FLICKS: The importance of the written word in poetry and motion pictures

Posted on 25 April 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

When Steven Spielberg won his first Oscar for Schindler’s List, he encouraged his motion picture colleagues to return to the written word. Deerfield Beach Percy White Library will feature the written word at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 25, with “Poetry 101 with Mrs. Powers.” In dedication of the National Poetry Month, Pam Powers, a Deerfield Beach Middle School Teacher with 37 years experience, comes out of retirement to teach a fun class on poetry. If the program is a success, we hope to have it again next year!

Spielberg created two motion pictures that broke records for the biggest box office records for all time, Jurassic Park and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The fact that these two motion pictures play on regular television rotation is a testament to the importance of the written word when creating big screen spectacular.

At the recent Spooky Empire Retro Convention [March 22 to 24 in Orlando], Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton and Robert Demeritt held an E.T. Reunion and reminisced about the production of this blockbuster champion. It was during the production of Raiders of the Lost Ark, that Spielberg discussed his feelings of loneliness to Harrison Ford’s girlfriend, Melissa Mathison, a screenwriter. From this discussion, the two forged the story of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

Thirty-eight years after the production of ET, one can tell the cast still genuinely enjoy each other’s company and spoke fondly of their absentee actress, Drew Barrymore. Barrymore introduced MacNaughton to his wife. Since she was the youngest child on the set (aged 6), Barrymore was mentored by Wallace on the set. Wallace was concerned that the child actress could not differentiate the differences between fantasy and reality.

The boys were a different story. Being the leading man, the success of E.T. rested on 10 year-old Henry Thomas, who found escape through playing video games in Spielberg’s office. Being 14 years old, MacNaughton admitted that he and his peers (among them, C. Thomas Howell) had a crush on Dee Wallace, especially when she wore the “cat suit” during the Halloween sequence. Dee Wallace blushed in amazement as she heard some of these stories for the first time.

Despite the cynicism of the Hollywood mentality, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial has endured as a cultural icon. One modestly produced film has endured for almost four decades.

After “Poetry 101 with Mrs. Powers” this afternoon, Avengers: Endgame opens to many sold-out movie theaters [official release date is Friday]. Besides being the conclusion of a 21 motion picture film cycle, this new film is the culmination of 80 years of comic book myth inspired by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. These are good years for good stories, but it is extremely important to remember that it begins with the written word.

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FLICKS: See Great Bear Rainforest 3D on Eddie Albert Day

Posted on 18 April 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

This Monday, April 22 marks the 113th birthday of actor Eddie Albert. Albert’s career spanned six decades as a leading man and as a character actor. He was Oscar nominated for Roman Holiday in 1954 and for The Heartbreak Kid 19 years later.  While a costar to actors like John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and Burt Reynolds, Albert is best remembered for his television show Green Acres, in which he, Eva Gabor and Arnold Ziffel starred in 170 episodes.

During the final season of Green Acres, he became politically active with environmental issues for the remainder of his life. TV Guide called him “an ecological Paul Revere” for his work with the Boy Scouts of America, serving on the Department of Energy’s Advisory Board, growing an organic garden in his backyard and founding the City Children’s Farms for inner city children. He also participated in the creation of “Earth Day,” in which organizers honor him by holding this event on the actor’s birthday.

The preservation of the environment is the responsibility of the current generation, who are merely stewards of the land for future generations. Forty years ago, broadcast television did a better job presenting environmental science to the public, minus the politicization. Fortunately, a documentary like Great Bear Rainforest 3D is still being produced and can be seen on a very big screen.

Set in British Columbia near the Alaska Peninsular, Great Bear Rainforest 3D is currently on rotation at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science on the 6-story IMAX screen. Narrated by Ryan Reynolds, this film features overwhelming visuals of a land with very little human contact.

