Lucas, and there is something much cooler about seeing ballet in a historic, proscenium-staged room like the Lucas (which actually hosts live ballet from time to time). Either way, it should be magnificent. The choice is yours.

Jewish Film Fest

Looking ahead to Jan. 24, the 2018 Savannah Jewish Film Fest kicks off at the Jewish Educational Alliance on Abercorn Street. Several days and nights’ worth of Jewish- and Israeli-oriented feature films and shorts will be shown digitally on a sizable screen in their lovely auditorium, and it’s a wonderful way for the public to not only avail themselves of this community center, but also a window into the current state of world affairs.

Virtually every single film included in this lengthy festival would not otherwise ever show publicly in Savannah, and many will not even receive a cursory theatrical release in America. Meaning, if you want a chance to see these films on the big screen, well, this festival is probably it.

At 7 p.m. opening night, “The Testament” will screen. This 2017 mystery drama concerns a historian who unexpectedly discovers his own mother is in possession of a false identity, which leads him into a tenuous and threatening situation. It will be shown in spoken Hebrew with English subtitles.

The next day at 1:30 p.m., the 45-minute English-language documentary “Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels” will be shown. It details the true story of a young girl who escaped the Holocaust with her family, eventually landing in a faraway tropical paradise.

And then, at 7 p.m. Jan. 25, the award-winning 2016 documentary “Big Sonia” screens. It’s the “laugh-out-loud funny” true story of a 90-year-old seamstress for whom an impending eviction notice forces her to not only worry about having to retire and close her beloved tailor shop, but also to revisit the stress and horror of witnessing the Holocaust.

The Savannah Jewish Film Fest continues for several days afterward, and we will have a full article on this event in next week’s issue of Do. Tickets to each film are available in advance through the organization’s website, or at the door, and certain screenings offer the option of eating traditional Jewish lunches or dinners onsite before the film for an additional fee — however, those meals must be reserved in advance. Details are available at savannahjea.org.

Robby Benson night

And finally, on Jan. 24 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society’s ongoing, long-running Wednesday night series of overlooked or underappreciated films continues with a salute to actor, director, singer and author Robby Benson on the occasion of his 62nd birthday. Perhaps best known as the voice actor behind the character of The Beast in Disney’s 1991 animated feature “Beauty and the Beast” (as well as all its sequels and spinoffs), he established himself as a rising star in the 1970s, when, in his teens and early 20s, he played character and lead roles in a handful of high-profile Hollywood films.

While he famously lost the role of Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” to Mark Hamill (a career-changing loss if ever there was one), he remains a unique persona with a loyal following worldwide. For this special screening, the PFS has selected one of his earliest feature films, and one that is rarely seen or broadcast.

While the exact title will remain a closely guarded secret until showtime, it can be said it’s a comedy that was a flop upon initial release, but which many consider to be quite ahead of its time. Oddball and quite odd in moments, it should be a very enjoyable surprise to those who appreciate dark and somewhat absurdist humor. They’ll show the full, uncut version. 8 p.m. showtime, with $8 admission, and discounts on organic wine and craft beer during the show.

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 the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Email him at psychotronicfilms@hotmail.com.

 

IF YOU GO

What: “Gone with the Wind”

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 18

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $10-$35

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

 

What: Mountainfilm on Tour – Savannah

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 18-20; 2 p.m. Jan. 20

Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.

Cost: $15 evening shows, $5 matinee

Info: mountainfilmsav.org, savannahboxoffice.com

 

What: “The Room”

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 19

Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave.

Cost: $14.98

Info: fathomevents.com

 

What: Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema “Romeo and Juliet”

When: 12:55 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 21

Where: Regal Stadium 10, Cinemark Bluffton (12:55 p.m.); Lucas Theatre (7 p.m.)

Cost: $5-$20

Info: lucastheatre.com, fathomevents.com

 

What: Jewish Film Fest: “The Testament,” “Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels,” “Big Sonia”

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 24; 1:30 p.m. Jan. 25; 7 p.m. Jan. 25

Where: Jewish Educational Alliance, 5111 Abercorn St.

Cost: $10 or $8 for JEA members

Info: savannahjea.org

 

What: Robby Benson 62nd Birthday Salute

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 24

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

Cost: $8

Info: instagram.com/pfssav

 

What: “Harold and Maude”

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 25

Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.

Cost: $8, free with SCAD ID

Info: savannahboxoffice.com

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