While there are plenty of options for alternative cinema events taking place over the next seven days at independent or non-traditional outlets in the greater Savannah area, it’s the restored, historic Tybee Post Theater that’s offering more different programming choices than any other venue.
Post with the most
First up, on Aug. 22, they’ll present “Poms,” the recently released female-led comedy aimed squarely at the AARP crowd. It’s about four retirement home residents who start their own cheerleading squad to stay spry. Showtime 7 p.m., admission price includes a beverage of your choice.
The next night, Aug. 23, kicks off a two-day engagement of the internationally acclaimed U.K. musical drama “Wild Rose,” which appears to be one of the sleeper indie hits of the year. You may recall that it was recently screened downtown at the city’s new Cultural Arts Center by the local film organization CinemaSavannah. In case you missed that area premiere, this is perhaps your last chance to see this picture on the big screen in our neck of the woods.
It was first shown late last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, and then released to European theaters in April of this year. It’s U.S. release just occurred in June. “Wild Rose” is the tale of a struggling Scottish single mother of two young children who’s just been released from prison and aspires to become a famous country singer. The story charts her efforts to overcome the adversity of her living situation and make it all the way to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry in hopes of stardom. However, this is far from a stereotypical rags-to-riches story, and audiences and reviewers far and wide have been entranced with lead actress, and actual vocalist, Jessie Buckley’s unguarded and soul-baring performance as the troubled dreamer. Showtimes at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 and 24, with a 3 p.m. matinee Aug. 23.
A couple of days later, the Post wraps up its offerings for this next week with two screenings of the recently released surfing documentary “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable,” which focuses on the tragedy which befell Hamilton in 2003 – when the then-13-year-old surfer was savagely attacked by a Tiger shark while at sea and lost her left arm – and the steely-eyed determination she brought to not only returning to the water but to competing in world championship surfing events.
Directed by respected surfing doc filmmaker Aaron Lieber, the film is said to be well-made and packed with captivating footage of Hamilton impressively navigating challenging waves. However, it’s also said to leave some viewers wanting more insight into exactly what sort of internal drive allows this athlete to triumph over what seemingly must be tremendous anxiety and post-traumatic stress to head back into the same environment where she was so unexpectedly mauled. Regardless, this picture is the latest in a small number of cinematic paeans to the wonder and joys of riding the waves. Showtimes at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Aug. 25.
That same day, at the AMC Classic 11 multiplex behind the Savannah Mall on the city’s Southside, Fathom Events will present one showing only of the 1988 Japanese anime gem “My Neighbor Totoro.” This high-definition digital stream of one of the most beloved titles from the famed Studio Ghibli animation factory — helmed by the late, pioneering animator and writer-director Hayao Miyazaki — is one of a few handfuls of Japanese animated features which have been screened rather consistently in our area over the past three years or so.
GKIDS has been savvy and aggressively marketed those earlier, award-winning features via high-def streaming to cinemas nationwide under the banner “Ghibli Fest.” For many folks (especially younger viewers), these showings are often their first-ever opportunity to see these masterful pieces of art on the big screen the way their creators intended, rather than watching them on DVD, Blu-Ray, the internet or cable TV.
“My Neighbor Totoro” is set a few years after the end of WWII and is a fantastical tale of two young girls and their father, a professor, who must deal with ghostly spirits in the woods near their home. Beautifully drawn, with a unique, translucent color palette, it was named the greatest animated film of all time by none other than celebrated filmmaker and Monty Python cast member Terry Gilliam, director of “Brazil,” “Time Bandits” and “12 Monkeys.”
Rather than the film’s Japanese language version, which relied on English subtitles), this Fathom presentation utilizes the later dubbed version, which matches the original 1988 visuals with an entirely new soundtrack created in 2005. It features such well-known American actors as Tim Daly and both Dakota and Elle Fanning delivering the characters’ lines. Showtime 12:55 p.m.
That same day, the Mars Theatre in nearby Springfield screens the just-released CGI remake of Disney’s 1994 animated hit “The Lion King,” directed by Jon Favreau. One of the most expensive motion pictures ever made — more than a quarter of a billion dollars — it has since grossed more money at the box office than any other animated film in the history of the world. That said, apparently a ton of folks seem to prefer the original 1994 version, which may at least partially be due to the fact they’ve seen it so many times that it’s imprinted on their brain. But, it may also be due to the fact that many viewers have reported that this remake’s more “realistic” style of animation actually winds up producing less emotional connection to the characters onscreen than the old-fashioned, hand-drawn imagery of the original. Who’d have thought, right? Right…
The Mars is a beautiful facility that matches a state-of-the-art projection system with an historic location that has been lovingly renovated. Showtimes 7 p.m. Aug. 29 through 31, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Aug. 25.
