Volume 47 Number 14

Golden doodles

4

cheryl@sfbg.com

Yeah, the presidential election happened months ago. But the most intense campaign season is just beginning, as multiple ceremonies ramp up to Hollywood’s ultimate night of self-congratulation (and occasionally questionable fashion): the Academy Awards. The nominations will be announced Jan. 10; the ceremony, hosted by first-timer Seth MacFarlane — of Family Guy and talking teddy bear fame — is Feb. 24. Predictions are based on Golden Globe nominations, Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, Independent Spirit Award nominations, random news and gossip reports, and my own loudmouthed opinion.

Best Actor This one’s already in the bag, or more accurately, tucked under the stovepipe hat: Daniel Day-Lewis is the closest thing 2013 has to a lock, for Lincoln. The only strike against the two-time winner is that his last trophy came pretty recently, for 2007’s There Will Be Blood. Though it’s unlikely any of the other nominees have a chance, best guesses for also-rans are Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables (he sings!); John Hawkes for The Sessions (he’s paralyzed!); and Denzel Washington for Flight (he drinks!) The fifth slot could go to Silver Linings Playbook‘s Bradley Cooper, The Master‘s Joaquin Phoenix (my pick), or dark horse Jack Black, for Bernie.

Best Actress Two women enter, one woman leaves … with a little gold man in tow. Best Actress looks to be a battle between Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jessica Chastain and Silver Linings Playbook‘s Jennifer Lawrence. Both have been nominated before, though Chastain might have an edge here: Zero is a serious action-drama that’s been hyped more than Playbook, and Chastain — last year’s “Where did she come from and why is she in every movie?” surprise — has settled down from overexposed newcomer to reliable talent. Lawrence, also the lead in the mega-popular Hunger Games series, is just 22 years old, and though her sophisticated work in Playbook belies her relative youth, she may be passed over with the understanding that she’ll soon be nominated again.

Other names that will likely appear on the ballot: Marion Cotillard, a past winner, for playing a woman who loses her legs in Rust and Bone; and Naomi Watts, a past nominee who should probably have gotten a statuette by now, for playing the matriarch of a tsunami-ravaged family in The Impossible. The last slot could go to Academy fave Helen Mirren (for the so-so Hitchcock); another past winner, Rachel Weisz, for her raw turn in The Deep Blue Sea; Emmanuelle Riva, winner of the San Francisco Film Critic Circle’s Best Actress award for her work as a dying woman in Amour; or grade-school discovery Quevenzhané Wallis, for her tough-sprite turn in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Best Supporting Actor After I saw Argo, I was certain that Alan Arkin (who won in this category for 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine) would repeat. Then I saw Lincoln, and decided Tommy Lee Jones was the clear favorite. Then I saw Django Unchained, and Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz lurched forth. I suspect all of Django‘s supporting cast won’t actually be nominated (my favorite of the trio: Jackson), and The Master’s Philip Seymour Hoffman and Silver Linings Playbook‘s Robert De Niro are likely contenders. Matthew McConaughey could also slither in, for the crowd-pleasing Magic Mike. But right now, I’m leaning toward the hilariously world-weary Jones for the win. “It opens!”

Best Supporting Actress It’s going to be Sally Field, the nutty-yet-sympathetic Mary Todd in Lincoln, versus Anne Hathaway, the weepy, shorn Fantine in Les Misérables. I am not a Hathaway fan, but if the Academy — who are not immune to being emotionally manipulated by director Tom Hooper (2010’s Best Picture The King’s Speech) — wants to award someone from Les Mis, she’s more likely to squeak in than Jackman. Plus, she hosted the Oscars a few years ago. That’s got to count for something, right?

Other nominees: I’m hoping both Amy Adams (spooky in The Master) and Nicole Kidman (daffy in the Paperboy) get nods, but any slots left over will probably be filled by The Sessions’ Helen Hunt or Maggie “Dowager Countess 4-Lyfe” Smith, for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Best Screenplay (Original and Adapted) The Golden Globes, the Oscars’ boozier little bro, doesn’t differentiate between original or adapted, but its lumped-together nominees contain the likely winners in each category: Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty (original), and Tony Kushner for Lincoln (adapted). Other original nominees could include Django Unchained, The Master, Amour, and Looper; other adapted nominees will be sure-things Argo and Silver Linings Playbook, with The Sessions and Beasts of the Southern Wild possibly filling out the category.

Best Documentary The 15-film short list was released in early December, so there’s a bit of navigational help with this one. I have seen most (but not all) of the films on the list; with that disclaimer, my predictions for the final five are: The House I Live In, The Imposter, Searching for Sugar Man, This Is Not a Film, and the SFFCC’s top doc, locally-made hospital drama The Waiting Room. I’m still awaiting the chance to check out Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, a highly-praised look at clerical sex abuse from oft-nominated (and once-rewarded, for 2007’s Taxi to the Dark Side) director Alex Gibney.

Best Foreign Language Film Since only one film per country can be submitted, and The Intouchables snagged France’s spot, my favorite movie of the year (Holy Motors) isn’t even eligible. But that doesn’t matter, really — Intouchables will likely get a nod, but this race is for the critically-beloved Amour (from Austrian director Michael Haneke, whose The White Ribbon was nominated in 2010) to lose. Other short listers (there are a total of nine) include Canada’s War Witch, Chile’s No, Denmark’s A Royal Affair, Romania’s Beyond the Hills, and Switzerland’s Sister.

Best Director/Best Picture As Steven Spielberg surely recalls, just because you win Best Director (for 1998’s Saving Private Ryan) doesn’t mean Shakespeare in Love won’t swoop in and steal your Best Picture prize. Oscar can tap between five and ten nominees for Best Picture, so the categories won’t necessarily line up — but this year, they just might. Look for the top contenders to be Kathryn Bigelow-Zero Dark Thirty (see my review elsewhere in this issue; it’s also my pick to win), and Spielberg-Lincoln. Other likely nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson-The Master; Ben Affleck-Argo; Tom Hooper-Les Misérables; David O. Russell-Silver Linings Playbook; and Michael Haneke-Amour.

