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Film Scene: Go back to the disco with ‘Saturday Night Fever’ anniversary screening

 

Film Scene: Go back to the disco with ‘Saturday Night Fever’ anniversary screening

03 May 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the mood for a new, first-run progressive political documentary? Like to help fund the protection of our natural environment? Enjoy supporting Savannah’s locally based, independent arts and culture venues?

You can achieve all three of those worthwhile goals by attending the one-show-only screening of the just-released, feature-length doc “Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock” at Sulfur Studios in midtown’s burgeoning Starland District. Fresh from its premiere a couple weeks back at New York City’s prestigious Tribeca Film Fest, this ultra-indie message movie tells the story of the peaceful 2016 resistance led by Native Americans at North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

In case you’ve forgotten, tens of thousands of volunteer activists traveled from around the globe to stand in opposition of big oil’s Dakota Access Pipeline, which by design is meant to remove and transport fracked oil from directly beneath the Missouri River, which lies on the Lakota Tribe’s land and provides the Standing Rock Reservation’s sole source of water. This film, a collaborative effort between two indigenous filmmakers and two Oscar-nominated environmental filmmakers, is designed to spread the truth about this landmark standoff, and to fund future generations of Native American journalists and filmmakers.

Fifty percent of all proceeds from this documentary will go to the newly formed Indigenous Media Fund, which will offer training and scholarships, as well as educate non-Natives about their storied culture and lifestyle. This Savannah screening is part of a six-week area action campaign known as “Defend Our Water!” A suggested donation of $1 per person will go to the filmmakers, and through them to the Indigenous Media Fund. 7 p.m. showtime.

Sci-fi epic

An hour later, Trustees Theater plays host to SCAD Cinema Circle’s latest special screening. This time around, it’s the organization’s second-ever Japanese-made anime feature, the 1995 sci-fi epic “Ghost in the Shell.” The inspiration for the recent live-action box-office dud starring Scarlett Johansson, this original, animated adaptation of a popular manga (Japanese comic book) from the late ’80s is a stunning tour-de-force of groundbreaking animation techniques blending both traditional hand-drawn cel animation with early CG work that was — at the time — state of the art. The film still has the capacity to dazzle even technologically jaded modern viewers.

Geared toward adults (it is rated R for violence and intense sequences), this story of a futuristic world in which cyborgs, criminals and police must grapple with the evil designs of a mysterious super-hacker known as The Puppet Master is widely known to have been the main visual inspiration for the Wachowski siblings’ “Matrix” saga. It will be shown in its original spoken Japanese, with English subtitles. As with all Cinema Circle events, graduate students of the school’s cinema studies department will join with SCAD faculty to moderate an informative post-show discussion on the film’s production and legacy. 8 p.m. showtime, with $8 admission ($6 for students/seniors/military) or free with valid SCAD ID.

A little more ‘Night Fever’

May 7 finds two area multiplexes screening an all-new director’s cut of the beloved 1977 disco-centric drama “Saturday Night Fever,” in honor of its 40th anniversary. Think you know this movie by heart? Well, you may. But if you’ve only seen it on TV or home video, you have never truly seen the film the way its creator intended.

This restored version of the John Travolta-led film was newly created by the original filmmaker John Badham (“Blue Thunder,” “WarGames”), and includes four additional minutes’ worth of scenes that had been cut from the R-rated version initially shown in theaters back in the day.

However, most folks have never even seen that R-rated cut, as a much shorter — and much less powerful — PG version was issued a couple of years after the movie debuted (in hopes of selling more tickets to a younger crowd), and that’s the version primarily in circulation ever since. The TV version is missing even more footage than that PG cut, so you can expect to see as much as 10 minutes of rare footage in this special presentation.

Before the film, a new short documentary on the film’s legacy will be shown. Can’t make any of these four screenings over two days? This new director’s cut will be released on Blu-Ray in a few months. Showtimes are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. both May 7 and 10 at the Regal Savannah Stadium 10 on the Southside and the Cinemark in Bluffton, S.C. $13.38 admission at the door or online at fathomevents.com.

