Campus News

Film series to screen Golden Globe winner ‘Three Billboards’

Frances McDormand stars in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” one of the films in this spring’s lineup of the Buffalo Film Seminars. The film won a Golden Globe for best motion picture, drama, and McDormand won the award for best performance by an actress.

By SUE WUETCHER

Published January 22, 2018

Recent Golden Globe winner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” will be joined by such classic films as “Casablanca,” “Mildred Pierce,” “High Noon” and “Singin’ in the Rain” for the spring 2018 edition of the Buffalo Film Seminars.

Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture in the Department of English, hosts the popular, semester-long series of film screenings and discussions with Diane Christian, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of English. While the series usually does not screen recently released films, Jackson says he and Christian changed the lineup at the last minute to include “Three Billboards” at the recommendation of several friends.

“We went to see it. It is an astonishing film,” he says. “The script and acting are superb. Every character in it is more complex than you at first think.”

Jackson notes that for many years the series never repeated any films — more than 500 different films have been screened so far, he says. “Every so often, we remember that we’ve been doing this for 18 years, which means most of our audience has not been to a BFS presentation of a lot of great films,” he explains. “When that happens, we visit the screening schedules for the first decade and look for films that are as good or are better than other films we might select from the same time period.”

The classic titles “Casablanca,” “Mildred Pierce,” “High Noon” and “Singin’ in the Rain” “fit that bill,” he says, adding that “a film that works one year might work for a very different reason another year.”

Each session of the Buffalo Film Seminars begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, beginning Jan. 30 and running through May 8, in the Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St. in the University Plaza, directly across the street from the South Campus.

Christian and Jackson will introduce each film. Following a short break at the end of each film, they will lead a discussion of the film. The screenings are part of “Film Directors” (Eng 381), an undergraduate course being taught by the pair. Students enrolled in the course are admitted free; others may attend at the theater’s regular admission prices of $9.50 for adults, $8 for students and $7.25 for seniors. Season tickets are available any time at a 15 percent reduction for the cost of the remaining films.

“Goldenrod handouts” — featuring production details, anecdotes and critical comments about each week’s film — are available in the theater lobby 45 minutes before each session. The handouts also are posted online one day before each screening.

The 36th edition of the series opens on Jan. 30 with the 1933 musical “Gold Diggers of 1933,” directed by Mervyn LeRoy and choreographed by Busby Berkeley. The film, based on a play that ran on Broadway in 1919 and 1920, tells the story of a wealthy composer who rescues unemployed Broadway performers with a new play. It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2003.

The remainder of the schedule, with descriptions culled from IMDb and other sources:

“Casablanca”

  • Feb. 6: “Casablanca,” 1942, directed by Michael Curtiz. A cynical American expatriate encounters a former lover in Casablanca in 1941 — with unforeseen complications. Stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
  • Feb. 13: “Mildred Pierce,” 1945, directed by Michael Curtiz. After her husband leaves her, Mildred Pierce becomes a successful businesswoman, but can’t win the approval of her spoiled daughter. The film is considered to be one of the best melodramatic, “women’s pictures” and film-noir classics of the 1940s — and Joan Crawford’s comeback film.

“Tokyo Story”

  • Feb. 20: “Tokyo Story,” 1953, directed by Yasujiro Ozu. An aging couple travels to Tokyo to visit their children and grandchildren, but the children have little time for them. A “radiant, gentle, heartbreaking, perceptive investigation into the tensions with the generations of a family,” wrote critic Henry Holt.
  • Feb. 27: “High Noon,” 1952, directed by Fred Zinnemann. Torn between his sense of duty and his love for his new bride, a town marshal must face a gang of deadly killers alone at high noon. Stars Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.

“The Big City”

  • March 6: “Singin’ in the Rain,” 1952, directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. A silent film production company and its cast are caught in the transition to “talkies.” Stars Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. The film has been voted one of the greatest films of all time in international critics’ polls and is routinely called the greatest of all the Hollywood musicals.
  • March 13: “The Big City,” 1963, directed by Satyajit Ray. Life at home changes when a middle-class housewife from a conservative family in Calcutta gets a job as a saleswoman.
  • March 20: Spring break; no screening.

“Persona”

  • March 27: “Persona,” 1966, directed by Ingmar Bergman. A nurse is put in charge of a mute actress and finds that their personas are melding together.
  • April 3: “Black Girl,” 1966, directed by Ousmane Sembène. A young Senegalese woman becomes a servant in France.
  • April 10: “Dog Day Afternoon,” 1975, directed by Sidney Lumet. A man robs a bank to pay for his lover’s operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus. Stars Al Pacino and John Cazale.

“L’Argent”

  • April 17: “L’Argent,” 1983, directed by Robert Bresson. A forged 500-franc note is passed from person to person until carelessness leads to tragedy.
  • April 24: “Mulholland Drive,” 2001, directed by David Lynch. After a car wreck on winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and an aspiring actress search for clues and answers.
  • May 1: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” 2017, directed by Martin McDonagh. A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder. Stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. The film was the big winner at the 2018 Golden Globes earlier this month, taking home four awards, including Best Motion Picture – Drama.
  • May 8: “The Young Girls of Rochefort,” 1967, directed by Jacques Demy. Two sisters leave their small seaside town of Rochefort in search of romance. Hired as carnival singers, one falls for an American musician, while the other must search for her ideal partner. The musical stars Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly.

For more information about the Buffalo Film Seminars, visit the series’ website.