The only human contact is the indigenous people who live off the land with a symbiotic relationship with the bears and the land. Both creature’s diets thrive on the salmon swimming upstream.  With technical precision, this 10 minute sequence covers much drama. One key sequence features a Mama Grizzly Bear attempting to feed herself and her cubs while fending off a greedy male bear. Upon catching a fish, there is a pretty grisly sequence in which a bear skins and devours a salmon that is still half alive.

The star of this filmis Mox, a white bear. To the Native Americans, Mox is the spirit bear of the land. While the science is real and the cinematography is remarkable, this film presented an understated reason why religion is variably part of science.

As we have tragically learned from Notre Dame Cathedral this week, it was the science of neglect that caused the fire, a chemistry of elements that ignited the blaze [lack of fire prevention safeguards]. Yet, when the inferno was doused, the image of a cross illuminated through the darkness and smoke.

Have a happy and thoughtful Passover, Earth Day, Eddie Albert Day and Happy Easter.

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FLICKS: The Chaperone opens, Game of Thrones party, Plan for Avengers: Endgame now!

Posted on 11 April 2019 by LeslieM


By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

After decades of watching The Three Stooges on television, one of the Farrelly Brothers admitted that while Curly and Moe were usually the center of attention, they found that Larry may have been the most important Stooge. The Farrelly Brothers credit him as the best actor who supported every scene that he was in. It was Larry’s job to keep the focus on Moe poking Curly in the eyes for comedic effect.

Opening this weekend, The Chaperone is the story about somebody who is not the center of attention, yet is an individual who keeps many disparate people together. Norma (Elizabeth McGovern) is a reliable individual. She is married to Alan Carlisle (Campbell Scott) who is a public figure in Kansas and they are patrons of the arts. While catching a dance recital featuring Young Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson), Backstage, Mother Brooks asks Norma to chaperone Young Louise to New York City to take dance classes with the Denishawn Academy.

While The Chaperone could divert attention to the legendary silent screen star Louise Brooks, director Michael Engler keeps the focus on the title character. We learn that Norma was an orphan from the big city raised by nuns and relocated to Kansas. Married young, Norma confronts secrets from her past and current domestic woes. For Norma, chaperoning Louise Brooks is the least of her problems.

Given her Oscar-nominated role as the wild Evelyn Nesbit from Ragtime, released 38 years ago, Elizabeth McGovern shines as straitlaced Norma. She is the eye of the hurricane and the two performances, nearly four decades apart, bookend McGovern’s underrated talent as an actress. The Chaperone is good drama that celebrates good deeds under pressure.

On a more expansive note, Game of Thrones opens its final season this Sunday evening. While people are binge watching the previous seven seasons, Savor Cinema (503 SE 6 St., in Ft. Lauderdale) plans a season premier party starting at 7:30 p.m. Perhaps an evening of debauchery would be a more accurate description since flagons of ale, barrels of wine, Wildfire shots and Lannister turkey legs, and other dragon dishes, will be consumed within the John Mager Courtyard. Dress Gothic chic. Free parking at the courthouse garage. Sundays meters are free too. Party tickets: $20 FLIFF Members/$25 non-members, includes complimentary drinks and food!

Watching television shows in movie theaters is nothing new. When M*A*S*H ended its 11 year broadcast run on the CBS Network in February 1983, parties were held and people went to civic centers to watch the final episode.

Yet, it is fascinating how small-screened television is driving the markets for big screened entertainment.

Speaking of big screen, the biggest screen in the land, Museum of Discovery and Science – IMAX’s 6-story-high screen has already sold-out screenings of Avengers: Endgame, which opens in two weeks. However, there are some great documentaries that will be playing on the big screen, most notably Great Bear Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. For those in search of more quieter dramas, check out The Chaperone this weekend.

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Storm Boy opens this weekend, Dumbo deserved more love

Posted on 04 April 2019 by LeslieM


By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Despite being No. 1 in the box office last weekend, Dumbo disappointed in the box office numbers. Earning only 25 percent of its production costs, Dumbo faces much competition this spring break season with Shazam!, Pet Sematary and Storm Boy opening this weekend. The sad thing is that Dumbo is fine family entertainment directed by Tim Burton. While a darker version of the popular animated motion picture from 1941, this modern version of Dumbo eschews talking and singing animals. The new film focuses on a family and a small business facing a financial crisis.

