Savannah Film Festival film recommendations

I was honored to be able to work with my Sundance film crew at the Savannah film festival this year. I’d been to some film archive events in Savannah before, but never worked this festival. It is fancy! It’s university-run (SCAD), and invites interesting B-list actors and directors to attend. Everyone involved was super enthusiastic. This festival is a nice mix of indie, documentary, shorts, animation, and big name hits.

I got to work at the largest venue, the Lucas, at 1200 seats. It’s not the poshest theatre, since it doesn’t have 7.1 surround sound, but I loved it. 62 stairs to the booth, which still has the old 35mm Kelmar film projectors (recently refurbished). The stairs nearly killed me.

It was nice to be back inside a legit film projection booth. I usually work in “booths” that are temporarily built for the event. The Lucas Theatre’s booth has a pair of 35mm film projectors plus a brand-new Barco laser digital projector. It was new enough that there were some bugs to be worked out. Nothing major, but a few Oh HECK moments.

While cult favorite distributors A24 dominated the schedule, NEON gave them a run for their money. I was surprised to see MGM had taken on a few weird titles.

Movies I watched

THE BANSHEES OF INISHEEREN

I watched this one in the other big theatre. I had a best friend dump me once for no reason, and it just happened to Slava recently, so this dark comedy hit close to home. The movie was shot in the West of Ireland, where we now live, so of course I loved it. I also love Brendan Gleason. But boy, rough tale of Irish pettiness.

THE BIG BEND

This American indie film takes in a view of the American West, seen through the eyes of upper middle class second home owners. Beautiful, but strange and certainly naive. It does capture that aura of the American Cinematic West that I love.

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS

As the title lets on, three people are unhappy, perhaps more. The 1% take a yacht and wind up on a three hour tour after pirates attack. Satire hits the audience a bit over the head, but the jokes are pretty good, as is the ending. EAT THE RICH!

WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVICH STORY

If you don’t appreciate Weird Al, please never speak to me again. He is a freaking genius, and this film, which stays true to his story, is a must-see. DO NOT MISS.

CLOSE

This is one of those French films I didn’t want to watch because it cuts too close to the bone. Plus the pace is slow. And the children are heartbreakingly sweet. The story is heart-wrenching and tender. Like real life. Watch it! You won’t regret it.

DEALING WITH DAD

Gad, dealing with dad can be difficult! Especially when he is a freaking pain in the ass. This is a fun narrative about family life that could hit you where you live if your nuclear family does not resemble that of the Beav.

X

Sexy, funny, scary, gross….what else can you ask for in a midnight movie? Set in the 1970s, a group visits a remote location to shoot an arty pornography film and horror ensues. Fortunately for me, we actually screened this at 9pm. The (college age) audience found the grossest aspect of the movie to be the possibility of a libido in an elderly person.

FIRE OF LOVE

I took a break from work to watch this one from the front row of a different theatre than the one I was running. I had heard about the film for a while, and was not content to watch it on the small screen. This National Geographic documentary about a couple of volcanologists is romantic, beautiful, mysterious, and enticing. Most of the footage is archival, shot by the couple and their friends, 1960s-1990s. They clearly appreciated the power of Kodachrome, dressing in the red beanies of Jacques Coustea and filming the oranges and reds and blacks of the volcanoes. This is easily one of the most beautiful documentary I’ve ever seen. If you can see it on the big screen, do so, and sit in the front row. Herzog made a film about this couple, INTO THE INFERNO, but it doesn’t have the romance of FIRE OF LOVE and crops their 1.33 aspect ratio to widescreen, never OK in my book.

MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON

I showed this movie back in June at the Provincetown film festival. It was cute then, and remains cute to this day. I don’t often watch movies twice, but I did and this one held up. Check it out with a loved one! Appropriate for all ages.

INU-OH

This Japanese animated feature takes a traditional story and updates it to the Glam Rock days of the 1970s. It is interesting if you don’t require a female character. I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time, but still didn’t love it.

BONES & ALL

Apparently this movie had a rep solidified among the audience before I even made it hit the screen. Unlike the audience, I went in knowing almost nothing about it. It’s a charming, romantic coming of age story for natural born cannibals. We were talking about Sully all week – he is one of those characters who sticks with you. Great character work by Mark Rylance. Road trip America, hot teenagers, character actors, good soundtrack… check it out!

THE FLAGMAKERS / INVISIBLE SEAM

Invisible Seam is a short doc about Asian American women working in the garment industry in NYC. Most women started in the post-war era as immigrants. They are a vanishing breed.

Flagmakers is a doc about a Midwestern flag making factory. The employees come from all over the globe. One woman from Eastern Europe talks about how, when she was hired, she wondered how long the factory would be open, since how many flags can possibly be used? Turns out, quite a few! The flags are hand-sewn and the community of workers have complex relationships with the symbol of America.

