GREETINGS again, movie lovers, and welcome back to Connect’s weekly sneak preview of worthwhile "alternative cinema" events taking place in our area over the next seven days.
As always, if you are involved in presenting public screenings of any sort, please email every single pertinent detail of said events which you can possibly imagine directly to me at email@example.com for possible inclusion in future installments of this column.
We start out on the Southside of town at the AMC Savannah 11 multiplex, where on Feb. 12 –just in time for Valentine’s Day– Fathom presents a high-definition rerelease of director Arthur Hiller’s immensely popular 1970 romantic tearjerker “Love Story,” featuring the swoon-worthy pairing of a young Ryan O’Neal and an even younger Ali MacGraw as a mismatched couple dealing with the inequities of married life. If you’ve never seen this incredibly sentimental melodrama, prepare yourself. It’s a doozy. Onscreen commentary by learned hosts from the Turner Classic Movies channel serves as bonus material. 7 p.m. showtime.
A few nights later at that same multiplex, Fathom presents the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of dubiously factual “documentaries” designed to promote the Christian biblical belief system. I say dubiously factual because there is a multi-billion dollar cottage industry that has developed around proselytizing message movies clearly designed to win new converts to the faith (and bolster the devout beliefs of those already involved), but which are disingenuously marketed as fact-based and/or objective docs.
Even the title of Feb. 18’s feature, the two-and-a-half-hour (!) doc “Patterns of Evidence: The Red Sea Miracle Parts I & II” gives it away as what it likely was designed as: two 75-minute cable TV programs strung together into one massively long audio-visual tract pamphlet.
Described by the distributor as a “Bible-affirming investigation,” in which writer-director Timothy Mahoney searches for the exact location where the Israelites supposedly crossed the miraculously parted Red Sea as described in the scripture. 7 p.m. showtime.
The next night, Feb. 19, the AMC Classic screens the recently made Japanese anime comedy “Rode Your Wave,” from the visionary director Masaaki Yuasa (known for such films as “The Night is Short,” “Devilman Crybaby” and “Walk on Girl.” Hailed as a visually stunning yet sincerely touching, emotionally-based tale of romance and grief, “Ride Your Wave” is the story of a young woman who falls in love with a strapping and brave firefighter, only to lose him at sea. When he later mysteriously appears to her, is all as it seems, or is something more strange afoot?
Critics are divided on the merits of the storytelling involved –with some finding it sappy and filled with clichés while others found it refreshingly unique– but most all agree the imagery is beautifully crafted. In spoken Japanese with English subtitles. 7 p.m. showtime.
Heading downtown, the Sentient Bean Coffeehouse on Forsyth Park is the setting for three different Psychotronic Film Society shows in the next week. As always, the PFS turns the Bean into a dark and quiet screening-room environment for each event, with a full, award-winning vegetarian and vegan dinner menu available, as well as Fair-Trade coffees and teas and discounts on craft beer and organic wine.
First up, on Feb. 12, the PFS; regular Wednesday night showcase of underrated or obscure feature films from around the world offers a critically acclaimed early 1990s romantic drama in honor of Valentine’s Day. Boasting two famous stars (who between them have won the Oscar for Best Actress, the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Fest and numerous Golden Globes and Emmys) as mismatched lovers who must fight against society’s distrust of their unorthodox relationship, the title of this overlooked film remains a secret right up until showtime, and adventurous viewers are encouraged to buy a ticket and be pleasantly surprised. 8 p.m. showtime.
A few nights later on Sunday, Feb. 16, Connect Savannah joins with the PFS to co-sponsor a one-show-only exclusive regional engagement of one of the most celebrated independent documentaries of the year. “RECORDER: The Marion Stokes Project” recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Documentary Feature.
It’s the unbelievable-yet-true tale of Marion Stokes, a civil rights demonstrator, activist, librarian, and –perhaps most notably– a hoarder and amateur archivist who in 1977 began videotaping American broadcast TV news networks 24-hours a day on eight separate VHS recorders in her various homes.
