I recently took a gander at one of my earliest Film Scene columns to be published by Do Savannah. It was from about five years ago, and upon rereading the piece, I was immediately struck by just how much our local alternative cinema scene has grown in that half decade.
Back then, I was lucky to have two or maybe three screenings to cover each week that either featured non-mainstream titles or took place at non-mainstream venues. These days, there is barely enough room in the print edition of our publication to spotlight all the screenings which are deserving of recognition and publicity. As a result, my kind and talented (and extremely patient) editors usually trim hundreds of words out of each Film Scene column so that it will fit nicely in its allotted space, running the full-length version in totality on the ever-so-handy Do Savannah website.
That’s right — if you just can’t get enough of my rhapsodic waxings, there’s a decent chance you can regularly find a good bit more of them at dosavannah.com/movies.
The next seven days offer a wide variety of big-screen programming that would have been unheard of here in 2013, and that’s a wonderful example of the progress that’s been made in the diversification and enhancement of our area’s cultural quality of life.
We start this week’s overview of notable cinematic options with a bona fide Hollywood classic that is rarely shown theatrically these days, MGM’s lighthearted and wondrous 1952 musical “Singin’ in the Rain.” It will be shown once only on Jan.10 at the Tybee Post Theater. Set in the 1920s, “Singin’ in the Rain” is a fictionalized account of the difficulties the American movie industry faced when making the transition from silent films to “talkies,” and it stands as one of the most uplifting and mesmerizing feature films of that time period, or just about any other, for that matter.
It stars Gene Kelly, who also co-directed the picture, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. The American Film Institute named it not only the single greatest movie musical ever made, but the fifth-greatest American movie of all-time. Showtime is at 7 p.m., and the $10 ticket price includes your choice of a drink, hard or soft, and a piece of chocolate.
That same night out in Springfield, at the historic Mars Theatre, launches a three-day engagement of the just-released dramedy “Instant Family,” which stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as two foster parents charged with caring for three siblings. It’s receiving mixed reviews from critics, most of whom note that it makes no attempt to break out of the long-established mold of formulaic pictures of this sort. However, there are plenty who rate it quite highly for its charming and lightweight humor.
Esteemed character actors Octavia Spencer (“Snowpiercer”), Margo Martindale (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”) and Tig Notaro (“In a World…”) round out the cast. Showtimes 7 p.m. Jan. 10 and 11, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on January 13. Admission info for all Film Scene listings can be found in our accompanying sidebar.
The following week at the Mars, they’ll screen “Aquaman,” the latest DC Comics superhero blockbuster, which was only released on Dec. 21, and quickly sold enough tickets — $940 million worth! — to make it the fifth highest-grossing feature film of 2018. The film stars Jason Momoa in the title role, and features a supporting cast which includes Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren and Nicole Kidman. Showtimes 7 p.m. Jan. 17 through 19, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Jan. 20.
WOMEN OF THE LUCAS
Speaking of 3 p.m shows, on Jan. 13, downtown’s historic Lucas Theatre presents another in its series of “Musical Matinees.” It’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” the 1953 comedy directed by the one-and-only Howard Hawks (“Bringing Up Baby,” “The Thing from Another World”) and based on the popular Broadway musical of the same name. It stars Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell as two flirtatious young lounge singers from Arkansas who get into all sorts of hijinks during a transatlantic cruise to Paris. If you never thought you’d see this in a theater, now’s your chance to see it on a huge screen in a lovingly restored 1920s movie palace.
A couple of days later, on Jan. 15, the Lucas’ recently launched “Arthouse Series” continues with a one-show-only engagement of “Colette,” the buzzworthy biopic of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the iconic female French writer whose sexually brazen, bestselling works of the early 1900s courted scandal and helped redefine the role of women in both the arts and society. The film, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Fest to very positive reviews was directed and co-written by Wash Westmoreland, the British filmmaker best known for his work on the 2014 Julianne Moore vehicle “Still Alice.”
