Rep Clock: August 20 – 26, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/20-Tue/26 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ANSWER COALITION 2969 24th St, SF; $5-10 donation. A Good Day to Die (Mueller and Salt, 2010), Fri, 7. With film subject and American Indian Movement (AIM) co-founder Dennis Banks in person.

BALBOA 3630 Balboa, SF; $10. “Thursday Night Rock Docs:” Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Gervasi, 2008), Thu, 7:30.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. •We Are the Best! (Moodysson, 2013), Wed, 7, and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (Adler, 1981), Wed, 9. •Mr. X: A Vision of Leos Carax (Louise-Salomé, 2014), Thu, 6; Mauvais Sang (Carax, 1986), Thu, 7:25; and Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004), Thu, 9:35. Triple-feature, $12. •Streets of Fire (Hill, 1984), Fri, 7:30, and The Warriors (Hill, 1979), Fri, 9:20. “Peaches Christ’s Night of 1,000 Showgirls:” Showgirls (Verhoeven, 1995), Sat, 8. Annual celebration of the camp classic, with a “Volcanic Goddess” pre-show, special guest Rena “Penny/Hope” Riffel, and more; tickets ($25-55) at •The Leopard (Visconti, 1963), Sun, 2:30, 7. •The Dance of Reality (Jodorowsky, 2013), Tue, 7, and Jodorowsky’s Dune (Pavich, 2013), Tue, 9:30.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” Cannibal Holocaust (Deodato, 1979), Fri-Sat, midnight. With actor Carl Gabriel Yorke in person.

COURTHOUSE SQUARE 2200 Broadway, Redwood City; Free. The Croods (De Micco and Sanders, 2013), Thu, 8:45.

EMBARCADERO One Embarcadero Center, SF; Free. “Turkish Film Festival:” Love Me (Gorbach and Bahadir Er, 2013), Wed, 7; Oh Brother (Uzun), Wed, 9; Only You (Yonat), Thu, 7; My World (Yücel, 2013), Thu, 9.

EXPLORATORIUM Pier 15, SF; Free with museum admission ($19-25). “Off the Screen:” “Soundwave ((6)) (sub)mersion,” Thu, 7; “Imagine Science Film Festival,” Fri, 7 (this event, $5-10).

GOETHE-INSTITUT SF 530 Bush, SF; $5 suggested donation. “100 Years After WWI:” Poll (Kraus, 2009/2010), Wed, 6:30.

JACK LONDON FERRY LAWN Clay and Water, Oakl; Free. “Waterfront Flicks:” The Lego Movie (Lord and Miller, 2014), Thu, sundown.

NEW PARKWAY 747 24th St, Oakl; $10. Mrs. Judo (Romer, 2012), Sun, 3. With filmmaker Yuriko Gamo Romer in person.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “The Brilliance of Satyajit Ray:” The Home and the World (1984), Wed, 7; Deliverance (1988), Sat, 6:30; An Enemy of the People (1989), Sun, 5. “Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema:” Man of Iron (Wajda, 1981), Thu, 7. “Over the Top and Into the Wire: WWI on Film:” Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 1957), Fri, 7. “Kenji Mizoguchi: A Cinema of Totality:” Princess Yang Kwei-Fei (1955), Fri, 8:45. “Rude Awakening: American Comedy, 1990–2010:” Zoolander (Stiller, 2001), Sat, 8:15; Knocked Up (Apatow, 2007), Sun, 7.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. “Here and Far,” local shorts, Wed, 7. The Dance of Reality (Jodorowsky, 2013), Wed, 9. Kink (Voros, 2013), Wed-Thu, 7, 8:45. “Nippon Nights:” Akira (Otomo, 1989), Thu, 8. “SF Heritage: Reel San Francisco Stories,” screening and lecture, Thu, 6. This event, $10-15. Me and You (Bertolucci, 2012), Aug 22-28, 7, 9 (also Sat-Sun, 3, 5). Rich Hill (Tragos and Palermo, 2014), Aug 22-28, 7, 9 (also Sat-Sun, 3, 5). “Roxie Kids:” Astro Boy (Tezuka, 1980-81), Sun, 2. “This Must Be the Place: End of the Underground 1991-2012,” short films, Mon, call for time.

SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. Alive Inside (Rossato-Bennett, 2014), Wed-Thu, call for times. Frank (Abrahamson, 2014), Aug 22-28, call for times. “Alec Guinness at 100:” The Lavender Hill Mob (Crichton, 1951), Sun, 4:30, 7.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Invasion of the Cinemaniacs:” The Exile (Ophuls, 1947), Sun, 2. *


Time for change


Christy Price doesn’t want to work forever. At 60, the security guard has worked in formula retail stores for 25 years. She says she has trouble making a living due to cuts in her work schedule, a setback that could prevent her from retiring for the foreseeable future.

Price, who has been with her current company for a decade, works at various retailers her company contracts with. Her shift from full- to part-time work is typical for employees of formula retailers in the city, many of whom are half Price’s age and attempting to support families or make their way through college.

“I’m more or less in the same predicament as [the retail workers], in terms of hours,” Price said. “It’s scary, and it’s awful sad. You’ve got people who want to work and contribute, but they aren’t given the opportunity.”

Sup. Eric Mar’s recently proposed Retail Workers Bill of Rights aims to change that. Unveiled at a July 29 press conference at San Francisco City Hall, the legislation seeks to boost prospects for retail workers “held hostage by on-call scheduling, diminished hours and discriminatory treatment by employers,” according to a statement issued by Mar’s office. There are also plans to expand the legislation to include employees of formula retail contractors, like Price.

“We’re here today because raising the minimum wage isn’t enough,” Jobs with Justice Retail Campaign Organizer Michelle Lim said at the press conference. That same day, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place a measure on the November ballot to raise the San Francisco minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.

The current trend is for retail employers to hire part-time workers, spreading the hours thin and requiring employees to be on call for many more hours of work than they actually receive. That creates unpredictable schedules, making it difficult for workers to pay the bills.

Having stable work hours makes it possible for formula retail employees to plan for other parts of their lives, like earning college degrees, spending time with family or working other jobs — which is often a necessity for lower wage workers. Plus, as Price notes, companies with too many part-time employees aren’t getting the most out of their workers.

“If you keep undercutting them and cutting their hours, you’re not going to get the customer service that you’re looking for,” Price said. “You’re going to get what you pay for. You do need that skill; some people can do it, some people can’t.”

At the press conference, Mar was joined by fellow lead sponsor Board President David Chiu and co-sponsor Sup. John Avalos, along with speakers from local labor advocacy groups and a host of current and former formula retail workers.

As Lim explained, the proposed Bill of Rights package has four provisions. The first calls for “promoting full-time work and access to hours.” It would require formula retail employers to offer additional hours of work to current part-time employees, before hiring additional part-timers.

That would help prevent situations like those mentioned by retail employees speaking at the press conference. One Gap employee noted that part-time workers are often expected to commit to up to 30 hours of availability a week, yet would only be offered as little as 10 hours, despite being required to remain on call.

Another formula retail employee, Brian Quick, had a particularly rough experience while working for Old Navy at the clothing retailer’s flagship store. Having worked in retail for four years, he said his schedule for the upcoming week would come out on Thursday night, and the hours constantly fluctuated.

“It’s hard to plan anything such as doctor appointments when you aren’t even sure when you work,” Quick said. “Some weeks I would work 35 hours, and the next I’d get 15 hours. How am I supposed to pay bills?”

Last-minute notices became routine for Quick, who sometimes received calls informing him he didn’t have a shift anymore the night before he was scheduled to work.

“One day I came into work and they cut my hours right then and there,” Quick said. “Seems like everything is based on sales and not the well-being of the people who make the sales happen.”

Quick had other troubling experiences while working for Old Navy, including when he was denied Christmas vacation despite applying for it three months in advance. He eventually got the time off, but only through persistence and “the last-minute intervention of a sympathetic manager.”

“We know that consistent and reliable scheduling is important to our employees,” said Laura Wilkinson, a spokesperson for Gap Inc. “We are exploring ways to increase scheduling stability and flexibility across our fleet of stores. For example, last month we announced a pilot project with Professor Joan Williams of [University of California] Hastings College of Law to examine workplace scheduling and productivity.”

Gap Inc., the corporation that owns Old Navy, could be at the forefront of improving conditions, but the legislation’s supporters aren’t counting on retailers to make the necessary changes.

Instances like Quick’s are common in formula retail all over the country. Many retail employees, including some of Quick’s co-workers, must support families despite the unpredictable hours and low wages.

The second provision of the Retail Workers Bill of Rights attempts to fix that. It calls for “discouraging abusive on call practices” and aims to “encourage fair, predictable schedules.” Specifically, that would entail employers posting core schedules in advance with reasonable notice and providing premium pay “when an employer requires an employee to be ‘on-call’ for a specific shift, or cancels a shift with less than 24 hours notice.”

The third provision looks to improve conditions for part-time workers, calling for “equal treatment.” That means prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees “with respect to their rate of pay,” among other things like promotion opportunities and paid or unpaid time off.

It also addresses a chief concern for many part-time workers: ensuring that employees unable to maintain “open availability,” or being available at any time for a shift, are not denied employment. That’s especially significant for students and parents who have to balance their lives outside the retail industry with its demanding work hours.

“These policies, I feel, will have a huge impact on the lives of tens of thousands of our services workers, many of them low-wage workers who live with uncertainty and fear about their schedules and their other responsibilities in life,” Mar said as he introduced the legislation.

“Many of my family members and close friends are in that category, [along with] single moms, students in college and others that really deserve fair scheduling and a fair chance at economic justice.”

The final provision seeks to protect workers’ job security when their companies are bought or sold, requiring a 90-day trial period for existing employees if a formula retail business is acquired. This is meant to prevent companies from simply forcing out previous employees, allowing the workers a grace period to search for new work.

The legislation would impact an estimated 100,000 workers at approximately 1,250 stores across San Francisco. Those that qualify as formula retail businesses under city law include fast food businesses, restaurants, hotels and banks, and they must meet requirements in Section 703.3 of the San Francisco Planning Code.

In short, the law will apply to businesses considered to be chain stores, such as Target, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Wells Fargo and other major companies doing business throughout the city.

But the Retail Workers Bill of Rights’ supporters believe its impact will be felt beyond San Francisco, citing the city’s history of starting nationwide movements.

“San Francisco has always led the way when it comes to policies that protect working people,” Lim said. “The Retail Workers Bill of Rights is a commonsense proposal to bring stability to some of our city’s most marginalized workers.”

The supervisors sponsoring the ordinance have received plenty of help from Lim and Jobs with Justice San Francisco, a worker’s rights organization that has played an integral role in the city’s fight to improve labor conditions.

In 2013, Jobs with Justice mobilized labor support for the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, legislation not unlike Mar’s proposed legislation. In September 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Domestic Workers Bill into law, making California the nation’s first state to mandate overtime pay for domestic employees, specifically designating time-and-a-half pay for those working more than 45 hours a week or nine hours a day.

