There’s plenty of unusual cinematic fare being presented in and around Savannah over the next seven days at alternative venues – and this is your one-stop guide to that celluloid smorgasbord. Choose wisely, dear readers. Your very life may depend on it!
We start things off out on Tybee Island, where the restored, historic single-screen Post Theater will screen the 1939 fantasy classic “The Wizard of Oz” on May 9. If you’ve only ever seen this beyond surreal adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel on a TV, you owe it to yourself to witness it as the filmmakers intended. It still packs a mighty wallop. Showtime 7 p.m.
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On May 16, the Tybee Post kicks off a three-day, five-show engagement of one of the most frustratingly impressive and perplexingly enjoyable dramedies in recent memory: provocative filmmaker Harmony Korine’s latest topsy-turvy look at the downside of monied party culture, “The Beach Bum.”
Described as “an epic goof” by one critic, this wide-eyed portrait of the downfall of a decadently hedonistic counterculture literary sensation is played with tremendous aplomb by Matthew McConaughey. He’s become a volatile Key West stoner icon who can be a bit of a rough slog at times.
The movie's pacing is rather uneven and it veers wildly from borderline inscrutable art-house territory to populist, low-brow, gross-out slapstick shenanigans. However, with Korine (“Kids,” “Gummo,” “Ken Park,” “Trash Humpers,” “Spring Breakers”) at the helm, the end result is a bracing, tumultuous blur of vivid, crowded images and occasionally unconnected vignettes that wind up sending semaphore signals to the audience rather than a lengthy email.
Boasting unexpected faces who acquit themselves very well in key supporting roles (Snoop Dogg, Martin Laurence, Jonah Hill) and stunt casting cameos by folks who either hit it out of the park (Zac Efron – yes, that Zac Efron) or who drop the ball so clumsily that you can almost feel the audience groaning in embarrassment for them (Jimmy Buffet playing himself, no less), “The Beach Bum” is definitely not an uplifting picture, although there are plenty of nervous laughs to be had along the way. Cleverly booked into this cozy venue just in time for the island’s own famed Beach Bum Parade, this passion project by a willfully obstinate auteur may leave many Tybee residents in a state of utter confusion, but I am sure Korine wouldn’t have it any other way. Showtimes at 7 p.m. on May 16, 17 and 19, with 3 p.m. matinees on May 17 and 19.
Sermon on the ice
Out in Springfield, on May 9 the similarly-sized historic movie house known as the Mars Theatre opens a four-day engagement of the just-released family drama “Breakthrough,” starring Topher Grace and Mike Colter. Based on the true tale of a young boy who fought for his life after falling into an icy Mid-western lake, it’s been called one of the best faith-based theatrical films made in recent memory. Viewers who do not already adhere to the particular brand of Evangelical Christianity at the heart of this message movie may be put off by its sermonizing tone. Showtimes at 7 p.m. May 9 through 11, with a 3 p.m. matinee on May 12.
May 9 is also when White Whale Craft Ales holds its second DIY short film fest. The theme this time around is Love Stories. Local filmmakers have been encouraged to submit conceptually suitable work that’s less than 15 minutes in length. Films will be shown on an inside wall of the beer retailer and dispensary starting at 7 p.m.
SAA Film Fest
The next night, May 10, the Film Studies Department at the public arts magnet high school known as Savannah Arts Academy hosts their 14th annual SAA Film & Media Festival. This 7 p.m. showcase features short films of all types made by students in that department, which has been hailed as the state’s “largest and best high school film program.” Showtime is at 7 p.m., with reserved seats available in advance online. For more on this way-cool, under-the-radar event, see the full feature elsewhere in this issue.
Two days later, on May 12, local film organization CinemaSavannah’s ongoing series of award-winning independent and/or foreign features continues at the Jewish Educational Alliance auditorium with one of the more unusual low-budget documentaries to hit this year’s international festival circuit. “Hail Satan?” is the just-released nonfiction look at the work of The Satanic Temple, a religious and political activist organization formed in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2013 that utilizes traditional satanic imagery and tropes to promote a distinctly non-religious ideal of social justice and egalitarianism, while fiercely supporting the U.S. Constitution’s mandated separation of church and state.
Many believe this organization — not to be confused with the San Francisco-based Church of Satan, formed in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey — is little more than an elaborate prank being perpetrated by publicity-hungry provocateurs. Others see it as a sincere and legitimate organization that is happy to utilize satire and associations with devil worship in pursuit of its main goals – namely "to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people” and to “highlight religious hypocrisy and encroachment on religious freedom.”
Directed by esteemed female filmmaker Penny Lane, it’s said to be an eye-opening look at the hypocrisy which surrounds America's tax-exempt status for religious organizations and this secular humanist-based temple that is fighting to expose that hypocrisy. This will be the film’s only area screening. Start time is 4 p.m., and admission is cash only at the door.
PFS: Black Veil
And last but not least, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running and award-winning weekly series of overlooked or marginalized feature films from around the world continues on May 15 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse with a rare public showing of the 1968 Italian murder mystery “A Black Veil for Lisa.”
The script for this little-known Giallo — the term for dark and intense Italian or Spanish crime films dealing with murder and mayhem — is filled with twists and turns. It deals with a police inspector who’s intent on busting up a major drug-smuggling ring in Hamburg, Germany. Unfortunately, a mysterious assassin is killing all of their police informants. This leads the inspector to hire said assassin for a little contract job of his own.
The film wears some of its influences on its sleeve, with the director Massimo Dallamano, who also served as the cinematographer on Sergio Leone’s landmark Spaghetti Westerns “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More,” paying homage to both the classic French thriller “Diabolique” and Hitchcock’s masterful “Vertigo.” The directorial style is pure adrenaline, with tons of jarring edits, fast-moving close-ups and more than a bit of erotic tension on display. The PFS will show “A Black Veil for Lisa” in its original widescreen format, restored from vintage film elements, in spoken English. Showtime is 8 p.m., with a full vegetarian menu available and discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show.
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: “The Wizard of Oz”
When: 7 p.m. May 9
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
When: 7 p.m. May 9-11; 3 p.m. May 12
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
What: Love Stories Film Fest
When: 7 p.m. May 9
Where: White Whale Craft Ales, 1207 Bull St.
What: 14th Annual Savannah Arts Academy Film & Media Festival
When: 7 p.m. May 10
Where: Savannah Arts Academy, 500 Washington Ave.
Cost: $20 reserved seats
What: “Hail Satan?”
When: 4 p.m. May 12
Where: Jewish Educational Alliance, 5111 Abercorn St.
Cost: $10 (cash only)
What: “A Black Veil for Lisa”
When: 8 p.m. May 15
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
What: “The Beach Bum”
When: 7 p.m. May 16, 17, 19, 3 p.m. May 17, 19
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island