 

Capo’s

9

virginia@bayguardian.com

APPETITE Tony’s Pizza Napoletana reigns for my favorite all-around pizza experience, because of its range of impeccable pies, from New York to Neapolitan. I’m no stranger to these categories, especially after years of living in what’s become a damn great pizza town. As an 11-time world pizza champion, Tony Gemignani has done the impossible: win 2007’s World Champion Pizza Maker prize at Italy’s World Pizza Cup, the only American and non-Neapolitan to do so. What makes Tony’s special is painstaking detail to which each style is prepared, right down to flour and ovens used, whether authentic versions of Detroit pizza cooked in a 550 degree gas oven, or a Jersey tomato pie that could make one weep with its garlic and tomato purity.

Enter Capo’s (“boss” in Italian), Gemignani’s new Chicago pizza endeavor. Consulting four scions of Chicago’s legendary pizza families (Marc Malnati of Lou Malnati’s, Leo Spitziri of Giordano’s, Jeff Stolfe from Connie’s, Tony Troiano of JB Alberto’s), he chose three ovens — one wood-fired and two brick, heated to different degrees depending on recipe — and is the only West Coast restaurant using Ceresota flour from one of Illinois’ oldest mills, a staple of Chicago’s most revered pizzerias.

Capo’s Prohibition-era setting (pressed tin ceiling included) is entirely my scene. From the doorman to a stylish host, it evokes a decades-old North Beach haunt, not a newcomer. Red leather booths named after Chicago mobsters, a functioning 1930’s telephone booth, a restored, 1960’s panoramic painting (found in the floor boards) of Adolf Restaurant once housed in the space… Capo’s is an ode to Chicago and San Francisco’s rich Italian-American immigrant history.

Sweet-spicy house Calabrese sausage ($18) in roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and light tomato cream sauce is dreamy. An antipasti platter ($12) feels sparse compared to antipasti “salads” of my New Jersey youth, dense with meat and cheese, but meats here are hand-sliced daily on an antique slicer in Capo’s front window. I rarely seeing Chicago specialties mostaccioli or conchiglie ($12 in pesto or tomato sauce, $13.50 in meat sauce) on West Coast menus; Tony’s mostaccioli is a beaut. Appropriately cheesy, baked in a wood-fired oven, red meat sauce seals the deal. Capo’s signature dish, quattro forni ($13), is limited to 20 a day due to the preparation required and well worth ordering. Like a glorified garlic bread, or as a waitress described it, doughnut, puffed bread is cooked four times in different ovens, doused in tomato sauce, mozzarella, garlic. If you have room and a warm whiskey crisp is available for dessert, get it.

Then there’s the pizza. While I’ve savored excellent thin crust in Chicago, even after multiple tries at original locations of legendary chains or solo favorites, I’ve yet to find deep dish remotely comparable to Capo’s or Bay Area deep dish havens, Zachary’s and Little Star. I won’t give up the hunt, but thus far for me eating deep dish here is better than going to Chicago (though I’d happily eat my way through Chicago any day).

Appropriate for a Chicago-influenced spot, there are four types of pies: deep dish, cast iron pan, stuffed, and cracker-thin ($17-35). You can’t go wrong. Meat blissfully dominates most pies (unless you build your own), whether folds of Italian beef, thinly shaved in authentic Chi-town fashion, or house Calabrese, fennel, or Italian sausages, shown off in the likes of the Sam Giancana or Old Chicago pies. Italian Stallion pizza, which I prefer in cracker-thin form, showcases Italian beef, heightened by a drizzle of horseradish cream and insanely good sweet-hot peppers you’ll find on a number of Capo’s pies. Flour-based crust gets texture and complexity from a dusting of cornmeal, while Tony reveals a key to its perfection: European butter and a bit of lard. Fresh cheese oozes, unlike chewy wads of low-quality mozzarella I’m faced with in some of Chicago’s venerable deep dish houses.

Elmer Mejicanos heads up a whiskey-centric bar program, housing over 100 American-dominant whiskies, while Tony mentions finding a few antique whiskey bottles dating back to the 1920s in the basement (when are we pouring?) Building your own Old Fashioned is a key menu focus, alongside a short-but-sweet cocktail list ($12). After trying every one on the menu, I’ve re-ordered only The Silencer. Carpano Antica takes the form of ice cubes melting in Campari, Seltzer Sister Soda and crystals of brandy — an ideally bitter, bright aperitif. A glass of Chianti or Montepulciano is well-suited to all that red sauce: Tony’s longtime business partner Marni McKirahan runs the wine program, also highlighting rare Midwest wineries.

If I seem to be gushing, perhaps I am. Visiting three times in the first month alone, I’ve sampled almost every listed pizza and cocktail. Some new openings are exciting, fresh, visionary. A spare few respect the past, even perfect it.

641 Vallejo, SF. (415) 986-8998, www.sfcapos.com

Subscribe to Virgina’s twice-monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot, www.theperfectspotsf.com

 

Wait!

1

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS Anna Yamo has been trying to catch me for it seems like a year now. When she calls it says Restricted Number and that’s how I know it is her, but I am always in New Orleans or Seattle or the bathroom.

“Restricted Number,” it said.

I was sitting on my couch. San Francisco!

“Hello?” I said. This time.

“Danielle!” she said, with her characteristically loaded laugh, which tells me I’m a hard person to catch hold of. And in her characteristic accent, which is, of course, Thai: “When we have lunch?”

“Sunday?”

“Where you want to eat?” she said, then (also characteristically) she told me where: at this crepe place on Valencia, across from City College. News to me.

“It’s a date,” I said, thinking that — who knows — maybe there’d be a check for $3,300 in my mailbox, and I’d be going back to work. Stranger things have happened, although admittedly they usually involve badgers.

Anna and I hadn’t seen each other in over a year and there were so many things I wanted to talk to her about: her son’s restaurant and did she think we could shoot a short movie there … would she teach me how to make duck noodle soup … and why doesn’t she move to Youngstown, Ohio, the town of my birth and the last US city of any size to not have a Thai restaurant in it.