Even more support has come from the San Francisco Labor Council, Service Employees International Union Local 87 and Young Workers United, among many others, all of which have endorsed the legislation.

The proposal will come back into play in September, when the board returns from its summer recess. The process will start with public hearings, at which Mar said he looks forward to “really lively public conversation.”

That will give workers like Julissa Hernandez, a Safeway employee for 13 years and a veteran of the retail system, a chance to have their voices heard.

Speaking at the City Hall press conference, Hernandez said, “We should let retail workers know that they are not alone in this fight.”


SF bankers now exporting tenant-displacing TIC loans


Fractional mortgage loans used to convert apartments into owner-occupied tenancies-in-common have fed the eviction and displacement crisis in San Francisco, where the median home price just surpassed $1 million for the first time. Now, some of the same San Francisco banks that pioneered fractional loans here have started offered them in the East Bay and on the Peninsula.

TIC housing is an ownership model for multi-unit buildings, where each unit is independently owned. This option appeals to would-be homeowners because it’s cheaper than a condominium, but less fraught than a traditional loan shared by various owners in a TIC building, which does not allow for independent ownership of each unit.

TICs local have grown in popularity in San Francisco as housing prices continue to skyrocket, since they help homeowners find something affordable, although that benefit usually comes at the cost of evicting all the tenants in the building, often including seniors, those with disabilities, and low-income people in rent-controlled units.

Previously, fractional TIC loans were only accessible in SF. Now, as people seek affordable housing outside of expensive San Francisco, the demand for fractional TIC loans has grown. And San Francisco bankers have stepped up to meet that demand, according to a recent article in the San Francisco Business Times (“High-priced SF housing market exports fractional tenants-in-common loans,” June 28).

Sterling Bank & Trust has become well-known for providing fractional TIC loans (more than $480 million worth so far, according to the Business Times), and is the first company to offer the loans outside of San Francisco. “We’re helping the firefighter and school teacher, or what I like to call the ‘non-tech’ buyer, purchase a home,” Stephen Adams, senior vice president of Sterling Bank & Trust, told the Business Times.

Adams is also president of the San Francisco Small Business Commission, presiding over what critics say is a shift in that commission toward rubber-stamping initiatives from the Mayor’s Office rather than defending small business interests. When we contacted Adams to ask about the evictions and displacement caused by fractional loans, he told he had “no comment to make at this time.”

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, the director of counseling programs at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, said that he doesn’t know how the TIC loans might affect those in the East Bay. But he does know they’re bad news for San Francisco, where there’s now a 10-year moratorium on new condo conversions but few controls on the creation of new TICs.

“They’re scary,” Avicolli Mecca told us. “It’s a disaster for San Francisco. Basically, if you’re buying a tenancy in common, you don’t need to condo convert. It used to be that you wanted a condo conversion so you could have a separate mortgage on what you own. With a fractional loan, you have your own mortgage from the start.”

He added that the loans make it easier for sellers to convert buildings into any size that they can market to home buyers. With the loans, combined with the state Ellis Act allowing owners to remove apartments from the rental market, evicting tenants becomes even more profitable.

The Bank of San Francisco confirmed that it also offers TIC loans in the East Bay. The bank will be making them more attractive with interest-only payments, fractional financing for buildings with more than 12 units, and loans up to $2 million.

Dylan Desai, a spokesman for the Bank of San Francisco, told us that the bankers “do not extend financing to buildings where there has been an eviction” and, to their knowledge, they never have. “We’re sensitive to tenant rights.”

Hopefully the other banks offering these loans will be just as sensitive as they branch out into communities in the region that have already been absorbing an influx of working class former San Franciscans.

SF to consider joining Richmond in fighting banks over underwater mortgages


Plans to ease San Francisco’s often overlooked home foreclosure crisis will have to wait a bit longer. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors this week delayed a resolution that would show the city’s “intent” to save underwater mortgages in favor of a resolution that might actually have begin to intervene in underwater mortgages.

“The idea of people losing their homes is very disheartening,” Sup. John Avalos told the Guardian. “I’m looking forward to an ordinance that would actually allow San Francisco to join a JPA [Joint Powers Authority] and enable us to have leverage over banks.”

The original proposal would have stated San Francisco’s “intention” to form a JPA with the City of Richmond in the obscure—and controversial—use of eminent domain to acquire and fix underwater mortgages for homeowners in working class neighborhoods. But Avalos said that the resolution was primarily aimed at supporting Richmond in defending its principal reduction program.

“The resolution in support of Richmond’s work is not as timely as it was and I want to make sure I can work with you colleagues about the relationship around how we can actually have an ordinance to join a JPA with the city of Richmond and have all of our questions answered as we’re going through that process,” he told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Eminent domain is a law that allows the government to purchase private property for public use, including nontangible assets such as mortgages. The use of eminent domain to acquire underwater mortgages (when mortgage payments that exceed the value of homes) could be a godsend for homeowners who have been bamboozled by predatory lenders.

Yet Richmond, receiving national attention for the gutsy strategy, faced intense criticism—even federal lawsuits—from banks and financial institutions of late. Certain banks and financial institutions warned lending would halt if the strategy were attempted. Although Richmond recently braved attempts to quash its principal reduction plan, a JPA with San Francisco would allow both cities to leverage some power over banks.

“One city doesn’t have the resources to do it alone,” Sup. David Campos, who co-sponsored the resolution, told the Guardian. “Collectively joining forces can do it, and can be strengthened by taking a regional approach.”

Yet Avalos explained that he has already experienced disagreement from banks, including Well Fargo. “We are swimming against the tide—against the institutions of our banks that have a stronghold on how local loans and mortgages are kept at high interest rates, on the ability homeowners have to renegotiate loans, and on how we can improve the actual principal of our loans,” he told the Board of Supervisors, which was met by public applause.

“People don’t feel a sense of urgency about the housing crisis, and we need to convince them,” Avalos told the Guardian. “Overall we’re two years from the Occupy movement that challenged banks, and people have forgotten the feeling of the time where people questioned how much power banks had over the loan modification.”

In San Francisco, focus has indeed shifted toward out-of-control rents, though fallout from the mortgage crisis still persists. Over 300 underwater mortgages are concentrated in San Francisco’s working class communities, 90 percent of which contain predatory features, according to the Mortgage Resolution Partners, a company helping Richmond administer and finance their principal reduction plan.

Although roughly 64 percent of San Francisco residents are renters, some working class community member still own their homes, and some, like Carletta Jackson-Lane—who has lived in District 10 for 27 years and who spoke at this week’s meeting during public comment—feels that the African American community has been hit especially hard by foreclosures.

“Don’t forget that foreclosures are directly related to the outward migration of African American families out of San Francisco,” she said. “The reality is that in the Mission, there’s a different impact because they were mostly renters.

“The other impact in the African American community—especially in District 10—is that they were single family property owners, so when the foreclosure crisis happened, it knocked them out,” she explained. “And that’s multiple generations.”

Avalos sent the resolution back to committee for modification, and he expects a resolution to be voted on in August. “I don’t want San Francisco to be a place where only the wealthy can survive,” Avalos said.  “But in order to make serious changes we have to break a few eggs.”

When asked what those eggs were, he responded, “What currently is.”  

Your Treasure Island Music Festival lineup: Outkast, Massive Attack, and more


Thanks to a glitch in Ticketmaster’s system (or a human who works for Ticketmaster who is now having a very bad day), we got the lineup for this year’s Treasure Island Music Festival (Oct. 18 and 19) a little earlier than promoters Another Planet Entertainment were planning on announcing it. [Update as of noon-ish: The lineup’s now on the festival’s official website, too.] Here we go:

Massive Attack
TV On the Radio
Janelle Monae
The New Pornographers
Washed Out
St. Lucia
White Denim

The Growlers
Chet Faker
Ryan Hemsworth
Ana Tijoux
Painted Palms

With the exception of Painted Palms and Waters (good on ya, boys), it’s a pretty non-local crowd — but otherwise a pleasant mix of electronic and indie/garagey kids, which is of course in line with the crowd the festival usually draws. And if you missed Outkast at Coachella and BottleRock (where they were somewhat disappointing and excellent, respectively), well, here’s your next chance. At this point, honestly, we just hope it’s warmer than last year, because the chilled-to-the-bone memory of chugging overpriced wine and wondering if our hands would ever regain feeling again while waiting for Beck to come on is still alarmingly fresh.

Tickets go on sale this Thursday at 10am. Other thoughts on the lineup, folks?

LA siren BANKS enchants The Independent


On Wednesday night at The Independent, a sold-out crowd anxiously awaits the mysterious creature known as BANKS. Cloaked in layers of black fabric that fall to her ankles, the dark chanteuse struts deliberately to center stage, where a spotlight shines onto her pale face. The L.A.-based signer-songwriter seductively sets into the dark R&B track “Before I Ever Met You,” recalling instrumentals by The Weeknd, with whom she toured last year.

“Everyone knows I’m right about one thing,” she breathes into the microphone. The stunning singer pulls off her long sheer robe to reveal a sleeveless black leather top and black asymmetrical skirt. “You and I don’t work out,” she hums. Banks’ soft crooning overlays the sultry drum beats and rugged electric guitar of her two-person band.

The poised musician seamlessly swims through her set. She pulls her dark straight locks out of her face when she dances seductively to the emotional industrial tracks. At times, she slinks to the back of the stage, surreptitiously veiled behind the strobe light haze.

Despite her coyness, BANKS unveils intense vulnerability as she chants about love and loss. Her lyrics divulge an aching heart but also a fierce confidence. She plays with two personas: a shy soulful singer and a strong, fierce femme fatale.


BANKS at The Independent. All photos by Laura B. Childs.

In heartfelt gratitude, the spiritual singer puts her hands together in prayer, thanking the crowd before diving into the entrancing anthem about women’s empowerment, “Goddess”— BANKS’ newest single and the title of her upcoming full-length. “You put her down, you liked her hopeless, to walk around, feeling unnoticed,” she begins in singsong, with unassuming sexiness. “You shoulda crowned her, cause she’s a goddess, you never got this.”

BANKS connects with the audience through her compelling no-bullshit lyrics. “Fucking with a goddess, and you get a little colder,” she sings before passionately throwing the middle finger in the air. The singer uses singing and songwriting as a means of empowerment during dark times. Her lyrics uncover haunting themes of heartbreak and separation; she first started writing music when she was 15 as a coping mechanism after her parents divorce.

The singer’s honesty is contagious as she reaches her hands out to the audience. She creates an candid connection as the crowd sings in harmony to “Brain.” The song begins with the priestess’ guttural moans about the games we play in the name of love. She repeats the sultry lyrics until the instrumental interlude. “I can see you struggling, boy don’t hurt your brain,” BANKS cries out to the crowd. She rocks back and forth on her black platform boots, twisting her wrists like a somber belly dancer.


Twenty-five-year-old Jillian Banks — simply known as BANKS — got her beginnings on SoundCloud, like many of her peers. She has created a remarkable fan base online, released two EPs, Fall Over and London, and is finishing up a full-length album to be released in September. She is noted for her reluctance to use social media and conceals herself with entrancing tracks and haunting grey-scale music videos. She’s cited musical inspirations ranging from James Blake to Aaliyah.