By the time she died in 2012, Stokes had quietly amassed over 70,000 hours of footage over 35 years, and upon her death it became recognized as the single largest and most important archive of its kind in the world. This new film not only dives deep into this amazing treasure trove, but paints a vivid portrait of one of the most iconoclastic, outspoken black women of her generation. This special screening takes place at 8 p.m., and due to it being a first-run title that is only available in theaters, no discount passes can be accepted.
Finally, on Feb. 19, the PFS presents the “forgotten horror” film “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” a highly influential 1933 thriller directed by the late, great Michael Curtiz (“Casblanca”), and starring Lionel Atwill (“Son of Frankenstein”) and Fay Wray (“King Kong”) that stands as the final film ever made using the original “two-color” Technicolor process.
That process was abandoned for a more visually accurate three-color process soon thereafter, and all prints and negatives of this rare, early color film were believed lost for decades until a single 35mm print was found in the private collection of Warner Bros. Studios head Jack L. Warner. It’s a copy of that rediscovered print that will be shown at the Bean. 8 p.m. showtime.
Heading out to nearby Springfield, Ga., their historic Mars Theatre shows the mainstream family-oriented action-adventure-comedy “Sonic The Headgehog” 7 p.m. Feb. 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 and 27, and 3 p.m. Feb. 16 and 23 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 14. This massive-budget film mixes CGI animation with live action.
Moving out to Tybee Island, the restored, historic Tybee Post Theater opens a timely engagement of British filmmaker Sam Mendes’ (“American Beauty,” “Skyfall,” “The Road to Perdition”) latest big-screen effort, the epic WWI action-drama “1917,” which just won three Oscars (for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Mixing).
Similar in plot and tone to the 1998 WWII tale “Saving Private Ryan,” the movie is designed to appear as though its entire two-hour runtime consists of only one single, continuous shot. It’s a daring and difficult filmmaking conceit that has been used a few handful of times in the past, but perhaps never to this level of believability. Showtimes 7 p.m. Feb. 13, 15 and 16, with 3 p.m. matinee Feb. 16.
A few nights later, the Tybee Post opens a three-day engagement of writer-director Greta Gerwig’s latest effort, a new, yet faithful adaptation of “Little Women,” the timeless 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott which just took home the Oscar for Best Costume Design. Packed with an almost crazily impressive ensembles cast including Saoirse Ronan, Bob Odenkirk, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson and Chris Cooper, it’s said to be one of the finest period piece films produced in the past decade, and one of the best feature films released in the past year. Showtimes 7 p.m. Feb. 20, 21 and 22, with 3 p.m. matinees Feb. 21 and 22.
Moving back downtown, the local organization CinemaSavannah (which has built a loyal audience base for its slate of first-run foreign and indie selections) adds another feather in its cap with the U.S. nontheatrical premiere of the acclaimed, intense and dark 2019 Polish dramedy “Corpus Christi,” which they’ve been granted special permission to screen at the Savannah Cultural Arts Center a full week before any other theaters in the USA.
This unnerving tale of a violent criminal who becomes devoutly religious during a lengthy prison sentence and struggles to gain permission to become a priest after his release, this “spiritual parable” has been praised by reviewers as an “understated, fierce masterpiece.” plus what’s said to be a star-making turn by lead actor Bartosz Bielenia. Said critic Dustin Chase of “Texas Art & Film,” “‘Corpus Christi’ makes (Paul Schrader’s recent, acclaimed religious drama) ‘First Reformed’ look like a Disney movie.” This would seem to not be one to miss. 7 p.m. showtime. There is no parking onsite, so make sure to factor in additional time to find a spot.
And, last but not least, the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University offers a one-time-only showing of the brand-new documentary “Border South” at 6 p.m. on Feb. 19 at the Armstrong Center Auditorium on the Southside.
Directed by Raúl O. Paz Pastrana, it’s a film four years in the making which follows migrant routes up from southern Mexico to the U.S. border, and provides a detailed, extremely unique perspective on the experience of migrants who brave life-threatening danger to come to our country, but somehow find the ability to face that harsh reality with good humor and a sense of camaraderie.
The film also showcases the Undocumented Migration Project, a group effort that both collects and catalogs personal items migrants travelling through the harsh Arizona desert leave behind on their trek. Admission to this film is free to the general public, and free parking is available onsite as well, starting at 5 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.