Jonathan Able parties with the VIPs for night four of the Savannah Film Festival.Is it just me, or does the film festival keep getting bigger and bigger? For Wednesday’s 7 p.m. showing of Hyde Park on Hudson, all seats were filled in the spacious Trustees Theater. Audiences had flocked to the theater well in advance, some arriving as early as 4:30 p.m. to secure slots in both the pass-holder and ticketed lines. Thanks to the film’s modest run time of about 1.5 hours, the Hyde Park audience still had a small sliver of time to catch the evening’s second screening, Dracula, for a Halloween fright at the Lucas Theatre. Film industry luminaries and big-ticket donors made their way to City Market for their nightly reception—hosted this time by the upscale Southern eatery, Belford’s. The welcoming space, with warm wooden floors and ample dining rooms, was filled to capacity with moviegoers eager for a good time. Whether it was the excuse to frolic on Halloween or just a much-needed hump-day fix, the crowd had the size and energy of Opening Night. Belford’s attendees passed around trays of savory quiches, miniature roast-beef-and-gouda sandwiches and bacon-wrapped scallops, all of which were devoured by hungry guests within minutes of being served. VIP vixen Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) was dressed in a crimson pirate costume in honor of the haunted holiday, and Ty Pennington (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) appeared as a ninja turtle (or was it a Geico gecko?) to join in the evening’s festivities.
Hyde Park on the HudsonStarring: Bill Murray and Laura Linney Director: Roger Michell
Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with an octogenarian comedy, starring A-list actors he may have partied with back in the 1960s. Nicole Jantze is still humming a few tunes.
Photo courtesy of SCADAt the age of 75, award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman directs his first feature, Quartet, which stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon (yes, that’s Professor McGonnell and Dumbledore), Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay. The film is slated for a December 28 release nationwide—just in time for Oscar contention. But, at its heart, it's a light comedy, perfectly suited for post-holiday binge viewing. The film opens as Beecham House residents are preparing as meticulously as the Royal Opera House for their annual gala concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. There is a bit more riding on this year’s concert with the threat of the Beecham House running out of funds. Cedric (Gambon) carries the burden as the director of the gala as Wilf (Connolly), Cissy (Collins) and Reggie (Courtenay) unravel over the arrival of the eventual fourth member of the quartet, star soloist Jean (Smith), whose affair with another musician on her wedding night split up their long friendship and ended her nine-hour marriage to Reggie. The plot is predictable, but Hoffman’s steady hand and the interactions of the characters, based upon a play by Ronald Harwood, strike a harmonious note. And then, there’s the music: Verdi (1813-1901) worked closely with his librettists (lyric writers) to marry plot and performance to verse and music. And that is what Hoffman has so smartly done with Quartet. In a retirement home where the residents are still very much living—quite fully and humorously, might I add—Verdi is the only old guy you will see.
Sal Paradise overcomes writer’s block with his cross-country road trips and sensual encounters in this visually appealing chain of thought. Allison Brooks tags along.
Photo courtesy of SCADMuch like Jack Kerouac’s acclaimed Beat Generation novel, director Walter Salles’ On The Road is a cast of characters rather than a story. When iconic Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) befriends the struggling young writer Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) in New York, circa 1947, Sal immediately feels a pull towards Dean’s rebellious, restless nature. The two seek cross-country adventure with Dean’s new bride, 16-year-old Marylou (Kristen Stewart). The three dabble in drugs, sex, jazz and theft at stops all along the winding road. Sal, Dean and Marylou encounter a handful of colorful, yet unrealized, characters on their road trips, each one shaping their journey, including scene-stealing Jane (Amy Adams), uptight Galatea (Elizabeth Moss), jazz musician Walter (Terrence Howard) and aging junkie Bull (Viggo Mortensen)—whose character deserves to be fleshed out more fully. When the camera focuses on Carlo (Tom Sturridge) and Camille (Kirsten Dunst), we are able to explore these characters’ inner struggles and begin to care for them, at least a little, even in the absence of any overarching narrative structure. Despite the stream-of-consciousness flow of the story, the film itself is a visual pleasure, if at times gratuitous. Salles captures the beauty of America in the late 1940s, taking us from New York City to Denver to New Orleans to Mexico City and back again. As the credits rolled and Trustees Theater emptied, I overheard some not so flattering comments. One gentleman, who is clearly in the film business, declared that the film would have been great if it were only 40 minutes long and had the impact of the last scene carried throughout, which finally delivered some emotional payoff. Another guest mimicked his brains being blown out. The talented cast did their best with the material they were given, but Salles ultimately fails to capture the zeitgeist that Kerouac did in his novel, relying instead on montages of sex and drugs and meanderings to give heft to his characters' awakenings. The real star of On the Road is a midcentury American landscape that no longer exists.
On The RoadStarring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart Director: Walter Salles
Photo courtesy of SCADBy Amy Paige Condon Gray skies courtesy of Hurricane Sandy churning just off the coast didn't dampen the spirits of VIPs— including actor James Gandolfini—guests and stargazers as they mingled outside of SCAD's Trustees Theater for an elegant and low-key Broughton Street party ahead of the opening of the 15th annual Savannah Film Festival. In fact, the cool breezes brought welcome relief from late-season humidity and seemed to elevate the anticipation hanging in the air for the feature presentation, Silver Linings Playbook,which recently won the coveted People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. [nggallery id=172] The unexpectedly offbeat Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence rom-com played to a packed house that erupted into applause as the credits rolled. That happy vibe spilled over into the evening reception at the SCAD Museum of Art, where hugs and air kisses were exchanged in the serpentine lines to the swank, lighted bars (and, where we spotted actor Alex McArthur, Madonna's rugged boyfriend in the Papa, Don't Preach video and one of this year's jurors) as the live band played vintage blues and soul standards.
