Coming Attractions: October is film festival time in Buffalo (from Buffalo Spree)

The BIFF crowd gathers outside the North Park Theatre before the premiere of Trew Calling in 2016
BIFF PHOTO BY SUMMER OLIVER

I’m getting to this one a little late … but there’s still time for many of these screenings. Here’s my October 2017 Coming Attractions column from Buffalo Spree.

Film festivals are plentiful in Western New York, but two of the best happen in October. Check out these and more here in this month’s screenings rundown.

riverrun Global Film Series: Cuban films and filmmakers are the focus of the second installment of riverrun, a unique series that aims to “create a dialogue between the local community and institutions of higher education in Buffalo through a selection of films that provide a better understanding of our present existence in the globalized networked world.” William & Mary professor Ann Marie Stock is keynote speaker during the festival’s first night, October 12. The evening includes a screening of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment, a 1968 feature recently restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation. October 13 features films by and about women, a poetry reading, and Cuban music and dance. And October 14 looks at old and new Cuba via films about the environment (the “nuclear narrative” of 2015’s The Project of the Century) and Cuba’s AIDS crisis (2016’s The Companion). There is much more planned; for a complete rundown of films, speakers, and events, visit globalfilmseries.wordpress.com. (October 12-14 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.; globalfilmseries.wordpress.com)

Buffalo International Film Festival: In the last few years, BIFF has emerged as Western New York’s most exciting, best-curated film festival. Any fest that would open with a screening of Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present, as BIFF16 did, is hard to top. In 2017, BIFF will again be held entirely within the City of Buffalo, at the North Park Theatre, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center, and additional venues still to be announced. Be sure to peruse titles and find times and locations at buffalointernationalfilmfestival.com. One highlight to make special note of is a screening of Marshall, the Thurgood Marshall biopic shot in Buffalo. It screens at 7 p.m. on October 7 at the North Park Theatre. Another is a screening of El Topo director Alexander Jodorowsky’s latest, Endless Poetry. It screens at 5:30 p.m. on October 7 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. (October 6 to 9; buffalointernationalfilmfestival.com)

Rocky Horror Picture Show Party at the Riviera Theatre: A pre-Halloween screening of cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a tradition at North Tonawanda’s Riviera Theatre. The party includes a pre-show at 10 p.m., a costume contest, and several other events allowing attendees to do the time warp. (9:30 p.m. doors at the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)

Thursday Night Terrors—The Craft, Halloween III, and Creepshow: There’s something for just about every horror fan this October thanks to Thursday Night Terrors. First is a surprising (and very cool) selection, the 1996 teenage witchcraft favorite The Craft. It’s scheduled for October 12, and should draw a mix of 1990s enthusiasts and newbies. Meanwhile, October 26 offers a double feature: Halloween III: Season of the Witch and Creepshow. Michael Myers and George Romero, six days before Halloween? Bloody perfect. (The Craft: 7:30 p.m. on October 12; Halloween III and Creepshow: 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively, on October 26; at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

Buffalo Film Seminars: The heavy hitters are coming out for the BFS this month. First up is Robert Altman’s still-innovative M*A*S*H on October 3. Next, on October 10, is Alan J. Pakula’s timely (ahem) Watergate classic All the President’s Men. Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1983 drama Nostalghia screens on October 24, followed by Wim Wenders’s soaring Wings of Desire on October 24. And on October 31, BFS presents Mike Nichols’s Postcards from the Edge. The latter was written by the late Carrie Fisher, and based on her own novel. It’s a gem, and Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine have rarely been better. (7 p.m. on October 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

Noir EssentialsIn a Lonely Place: The new film noir series at the Dipson Eastern Hills offers another great: Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place. There’s an argument to be made that Humphrey Bogart gives his best performance, as a screenwriter accused of murder. (7:30 p.m. on October 18 at the Dipson Eastern Hills Cinema, 4545 Transit Rd., Williamsville; dipsontheatres.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Autism in AmericaMany critics consider this 2015 documentary to be the strongest film yet about autism. It’s another unique Roycroft pick. (4 p.m. on October 8 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

TCM Big Screen Classics—The Princess BrideFans of Rob Reiner’s adventure-filled love story don’t just like it. They love it. I suspect many of them will be in attendance to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the film, which stars Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, and, of course, Andre the Giant. (2 and 7 p.m. on October 15 and 18 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

GKIDS Presents Studio Ghibli Fest 2017—Spirited AwayThis ongoing Fathom Events series has now arrived at one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most acclaimed and important films. Spirited Away is a whimsical delight that still enchants viewers of any age. (Dubbed version: 12:55 p.m. on October 29; subtitled version: 7 p.m. on October 30; at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville;fathomevents.com)

Free films courtesy of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library: The Town of Collins Public Library has scheduled a free screening of Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween on October 6, while the Central Library’s free family film screening is again set for the first Saturday of the month. (1 p.m. on October 6 at the Town of Collins Public Library, 2341 Main St., Collins; and 1 p.m. on October 7 at the Central Branch, 1 Lafayette Square;buffalolib.org)

Norma and The Magic Flute at the Fredonia Opera House: The latest “Live at the Met” broadcast at the Opera House is a new production of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma on October 7, while Julie Taymor’s production of Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) screens on October 14. (Norma: 1 p.m. on October 7; The Magic Flute: 1 p.m. on October 14; at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

TCM Presents The Natural at the North Park: It’s a month of unique and exciting film screenings, but the October 21 presentation of The Natural at the North Park Theatre might top the list. Presented by Turner Classic Movies, this special “TCM Backlot” screening  of the Buffalo-shot baseball favorite will be hosted by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz and feature a live appearance from the film’s director, Barry Levinson. Tickets are required for this free screening, but prepare to arrive early; a ticket does not guarantee a seat. (7 p.m. on October 21 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Beloved and Cameraperson, presented by Cultivate Cinema Circle: One of the late Jonathan Demme’s most unjustly ignored films is Beloved, the 1998 Toni Morrison adaptation starring Oprah Winfrey. On October 24, Cultivate Cinema Circle presents the film in conjunction with Morrison’s Babel series visit to Buffalo on November 9. Also this month, CCC presents a screening of Kirsten Johnson’s stunning documentary, Cameraperson(Cameraperson: 7 p.m. on October 4 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Arts Center, 617 Main St.; Beloved: 7:30 p.m. on October 24 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.;cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Nosferatu at the North Park: This double feature of silent horror classics on October 11 will feature live musical accompaniment from Austin band the Invincible Czars. (Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: 7 p.m.; Nosferatu: 9:30 p.m.; both at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Old Chestnut Film Series: China Seas: The long-running classic film series presents a season of Clark Gable and Greta Garbo. First up is Gable, in the 1935 drama China Seas(7:30 p.m. on October 13 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

October at the Screening Room: It is possible that this month is one of the busiest in the history of Amherst’s Screening Room Cinema. There are documentaries, like Swim Team, which opens September 29 and also screens on September 30, October 1, and October 3. There are classics, like John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath, which screens on October 7, 8 and 10. (The October 7 screening will also feature a live performance titled The Movin’ Dress: A Dust Bowl Story.) There’s a local fare from Buffalo State College, at the Studio 716 Film Festival on October 6. And there is a lengthy list of scary (and scary-funny) favorites, as the Halloween Horrorfest features films like Carnival of SoulsNight of the Living Dead, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Young Frankenstein. Remember to check screeningroom.net for times and a full schedule of films and events. (The Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

June Coming Attractions: Summer series begin (from Buffalo Spree)

Well, I was negligent in posting my June Buffalo Spree “Coming Attractions” column until today … the last day of June. But hey, you’ve still got tonight!