Let the record also show: I love crepes, and these ones were very very very

 

CHEAP SPORTS

by Hedgehog

The rain. That’s all I have to say about sports this week. Jesus H. Christ is in a mother fucking raft, as my mother always proclaimed He would be. And even He is standing in line for Tartine. Or floating. I know what you’re thinking: He doesn’t need the raft, for He can walk on water, but even our Lord and savior likes a good sit-down now and again (see the Book of Mark, 16:19. Also, the Book of Eames, 12:34).

Neverminding the weather, I’m sick of the line at Tartine. I never go in because I refuse to stand in it. I stood in it once. (Once!)

And not for the stupid goddamn morning rolls (which have too much orange zest in them), but for a sandwich. This was back when I ate things like sandwiches, so you know; it was awhile ago.

Anyway, Chicken Farmer had introduced me to the Tartine pastrami sandwich without making me stand in that god-awful line and I wanted to repay the favor by going and getting them the next time. So I “queued up” (as they would say on Downton Abbey) and 30 minutes later, it was finally my turn to exchange money for goods. But the peopleperson behind the counter cut me off, mid-order, to inform me that they don’t take sandwich orders until 11:30.

It was 11:17.

It was a Five Easy Pieces moment if ever I’ve had one, and I’m all for making a scene, but the 30 minutes of anticipation and herd-member-like treatment backfired and the rage shut down my brain. We got takeout from Pakwan instead.

So when I say “I’m sick of the line at Tartine” (like I just did, up there somewhere), what I mean is, “I’m sick of looking at the line at Tartine.”

We have big windows. And a lovely window seat. Overlooking the line at Tartine.

On Christmas day, after we blew the candles out on the pot roast and dished up the traditional Brussels sprouts, our rag-tag group of holiday orphans were entertained for hours by the comings and nose-pressings and then forlorn goings of a steady stream of Tartinian acolytes. Behold: even Thine Holier Than Thou Bakery is closed on this day.

But the day after, it was busy-ness, as usual. Can you see us in the windows, looking down judgmentically at you from our ellipticating albatross?

Well, enough about what’s-their-faces. We got a Christmas tree! And it nearly caused us to divorce before we could even marry. But that’s neither eats nor sports, so…

R.A. Dickey is now a Toronto Blue Jay.

 

CHEAP EATS CONTINUED

Wait a minute! I like Tartine, and — being a people peopleperson, love looking at the line. Though I agree their morning buns are overrated. 

DOWNTON ABBEY

www.pbs.org

Still the fairest

1

arts@sfbg.com

FILM One of the few upbeat by-products of the increasing infantilization of popular movies is that the same impulse to dumb down live action for permanently adolescent tastes also raises the bar for animation, which no longer has to target grade schoolers as its primary audience. Even not-so-special 2012 had more sophisticated and interesting animated features than you’d find in any given year a couple decades or more ago. Wreck-It Ralph won’t win the Best Picture Oscar. But it will almost certainly be better than whatever movie does.

The notion that adults actually want to see full-length cartoons, however, seemed preposterous to myriad soon-to-be-crow-eating people 75 years ago. That was when Walt Disney unleashed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the public — to an enormous success no one had predicted. In fact, all bets were placed on “Disney’s folly” sinking the studio that had foolishly invested all its resources (and a lot of borrowed money) in a venture whose cost overruns and dim prospects had been the talk of Hollywood. (No doubt a few studio heads were happily anticipating hiring Walt’s newly at-liberty talent at cut rates for their own animation divisions.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kWr9e4JN5I

Of course, the naysayers were proven wrong — opening up the floodgates to more cartoon features, then Disney live-action films, nature documentaries, TV series, theme parks … a whole empire of “brand” that for better and worse has shaped American culture (and its perception abroad) ever since. The double-disc 2009 DVD release of Snow White features, among its extras, one latter-day observer calling the film “one of the great American success stories of all time.” (The official Disney history offered up in such self promotional products is relentlessly hyperbolic. The same package also offers an “all-new music video” rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come” by one Tiffany Thornton that is so horrifyingly kitsch you can be sure it will be erased from the official Disney history forthwith.) Snow White would set a record for being the highest-grossing film of all time — but not for long, since a little thing called Gone with the Wind came out in 1939 and stole that title for another quarter-century.

I doubt Mr. Disney could have imagined the world in which his Snow White — which plays the Castro in a newly restored digital print this week, by the way — would be celebrating that septuagenarian anniversary. One in which prevailing tastes decreed two big-budget live-action spins on that same Bavarian fairy tale would be among 2012’s major releases for grown-ups; a mass murder of his target demographic would dominate year-end news; and the unions he famously opposed would be popularly vilified.

That ripple effect is more than this movie should have to bear — let alone that it was apparently Hitler’s favorite. Because Snow White is still a charmer, gorgeous in the depth and detail of its backgrounds, seamless in traversing the bridge between score and song, and timelessly adorable (to use the heroine’s favorite adjective).

It seems less dated than just about any other movie from 1937, even if Snow White herself remains an insipid blank with the voice of Betty Boop doing operetta. (Subsequent Disney cartoon heroines would be feistier, though heroes would remain problematic — Walt’s animators found Snow’s Prince Charming so difficult to depict they wound up simply cutting his screen time to the bone.) The most one can say for her is that she seems to have majored in Home Ec, though the evil queen hooked on being “fairest of them all” kick-started a fine legacy of excellent Disney villains. (Notably absent were such grisly original fairy-tale details as the step mum’s death from dancing in red-hot iron shoes at Snow’s wedding.)

You can blame Snow White for cementing Disney’s transition from the rambunctious to the harmless. But 75 years later that formula still works — in this instance, at least. The art itself remains near-timeless, even if the subsequent Pinocchio (1940) and Bambi (1942) are arguably much better films. Few movies had anywhere near the same impact, on the medium’s development or life in general.

