Wednesday, December 14


Haven't you heard?

I definitely picked the wrong week to be too busy to blog. By now you may already know about all this days-old news, but in case you didn't:

1. Sad to say, the Four Star Theatre is in trouble again. One of the oldest movie houses in town (in 1919 it was owned by the Pathe company and called La Bonita) and the only remaining vestige of the once-thriving Chinese-language movie circuit in this country (though it didn't play Hong Kong films regularly until Frank and Lida Lee took over the theatre in 1992; I still remember seeing the Wizard of Oz and The Band Concert there as a kid on some day that it wasn't showing La Cage aux folles). As a benefit to help keep the theatre open in the face of legal action by its landlord Canaan Lutheran Church, this Saturday December 17 will feature a mini-festival of the kinds of films the Lees have become famous for bringing to Frisco: stuff like Jackie Chan's Supercop (also starring Michelle Yeoh) at 1PM, Gong Li in La Pientre at 5:30, and the martial arts / special effects spectacular A Chinese Ghost Story starring Leslie Cheung at 9:30 PM. The one I'm personally most excited about is the 1971 Helen Ma film Deaf and Mute Heroine, since I've been feeling kung fu deprived of late and have never seen it before.

2. Better news comes from the Film Noir Foundation, which released the final slate of titles for the Fourth Annual Noir City Film Festival last week. A few films (such as the Big Sleep) they'd teased us with previously are missing from this line-up; perhaps they'll show up in future editions. Anyway, it will be hard to spend any energy missing them with so many excellent newly-announced titles taking their place. If you've never experienced the tightly-wound suspense of the Frisco-set Thieves' Highway, it plays the Palace of Fine Arts January 18th on a bill with another locally-shot film The Man Who Cheated Himself. Tons of other rarities are spread over the program, as well as a healthy dose of guest appearances. For example, writer James Ellroy appears January 15th with Split Second and on January 21 Sean Penn introduces the neo-noir he directed in 2001, the Pledge, as well as a surprise "director's choice" classic. The festival runs January 13-26.

3. If you're into both film noir and early Japanese cinema you're going to have some trouble deciding what to do in January, at least on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays when the Mikio Naruse retrospective takes over the Pacific Film Archive. The schedule runs through February 18th and includes all the films that played at New York's Film Forum except for the three the PFA showed as part of its Taisho Chic on Screen series. The series kicks off January 12th with silent films: Nightly Dreams and the affecting short Flunky, Work Hard!, and on January 19 shows Hideko the Bus Conductress, which bypassed New York.

4. The Castro Theatre has revealed more of its Winter calendar, most notably the 11th Berlin and Beyond Film Festival, which will feature a tribute to Michael Verhoeven and a Dennis James-accompanied screening of the 1929 People on Sunday which was co-directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and Robert Siodmak and written by Billy Wilder before they all emigrated to Hollywood.

5. Amidst the flurry of critics' groups announcing their picks for the year's best filmic achievements, Frisco's own Critics Circle has released its selections. I haven't seen most of the films yet, but I won't argue against Amy Adams in Junebug or Grizzly Man as best documentary (except on the grounds that the underdistributed the White Diamond was even better). Their Marlon Riggs Award (always bestowed upon a member of the local film community) went to Jenni Olson for her inspirational the Joy of Life.

6. I was recently honored to receive an invitation to join the extremely lively group of film critics and writers known as Cinemarati. I humbly accepted and have already added two posts to the group's blog, one on Frank Borzage's a Farewell to Arms, the other on Bruce Conner's Crossroads. I don't expect my participation in another blog will greatly affect the direction of the one you're reading right now. But please keep me honest and tell me what you think of the direction it's going. For example, are newsy items like the ones in this post worth doing or should I save myself up for more substantial pieces? Let me know.

Brian, I think your blog is one of the most indispensible film sites on the Net--the combination of news, analysis, and cinephile-dish is the sort of thing that keeps healthy (and celluloid-based) film culture alive.

Congrats on Cinemarati, too!
Coming from you, Zach, that means a lot. Thanks for the encouragment.
Brian, dude, CONGRATS on the Cinemerati inclusion! Way cool!

I'll see you at DEAF-MUTE HEROINE since you know one of my cinema interests is portrayals of Disability/Deafness.

I already bought my BERLIN & BEYOND tickets, forgetting about the Naruse retro since they haven't sent out the new programs yet (or else I haven't gotten mine). I am hella excited about KEBAB CONNECTION in the B&B fest.
Adam, I picked up the Naruse one-sheet at last Friday's screening of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and the Killer Elite. I haven't gotten my Jan-Feb calendar in the mail yet, but it just went up on the website today. Besides Naruse, other interesting stuff includes the African Film Festival, Human Rights Watch, Women's Preservation Fund films, and an appearance by Peter Tscherkassky.

I'll see you at the Four Star tomorrow!

In other endangered-theatre news, apparantly the UA Galaxy showed its last films last night and is now officially shuttered. I'll be writing a reminiscence about the theatre over the weekend and posting it.
Brian: Nice work catching the eye of Cinemarati! I look forward to reading your stuff there. And I've been meaning to say, just in general, I really value being able to keep up to date on what's happening in SF in the film world with Hell on Frisco Bay-- even though I only get to the Bay Area once or twice a year, your site really makes me feel lke I'm in touch with it in a way that was impossible for me before. I really appreciate it!
Brian--Please allow me to (belatedly) give you my heartiest congratulations!
It will be one more opportunity for us to experience your (always erudite and thoughtful) writing.
Thanks, both of you.
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