June is when the WNY screening world gets very busy—both indoors and outdoors. So enjoy this roundup of films, and remember to watch for outdoor film series calendars in Spree’s July and August issues.

Niagara and Spaceballs at the Screening Room: One of the films featured in Spree’s April 2015 “film issue” was 1953’s Niagara, the Marilyn Monroe vehicle that was shot entirely in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It’s a strange, fascinating melodrama, especially for Western New Yorkers. This combination of the Falls and Marilyn still intrigues, and this makes the film a perennial pick at Amherst’s Screening Room. Niagara, co-starring Joseph Cotten, screens at 7:30 p.m. on June 1 and 2. Note that June 1 would’ve been Monroe’s ninety-first birthday. Also on tap in June is Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs. The comic master’s Star Wars parody is not as revered as his Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but it’s still hugely enjoyable, and has a special place in the hearts of 1980s kids. It screens on June 23, 24, and 29; the latter screening will also feature trivia. (Niagara: 7:30 p.m. on June 1 and 2; Spaceballs: 7:30 p.m. on June 23 and 24, 7 p.m. on June 29; at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst;screeningroom.net)

Fredonia Opera House—Michelangelo: Love and Death and America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded AgeOn June 15, the Opera House presents Michelangelo: Love and Death, a high-definition production exploring the life and work of the Renaissance master. Then, on June 29, filmmaker Michael Maglaras will discuss and present America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age. His film takes a close look at the American art, music, and literature created between Lincoln’s death in 1865 and Mark Twain’s death in 1910.  (Michelangelo: 7:30 p.m. on June 15; America Rising: 7:30 p.m. on June 29; both at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

Cultivate Cinema Circle—American Promise: Since its start in 2015, CCC has provided Buffalonians with the opportunity to see insightful, groundbreaking documentaries like The Look of Science and Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World. This month, Cultivate offers Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson’s acclaimed 2013 documentary American Promise. Originally airing as part of the award-winning PBS series POV and shot over the course of twelve years, the film sharing the experiences of two African-Americans attending a historically white Manhattan private school. (7 p.m. on June 28 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

TCM Big Screen Classics—The Godfather and Some Like It HotThere’s never a bad time to see The Godfatheron the big screen, but 2017 is especially noteworthy. It’s been forty-five years since Francis Ford Coppola’s epic story of the Corleone crime family was released, and the film’s hold on pop culture remains strong. Meanwhile, the second TCM film for the month is Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. Yes, the comedy starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe is still uproarious. (The Godfather: 2 and 7 p.m. on June 4 and 7; Some Like It Hot: 2 and 7 p.m. on June 11 and 14; both at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Wild Tales: The list of nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the eighty-seventh Academy Awards (held on February 22, 2015) is pretty staggering: Poland’s Ida (the deserving winner), Russia’s Leviathan, Estonia’s Tangerines, Mauritania’s Timbuktu, and Argentina’s Wild Tales. The most purely enjoyable film on the list is Wild Tales, and it’s June’s Roycroft Film Society selection. The pitch-black but very funny anthology film from writer-director Damián Szifron was produced by the great Pedro Almodovar. (4 p.m. on June 11 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Fathom Events—RiffTrax Live and Resident EvilIn addition to The Godfather and Some Like It Hot, the Fathom Events June lineup features RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party:, in which comedians goof on some old-school educational shorts, and video game adaptation Resident EvilVendetta. The latter is the latest in a series of animated efforts based on the hit horror games, all unrelated to the long-running live action series. (RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party: times TBA on June 15 and 20; Resident Evil: Vendetta: 7 and 10 p.m. on June 19; both at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville;fathomevents.com)

Family-Friendly Film Series: As usual, the second Saturday of each month features a free family film at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Crane Branch; call 883-6651 with questions or for more information about the movie selections. (11 a.m. on June 10 at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Crane Branch, 633 Elmwood Ave.; buffalolib.org)

Toronto LGBT Film Festival: The twenty-seventh annual festival started on May 25 and runs through June 4. (Check insideout.ca/initiatives/Toronto lineup, schedules, and locations)

Lawrence of Arabia at the Dryden Theatre: The George Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theatre screens David Lean’s widescreen epic twice, on June 1 and 3. It’s one of several noteworthy screenings at the Dryden in June; check eastman.org for the full list. (7:30 p.m. on June 1 and 3 at the Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave., Rochester;eastman.org)

“Books on Film” at TIFF Bell Lightbox: In June, this insightful series features director Mira Nair, who will discuss her sadly underseen chess drama Queen of Katwe, and Brooklyn author Colm Toibin, who talks about the film based on his story of a young Irish immigrant in the 1950s. (Katwe: 7 p.m. on June 5; Brooklyn: 7 p.m. on June 19; both at TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., Toronto; tiff.net)

La Cenerentola Live at the Dipson Amherst: This month’s simulcast is the first opera staged by Guillaume Gallienne. (2 p.m. on June 26 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

Flicks On Old Falls Free Outdoor Movie Series: The Secret Life of PetsThe annual free summer movie series on Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls kicks off with one of last summer’s animated hits. The series runs on Thursdays through August 31. Bring blankets; Adirondack chairs are also available. (Movie at 9 p.m.; pre-show begins at 7:30 p.m.; Old Falls St., Niagara Falls; fallsstreet.com)

Cultivate Cinema Circle: JerichowCCC’s Christian Petzold series concludes with the Phoenix director’s 2008 entry, a film loosely inspired by The Postman Always Rings Twice. (7 p.m. on June 7 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, 617 Main St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Fathom Events: My Neighbor TotoroAnimator Hayao Miyazaki’s Totoro is one of his sweetest, finest films. It screens as part of Fathom’s Studio Ghibli Fest. (dubbed version: 12:55 p.m. on June 25; subtitled version: 7 p.m. on June 26; at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville;fathomevents.com)

5-25-77 and Raising Arizona at the Screening Room: In addition to the Screening Room showings mentioned above, the theater has a few other treats planned for June. 5-25-77 is a 1970s-set coming-of-age entry about a teenager excitedly waiting for the premiere of a little sci-fi flick called Star Wars. Meanwhile, the Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona remains one of the duo’s funniest creations. It begins its Screening Room run on June 30; watch screeningroom.net for additional showings. (5-25-77: 9:30 p.m. on June 2; Raising Arizona: 7:30 p.m. on June 30; at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

Concert and Silent Film at the Riviera Theatre: Donna Parker plays the Mighty WurliTzer as Laurel and Hardy’s silent film Brats unspools onscreen. (7:30 p.m. on June 7 at the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)

Scanners and Olivier Assayas at TIFF Bell Lightbox: The “Books on Film” series mentioned above is a TIFF summer highlight, but it’s one of many unique screenings at the Toronto jewel. David Cronenberg’s Scanners screens on June 17. Most thrilling? Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper director Olivier Assayas is the focus of a series titled Something in the Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas. It features his own works, as well as hand-picked favorites from other filmmakers. It all starts on June 22 with Robert Bresson’s 1977 drama The Devil Probably. For the full series schedule, visit tiff.net(Scanners: 9 p.m. on June 17; The Devil Probably: 9 p.m. on June 22; both at TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., Toronto; tiff.net

Transit Drive-In Retro Movie Tuesday: A retro double feature is held every Tuesday (except July 4) all summer long at the Transit Drive-In. The lineup includes The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire on June 6; Rocky IV and The Hunt for Red October on June 13; The Monster Squad and The Lost Boys on June 20; and The NeverEnding Story and Labyrinth on June 27. (First movie starts at 9:15 p.m. at Transit Drive In, 6655 S. Transit Rd, Lockport.;transitdrivein.com)

May Coming Attractions: ‘Carol’ is worth a drive to Toronto (from Buffalo Spree)

(L-R) KYLE CHANDLER and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

(L-R) KYLE CHANDLER and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

It’s a busy May in Buffalo. Check out my latest Buffalo Spree Coming Attractions column.

