Coming Attractions for December
Cinematic gifts from John Carpenter and Robert Altman highlight the month in film
The Burghers of Vancouver is showing through December 16 in Toronto.
Photo courtesy of TIFF
December features a little horror, some Robert Altman, a dash of Sinatra, and, of course, The Nutcracker. So by all means see Rogue One, La La Land, and the other year-end biggies, but don’t forget to also make time for these interesting local screenings.
Thursday Night Terrors—The Thing: The first season for the Thursday Night Terrors film series ends with a modern classic, John Carpenter’s The Thing. Interestingly, the film was a box office flop upon release in 1982, but in the years since has developed an enormous (and well-deserved) cult following. The opportunity to see this Kurt Russell-starrer on the big screen should not be passed up, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the “spider head.” (7:30 p.m. on December 15 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)
Cultivate Cinema Circle—Gosford Park: The CCC’s fall season included several treats from the late Robert Altman, the daring, always forward-thinking director of Nashville and M*A*S*H. Previous screenings featured his underrated ensemble piece A Wedding and his Hollywood satire The Player. (There’s an argument to be made that the latter is the finest film ever made about the movie business.) The season ends with Gosford Park on December 1, and that’s a fine choice. The most successful of Altman’s late-period works, Gosford is a whodunit featuring the crème de la crème of British acting talent: Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, Kristen Scott Thomas, Alan Bates, Maggie Smith. It’s a fitting reminder of Altman’s ability to dabble in various genres and style of cinema. (7 p.m. on December 1 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)
Buffalo Film Seminars—The Tourist: Well this is an unexpected one: the fall season of the Buffalo Film Seminars ends with the critically derided 2010 box office miss The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Yet this could turn out to be one of the most interesting screenings yet for the series hosted by Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian. After all, The Tourist was an interesting (if failed) callback to the glossy, star-driven international romps of yesteryear. It was also director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s follow-up to Oscar winner The Lives of Others. So there is plenty to chew on. We’ll just have to see what Jackson and Christian have to say. (7 p.m. on December 6 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)
TCM Big Screen Classics—From Here to Eternity: Fred Zinnemann’s adaptation of James Jones’s novel is an acknowledged classic, but I’ve always found the back story even more interesting. Specifically, there is the story that Frank Sinatra was cast in the film thanks to some strong-arming from his Mafia connections. This, of course, was the basis for the Johnny Fontane character’s appeal to Don Corleone in The Godfather, and the subsequent horse’s-head-in-the-bed. Years later, Sinatra and Godfather author Mario Puzo had a charged face-to-face encounter. That’s one of many unique bits of Corleone trivia … Oh, From Here to Eternity! Yeah, it’s great. (2 and 7 p.m. on December 11 and 14 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)
Fredonia Opera House—The Entertainer: While Kenneth Branagh is not known as “the entertainer,” that wouldn’t be a bad nickname for the actor-director known for his stage, film, and television work. In the instance of The Entertainer, John Osborne’s drama about post-war Britain, Branagh is simple the star. The Fredonia Opera House will screen the production in high definition; it was performed at London's Garrick Theatre by the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. When you’re finished, perhaps consider watching Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing or Henry V. (Or Thor, for that matter.) The Opera House will also present the Metropolitan Opera’s L’Amour de Loin at 1 p.m. on December 10. (1 p.m. on December 3 at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)
Roycroft Film Society—Russian Ark: The 2002 Russian film Russian Ark is remembered for one reason: it was shot entirely in one take. Yes, the 99-minute feature shot entirely in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum does not include one cut. That’s pretty shocking, and it makes watching the film a unique experience. (4 p.m. on December 11 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)
Old Chestnut Film Society—The Lady Eve: The films of Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb are the focus for the latest installment of the long-running Old Chestnut Film Society series. December’s selection is a goodie, as The Lady Eve is one of Preston Sturgess’s finest comedies. (7:30 p.m. on December 9 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)
The Screening Room: Late last month, Amherst’s Screening Room Cinema Café opened in its new home at the Boulevard Mall. To celebrate, the first full month at the mall features some real gems, including Casablanca (starting December 2) and It’s a Wonderful Life (starting December 16). The month also includes holiday favorite Home Alone (starting December 13). Plus, “Clue Year’s Eve” on December 31 features two screenings of Clue, the Tim Curry-starring board game adaptation. It also screens the night before, December 30. (Check screeningroom.net for exact dates and time; all events at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)
