A big thanks to those Film Scene readers who came out last Sunday for "Tangerine," the second installment of The Look Back, the new queer cinema series at Savannah's LGBT Center on Bull Street near the Starland District.

This decidedly left-of-center showcase for edgy and provocative queer-oriented features (both documentary and narrative) is gearing up for a full schedule, with a different movie being screened for one show only the second Sunday of each month in 2018 in the building's cozy meeting room.

"Tangerine" is directed by Sean Baker, who also helmed the flat-out amazing new indie release "The Florida Project," which is currently racking up major award nominations after its sneak preview at the most recent SCAD Savannah Film Fest. The 2015 transgender-themed dramedy seemed to make quite an impact on the attentive crowd - and me - and it can be found fairly easily on DVD and streaming platforms. I heartily encourage anyone who has yet to avail themselves of its gritty, poignant charms to seek it out on their own.

Looking ahead to the next seven days' worth of alternative big-screen entertainment, there are seven special engagements taking place in theaters (and DIY screening spaces) around our area, which run the gamut from beloved classics to well-received recent releases to cult faves. Only three venues are included in this week's column, as the holiday season tends to find many such locations and/or community film organizations taking a bit of a break.

So, let's have a look at what's on tap in those rooms, shall we?

'White Christmas'

As we noted in last week's issue, on Dec. 21, the historic Tybee Post Theater (which programs a handful of older titles each month as well as the occasional new release) will show the legitimately pioneering 1954 holiday standard, "White Christmas," starring Danny Kaye (!) Bing Crosby and denture proponent Rosemary Clooney as talented stage performers who throw their all into mounting a yuletide-themed revue at a rural Vermont inn.

Packed with Irving Berlin tunes (including the title track), "White Christmas" was a technical marvel in its time, as it launched a briefly popular widescreen format known as "Vista Vision." $10 gets you into this screening, and includes a glass of wine (if you're old enough to drink, or a non-alcoholic beverage if you're not). 7 p.m. showtime.

'A Christmas Story'

Two nights later, the Post revives one of the most enjoyable holiday films ever made: director Bob Clark's 1983 sleeper "A Christmas Story," starring Darren "Kolchak" McGavin, Melinda "Close Encounters" Dillon and Peter "A Christmas Story" Billingsley as members of the fictional Parker family, of the fictional town of Hohman, Ind.

The heartwarming and undeniably hilarious film is based on a series of short stories by author and 1960s-'70s radio personality Jean Shepherd (who also co-wrote the film's screenplay and provided its voice-over narration), which in turn were based on his own family and his hometown of Hammond, Ind.

The movie is set in an indeterminate time period which strongly resembles the late 1930s through the early 1940s, and is essentially comprised of a series of comic vignettes which revolve around the bizarre Christmastime traditions and habits of young Ralphie Parker's father (aka "The Old Man"), played to perfection by McGavin, and young Ralphie's own misadventures in the icy Midwestern winter. Clark, who is surprisingly also known for the ribald "Porky's" jiggle-film franchise of the 1980s and the highly influential low-budget 1970s slasher flick "Black Christmas," does a fairly masterful job of crafting a charming period mood piece with this feature. Though it has been shown to the point of absurdity on cable TV for the past two decades, it is still a refreshing treat on the big screen and one that is geared toward adults but suitable for kids 10 and older.

Plus, if you had the misfortune to catch even a moment of the recently aired, supremely ill-conceived and poorly executed network TV musical adaptation of this film - which was broadcast live for some inexplicable reason- starring Matthew Broderick in the McGavin role and Maya Rudolph as Dillon's beleaguered wife character, then this can surely cleanse your mental palate of that awful concoction. Two screenings only, at 3 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., with discounted tickets for kids 12 and younger.

Blockbuster 'Wonder'

The Post will also present a three-day run of the 2017 family drama "Wonder" from Dec. 28-30. Based on the popular novel by R.J. Palacio, it's the story of a young boy who has suffered his entire life from a rare form of facial deformity that has led him to become ostracized by his peers. As he nears his teenage years, he grapples with those social difficulties, abetted by his parents (played by Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts). So far, the film has grossed well over $100 million, on a budget of barely $20 million, making it quite the financial success.

Critics and audiences alike have noted that the film's plot is fairly clichéd, but that is mitigated by the strong performances given by all the main actors. Just prep yourself for some tears, as it's said to be something of an emotional rollercoaster (if you couldn't tell from the above synopsis). "Wonder" screens at 7 p.m. on each day of its run, with an additional 3 p.m. matinee Dec. 30.

Serious shrinking comedy

Moving on to the Regal Stadium 10 multiplex behind the Savannah Mall, Dec. 22 marks the opening weekend for acclaimed writer-director Alexander Payne's latest dark comedy "Downsizing" hitting screens nationwide. It will be shown four times a day at that venue through (at least) Dec. 28.

An incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking film that was one of the true highlights of the last SCAD Savannah Film Fest (where its sneak preview was one of the hottest tickets of the entire event), "Downsizing" stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau. It is an almost completely unpredictable rumination on what might come to pass in the near future should the technology be developed to safely shrink most any form of matter (including humans and other animals) to a minute fraction of their normal size.

In this case, humans are reduced to about 5 inches in height, and this allows the Earth's diminishing natural resources to be stretched to almost unimaginable lengths. For example, in such a scenario, the tiny cars required to drive 5-inch people the short distances they now require to go might operate for decades on less than one gallon of gas.