“I get very nervous before shows,” says BANKS at the show. She sings covers backstage, she says, to feel more comfortable. At the mention of covers, the crowd goes nuts because they know she’s about to sing Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody.”

BANKS brings a sexy, come hither vibe to the 1997 single by the late R&B singer. In a stripped-down acoustic version, she unearths a powerful stage presence, luring her audience to her like a musical siren. Her honeyed voice feels slightly dangerous. “Boy, I’ve been watching you,” she sings. “Like a hawk in the sky that flies and you were my prey.”

Yes, she’s shrouded in mystery. Make no mistake, this mystery is deliberate. The California native strays away from overexposure and she always leaves you wanting more. But the enigmatic priestess doesn’t need to reveal all of her secrets. She’s opened her heart to us with her music. Her message is clear. She’s here to empower us, unshackle us from heartbreak, and liberate us from sadness. “You are all so perfect,” says BANKS to her fans in between songs, “and every woman is a goddess.”



Artists say vote for Campos


By Sara Jean Yaste

OPINION David Campos stands up for the underdogs. And in this current state of capitalism U$A, we the people need to give power only to leaders who won’t abuse it for personal profit. Foucault once said "society must be defended." Campos defends that society, and was granted a valid power from the people of San Francisco, based on actually helping us and being trusted, not just being a political yes person, like so many other modern politicians seem to be. Most politicians are all too eager to grant favors in exchange for shiny objects.

As some of you may or may now know, Campos is running for the 17th State Assembly District seat, which would enable him to create legislation at the state level. Campos shows that he is a man of the people by creating legislation that increases payouts for folks unjustly displaced by Ellis Act evictions, as well as giving displaced residents priority for affordable housing units as they become available. He champions the underdogs of the art scene by supporting legislation that enables emerging promoters to continue operating, without having to purchase $1 million insurance policies that are currently required of larger concert promoters. Basically, Campos is on the side of ensuring good times may still be had in SF, and that we don’t fall into the culturally disadvantaged realms of whitebread blandness that strangled vitality in suburbia for decades.

Campos is running against Divide Chiu for this seat. Seemingly, both candidates uphold progressive ideals, but in today’s tepid political waters, trying to stay informed often feels more like watching a bloated puppet show with talking heads, rather than participating in a genuine process of civic engagement. The solution? In my humble opinion, in order to really separate the fakers from the real, one must follow the money. Case in point, Campos proves his integrity and commitment to everyday people from all walks of life, in his refusal to accept cash from the financial industry (read: banks). He also has accepted only $82,000 from locally based real estate developers, who have committed to building affordable housing as well as market-rate housing (ex: the old Mission Theater project). Chiu, on the other hand, shows his true colors (they always say "money talks" right??) by accepting $34,000 from the finance industry, and $143,000 from out-of-state real estate developers.

Chiu promotes himself as being someone who can "get things done" in office. But that’s a pandering tired cliché at this point and it’s offensive that someone would insult our intelligence by using such tired rhetoric as a means to gain our trust and confidence. Yet Campos’ background alone (he was an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala’s civil war, who arrived speaking no English as a child, then later went on to graduate from Stanford University and later Harvard Law), shows that he is a true underdog who overcame adversity and has the capacity, resolve, and integrity to continue fighting on our behalf (yes, this writer identifies as a non-commodified emerging artist, aka underdog).

Campos represents those who actually pulling themselves up by their boot straps, as the saying goes, in reality. He demonstrates strength of character and values in not accepting funds from shady interests (unlike Chiu) and continues to help the people who truly need it, those who are unjustly displaced and in desperate need of housing in the community that is their long-term home. He supports emerging artists by being in touch with our needs, and crafting legislation that enables us to stay in our homes, and helps the current law become more just (because let’s face it, justice is always ahead of the law; for example, see: slavery being sanctioned in colonial U$A and marriage discrimination in California by Proposition 8).

From one concerned and civilly engaged resident of San Francisco to the next, I urge you to vote for David Campos in the upcoming primary on June 3.

Sara Jean Yaste is a writer, musician, and creative social interventionist living and breathing in San Francisco. Her band, Future Twin, performs May 31 from 3-6pm at a Happy Hour for David Campos at DNA Lounge.

Marcus Books of San Francisco evicted

For months, we’ve been covering the story of Marcus Books, the nation’s oldest continuously operating black-owned, black-themed bookstore located in San Francisco’s Fillmore District. Facing eviction from the purple Victorian where the bookstore had operated since 1981, the family that owns it had launched an ambitious fundraising campaign in an effort to remain in place.

Widespread community support for the culturally significant bookstore even led to the Board of Supervisors granting landmark status for the bookstore’s Fillmore Street address, on account of “its long-term association with Marcus Books … and for its association with Jimbo’s Bop City, one of the City’s most famous, innovative and progressive jazz clubs.”    

But as the Bay Guardian has just learned, the bookstore was evicted on May 6. Now it seems the family is in the process of packing up the books and determining what the next step is.

In the meantime, here’s an open letter sent to supporters via email by bookstore co-owners Tamiko, Greg, and Karen Johnson.

Dear Supporters: 
It was difficult to know what to tell you about our struggle to stay in our building, its winding path of lawyers and judges and protests and promises, hopes and gravities made it difficult to report our status on a curved road. But the current property owner has changed the locks to the door of 1712 Fillmore Street.

Marcus Books missed a couple of rent payments (not such a rare thing considering that at the same time the largest US banks and even our government asked taxpayers to give them hundreds of billions of dollars of assistance). However, the mortgage holder, PLM Lender, foreclosed on the building that housed Marcus Books of San Francisco since 1981. It was sold to the Sweis family (realtors and owners of Royal Taxi in San Francisco). The Johnson family (co-owners of Marcus Books of San Francisco) has been trying to buy the building back for a year and half.   

The Sweis’ bought this building in a bankruptcy “auction” (apparently, they were the only bidder) for $1.6 million. The Johnsons offered $1.8 million; the Sweis set their price at $3.20 million, hoping to double their purchase price after a few months ownership. After some public outrage resulting in public protests against the Sweis, a negotiation brought their asking price down to $2.6 million, adding a million dollar profit to their purchase without adding any improvements to the property and adding a stipulation that the entire $2.6 million be raised within 90 days.

Marcus Books supporters, including the local chapter of the NAACP; ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment; Japantown activists; Westside Community Services; Julian Davis, our fearless legal council; Carlos Levexier’s “Keep It Lit” campaign committee; local literary community including writers and other bookstores; people from all over the world: friends, family, customers, churches and unions took a stand against the bulldozing of community. Individuals, unions, and churches donated $25,000. The Community Land Trust of San Francisco garnered loan pledges of $200,000 and Westside Community Services offered a loan of $1.60 million. Though by any standards that would have been more than enough for a down payment, the Sweiss’ refused the $1.85 million start and filed for eviction.

Concurrently, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution requiring every division of city government make it a priority that they each use their “powers” to help Marcus Books stay in its location. In addition, and after 5 years of efforts by John Templeton (the leader in Black California history), and Greg Johnson (co-owner of Marcus Books of San Francisco), London Breed and Malia Cohen, two San Francisco Supervisors, initiated the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote granting landmark status.

With the numerous speeches of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee stating his commitment to righting the wrongs of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s slaughter of the thriving African American Fillmore District, we at Marcus Books believed the City would take some affirmative action on our behalf, since Marcus Books is the only surviving Black business since the Redevelopment devastation. Maybe that support is around the next bend? Well the locks have been changed, the cavalry is not in sight, and it’s time to pack up the books and store them till we find another space.

You might ask yourself, why bother? Materialism rules the day. That is not news. More often than not, we take it for granted that the “bottom line” is the only line worth respecting, though it respects no one. This is a common conception, but not right. Right is the vertical line that runs through all levels: from its spiritual top to its earthly roots. This verticality is manifested only by integrity. Integrity defies gravity in its perpetual longing for truth. Millions of people have been put out of their homes by bottom-line-feeders. It’s common, but it’s not okay, now or at any other time. Sometimes you just have to take a stand. Integrity is a verb.

In 1970, I had a vision bout rebirth. A segment of that vision informs this struggle. In this particular scene, the spirit is climbing the Tree of Humanity, being lifted higher and higher by those entwined in The Tree. The spirit never steps on anyone’s face or heart. It just carries their dreams up with it. Because it is growing towards rebirth, it gets younger with each step up. Though there are thousands of supporters at the bottom of The Tree, there are fewer at the top and the helping hands are fewer and far between. At the top of The Tree, at the stratum of the clouds, quantity has morphed in into quality. Here a storm of wind and rain rages, lightning strikes and a mad dog spirals up The Tree, snapping at the heels of the now, infant spirit. Teetering on a limb, the spirit sees a man face down in the mud at the bottom of The Tree. Seems he got there from letting go of his faith in The Tree. The surrounding clouds urge the spirit fall.
“Cross Section”
The rumors, that were whispered,
            Here, the silence screams,
            And branches battle shadows
            To defend their dreams.
            Where Black is cut in pieces,
            Can’t hold myself together.
            Time cuts me down,
            Life me brought up,
            But lead me to this weather.
            The Time says, ‘Fall
            To soulless ease.
            To struggle is disgrace.
            The gravity will grant you peace,
            And hide your shameful face.’
            But I am born of honor:
            Descendent from above.
            My Father’s name is Wisdom
            And my Mother’s name is Love.
            And I have strength of purpose.
            That’s what my climb’s about.
            As I’m cut off,
            I will hold ON
            And trustingly Black-out.”
(Copyright 1997, Karen Johnson)
 For the hundreds of people who have lent their time, money, and prayers, we are truly grateful.
–Tamiko, Greg, and Karen Johnson, co-owners Marcus Books of San Francisco
 . . . to be continued

Guardian endorsements




Editor’s Note: Election endorsements have been a long and proud part of the Guardian’s 48-year history of covering politics in San Francisco, the greater Bay Area, and at the state level. In low-turnout elections like the one we’re expecting in June, your vote counts more than usual, and we hope our endorsements and explanations help you make the best decisions.



There is much for progressives to criticize in Jerry Brown’s latest stint as governor of California. He has stubbornly resisted complying with federal court orders to substantially reduce the state’s prison population, as well as shielding the system from needed journalistic scrutiny and reforms of solitary confinement policies that amount to torture. Brown has also refused to ban or limit fracking in California, despite the danger it poses to groundwater and climate change, irritating environmentalists and fellow Democrats. Even Brown’s great accomplishment of winning passage for the Prop. 30 tax package, which eased the state back from financial collapse, sunsets too early and shouldn’t have included a regressive sales tax increase. Much more needs to be done to address growing wealth disparities and restore economic and educational opportunity for all Californians.

For these reasons and others, it’s tempting to endorse one of Brown’s progressive challenges: Green Party candidate Luis Rodriguez or Peace and Freedom Party candidate Cindy Sheehan (see “Left out,” April 23). We were particularly impressed by Rodriguez, an inspiring leader who is seeking to bring more Latinos and other marginalized constituencies into the progressive fold, a goal we share and want to support however we can.