Shaw Festival Film Series: I’m sorry to say I was completely unaware that Niagara-on the-Lake’s Shaw Festival presented an annual series of the year’s most acclaimed films. It starts this month with a downright stellar group of films: soaring U.K. music comedy Sing Street (December 3); the somber, Jeff Bridges-starring thriller Hell or High Water (December 10); Viggo Mortensen-led drama Captain Fantastic (December 17); and Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins (December 31). The screenings are held on most Saturdays and some Fridays into February. (3 p.m. at the Shaw Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada; shawfest.com)
Holidays at the Aurora Theatre: The Aurora Theatre in East Aurora is lovely year-round, but the holiday season is especially nice. Its annual holiday film series started in November, and it continues into December with How the Grinch Stole Christmas (December 3), A Christmas Story (December 10), White Christmas (December 11), The Polar Express (December 17), It’s a Wonderful Life (December 18), and Vermont Christmas Vacation (December 31). Note that December 3 is “Grinch Day,” with characters in costume and an exhibit of props from the film. (11 a.m. at the Aurora Theatre, 673 Main St., East Aurora; theauroratheatre.com)
It’s a Wonderful Life at the Historic Lockport Palace: The story of George Bailey and his guardian angel, Clarence, was an annual must-watch in my house growing up. Seeing it on the big screen at the Palace sounds like a fine way to re-experience Frank Capra’s beloved classic. (7 p.m. on December 16; 1, 4, and 7 p.m. on December 17; time TBA on December 18, at the Historic Palace Theatre, 2 East Ave., Lockport; lockportpalacetheatre.org)
Amherst Youth and Recreation Department Fall Family Flicks: No pre-registration is required for a free screening of the summer smash The Secret Life of Pets on December 10. (1:30 p.m. on December 10 at the Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Rd., Amherst; amherstyouthandrec.org)
Love the Coopers at the Town of Collins Public Library: This 2015 film has quite a cast— Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde—but made little impact at the box office. Its underseen status makes it a good choice for this screening in Collins. (1 p.m. on December 2 at the Town of Collins Public Library, 2341 Main St., Collins; buffalolib.org)
Fathom Events: In addition to From Here to Eternity (see above), Fathom Events has several other unique screenings planned for December. Unless otherwise indicated, the screenings listed here are scheduled at both the Regal Elmwood Center (2001 Elmwood Ave.) and Regal Transit Center (6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville). First up is a “RiffTrax Holiday Special Double Feature” featuring Santa Conquers the Martians and a “Christmas Shorts-Stravaganza” (December 1). Hayao Miyazaki’s animated classic Spirited Away celebrates its 15 anniversary with screenings on December 4 (English dubbed) and December 5 (subtitled). Recent Toronto International Film Festival premiere The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!: A Trip Across Latin America documents the Stones’ 2016 tour of Latin American cities (December 12; Regal Transit only). And George Takei’s acclaimed Broadway musical Allegiance screens with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews on December 13. (Times and additional events at fathomevents.com)
Shea’s Free Family Film Series—The Polar Express: There’s nothing quite like seeing a film in the ornate Shea’s Performing Arts Center. The second installment in the 2017 Free Family Film Series features the Tom Hanks-starring animated effort The Polar Express. Remember, tickets are available one week before screenings at Wegmans, and doors open one hour before show time. (2 p.m. at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St.; sheas.org)
Also screening this month …
The Dipson Amherst Theatre has two opera simulcasts scheduled this month: Swan Lake (directed by Rudolf Nureyev) on December 8 and The Nutcracker (with Iolanta) on December 18. (Swan: 8 p.m. on December 8; Nutcracker: 11 a.m. on December 18; at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)
December is a fine month for a drive to Toronto, and the TIFF Bell LIghtbox has a very unique installation showing until December 16. The Burghers of Vancouver a collaboration between the great Quebec filmmaker Denys Arcand (The Barbarian Invasions) and artist Adad Hannah. According to TIFF, the “six-channel installation follows individual characters who come together to perform a tableau vivant of Rodin’s famed sculpture Les Bourgeois de Calais.” (Through December 16 at the Tiff Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., Toronto; tiff.net)
Last but certainly not least, the Julia Boyer Reinstein LIbrary has a family-friendly holiday film scheduled for December 12. Space is limited, so call 668-4991 or stop by the library to register.
(6:30 p.m. on December 12 at the Julia Boyer Reinstein Library, 1030 Losson Rd., Cheektowaga; buffalolib.org)
Christopher Schobert is a film critic for the Buffalo News and other outlets.