Think about it.

Unlike previous "shrinking comedies" like "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," "Downsizing" is actually quite a serious look at interpersonal relationships and how the things which seem so important to us as humans appear radically insignificant once we become the size of mice.

It is an exquisitely made film, and one in which the special effects required to create such an alternate world are so expertly handled that, in Payne's own words, "they become banal." In the hands of this masterful director, whose prior works include "Citizen Ruth," "Sideways" and "Nebraska," this fanciful conceit is a vehicle to deeply examine the concepts of love, commitment, valor, loyalty and devotion. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Showtimes daily at 1 p.m., 4:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m. and 10:10 p.m.

'Gremlins' among us

The Regal multiplex is also offering two special holiday programs over the next few days.

First up is director Joe Dante's completely awesome 1984 sci-fi-adventure-comedy (with elements of horror) "Gremlins," starring Phoebe "Fast Times" Cates, Hoyt "head for the mountains" Axton, Polly "kiss my grits" Holliday and Dick "The Scene Stealer" Miller. Written by Chris Columbus, who also wrote 1985's "The Goonies" and would go on to direct "Home Alone," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and two of the "Harry Potter" films, "Gremlins" was produced by Steven Spielberg, who incorporated unused, frightening creature designs from his original, unfilmed version of 1982's "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial."

In this dark, dark comedy, a young man winds up with a mysterious, gerbil-like creature called a mogwai, which - due to careless treatment - winds up morphing into a malicious, vandalistic critter that multiplies incessantly, wreaking havoc on anything and anyone in the gremlins' path. Oh, by the way, this tale takes place around Christmas. So there you go. If you've never seen "Gremlins," take this opportunity Dec. 23 to see what all the fuss was about back when it first hit the silver screen 33 years ago. One show only, at noon.

'It's a Wonderful Life'

Then, the following day on Christmas Eve, the Regal offers up the ultimate Christmas film, Frank Capra's 1946 dramedy "It's aWonderful Life."

Over the past 71 years, it has cemented its place as one of the all-time great American movies, and one which still has the capacity to warm even the most jaded of hearts. That includes young people. I'm told by someone who attended last week's free screening of this very same film at SCAD's Trustees Theater that they were pleasantly surprised to see so many teens and college-age kids (two demographics which are often unimpressed by or simply bored with older, B&W films from that era) enjoying the movie immensely.

So, if you missed that opportunity to catch Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed on the big screen, now's your last chance for 2017. There's no point in going into the plot of the film, because you likely have an idea about it from pop-cultural osmosis. And, if you don't, you should go see it anyway, without any preconceived notions. Yes, it's that much of a slam-dunk. Plus, it's only $5 to get into either show at the Regal. It's also showing at the exact same times out in Pooler at the Stadium Cinemas 12, but they're charging between $9 and $12, so I suggest heading toward the mall and putting the difference into popcorn â¦

Elaborate martial arts battles

And last, but certainly not least, the Psychotronic Film Society's regular Wednesday night series of underappreciated and/or downright obscure feature films from around the world continues Dec. 27 at The Sentient Bean near Forsyth Park. Their selection that night is neither obscure nor holiday-themed. However, here in the States, it is certainly not well-known by folks who aren't already into either action films or Asian cinema.

It's the 1966 Hong Kong gem "Come Drink with Me," starring Chinese female film icon Cheng Pei-Pei, who most U.S. viewers will know from her high-profile role in Ang Lee's stunning 2000 martial arts fantasy "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon."

The film, which takes place in ancient China, features Pei-Pei as the character known as Golden Swallow, an expert martial artist who is sent to rescue the kidnapped son of a respected general. Widely considered to be one of the finest films ever made in Hong Kong, this Shaw Brothers production is filled with clever dialogue, above-average acting and thrilling fight sequences which have stood the test of time.

The choreography of these elaborate martial arts battles had a profound impact on decades of films that followed in their wake, but often gave short shrift to character development and engaging back stories. In other words, even if you do not consider yourself a fan of martial arts films, you may want to give this one a try, as it is several cuts above most entries into that often dispiriting genre and at times operates on a rather epic scale.

It's also worth noting that the film's director intentionally cast a ballet dancer (Pei-Pei) in the lead role, rather than a martial artist. That's because many of these films' action sequences lay out more like elaborate dances than melees. The PFS will show the restored, uncut widescreen version of this feature, which is dubbed in spoken English. Showtime is 8 p.m., with 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 Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Email psychotronicfilms@hotmail.com.


What: "White Christmas"

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 21

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $10, includes glass of wine

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

What: "Downsizing"

When: Multiple screenings Dec. 22-28

Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St.

Cost: Varies

Info: regmovies.com

What: "A Christmas Story"

When: 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 23

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $5-$7

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

What: "Gremlins"

When: Noon Dec. 23

Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St.

Cost: Varies

Info: regmovies.com

What: "It's a Wonderful Life"

When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 24

Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St., or Pooler Stadium Cinemas 12, 425 Pooler Pkwy.

Cost: $5 (Regal) or $9-$12 (Pooler)

Info: regmovies.com or fandango.com

What: "Come Drink with Me"

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 27

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

Cost: $8

Info: instagram.com/pfssav

What: "Wonder"

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 28-29; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 30

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $5-$7

Info: tybeeposttheater.org