Set in Sarasota, circa 1919, the film opens with the Medici Brothers Circus launching their annual barnstorming tour through the American Heartland. While in Joplin, Missouri (Walt Disney’s hometown), Ringmaster Medici (Danny Devito) welcomes the return of his ace trick rider (Colin Farrell) to his family and the birth of a baby elephant with big ears.

The story is simple and conflict will ensue. However, it is the attention to detail that makes Dumbo so special. Music that animals sang to in the first movie is used as heartfelt musical cues. “Baby Mine” is rendered with sideshow performers (bearded lady, strong man) playing a flute and ukulele, while resting between shows. Despite some mean behavior and a jump scare, Dumbo is a sweet movie to take children to if only to see how a family sticks together to solve problems.

Storm Boy opens this weekend and contains many of the same themes as Dumbo with far less special effects. Based on the novella by Colin Thiele, Storm Boy is a rite of passage story that is set on the Australian coast. Geoffrey Rush (who also produced) portrays Mike Kingley, a retiring business man who is concerned that his son wants to pave paradise and put up a parking lot, upsetting the economical balance of the beach front.

When reuniting with his granddaughter, Kingley reflects upon his youth with three pelicans, in particular Mr. Percival, an orphan pelican.  Mr. Percival and Kingley have a series of encounters on the island and become local celebrities.

“A good story has to go wrong before it gets better,” Kingley tells his granddaughter late in the film. It is sad, but Storm Boy concludes on a life affirming note. In fact, it will inspire you to go for an early morning walk on Deerfield Beach to watch and observe the birds on our beach.

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FLICKS: Hotel Mumbai is a reminder about the cost of freedom

Posted on 28 March 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Earlier this year when Glass opened, this columnist was disappointed with the low key fate of the Bruce Willis character, given the imagery this movie star cultivated with his Die Hard movies. Especially with the first Die Hard movie, it was entertaining to watch one guy best a group of terrorists holding people hostage.

Hotel Mumbai opens this weekend and is based on four days of terrorist attacks in India shortly after Barrack Obama was elected president.  Unlike the fantasy heroics of Die Hard, Hotel Mumbai captures the historical fear of people under captivity.

The film opens with a dozen terrorists from Pakistan rowing a rubber raft to the financial center of India, the city of Mumbai. Inside the Hotel Mumbai, we are introduced to the staff who believes that customer service means treating the guests as gods.

The godly guests are an international assortment of characters. Armie Hammer portrays an American who married into Indian royalty and is the father of a baby boy. Jason Isaacs portrays a Russian who delights in prostitutes and fine alcohol. In contrast, Dev Patel portrays a father who desperately needs to work at the Hotel Mumbai on this fateful day.

The action is swift, sudden and unexpected. It is an organized and coordinated attack, but with random targets. Given that the Special Forces unit is eight hours away, the Hotel Mumbai is a soft target. The suspense and terror feel real for the victims in hiding, who overheard the cold blooded directions of some mastermind seeking the most public executions possible.

Director Anthony Maras makes strong use of silence and noise. He also tampers with the nerves of viewers who suffer from either acrophobia or claustrophobia.  While Hammer, Isaacs and Patel are the most recognizable actors, Hotel Mumbai is an ensemble masterpiece.

Hotel Mumbai is a tough, but important motion picture to watch for historical reasons. For those who forget the lessons of history, one is condemned to repeat them. It was only four years later that American ambassadors were murdered in Benghazi, Libya, which was documented in the underrated movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Both movies remind us that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

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FLICKS: Captain Marvel

Posted on 20 March 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Captain Marvel has become the biggest grossing film of 2019 thus far, topping How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Glass.  This is the penultimate episode leading into the April 26 release of Avengers: Endgame, the climax of 11 years of Marvel movies.

