As I write this column, the 2018 SCAD Savannah Film Festival has only been underway for less than 48 hours, but already, crowds to this hotly anticipated week-long celebration of world cinema have been treated to numerous excellent features and shorts at three different downtown venues.
While I certainly have not been able to catch everything I’d like to at the festival, I will tell you that writer-director Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” which won the prestigious Golden Lion at the most recent Venice International Film Fest, is one of the most gripping and visually detailed motion pictures I have seen in quite some time.
Shot mostly by Cuarón himself in crisp B&W, this semi-autobiographical period piece takes place in the Mexico City of 1971, and focuses on the lives of an upper-middle-class Mexican family and their domestic servants during a time of both personal and political upheaval. While some in the crowd did not care for the leisurely pacing of this 135-minute drama and/or what they perceived as an underdeveloped plot, I myself found the pacing to be exceedingly naturalistic and felt the scant, curt dialog only enhanced the mood of the piece as a whole and served to draw the viewer into the story even more deeply than might otherwise be the case had more exposition been displayed.
The film, which was financed by Netflix, is being shown in only a couple handfuls of theaters nationwide, and we were very lucky to get a chance to see this minimalist gem on the big screen. Keep an eye out for it when it premieres on that online streaming service Dec. 14.
Now, looking ahead to the next seven days of noteworthy cinematic events in the greater Savannah area (aside from the festival), we have a mix of new releases, specialty shorts, beloved classics and ultra-obscure cult movies.
Let’s begin in nearby Springfield, where on Nov. 1 they’ll show “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween,” the sequel to 2015’s well-liked family adventure comedy “Goosebumps.” Based on R.L. Stine’s popular children’s book series of the same name, it’s the tale of a group of kids who must battle a wave of supernatural destruction on Halloween night. Showtime 7 p.m.
'The Grinch' steals 3-D
Seven days later, on Nov. 8, the Mars kicks off “The Grinch,” a three-day engagement of the new 3-D computer animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ iconic 1957 kid’s storybook “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” This is the third motion picture adaptation of that tale (including the brilliant made-for-TV hand-drawn animation version from 1966 and the live action remake from 2000). It features the voice talents of Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson and Angela Lansbury, and the animation was handled by a team of French artists. Showtime 7 p.m. each night.
Triple feature fright night
Moving back to midtown Savannah, a really unique event Nov. 2 will take place at the Savannah Arts Academy. At 6 p.m., the academy’s Communication Arts Department (which includes the single largest film program to be found at any high school in Georgia) hosts a “Scream Queens Lock-In,” a triple-feature of well-regarded PG-13 horror films from decades past. The selections include writer-director Sam Raimi’s excellent gore-comedy “Drag Me to Hell,” actress Nicole Kidman’s old-fashioned supernatural shocker “The Others,” and the American remake of the massively successful Japanese occult nail-biter “The Ring.”
It all stops just before midnight, and the school will be selling pizza and concessions all night long. The public is invited to attend, but don’t forget that even though these films are not rated R, there are plenty of graphic sequences and some mildly adult subject matter. So, make sure any young teens are mature enough to handle it. Tickets are $10 in advance (reserve yours online via the link in our sidebar listings) or $15 (cash only) at the door. The kids will be supervised by school employees, so there’s no need for parents to attend — unless they just want to!
Moving out to the southside, at 12:55 p.m. Nov. 3, the Regal Stadium 10 Multiplex behind the Savannah Mall will host another “Saiyan Double-Feature” of vintage, newly remastered Japanese made-for-TV animé programs, which are being shown on the big screen for the very first time in the USA. This time it’s “Bardock The Father of Goku´and “Fusion Reborn,” both of which are part of the “Dragon Ball Z” saga.
These action-packed sci-fi adventures deal with clairvoyance, interplanetary destruction, industrial disasters, a zombie apocalypse and a giant, contaminated monster. Together, both movies total a little under two hours in length, and they will be shown dubbed into spoken English. If you can’t make the Nov. 3 matinee, this double-feature will be screened again at 7 p.m. Nov. 5.
