Sunday, August 6


Watching Out

I hope anyone reading this has been enjoying last Wednesday's Avant-Garde Blog-A-Thon as much as I have been! Lots of discussions have been popping up in the comments sections of the various posts. I can only hope to make Hell on Frisco Bay feel as welcoming a hub for the August 21 Freleng-For-All as girish's place has been for this one.

But enough about Blog-A-Thons for the moment. I've got a boatful of tips on upcoming Frisco Bay film screenings to unload like a longshoreman, so I'd better get started:

Animation fans in the area should know that on November 9th the SFJAZZ festival will be showing Fleischer Studios films along with live performances by Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers in the Herbst Theatre on the stage where the UN Charter was first signed in 1945. The Castro will show Yellow Submarine on August 27th as part of a weekend celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' final concert ever at Candlestick Park. The Balboa Theatre is planning to show Friz Freleng films for his birthday celebration later this month. And Frisco's first International Festival of Short Films has at least one animated film on six of its seven programs (all but the documentary program). They screen at the Roxie and other venues August 10-12.

If all the Avant-Garde film talk has given you a hankering for seeing some projected, but you're frustrated that neither Other Cinema nor SF Cinematheque operate during the summer, take note that the ZeroOne Festival starts Monday and runs through Sunday, August 13 at venues all over San Jose. Peter Greenaway, Bill Viola, and Lynn Hershman Leeson are among the experimental film & video artists who will be on-hand with new work to show us. There will also be Live Cinema performers from all over the world.

But if you're confined to Frisco proper, there's always the North American-exclusive Matthew Barney exhibit at SFMOMA through September 17. His film Drawing Restraint 9 screens there for free (no museum admission required) every day but Wednesdays (when the museum is closed) at 2PM, plus Thursday evenings at 6:15. They're also showing the documentary the Body as Matrix: Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle daily at 4PM and Thursday evenings at 7PM.

There will be a couple of chances to see films from The Cremaster Cycle on Frisco screens this fall too. Cremaster 3 will play as a midnight(!) movie on September 29 & 30 at the Clay (more on the Clay's midnight series in a couple paragraphs). And the entire cycle is on the Red Vic's newest calendar, split (in numerical order: 1 with 2, 3 on its own, 4 with 5) between the first three consecutive Thursdays in November. Whether you view Barney's claim that his films will never be released on DVD as a promotional stunt, an offensive launched in the losing battle against the transfer of cinema culture to the living room, an invitation for underground economies to try to meet the market demand, or a non-issue, you can at least decide for yourself whether the films themselves are worth all the commotion. Drawing Restraint 9 plays the Red Vic on September 10 & 11.

Moving away from the strictly Avant-Garde, the Haight Street theatre will also be bringing premiere engagements of films like Takashi Miike's the Great Yokai War (Sep. 1-7) and Andrew Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation (Sep. 29-Oct. 8), revivals like the Battle of Algiers (Oct. 22-23), Manhattan (Nov. 7-8) and McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Nov. 4), and last-chance theatrical showings of superior recent releases like a Prairie Home Companion (Aug. 30-31), Three Times (Sep. 8-9), the Puffy Chair (Sep. 15-16) and Lady in the Water (Oct. 29-30). OK, the latter may not be "superior" but it's definitely essential viewing for Shyamalan haters and admirers alike (I'm firmly in the latter category, even though I haven't sorted through my frustrations with this film yet).

Perhaps as a way of bracing for this fall's scheduled entry of the Sundance Kabuki and a new 9-screen Cinearts multiplex onto its art-theatre turf, the local Landmark Theatres are engaging in a little brand tweaking. They've launched a bloggish new site for their midnight movie series in Berkeley, Palo Alto and Frisco's Clay Theatre, the latter being the only one to stray very far from the typical well-known 80s and 90s nostalgia choices and play films not already in any of your friends' DVD collections (Cremaster 3 Sep. 29-30, as I noted before, but also Phantom of the Paradise Oct. 6, Toxic Avenger Oct. 10 and GMK: Giant Monsters All Out Attack Nov. 17-18). Another switch-up: what was the Lumiere/Opera Plaza film calendar is now the "SF Landmark Theatres Filmcalendar", with no clue provided about what Frisco cinema the following films (among others) will have their one-week stands in: Jan Svankmajer's latest Lunacy (Aug. 25-31), the Emmanuelle Devos-starring La Moustache (Sep. 22-28), Michael Apted's 49 Up (Oct. 6-12), Sundance critical favorite Old Joy (Oct. 20-26) and Iraq in Fragments (Nov. 10-16), which I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see relegated to calendar status despite its topicality, since it isn't one of the typical Academy-accessible docs that holds your hand all the way through its points.

The Shattuck Theatre's new calendar is nearly identical to the Frisco one, except for the omissions of Frisco-exclusives Two Drifters (Sep. 1-7), Zen Noir (Sep. 15-21) and Fanfan La Tulipe (Nov. 3-9). Instead, it will be the East Bay venue for the big Viva Pedro Almodóvar series of new prints that will also grace the Castro for the month of September. I haven't seen the latter theatre's schedule yet, but the Shattuck's breaks down as such: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Sep. 1-7, All About My Mother, Talk To Her and Flower of My Secret Sep. 8-14, Live Flesh, Law of Desire and Bad Education Sep. 15-21, and Matador (the only one we're getting before New York and Los Angeles do) Sep. 22-28. This is all clearly meant to prime us for the late fall release of his latest, Volver.

