Greetings, adventurous movie lovers, and welcome to another installment of Film Scene, where we peer far into the future to deliver a roundup of all the notable alternative cinema events taking place over the next seven days in our neck of the woods.
We encourage locals and visitors alike to try and support as many of these unusual and eclectic screenings as possible, as without them, our local selection of projected entertainment would be significantly less diverse — and therefore significantly less interesting.
We start in Savannah’s lovely Historic Downtown, where, on April 25, the beautifully restored Lucas Theatre — a grand old movie palace built in 1926 — plays host to the BANFF Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour. This beloved, annual traveling cinema event compiles dozens of award-winning short films on nature and adventure from around the world into one thrilling program. Learn more at banffcentre.ca/banffmountainfestival/tour. Showtime is 7 p.m.
That same night, the restored historic Mars Theatre in nearby Springfield starts a four-day run of visionary director Tim Burton’s brand-new live action remake of Walt Disney’s animated flying elephant classic “Dumbo.” This update to the 1941 original blends CGI effects with live actors and has received mixed reviews. Showtimes 7 p.m. April 25 through 27, with a 3 p.m. matinee April 28.
Moving out to Tybee Island, on April 27 the area’s other smallish single-screen restored movie house the Tybee Post Theater hosts a special world premiere “viewing party” of the latest made-for-television romantic dramedy feature from the Hallmark Channel to be shot in our area. In fact, it just wrapped production a few weeks ago.
“Love Takes Flight” is the heartwarming tale of an unattached female doctor who’s struggling to improve conditions at her local hospital and raise her young daughter, when — wouldn’t you know it — a handsome male EMS helicopter pilot enters the picture. Oh, did I mention the single mom has a fear of flying? Well, she does!
These Hallmark movies often feature plenty of local extras and actors in small roles, and it’s always something of a treat to see recognizable neighborhoods and businesses show up onscreen. Especially when the rest of the world has to watch this on small screens in their homes, while the fact that we played host to this film crew for several weeks affords us a special opportunity to see it on the big, silver screen.
The Tybee Post actually streams a high-definition feed directly from the Hallmark Channel for these events, which means the gathered viewers get treated to the film exactly as it appears to home viewers, with commercial breaks intact. However, there’s a fully stocked concession stand with fair prices and beer and wine if you’re old enough. Best of all, these one-time-only viewing parties are completely free to the public. However, you have to reserve your seats in advance as they usually fill up fast. Showtime is 8 p.m., and reservations can be made through the venue’s website.
Art house hit
On April 28, in the auditorium of the Jewish Educational Alliance building on Abercorn Street just North of DeRenne Ave., local film organization CinemaSavannah presents another in its ongoing series of one-show-only local premieres of acclaimed independent and/or foreign motion pictures. This time around, it’s “Little Woods,” the directorial debut of Nia DaCosta, who also wrote its script, that turned heads when it debuted almost exactly one year ago at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
This dark and intensely emotional drama about the harrows of opioid addiction and the havoc it wreaks on the family of two estranged North Dakota sisters was subsequently snatched up by hip indie distributor Neon, who have just now released it on the art house circuit. While a small minority of critics have dismissed the film as a formulaic suspense drama that is buoyed by exemplary performances, the vast majority of reviewers have hailed “Little Woods” as a wildly impressive bow from what they believe to be one of the most promising new female voices in the motion picture business.
Described as filled with tension and dread, it currently holds a most desirable 97-percent positive rating on the influential website RottenTomatoes, and the performance at the heart of the film by its star Tessa Thompson (“Selma,” “Veronica Mars”) has been singled out for copious praise. Showtime is at 4 p.m., with doors opening at 3:30 p.m. Admission to all CinemaSavannah events is cash only, so don’t forget to bring actual money instead of just plastic.
The Look Back
Later that same night, on April 28, the LGBT Center on Bull Street near the Starland District plays host to another installment of "The Look Back," a free monthly series of edgy, provocative “Queer Cinema” which is curated by the duo of yours truly and the House of Gunt’s Max Arnzen.
This series is designed to spotlight a wide variety of perspectives on all manner of LGBT culture, with an emphasis on the contrast between the current state of the worldwide queer community, as seen through the cinematic lens and earlier eras of the gay, lesbian and transgender experience. The motion pictures take place on the last Sunday of every month in the center’s cozy, 30-person capacity meeting room, and are open to all members of the general public.
This month’s selection is one of the most influential and groundbreaking LGBT-themed movies ever made: the 1931 German drama “Mädchen in Uniform,” translated as “Girls in Uniform,” which stands as the first feature film made about lesbian relationships. It caused quite a stir when initially released and quickly became an international cult classic for its realistic portrayal of the intense bonds existing between young girls at an all-female boarding school. The film was also the first to feature an all-female cast.
It was banned in the USA out of fear it would corrupt impressionable youth, yet despite having several minutes of controversial footage removed by censors some 70 years ago, it remains a potent and powerful romantic drama. The longest-known surviving print of the film will be shown in its original spoken German, with English subtitles. Admission is free, as are concessions including popcorn, candy, water and soft drinks. Voluntary donations are gladly accepted to help defray the costs of the series, but are not required. Showtime 7 p.m.
PFS: Nothing profound
And finally, on May 1, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running and award-winning weekly series of overlooked or marginalized feature films from around the world continues as it does every Wednesday at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse on Forsyth Park. That night, the PFS will screen the campy, yet surprisingly effective, 1966 sci-fi/horror flick “Destination Inner Space.”
Often mocked for its cheap-looking sets, costumes and special effects, this ultra low-budget B movie about a group of marine scientists who stumble upon an alien spaceship at the bottom of the ocean and unwittingly attract its ghastly extraterrestrial pilot to their undersea laboratory is actually a surprisingly fun and enjoyable romp that provides more than its fair share of thrills and scares.
Sure, the monster is clearly a guy in a rubber suit, and sure, the plot draws upon most every cliché of sci-fi thrillers from the '50s and '60s combined. But, in truth, for every campy line of dialog or rather ridiculous action scene, “Destination Inner Space” wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s clear that everyone working on this picture cared about the finished product and gave it their all, despite its hackneyed nature. As noted author and expert on fantastical filmmaking Jeff Rovin wrote: “…low budget and average performances do not prevent director Francis Lyon from providing a first-rate entertainment. Nothing profound; just fun.”
Come prepared to chuckle a bit and perhaps to discover an above-average cheesy retro movie. 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: “2018/2019 BANFF Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour”
When: 7 p.m. April 25
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
When: 7 p.m. Apr. 25-27; 3 p.m. April 28
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
What: “Love Takes Flight”
When: 8 p.m. April 27
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
Cost: Free, reservations required
What: “Little Woods”
When: 4 p.m. April 28
Where: Jewish Educational Alliance, 5111 Abercorn St.
Cost: $10 cash only
What: “Madchen In Uniform”
When: 7 p.m. April 28
Where: Savannah LGBT Center, 1515 Bull St.
Cost: Free, donations appreciated
What: “Destination Inner Space”
When: 8 p.m. May 1
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.