It's easy to imagine director Joe Dante as a sad guy, since his best-known works came out more than two decades ago. It's even easier to imagine him as bitter, especially because his newest film, the 3-D movie "The Hole," has yet to find distribution in America.

It's easy to imagine director Joe Dante as a sad guy, since his best-known works came out more than two decades ago. It's even easier to imagine him as bitter, especially because his newest film, the 3-D movie "The Hole," has yet to find distribution in America.

But Dante is neither.

He is warm and engaging, happy to talk about his various projects and humble about the Wexner Center selecting his work for a retrospective starting Friday.

When he arrives Wednesday, Oct. 6, in conjunction with a screening of his "Matinee," Dante will be making his first trip to Columbus.

"I knew of the Wexner Center before, but I've never been before," he said. "I just wish I could be there for longer," he added, explaining he's busy promoting "The Hole."

Playing at both the Wexner Center and the Gateway Film Center throughout October, the films selected for the retrospective cover most of Dante's long career, although the director was hesitant to highlight any particular film over the rest.

"There are some movies that are more famous than others," he said. "But they chose these movies for a reason."

Among the scheduled screenings at the Wexner Center is an Oct. 2 double feature of Dante's best-known works, "Gremlins" - the director's own preview copy features six extra minutes of footage - and "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." Rumors of a third "Gremlins" film have been around for a while, but Dante isn't likely to return for it.

"I didn't have any interest in doing the second one, actually," he said.

Other films being screened at the Wexner include Dante's rarely seen debut feature "The Movie Orgy" on Oct. 10 and an Oct. 3 double feature of the TV movie "The Second Civil War" with "Homecoming," a short film made for the Showtime TV series "Masters of Horror."

The Gateway Film Center will screen some of Dante's cult features, such as "Innerspace" and "The Howling."

The Wexner Center's assistant film/video curator Chris Stults said that although Dante has primarily made popular Hollywood popcorn flicks, all of his films are reflections of his personality.

"And Dante's personality tends toward puckish subversion, liberating anarchy, movie-mad wit and a healthy distrust of authority," he said.

He forgot to add "kind and inviting" to that list, which is something that Dante, and his films, have in spades.