Two of my local movie highlights are seeing Let Me In, the American remake of the award-winning Swedish novel and film Låt den rätte komma in, then leading the audience Q&A with screenwriter/director Matt Reeves in September 2010, and catching The Artist before executive producer Richard Middleton and cast members James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller talked about it in December 2011.
Both screenings were at the Lido Theatre, where The Artist moviegoing experience was enhanced by the historic Newport Beach auditorium’s old-timey interior. The black-and-white silent film at that time was only creating a faint hum of the deafening buzz that led to five Oscars, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius) and Best Actor (Jean Dujardin).
Neither screening would have been possible locally without the Orange County Film Society, a nonprofit founded in 2006 by the Newport Beach Film Festival to promote and celebrate American and international and cinema, right here behind the Orange Curtain. The mission has been accomplished with year-round programming of studio and independent films, which have generally been shown in mainstream movie theaters around the county, including the Lido. These screenings are routinely followed by discussions with filmmakers, critics, curators and scholars.
Besides Let Me In and The Artist, films that have gone on to be shown to OCFS members before the general public include The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Fighter, Precious, The Blind Side, Young Victoria, Little Miss Sunshine, Milk, Earth, The Proposal, Away We Go, La La Land, Ponyo and Sully.
I bring this up to suggest an OCFS membership as a holiday gift to your favorite local movie-lover. Current members can consider the following roundup a list of what they have in store through the end of the current year. Everyone else can treat it as a mini-preview of movies that will be considered for major awards in the months ahead:
Netflix’s The Crown, Working Title Films: We will take your John Lithgow as Winston Churchill and raise you Gary Oldman. He plays the British Bull Dog during the first days after taking over for prime minister Neville Chamberlain. Through the eyes of typist Elizabeth Layton, a fictional character played by Lily James (Downton Abbey), we see Churchill wrestling with whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler or fight the German army against incredible odds. The OCFS screening of director Joe Wright’s biographical drama is Tuesday; the film is scheduled to open to the public on Nov. 22.
Marina (Daniela Vega), a transgender waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, faces persecution after the death of her older boyfriend (Francisco Reyes). Director/co-writer Sebastián Lelio’s Chilean drama received the Best Feature Film and Best Latin American Film awards at the Berlin and San Sebastian international film festivals, respectively. The OCFS screening is Thursday; the film is not due in U.S. theaters until Feb. 2.
Charming American doctoral student Oliver (The Social Network‘s Armie Hammer) goes to an Italian villa to serve as the annual summer intern for an eminent Greco-Roman culture professor (Boardwalk Empire‘s Michael Stuhlbarg). But Oliver and the professor’s son Elio (Timothée Chalamet of Interstellar and Homeland) fall in love. Director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) worked off James Ivory’s script, which was adapted from Andre Aciman’s novel. The OCFS screening is Nov. 20; the film is scheduled to open in U.S. theaters four days later.
This year is apparently the Year of Wonder. First came Wonder Woman and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, and now we have within weeks of one another Wonder, Wonderstruck and Woody Allen’s drama about a Coney Island carousel operator (Jim Belushi) and his beleaguered wife (Kate Winslet) dealing with the arrival of his grown daughter (Juno Temple), who has the mob on her tail. The story unfolds before a beach lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) and includes at least a couple of Italian-American actors from The Sopranos. This screens for OCFS on Nov. 30; the regular theater run starts Dec. 1.
Based on Peter Turner’s memoir with the same title and adapted by Matt Greenhalgh for director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin), the rom-dram follows the playful but passionate relationship between Turner (Jamie Bell of Turn: Washington Spies) and the eccentric Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) in 1978 Liverpool. The biographical picture, which received four nominations from the British Independent Film Awards, features the original song “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way” by Elvis Costello. It screens for OCFS on Dec. 4; the U.S. limited release is Dec. 29.
Andrey Zvyagintsev directed and co-wrote the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize, London Film Festival Best Film and Munich Film Festival Best International Film winner and Russia’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th annual Academy Awards. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) are going through a vicious divorce marked by resentment, frustration and recriminations. They each have a new partner when their 12-year-old son (Matvey Novikov) witnesses one of their fights and later disappears. There is only one scheduled U.S. opening Dec. 1 in New York; the OCFS screening is Dec. 14.
Orange County Film Society officials say additional films will be added weekly. A $159 general membership includes invitations to all regular OCFS screenings and events for one calendar year, with a minimum of 15 exclusive events put on by OCFS partners over that period, and a one-year subscription to Orange Coast Magazine.
Red Carpet membership, which goes for $259, includes all of what is detailed above, plus at least six additional exclusive screenings over the calendar year, admission to private hosted receptions for select events, as well as still more gatherings hosted by OCFS partners. To join or to learn more about memberships and upcoming screenings, visit OrangeCountyFilmSociety.com.