This month marks the debut of my new column in Spree, a brief roundup of upcoming local film screenings and cinema-related events. Expect to see a diverse selection of classics, recent blockbusters, experimental works, and documentaries gracing screens in Buffalo and (slightly) beyond.
Stay tuned for more fun in the months to come. Now on to our feature presentation. (And an end to this month’s film puns.)
Buffalo Film Seminars: It’s hard to argue against the "classic" status of every selection in this spring’s installment of the Buffalo Film Seminars. And March might be the finest month yet for the long-running screening/discussion hosted by Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian. The lineup includes Sergio Leone’s epic western Once Upon a Time in the West (March 1), William Friedkin’s tough-as-nails Oscar winner The French Connection (March 8), Martin Scorsese’s Jake LaMotta biography, Raging Bull (March 22), and Akira Kurosawa’s late-life masterpiece Ran (March 29). Don’t pass up the opportunity to see the latter two on the big-screen, especially. (7 p.m. at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)
Cultivate Cinema Circle: In less than one year, the Cultivate Cinema Circle screening series has shared films from greats like Terrence Malick, Jean-Luc Godard, and Agnès Varda. The series has also brought newer films to town for the first time. March features two examples, both free and open to the public. Petra Costa and Lea Glob’s Olmo and the Seagull (March 1), the existential study of an actress in the late stages of pregnancy, is cosponsored by the Women & Gender Studies Program at Canisius. And Friedrich Moser’s A Good American (March 16) is the gripping true story of codebreaker Bill Binney. (Olmo: 8 p.m. on March 1 at the Canisius College Science Hall, 2001 Main St.; American: 8 p.m. on March 16 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)
Roycroft Film Society: The East Aurora-based Roycroft Film Society follows up two stunners—the heartbreaking Timbuktu and Jim Jarmusch’s vampire daydream Only Lovers Left Alive—with a unique documentary. Rebels With a Cause is a David-and-Goliath tale, the story of a group of citizen activists intent on preserving open spaces near urban areas. Frances McDormand narrates the film, which shows how these dedicated individuals took on big industry and government. (4 p.m. on March 13 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Avenue, East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)
Burchfield Penney Art Center: BPAC has embarked on an ambitious series of films under the "History of Terrorism" banner. This month starts with The Mumbai Massacre (March 3, time TBA), a documentary about the 2008 terror attack that grabbed the world’s attention. Next is Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (7 p.m. on March 10), the Jessica Chastain-starring chronicle of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Also screening is the documentary BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez (7 p.m. on March 17), part of the Beyond Boundaries: Dare to Be Diverse Film Series. (1300 Elmwood Ave.; burchfieldpenney.org)
TCM Big Screen Classics: The Ten Commandments: Celebrate sixty years of Edward G. Robinson’s most absurdly miscast role as Turner Classic Movies presents The Ten Commandments. (2 and 7 p.m. on March 20 and 23 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Avenue, and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Road, Williamsville; fathomevents.com)
North Park Theatre: The North Park’s family matinee series offers some wildly diverse films this month: the still-funny Mike Myers comedy Wayne’s World on March 5 and 6; Monster Hunt, China’s second highest-grossing film of all time, on March 12 and 13; and the local premiere of a new family film called Against the Wild: Survive the Serengeti on March 19 and 20. Star Trek: Voyager’s Jeri Ryan stars in the latter. The family matinee films all start at 11:30 a.m. And one of the most controversial—since it beat Saving Private Ryan—Best Picture Oscar winners of the late-90s screens at 7 p.m. on March 7: the wildly entertaining Shakespeare in Love is presented by the UB English Department. (1428 Hertel Ave. ; northparktheatre.org)
The Screening Room: The March calendar for Amherst’s Screening Room is so vast that, quite honestly, I could not include it here. So make sure to visit screeningroom.net for the full rundown. Rob Reiner’s much-loved (although not by me) The Princess Bride screens at 7:30 p.m. on March 1, 4, and 5. The wonderfully titled locally-made film Dick Johnson & Tommygun vs. The Cannibal Cop hits the Room at 7:30 p.m. on March 3. And the anime film Kizumonogatari Part I: Tekketsu makes its Buffalo premiere at 9:30 p.m. on March 4. It also screens at 4 p.m. on March 5 and 6 p.m. on March 8 and 10. There is plenty more to come this month, including a documentary about Swept Away director Lina Wertmüller, cult favorite Donnie Darko, the late David Bowie in Labyrinth, and the Noam Chomsky doc Requiem for the American Dream. (3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)
Fredonia Opera House: The Opera House’s ongoing cinema series offers three unique films this month. The Oscar-nominated Brooklyn, featuring a superb performance from Saoirse Ronan, screens on March 5 and 8, while Maggie Smith leads the cast of The Lady in the Van on March 12 and 15. Finally, Joel and Ethan Coen’s already underrated 2016 release Hail, Caesar! is showing on March 19 and 22. (7:30 p.m. at 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center: A new film from Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover) is always news in cinema, and his latest, Eisenstein in Guanajuato, is his most high-profile effort in years. The fascinating story of Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s (Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky) experience shooting a film in Mexico is coming to Hallwalls for three screenings: 7:30 p.m. on March 1, 3, and 8. Also this month, filmmakers Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat will appear in person to present their documentary Speculation Nation, about the devastation of the global financial crisis in Spain. It screens at 7 p.m. on March 17. (341 Delaware Ave.; hallwalls.org)
Historic Palace Theatre: This month sees the aforementioned Brooklyn at Lockport’s Palace Theatre on March 1, 2, and 3. Animated sequel Kung Fu Panda 3 takes over from March 4 through 10, and Disney’s Zootopia screens from March 18 to 31. (Times vary; see lockportpalacetheatre.org.) Lastly, the very odd but often cute Easter-themed film Hop shows at 10 a.m. on March 26. The day also includes a visit with the Easter Bunny and an Easter egg hunt. (2 East Ave., Lockport; lockportpalacetheatre.org)
Next month features one of the finest and most difficult to find films of the last two decades, Claire Denis’ Beau Travail. See you then.
Christopher Schobert is a film critic for the Buffalo News and other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @FilmSwoon.