But on balance, we decided to give Brown our endorsement in recognition of his role in quickly turning around this troubled state after the disastrous administration of Arnold Schwarzenegger — and in the hope that his strong leadership will lead to even greater improvement over his next term. While we don’t agree with all of his stands, we admire the courage, independence, and vision that Brown brings to this important office. Whether he is supporting the California High-Speed Rail Project against various attacks, calling for state residents to live in greater harmony with the natural world during the current drought, or refusing to shrink from the challenges posed by global warming, Jerry Brown is the leader that California needs at this critical time.



Gavin Newsom was mayor of San Francisco before he ascended to the position of Lieutenant Governor, and we at the Bay Guardian had a strained relationship with his administration, to put it mildly. We disagreed with his fiscally conservative policies and tendency to align himself with corporate power brokers over neighborhood coalitions. As lieutenant governor, Newsom is tasked with little — besides stepping into the role of governor, should he be called upon to do so — but has nevertheless made some worthwhile contributions.

Consider his stance on drug policy reform: “Once and for all, it’s time we realize that the war on drugs is nothing more than a war on communities of color and on the poor,” he recently told a crowd at the Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles. “It is fundamentally time for drug policies that recognize and respect the full dignity of human beings. We can’t wait.” In his capacity as a member of the UC Board of Regents, Newsom recently voted against a higher executive compensation package for a top-level administrator, breaking from the pack to align with financially pinched university students. In Sacramento, Newsom seems to come off as more “San Francisco” than in his mayoral days, and we’re endorsing him against a weak field of challengers.



Although the latest Field Poll shows that he has only single-digit support and is unlikely to make the November runoff, we’re endorsing Derek Cressman for Secretary of State. As a longtime advocate for removing the corrupting influence of money from politics through his work with Common Cause, Cressman has identified campaign finance reform as the important first step toward making the political system more responsive to people’s needs. As Secretary of State, Cressman would be in a position to ensure greater transparency in our political system.

We also like Alex Padilla, a liberal Democrat who has been an effective member of the California Senate. We’ll be happy to endorse Padilla in November if he ends up in a runoff with Republican Pete Peterson, as the current polling seems to indicate is likely. But for now, we’re endorsing Cressman — and the idea that campaign finance reform needs to be a top issue in a state and country that are letting wealthy individuals and corporations have disproportionate influence over what is supposed to be a democracy.



The pay-to-play politics of Leland Yee and two other California Democrats has smeared the Assembly. Amid the growls of impropriety, a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting has painted Speaker of the Assembly John Perez, a leading candidate for Controller, with a similar brush. CIR revealed Perez raised money from special interest groups to charities his lover favored, a lover later sued for racketeering and fraud.

Betty Yee represents an opportunity for a fresh start. On the state’s Board of Equalization she turned down campaign donations from tobacco interests, a possible conflict of interest. She also fought for tax equity between same-sex couples. The Controller is tasked with keeping watch on and disbursing state funds, a position we trust much more to Yee’s careful approach than Perez’s questionable history. Vote for Yee.



While serving as California’s elected Controller, John Chiang displayed his courage and independence by refusing to sign off on budgetary tricks used by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and some legislative leaders, insisting on a level of honesty that protected current and future Californians. During those difficult years — as California teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, paralyzed by partisan brinksmanship each budget season, written off as a failed state by the national media — Chiang and retiring Treasurer Bill Lockyer were somehow able to keep the state functioning and paying its bills.

While many politicians claim they’ll help balance the budget by identifying waste and corruption, Chiang actually did so, identifying $6 billion by his estimate that was made available for more productive purposes. Now, Chiang wants to continue bringing fiscal stability to this volatile state and he has our support.



Kamala Harris has kept the promise she made four years ago to bring San Francisco values into the Attorney General’s Office, focusing on the interests of everyday Californians over powerful vested interests. That includes strengthening consumer and privacy protections, pushing social programs to reduce criminal recidivism rather than the tough-on-crime approach that has ballooned our prison population, reaching an $18 billion settlement with the big banks and mortgage lenders to help keep people in their homes, and helping to implement the Affordable Care Act and the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state.

Harris has maintained her opposition to the death penalty even though that has hurt her in the statewide race, and she brings to the office an important perspective as the first woman and first African American ever to serve as the state’s top law enforcement officer. While there is much more work to be done in countering the power of wealthy individuals and corporations and giving the average Californian a stronger voice in our legal system, Harris has our support.



We’ve been following Dave Jones’s legislative career since his days on the Sacramento City Council and through his terms in the California Legislature, and we’ve always appreciated his autonomy and progressive values. He launched into his role as Insurance Commissioner four years ago with an emergency regulation requiring health insurance companies to use no more than 20 percent of premiums on profits and administrative costs, and he has continued to do what he can to hold down health insurance rates, including implementing the various components of the Affordable Care Act.

More recently, Jones held hearings looking at whether Uber, Lyft, and other transportation network companies are adequately insured to protect both their drivers and the general public, concluding that these companies need to self-insure or otherwise expand the coverage over their business. It was a bold and important move to regulate a wealthy and prosperous new industry. Jones deserves credit for taking on the issue and he has earned our endorsement.



This race is a critical one, as incumbent Tom Torlakson faces a strong challenge from the charter school cheerleader Marshall Tuck. An investment banker and Harvard alum, Tuck is backed by well-heeled business and technology interests pushing for the privatization of our schools. Tech and entertainment companies are pushing charter schools heavily as they wait in the wings for lucrative education supply contracts, for which charter schools may open the doors. And don’t let Waiting for Superman fool you, charter schools’ successful test score numbers are often achieved by pushing out underperforming special needs and economically disadvantaged students.

As national education advocate Diane Ravitch wrote in her blog, “If Tuck wins, the privatization movement will gain a major stronghold.” California ranks 48th in the nation in education spending, a situation we can thank Prop. 13 for. We’d like to see Torlakson advocate for more K-12 school dollars, but for now, he’s the best choice.



Fiona Ma was never our favorite member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and in the California Legislature, she has seemed more interested in party politics and leadership than moving legislation that is important to San Francisco. There are a few exceptions, such as her attempts last year to require more employers to offer paid sick days and to limit prescription drug co-payments. But she also notoriously tried to ban raves at public venues in 2010, a reactionary bill that was rejected as overly broad.

But the California Board of Equalization might just be a better fit for Ma than the Legislature. She’s a certified public accountant and would bring that financial expertise to the state’s main taxing body, and we hope she continues in the tradition of her BOE predecessor Betty Yee in ensuring the state remains fair but tough in how it collects taxes.



The race to replace progressive hero Tom Ammiano in the California Assembly is helping to define this important political moment in San Francisco. It’s a contest between the pragmatic neoliberal politics of Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and the populist progressive politics of Sup. David Campos, whom Ammiano endorsed to succeed him.

It’s a fight for the soul of San Francisco, a struggle to define the values we want to project into the world, and, for us at the Bay Guardian, the choice is clear. David Campos is the candidate that we trust to uphold San Francisco’s progressive values in a state that desperately needs that principled influence.

Chiu emphasizes how the two candidates have agreed on about 98 percent of their votes, and he argues that his effectiveness at moving big legislation and forging compromises makes him the most qualified to represent us in Sacramento. Indeed, Chiu is a skilled legislator with a sharp mind, and if “getting things done” — the prime directive espoused by both Chiu and Mayor Ed Lee — was our main criterion, he would probably get our endorsement.

But when you look at the agenda that Chiu and his allies at City Hall have pursued since he came to power — elected as a progressive before pivoting to become a pro-business moderate — we wish that he had been a little less effective. The landlords, tech titans, Realtors, and Chamber of Commerce have been calling the shots in this city, overheating the local economy in a way that has caused rapid displacement and gentrification.

“Effective for whom? That’s what’s important,” Campos told us during his endorsement interview, noting that, “Most people in San Francisco have been left behind and out of that prosperity.”

Campos has been a clear and consistent supporter of tenants, workers, immigrants, small businesses, environmentalists — the vast majority of San Franciscans, despite their lack of power in City Hall. Chiu will sometimes do right by these groups, but usually only after being pushed to do so by grassroots organizing and lobbying efforts.

Campos correctly points out that such lobbying is more difficult in Sacramento, with its higher stakes and wider range of competing interests, than it is on the local level. Chiu’s focus on always trying to find a compromise often plays into the hands of wealthy interests, who sometimes just need to be fought and stopped.

We have faith in Campos and his progressive values, and we believe he will skillfully carry on the work of Ammiano — who is both an uncompromising progressive and an effective legislator — in representing San Francisco’s values in Sacramento.



Incumbent Phil Ting doesn’t have any challengers in this election, but he probably would have won our support anyway. After proving himself as San Francisco’s Assessor, taking a strong stance against corporate landowners and even the Catholic Church on property assessments, Ting won a tough race against conservative businessman Michael Breyer to win his Assembly seat.

Since then, he’s been a reliable vote for legislation supported by most San Franciscans, and he’s sponsoring some good bills that break new ground, including his current AB 1193, which would make it easier to build cycletracks, or bike lanes physically separated from cars, all over the state. He also called a much-needed Assembly committee hearing in November calling out BART for its lax safety culture, and we hope he continues to push for reforms at that agency.



Over a decade ago, Californians voted to use hundreds of millions of our dollars to create the CalVet Home and Farm Loan Program to help veterans purchase housing. But a reduction in federal home loan dollars, the housing crisis, and a plummeting economy hurt the program.

Prop. 41 would repurpose $600 million of those bond funds and raise new money to create affordable housing rental units for some of California’s 15,000 homeless veterans. This would cost Californians $50 million a year, which, as proponents remind us, is one-tenth of 1 percent of the state budget. Why let hundreds of millions of dollars languish unused? We need to reprioritize this money to make good on our unfulfilled promises to homeless veterans.



This one’s important. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown sought to gut the California Public Records Act by making it optional for government agencies to comply with many of the requirements built into this important transparency law. The CPRA and the Ralph M. Brown Act require government agencies to make records of their activities available for public scrutiny, and to provide for adequate notice of public meetings. Had the bill weakening these laws not been defeated, it would have removed an important defense against shadowy government dealings, leaving ordinary citizens and journalists in the dark.

Prop. 42 is a bid to eliminate any future threats against California’s important government transparency laws, by expressly requiring local government agencies — including cities, counties, and school districts — to comply with all aspects of the CPRA and the Brown Act. It also seeks to prevent local agencies from denying public records requests based on cost, by eliminating the state’s responsibility to reimburse local agencies for cost compliance (the state has repeatedly failed to do so, and local bureaucracies have used this as an excuse not to comply).



Prop. A is a $400 million general obligation bond measure that would cover seismic retrofits and improvements to the city’s emergency infrastructure, including upgrades to the city’s Emergency Firefighting Water System, neighborhood police and fire stations, a new facility for the Medical Examiner, and seismically secure new structures to house the police crime lab and motorcycle unit.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place Prop. A on the ballot, and a two-thirds majority vote is needed for it to pass. Given that San Franciscans can expect to be hit by a major earthquake in the years to come, upgrading emergency infrastructure, especially the high-pressure water system that will aid the Fire Department in the event of a major blaze, is a high priority.



