I shall perform a public service and begin listing, one at a time, all the things to do or places to go in Savannah that I think not enough visitors (and sometimes locals) know about. Many of these will be things I regularly post about on my Facebook page or events I list on my website calendar, but I will be able to include more detail here. This is the place to find out who these people are, what such-and-such organization is all about, and what the venue is like.
The first entry on my list of favorite things? The Psychotronic Film Society. I love it so much and I want to share the love with others so much, I would bodily shove my tourists in the door and force them to partake if I didn't know such rudeness would tank my TripAdvisor rating. And what the hell is the Psychotronic Film Society? In brief, it's a film screening at a downtown café called The Sentient Bean almost every Wednesday night at 8pm, and sometimes special screenings at The Muse Arts Warehouse. Who runs this so-called "society"? Really it's just the one guy. Just Jim. I've mentioned him before- he's the drummer for local band Superhorse. Before I ever knew he was a musician, though, he was the guy who showed the weird movies. Some people know him only as "MOVIE MAN!" like he's some kind of celluloid vigilante. I cannot remember my first encounter or conversation with the weird-movie-guy any more than I can remember what was the first Psychotronic Film I watched. I only know it is meet and becoming that Jim and the PFS are a part of my life now.
What can you expect when you attend the Sentient Bean on PFS night? What does Jim do, exactly? The Celluloid Avenger rescues cinephiles from mediocrity by showing only two types of movies: very good ones and very bad ones. The picture may not be one you like, but it will be one you always remember. Some of the best movie-viewing experiences I've ever had were on PFS night. Ticket prices usually range from $6-$8, purchased at the register. The café has coffee, food, and a little beer and wine as well.
Sometimes Jim's choice is nearly mainstream, such as when he screened The Wicker Man as part of the Psychotronic Film Festival one year. Not the crap one with Nicholas Cage, the good one with Christopher Lee (may he rest in peace). That was the first time I had ever seen it (it's one of my favorite movies now) and also the first time I ever saw a standing room only crowd at the Sentient Bean. Jim screened a fairly well-known Finnish film for Christmas one year called Rare Exports. I've been begging him to reprise it every Christmas since. However, severe obscurity usually characterizes the offerings. The movie that blows my mind the most even now is a Czech film called Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea. I have never seen a movie succeed so well as both a time travel story and a comedy. (Yes, it's better than Back to the Future.) And there were Nazis! Time-traveling Nazis! (Take that, Robert Zemeckis.)
On the opposite (terrible) end of the spectrum, there have been some Godfrey Ho movies; various cheesy rip-offs of mainstream blockbusters; and, yes indeed, a special screening of Tommy Wiseau's The Room. The most recent bad movie I saw at The Bean was a sweaty train wreck called The Maddening. It was not merely bad, it was ambitiously bad. John Huston's son Danny Huston directed it and you could tell he really believed he was making a good movie. He put so much love into that movie. The cast was crawling with A-listers and character actors and a fully insane Burt Reynolds. It just... it all went horribly, gloriously wrong somehow, and we the audience were privileged to revel in this overwrought dreck. Imagine if Alfred Hitchcock had been great with camera work, but God-awful at script writing. Something like that. It was magnificent.
What else do I like about PFS night? The crowd. Sometimes there are a fair number of people, but mostly there are regulars- we happy few that return week after week, ready to buckle up and let Jim have the wheel. Illuminating the PFS roster are Jack, former guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers; David Stone, Academy Award winning sound designer; Axelle Kieffer, local artist; a rotating assortment of activists, baristas, social butterflies; and, of course, one tour guide who usually takes Wednesdays off. The truth, however, is that the regular crowd doesn't come just for the movies. They come for Jim. Each Wednesday is a ritualistic show of devotion and support for a good friend. Warm affection suffuses the room just as much as the scent of warm coffee. It's a good vibe, is what I'm saying.
Why is Jim so damn special? I dunno. Because he's always broke, but never bitter? Because each and every answer he gives to any question is a masterclass in circuitous storytelling? Maybe because he prefaces almost every film screening with a 25-minute lecture about that movie and the people who made it, usually concluding with the phrase "This film is extremely rare and has never been released in any format anywhere in the world," or "All the original negatives were destroyed in a warehouse fire," or "The studio was embarrassed and didn't want anyone to ever see this picture and destroyed all copies." (None of these is an exaggeration.) Or maybe it's because whenever I ask him, "Well then, Jim, how did you get a copy?" he's managed to avoid giving me an answer for years. Clearly, Jim is a wizard and each and every screening is actually some kind of magic show.
So come and be spellbound either by the movie, the local characters, or the caffeine buzz. What better way to elevate a day as lame as Wednesday? You can keep up with the PFS by asking to join Jim's mailing list (email@example.com), visiting the Sentient Bean's website to check their events calendar, or following Jim's Film Scene column in our local newspaper.