It had a more direct impact on the Radio City Music Hall, whose seats had to be replaced after a record-breaking run because children kept wetting themselves during the scarier sequences. Adorable! 

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS

Wed/2-Sun/6, 1:30, 3:45, 6, and 8:15pm

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

www.castrotheatre.com

 

Bigger than Bigelow

2

cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM There was hella hoopla over Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director, for 2010’s The Hurt Locker. It’s a good possibility she’ll soon be the first woman to win two directing Oscars, if Zero Dark Thirty‘s remarkable haul of critical kudos continues into statuette season.

But even if Zero (more on that below) doesn’t claim cinema’s top prize, Bigelow will probably win another Best Directing Oscar before another woman anyway. She’s just about the only female director making films that work Oscar’s magic formula: critically praised, culturally significant, headline-grabbing, and popularly loved (with box-office hauls to match). Women may be making inroads on the screenwriting end of things (and you’ll find lauded female names among documentary, foreign-language, and film-producing credits), but the most successful post-millennial female directors — Sofia Coppola (a Best Original Screenplay winner for 2003’s Lost in Translation), Catherine Hardwicke, Andrea Arnold, Debra Granick, Lisa Cholodenko, Lynn Shelton, Kelly Reichardt, and Sarah Polley, to name a few — haven’t been able to tick enough of those golden boxes.

Whether or not a film wins an Oscar is hardly a measure of its true worth. But hoisting a Best Directing Oscar does count for something important, particularly in an industry that largely runs on male power. Bigelow’s success is particularly notable because she does not make so-called “women’s pictures,” whatever that may mean (she did make a vampire flick long before Hardwicke, though, as fans of 1987’s Near Dark will recall). With the exception of 2000’s little-seen The Weight of Water and 1989’s Blue Steel (would anyone remember that movie, if not for Derek Zoolander?) — with honorable mention for Angela Bassett’s formidable supporting turn in 1995’s Strange Days — Bigelow’s films tend to be, uh, “men’s pictures.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAtWcvCxPhc

The surfing, skydiving, bank-robbin’ three-punch of Point Break (1991) allowed Keanu Reeves to set a course for action-hero superstardom (without it, he’d never have been cast in 1994’s Speed); though the film features a traditional romantic subplot, it’s mostly about the bromance between Reeves’ undercover FBI agent and Patrick Swayze’s New Age macho man. K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) was Bigelow’s first foray into a military milieu; its tale of trouble aboard a Soviet nuclear submarine, circa 1961, was couched in a $100 million production that neither earned back its budget nor convinced anyone of Harrison Ford’s ability to do a Russian accent. (Interestingly, the film’s Rotten Tomatoes summary foreshadows the reception to date of Zero Dark Thirty: “A gripping drama even though the filmmakers have taken liberties with the facts.”)

Bigelow rebounded with The Hurt Locker (2008) — scooping up her accolades in front of ex-husband and former film-production partner James Cameron, whose 2008 Avatar grossed billions but didn’t win over Academy voters. Set during the Iraq War, The Hurt Locker follows the high-stakes, high-tension routine of a three-man bomb disposal team. It launched actor Jeremy Renner to stardom, and earned a screenwriting Oscar for Mark Boal, a journalist who’d been embedded with a US Army bomb squad. Along with the 2008 HBO mini-series Generation Kill (based on a book written by a journalist embedded with the Marines at almost the same time as Boal), The Hurt Locker — a tense, gritty thriller shot using hand-held cameras — was one of the first large-scale docu-dramas based on the months immediately following the 2003 invasion.

After the Oscars, rumor had it that Bigelow and Boal’s next film would be a South American “drug parable,” with big names like Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp floated as possible stars. Clearly, a more exciting project took precedence — one that’s already raked in critic’s association prizes, and raised the ire of government types, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who insist that it has “taken liberties with the facts.”

Front-loaded with equal parts acclaim and controversy, Zero Dark Thirty moves into wider release this week, and larger audiences will be able to make up their own minds about it. It’s certainly edgier than another 2012 film about CIA heroics. (There’s no waterboarding in Argo.) “What I want you to know is that Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts,” CIA Acting Director Michael Morell explained in a recent statement, taking issue not just with the depiction of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (that’s “torture” to you and me), but also the way the film singles out one character as masterminding the operation to take down Osama bin Laden.

“The point was to immerse the audience in this landscape, not to pretend to debate policy,” Bigelow responded in an interview with entertainment site the Wrap. “Was it difficult to shoot? Yes. Do I wish [torture] was not part of that history? Yes, but it was.”

The extent to which torture was actually used in the hunt for bin Laden may never be known, though popular opinion will surely be shaped by this film, as it’s produced with the same kind of “realness” that made The Hurt Locker so potent. Zero Dark Thirty incorporates torture early in its chronology — which begins in 2003, after a brief opening that captures the terror of September 11, 2001 using only 911 phone calls — but the practice is discarded after 2008, a sea-change year marked by the sight of Obama on TV insisting that “America does not torture.” (The “any more” goes unspoken.)

Most of Zero Dark Thirty is set in Pakistan and/or “CIA black sites” in undisclosed locations; it’s a suspenseful procedural that manages to make well-documented events (the July 2005 London bombings; the September 2008 Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing; the December 2009 bombing of Camp Chapman in Afghanistan) seem shocking and unexpected. Even the raid on bin Laden’s HQ is nail-bitingly intense. The film immerses the viewer in the clandestine world, tossing out abbreviations (“KSM” for al-Qaeda bigwig Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) and jargon (“tradecraft”) without pausing for a breath. It is thrilling, emotional, engrossing — the smartest, most tightly-constructed action film of the year.

At the center of it all: a character allegedly based on a real person whose actual identity is kept top-secret by necessity. She’s interpreted here in the form of a steely CIA operative named Maya, played to likely Oscar-winning perfection by Jessica Chastain. No matter the film’s divisive subject matter, there’s no denying that this is a powerful performance. Maya is the perfect Bigelow lead; she succeeds in a male-dominated world by focusing solely on her job and her ultimate goal, sexism and gender politics be damned. “Washington says she’s a killer,” a character remarks after meeting this seemingly delicate creature, and he’s proven right long before bin Laden goes down.