Though an original story, Captain Marvel is filled with many Marvel Easter eggs, motifs and details that will reward the patrons of the late Stan Lee. In fact, the film opens with a  beautiful tribute to Stan “the Man” Lee, who created so many of the Marvel Comic superheroes who have struck box office gold.

The film opens when Vers (Brie Larson) and Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) are on a mission to infiltrate the Skulls.  Leading up to this mission, Vers has flashbacks involving American fighter jets and an older woman (Annette Bening).  When the mission goes haywire, Vers crash lands on planet Earth, circa 1990s.

After a confusing and convoluted opening, Captain Marvel settles into familiar territory, in which Vers meets S.H.I.E.L.D. Representative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Gregg Clark).  Vers learns that she is actually Carol Danvers, an Air Force aviator who is best friends with Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and the old woman in her dreams is actually her commanding officer, Doctor Wendy Lawson.  

Once the characters are established, Captain Marvel moves at a pretty brisk pace.  Unlike the serious nature of the recent Avengers and Captain America movies, the emphasis is on fun, much like the recent Thor, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange movies.  Like these previously mentioned  Marvel movies, this film succeeds as a standalone movie.

Being a comic book movie, it is filled with many visual big screen treats — the bigger the screen, the better [Head to IMAX in Ft. Lauderdale to see it on the six-storey screen] — that feature computerized special effects and practical stunt work. Yet, it is the character interaction that makes these movies special. While Danvers has a nice reunion with Rambeau and her daughter, it is the relationship between Nick Fury and Goose the Ferkel (who looks like a nice cat) that many ticket purchasers are talking about.

Being the 21st film of the Marvel Comic Universe, Captain Marvel is the final piece of the puzzle that will culminate with Avengers: Endgame opening April 29. This is a unique time for the movies, for this summer may be the swan song of the big screen motion picture experience. 

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FLICKS: Unique film — To Dust — opens this weekend

Posted on 14 March 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

As much as this writer loves his monster movies and spends his Saturday nights watching Svengoolie on MeTV, I’ve never watched an episode of Six Feet Under, a cable series about a funeral home run by a family. The actual science and business of this practical business is more likely to give me nightmares, compared to watching legends like Vincent Price and scream queen Linnea Quigley roaming the graveyards in search of flesh and brains.

To Dust opens this weekend and is a comedy/drama about death and decomposition. As expected, this is a serious and sad movie. Yet, for those in the medical profession with a dark sense of humor, To Dust is a movie for you.

The film opens with the sound of labored breathing with a respiratory machine. When the breathing and machine stops, the husband Shmuel (Geza Rohring) cuts his coat in grief [as per Jewish custom]. As the hospital staff begins the purification rites, Shumuel questions his wife’s soul and current state of pain.  

Shumuel seeks answers through science.  After attempting to find answers through higher level learning at university centers, Shumuel decides to pick the brain of a high school science teacher named Albert (Matthew Broderick).  Reluctant at first, Albert gets involved in the study of bodily decomposition as if he were trying to win the school’s science fair.

With echoes of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, Albert and Shmuel’s pursuit of science takes them from one bizarre situation to another.  Despite being a Kosher Cantor, Shmuel uses the corpse of a pig to determine the actual time of bodily composition, since a pig’s anatomy is similar to that of a human [pork is not kosher]. 

To Dust is filled with many of these contradictory scenes of the human condition. When a classic black & white monster movie plays on a television at Albert’s house, that somehow feels normal. These little details offset the gruesome subject, making To Dust a humane film in the long run.

As the blockbuster release of Captain Marvel has been revealed, the summer box office blockbuster is fast upon us, with Dumbo set to open at the end of this month.  Unique films like To Dust, The Last Resort and Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel will likely be pushed aside. See these unique films on the big screen when you get a chance.