It’s nearly outdoor screening season, but until then, let’s stay indoors for some May treats. A number of our favorite series come to an end this month, but don’t fret—they’ll all be back soon. 

Cultivate Cinema Circle—Welcome to F.L. and Contemporary Color: CCC continually brings under-the-radar films to the area that deserve to be seen and pondered. One of these is Contemporary Color, a document of an extraordinarily unique event from 2015 curated and conceived by David Byrne. The former Talking Heads frontman and iconic solo artist brought together high school color guards and established musical performers like St. Vincent and Nelly Furtado. The documentary screens at the North Park on May 3. Also on the CCC lineup is Welcome to F.L., an acclaimed documentary about students at a Quebec high school. It’s screening at Burning Books on May 24. (Welcome to F.L.: 7 p.m. on May 24 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; Contemporary Color: 7 p.m. on May 2 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Buffalo Film Seminars: One of the most diverse Buffalo Film Seminars’ sessions in series history comes to an end this month with a rather random final two. David Ayer’s Brad Pitt-in-a-tank drama Fury screens on May 2, and it’s an odd if interesting entry from the director of Suicide Squad. (Eek!) A far stronger film closes things out on May 9: Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy. This biography of Gilbert and Sullivan features delightful performances from Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, and Timothy Spall. It ranks as one of the Secrets and Lies and Vera Drakedirector’s most ambitious efforts, and will leave you humming the songs of The Mikado(7 p.m. on May 2 and 7 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

Old Chestnut Film Society—Titanic: The classic film series closes its Barbara Stanwyck/Clifton Webb season with 1953’s Titanic, starring both actors. No Celine Dion songs in this version of the tale, thankfully. (7:30 p.m. on May 12 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

Thursday Night Terrors—Re-Animator: Perhaps the only surprise regarding Terrors’ screening of Re-Animator is that the film wasn’t part of the series’ first lineup last fall. That tells you how strong the series is, doesn’t it? In any event, it’s a fitting conclusion for the second installment of Thursday Night Terrors. Stuart Gordon’s 1985 film is a gruesome horror classic, and one with real laughs. (7:30 p.m. on May 25 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

Hot Docs: North America’s largest documentary festival runs through May 7, and the full lineup should now be ready to peruse at hotdocs.ca. Subjects include the late Whitney Houston, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, and the Grateful Dead. (April 27-May 7; for schedule and locations, visit hotdocs.ca)

TCM Big Screen Classics—Smokey and the BanditOne could argue with the classification of Smokey and the Bandit as a “classic,” but there’s no debating the film’s fun factor. It’s the fortieth anniversary of the Burt Reynolds-Sally Field blockbuster, and there’s no better way to celebrate than to see Reynolds’ epic ’stache on the big screen. (2 and 7 p.m. on May 21 and 24 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Cache: If you’ve pondered taking in a Roycroft Film Society screening but haven’t made it yet, a can’t-miss arrives on May 7. Michael Haneke’s Cache is perhaps the most conversation-ready (and ambiguous) picture to date from the director of Amour and The White Ribbon, and it has earned placement on the list of the finest films of the 2000s. Starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, Cache (which means “hidden”) is the story of a French couple who are confronted with a series of anonymous videotapes on their doorstep. What’s depicted on those tapes, and how they connect with the childhood of Auteuil’s character, make the 2005 release one of the most haunting films ever made. (4 p.m. on May 7 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Der RosenkavalierThe latest hi-res satellite broadcast from the Met sees opera icon Renée Fleming in one of her signature roles. During intermission—run time is four hours-plus—audiences can enjoy interviews with the cast, crew, and production teams. (12:30 p.m. on May 13 at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia;fredopera.org; 12:30 p.m. on May 13 and 6:30 p.m. on May 17 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Two Toronto festivals: There are two festivals worth the drive to Toronto this month: the Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs from May 4 to 14 (tjff.com) while the Toronto LGBT Film Festival is May 25 to June 4 (insideout.ca/initiatives/Toronto). (Check websites for schedules and locations)

Family-Friendly Film Series: The second Saturday of each month features a free family film at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Crane Branch; call 883-6651 with questions or for more information about the movie selections. (11 a.m. on May 13 at Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Crane Branch, 633 Elmwood Ave.; buffalolib.org)

The Nitrate Picture Show: The George Eastman Museum’s festival of film conservation is back for year three, and the fest once again features vintage nitrate prints from the Eastman’s world-renowned collection. The three days also feature lectures and workshops. (May 1 to 7 at the at the George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave., Rochester; eastman.org/nps)

Phyllis Nagy on CarolTIFF’s Books on Film series features Nagy, the renowned playwright and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and a screening of Carol, the film she adapted for director Todd Haynes. She will discuss the process of bringing Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt to the screen. (7 p.m. on May 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., Toronto; tiff.net)

Twin Peaks and more at the North Park: David Lynch returns to the world of Twin Peaks this month with the debut of a series continuation on Showtime. But before it airs, revisit the savagely reviewed (at the time) masterpiece that is Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Time has been very kind to Lynch’s prequel about the last days of Laura Palmer, and Fire is now rightfully considered one of his finest, boldest films. It screens at the North Park on May 1. In other NP news, acclaimed horror film The Void is set for screenings on May 1, 2, and 3. And a series of Deconstructing the Beatles documentaries screen at various times  on May 1 through 4. Check northparktheatre.org for times and details. (Twin Peaks: 7 p.m. on May 1; The Void: May 1, 2, and 3;Deconstructing the Beatles: May 1, 2, 3, and 4; all at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Thursday Night Terrors—House of Wax: The horror screening series goes back to 1953 for this Vincent Price chiller, which is being presented in 3D. How cool is that? (7:30 and 9:30 p.m. on May 11 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

The Screening Room: The John Coltrane documentary Chasing Trane is the most noteworthy film on May’s Screening Room schedule, but the month also includes a “night at the grindhouse” on May 12 and a special movie trivia night on May 18. Plus, the Marilyn Monroe-starring, Niagara Falls-highlighting Niagara is set for May 26 and 27. (Dates follow in June, as well.) Chasing Trane: May 5-7, 9, and 11; Niagara: May 26-27; see screeningroom.net for times and additional info; all events at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)