Guilty-pleasure gem

Looking ahead to the next Wednesday, May 10, the Psychotronic Film Society’s continuing series of overlooked gems and infamous duds continues at The Sentient Bean with a rare public screening of the forgotten 1995 action flick “Last Man Standing.” Not to be confused with the director Walter Hill’s action flick of the same name starring Bruce Willis, this completely different movie stars the terrifically underrated, Canadian-born tough guy character actor Jeff Wincott (“Prom Night,” “The Invasion,” TV’s “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Wire,” “24,” “The Good Wife”), and was released straight-to-video a full year before the rather disappointing Bruce Willis vehicle.

The PFS presents this non-stop blast of gritty crime drama and intense stunt work in honor of the 61st birthday of Wincott — a real-life Taekwondo black belt who does his own stunts yet also studied acting with the great Stella Adler. Here he plays an overly aggressive Los Angeles police detective battling not only an ultra-violent bank robber named — get this — “Snake Underwood,” but rampant corruption in his own department.

Packed with expertly staged set pieces and one of the most exhilarating car chases ever put on film, “Last Man Standing” is filled with clichés, to be sure — yet it’s also much more than its B-movie reputation and less-than-dazzling cast might suggest. In other words, it’s a guilty pleasure of great proportions and deserves a higher profile than it currently maintains. 8 p.m. showtime, with $7 admission, and discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show.

’MASH’ on Tybee

And finally, the following night, May 11, Tybee Post Theater presents its second Robert Altman film since the restored venue reopened awhile back. The first was 1971’s romantic Western “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” and this time, they’ve booked a counterculture classic Altman directed just one year earlier: 1970’s “MASH,” starring Donald Sutherland (“Animal House”), Tom Skerritt (“Alien”) and Elliott Gould (“Capricorn One”).

A smash at the box office, where it made more than $80 million on a $3 million budget, this dark, heavily satirical military comedy set during the Korean War inspired the long-running TV sitcom of the same name, and is considered one of the finest American comedy films ever made. It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Fest and the Oscar for Best Screenplay, but lost the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing to another, very different type of war movie: “Patton.”

Set in South Korea in 1951, the film profiles the gallows humor of a quirky group of doctors and ancillary military personnel at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and boasts an outstanding ensemble cast including Sally Kellerman (“The Big Bus”), Robert Duvall (“The Apostle”) and Gary Burghoff — who’d later reprise his role as chief clerk Radar O’Reilly in the subsequent network TV adaptation. If you only know the TV series, this is a great opportunity to see the more “adult” film that made intense waves when first released on an unsuspecting public. Showtime is 7 p.m., with $10 admission (includes a piece of chocolate and — for those of age — a glass of wine).

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

The original idea for the film “Saturday Night Fever” came from a 1976 profile on the disco scene and its adherents written by the infamous British rock music scribe (and convicted heroin smuggler) Nik Cohn and published in New York magazine. Decades after the film was released, Cohn admitted he made up the entire piece and passed it off to the publication as truth. He based the character (which would later come to be portrayed by John Travolta in the film) on a British acquaintance who had no interest whatsoever in disco music.

“Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” fans, take note: in “Last Man Standing,” the police detective partner of lead actor Jeff Wincott’s character is played by none other than “Mike Ehrmantraut” himself, (a significantly younger) Jonathan Banks.

During the filming of “MASH,” the film’s two main stars, Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould, were dissatisfied with filmmaker Robert Altman’s unorthodox directing style, and reportedly spent an inordinate amount of their time scheming behind his back to have him fired from the project and replaced with someone more to their liking. Once Altman learned of this, it soured him to both actors. Gould later apologized for his behavior and Altman hired him again. It is presumed Sutherland never asked forgiveness for the subterfuge and sabotage, as he never appeared in another Altman project.

IF YOU GO

What: “Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock”

When: 7 p.m. May 4

Where: Sulfur Studios, 2301 Bull St.

Cost: $1 suggested donation

Info: facebook.com/sulfurstudios

What: “Ghost in the Shell” (original 1995 anime)

When: 8 p.m. May 4

Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.

Cost: $8, $6 seniors/military, free with SCAD ID

Info: trusteestheater.com

What: “Saturday Night Fever — The Director’s Cut”

When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 7 and 10

Where: Regal Savannah Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave., and Cinemark, 106 Buckwalter Pkwy., Bluffton, S.C.

Cost: $13.38

Info: fathomevents.com

What: “Last Man Standing”

When: 8 p.m. May 10

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

Cost: $7

Info: instagram.com/pfssav

What: “MASH”

When: 7 p.m. May 11

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $10, includes free chocolate and glass of wine

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

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