As we report in this issue (see “Two views of the waterfront”), San Francisco’s waterfront is a valuable place targeted by some ambitious development schemes. That’s a good thing, particularly given the need that the Port of San Francisco has for money to renovate or remove crumbling piers, but it needs to be carefully regulated to maximize public benefits and minimize private profit-taking.

Unfortunately, the Mayor’s Office and its appointees at the Port of San Francisco have proven themselves unwilling to be tough negotiators on behalf of the people. That has caused deep-pocketed, politically connected developers to ignore the Waterfront Land Use Plan and propose projects that are out-of-scale for the waterfront, property that San Francisco is entrusted to manage for the benefit of all Californians.

All Prop. B does is require voter approval when projects exceed existing height limits. It doesn’t kill those projects, it just forces developers to justify new towers on the waterfront by providing ample public benefits, restoring a balance that has been lost. San Francisco’s waterfront is prime real estate, and there are only a few big parcels left that can be leveraged to meet the needs of the Port and the city. Requiring the biggest ones to be approved by voters is the best way to ensure the city — all its residents, not just the politicians and power brokers — is getting the best deals possible.



Daniel Flores has an impressive list of endorsers, including the Democratic, Republican, and Green parties of San Francisco — a rare trifecta of political party support. But don’t hold the GOP nod against Flores, who was raised in the Excelsior by parents who immigrated from El Salvador and who interned with La Raza Centro Legal while going to McGeorge School of Law. And he did serve in the Marines for six years, which could explain the broad range of support for him.

Flores is a courtroom litigator with experience in big firms and his own practice, representing clients ranging from business people to tenants fighting against their landlords. Flores told us that he wants to ensure those without much money are treated fairly in court, an important goal we support. We also liked Kimberly Williams and hope she ends up on the bench someday, but in this race, Flores is the clear choice.



This was a hard decision for us this year. Everyone knows that Pelosi will win this race handily, but in past races we’ve endorsed third party challengers or even refused to endorse anyone more often than we’ve given Pelosi our support. While Pelosi gets vilified by conservatives as the quintessential San Francisco liberal, she’s actually way too moderate for our tastes.

Over her 21 years in Congress, she has presided over economic policies that have consolidated wealth in ever fewer hands and dismantled the social safety net, environmental policies that have ignored global warming and fed our over-reliance on the private automobile, and military policies that expanded the war machine and overreaching surveillance state, despite her insider’s role on the House Intelligence Committee.

Three of her opponents — Democrat David Peterson, Green Barry Hermanson, and fiery local progressive activist Frank Lara of the Peace and Freedom Party — are all much better on the issues that we care about, and we urge our readers to consider voting for one of them if they just can’t stomach casting a ballot for Pelosi. In particular, Hermanson has raised important criticisms of just how out of whack our federal budget priorities are. We also respect the work Lara has done on antiwar and transit justice issues in San Francisco, and we think he could have a bright political future.

But we’ve decided to endorse Pelosi in this election for one main reason: We want the Democrats to retake the House of Representatives this year and for Pelosi to once again become Speaker of the House. The Republican Party in this country, particularly the Tea Party loyalists in the House, is practicing a dangerous and disgusting brand of political extremism that needs to be stopped and repudiated. They would rather shut the government down or keep it hopelessly hobbled by low tax rates than help it become an effective tool for helping us address the urgent problems that our country faces. Pelosi and the Democrats aren’t perfect, but at least they’re reasonable grown-ups and we’d love to see what they’d do if they were returned to power. So Nancy Pelosi has our support in 2014.



Barbara Lee has been one of our heroes since 2001, when she was the only member of Congress to vote against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, braving the flag-waving nationalism that followed the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to warn that such an overly broad declaration of war was dangerous to our national interests. She endured death threats and harsh condemnation for that principled stand, but she was both courageous and correct, with our military overreach still causing problems for this country, both practical and moral.

Lee has been a clear and consistent voice for progressive values in the Congress for 16 years, chairing both the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus, taking stands against capital punishment and the Iraq War, supporting access to abortions and tougher regulation of Wall Street, and generally representing Oakland and the greater Bay Area well in Washington DC. She has our enthusiastic support.



Jackie Speier has given her life to public service — almost literally in 1978 when she was an aide to then-Rep. Leo Ryan and survived the airstrip shootings that triggered the massacre at Jonestown — and she has earned our ongoing support. Speier has continued the consumer protection work she started in the California Legislature, sponsoring bills in Congress aimed at protecting online privacy. She has also been a strong advocate for increasing federal funding to public transit in the Bay Area, particularly to Muni and for the electricification of Caltrain, an important prelude to the California High-Speed Rail Project. In the wake of the deadly natural gas explosion in San Bruno, Speier has pushed for tough penalties on Pacific Gas & Electric and expanded pipeline safety programs. She has been a strong advocate of women’s issues, including highlighting the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and in the military, seeking greater protections, institutional accountability, and recourse for victims. More recently, Speier has become a key ally in the fight to save City College of San Francisco, taking on the federal accreditation process and seeking reforms. Speier is a courageous public servant who deserves your vote.

Draining the tank


When University of California Berkeley students Ophir Bruck and Victoria Fernandez first made contact with the University of California Board of Regents, it was a far cry from the genial hobnobbing they engaged in over lunch at the March 19 Regents meeting in San Francisco, as special guests called Student Advocates to the Regents.

About a year ago, they were outside a Regents meeting in Sacramento and, joined by about 60 other students, symbolically locked to a pair of handmade, 10-foot-tall models of oil rigs they’d set up outside the conference center.

“The idea was the symbolism of us being chained to an extractive economy that’s not sustainable,” Bruck explained to us. The message they hoped to impart to the Regents was: “They have the keys to our fossil freedom.”

Taking advantage of the public comment session to get their point across, the students were there to call on the Regents to withdraw UC investment holdings in companies such as Exxon, Chevron, BP, and other leading fossil fuel companies. The campaign, Fossil Free Cal, is just one of dozens of student-led efforts nationwide seeking to convince campus administrations to withdraw funds from oil and gas companies as a way of curbing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change.

Some local institutions of higher education have already committed to divestment from fossil fuels. Oakland’s Peralta Community College District, the Foothill-DeAnza Community College Foundation, and the San Francisco State University Foundation have made commitments to divest.

But other prominent schools have declined. Last October, Harvard University announced that it would not honor students’ request to withdraw investment holdings from the fossil fuel sector, saying such a move would “position the university as a political actor rather than an academic institution,” and could “come at a substantial economic cost.” A student effort to have Brown University divest from fossil fuels also went down the tubes.

Divestment by California’s flagship public university system would have a significant impact. UC Berkeley’s endowment is $3 billion, while the total UC system endowment is $11 billion. Fossil Free Cal organizers estimate that about 5 percent of that money is tied up in the fossil fuel sector.

Beginning with the kickoff to their divestment campaign at that first Regents’ meeting in Sacramento, the students’ message seems to have resonated. In the time since, they’ve attended every Regents meeting, met individually with certain board members, submitted reports in support of divestment, and earned an official endorsement from the UC Students’ Association, a student government that spans all UC campuses. Some individual regents have been receptive — but so far, the powerful UC governing board has not seriously taken up the question of divestment.

“We’re worried about what our future looks like, and what they are doing with our money,” Fernandez said. “We’re saying, if we’re invested in fossil fuels, we’re inherently invested in the destruction of students’ future.”

Nationwide, the campaign to divest from fossil fuels is a proactive, youth-led movement hinged on a moral argument: Since climate scientists have said it is dangerous to continue burning fossil fuels at current rates, universities have an ethical obligation to withdraw support from those corporations sticking to existing business models for extracting and burning fossil fuels.

To argue their case, the students are highlighting a quandary. There’s global scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the reason climate change is occurring, and this has led the international community to take action. In 2010, members of the United Nations agreed to take steps to prevent an average global temperature increase above 2 degrees Celsius.

But according to a 2012 report issued by the Carbon Tracker Institute, a London-based think tank, the amount of carbon stored in reserves by the world’s leading 200 leading fossil fuel companies is enough to trigger that temperature increase five times over, if all the reserves were extracted and burned. That would severely alter the global climate with dangerous and irreversible impacts, according to climate modeling scenarios.

To lessen that damage, students are advising their campus administrators to withdraw from fossil fuels, arguing that it makes good business sense. Internationally, some economists have begun referring to a “carbon bubble,” with Green Party members of the European Parliament releasing a study last month to warn of the effect it could have on the pension funds, banks, and insurance companies in the European Union.

Even with the dawning realization that fossil fuel companies’ holdings can’t be burned if the international community is to meet its goals to fight climate change, the UC Regents have yet to make any clear indication on whether they will continue to keep millions of dollars tied up in that sector.

“All successful student movements took sit-ins and mass mobilizations,” Bruck said during an interview at UC Berkeley’s Free Speech Café, named for the historic campus movement.

It may well go there, but at this stage, organizers are still hoping the Regents will take leadership in response to their campaign. Specifically, they’re pushing for UC to drop all existing investments in fossil fuel companies over the next five years, and roll out a climate change investment strategy.

On April 4, organizers behind this effort will host 300 students representing 100 schools from across the United States and Canada, for a conference on the fossil fuel divestment movement. The two-day strategy session, which will be held at San Francisco State University, aims to strengthen the youth-led movement to fight climate change by getting at the economic root of the problem, through divestment.

“Our goal is divesting in the next two semesters,” Fernandez said. But since students cycle out of the universities over four years, and Regents are appointed for terms lasting 12 years, she realizes accomplishing this goal might mean relying on newly engaged students: “Maybe our freshmen right now will have to bring it home.”

Jason “Shake” Anderson is Oakland’s ‘Candidate X’


In our Jan. 1 issue, the Bay Guardian spun the tale of Candidate X, a fictional progressive mayoral candidate aiming to save San Francisco’s wonderfully weird soul using people power. The hope? To inspire a candidate to run in the City’s election in 2015 with strong progressive bona fides, and the values that inspired a nation during the rise of the populist Occupy movement.

Now a real life Candidate X has surfaced, but not in San Francisco — this X is challenging Jean Quan for her seat as Oakland’s mayor, using our Candidate X story to define, elevate, and amplify his candidacy. 

Meet Jason “Shake” Anderson, 38, a former Occupy Oakland spokesperson, veteran, and now Green party candidate for the Oakland mayor’s race. He hopes to take the lessons from Occupy to help reinvigorate the city he calls home. 

“It doesn’t get much news, but Occupy Oakland dropped crime in the city in that moment. It’s because people had places to sleep and places to eat. Those things drop crime,” he told the Guardian. “I’m not saying we camp again, but we need to find ways to do things like that. We have empty buildings, how about we give organizations who feed people on a daily basis a building that wasn’t being used to begin with?”