In the Steps of Trisha Brown at Hallwalls: Marie-Hélène Rebois’s documentary focuses on the life revolutionary choreographer Brown, using archival production footage as well as rehearsal footage of Brown herself. (7 p.m. on May 9 and 10 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.; hallwalls.org)

May at Squeaky Wheel: Villa Maria College will hold a film and animation screening on May 13, while Kathleen Collins’s landmark 1982 independent film Losing Ground is May 17. (Villa Maria: 1 p.m. on May 13; Losing Ground: 7 p.m. on May 17; at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, 617 Main St.; squeaky.org)

90th Anniversary Celebration and silent movie at the Riviera Theatre: Norma Shearer’s silent classic Upstage was the opening night film at the Riviera ninety years ago. It returns to the Riv on May 5, with Clark Wilson accompanying on the Mighty WurliTzer. Another silent film (TBA) and Mighty WurliTzer concert takes place on May 5, while Pixar’s Inside Out screens on May 7. (Silent film and concert: 7:30 p.m. on May 5; Celebration and Upstage: reception at 6:30 p.m., film at 8 p.m., on May 5; Inside Out: 3 p.m. on May 7; all at the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)

From the latest Buffalo Spree: My April ‘Coming Attractions’ column

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My April “Coming Attractions” column features some real treats, including Tampopo and In the Mood for Love.

Summer’s here! Well, not quite, but the summer movie season now kicks off in April. This year, that means a new Fast and the Furious movie. Let’s all skip that, and head to some of the screenings on this list, OK?

Weekend Matinees at the North Park: The popular matinee series at the North Park Theatre starts the month with three wildly diverse selections. Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer lead the cast of Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke, a strangely fascinating fantasy epic from 1985, on April 1 and 2. The Japanese foodie favorite Tampopo is a must-see on April 8; this is a newly restored version of the 1985 film universally considered a classic. And Hayao Miyazaki’s wondrous 1988 film My Neighbor Totoro screens on April 9. Miyazaki’s work always draws a crowd to the North Park, and Totoro, especially, serves as a fine introduction to the master’s work. (North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Sword Art Online—Ordinal ScaleAnime favorite Sword Art Online moves to the big screen and hits the North Park for five showings. (2 and 4 p.m. on April 29, 2, 4:30, and 7:30 p.m. on April 30 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Buffalo Film Seminars: The April Buffalo Film Seminars might be the most thrilling in series history. David Bowie’s finest big-screen role came courtesy of Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the stunning story of a gaunt extraterrestrial in New Mexico screens on April 4. On April 11 comes Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, and I expect this will be the long version of the notoriously butchered gangster epic starring Robert De Niro. Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Double Life of Veronique, a mesmerizing drama from the director of the Three Colours trilogy, screens on April 18. The month ends with Wong Kar-wai’s heartbreaking and sensual In the Mood for Love on April 25. (7 p.m. on March 7, 21, and 28 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

Old Chestnut Film Society—Clash by Night: This 1952 drama from Fritz Lang stars Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan. (7:30 p.m. on April 7 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

Thursday Night Terrors—Pieces: Part of what makes the Thursday Night Terrors screening series so fun is that selections are not at all obvious. Take, for example, Pieces, which screens on April 27. Juan Piquer Simón’s horror film about a college-campus murderer using body parts to create a human jigsaw puzzle is a cult classic that most film freaks (including me) are unaware of. If it’s good enough for Thursday Night Terrors, you know it’s going to be bloody awesome. (7:30 p.m. on April 27 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.;facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

Hot Docs: North America’s largest documentary festival returns to Toronto at the end of April and into early May. It’s well worth the drive for anyone interested in nonfiction film, or those seeking the type of insight only a documentary can provide. The lineup of over 200 films was not set at press time, so visit hotdocs.ca for a rundown and schedules. (April 27-May 7; for schedule and locations, visit hotdocs.ca)

TCM Big Screen Classics—North by Northwest and The GraduateThe ongoing Turner Classic Movies screening series offers up two heavyweights this month. First is Hitchcock’s endlessly witty, truly thrilling North by Northwest on April 2 and 5. The Cary Grant-starrer is made for a large screen. The same could be said of The Graduate, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with screenings on April 23 and 26. While Mike Nichols’ tale of Benjamin Braddock and Mrs. Robinson is just as funny at home, a cinema screen allows audiences to really appreciate the extraordinary visuals. (Think of Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin floating in the family pool, or the iconic shot of Anne Bancroft’s leg.) (North by Northwest: 2 and 7 p.m. on April 2 and 5; The Graduate: 2 and 7 p.m. on April 23 and 26; both at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Cultivate Cinema Circle—Ghosts and Class Divide: The spring CCC season might be its boldest yet: a four-film retrospective of the early films from Barbara and Phoenix director Christian Petzold. Titled “Lonely Ghosts: The Early Cinematic Work of Christian Petzold,” the screenings are presented in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Boston and Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center. Set for April 5 is Petzold’s Ghosts, from 2005, is an enigmatic story memory and identity. Like the other films in the retrospective, it has rarely been seeing in the U.S. Also screening this month is Class Divide, director Marc Levin’s documentary, which looks at the widening gap between the haves and have nots. Levin is best-known for the acclaimed documentary Slam.  (Ghosts: 7 p.m. on April 5 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, 617 Main St.; Class Divide: 7 p.m. on April 26 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Cave of Forgotten Dreams: One of Werner Herzog’s most widely seen films was Dreams, a documentary exploring extraordinary caves in the south of France. (4 p.m. on April 9 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Rigoletto Live at the Dipson Amherst: This month’s simulcast is Verdi’s opera based on a Victor Hugo play. (2 p.m. on April 10 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

Spotlight Visions of an Island—Sky Hopinka in Person: The Milwaukee artist presents three of his award-winning films(7 p.m. on April 15 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, 617 Main St.; squeaky.org)

Mary Shelley—A Living History and Frankenstein at the Fredonia Opera House: Susan Marie Frontczak stars as Frankenstein author Mary Shelley in the unique performance A Living History on April 20 at the Fredonia Opera House, followed by an audience Q-and-A. The next night, the Opera House screens the National Theatre’s acclaimed adaptation of Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller and directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire). This is one of several interesting high definition screenings at the Fredonia Opera House this month. Also scheduled is A Contemporary Evening (of Dance) featuring Bolshoi Ballet on April 1; a Donmar Warehouse production of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, starring Gemma Arterton, on April 8; and a Metropolitan Opera production of Eugene Onegin on April 22. (Mary Shelley—A Living History: 7:30 p.m. on April 20; Frankenstein: 7:30 p.m. on April 21; at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

The Screening Room: April at the Screening Room opens with an oddity, the mermaid horror flick The Lure. It screens from April 6 to April 12. Opening April 7 and running through April 14 is Office Space, Mike Judge’s modern classic about the nightmares of cubicle life. The April 13 screening is a trivia night edition hosted by Dave Schwartz. Lastly, starting April 21 and running through April 29 is Hitchcock’s still-startling Vertigo. Best movie ever? Hard to say, but the Jimmy Stewart-Kim Novak starrer about sexual obsession and identity is certainly one of the most fascinating. (Check screeningroom.net for times; all events at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)

Mighty Wurlitzer Concert and Silent Film at the Riviera: Organist Clark Wilson will accompany a screening of Harold Lloyd’s silent classic The Freshman at this unique event. (7:30 p.m. on April 5 at the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)

Images Festival: For eight days, Toronto’s Images Festival features screenings, events, performances, and exhibitions from international artists. The 2017 festival includes forty-eight films, twelve exhibitions, and four live image projects. (April 20 to 27 at Innis Town Hall, Theatre University of Toronto, 2 Sussex Ave., Toronto; opening night feature premieres at the Royal Theatre, 608 College St., Toronto; imagesfestival.com

A venerable festival, more Thursday Night terror, and Vertov’s masterpiece, deconstructed (from the March Buffalo Spree)

The Women’s Balcony, ranked as Israel’s highest-grossing film in 2016, will be shown at the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival. COURTESY OF THE BUFFALO INTERNATIONAL JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

The Women’s Balcony, ranked as Israel’s highest-grossing film in 2016, will be shown at the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival.
COURTESY OF THE BUFFALO INTERNATIONAL JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

My March Buffalo Spree column opens with an always fascinating film fest.

