Summer is, perhaps, boom time for film festivals (the chills of Sundance in January notwithstanding), and it’s easy to see why. Festivals involve walking, so the weather better be nice. In my mind, that makes September an ideal month for a fest – far preferable to the dog days of summer heat.
The Tulsa Overground Festival, an intermittent institution for the past 20 years, has moved its schedule around during its life. This year’s festival is over the weekend of Sept. 14-15. The Overground provides a more balanced approach to festival-going than many; officially a film and music festival, it features both cinematic screenings and performances by a variety of bands, with events clustered downtown. The festival also features Q&A sessions, workshops with filmmakers and a virtual reality forum with games. With its compact schedule and array of attractions, it’s a good way to dip your toes into the festival scene without submitting to the rigors of a longer festival.
Gregory La Cava has never been as well known as Frank Capra and Preston Sturges, practitioners of the Golden Age of Hollywood sub-genre called the screwball comedy. But La Cava crafted one of the all-time funniest movies with 1936’s My Man Godfrey, out this month on DVD and Blu-Ray in a new 4K restoration from the Criterion Collection. Set against the jarringly serious backdrop of the Great Depression, the film tackles poverty and class without sentimentality.
One of its most memorable settings is the shanty town where Godfrey – the businessman turned “forgotten man” turned butler – lives, but the film’s script is full of hilarious lines, over-the-top characters and a frenetic sense of energy. The inimitable William Powell stars in the title role, and his chemistry with ex-wife Carole Lombard, playing the wealthy but flighty millionaire who brings him into her home, crackles with playfulness and romantic subtext.
Despite being a film that ends happily, with bows tied around the rough edges, lingering images of poverty give My Man Godfrey an edge that’s missing from many other, more escapist, screwball comedies. This new release explores that side of the film, featuring newsreel footage about poverty from the 1930s and analytical essays by Nick Pinkerton and Farran Smith Nehme.
September follows August’s lead in film’s yearly cycle: too late for the prime cuts of blockbuster meat, but too early for more substantial fare. Therefore, it often has to subsist on leftovers and scraps of genre fare and films too weak to survive in competitive environments.
Still, the month can have its pleasures, especially if you don’t mind horror films and other fringier affairs. I’m not a huge fan of horror films, but I look forward to the upcoming Nicholas Cage vehicle Mandy. Cage is (forgive the pun) a national treasure who regularly spins trash into gold with his gonzo approach to acting. This film, where he takes revenge on backwoods cultists destroying his life, seems especially well suited to his bug-eyed approach.