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FLICKS: Rondo Hatton lives on though The Nun and Halloween on DVD

Posted on 07 March 2019 by LeslieM


By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Rondo Hatton

With the Oscar winners announced, Green Book enjoyed a noticeable bump at the box office and the positive word of mouth is likely to fill theater seats for people who cannot get seats for Captain Marvel, A Medea Family Funeral or How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. While the mainstream awards season is taking a break until the Tony Awards in June, people who are not members of the Academy, American Film Institute and actor or trade guilds/unions, can vote in the 17th Annual Rondo Hatton Award. Vote at www.rondoaward.com.

Established in 2002 by David Colton and Kerry Gammill, The Rondo Hatton Awards was one of the earliest collections of World Wide Web fan sites and the growth of the convention circuit. Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro has been quoted that he would rather win a Rondo than an Oscar. Fortunately for Del Toro, the writer/director/producer has both.

With no surprise, Halloween and The Nun (both now on DVD) are two films that are nominated for the coveted “Best Film of 2018” in a crowded field of 15 nominations. 

Halloween was the most hyped horror movie of 2018. Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the role of Laurie Strode, in a role that made Curtis famous 40 years ago. With John Carpenter returning as a producer/creative consultant, this Halloween exorcised seven Halloween sequels and the two Rob Zombie reboots. Instead, this film focuses on a showdown between a grandmother and the boogeyman who harassed her in 1978.

Young Director David Gordon Green does a great job setting up the conflict with creepy cinematography and a good performance by Curtis. However, the film falters during the much-awaited climax that features poor survival decisions by our heroine. Without meaning to, this Halloween becomes a version of Home Alone, minus the sense of humor.

The Nun is part of the horror universe created by James Wan and has been represented by the The Conjuring and Annabelle movies. Set in war torn Romania, circa 1952, The Nun does a fine job setting up the atmosphere recreating the Gothic world of  Vladimir Dracula the Impaler. Alas, like Halloween, the climax does not live up to the build-up that went before. For Monster Mavens, there are 13 other “Best Film” choices to choose from by the April 20 due date.

So who is Rondo Hatton? The Hollywood publicity machine described Rondo as a man so ugly that he needed no make-up [to be in monster movies]. Rondo did appear in many mainstream motion pictures, mostly as a bit player in classics like The Ox Bow Incident or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Rondo became a certified movie star as “The Hoxton Creeper” in the Sherlock Holmes film The Pearl of Death, which led to his featured films House of Horrors and The Brute Man.  

At the height of his career, Rondo died of a broken heart on Groundhog Day, 1946.

Like Richard Kiel, Andre the Giant and Irwin Keyes, Rondo really died from the complications from acromegaly, a disorder from one’s growth hormone. It is the acromegaly that distorted Rondo’s jawbone and gave him such gaunt features.

Like any monster legend, there are many folk tales that grew from Rondo’s malady. Having served in World War I, the Hollywood publicity machine claimed that Rondo was a victim of a German mustard gas attack. It is a fact that Rondo Hatton did serve (possibly with my Grandfather Dave Glen Watson) in World War I and aided the Pancho Villa Expedition under General Pershing. A Christian all of his life, Rondo is interred in the American Legion Cemetery in Tampa, his adopted hometown where he served as a sports writer for the The Tampa Tribune.

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FLICKS: Green Book

Posted on 28 February 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Green Book ended up winning Best Picture at The Oscars.  Inspired by a true story about a relevant topic, this film has been met with controversy from members of the Don Shirley family [who is portrayed in the film].  On the other hand, the Vallelonga family endorsed the film, for many of the family members are seen onscreen in Green Book.  Regardless, the film is a fun motion picture and is a worthy addition to the Blues School canon of films.

The film opens in an epic style at the Copacabana Nightclub, circa 1962. While Bobby Rydell sings “That Old Black Magic,” bouncer Tony Vallelonga, alias Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is forced to eject an unruly patron, who happens to be a made member of the mafia. To avoid escalating the situation, the Copacabana Club closes for “renovations.”  Tony is forced to seek alternative income until the club reopens.