Film screenings are back in full swing this month following a bit of a post-holiday lull in January and February. Hollywood unleashes some biggies, as well, including a new King Kong entry (Kong: Skull Island) and a live-action Beauty and the Beast from Disney. But if you are looking for truly unique offerings, you’ll find them on this list.

Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival: It is year thirty-two for BIJFF, making it one of the area’s longest-lasting film festivals. It’s a yearly treat, really, one featuring scores of unique films, many which are making their local debuts. As with past festivals, the 2017 installment opens with a kick-off party. Scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 6 at the Screening Room (the Boulevard Mall, 880 Alberta Drive in Amherst), the evening will include a movie snack buffet station, beverages (cash bar), a film, and one free ticket to any other film during BIJFF. The festival itself starts on March 17 and runs through March 23, with all screenings at the Dipson Amherst Theatre. The lineup features a number of gems, including A Borrowed Identity, the story of a Palestinian Israeli teenager who attends a Jewish boarding school; The Women’s Balcony, a dramedy about a close-knit congregation that ranked as Israel’s highest-grossing film in 2016; and Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, a documentary about the creator of All in the Family and Good Times. Check bijff.com for plot summaries and times. (Kick-off party at 7 p.m. on March 6; festival March 17-23 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; bijff.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Mustang: One of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the eighty-eighth Academy Awards, director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s film tells the moving story of five sisters living in a Turkish village. It’s an emotional powerhouse with a memorable conclusion, and a fine Roycroft Film Society selection. (4 p.m. on March 12 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Buffalo Film Seminars: Three unique foreign classics are featured in this month’s Buffalo Film Seminars lineup. (There is no film on March 21.) First is Robert Bresson’s heartbreaking Au Hasard Balthazar on March 7, the unforgettable story of a donkey’s sad life and death. The 1972 Iranian film Downpour, directed by Bahram Beizai, screens on March 14. Lastly is Akira Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala on March 28. The Russian language film was the great director’s comeback success after a difficult period that even included a suicide attempt. (7 p.m. on March 7, 21, and 28 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

Old Chestnut Film Society—Dreamboat: This 1952 comedy stars Clifton Webb and Ginger Rogers. (7:30 p.m. on March 10 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

Thursday Night Terrors—The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Now this is unmissable. The best known film in the second series of Thursday Night Terrors is Tobe Hooper’s still-disturbing horror classic about grave-robbing cannibals. It still frightens, and it still looks quite unlike any other film. (7:30 p.m. on March 30 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

Renee Lear—Every Shot from Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera as an Animated GIF: Here is a fascinating project featured in March and April at Hallwalls, in which the video artist and filmmaker reorganizes the 1929 silent film Man with a Movie Camera as a series of animated GIFs. For more on the Torontonian’s work, visit reneelear.com. (March 10-April 28 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.; hallwalls.org)

TCM Big Screen Classics—All About Eve: There few films sharper than All About Eve, the gloriously “bumpy” tale of veteran Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and upstart Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). The latest installment in the ongoing TCM Big Screen Classics series film will be shown in its original aspect ratio. (2 and 7 p.m. on March 5 and 8 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at the Riviera Theatre: North Tonawanda’s Riviera started a Harry Potter film series in January, and the eighth film brings it all to a close on March 12. Deathly Hollows Part 2 is the rare final installment that truly satisfies, and does so with vivid action and real emotional depth. It culminates in a final scene that wonderfully calls back the original film, while looking ahead to the future. (Doors open at 2:30 p.m., film begin at 3 p.m. on March 12 at the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)

Family-Friendly Film Series: The library’s Crane Branch hosts a family-friendly film on the second Saturday of every month. Call 883-6651 for info on this month’s selection. (11 a.m. on March 11 at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library Crane Branch, 633 Elmwood Ave.; buffalolib.org)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Live from the Opéra National de Paris at the Dipson Amherst: This month’s simulcast is George Balanchine’s ballet adaptation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer. (2 p.m. on March 27 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

Sword Art Online—The Movie: The hit anime series Sword Art Online comes to the big screen for a one-night-only movie event. Visit fathomevents.com for the rest of the Fathom Events lineup. (8 p.m. on March 9 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Fredonia Opera House— The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism: The Opera House presents a high-definition production exploring the exhibition “The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement” at the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut. Also scheduled this month are simulcasts of La Traviata and Idomeneo, on March 11 and 25, respectively. (7:30 p.m. on March 30 at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

Focus 45—Tim Wagner, Film Projection 101: Film technician Tim Wagner will discuss motion picture projection skills in the digital age in this special talk. (Noon on March 11 at the Curtis Theatre at the George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave., Rochester; eastman.org)

The Seasons in Quincy—Four Portraits of John Berger at Hallwalls: If there is one absolute must-see in March, it is the March 7 Hallwalls’ screening of The Seasons in Quincy—Four Portraits of John Berger. This collection of four essay films serves as a fitting study of Berger, the storyteller who just passed away in January. Actress Tilda Swinton is among the filmmakers involved in the project, which explores Berger’s time as a farmer in the remote Alpine village of Quincy. The Seasons was an extraordinarily ambitious five-year project, and this Buffalo screening is tremendously exciting. (7:30 p.m. on March 7 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.;hallwalls.org)

Weekend Matinees and Ice Guardians at the North Park: The North Park’s ongoing matinee series kicks off the month with Belle and Sebastian, but please note that this is not a concert film featuring the wonderfully twee Scottish legends behind the classic album If You’re Feeling Sinister. No, this is a 2013 French family film about a plucky orphan and his dog. It screens at 11:30 a.m. on March 4 and 5. Next up, on March 11 and 12, is 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, a film based on the long-running superhero series that nineties kids adore. Outside of the weekend matinee realm is Ice Guardians, a documentary scheduled for a special screening at 9:30 p.m. on March 15. This look at the tough road face by many National Hockey League enforcers has drawn great acclaim. (North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Cultivate Cinema Circle—The State I Am In: CCC’s four-film retrospective of the early films from director Christian Petzold begins on March 1 with 2000’s The State I Am In. This story of two ex-terrorists in hiding in Brazil with their teenage daughter sounds like another bold work from the filmmaker behind two recent masterpieces, Barbara and Phoenix. (7 p.m. on March 1 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, 617 Main St.;cultivatecinemacircle.com)