The Look Back, young queer love
Heading back into town, Aug. 25 also marks the last Sunday of the month, which means that is when the LGBT Center on Bull St. just a few blocks South of Forsyth Park, holds its monthly “Queer Cinema” series known as The Look Back. Co-curated by both myself and local community activist and cinema scholar Max Arnzen, this ongoing showcase of noteworthy examples of LGBTQ-oriented filmmaking was designed to give the general public an opportunity to view everything from documentaries to comedies and from dramas to horror films that they would otherwise likely never see screened in this area.
Each film is shown in the intimate environment of the center’s meeting room, and seating accommodates around 35 people. Admission is always free, as are a variety of concessions including popcorn, candy, soft drinks and bottled water. Voluntary donations in any amount are always welcomed at the door, as those proceeds go toward the expenses of getting permission to show these films in public.
This month’s selection is perhaps the most mainstream or well-known title The Look Back has shown to date, as it’s director Luca Guadagnino’s sensual 2017 coming-of-age drama “Call Me by Your Name,” which was received four Oscar nominations and for which celebrated filmmaker James Ivory won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Set in northern Italy, it’s the tale of a 17-year-old American son of an archeology professor who finds himself drawn to an older graduate student of his father’s in the summer of 1983. A fairly stunning and mesmerizing piece of work, it’s a truly affecting and poetic rumination on the delicacy and difficulty of young love. We hope you’ll join us. Showtime 7 p.m.
Heading back out to the Southside, the next night, Sept. 26, Georgia Southern University will host acclaimed Japanese-American actor, filmmaker, playwright and performance artist Lane Nishikawa at their Armstrong Center Auditorium. Nishikawa he will screen and discuss his brand-new documentary “Our Lost Years,” which focuses on the shameful internment of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans by the U.S. government during WWII. The release of the film is designed to commemorate both the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 — where in President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the relocation of these citizens — and the 30th anniversary of H.R. 442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 — which awarded restitution payments of $20,000 to Japanese-American survivors of those same civilian internment camps.
This East Coast premiere of the doc and the post-show talk by its Harvard Foundation Honoree creator – who has enjoyed a long and respected career, both by working as artistic director of San Francisco’s Asian American Theater Company and as Resident Director of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival – serves as the latest annual installment of the Mark Finlay Memorial Lecture. Admission to this 6:30 p.m. screening is free, as is the reception following.
The documentary “Out Lost Years” will screen at the Armstrong Georgia Southern campus on Sept. 26. In the print version and first digital version of this story, the date was incorrectly printed as Aug. 26.
And finally, on Aug. 28 at the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse, the Psychotronic Film Society continues its long-running, award-winning weekly Wednesday night showcase of overlooked, underrated or just plain obscure feature films from around the world. This time, they’ll screen the laughably inept, ultra-low-budget 1982 sci-fi thriller “Nightbeast.”
It was written and directed by the late, legendary Maryland-based DIY filmmaker Don Dohler, whose output mostly consisted of repeatedly remaking the same “evil space alien on a rampage with a raygun” that he first shot in the late 1970s. It’s a deadly serious action drama pitting rural, Baltimore-area law enforcement with, you guessed it, an evil space alien on a rampage with a raygun. The alien is little more than a guy wearing an ill-fitting rubber mask and fake hands, and its high-tech weapon looks suspiciously like a toy from a dollar store.
Filled with amateurish acting, ludicrous dialog and bargain-basement special effects, it’s a charming testament to the dedication a small, devoted crew of glorified amateurs can put into something they truly care about – regardless of how unlikely it is to actual amount to anything of note. Best of all, none other than J.J. Abrams — Emmy Award-winning writer, director and producer from such massive hit properties as “Regarding Henry,” “Mission Impossible III,” “Super 8” and the rebooted “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” franchises, TV’s “Lost,” “Alias,” “Felicity” and “Fringe” — got his very first onscreen credit for working on this $50,000 turkey that has earned a small, but devoted cult following worldwide.
Fans of MST3K-quality “so-bad-it’s-good” duds will find much to love about “Nightbeast,” and the fact that the Bean offers discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the show will make the whole thing that much more entertaining. 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
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 22
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
What: “Wild Rose”
When: 3 p.m. Aug. 23; 7 p.m. Aug. 23, 24
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
What: “My Neighbor Totoro”
When: 12:55 p.m. Aug. 25
Where: AMC Savannah 11, 1150 Shawnee St.
What: “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable”
When: 3 p.m. & 7 p.m. Aug. 25
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
What: “The Lion King”
When: 3 p.m. Aug. 25; 7 p.m. Aug. 29-31
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
What: “Call Me by Your Name”
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 25
Where: Savannah LGBT Center, 1515 Bull St.
Cost: Free, donations appreciated
What: “Our Lost Years”
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26
Where: Armstrong Center Auditorium, 13040 Abercorn St.
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 28
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.