With plans to tour in the midwest and the deep south, Jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) hires Tony Lip as a driver, who has a reputation for fast talking people out of trouble. These skills will be needed as the “Don Shirley Trio” drive through the segregated south, where white members of the band are forced to sleep in separate hotels.  The star of the show, Don Shirley, is forced to stay in grubby hotels only listed in the “Green Book.”

Racism, bigotry and prejudice are the major themes of this film. Fortunately, humor is used to diffuse potentially explosive situations, which is much in the style of Tony Lip. The first half of the story deals with the behavior differences between these two strong individuals, between a dreamer and a pragmatist. Despite these cultural differences, trust is earned and the two men forge a bond that leads to a satisfying conclusion.

One would think that with credits like Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary and The Three Stooges, a director like Peter Farrelly would not have the sensitivity to create a film like Green Book.  However, good comedy is based on truth and that is what makes Green Book a success.  When you review Peter Farrelly’s movies (sometimes co-directed & co-written by his brother Bobby), you can see sensitivity even within some comic gross-out scenes. (There are no comic gross-out scenes in Green Book).

One perfect scene stands out for its story progress, character development and sensitive humor. Having never departed the state of New York, Tony is awestruck by an actual Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kentucky. Don is not impressed, but Tony coaxes his boss to eat fried chicken.  After getting over the crudity of eating without a knife and fork, Don gingerly bites into this American delicacy with new rapture. After the climax of this scene, one knows that Tony Vallelonga and Don Shirley will be friends for life.

With an outstanding movie soundtrack, the details of Green Book feel authentic.  This will be a film that will be in regular rotation on the television screen for many years.  It is a fun road trip for people who are looking to be entertained.

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FLICKS: Artic opens, The Samuel Project returns & Oscar party!

Posted on 21 February 2019 by LeslieM


By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Artic opens this weekend. While this movie is only 97 minutes long, it will feel longer, like a good Sir David Lean epic, such as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. It is a simple story about man in conflict with nature, but the wide screen cinematography creates an intimate relationship between the ticket buyer and the big screen.

The film opens with Overgard (Mads Mikkelsen) shoveling snow.  When the task is finished, the camera pans back and reveals the distress words “SOS.”  Overgard walks back to his crashed airplane, checks his equipment and then catches some fish for dinner. After some bed rest, it is the return to his routine of checking his equipment and catching fish.   

When the rescue helicopter crashes, Overgard is burdened with the extra responsibility of saving a comatose survivor.  Should Overgard maintain the comforts of his survivor camp or venture forward and rescue himself and the survivor with a wound infection?

The results are painful, stressful and ultimately life affirming. There are tantalizing moments of suspense that could lead to either despair or triumph. It is only in the last second of this film that the climax is reached.  Don’t blink.

Essentially giving a one man performance like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, or Robert Redford in All is Lost, Mikkelsen gives an earnest and endearing portrayal. Best known for portraying the arch enemy of James Bond and Doctor Strange, this Danish actor speaks few words in Artic. Mikkelsen gives a physical performance that draws echoes from the silent cinema of Buster Keaton. 

On Friday, March 1, The Samuel Project returns to the big screen for an encore. This sweet comedy about generational unification stars Hal Linden and Ryan Ochoa.  Teenagers between the ages of 10 – 14 can see the movie for free, providing they bring their grandparents with them. 

This Sunday, Feb. 24, is the Oscars and the Ft, Lauderdale International Film Festival’s Steve Savor is hosting a special gala at his Villa de Palma starting at 7 p.m. If you feel the need to wear a tuxedo or a gown, this black tie mandatory event is for you. There will be great food, an open bar and live music for those who want to celebrate like a movie star. Parking can be difficult. Limited valet will be available. It is best to carpool or use a service like Uber. Tickets in advance only. $100 FLIFF members, $150 non-members. Visit www.fliff.com for details.

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