Speaking of the Castro again, Lincoln Spector of Bayflicks knows a lot more about the technical end of film exhibition than I do and has sound perspective on the upcoming 70mm film series. You should be reading his columns every Friday anyway, though, so you probably knew that.

More little bits of info: Saturday, August 12 is Home Movie Day and the place to be in Frisco is the SF Media Archive, where you can see preserved home movies like San Francisco in Cinemascope projected between 6 and 8 PM, with other activities planned throughout the day.

This year's annual Film in the Fog screening in the Presidio is September 30th. The film: Them!

UPDATE 8/10/06: The picture to the right is not from Them! but from another giant-arthropod sci-fi made in its wake, Tarantula. Just as I was going to correct the image, I got a request to leave it up from a fan of the film. As a dual tribute to my loyal readers and to the many other simple errors I've doubtless made since starting this journal, I'm honoring the request. Now where was I...

If you were too preoccupied with the SFIFF to catch the Fallen Idol when it played back in April, another chance occurs at the Pacific Film Archive on September 8.

Also in September, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will be showing the films of Peter Whitehead (including Tonite Let's All Make Love in London Sep. 21 and the Fall Sep. 28), among other offerings. It will be one of the venues for the Madcat Women's International Film Festival that month, as will A.T.A., the El Rio, and across the bridge, the PFA and the majestic Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland.

The Global Lens series playing the Rafael starting September 21 will first be at the Grand Lake from September 8-20. The series includes Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures from Brazil, In the Battlefields from Lebanon, and 5 other features and a shorts program.

And lastly, not long ago I responded to a fun quiz posted by one of my favorite fellow filmbloggers, Dennis Cozzalio. Question #7 asked me to name my favorite movie theatre, and I momentarily decided to use impressive architecture as my sole criterion and pick Oakland's Paramount, even though it hasn't shown a film since it played the Shop Around the Corner and its two remakes in early 2005. Days later the movie palace's website was updated with this encouraging tidbit:
The Paramount Theatre will be closed from July 26 through September 4, 2006 to replace the carpet. There will be no events scheduled during this period. A Movie Classic Series may be programmed for Fall, 2006 once the commercial show schedule is confirmed. Please check back in the middle of August for an update.
I'll keep checking, and hopefully soon I'll be able to add another theatre showing great films to my sidebar!

Brian, I don't say this often enough, but thanks for all your sleuthing. I keep pretty close tabs on the local film scene, but you always, always, uncover a bunch of stuff I haven't heard about.

Rob, thanks for taking the time to say so this time! That's my aim.

But even I don't get it all. If you know about something I ought to have mentioned, please don't hesitate to e-mail me or leave the info here in the comments.

In fact I already remembered something I ought to have mentioned: a free screening of Escape From Alcatraz on the island itself, August 26.
Ditto from Bernal Heights. Except: what's a giant tarantula doing next to your post about "Them"? Hmmmmm?
Brian: That's the pic from Tarantula I was looking for when I cited it as one of my favorite special effects moments! Leave it, please! The vacation has been nice, but I'm looking forward to getting back into the thick of things. Friz, here we all come!
It's a great picture, which is why it stuck out from among the stills that came up in a google image search for "Gordon Douglas"+"Them!" I've never seen Tarantula and I haven't seen Them! since I was a kid; apparantly I don't rememnber it as well as I thought I did.

Dennis, I'm glad that you're appreciating the results of my sloppy sleuthing- I guess. My instinct is to replace the image for accuracy's sake, but I'm easily swayed by reader feedback. Maybe I'll put a note in the main body of the post.
I was just teasing. I hope you didn't think I was being critical? Giant ants, giant spiders, giant grasshoppers: does it really matter? Once you're chewed up by one mandible, it's the same as the other. Heh.
Not at all! (though I wouldn't mind if you were; I could probably do with some criticism now and again)

I took it as, to borrow a philosophy from the estimable Vern, an opportunity to practice "Striving For Excellence". I like to be as accurate as possible, within the constraints of my competing desires to cram as much as I can into my posts, and to publish them as soon as I can.

In other words, as sheepish as I felt about making the error, I was happier that someone was kind enough to mention it!

And I'm very satisfied with the solution to the "problem": I know I made at least one reader happy to see the picture, and I don't have to bother with trying to upload a replacement. And who knows, maybe a Frisco Bay theatre will decide to screen the giant spider film sometime (my money'd be on the Parkway)
I have to confess that the only reason I even noticed is because grade B 1950s movies about insects mutated by radiation are fave raves. I LOVE THEM. They are what going to the movies is all about for me. I'm set to interview Michel Gondry soon and I realized that one of the main reasons I'm excited about it is because he's kind of in this school of imaginative filmmaking, like Ray Harryhausen. By not relying so much on CGI, they actually massage the imagination and provoke it to work.
Hey Brian, Finally got a chance to check out your blog--great stuff, and a very helpful guide. Saw Scott at "Little Man, What Now?" and hope to catch up with you at a screening sooner or later (though given all the options you list, who knows?)

Hope you're well and keep up the terrific work!
Thanks for visiting and giving the thumbs-up, archiveguy. I'm doing well. I just got back from History is Made at Night myself, and was it ever! Hope to attend at least one more Borzage evening before the series is done.
Hey Brian, the link I sent you before for my post on the Friz Freling-blog-a-thon has changed slightly:
I don't think the old one will work, so you might want to use this in your post about it.
Gir, thanks for your contribution. Back Alley Oproar is one of my favorites.
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