Anderson is an African American man, and although he feels black Oakland needs representation, he’s about bridging divides: “My attitude is we take care of our people first; not just black or brown people, but people.”

Thinking with people power is Anderson’s modus operandi. He noted that the Port of Oakland was severely disrupted by an Occupy takeover, showing the people have teeth. He doesn’t want to just fight people in power, but work hand in hand with them.

“I believe we can work with and not be separate from the power structure, and even the playing field,” he said. “A lot of people are mad at rich people, but I’m angry at disparate wealth. People are poorer and poorer, and they feel likes there’s no change in their course.”

Jason “Shake” Anderson talks music with “The Black Hour.”

That focus on building bridges and novel ideas to tackle everyday problems is what drew Anderson to our Candidate X feature back in January. He co-opted the imagery and message, distributing “Who is Candidate X?” flyers around San Francisco and Oakland. The front side features art from our Candidate X story, by the talented Sean Morgan, and the back features a brief description of Anderson’s candidacy as well as a QR code that links to a donation using Bitcoin. 


You see, Anderson is a bit of a tech head, with a belief that eventually Bitcoin will be one way to free people’s money from banks that don’t look out for the interest of people. And much like our fictional Candidate X, he thinks the tech movement and activist movements have much in common.

“Candidate X comes from the concept of the 99 percent, the leaderless movement of Occupy,” Anderson said. “This is not about me, I’m just a guy. But I’m supposed to represent you.”


Theater Listings: February 26 – March 4, 2014


Stage listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Performance times may change; call venues to confirm. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Rita Felciano, and Nicole Gluckstern. Submit items for the listings at



Mommy Queerest Exit Studio, 156 Eddy, SF; $15-25. Opens Fri/28, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through March 29. DIVAfest and Guerrilla Rep present Kat Evasco (who co-wrote with John Caldon) in an autobiographical solo comedy about the relationship between a lesbian daughter and her closeted lesbian mother.

“Risk Is This … The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival” Tides Theater, 533 Sutter, Second Flr; Free ($20 donation for reserved seating). Opens Fri/28, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. (Starting March 14, venue changes to Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF). Through March 29. Five new works in staged readings, including two from Cutting Ball resident playwright Andrew Saito.

Tipped & Tipsy Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; $15-50. Opens Sat/1, 5pm. Runs Sat, 5pm; Sun, 7pm. Through April 6. Solo performer Jill Vice performs her Fringe Festival hit.


The Altruists Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; $19-34. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through March 8. She Wolf Theater performs Nicky Silver’s “politically incorrect” play that exposes the real motivations behind altruistic behavior.

Children Are Forever (All Sales are Final!) Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; $15. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through March 22. W. Kamau Bell directs Julia Jackson in her solo show about adoption.

Feisty Old Jew Marsh San Francisco Main Stage, 1062 Valencia, SF; $25-100. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm (Sun/2, performance at 2pm; March 9, performance will be a reading of Charlie Varon’s Fish Sisters). Through March 16. Charlie Varon performs his latest solo show, a fictional comedy about “a 20th century man living in a 21st century city.”

Foodies! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; $32-34. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. AWAT Productions presents Morris Bobrow’s musical comedy revue all about food.

Hundred Days Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; $10-100. Previews Wed/26, 7pm; Thu/27-Fri/28, 8pm. Opens Sat/1, 8pm. Runs Wed and Sun, 7pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through April 6. Z Space presents the world premiere of a folk rock odyssey conceived and created by Abigail and Shaun Bengson.

An Indian Summer Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; $20-40. Thu/27-Sat/1, 8pm. Multi Ethnic Theater presents local playwright Charles Johnson’s parable of race relations in the Deep South of the 1980s. On a small stage split into two alternating scenes by a movable wall in director-designer Lewis Campbell’s set, two sets of working-class residents of rural Alabama, one white and one black, have their discrete worlds unexpectedly collide. Musician Charlie Ray (a less than convincing Kevin Wisney) is fresh from the pen and living with girlfriend Pearle (AJ Davenport). Plucking at his guitar, he dreams of getting some money to afford time in a recording studio. But his brother Bobby (Paul Rodriguez) has a way of talking him into sketchy schemes, which has Pearle worried, especially after a visit from the Sheriff (Richard Wenzel). For his part, Bobby is hoping to make some money to appease his pregnant wife, Sarah (Bree Swartwood), who wants Bobby to move her and their baby to Maine. Meanwhile, Junior (a forceful Bennie Lewis, alternating nights with Stuart Hall) is a feisty wheelchair bound African American man living in a small trailer. Junior’s friend Emmitt (Fabian Herd, alternating with Vernon Medearis) tries to convince him he should put his money in a bank rather than keeping it in his trailer — especially now that Junior is selling his land for a tidy sum — but Junior doesn’t trust banks. Next, Junior gets a letter from a lawyer claiming half the profit from the land sale on behalf of a long lost, half-white relative — the offspring of an illicit romance between Junior’s father and a white woman, related to Pearle. The situation, of course, spells trouble. But while we see it coming, there’s meant to be pathos in the tangled connections among these parallel stories. Unfortunately, the artificial nature of the plot makes it hard to credit, while the desultory pace and uneven acting make the going harder still. (Avila)

Jerusalem San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post, SF; $20-100. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm). Through March 8. SF Playhouse presents the West Coast premiere of English playwright Jez Butterworth’s West End and Broadway hit, a three-act revel led by a larger-than-life rebel, a stout boozed-up drug-dealer, habitual fabulist, and latter-day Digger of sorts named Johnny “Rooster” Byron (Brian Dykstra). The dominion of this Falstaffian giant is the English countryside outside his squalid trailer door, not far from Stonehenge, where he seems to incarnate a rather dissipated version of an ancient English independence, like one of the great mythical beings of rural lore. Aptly enough, it’s Saint George’s Day, the feast day of England’s national saint, but it’s not all a party this time around. Authorities have issued a final 24-hour eviction notice on Rooster’s tin door; there are luxury apartments in the works; and there’s concern in town about the underage teens who flock to Rooster like so many fledglings — one, in particular, has gone missing: Phaedra (Julia Belanoff), who we see at the very outset of the play donning a fairy costume and singing the title song, based on the Blake poem and England’s unofficial national anthem. The next 24 hours will be either the breaking point or the apotheosis for all Rooster has made himself out to be. In Butterworth’s big-eyed comedy, we are meant to feel a stake in this outcome whether we actually like Rooster or not — his independence, the scope of his life and vision, suggests the outer limit of possibility in an ever more disciplined and circumscribed world. Director Bill English (who also designed the impressive bucolic-trailer-park set) and his large cast (which includes a strong Ian Scott McGregor as longtime Rooster sidekick, Ginger) dive into the comedy with gusto. But somehow the drama, the larger stakes in the storyline, falls short. A certain requisite intensity and momentum are only fitfully achieved. Dykstra, as the expansive antihero, has the biggest burden here. And while he has an appealing swagger throughout, his wayward brogue and unconvincing bellicosity undercut the culmination of the play’s (admittedly somewhat overwrought) mythopoeic proportions. (Avila)

Lovebirds Marsh San Francisco Studio, 1062 Valencia, SF; $15-50. Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through March 15. Theater artist and comedian Marga Gomez presents the world premiere of her 10th solo show, described as “a rollicking tale of incurable romantics.”

Napoli! ACT’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; $10-120. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm; Tue, 7pm (Tue/4, show at 8pm). Through March 9. American Conservatory Theater offers Bay Area audiences a rare look at one of the Neapolitan plays by Italy’s famed writer Eduardo De Filippo (1900-1984). Set in a humble home in working-class Naples during and just after World War II, amid the transition from Fascism to the postwar order, the play’s broad comedy comes with a strong undercurrent of social drama, as well as unexpectedly poignant moments. Its hero is the head of the household, Gennaro (former ACT core company member Marco Barricelli in a boisterous and gently moving performance), whose upright nature proves increasingly out-of-step with the times and indeed his own family, as his wife, Amalia (a commanding Seana McKenna), begins a black-market trade in coffee beans that becomes an all-out family crime ring by war’s end. While this dynamic offers fodder for some rather hokey if not unenjoyable comedy, the play gathers itself into a serious and timely indictment of privilege and its corrosion of community, as well as the need for solidarity as the only viable, indeed the only satisfying way forward. If the message and the playwright-messenger (De Fillipo, also an actor, originated the part of Gennaro himself) come across today as somewhat heavy-handed, it remains hard to dismiss Napoli! as just a museum piece. That’s due in part to director Mark Rucker’s large and graceful cast, as well as a buoyant new translation by Linda Alper and ACT’s Beatrice Basso. But it’s also the prescience and appositeness for us, all these many years later and miles away, of the play’s fundamentally social and political concerns. (Avila)

The Scion Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; $15-60. Thu/27-Fri/28, 8pm; Sat/1, 5pm. Brian Copeland’s fourth solo show takes on “privilege, murder, and sausage.”

Shit & Champagne Rebel, 1772 Market, SF; $25. Fri/28-Sat/1, 8pm. D’Arcy Drollinger is Champagne White, bodacious blonde innocent with a wicked left hook in this cross-dressing ’70s-style white-sploitation flick, played out live on Rebel’s intimate but action-packed barroom stage. Written by Drollinger and co-directed with Laurie Bushman (with high-flying choreography by John Paolillo, Drollinger, and Matthew Martin), this high-octane camp send-up of a favored formula comes dependably stocked with stock characters and delightfully protracted by a convoluted plot (involving, among other things, a certain street drug that’s triggered an epidemic of poopy pants) — all of it played to the hilt by an excellent cast that includes Martin as Dixie Stampede, an evil corporate dominatrix at the head of some sinister front for world domination called Mal*Wart; Alex Brown as Detective Jack Hammer, rough-hewn cop on the case and ambivalent love interest; Rotimi Agbabiaka as Sergio, gay Puerto Rican impresario and confidante; Steven Lemay as Brandy, high-end calf model and Champagne’s (much) beloved roommate; and Nancy French as Rod, Champagne’s doomed fiancé. Sprawling often literally across two buxom acts, the show maintains admirable consistency: the energy never flags and the brow stays decidedly low. (Avila)

The Speakeasy Undisclosed location (ticket buyers receive a text with directions), SF; $60-90 (add-ons: casino chips, $5; dance lessons, $10). Thu-Sat, 7:40, 7:50, and 8pm admittance times. Through March 15. Boxcar Theatre presents Nick A. Olivero’s re-creation of a Prohibition-era saloon, resulting in an “immersive theatrical experience involving more than 35 actors, singers, and musicians.”

Twelfth Night Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission, SF; $20. Thu/27-Sun/2, 8pm (also Sun/2, 2pm). California Shakespeare Theater kicks off its 40th anniversary season with a touring performance of Shakespeare’s classic romance, featuring an all-female cast.

Ubu Roi Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; $10-50. Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through March 9. Cutting Ball Theater performs Alfred Jarry’s avant-garde parody of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, presented in a new translation by Cutting Ball artistic director Rob Melrose.

The World of Paradox Garage, 715 Bryant, SF; $12-15. Opens Mon/24, 8pm. Runs Mon, 8pm (no show March 10). Through April 7. Footloose presents David Facer in his solo show, a mix of magic and theater.