“Throwback Thursdays” at the Riviera: It’s hard to argue with any of the selections in the Riviera Theatre’s latest screening series. February featured the likes of Gone With the Wind and Casablanca, while this month includes greats like Singin’ in the Rain (March 2), Citizen Kane (March 9), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (March 16), and Funny Girl (March 23). (7 p.m. on March 2, 9, 16, and 23 at the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda;rivieratheatre.org)

The Screening Room: A typically packed Screening Room schedule begins on March 2 with a one-night only screening of the documentary Dying Laughing. This exploration of stand-up comedy features heavyweights like Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Kevin Hart, and Sarah Silverman. Returning to the Screening Room on March 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, and 11 is the beloved Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Rounding out March is your grandmother’s favorite film, The Sound of Music. It screens on March 25 and 26. (Check screeningroom.net for times; all events at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)

Buffalo’s Peter Vullo zeroes in on our national mood — and it goes viral (for BuffaloSpree.com)

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This was kind of fun. My friend Peter Vullo saw a post of his go viral, and spoke to me about how it happened for BuffaloSpree.com.

So this is how a viral post happens: At 1:42 p.m. on Sunday, January 29, Buffalo native Peter Vullo made a Facebook post that nicely summarized the mindset of a great many residents of Donald Trump’s America. Captioned “2017 starter pack,” the simple but hugely effective image displayed three books — George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 — along with a Blu-ray of John Carpenter’s mind-bending cult classic, They Live

As of 12:00 p.m. on February 1, the post had been shared … more than 19,000 times. Yes, more than 19,000 times in three days. Meanwhile, the post continues to make waves on Twitter and Instagram, as well.

Vullo, an assistant manager at the Amherst Dipson Theater and curator of the popular Thursday Night Terrors screening series, is still reeling from what’s transpired in such a short period of time. Here, he talks about how the post came together, and why he chose these books and this film.

 

So … what are you thinking right now? This is crazy.

I’m in disbelief, honestly. I don’t think anyone ever expects one of their posts to go viral. At least, I didn’t. It’s a weird thing to watch unfold. I was having a regular day at work while this post was getting thousands of shares, and I’m wondering, “What in the world is happening?” It’s one thing to witness it happen to someone else, but to be in the middle of it is something else entirely. It’s hard to process. At a certain point, you feel as though it doesn’t belong to you anymore.

You can’t plan it. It just happens, and social media does the rest. It also says a lot about the zeitgeist of our current time — what people are thinking, what people are feeling. It’s strange.

 

You really nailed the four picks. Did they come to you right away? And was this any kind of planned photo, or just a quick idea?

Well, They Live has been on my mind a lot lately because of the Thursday Night Terrors screening of the film we did a few days ago. It felt like exactly the right movie at the right time.  John Hurt passed away recently, so the film version of 1984 in which he starred came to mind as well. It was a combination of those and just keeping up on current events. Without getting too explicitly political, it feels like a strange and important time in our culture. There’s a feeling that we’re living in history at the moment — that books will be written about this particular time.

1984Animal FarmFahrenheit 451, and They Live have all been culturally significant for decades and decades, of course. They’re always relevant. Sometimes we just need a reminder. I think 2016 into 2017 was that reminder.

I post photos of movies and whatnot all the time on social media. I didn’t think anything of it. It’s just something I do. So, I gathered up those books and the movie, which were front and center on my shelf, and took a picture. It just caught fire, inexplicably, and gained momentum.

 

What kind of responses have you received?

People have given me lots of other titles to add to the list: Brave New WorldThe Handmaid’s TaleV for Vendetta,Idiocracy. Perhaps a second photo is in order.

 

Has anyone asked if your starter pack is for sale? Because I think there’s a real market for it…

I believe 1984Animal Farm, and Fahrenheit 451 are all back on the top sellers list! Amazon and other outlets can’t seem to keep them in stock either. It’s great to see people interested in reading again.

I do have some plans for something involving one of the books in the stack. It’s hush-hush at the moment, but it could be very interesting. It will have some things in common with They Live …

Ten reasons why 2017 will be a great year for cinephiles (from January Buffalo Spree)

Tracey B. Wilson, star of Trew Calling, takes a selfie with friends on the BIFF red carpet. PHOTOS BY SUMMER OLIVER

Tracey B. Wilson, star of Trew Calling, takes a selfie with friends on the BIFF red carpet.
PHOTOS BY SUMMER OLIVER

Most of my January “Coming Attractions” column for Buffalo Spree took a look at the year to come. You can check out the usual column online, as well.

January is a rather quiet month for screenings, so it’s a fine time to look at the entire year ahead, and reflect a bit on the previous twelve months. If you love cinema, there’s plenty to be excited about in 2017.

Year eleven for the Buffalo International Film Festival: There was no clearer sign that the Buffalo International Festival was in good hands than its choice of opening film: Tyler Hubby’s documentary Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present. This long-awaited portrait of the experimental filmmaker and University at Buffalo professor was a bold, brilliant pick, and it wasn’t the only festival standout; the partly animated documentary Tower, for example, ranks among 2016’s most acclaimed films. With a great lineup that featured several local productions, some ideal venues (the North Park, Hallwalls, Squeaky Wheel), and visiting filmmakers from around the world, the annual festival was an undeniable success. It was also a fitting tribute to late founder Ed Summer. Speaking to festival programmer John Fink a few days after BIFFX, it was clear the organizers were already thinking of next year: “At our 2017 festival, you’ll find films that might not otherwise screen in WNY front and center on the big screen along with engaging panels and events that celebrate diverse and underrepresented voices, emerging talent, and WNY’s film industry.” BIFF executive director Raymond Guarnieri says the dates for 2017 are set—October 6 to 9—and that the program will be announced in late summer with tickets on sale at buffalointernationalfilmfestival.com in September. (Organizers will once again offer a “Bison Pass” with unlimited screening access. At an advance price of $35, it’s a steal.) If 2016 is any indication, BIFF has officially staked its claim as the local film festival. It’s incredibly exciting to see what transpired this past October, and to ponder what’s to come.

The (expected) release of Marshall: Buffalo was buzzing over the summer with the news that Marshall, director Reginald Hudlin’s film about the early career of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, was shooting throughout the area. Stars Chadwick Boseman (an actor on the verge of mega-stardom as Marvel’s Black Panther), Kate Hudson, and the rest of the cast had lovely things to say about the Queen City. But when will we actually get to see Marshall on the big screen? As of press time, no date was set. However, distribution rights were already snapped up by Open Road Films, the studio of Oscar winner Spotlight, so a 2017 release is likely.

Diverse pleasures from DipsonDipson Theatres cinemas continue to find a nice balance between older-skewing independent films, hot-button documentaries, and ongoing series like Thursday Night Terrors. Marketing and promotions coordinator Jeremy Mills says some of Dipson’s biggest hits in 2016 involved established longtime favorites: Tom Hanks (Sully), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), Sally Field (Hello, My Name Is Doris), Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van), and, of course, the Beatles (Ron Howard’s hit documentary Eight Days a Week).