Superstar soprano in concert
Then, on Nov. 8, the Regal presents a one-night-only cinematic premiere of “HYMN,” a full-length concert performance by superstar soprano Sarah Brightman. Shot live for the big screen in a castle in the Bavarian Alps (no, seriously) this 90-minute show in two acts is a companion piece to her forthcoming album of the same name. It blends a massive concert production (including a 50-voice choir, her own orchestra and a dance ensemble) with state-of-the-art video and audio and is said to create an overwhelming experience for the viewer. As a special bonus, exclusive behind-the-scenes material on the planning stages of this production will be shown. 7:30 p.m. showtime.
'Jamaican Gold' tribute
Shifting to downtown, the Psychotronic Film Society’s ongoing Wednesday night series of obscure and underappreciated world cinema continues Nov. 7 at The Sentient Bean coffeehouse with a special birthday tribute to German actress Elke Sommer, who turns 78 a couple days beforehand. Watch the exceedingly rare 1976 film “Jamaican Gold,” which sat in the vault until 1979 when it was finally released in only three European countries under the new title “The Treasure Seekers.” A British production that was shot in Jamaica, its script was written by its leading man, the hunky Australian actor Rod Taylor (“The Birds,” “Darker Than Amber”) and concerns two former football players who reunite to hit the high seas in search of the lost treasures of a 17th-century pirate.
It also stars Keenan Wynn and Stuart Whitman (“A Man Called Shatter”) and is essentially unknown to this day, having only been released on home video in a couple of countries — and then, only on VHS tape. The PFS will screen a vintage, foreign VHS tape of this action-adventure rarity. Showtime is 8 p.m., with discounts on organic wine and craft beer during the show.
Veterans Day screenings
On Nov. 8 at Service Brewing Co., MountainFilm on Tour Savannah hosts the latest annual installment of its popular Veterans Day screening series devoted to celebrating the accomplishments and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. On tap that evening are three award-winning short documentaries that combine elements of the great outdoors with the rigors and challenges of life in the Armed Forces.
After a “social hour” featuring libations from Service and food from a number of popular area restaurants, each film will be screened once (total running time is around 70 minutes), followed by a live Q&A featuring two of the veterans profiled in the films and one of the movie’s producers. This showcase is ticketed and open to the public, with free admission to all U.S. veterans. For more info, see my feature article elsewhere in this issue of Do Savannah.
And finally, that same night out on Tybee Island at the historic Post Theater, their “Date Night” series continues with the 1972 political dramedy “The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford as an idealistic, inexperienced candidate for the California Senate who must navigate the murky waters of late ’60s and early ’70s campaigning and fundraising. A political neophyte chosen for his telegenic visage and his name recognition (as the son of a beloved former governor of that state), he bristles at the machinations required to garner a majority of the vote and grapples with just when and how far to bend his strongly held personal beliefs in pursuit of victory.
The screenplay for “The Candidate,” which reeks of fly-on-the-wall authenticity, was penned by a longtime political operative who had actually served as a speechwriter for Eugene McCarthy’s failed 1968 presidential bid, and wound up winning the Academy Award that year for best writing. The film has earned a solid reputation as one of the more thought-provoking and nuanced fictionalized looks at our country’s political process and is viewed by many as required viewing for any who wish to better understand the morass of ugly partisanship and dumbed-down rhetoric which has come to dominate our campaigns at all levels of public office. Showtime is 7 p.m., and admission includes your choice of a drink (hard or soft) and a piece of chocolate.
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 the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.
IF YOU GO
What: “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween”
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 1
Where: Mars Theatre, Springfield
What: “Scream Queens Lock-In: Horror Triple-Feature”
When: 6 p.m. Nov. 2
Where: Savannah Arts Academy, 500 Washington Ave.
What: “Dragon Ball Z Double-Feature”
When: 12:55 p.m., 7 p.m. Nov. 3, 5
Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave.
What: “Jamaican Gold aka The Treasure Seekers”
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 7
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
What: MountainFilm on Tour Savannah Veterans Day screening
When: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 8, films at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Service Brewing Co., 574 Indian St.
Cost: $15, free to U.S. veterans
What: “The Candidate”
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 8
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
What: “The Grinch”
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 8-10
Where: Mars Theatre, Springfield
What: “HYMN" Sarah Brightman in concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8
Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee Ave.
On the web: Watch movie trailers with this column at dosavannah.com.