Some critics have argued that the character is underdeveloped, but anyone who says that isn’t watching closely enough. Maya may not be given a traditional back story (all we know is she was recruited into the agency after high school), or any outside life to speak of (even Renner’s unhinged Hurt Locker vet is shown going home to a wife and kid), or the desire to distract herself with romance (“I’m not the girl who fucks … it’s unbecoming” she explains at one point, dismissing a colleague’s inquiry into her social life). But there’s plenty of interior life there, and it comes through in quick, vulnerable flashes — leading up to the payoff of the film’s devastating final shot.

 

ZERO DARK THIRTY opens Fri/4 in Bay Area theaters.

Lamebows 2013

0

marke@sfbg.com

POODLES ON PARADE Marriage, the military, nudity bans, Bravo TV: queople, why must we torture ourselves! It’s true that we are everywhere, lurking even in the aeries of stupid-headedness. But queen, please, put down that can of mentally challenged and back slowly away in your new cha-cha heels. Here I am once again to call my people out for their foibles of faggotry with the annual Lamebow Awards. Even in a banner year for LGBT wins, we still clutched a Gucci full of dumb.

The cliches write themselves: My Dearest Scott Wiener, I write this not as someone who disagrees profoundly with your “moderate” politics or your collection of Banana Republic v-neck sweaters. I write this because, this year, a supervisor named Wiener, representing the Castro, got so obsessed with a few naked guys that he rammed through a nudity ban (oh, and a bunch of other awful stuff, too) that made national news. I have to talk to my relatives back East about all this. My great-aunt-in-law almost choked to death on her turkey from laughter. Please stop.

Not helping: Mountain-out-of-molehill blogger Michael Petrelis in turn became obsessed with Wiener’s penis, attempting to snap a pic of the Supes’ member at a City Hall urinal. Not making this up. Nor this: it took too long for Petrelis’ camera from the ’90s to warm up, so he only managed a shot of Wiener brushing his teeth, post-pee. Petrelis is being sued by Wiener.

Seriously not helping though: In August, 28-year-old Floyd Corkins II, a former LGBT center volunteer, attempted to storm the Washington, DC headquarters of the Family Research Council (recently and correctly categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), shooting a security guard.

You just helped, actually: We never knew we should be boycotting Sodastream products because they are manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. But thanks to a widely viewed YouTube video — in which it appears a peaceful Code Pink protest inside Sodastream-carrying Cliff’s Variety in the Castro is violently broken up by hysterically screaming Cliff’s employees — we know! Troll is successful.

The fact is, you’re late: “The fact is, I’m gay,” Anderson Cooper wrote to blogger Andrew Sullivan by way of coming out. Anderson Cooper is the Clay Aiken of our generation.

The fact is you’re veeery late: As her 50th birthday approached, Kristy McNichol came out. “She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support,” said her publicist. There are no kids who know who Kristy McNichol is.

And you’re just trapped in a closet full of spray-on hair forever now: Many, many of John Travolta‘s male masseurs “opened up” about his happy endings. His response? A horrifying Christmas album reunion with Olivia Newton John full of the most awkward sexual metaphors ever. Greased lightning!

Freedom to fly, to fail: Director Lena Wachowski came out beautifully, vocally, and powerfully as a transgender person with deep thoughts about the nature of sexual identity. Too bad Cloud Atlas had me rolling my eyes to the high heavens.

Hide your buns, hide your wings: Reviving his meme career somewhat, Antoine Dodson said she was gonna eat Chik-fil-A anyway. Well-played.

I’m sorry: Castigating Log Cabin Republicans is easier than finding Anderson Cooper on Grindr, but watching them bend over backwards to justify supporting the Tea Party party when even our president had “evolved” on gay marriage was a real hoot. Especially because they had to say “fiscal” so many times.

All of us: While we were all arguing over gay shit (as usual), a young musical genius named Frank Ocean quietly erased the goalposts and went public with his generation’s sublime, amorphous “meh” about sexual labels. Let’s catch up.

 

More school security? Maybe not.

9

OPINION I pretty much live in schools. Almost every morning, I get my three-year-old ready for pre-school, my seven-year-old ready for first grade, and myself ready for high school, where I teach English. Almost everyday, I’m in at least three schools. But never before had I thought so thoroughly about school security until Monday, Dec. 17, when I drove my daughters, and then myself, to school for the first time after the shootings in Newtown.

My first stop is my daughter’s public elementary school in San Francisco. Because I often have an 8am class and am pressed for time, I almost never walk her into school. I pull up along a curb, where fifth graders clad in fluorescent vests open the back door of my car to escort my daughter out. From there, she walks alone into a side door and then out onto an outdoor basketball court, where the whole school gathers every morning. Her teacher then takes my daughter to her classroom, which is, incidentally, closest to the front door to the school, which is always open during the day. A potential shooter would have no problem entering, and with enough ammunition and a deadly enough gun, he could kill at will.

I asked for the first time that day: would it be better to close off the campus?

The next stop is my three-year-old daughter’s pre-school. There, I park my car, get her out, and walk to the front entrance, where an administrative assistant buzzes me in upon recognition. Because it’s busy in the mornings, I often hold the door for other parents trying to get in. Of course, it would be very easy for a killer to force his way in behind one of us, or he could simply shoot the glass if he was determined enough.

Again, the questions arise: should the director have a gun in her office? Should we put up metal doors? Should the school hire a security guard monitoring cameras before letting parents and children into the school?

Finally, I arrive at my high school, which is a rather affluent independent school. I park on the street and walk right in. Often the receptionist doesn’t even notice me. We have a completely open campus, with many doors into which someone could enter with no resistance whatsoever. We have security guards, but they are unarmed and more concerned with directing traffic around the school than with a potential intruder. All of our students have off-campus privileges. Should we keep students on campus? Should we bar all the doors? Place an armed security guard at every entry point into the school?

