Greetings, fellow film lovers. Welcome back to another weekly installment of Film Scene, where we give Do Savannah readers a concise, one-stop preview of all the notable alternative cinema screenings taking place in our area over the next seven days.
That means programming choices which would not otherwise play at our corporate-owned multiplexes as well as mainstream fare that’s being presented at independently-operated venues. As always, admission info for all of our featured events can be found in the accompanying sidebar listings.
Before we dive into this issue’s roundup, allow me to most heartily encourage you to make a beeline for any local multiplex that’s still showing “Midsommar,” writer-director Ari Aster’s just-released follow-up to his highly praised 2016 feature-length horror debut, the surprise box-office success “Hereditary.”
“Midsommar” is a highly unorthodox psychological thriller set in a remote Swedish religious commune that has greatly divided audiences, with some hailing it as an instant classic of the genre and others deriding it as a bloated, pretentious failure. The truth is that it’s in no way a failure, yet it’s not quite the masterpiece some might have you believe. It is, however, a genuinely unnerving and exceedingly ambitious psychedelia-drenched drama that owes a clear stylistic debt to the best works of the late, great British filmmakers Ken Russell (“The Devils”), Nicolas Roeg (“Don’t Look Now”), and Robin Hardy (“The Wicker Man”).
Running just under two-and-a-half-hours, this methodically paced nightmare unfolds more like a densely-layered opera than a traditional horror film, and is certainly not for everyone. However, those who like their scares delivered in eerie drips and drabs rather than being (metaphorically) bludgeoned over the head with a hammer will likely remain spellbound and intensely focused on this beautiful and technically proficient unfolding of an all-too-believable tale of faith-based evil.
It’s not often a truly twisted and remarkably well-made film of this sort makes its way to our corporate-owned multiplexes, so do take advantage of this rare opportunity while you can. A word to the wise: avoid reading or learning anything at all about this film ahead of time, lest those potential spoilers ruin the experience for you.
Back in black
Now, looking ahead to what’s gracing the big screens in and around Savannah over the next seven days, we’ll start at Tybee Island, where the historic Post Theater presents the latest installment of the well-known sci-fi/action/comedy franchise “Men In Black,” which has, to date, amassed worldwide box-office grosses totaling close to $2 billion. “Men in Black International” has received poor reviews from critics, but fans of the franchise seem to like it just fine, and it’s said to have very impressive visual effects.Showtimes 7 p.m. July 11 and 12, with a 3 p.m. matinee July 11.
Heading out to Springfield, that 200-capacity single-screen, family-friendly venue presents “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” a just-released entry into the popular Marvel superhero franchise. No animation here unless you count all the scenes of Spider-Man leaping about. This is a live-action feature that stars Tom Holland as the radioactive spider blood-infused crime fighter Peter Parker, but most importantly, with the great Martin Starr (Bill Haverchuck on TV’s “Freaks and Geeks”) as Parker’s academic instructor and school trip chaperone. Showtimes are 7 p.m. July 11-13 and 18, with a 3 p.m. matinee July 14.
Two for Tuesday
A few days later, the Mars Theatre’s summertime Two For Tuesday series of kids movies continues with two screenings of “Smallfoot” on July 16. A box-office hit that’s earned positive reviews, it’s an animated musical tale of a group of Abominable Snowmen and Snow women living in the Nepalese mountains who stumble upon a group of humans. “Smallfoot” features the vocal talents of rapper Common, Danny DeVito, LeBron James, Channing Tatum, Gina Rodriguez and James Corden, and screens twice, at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.
Moving into downtown, two classic Hollywood pictures will receive rare public screenings this weekend, courtesy of the Savannah College of Art and Design. SCAD owns and/or manages both the Lucas Theatre and the nearby Trustees Theater, and on July 12, the Lucas’ “Hitchcock or Hepburn” series continues with 1968’s “The Lion in Winter,” starring Katharine Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton.
