There’s an extremely wide variety of unusual, specialty film screenings taking place around the greater Savannah area over the next seven days, and as always, Film Scene is your one-stop destination for information on all the notable big screen options which fall outside of the confines of standard, corporate multiplex fare.
Let’s dig in, shall we?
Shake it off
On Aug. 15 and 16, the restored, historic Mars Theatre in the nearby Effingham Co. city of Springfield, Ga.—about a 30-minute drive from downtown Savannah—hosts revival screenings of the 1984 musical drama “Footloose,” which stars Kevin Bacon as a handsome, big-city teenager with an aversion to authority who foments something of a high school revolt in a small, exceedingly religious Utah town.
Shocked to find the hamlet has banned all forms of dancing—out of fear of the danger of prurient interests ensnaring their innocent and impressionable youth—Bacon’s athletic character gives the finger to a stuck-up preacher played by John Lithgow and kicks up a mighty wind full of stodgy dust with his well-worn Capezios. It’s one part “Flashdance,” one part “Blackboard Jungle” and five parts “ridiculous.” If you’ve only ever seen this extremely dated feel-good popcorn flick on TV, now’s your chance to see it exactly as its creators intended. 7 p.m. showtimes both nights.
A few nights later, on Aug. 22, the Mars kicks off a weeklong engagement of director and producer Jon Favreau’s brand-new CGI remake of Disney’s 1994 smash hand-drawn animated feature “The Lion King.” This dramatic take of a young African lion who must take over as the rightful heir to the throne of his native land after his father is killed stands as one of the most expensive motion pictures ever made. It cost right around $260 million to make, but that risk has paid off, as it has to date brought in almost $1.5 billion worldwide, making it the highest grossing animated film of all-time.
Truth be told, the critics have not all been kind to this remake, with a good number of them panning it as a hollow reimagining of the earlier film which serves no real purpose other than to wring a few more bucks out of folks who loved the first version and are curious to see how this one might stack up. Some critics as well have found the more “realistic” computer animation to be rather “soulless” and inferior to the more simplistic, yet heartfelt, hand-drawn artwork of the original. Regardless, many viewers will likely appreciate Favreau’s extended take on this beloved tale. 7 p.m. showtimes on Aug. 22 – 24 and 29 – 31, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Aug. 25.
Peace and love
Speaking of incredibly lengthy motion pictures, the Cinemark multiplex in nearby Bluffton, S.C. is the closest area theater which will be showing the digital simulcast of the almost absurdly long director’s cut of director Michael Wadleigh’s landmark 1970 rock concert documentary “Woodstock,” which has been timed to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of that iconic rock festival in Bethel, New York.
One of the defining motion pictures of its era, this digitally restored, extended version of what was already a lengthy motion picture experience now contains an additional 40 minutes worth of songs and footage which was not included in the film’s original theatrical release. That means its running time is now three hours and 44 minutes. The filmic image has been cleaned up significantly, scanned digitally in 2K resolution from the original elements and the audio has been remixed for 5.1 surround sound. This extended version includes live performances by Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix which were not originally included—as well as material by Crosby, Stills & Nash, Richie Havens, The Who, Joan Baez, Santana, Joe Cocker and others which was.
If you’ve never seen this film before, I cannot think of a better format or opportunity in which to do so. Hilariously, while the theaters which are streaming this high-def presentation are offering an intermission at the halfway point during this extremely long doc, it is – get this – only five minutes in length! So, I guess that would allow everyone to make it halfway to the bathroom. 7 p.m. showtime.
On Aug. 16, local film organization CinemaSavannah returns to the newly opened Savannah Cultural Arts Center (CAC) for its second event in that lovely space. They have booked the award-winning U.K. musical drama “Wild Rose” for a one-show-only engagement. This will be the regional premiere of this emotional, crowd-pleasing rags-to-riches tale starring Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo.
The story of an upstart, working-class female Scottish singer of country music who throws caution to the wind and packs her bags for Nashville in hopes of making it to the Grand Ole Opry, it’s an uplifting and raucous feel-good picture that earned Buckley the Best Actress Awards at both of the most recent Dublin and Newport Beach International Film Festivals and seems poised to make her a bona fide big-screen star. 6:30 p.m. showtime.
