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Guest post by Mark McClees

Classic or current-release, foreign-language or art, films not screened commercially in Rochester—single or double-feature, even! These and more will be on the menu for the “Dinner and a Movie” series through Christmas 2013. That’s right, we’re planning on a full year of movies, one evening per month! We’re kicking it off with The Big Chill on November 24, right at the start of this year’s holiday season.

The evening’s dinner will include: deviled ham terrine with house made crackers; buttermilk fried chicken with green beans and bacon, mashed potatoes, and red eye gravy; and banana pudding with caramelized banana.

My name is Mark McClees, and I have been part of the Rochester International Film Group for approximately a decade. My role in the annual film festival here has been to develop the film guide and seek sponsorships for it. (I had worked with film festivals in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois as well before I moved to Minnesota.)

Interest in film for me began in the early 1960s when I realized that I could boost my high school foreign-language grades by half of a grade if I watched the film in its original language and attempted to understand and explain all of its component parts. It is funny how things begin…

I plan to take what Tessa has created and continue offering the three-course dinner format that has worked very well, and on top of that we’re going to expand the film offerings. Over time, that expansion will include an HD screen and will frequently offer double features and an occasional musical introduction to the evening. This series will continue to utilize the private dining room on the first floor, and will usually be scheduled for the last Saturday of the month.

We would like to take advantage of cinematic tastes of the professional and international population of Rochester by screening films that normally are not shown here; we plan to show a broad range of films that would appeal to our diverse and discerning patrons and friends. While we have developed an initial schedule of films, we will also actively solicit suggestions as to what is a favorite or what is new—comedy, drama, provocative (and for Halloween, horror, whether it is campy or creepy). The films will be in their DVD format, but with an HD screen and surround sound, the intimate dining room will assume the feel of a small screening room with the bonus of dinner and a drink.

The Big Chill is a Thanksgiving film. Directed by Lawrence Kasden, released in 1983, and with a running time of 105 minutes, this film follows a group of baby boomer-college friends who gather for Thanksgiving after the suicide of one of their group.  (The corpse is played by Kevin Costner, but you do not see his face.) Indulgent it is, and its success generated several imitators. And what is a film without music? Fortunately, this one also has an excellent soundtrack of songs from the late ’60s and early ’70s.

For those thinking ahead, we’ll be showing a double feature around Christmas: the 1942 classic Holiday Inn (Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire) followed by Bad Santa (Billy Bob Thornton—yes, it is a Christmas film!). In late January, we’ll celebrate Robert Burns’ birthday with Rob RoyAmerican Cousins, and maybe a wee bit of scotch and a bagpipe or two.

Some of the other films planned for 2013 include the delightful English comedy Hysteria, the director’s cut of Michael Cimino’s disgraced and withdrawn Heaven’s Gate that is now to be available this coming spring, the German-language film Barbara, The Constant Gardener, the absolutely funky French-language film Holy Motors, a good horror double-feature for Halloween, and a schedule flexible enough to accommodate any good suggestion that will make one sit straight up in their seat and watch.

Cost is $35 for three courses and the flick. Call 507-292-1628 for reservations. We’ll see you at the show!