First Words — 04 November 2016
The wonderful people out there in the dark

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

I remember where I was when the Imperial Star Destroyer filled the big screen in Star Wars.

I remember laughing so hard with the audience after seeing E.T. hidden among the stuffed animals in Drew Barrymore’s closet that we couldn’t hear the next five minutes of dialogue.

I remember the hand reaching up from the grave (spoiler alert!) to grab Amy Irving’s arm at the shocking end of Carrie – mainly because I still have a scar where my terrified movie date grabbed my arm.

I remember all these moments in the movies – and maybe you do, too. (Without the scars, I hope). They are some of our common experiences shared in darkened theaters as a proud, movie-going people.

But, to paraphrase Norma Desmond, our entertainment options are bigger now – and the pictures are getting smaller.

“You can watch a movie on a phone screen today,’’ laughs Gregory von Hausch, at the recent VIP opening of Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale. The venerable movie house – the former Cinema Paradiso – will screen many of the films in the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, now through Nov. 20.

Von Hausch, the president and CEO of the festival, believes in the power of movies to make such memories. He’s seen all 43 feature films, 10 documentaries, 62 short films and 20 or so student films in this year’s lineup, and he says he can’t wait to see the audience reaction to them all.

But over sushi and sashimi boats and a flute of Gold Brut Cava al fresco in the Savor Cinema courtyard, I ask if it’s harder now to get people away from their Netflix and Hulu and HBO Direct small screens – not to mention all the other entertainment options highlighted in our annual Arts Guide, pgs. 89-117 – to a film festival these days.

“Oh,’’ says the man who took over the fledgling festival 27 years ago, “I don’t think I could even start a festival like this today.”

The movies are still great, he says – there’s so much to see among the films in this year’s 19-day festival. But today, he adds, you also have to build experiences into the festival to get people out of the house.

So there will be four “Signature Parties’’ this year. Special guest Talia Shire (Rocky, The Godfather) was the marquee attraction for the Nov. 4th opener, Dreamland, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Academy Award winner Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Crimes and Misdemeanors) – interview, pg. 114 – will be the special guest at the closer, The Red Maple Leaf, Nov. 20 at Bailey Hall in Davie. In between there will be 22 receptions, with wine and cheese, music, even an election night “Nail-Biter Buffet’’ on Nov. 8. (Visit FLIFF.com for details).

We may find moments in these movies that leave us with common experiences as a proud, movie-going people. But we may also need a hot buffet with that to get us away, say, from The People v. O.J.

“You’ve got to give them something to get dressed up for,’’ says FLIFF supporter Jim Norton, back in the airy courtyard at the VIP opening. “This could be our Cannes.’’

We stood outside Savor Cinema as the guests – some in the “Hollywood Chic” cocktail dresses and tuxedoes the invitations requested – left their cars with the valets and had their photos taken on a red carpet that led to sushi and sashimi boats, and sparkling cava on ice.

Inside, Where the Boys Are – a South Florida classic I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never actually seen – played up on the big screen.

And I remembered where I was.

Mark Gauert,
 mgauert@cityandshore.com

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