Did the switch to larger, reclining seats at the Amherst Dipson help at the box office? It’s certainly possible, especially when it comes to the Buffalo Film Seminars series. But just as pleasing is the success of one-off screenings like the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ doc One More Time With Feeling. “We partnered with Record Theatre to give that screening even more of a ‘live show’ vibe, and they outdid themselves by providing a ‘merch table’ that included the brand new LP and most of Cave’s discography as well,” Mills says, adding, “offering titles that appeal to both music fans and filmgoers is something we’re happy to keep exploring, and we’ve got more music-centric screenings planned with Record Theatre in the near future.” Mills is also excited to see the Cultivate Cinema Circle and Thursday Night Terrors series continue at the Amherst.

A second installment of Thursday Night Terrors: Organizer Peter Vullo’s horror series was a smash, drawing solid audiences for films like Fright Night and The Thing. Vullo says it exceeded all expectations thanks to the passionate community of horror fans in Buffalo. Therefore, another season will be on its way. “I hope to make the series better with each successive screening,” he says. “I think the success of Thursday Night Terrors shows that there’s a place for every genre of film in Buffalo. It’s just a matter of reaching that audience and playing the films they want to see. There’s room to experiment and expand. It’s a beautiful time to be a film lover in Buffalo.”

A busier-than-ever North Park Theatre: The North Park was hot in 2016; October even saw it host a screening of the first presidential debate. In addition to the theater’s usual selection of current independent films, the popular Family Matinee series and ultra-cool Neon Fever will continue. The latter saw screenings of such sci-fi and neo-noir classics as Blade Runner and Akira. Program director Ray Barker says, “2017 will be another exciting year for the North Park. In addition to bringing highly anticipated, Oscar-nominated films early in the year, we plan on bringing a director to the North Park in summer 2017 who was previously nominated for an Academy Award himself.” That’s a very cool teaser.

Comfy seats at the Regal Cinemas: Visitors to the Walden Galleria Mall cinema in recent months know the changeover to big comfy recliners has already taken place. A May Buffalo News article said all area Regal cinemas were expected to have these seats by October 2016, but, as of press time, there were no new updates. Still, you can probably expect to see the Regal theaters in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Orchard Park, and Williamsville getting real comfy real soon.

More treats from the Roycroft Film Society, the Old Chestnut Film Society, the Buffalo Film SeminarsSqueaky WheelHallwalls, etc.: It might seem as if the number of screenings of new, recent, and classic films in the Buffalo area has exploded in recent months. While there are certainly some new kids on the block, the folks mentioned here have been killing it for years. Keep checking this column in print and online for their latest events and screenings.

Another summer of outdoor cinema: From Bacchus to UB to Canalside and beyond, the number of venues offering outdoor screenings is greater than ever before. Watching films under the stars is now a Buffalo tradition.

New offerings from Cultivate Cinema Circle: The most recent CCC season featured a salute to Robert Altman, and the subjects for potential future series include Michael Mann, Alfred Hitchcock, and Roberto Rossellini. CCC organizers Jordan Smith and Jared Mobarak say they plan to continue screenings at the Dipson Amherst, Burning Books, and North Park. They also invite fans to tweet (@CultivateCinema), email (info@cultivatecinemacircle.com), or post (facebook.com/cultivatecinemacircle) suggestions for future films.

The fate of the Market Arcade may (or may not) be determined: So this is not a prediction, merely a hope. Not long after Main Street’s Market Arcade cinema closed its doors in 2014, there was talk of the AMC chain taking over the space. While AMC is an imperfect choice—the spot has always made most sense as a site for independent and small-scale films, rather than Transformers 7—it was nevertheless an exciting development. Fast-forward two years and … nothing. As of late September, a sign on the building still read “The facility is expected to reopen under new ownership by early 2015.” Meanwhile, a now hilariously dated feature in Buffalo Business First from February 2016 stated that “the theater could, potentially, be reopened by late summer or early fall in time to show such anticipated releases as the Ghostbusters reboot, Star Trek Beyond, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.” Insert shoulder-shrugging emoji here. Let’s hope 2017 is the year of the Market Arcade’s rebirth as a site for cinema. Better late than never.

January Coming Attractions: Cinematic gifts from Carpenter and Altman highlight the month in film

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I’m a bit late in posting my December Buffalo Spree “Coming Attractions” column, but there’s still a few treats left before year’s end.

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 EternityFred 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 EveThe 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)

November ‘Coming Attractions’ (from Buffalo Spree)

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I’m getting this one up a little late: my November “Coming Attractions” column in Buffalo Spree. It’s a but shorter than usual due to my TIFF feature from the same issue.

November is typically busy in the film world, but there’s more to the month than Oscar bait. Here are some unique options to consider, at locations around WNY.

Real Boy at BPAC: The latest film in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Dare to be Diverse Film Series sounds fascinating. The documentary Real Boy is centered on the story of a transgender teenager’s experience with his family and friends, and as a budding musician.

(7 p.m. on November 17 at 1300 Elmwood Ave.; burchfieldpenney.org)

Buffalo Film Seminars: Four true crowd-pleasers are part of the November Buffalo Film Seminars’ schedule: Peter Sellers stars in Hal Ashby’s Being There (November 1); Brian De Palma brings his unique style to the big-screen version of The Untouchables (November 8); Cher shines in Moonstruck (November 15); and Like Water for Chocolate is a delightful Mexican romance (November 29). Before the latter is Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film, The Sacrifice, on November 22. It’s a complex masterpiece that qualifies as a real must-see.

(7 p.m. at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

TCM Big Screen Classics—Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Thanks to Audrey Hepburn (and no thanks to Mickey Rooney), Breakfast at Tiffany’s still charms. Turner Classic Movies brings Holly Golightly to the big screen on November 27 and 30.

(2 and 7 p.m. on November 27 and November 30 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Word and Pictures: You might have missed this 2013 romantic drama starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche. The two stars make it a worthwhile film.

(4 p.m. on November 13 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival: Buffalo Dreams is, in a word, killer. For ten days, audiences can enjoy action, animation, comedy, drama, fantasy, horror, thriller, and science fiction features and shorts from around the world. That list includes 105 features, and many screenings feature Q-and-As with the filmmakers and stars. Highlights include Two for One, a post-9/11 drama that was shot in Buffalo and features beloved actor Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Attack of the Killer Shrews, a comedic remake by Niagara Falls filmmaker Ken Cosentino. Troma Entertainment founder Lloyd Kaufman will introduce the film.

(November 4-10 at the Eastern Hills Cinema, 4545 Transit Rd., Williamsville; November 11-13 at the Screening Room, 3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; buffalodreamsfilmfest.com)

The Screening Room: In addition to the Buffalo Dreams screenings mentioned above (Nov. 11 to 13), Amherst’s Screening Room screens the still pulse-pounding political thriller The Manchurian Candidate throughout the month. It’s Frank Sinatra’s finest performance, but Angela Lansbury is the actor you’ll truly remember …

(7:30 p.m. on November 4, 5, 9, 11, and 12 at the Screening Room, 3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

Thursday Night Terrors—Phantasm II: Don Coscarelli’s 1988 sequel is a fun, unexpected choice for the great Thursday Night Terrors series. The film’s reputation has certainly grown in recent years.