Yellow New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 23. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs the Bay Area premiere of Del Shores’ Mississippi-set family drama.

The World’s Funniest Bubble Show Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; $8-11. Sun, 11am. Through March 9. The popular, kid-friendly show by Louis Pearl (aka “The Amazing Bubble Man”) returns to the Marsh.


Can You Dig It? Back Down East 14th — the 60s and Beyond Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; $20-35. Fri/28, 8pm; Sat/1, 8:30pm. Don Reed’s new show offers more stories from his colorful upbringing in East Oakland in the 1960s and ’70s. More hilarious and heartfelt depictions of his exceptional parents, independent siblings, and his mostly African American but ethnically mixed working-class community — punctuated with period pop, Motown, and funk classics, to which Reed shimmies and spins with effortless grace. And of course there’s more too of the expert physical comedy and charm that made long-running hits of Reed’s last two solo shows, East 14th and The Kipling Hotel (both launched, like this newest, at the Marsh). Can You Dig It? reaches, for the most part, into the “early” early years, Reed’s grammar-school days, before the events depicted in East 14th or Kipling Hotel came to pass. But in nearly two hours of material, not all of it of equal value or impact, there’s inevitably some overlap and indeed some recycling. Note: review from an earlier run of the show. (Avila)

Escanabe in da Moonlight Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; $10-30. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 8. TheatreFIRST performs Jeff Daniels’ raucous comedy.

Geezer Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; $25-50. Thu/27, 8pm; Sat/1, 5pm. Geoff Hoyle moves his hit comedy about aging to the East Bay.

Gideon’s Knot Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; $32-60. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 9. Aurora and director Jon Tracy’s Bay Area premiere of Johnna Adams’ two-hander features strong acting, strong enough almost to make us believe in its premise. A harried mother named Corryn (a terrific Jamie J. Jones) arrives at the empty middle-school classroom overseen by a distracted teacher, Heather (a subdued yet agitated Stacy Ross). Corryn, proud but somehow desperate, admits to having not slept. Heather initially doesn’t know why she’s there — until it becomes clear she’s the mother of a recent suicide, who has come to keep her appointment for a parent-teacher conference. The two women await the arrival of the absent principal, but Corryn presses for answers now to the circumstances surrounding her child’s final days, which included his suspension from school and a beating received at the hands of fellow students. Heather, who seems to be hiding some separate anxiety or grief of her own (and is, though what we don’t learn until nearly the end of the play), does her best to deflect any such conversation until the principal arrives but is soon embroiled in an argument with the headstrong and canny mother in front of her, a literature professor at a major university. Their dance centers on Corryn’s son’s last assignment, a short story, one his teacher sees as nothing but “hate-filled poisonous attacks,” but his mother calls “poetry.” In addition to the clash between a teacher’s authority and a mother’s regard, there’s a class component to these differing perspectives, we presume. Yet there is a real issue here, somewhere, about art and education and authority — or would be if it did not end up buried along with the young writer we never meet. Playwright Adams advances the dramatic tension by tacking this way and that around her subject, but loses sight of the shore meanwhile, as her characters debate whether or not the short story contains a virtuous accusation against an instance of child abuse, only to drop this crux a moment later in a hard-to-credit squeamishness on Corryn’s part over the potentially homoerotic longings of her deceased son. The final note lands in an even hokier key of mutual sorrow and understanding. (Avila)

The House That Will Not Stand Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; $29-59. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat and March 13, 2pm); Wed, 7pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 16. July 4, 1836: As a white New Orleans patriarch (Ray Reinhardt) passes from the scene, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, his longtime mistress, Beartrice (an imposing, memorable Lizan Mitchell), and their daughters (the charmingly varied trio of Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Flor De Liz Perez, and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart) — all free women of color — vie for dominance while trying to secure their respective futures in Berkeley Rep’s sumptuous and beautifully acted world premiere. Nationally acclaimed playwright and Oakland native Marcus Gardley (And Jesus Moonwalked the Mississippi; This World in a Woman’s Hands) brews up a historically rich and revealing, as well as witty and fiery tale here, based on the practice of plaçage (common-law marriages between white men and black Creole women), grounding it in the large personalities of his predominately female characters — who include a nosy and angling intruder (played with subtlety by Petronia Paley) — and lacing it all with a delirious dose of magical realism via the voodoo charms of Beartrice’s slave, Makeda (Harriett D. Foy, who with Keith Townsend Obadike also contributes lush, atmospheric compositions to the proceedings). Gardley delves productively into the history overall, although he sometimes indulges it too much in awkward and ultimately unnecessary expository dialogue. When he allows his characters full scope for expression of their personalities and relationships, however, the dialogue sails by with brio and punch —something the powerhouse cast, shrewdly directed by Patricia McGregor, makes the most of throughout. (Avila)

An Ideal Husband Douglas Morrison Theatre, 22311 N. Third St, Hayward; $10-29. Thu/27-Sat/1, 8pm; Sun/2, 2pm. Douglas Morrison Theatre performs Scott Munson’s adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, reset in 1959 Washington, DC.

Lasso of Truth Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; $37-58. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/1 and March 15, 2pm; March 6, 1pm); Wed, 7:30pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 16. Marin Theatre Company performs Carson Kreitzer’s new play about the history of Wonder Woman.

The Lion and the Fox Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; $15-28. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 30. Central Works performs a prequel to its 2009 hit, Machiavelli’s The Prince, which depicts a face-off between Niccolo Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia.

A Maze Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; $20-25. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 9. Following a well-received run last summer at Live Oak Theater, Just Theater’s West Coast premiere of Pittsburgh-based playwright Rob Handel’s 2011 jigsaw drama gets a second life, courtesy of presenter Shotgun Players, in this remounting at Ashby Stage. Half the pleasure of a play like this is the unfolding of its serpentine plot, which becomes much more linear in the second half but initially seems to hover around three very disparate situations: 17-year-old Jessica (Frannie Morrison), recently escaped from eight years of captivity in the home and cellar of her kidnapper, prepares for an interview with a Barbara Walters-like TV journalist (Lauren Spencer); Oksana (Sarah Moser) and Paul (Harold Pierce), who head up their own highly successful rock band (suggestively titled the Pathetic Fallacy), are in the midst of a tough transition as Oksana checks Paul into rehab; and a fairytale King (Lasse Christiensen) responds to the Queen’s (Janis DeLucia) news that they are about to have an “heir” by beginning construction on a gigantic, seemingly endless maze emanating outward from their cozy den to the furthest reaches of the kingdom. Meanwhile, the director of the rehab clinic (Carl Holvick-Thomas) introduces Paul to another artist-resident, a fussy, eccentric author named Beeson (Clive Worsley) at work on a multi-volume graphic novel of maddening intricacy. As the three storylines begin to coalesce, the play asks us to consider questions about artistic liberty, authorship, responsibility, human connection — big themes like that. It does so in a mostly playful, only slightly eerie way, despite the grim central situation revolving around the bright and surprisingly outgoing Jessica. Employing almost the identical cast as last time, again under director Molly Aaronson-Gelb, the proceedings unfold with generally solid acting, if not always persuasive dialogue, at least where things are meant to be more or less realistic (to an extent, the fairytale segment comes across more compellingly for being strictly bound by the artificial nature of its narrative). There’s a quirky quality to the play, and the production, that amuses, even as the coy plotline bemuses. And much like an amusement park adventure, the play makes sure no one really gets lost. This is a play that is happy to tell you the various ways the central “maze” might be read metaphorically, for instance, so that everything is tidy and clear — like a fairytale, or a graphic novel — not so mysterious in the end, just tinged with a kind of comfortable melancholy. (Avila)

The Music Man Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berk; $17-60. Fri and March 20, 7pm; Sat, 1 and 6pm; Sun, noon and 5pm. Through March 23. There’s trouble in River City! See it unfold amid all those trombones at Berkeley Playhouse.


“The Aftermath Affair” ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; Fri/28-Sun/2, 8pm. $20-35. Blind Tiger Society performs a world premiere by choreographer Bianca Cabrera.

Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña’s Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; Sat/1, March 8, 16, 22, and 30, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.

“Collected Stories” Cartwright Hotel, 524 Sutter, SF; Thu/27-Sat/1, 8pm (also Sat/1, 2pm); Sun/2, 2pm. $21-28. Expression Productions performs a “pop-up theater” take on Donald Margulies’ drama about a university professor and her protégé.

“Dream Queens Revue” Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk, SF; Wed/26, 9:30pm. Free. Drag with Collette LeGrande, Ruby Slippers, Sophilya Leggz, Bobby Ashton, and more.

Feinstein’s at the Nikko Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; This week: Paula West, Thu/27-Fri/28, 8pm; Sat/1, 7 and 9:30pm, $35-50.

“Magic at the Rex” Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter, SF; Sat, 8pm. Ongoing. $25. Magic and mystery with Adam Sachs and mentalist Sebastian Boswell III.

“The Magic Flute” Center for New Music, 55 Taylor, SF; Thu/27 and March 7, 7pm; Sun/2, 2pm. $15-20. Waffle Opera performs a stripped-down version of Mozart’s classic, with new English dialogue.

“Partyiac Arrest: A Post-Valentine’s Hangover Cabaret” Mojo Theatre, 2940 16th St, #27, SF; Fri/28-Sat/1, 8pm. $10-15. Raucous variety show (comedy, music, circus acts, short films, and more) with Mojo Theatre.

“Point Break Live!” DNA Lounge, 373 11th St, SF; March 7 and April 4, 7:30 and 11pm. $25-50. Dude, Point Break Live! is like dropping into a monster wave, or holding up a bank, like, just a pure adrenaline rush, man. Ahem. Sorry, but I really can’t help but channel Keanu Reeves and his Johnny Utah character when thinking about the awesomely bad 1991 movie Point Break or its equally yummily cheesy stage adaptation. And if you do an even better Keanu impression than me — the trick is in the vacant stare and stoner drawl — then you can play his starring role amid a cast of solid actors, reading from cue cards from a hilarious production assistant in order to more closely approximate Keanu’s acting ability. This play is just so much fun, even better now at DNA Lounge than it was a couple years ago at CELLspace. But definitely buy the poncho pack and wear it, because the blood, spit, and surf spray really do make this a fully immersive experience. (Steven T. Jones)

“The Romane Event Comedy Show” Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St, SF; Wed/26, 8-10pm. $10. With Bay Area comedy all-stars Paco Romane, Will Durst, Karina Dobbins, and Nick Palm.


“Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now” This week: Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon, Oakl; Fri/28-Sat/1, 8pm. $10-25.The festival, which runs through March 8, continues its 10th anniversary with “BCF Oakland,” featuring works by Joanna Haigood, Gregory Dawson, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Portsha Jefferson, and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes.

“The Buddy Club Children’s Shows” JCC of the East Bay Theater, 1414 Walnut, Berk; Sun/2, 11am. $8. With acrobat and juggler Dana Smith. Also Sun/2, 11:30am, $8, Kanbar Center for the Performing Arts, 200 N. San Pedro, San Rafael; With magician Brian Scott.