The answer I’ve come to is no.

The question of school security gets at the very nature of what schools are. Schools both are and are not of the world. On the one hand, schools are a place that prepares our youth for the world. They’re also a place where young people can learn to take risks, where they can make mistakes before they go out into the “real” world. On the other hand, however, schools reflect our neighborhoods, our counties, our cities, our states, our country, and our world.

If we bar our schools off from the outside world, the message that we’re sending to our children is that the world is a place to be feared, a place where calculus won’t do you any good — but where a gun will. To “secure” our schools is to admit our collective failure at making the outside world safe. It is to admit that one of the fundamental values of any society, and in particular our American society—trust—has been broken.

I would hope instead that we work now to change the world enough to communicate to our children that the world is, in fact, a place that is not just safe but that they are invited into, a place where they can thrive and find happiness rather than a place to fear and hide from. Our responsibility is not to gate schools off from the world but to take the need for gates down altogether.

Scott Laughlin teaches English at University High School.

No headbutting?

0

tredmond@sfbg.com

LIT/FILM The folding travel toothbrush is a central element in every Jack Reacher novel. It’s his only possession, the only thing the wandering ex-military cop takes with him when he throws away his old clothes and buys new ones, the only thing that ties him directly to his old life in the U.S. Army. It’s part of the Reacher formula, one that consistently works through 17 books by Lee Child.

It’s not in the Jack Reacher movie.

That was the first sign that one of the best trash-lit characters to come on the scene since John D. MacDonald invented Travis McGee hasn’t translated so well to the big screen. (McGee never did, either; the only McGee movies ever made were disasters, and MacDonald hated all of them.)

But the esoteric musings of McGee, on everything from Florida real-estate development to the demise of San Francisco, were the charm that held those modest plots together. Child, who has a background in television production, offers more action-packed stories with all the elements that ought to make a great movie.

Like MacDonald, though, Child goes a bit deeper than the traditional trashy thriller writer. His books have themes of violence and redemption, of freedom and responsibility, of wanderlust and homesickness that can’t just be shoehorned into a fast-paced screenplay with Tom Cruise. This may not be Shakespearean literature, but it isn’t Mission Impossible, either.

To make it more challenging, there are long periods of silence in the Reacher book, and those don’t work will in today’s mainstream cinema — but without them, the pacing is all wrong.

I showed up at the movie ready to be let down. The diminutive and emotional Cruise seemed all wrong as the tall, taciturn Reacher; I was hoping for a more Daniel Craig approach. Child, on the other hand, was totally down with the casting, so I was ready to give it a shot. (Or, as the book title from whence this flick emerged put it, One Shot.)

The book is a classic of the Reacher oevre, with a tiny bit of 2007’s Shooter mixed in. There’s a former Army sniper named James Barr (Joseph Sikora) who gets charged with an apparently random killing spree; the evidence is overwhelming, the cops have him nailed, and the execution-mad district attorney tells him if he doesn’t confess, he’s going to get the death penalty.

Barr refuses to talk; he just takes a legal pad and writes “Get Jack Reacher.” Which turns out to be tricky; Reacher has no address, no credit cards, no car, no driver’s license … nothing to pin him down. He’s almost impossible to find.

But he shows up on his own — not to help save Barr but to tell the cops that the guy once murdered a bunch of civilian contractors in Iraq. Reacher had him nailed, but the Army, for political reasons, let the case go. He’s ready to send the guy to the chair, if he doesn’t kill him with his own hands first.

But then the DA’s daughter, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), who is representing Barr, convinces Reacher to take another look, and together they discover a fiendish plot involving an 80-year-old mob capo from the old Soviet Gulag.

Nice movie plot. And the film version doesn’t take too many liberties with the general idea of the book.

But there’s no headbutting, which is Reacher’s trademark fighting technique. And he never has sex with the female protagonist, which is disappointing.

That and the fact that the movie’s about 20 minutes too long — and the car chase scene alone is about five minutes too long (and car chases are not part of the Reacher mix) and there’s an embarassing scene where Cruise takes his shirt off just so we can see him with his shirt off left me wondering: did Lee Child really sign off on this screenplay?

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that the film is entertaining, Cruise does the best he can under the circumstances, and he delivers the key lines nicely. Pike does a fine job of being sexy without being movie-star beautiful. The fight scenes are lively and fun and not too overdone.

And Werner Herzog is just spectacular as the evil Zec, a man so tough that he chewed his fingers off in prison to avoid getting gangrene. Watching Herzog sneer and be scary, horrible, and fascinating at the same time is worth the price of admission.

No nudity. Five people beaten near death. Three cops cars destroyed. Sniper porn. Fight to the death in the pouring rain. Not a great tribute to a great character, but I’ll take it. *

JACK REACHER is now playing in Bay Area theaters.

White men behaving (very) badly

69

Could it be — the worst year ever?

I keep asking. And every time the Offies come around, I find myself boggled yet again. Our awards for the very worst — the dumbest, the most tasteless, the most truly offensive acts of the year past — keep sinking lower and lower.

But what can we do? There are still Republicans, and this year a lot of them ran for high office, and every single one made a fool of himself. There are still politicians who think you can run for San Francisco supervisor even if you live in Walnut Creek, and elected leaders who find the courage deep in themselves to prevent a bunch of old men from walking around with their sagging asses and limp dicks out.

There are still entertainers who punch psychics, and gun nuts who blame mass murder on TV sex, and … well, a whole lot of people who have made this a banner year for the Offies.

 

SUPPORT OUR BRAVE, HEROIC TROOPS! (EXCEPT THE MEN WHO FUCK MEN)

The audience at a Republican presidential primary debate booed a gay solider who called in from Iraq with a question about don’t ask, don’t tell.

 

FROM A GUY WHO HAD TO BUY OXYCONTINS AND VIAGRA ON THE STREET, THIS SORT OF THING IS AN OBVIOUS CONCERN

Rush Limbaugh attacked law student Sandra Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she testified that health-care plans should cover contraceptives.