Photography by Beau KesterWhile sipping a full compliment of libations, guests gnoshed on delectable, bite-sized quinoa caviar, tomato pie, bacon-wrapped shrimp, flank steak crostini, apricot with ham, cheese and chives, and silkened chocolate confections—all passed by young servers who lived up to the Hostess City moniker, many of whom were SCAD students. [nggallery id=173] Though a few jewel-toned dresses punctuated the darkness, the uniform of choice was the LBD, perhaps an homage to the celebrated André Leon Talley-curated exhibit gracing the museum's east wing. One unidentified partygoer snapped photos of women's shoes with his iPhone, which we can agree were sleek, strappy, spiky and as sparkly as a night filled with stars.
Excitement levels soar for Robert Zemeckis’s latest moral drama. Jonathan Able prepares for takeoff.
Photo courtesy of SCAD.Sex, drugs and…a plane crash. Those elements comprise director Robert Zemeckis’s and writer John Gatins’s latest, Flight. Billed as a mystery-drama, I found the film less of an actual who-dunnit than a morality play—a divine battle between good and evil. Whip Whitaker, portrayed exquisitely by Denzel Washington (Safe House), pilots a failing commercial aircraft to an emergency landing and somehow miraculously saves the majority of the passengers on board. What the general public doesn’t know, however, is what lies beneath: Whitaker grapples with a serious addiction to a number of vices, including, but not limited to, alcohol, cocaine and an extracurricular workplace relationship involving one of his flight attendants. What’s more, he has just come off a multi-day bender prior to the doomed flight. The aftermath places Whitaker in the middle of an investigation led by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to determine exactly how the SouthJet airplane went down. Was the crash caused by outdated mechanics aboard the aging aircraft? Did Whitaker’s compromised wherewithal jeopardize the passengers on board? In such a phenomenal landing, akin to Captain Sullenberger's miracle touchdown on the Hudson River, is it possible that divine intervention played a role? This last question poised held my interest throughout the film. Religious implications received more than just a tip of the hat in Flight. Case in point, Whitaker lands the plummeting aircraft in a field directly adjacent a church. Much of the film’s dialogue centers on the divine. In a hospital scene directly following the aircraft, Whitaker’s co-pilot preaches that the flight’s incident was "preordained” as his wife semi-silently echoes, “Praise Jesus,” almost as if she were preparing to speak in tongues. Is Whip Whitaker, then, a quasi-savior figure with an all-too-human drinking habit? That depends on your interpretation. What’s not up for interpretation is the stellar cast: Kelly Riley as Nicole, Whitaker’s also-addicted love interest; Don Cheadle as his Chicago-based lawyer; and, the scene-stealing John Goodman (who manages to steal a few more scenes in this season's Oscar bait, Argo.) Few films, anymore, stay with you after you’ve thrown your popcorn away. But, if you're looking for something more substantial than brain candy, well then, come aboard, because Flight is ready for departure.
FlightStarring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, John Goodman Director: Robert Zemeckis Open now in theaters nationwide.
In search of the city’s secrets, Andrea Goto sidles up to Savannah’s most infamous monuments—with a go cup in hand. » Photography by Michelle L. MorrisTourists feverishly snap photos of them and soak up the stories pressed into plaques. Residents regard them like the live oaks that blend into the backdrop of our Southern existence. Pigeons use them as a regal resting place from which to spot crumbs falling from the fingers of passersby. But, with the exception of late-night revelers who’ve hit the daiquiri soft-serve a little too hard, no one really takes the time to talk to Savannah’s most statuesque storytellers—until now. SavannahMagazine: Jimmy—may I call you Jimmy? James Oglethorpe: No. SM: Oggie? James: General Oglethorpe will do. SM: Right, sorry. General Oglethorpe, I imagine you’ve seen a lot over the past century you’ve resided here in Chippewa Square. James: Mostly bald spots. And I’ve attended more weddings than I can count. SM: Any drama? James: The Savannah Theater caught on fire a number of times—maybe three. Folks get very excited, but a little heat is not going to affect me. SM: Clearly. James: Shortly after my unveiling, a man named Thomas Archer Bryson constructed the Bryson Auto Exchange across the square there—it was 1904, I believe. It was the showroom for Packard Motorcars. Beautiful machines. With those at my disposal, the invasion of St. Augustine would’ve had a much different outcome. SM: As in, you would’ve been successful? James: If you recall, I did prevail against the Spanish forces at St. Simons and never again would those land thieves try to mount an offensive against Britain’s colonies! SM: You’re talking about the Battle of Bloody Marsh? James: Ah, you do know your history. SM: I Googled you. James: Pardon me? SM: Never mind. Any other noteworthy moments? James: There was all that codswallop about some bloke on a bench. I settle this city and people walk right past me in search of some bench. I never even saw the bloody thing. SM: That’s because it was directly behind you. It was in the film Forrest Gump but they had to remove it from the square because it was causing too much of a ruckus. James: Fiddlesticks! People worrying about such nonsense while I spend my days looking southward for invading Spaniards! SM: Yeah, about that— James: —I’m armed and ready! SM: Hasn’t that sword been stolen three times? James: I’d rather not talk about it. SM: Were you actually 9 feet tall, as your statue indicates? James: This interview is over. To listen in on Andrea's conversations with Tomochichi, Florence "The Waving Girl" Martus and Gracie Watson, pick up a Sept./Oct. issue of Savannah magazine.
The William Jay Society's annual fundraiser showcased world-class style with Savannah-worthy charm.