(7:30 p.m. on November 17 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

Cultivate Cinema Circle—The Player: Robert Altman’s comeback film, The Player might be of the most striking, most acidic drama about Hollywood ever made. Featuring Tim Robbins and a cavalcade of cameos, it’s a wonderful choice for CCC’s Altman-centric season.

(7 p.m. on November 3 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Nichols High School Movie Night at the North Park: More great selections from the students at Nichols in November: John Huston’s The African Queen on November 7 and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing on November 14. The latter, especially, is a wonderfully offbeat choice. (Of all Kubrick possibilities, who would’ve predicted The Killing?

(7 p.m. on November 7 and 14 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Old Chestnut Film Society—Stella Dallas: Next up in the season’s Barbara Stanwyck series is this 1937 sudser.

(7:30 p.m. on November 18 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

Fredonia Opera House: Lots of interesting choices at the Fredonia Opera House this month, starting with The Dressmaker, an adaptation of Rosalie Ham’s bestselling novel starring Kate Winslet (7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1). Catch Brazil and Game of Thrones favorite Jonathan Pryce as Shylock in a “Globe on Screen” presentation of The Merchant of Venice on November 5 (1 p.m.). Ron Howard’s hit Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week, a look at the Fab Four’s touring years, screens on November 12 and 15. And the acclaimed yet sadly underseen Queen of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, screens on November 19 and 22 (7:30 p.m.) For the full Opera House rundown, visit fredopera.org.

(Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

TIFF16 recap: Good timing, bad escalators, and stunning cinema (November Buffalo Spree)

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My annual TIFF recap can be found in the November issue of Buffalo Spree, and the timing isn’t bad, since many of the films mentioned are now playing or opening soon in Buffalo.

When it comes to the film festival experience, timing is everything. The Toronto International Film Festival is no exception. In some years, TIFF’s September time slot is a good thing, since it falls squarely at the start of the fall awards season. However, the festival takes place after the increasingly important fests in Venice and Telluride, and before the prestigious New York Film Festival. That can lead to years like 2014, when a controversial screening policy led to prime slots for a number of high-profile disappointments—The JudgeRosewaterSt. VincentThe Equalizer.

That was then. In 2016 (and last year, for that matter), TIFF was better than ever. The lineup for the eleven-day festival of nearly 300 features included several masterpieces, numerous very good films, and very few all-out disasters. It’s possible—if not likely—that this year’s Oscar winners in the Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress categories all played the festival. (I’m talking about La La Land, Damien Chazelle, Casey Affleck, Natalie Portman, Michael Shannon, and Michelle Williams. And yes, it is ridiculously early to make such predictions.) Some of these premiered elsewhere, but their response at TIFF cemented their status as awards frontrunners.

For all of these films and many, many others, timing is paramount. And whether you are a paying member of the public or an accredited film critic, your overall success rate as a TIFF attendee is seemingly dependent on random chance. Take my first day at TIFF16. Heavy traffic on the QEW meant my longtime festival compatriot Jared Mobarak and I arrived a little after 9 a.m. on the fest’s opening day. That also meant I was too late to see one of my most eagerly awaited selections, Sundance Film Festival hit Manchester by the Sea. I was severely bummed, especially since I was waiting in another line as the 9 a.m. screening attendees exited and I overheard their rapturous talk. Yet three days later came a festival miracle: an added press and industry screening scheduled at 9 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s Cinema 5. Unsure about the size of the theater (and nervous about the number of panting press folk likely interested in attending), I arrived more than an hour early and found a short line. I also discovered the theater only had forty-five seats, and by 8:15 the queue was epic. Happily, I got one of those seats and was able to experience director Kenneth Lonergan’s emotionally overwhelming, surprisingly subtle Manchester. (Timing!) The story of a sad sack tasked with serving as his nephew’s guardian after the death of his brother features career-best work from the aforementioned Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. It’s a legit tear-jerker.

So, yes, good timing for yours truly. This was not the only instance of early arrival guaranteeing me a seat for something special. That was also the case for the press screening of Moonlight, a wondrous coming-of-age drama that follows a young African-American male through three complex stages of his life; the press screening of designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, a stylish Hitchcockian gem starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and a revelatory Michael Shannon; and for the first public screening of American Honey, an almost indescribably exhilarating teenage road movie from Wuthering Heights director Andrea Arnold.

With a family and day job waiting at home, my TIFF experience is generally short (four days this year), and so my selections are dependent on what the powers that be choose to schedule while I’m in attendance. Therefore, I was unable to catch a few of 2016’s biggest festival hits, including La La Land, the sure-to-be-an-awards-favorite musical from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle that stars the delightful Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. And, of course, a number of biggies that were screening during my four days just couldn’t be wedged into my schedule. (I suppose that’s a mix of  good and bad timing.) But in addition to the films I’ve already mentioned, I was able to see fabulously meandering German comedy Toni Erdmann; Paul Verhoeven’s provocative Elle (starring Isabelle Huppert); the clever and surprisingly witty sci-fi drama Arrival(with Amy Adams); the morally complex Una, featuring Rooney Mara’s best performance yet; and the divisive Personal Shopper, a Kristen Stewart-starring ghost story that I found brilliant.

All in all, I watched twenty-six films in total before or during my tenth TIFF. (Nine of these were prefest screeners; seventeen were screenings during my four days in Toronto.) Twelve of these twenty-six were very, very good. Six were so-so. (Surprisingly, Nate Parker’s Sundance winner The Birth of a Nation falls here; it’s adequate at best, and that’s without even considering the horrific rape allegations rising from Parker’s past.) Six were unexceptional. (One of these was Terrence Malick’s years-in-the-making Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, a gorgeous bore from a filmmaker whose recent decline is worrisome.) Two were really, really bad. Those numbers are quite strong.

But how’s this for bad timing? One of the stories of the festival (seriously) was the broken escalators at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto, and, while the bitching was a bit much, it was easy to see why folks were so annoyed. This is one epic set of stairs, and it’s almost comical to ponder the up escalator (and later the down) breaking during the eleven days the world industry descends upon this theater. Couldn’t this have happened, say, twelve days later? Oh well.

At its best, TIFF and any film festival serves as a launching pad for future success, a showcase for bold new art, and a place for cinephiles, critics, and celebs to congregate and share the magic of cinema. All of that happened at the North American premiere of Jackie on September 11. I was able to get a ticket from the press office for that first screening—yep, good timing—and had high expectations. The director, after all, is Pablo Larraín, the prolific Spanish filmmaker responsible for NoThe Club, and another TIFF16 entry, Pablo Neruda biopic Neruda. And starring is Natalie Portman, a spot-on choice looks-wise. Even with my prefilm excitement, my expectations were exceeded. The story of the week following the JFK assassination from the perspective of Jackie Kennedy, Jackie was TIFF16’s finest film. It upends the traditional historical drama with bold storytelling, note-perfect performances, and a smart, probing script.

With films like this one highlighting the lineup, it was odd to read this quote about the 2016 festival, from industry bible Variety: “‘Most of the films were terrible,’ one distribution executive griped. ‘I can’t wait to get home.’” Ha. For me, TIFF16 was a series of masterpieces and a reminder that despite rumors to the contrary, film is not dead. It’s alive and well for eleven days in September and beyond. With JackieMoonlightManchester by the SeaNocturnal Animals, and many other greats set to open in Buffalo shortly, your timing is very, very good.