 

THERE ARE MEN SO BRILLIANT THAT WE STAND IN AWE OF THEIR INTELLECT

Mitt Romney said he really liked Michigan because the trees were all the right height.

 

GIVING NEW MEANING TO THE 1 PERCENT

Herman Cain proclaimed that for every woman who claimed he sexually harassed her, there were a thousand others who didn’t.

 

IF WE WANTED A DRESS CODE ON AIRLINES, WE’D START WITH THOSE DREARY PILOT UNIFORMS

An American Airlines pilot kicked a woman off a flight for wearing a shirt that said “if I wanted the government in my womb I’d fuck a senator.”

 

PROBLEM IS, BUSH MADE THAT ONE A CABINET-LEVEL POSITION

Rick Perry proclaimed in a debate that he was going to do away with three agencies of the federal government, but after listing Commerce and Education, he couldn’t remember what the third one was, identifying it only as “oops.”

 

FOR SOMEONE WHOSE NAME MEANS ASS-CUM JUICE, THAT’S A REALLY PRETTY PICTURE

Rick Santorum said that he’d listened to John F. Kennedy’s speech on the separation of church and state and it made him want to throw up.

 

LOOK! UP AT THE RAMPARTS! THE MAN WITH THE HAIR!

Donald Trump, mistakenly believing Romney won the popular vote but lost the election, called the election “a sham and travesty” and called for “revolution.”

 

BUT HE COULD HELP THEM OUT WITH A FEW BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN

Romney insulted the British by saying the nation didn’t appear ready to host the Olympics.

 

FINE, JUST TAKE RICK PERRY WITH YOU

More than 50 thousand people signed a White House petition asking for permission for Texas to secede.

 

GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE, ATHEISM AND OVERSTIMULATED GLANDS DO. HAPPY FRIDAY, SHOOTERS!

On the same day that a gunman opened fire at a showing of the Dark Knight movie in Colorado, the National Rifle Association’s magazine sent out a tweet that read: “Good morning, shooters! Happy Friday.”

A Congressman from Texas, Louie Gohmert, argued that the Dark Knight shootings happened because of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.”

Mike Huckabee blamed the massacre in Newtown, CT on atheism. “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

Timothy Bordnow at Tea Party nation said the shooting was caused by too much sexual stimulation in the media . “There is a reason why young people commit these sorts of crimes, and sex plays no small part. Their passions are eternally inflamed, and they wander the Earth with no outlet for their overstimulated glands.”

Megan McArdle, the Daily Beast writer, urged the victims of mass shootings to gang-rush the shooter so he wouldn’t kill as many people.

The head of the National Rifle Association said the only way to stop mass murders of school children is to post armed guards in every school.

 

WOW — THE DISTRICT 8 SUPERVISOR HAS BEEN OVERWHELMED BY A COUPLE OF OLD MEN’S FLACCID DICKS

Sup. Scott Wiener promoted a ban on public nudity in San Francisco.

 

WHEN YOU’RE A MAJOR LOSER, EVEN MONEY CAN’T BUY YOU LOVE

Michael Breyer, who has never been elected to anything, spent roughly $1 million trying to win a state Assembly seat as the candidate of “traditional San Francisco values,” and lost badly.

 

AND THESE PEOPLE ARE COOPERATING WITH HOMELAND SECURITY?

Confetti thrown in the Giants parade turned out to be lightly shredded internal police documents that included home addresses and social security numbers of officers.

 

GUESS IT’S OKAY TO PERJURE YOURSELF IF YOU’RE THE MAYOR

Mayor Ed Lee testified under oath that he’d never discussed the Ross Mirkarimi case with members of the board of Supervisors, although friends of Sup. Christina Olague said she’d been open about her talks with the mayor on the topic.

 

NOW, WHICH ONES ARE THE IRON MONSTERS OF DEATH?

A San Francisco bicyclist who was allegedly trying to beat a speed record crashed into and killed a 71-year-old man in the Castro.

 

UNFORTUNATELY, THERE’S NO MALPRACTICE STATUTE GOVERNING THAT AUGUST PROFESSION

Political consultant Enrique Pearce oversaw perhaps the worst district election campaign in history, helping Olague become the first incumbent ever to lose in ranked-choice voting in SF.

 

SOMEHOW, REPRESENTING WALNUT CREEK AT CITY HALL DIDN’T SEEM LIKE SUCH A GOOD IDEA

Union official Leon Chow dropped his challenge to Sup. John Avalos when the SF Appeal revealed that he didn’t live in District 11, or even in San Francisco.

 

 

WHEN MEN ARE JUST TOTAL DICKS: THE GOP REDEFINES RAPE

1. Divine providence rape (Rick Santorum): “The right approach is to accept this horribly created .. gift of life, accept what God is giving to you.”

2. Honest Rape (Ron Paul): “If it was an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room.”

3. Forcible Rape (Paul Ryan): Federal law should prevent abortion except in the case of “forcible rape.”

4. Emergency Rape (Linda McMahon): “It was really an issue about a Catholic Church being forced to issue those pills if a person came in with an emergency rape.”

5. Legitimate Rape: (Todd Akin): “If it was a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

 

CALL IT BIEBER RAGE; IT’S DANGEROUS SHIT

After a Justin Bieber concert, Lindsay Lohan punched a psychic in the face at a New York nightclub, then threw her personal assistant out of the car.

 

YEP, AND IT DOESN’T LOOK ANY BETTER THE SECOND TIME

Romney’s campaign manager said that his candidate would change his right-wing positions for the fall campaign: “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

 

AND IF HE GOES WITH THEM, IT WILL ALL BE WORTH WHILE

Newt Gingrich proposed sending 13,000 Americans to the Moon and creating a new state there.

 

AND WE ALL WONDER WHY THE MEDIA IS DOING SO SMASHINGLY WELL THESE DAYS

After Gabby Douglas became the first black woman to win the Olympic gold medal in all-around gymnastics, the news media reported on problems with her hair.

