Seen Magnolia yet? How about Boys Don't Cry, or All About My Mother? These critical film favorites, all playing in other cities and towns across the country, have failed to screen in Augusta. Chances are, nobody will see them inside the city limits until they land on the shelves at local video stores.
So what is a fan of fine cinema to do?
Well, the obvious solution is to make the trek to Columbia or Atlanta and try to catch these movies there. But when meteoric gas prices and the unpleasant prospect of a long commute are taken into account, few are going to be willing to make that kind of commitment.
Hope is not lost. There remains in Augusta, just below the radar of public awareness, alternatives to the local megaplex showing 25 screenings a day of the latest teen-scream flick. For those who seek foreign, art house and cutting edge cinema, there are some alternatives.
For instance, Augusta is fortunate to play host to one of the finest half hours of television. Sundays at 1:30 a.m. (so set your VCR), South Carolina Educational Television outlet WEBA-TV (Channel 14),airs Short Cuts. Featuring the oft-overlooked cinematic short, this program proffers animated and live-action films that prove that a movie need not clock in at two hours to be good. Films featured have included Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, the short that the critically-acclaimed feature Sling Blade was based on, and Quest, winner of the 1999 Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
For those willing to make more movie commitment, every Monday evening at 6 and 8:30 Augusta State University presents films that may not have otherwise made it to Augusta. Best of all, admission is free.
The series, which concludes for the season in April, will show three diverse films before wrapping up. Monday, The Red Violin, follows the improbable path of a violin, a singular instrument of incredible craftsmanship, as it travels from owner to owner over some 300 years. The Red Violin uses its wood-and-string protagonist to explore the ideas of love, superstition, politics and morality.
March 27 brings Central Station, the acclaimed Brazilian film that serves at once as a classic road-and-relationship film and an indictment of the ruthless streets of a poverty-stricken nation. The film recounts the relationship between Dora, an embittered writer of letters for the illiterate, and Josue, a young boy whose mother is tragically killed. Highly effective as a piece of narrative cinema, this film seems most affecting when simply painting a realistic portrait modern Brazil.
The series concludes with Baraka, a stunning example of the cinematographers art that, beyond all reason, succeeds without a single character or narrative thread. Taking its inspiration from the modestly successful Powaqqatsi and Koyaaniqatsi, this film uses music and some of the most beautifully shot footage of life on earth, from a poultry plant to funeral rites on the Ganges, ever filmed.
Each of these films is worth seeking out and certainly worth the price of admission, and with the Academy Awards just around the corner, there is no more appropriate time to explore Augusta's cinematic possibilities.
Steven Uhles covers arts and entertainment for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3626.