Based on the stage play of the same name by James Goldman (who also adapted this screenplay himself), this period palace drama takes place in the 1100s and deals with King Henry II (O’Toole) grappling with which of his heirs shall inherit his throne. Nominated for seven Oscars, it won three, and just barely missed being one of the Top Ten highest-grossing films of the year of its release. The Los Angeles Times called it “the most literate movie of the year,” and Film Bulletin declared Hepburn’s performance as “perhaps the crowning achievement of an extraordinary career.” The film was preserved by the Academy Film Archive in 2000, and one can only assume that restored version is the one which will be screened for this engagement. Showtime is 7 p.m.
The following night, July 13 at Trustees Theater, SCAD’s Cinema Circle – an ongoing, year-round series of highly influential or noteworthy feature films from around the world – presents the 1958 film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ beloved stage play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” With a legitimately phenomenal cast which includes Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor and Burl “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” Ives, this intense, dialogue-heavy deep southern family psychodrama held down the top spot at the U.S. box-office for five weeks straight when first released.
However, Williams was none too happy with the movie studio’s alterations to his original, Pulitzer Prize-winning play, alterations which essentially obfuscated the homosexual tension at the heart of Newman’s character’s conflict. Rumor has it that Williams was so disgusted by this dumbing-down and neutering of the plot that he went so far as to personally discourage folks standing in line to see the film to choose another movie or to simply go home.
Flawed or not, this sanitized Hollywood take is still fairly stunning to behold – primarily for the bravura performances on display from virtually all the featured actors, Newman in particular. It received no less than six Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Actor [Newman], Best Actress [Taylor], Best Director and Best Color Cinematography). In the end it was awarded none, which many saw as a reaction to the film’s volatile subject matter. Regardless, six decades later it still packs a punch, and should look and sound great on the big screen of this restored 1940s cinema.
As with all of SCAD’s Cinema Circle screenings, viewers will be treated to a live introduction of the movie by a rotating group of faculty members of the school’s Film and TV department and local cinema experts. Afterwards, those hosts will lead a discussion on the making and legacy of the picture and moderate a live Q&A with audience members. Showtime 7 p.m..
PFS: James Garner night
UPDATE: This event has been cancelled, but will be rescheduled in the future.
And last, but not least, on July 17, the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah’s ongoing weekly series of underappreciated feature films continues at The Sentient Bean. That night, the PFS pays posthumous tribute to the late, great screen and TV actor James Garner (“Murphy’s Romance,” “The Great Escape,” “The Notebook” and TV’s “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files”) just two days shy of the fifth anniversary of his death from coronary disease.
A former Korean War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, the Emmy Award-winning Garner earned a storied reputation in Hollywood as one of the kindest and most caring actors in that notoriously rough-edged town. He was known as a lifelong, devoted supporter of the Democratic Party, and in 1963 joined Martin Luther King Jr. in his famed March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was also seen by later action stars such as Tom Selleck, Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood as a mentor and friend.
To celebrate his lengthy life and career, the PFS will present a beloved James Garner film from several decades past that is rarely seen in public these days, but which is remembered quite fondly by fans of the actor. A lighthearted comedy, it initially did very poorly when first shown in theaters. However, after Garner himself pledged $10,000 of his own money to pay to keep it running in a single location for one additional week, positive word of mouth began to spread and the movie eventually became one of the Top 20 most popular films of the year in which it was released.
The exact title remains a secret until its 8 p.m. showtime, but adventurous viewers and Garner fans are encouraged to take a chance, buy a ticket and be pleasantly surprised. As always, The Bean’s vegetarian menu will be available, and there will be discounts during the movie on craft beer and organic wine. Hope to see you there.
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: “Spider-Man: Far from Home”
When: 7 p.m. July 11-13, 18; 3 p.m. July 14
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
What: “Men in Black International”
When: 7 p.m. July 11-12; 3 p.m. July 11
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
What: “The Lion in Winter”
When: 7 p.m. July 12
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
What: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
When: 7 p.m. July 13
Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.
Cost: $8 (Free with SCAD ID)
When: 10 a.m., 2 p.m. July 16
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
What: “James Garner Memorial Tribute”
When: 8 p.m. July 17
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.