On the river
Sticking around downtown, the Lucas Theatre on the corner of Abercorn and Broughton has a very full roster this upcoming weekend. First off, their recent “Hitchcock or Hepburn” series continues with a showing of director John Huston’s 1951 classic “The African Queen,” starring Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Theodore Bikel and Robert Morley. A universally adored motion picture, it stands as the only movie Bogart ever won an Oscar (Best Actor) for. It is the action-packed and occasionally comedic tale of an improbable romance between a salty Canadian boat captain (Bogart) and a female Christian missionary (Hepburn) while traveling along a German-controlled East African river just about the time that WWI is beginning.
Though some plot points and dialog exchanges are exceedingly silly, the chemistry between the two leads is palpable and remains a draw to this day, almost 70 years after its release. The Lucas will most likely be screening the 4K digital restoration of the film, which was completed about a decade ago, and is a noticeable upgrade over the previous versions in circulation. 7 p.m. showtime.
A new hope
The following day, Aug. 17, will likely be one of the busiest this venue has seen in quite some time, as they have finally been granted permission to screen the first three “Star Wars” films in order, which has been on the wish list of this venue for years now. Lucasfilm has always been extremely protective of how, when and where they allowed the early films to be shown in revival engagements. When I say the first three films, I mean the initial 1977 trilogy: “Episode IV - A New Hope” (noon), “Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” (4 p.m.) and “Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” (8 p.m.).
Listen, here’s the deal.
I stood in line on opening day to see the very first Star Wars movie. I was 7-years-old, and had already begun devouring classic sci-fi films via UHF TV and 1930s adventure serials via PBS. It’s hard to explain for those who weren’t alive at that point in time just how huge a deal that first film in the franchise was. Over the intervening decades, there have been several more entries into the series – some good, some bad and most in between. I quickly lost interest, but others, like my younger brother—who wasn’t even born when the first entry came out—got way more into that world than I ever could.
Most of my disenchantment came courtesy of the franchise creator himself, George Lucas, which proved to be a less than admirable steward of his own saga. Case in point: the original, theatrical prints of these first three films were long ago gathered up by Lucasfilm at George’s insistence, and thrown in a vault where they remain to this day, purportedly never to be seen again. In 1997, to commemorate the 20th Anniversaries of the first film’s debut, he instead theatrically released special editions of the initial trilogy featuring all manner of unexpected (and completely unnecessary) tweaks, additions and updates to those original prints.
Using then-cutting-edge digital technology and CGI effects, Lucas inserted new characters, spruced up the special VFX and generally made the film’s visually busier and shinier. Like a “Star Wars” version of a Richard Scarry children’s book. For the most part, these versions retain the same plotlines and dialog of their un-retouched versions, and many would argue that the changes Lucas made are minor and mostly amount to window dressing. However, the simple truth of the matter is that for the past 22 years, most anyone who has ever seen the first three pictures in that franchise in anything approaching a high-resolution format, has not seen the same films as did those of us who made the pictures box-office smashes in the first place.
It’s akin to reading a classic, timeless novel, which –unbeknownst to you– has had numerous small edits and changes made to it decades after it was published, and for which all prior copies of the book have been destroyed or hidden away from view. It’s artistic revisionism of the worst sort, in that it aims to render invisible the works of art which came before it. As though they were somehow rough drafts or demos rather than completed, fully-fleshed and incredibly impressive motion pictures that had earned tens of millions of devoted fans worldwide.
It’s these altered versions of the first three films which the Lucas will be screening in a marathon of sorts on August 17. That’s not their fault. It’s quite literally the only versions of the films which are currently being made available to be seen in theaters by anyone. And, I get it. There were plenty of little technical mistakes and slight discrepancies in the visual effects of the first few “Star Wars” films which were viewed by fans as charming goofs yet viewed obsessively by George Lucas as fatal flaws.