 

AND YOUR VIEW OF THE WORLD IS OVER, OVER, OVER, OVER

Justice Antonin Scalia, in defending his argument that sodomy is legally equivalent to murder, told law students at Princeton that the Constitution is not a living document, it’s “dead, dead, dead, dead.”

 

MAKES YOU WONDER ABOUT THE POOR SOUL WHO CAME IN AT 99

Kim Kardashian fell 90 places, to 98, on AskMen Magazine’s list of the worlds 100 most desirable women.

 

SADLY, “GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL” DOESN’T MAKE SUCH A GREAT CAMPAIGN SLOGAN

Herman Cain said his life’s philosophy came from a Pokemon song.

 

WE’RE GLAD THAT HIS FAITH HAS GIVEN HIM SUCH AN UPLIFTING ATTITUDE

Romney said he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”

 

HE WAS PROBABLY SHITFACED, TOO, BUT SINCE HE DOESN’T DRINK HE CAN’T REMEMBER THAT EITHER

Romney said he didn’t remember beating up a gay student at his prep school and cutting off his long hair.

 

IT’S A GOOD THING MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL ISN’T LOOKING FOR ANOTHER JOHN MADDEN

A full 78 percent of Americans thought Ryan Seacrest was doing a good job broadcasting from the Olympics, although most of them couldn’t figure out what he was actually doing.

 

HE ALSO TOLD US THAT TAX CUTS AND DEREGULATION WOULD IMPROVE THE ECONOMY, SO HE’S GOT A WINNING RECORD HERE

Karl Rove on election night kept insisting the Romney still had a chance to win.

 

TALK ABOUT A BLOWN COVER

David Petraus resigned as CIA director after an affair with a woman who was threatening another woman who might have had a thing for him.

 

TOO BAD — HE MIGHT HAVE HAD TO SEEK ASYLUM IN THE NEW REPUBLIC OF TEXAS

A petition to allow every American to punch Grover Norquist in the dick was removed from the White House website.

 

WE’RE WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF BELIZE; THIS MAN IS “BONKERS”

One-time software mogul John McAfee fled Belize claiming the cops would persecute him after he was sought for questioning in the shooting death of his neighbor — using a body double, faking a heart attack, pretending he was crazy, and winding up in Miami.

 

IT SUCKS TO BE STINKING RICH AND OWN FOUR HOUSES AND HAVE TO LIVE WITH REJECTION

Ann Romney was deeply depressed that her husband didn’t win the election, telling friends she though it was their fate to move into the White House.

 

AND WHEN ASKED IF SOMEONE THAT MORONIC COULD ACTUALLY RUN FOR PRESIDENT, HE SAID “I’M A REPUBLICAN, MAN”

Marco Rubio, when asked about the age of the Earth, said “I’m not a scientist, man.”

 

EASY — THE ONES WHO ARE GETTING PAID ARE THE ONES PRETENDING TO BE INTERESTED IN NASTY OLD FRENCHMEN

After Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held overnight in Lille to be questioned about possible connections between a prostitution ring and orgies he attended in Paris and Washington, his lawyer said: “I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other woman.”

 

DUDE — THAT’S THE TERRITORY OF SERIOUS LOSERS

Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan lied about his time in the marathon.

 

GO AHEAD, CLINT — MAKE OUR DAY

Surprise guest speaker Clint Eastwood addressed GOP convention delegates for 12 minutes, during which he carried on an imagined dialogue with an empty chair he identified as President Obama.

 

AND YES, HE DID GET A FAIR AMOUNT OF THE STUPIDITY VOTE

Santorum told a gathering of conservatives in Washington, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”

The next board president

9

EDITORIAL The president of the Board of Supervisors does more than bang the gavel at meetings, tell people to put their clothes back on, and run for higher office. It’s a powerful position largely because the president makes appointments — to the Planning Commission, the Police Commission — and unilaterally decides who serves on which board committees.

Two years ago, Sup. David Chiu, who won the top post in 2009 with progressive support, wanted re-election, and the left wasn’t siding with him anymore. So he cut a deal with the conservative members, appointing the right-wing of the board to plum committee posts — and making life harder for progressives who wanted to pass Legislation or prevent bad developments from happening.

He clearly likes the job and would love to hold it for a third term. But that won’t be easy — Sup. Scott Wiener, who is to the right of Chiu on many issues, is also interested, as is Sup. Jane Kim, who has always been close to Chiu, and Sup. David Campos, who is one of the leading progressives. None of the candidates can count to six right now, so somebody’s going to have to back down or make a deal.

And before that happens, the candidates ought to tell us something about what they plan to do.

Chiu’s 2011 committee appointments were a bit of a shocker, although, in retrospect, the horse trading shouldn’t have surprised anyone. In fact, after he made his decisions, and put Carmen Chu, one of the most conservative supervisors, in charge of the Budget and Finance Committee and put the conservative Scott Wiener and the moderate Malia Cohen on Land Use and Economic Development, and put conservative Sean Elsbernd in charge of two committees, he told us that he felt he had no choice. If the progressives had voted for him, he wouldn’t have had to reward the conservatives.

This time around, with two new supervisors taking office (a more centrist Norman Yee replacing Elsbernd and a more moderate London Breed replacing Christina Olague) everything is up in the air. The progressives still have a solid three votes, and can sometimes count on Jane Kim and Chiu. That’s not enough to elect a president, but it’s coming pretty close.

Based on experience, skills, and temperament, our first choice for board president is Campos, who would be fair to everyone, approachable, and a voice for open government and community participation. But if Campos can’t get six votes, he and his progressive colleagues should ask anyone who want their support to be open about what he or she plans to do.

Who will be on the budget committee? Rules? Land Use? Where will he or she look for candidates for commissions? We know it would look unsightly if, say, Chiu named in advance his preferences for key committees — and then those people voted for him. But the reality is, those discussions are happening anyway, those deals being cut — and it’s happening behind closed doors, where the public (and the other supervisors) can’t watch.

Let’s bring all of the discussions into the sunshine, and have an open debate about the next board president.

 

Volume 47 Number 14 Flip-through Edition

0