TOP GUN: MAVERICK

This movie was sold out at the other large theatre. I don’t like military propaganda, but there are some fun moments. I had to leave before it ended, but I’m guessing Tom Cruise saved the day. Not enough Val Kilmner for my taste.

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY

I saw the first Knives Out in the theatre and wasn’t too impressed and this time I was also not impressed. Daniel Craig’s southern accent is absurd. The story isn’t nearly as smart as it thinks it is – it’s an inside joke that falls flat.

BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY

This is a super fun and sweet documentary about a kids show of my youth, one my sister loved to bits, READING RAINBOW. You will learn more than you expect during this charming lovefest.

BROKER

Korean films are rarely just one thing. THE BROKER is a comedy, but also a crime film, with a touch of pathos. I went into it expecting it to be depressing, but I was wrong. It was funny and true, and silly and sad. The trailer for it makes it look corny, so don’t watch it. Suffice to say Song Kang-ho and Bae Doona (both from The Host) star.

HOLY SPIDER

Based on a true story of an Iranian serial killer to murdered many prostitutes in the holy city of Mashad, the film follows a fictional woman journalist from Tehran who tracks down the serial killer with little help from the police. Even after his is arrested, he found many supporters in his local community who believed he was right to kill the sex workers. Difficult to watch as a woman, but I liked it. Although the director is a man, it’s important to view this story through the eyes of a jaded Iranian woman.

THE MENU

A funny, dark film about the absurdity of wealthy restaurant goers and egomaniac chefs. Ralph Fiennes stars.

LAST FLIGHT HOME

Another film I didn’t intend to watch, but the introduction from the programmer made me watch it all the way through. The filmmaker has made a film about the death of her father, one which he chose to control through California’s Right to Die law. An important movie for everyone who expects to die or to care for a dying person to see. And anytime this issue is on the ballot, I encourage everyone you know to see it. One depressing note – in the US the law is not endorsed by the laws of Judiasm in the US (sorry, I’m not sure of the right term here) because American health care is so bad, they believe some people will choose death to save their families money. While I agree this is probably true, I also want my parents (as well as me and my other loved ones) to be able to choose the manner and time of their passing, if that’s what they want. They support the laws in Canada because of Canada’s superior health system. How depressing is that?

FREEDOM ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

I got a little tired of this propagandistic movie about the war in Ukraine. Sure, I’m on the side of the Ukranians, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize war propaganda when I see it.

TAURUS

Hands down THE WORST movie I saw this festival. Another not-needed movie about an adult baby man who is inwardly tortured for no apparent reason and wrecks havoc on his own life and that of those close to him. Complete waste of time and money. NOT A STORY THAT NEEDS TO BE TOLD AGAIN! Plus the star is a complete cretin.

THE RETURN OF TANYA TUCKER: FEATURING BRANDI CARLILE

I didn’t know who Brandi Carlile was, and knew little about Tanya Tucker (besides that she was a badass). This love story of two country stars is worth a watch if you like country music or movies about strong women working together.

PINBALL: THE MAN WHO SAVED THE GAME

I had no idea the story behind pinball in NYC, and this super-entertaining and heartwarming biopic taught me a lot. Loved it!

GABBY GIFFORDS WON’T BACK DOWN

Remember when Gabby Giffords was almost assassinated? This documentary shows what happened to her afterwards. Pretty intense and hopeful.

WOMEN TALKING

One of my favorites of the festival, this movie is based on a gruesome true story about Amish women in Bolivia. It’s great because it is basically a philosophical discussion concerning what these women believe about themselves, God, men, violence, and freedom. I thought the grey palette of this movie was unnecessary, but otherwise liked it quite a bit.

MY POLICEMAN

This film certainly induced the most unexpected audience reaction of the fest. The short blurb about it the schedule didn’t hint at any sort of LGBT story, and the audience reaction proved that to be a mistake, breaking into uproarious laughter when the love triangle turned out to be different than anticipated. I was tempted to stop the movie and give the young audience a piece of my mind, as I would have been very uncomfortable if I were in the audience as a gay person. However, the more I interpreted their reaction, the more I attributed it to the old-fashioned treatment of the subject (partly because it was set in the UK in the 1950s). Didactic, perhaps. Hugely laughable? Not so much. Anyway, one I would have enjoyed more without an audience.

MURMUR

This was the most interesting and innovative movie I showed this fest. At first I was annoyed by the youth-oriented virtual reality video game plot, but it really grew on me. I found the performances of the young people to be unusually true to youth culture, and super well- delivered. The story made more sense as we went along, and I liked the ending. Check it out!

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