They are in a very real sense his movies and he should be able to do with them as he pleases. However, at a certain point, a work of art also becomes the mental and emotional property of all who witness it. And when you deny the public the opportunity to have another look at something they fell in love with, and instead insist that they gaze instead at something similar that you’ve fallen in love with, that’s when resentment can set in.
So, if you’ve never seen these films on the big screen, or have not in decades, by all means, rush out and catch one or all of them at the Lucas. But, if you saw them back in the day during their first go around, be advised that they may not look or feel quite the same to you anymore. And, if you are not old enough to have even had the opportunity to see the unadulterated versions, be advised: I’m not some crotchety old guy yelling at kids to get off my lawn. The less shiny, less busy, original prints were better and more enjoyable films. That’s just real talk.
If you want to see what those looked like, I encourage you to spend some time searching around the far corners of the internet, where a small but insanely devoted group of “Star Wars” fans have spent tons of time, effort, thought and expense to recreate their own unauthorized versions of the first three films, using a wide variety of hard-to-find copies of the originals. They’ve meticulously used modern-day digital technology to essentially remove all the flair that Lucas shoehorned into these special editions that they can, and they have done so in the highest quality possible, given the inherent limitations of their undertaking.
Until that day when the current owners of Lucasfilm’s library (The Walt Disney Studios) see fit to re-release those unembellished prints back into theaters and onto home video formats, these bird-flipping bootleg reductions will have to suffice. Admission is $10 per film, but you get all-day passes at a discount.
Heading up to Forsyth Park, on Aug. 21 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running weekly showcase of bizarre or simply underappreciated motion pictures from around the world continues with an unusual piece of programming. Instead of showing a feature film as they normally do, the PFS will instead present their first-ever installment of what they’re calling Trailer Trash-O-Rama.
It’s a custom-made, 80-minute compilation of dozens of rare and often commercially unavailable 35mm theatrical movie trailers from decades past drawn from the society’s fabled archives. Revisit the glory days of Drive-In and Grindhouse culture with these over-the-top previews of little-known action, horror and sci-fi flicks that have fallen through the cracks into relative obscurity. It’s like taking a time machine back to the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s and sitting through the coming attractions at a low-rent theater.
Immediately prior to the screening, the PFS will raffle off several rare DVDs and collectibles as well. As always, a full, award-winning vegetarian dinner menu is available, as well as fair-trade coffees and teas and fresh pastries. Plus, there are discounts during the show on craft beers and organic wines. Come prepared to laugh and cheer at the ridiculousness of it all. 8 p.m. showtime.
And finally, on Aug. 22, the historic Tybee Post Theater holds a one-night-only engagement of “Poms,” the recently released female-centric comedy about a group of women in a retirement home who are inspired to start a geriatric cheerleading squad as an extracurricular activity.
The film stars Diane Keaton (“Looking for Mister Goodbar”) and Australian Jackie Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”) as well as Pam Grier (“Jackie Brown”) and Rhea Perlman (TV’s “Cheers”), and while it did not receive an enthusiastic response from critics, most of whom felt the talented cast was squandered on run-of-the-mill sight gags and cliched situations, it will likely be appreciated by those looking for a cool and relaxing evening out that doesn’t require too much analytical thinking. 7 p.m. showtime, and your admission price includes a beverage of your choice.
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
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 15, 16
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St. Springfield, Ga.
What: “Woodstock - The Director’s Cut”
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 15
Where: Cinemark Multiplex, 106 Buckwalter Pkwy. Bluffton, S.C.
What: “Wild Rose”
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16
Where: Savannah Cultural Arts Center, 201 Montgomery St.
Cost: $10 (cash only)
What: “The African Queen”
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 16
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
Cost: $5 - $8
What: “Star Wars – The First Trilogy”
When: 12 p.m. “Episode IV - A New Hope;” 4 p.m. “Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back;”, 8 p.m.; “Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” Aug. 17
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
Cost: $10 per film; All-Day Passes--$12 students, kids under 15 and SCAD Card holders; $20 military and seniors; $25 general public
What: “Psychotronic Trailer Trash-O-Rama”
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 21
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 22
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave. Tybee Island, Ga.
What: “The Lion King”
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31; 3 p.m. Aug. 25
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St. Springfield, Ga.