This new film was developed by Westmoreland and his late husband Richard Glatzer, who collaborated with him on most if not all of his motion pictures to date. It stars Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”) as Colette and Dominic West (TV’s “The Wire”) as her husband Henry Gauthier-Villars. Some viewers and critics have likened its vibe and feel to the lush, old Merchant Ivory productions of the 1980s and 1990s. Showtime is 7 p.m.
The next night, Jan. 16, at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running and award-winning Wednesday night series of underappreciated or downright obscure feature films from around the globe continues with an extremely odd mash-up of classic British horror melodramas and Japanese sci-fi action flicks. Yep, you read that right. It’s the 1965 gem “Frankenstein Conquers the World,” directed by none other than Ishirō Honda, the pioneering Japanese filmmaker best known for directing such timeless Kaiju (giant monster) movies as the original “Godzilla,” “Rodan,” “Mothra” and “Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster,” as well as such amazing cult oddities as “Latitude Zero” and “Matango.”
“Frankenstein Conquers the World,” was released theatrically in Japan just two days after the 20th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, which is notable, as the convoluted plot of this film concerns a feral boy found roaming in the ruined, radioactive ruins of Hiroshima, who mysteriously begins to grow to an extreme size. It turns out that he seems to have evolved from the surgically removed heart of “The” Frankenstein Monster, which had been lost by Nazi soldiers during WWII. Soon, the giant “Frankenstein Boy” winds up battling a giant, radioactivity-fueled subterranean monster which is destroying Japanese cities.
Shown here in the states in 1966 in a severely edited and English-dubbed version, this movie’s original Japanese edit and soundtrack are vastly superior to what Americans were shown. That full-length, uncut and widescreen print is what the PFS will screen at the Bean with its original spoken Japanese soundtrack intact, plus English subtitles, of course. It’s a head-scratchingly entertaining epic of fantastical cinema. Showtime 8 p.m., with full vegetarian dinner menu available and discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show.
Birth of cinema
And last but certainly not least, on Jan. 17, Trustees Theater kicks off the latest batch of SCAD’s Cinema Circle screenings. These are big-screen showings of important and/or influential feature films from around the world, each of which are introduced by esteemed faculty members from the art school’s film and television department, as well as established film historians. After each screening, those hosts moderate live audience discussions on the creation of each film and its lasting impact and legacy.
This new series is called “The Silent Winter,” and is made up of a collection of features (and bonus short films) from the earliest days of commercial cinema: the silent film era. For this kick-off screening, they’ll show legendary screenwriter, director and actor Buster Keaton’s 1926 black-and-white action-adventure-comedy classic “The General.” Though panned upon its initial release, this accurate, if comedically enhanced depiction of The Great Locomotive Chase has since been re-appraised by critics and is now deemed one of the greatest American movies ever made. Based on an actual Civil War event that took place in Northern Georgia in which Union Army volunteers commandeered a train in hopes of sabotaging the railroad lines along the way, it’s famous for its beautifully composed cinematography and its elaborate, physical stunts.
It remained Keaton’s own personal favorite of his many films, despite the fact that its box-office failure harmed his career greatly. For this special presentation, a recently restored print of the film will be shown, hosted by Academy Award-Winning Sound Editor David Stone. As a special treat, before “The General,” the Cinema Circle will screen “Number, Please?,” an early short from famed director Hal Roach (“The Little Rascals”) which stars the iconic silent-era comic actor and stuntman Harold Lloyd. Anyone interested in the birth of cinema and the origins of physical comedy in motion pictures won’t want to miss this extremely rare opportunity. Showtime 8 p.m.
Until next week, 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: “Singin’ in the Rain”
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 10
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave. Tybee Island
What: “Instant Family”
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 10-11; 3 p.m. Jan. 13
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St. Springfield, Ga.
What: “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”
When: 3 p.m. Jan. 13
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 15
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
What: “Frankenstein Conquers the World”
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 16
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 17-19; 3 p.m. Jan. 20
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St. Springfield
What: “The General”
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 17
Where: Trustees Theater, 213 E. Broughton St.
Cost: $5-$8 (Free w/SCAD ID)