The 20th Annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival closes its doors with Q&As from Robert Pattinson and Richard Gere plus major gala screenings.
Day 7 of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival marked my busiest day of the fest yet. Looking at the program, I find it difficult to imagine how anyone could attend everything that interests them. The festival programmers pack the agenda. No festival-goers tastes go unattended, and it becomes something of a Sophie’s Choice deciding which path to take. This, of course, meant I had to leave behind things I’d originally intended to attend like Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck. I also chose the film Good Time with a Q&A attended by festival honoree Robert Pattinson over a fascinating panel.
Well, maybe that one wasn’t such a difficult choice.
Friday started off with a Below the Line panel on costume design attended by several major costumers, including the great Sandy Powell (The Aviator, Mary Poppins Returns). Powell spun tales of getting started in the business and of working with such amazing directors as Todd Haynes on Wonderstruck and, of course, the great Martin Scorsese. Surprisingly, thanks to a friendship struck on Scorsese’s Hugo, it was Powell who brought writer Brian Selznick’s screenplay for his own novel to Haynes. She then talked at great length about the challenges of costuming Hayne’s black and white film, particularly since her personal tastes trend toward vivid displays of vibrant colors. She relied on her iPhone to convert color pictures of costume choices into black and white to prepare for the challenge.
“I love working with colors – it’s the first thing I think of,” Powell remarked. “But here that had to go!”
Another legendary costume designer Ellen Mirojnick (Fatal Attraction, Behind the Candelabra) talked about working with actors to craft their ultimate looks. She described working with Matt Damon on Behind the Candelabra and his initial hesitance to embrace the extravagant apparel. Part of her process, though, involves easing the actors into costume selection. After trying on a few pieces, Mirojnick admits that Damon was quickly committed.
She also described working on the upcoming Oscar contender The Greatest Showman, a musical in which Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum. She recounted the nerves she felt when Jackman first tried on the infamous red coat. Once he did, she raved, he instantly became Barnum.
Following the costume panel, Robert Pattinson attended a screening of his latest film, the critically acclaimed Good Time. The film marks a significant shift in his acting career, one that critics praised as his greatest performance to date. This was my first experience with the film, and he is indeed fantastic in it. Will Oscar voters take notice? Best Actor this year isn’t as strong as in previous years, so there’s room. For that to happen, critics will have to come through for the film in a major way, bringing it to the attention of Academy voters.
Pattinson’s short Q&A was incredibly well received. He described the joy of playing a character with such an incredible New York energy and a vastly skewed moral compass.
“It’s the total opposite of being an English person,” Pattinson confessed.
One of my favorite on-set anecdotes he shared involved a mall chase sequence with New York cops. To achieve authenticity, real cops were hired for the scene without telling mall visitors a film was being shot. As Pattinson dashed through the crowd, mall patrons attempted to block the in-pursuit police. Some patrons were actually arrested, making the film shoot an actual crime scene. You could tell Pattinson found that incredibly amusing.
Friday Night Gala Screenings
Friday night brought two of my most anticipated screenings: I, Tonya and Call Me By Your Name. The better attended of the two, I, Tonya brought voracious laughter through its 2-hour running time from the festival attendees. The audience seemed to love Allison Janney’s against-type turn as LaVona Harding. The audience received nearly every line delivery with shock and laughter. In my opinion, Janney feels like your likely Supporting Actress Oscar winner. Margot Robbie’s turn as Tonya Harding was also well received. I thought it was strange, though, that Harding effectively disappears for a half-hour midway through the film. Can she win an Oscar? She could, but that uneven balance of screen time doesn’t help.
Call Me By Your Name wasn’t nearly as well attended as I, Tonya. I arrived ten minutes before the film began and was able to grab a seat near the front of the theater. Those in attendance, however, loved this film, as did I. It’s a beautifully constructed film featuring a star-making performance from Timothée Chalamet and strong supporting work from Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film smartly omits the novel’s extended epilogue and instead focuses on Chalamet’s face for a good five minutes as he registers the heartbreak of a recent phone call. The audience seemed completely enraptured by the scene. That moment solidifies his Best Actor nomination for me.
I spent most of Saturday strolling around Savannah with my wife. She came to the city, one of our favorites, with me but was unable to attend any of the events. I couldn’t let our trip pass without reconnecting our love for the city, and we did just that. Part of what makes the SCAD Savannah Film Festival so amazing is its location. The city is kind of magical. Experience it with someone you love.
Richard Gere helped close the SCAD Savannah Film Festival with a Q&A following a screening of his latest film Norman. He then received his Lifetime Achievement Award prior to the final gala screening of Darkest Hour. Gere brought a contemplative perspective to his remarks. He relished the opportunity to speak directly to the SCAD students in attendance. He also shared an emotional moment as he reviewed his 40-year career in a highlight reel.
“You just see the movies,” Gere said, “but I see my life.”
The Darkest Hour audience skewed the oldest of any of the films I attended. The buzz is absolutely correct: Gary Oldman’s transformative performance as Winston Churchill absolutely belongs at the very front of every Oscar conversation. It’s a cliche, but I completely forgot this was Oldman. The audience appreciated the film at the end, strongly applauding Oldman and director Joe Wright’s names in the credits. It’s a definite Oscar contender in all categories.
Yet, perhaps my personal favorite moment of the festival came just before the screening began. I was seated in front of an older couple who’d attended nearly everything the SCAD Savannah Film Festival had to offer. As I’d heard multiple times throughout the festival, they loved Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Watch out for that one, folks. Savannah ate that up with a spoon.
But when they discussed another film they liked, they couldn’t get it quite right. They described it as that “Sally Hawkin” (sic) movie about the girl who couldn’t see and the fish.
Time to put everything into perspective, I guess.
Thanks, SCAD Savannah Film Festival, for being such a great host and a great way to break into the festival circuit. See you next year.