“MarshJam Improv Comedy Show” Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; Fri, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Improv comedy with local legends and drop-in guests.

“Poetry Express” Himalayan Flavors, 1585 University, Berk; Mon, 7pm. Free. Ongoing. This week: Zora Raab, plus open mic. *


Rep Clock: February 19 – 25, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/19-Tue/25 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $5-10. San Francisco Cinematheque presents: “The Cinema of Narcisa Hirsch,” Wed, 7:30. Other Cinema presents collaged, remixed, and found films by Soda Jerk, Stacey Steer, Robert Todd, and others, Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $7.50-10. “Popcorn Palace:” Shrek 2 (Vernon and Asbury, 2004), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids. “Balboa Theatre’s 88th Birthday Party:” The Strongman (Capra, 1926), plus live 1920s music, food, beer, wine, and prizes, Sun, 7.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. •Miller’s Crossing (Coen and Coen, 1990), Wed, 7, and Barton Fink (Coen and Coen, 1991), Wed, 9:30. On the Waterfront (Kazan, 1954), Thu, 7, and The Night of the Following Day (Cornfield, 1968), Thu, 9. “Midnites for Maniacs: Kreative Killers Double Bill:” •Clue (Lynn, 1985), Fri, 7:20, and Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen, 1989), Fri, 9:20. Mary Poppins (Stevenson, 1964), presented sing-along style, Sat-Sun, 2 (also Sat, 7). This event, $10-16; advance tickets at Saving Mr. Banks (Hancock, 2013), Sun, 6, 8:30. “Nitey Awards 2014,” Mon, 7. This event, $15-75; advance tickets at Her (Jonze, 2013), Tue, 2, 4:30, 7, 9:30.

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. times. “Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014,” call for dates and times. Gloria (Lelio, 2013), call for dates and times. “Mostly British Film Festival:” Love Me Till Monday (Hardy, 2013), Wed, 7; Life’s a Breeze (Daly, 2013), Thu, 7.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. San Francisco Film Society presents: Magic Magic (2013), Thu, 7. With filmmaker Sebastián Silva in person; visit for more info on Silva’s artist-in-residence events through Feb 28. “Midnight Movies:” The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman, 1975), Sat, midnight. With the Bawdy Caste performing live.

EXPLORATORIUM Pier 15, SF; Free with museum admission ($19-25). “Off the Screen: Caroline Martel’s ‘Wavemakers,'” Thu, 7. Filmmaker in person with post-screening Ondes Martenot demonstration.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Villains We Love:” The Stranger (Welles, 1946), Fri, 6.

NOURSE THEATER 275 Hayes, SF; Free. “Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman,” screenings of nine Hoffman films, Sat, 10am; Sun, noon. Check for complete schedule.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “Film 50: History of Cinema:” Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941), with lecture by Emily Carpenter, Wed, 3:10. “Committed Cinema: Tony Buba:” Lightning Over Braddock: A Rustbowl Fantasy (Buba, 1988), Wed, 7; We Are Alive! The Fight to Save Braddock Hospital (Buba and Dubensky, 2013), Thu, 7. “Against the Law: The Crime Films of Anthony Mann:” He Walked By Night (1949), Fri, 7; Border Incident (1949), Fri, 8:40. “Funny Ha-Ha: The Genius of American Comedy, 1930-1959:” Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959), Sat, 6. “Jean-Luc Godard: Expect Everything from Cinema:” Band of Outsiders (1964), Sat, 8:20; “Godard’s Early Shorts,” Sun, 5. “The Brilliance of Satyajit Ray:” The Expedition (1962), Sun, 2. “Documentary Voices:” May They Rest in Revolt (George, 2010), Tue, 7.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. SF IndieFest, through Thu. For program info, visit Love & Air Sex (Poyser, 2014), Feb 21-27, call for times. “Roxie’s Future Filmmakers Program: TILT,” Sat, noon. Short films by young filmmakers.

TANNERY 708 Gilman, Berk; Donations accepted. “Berkeley Underground Film Society:” “LOOP Presents:” “Old School, New Light:” •This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Message (1967), and At Home, 2001 (1967), Sat, 7:30; Annie Hall (Allen, 1977), Sun, 7:30.

VICTORIA THEATRE 2961 16th St, SF; $8.50-11. Legends of the Knight (Culp, 2014 ), Fri, 7:30.

VOGUE 3290 Sacramento, SF; $12.50. “Mostly British Film Festival,” 25 classic and new films from the UK, Ireland, Australia, and India, through Thu. “SF Jewish Film Festival Winter Fest:” It Happened in St. Tropez (Thompson, 2013), Sun, noon; Cupcakes (Fox, 2013), Sun, 2:30; Bethlehem (Adler, 2013), Sun, 4:30; A Short History of Decay (Maren, 2013), Sun, 6:40; S#x Acts (Gurfinkel, 2013), Sun, 8:40. Passes ($30-40) and more info at *


Film Listings: February 19 -25, 2014


Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Dennis Harvey, Lynn Rapoport, Sam Stander, and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock. Due to the Presidents’ Day holiday, theater information was incomplete at presstime.


Barefoot Tonight, the part of manic pixie dream girl will be played by Evan Rachel Wood. (For another MPDG option, see The Pretty One, below.) (1:30)

Hank: Five Years from the Brink This latest doc from Joe Berlinger (the Paradise Lost trilogy) follows the template favored by Errol Morris in films like 2003’s The Fog of War and last year’s The Unknown Known, surrounding an extended sit-down interview with news footage and home movies reflecting on a political subject’s career. On the hot seat is former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson, who walks us through the 2008 financial crisis (Jon Stewart referred to him as “Baron Von Moneypants”) with the benefit of hindsight, and a certain amount of self-effacing humor. Whether or not you agree with the guy’s actions, he’s actually pretty likeable, and Berlinger’s decision to include interviews with Paulson’s no-nonsense wife, Wendy, adds a human angle to the decisions behind the “too big to fail” fiasco. (1:25) Roxie. (Eddy)

In Secret Zola’s much-adapted 1867 novel Thérèse Raquin is the source for this rather tepid period melodrama with Elizabeth Olsen as that character, dumped by the seafaring father she never sees again on the doorstep of a joyless aunt (Jessica Lange). The latter pretty much forces Thérèse to eventually marry her own son, sickly Camille (Tom Felton), and even a move to Paris does little to brighten our heroine’s dreary existence. Until, that is, she meets Camille’s contrastingly virile office coworker Laurent (Oscar Isaac), with whom she’s soon more-or-less graphically doing all the sweaty sexy thangs Zola could only hint at. When their passion becomes more than they can bear maintaining “in secret,” they find themselves considering murder as one way out. The original author’s clever plot mechanizations create some suspense in the late going. But despite good performances around her, Olsen doesn’t make her heroine very interesting, and director-adaptor Charlie Stratton is all too faithful to the depressing nature of this classic tale — visually the film too often seems to be crouching beneath a heavy, damp cloak, proud to be saving on candle wax. (1:47) (Harvey)

Love & Air Sex Convinced his life has gone nowhere since/because they broke up, Stan (Michael Stahl-David) hops the next plane to Austin upon hearing that his ex girlfriend Cathy (Ashley Bell from the Last Exorcism movies) is headed there to visit BFF Kara (Sara Paxton), the ex-gf of his BFF Jeff (Zach Cregger). Cathy isn’t over him, either. But the other duo are apparently really, really over each other, as they have a full weekend of hopeful revenge sex with as-yet-unmet strangers planned out. Jeff is taking it even further by participating in the Alamo Drafthouse’s Air Sex Championship. (This is an actual event, and better yet, it tours. Best name for a team competing against Jeff: Insane Clown Pussy.) This raunchy independent comedy doesn’t stray too far from formula, coming up with a Mr. (Justin Arnold as a romance-novel-grade old school Southern gentleman) and Ms. Right (Addison Timlin, playing a Fiona Apple-like song with cello) for heroine and hero to be distracted by. Never mind that you have to accept two almost churchy-nice types like Cathy and Stan would be friends with the incredibly crass, filter-free likes of Kara and Jeff — if you expect credibility from a rom-com, you are barking up the wrong genre. Bryan Posner’s film is a bit hit-and-miss, but the cast is excellent, and there are a fair share of hilarious bits. Special honors go to native Austinite Marshall Allman as Ralphie, a very dim bulb with one extra-large virtue. (1:31) Roxie. (Harvey)

Omar Palestine’s contender for Best Foreign Language Film is a mighty strong one, with a top-notch script and direction by previous nominee Hany Abu-Assad (2006’s Paradise Now). After he’s captured following the shooting of an Israeli soldier, the titular freedom fighter (a compelling Adam Bakri) is given an unsavory choice by his handler (Waleed F. Zuaiter): rot in jail for 90 years, or become an informant (or “collaborator”) and rat out his co-conspirators. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Omar is in love with Nadia (Leem Lubany, blessed with a thousand-watt smile), the younger sister of his lifelong friend, Tarek (Iyad Hoorani), who planned the attack. Betrayals are imminent, but who will come out ahead, and at what price? Shot with gritty urgency — our hero is constantly on the run, ducking down alleys, scaling walls, scrambling across rooftops, sliding down drainpipes, etc. — Omar brings authenticity to its embattled characters and setting. A true thriller, right up until the last shot. (1:38) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (Eddy)

Pompeii Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington stars as a gladiator in this action epic about Mount Vesuvius erupting all over you-know-which ancient city. (1:45)

The Pretty One Examined from a certain remove, the premise of writer-director Jenée LaMarque’s first feature is a pretty bizarre exercise in wish fulfillment. Zoe Kazan plays a pair of identical twins who, if you swirled their DNA together, would make up one pretty decent manic pixie dream girl, but separate out into perfectly drawn foils: awkward, stay-at-home oddball Laurel and LA professional hipster Audrey — aka the pretty one, who left their small hometown while Laurel hung back to look after their father in the long wake of their mother’s death. Laurel is clearly stuck. But it’s unfortunate that it takes a fiery car wreck that kills Audrey and leaves her body burned beyond recognition, while flinging Laurel to safety, to get her to move forward — which she does by letting everyone believe that she died and taking on Audrey’s identity, as well as her job, her BFF, the mortgage payments on her two-unit bungalow in L.A., and her tenant, scruffy charmer Basel (New Girl‘s Jake Johnson). Turning these circumstances into romantic comedy gold doesn’t sound likely. But in LaMarque’s sweet, funny, slightly off-center film, the oddity of the situation begins to give way, or rather to make some room for an odd girl to fumble around in. The glare of the artifice dims a bit, revealing a peculiar, affecting manifestation of grief and loss. And while LaMarque cuts a few corners in steering her protagonist toward a life of her own, Laurel and Basel’s engaging, comic rapport, as they begin keeping company, is pleasurable to watch. (1:30) Metreon. (Rapoport)

3 Days to Kill McG directs, Luc Besson produces, and Kevin Costner plays the dad-by-day, Secret-Service-agent badass by night. What, Liam Neeson had something better to do? (1:40)

The Wind Rises Hayao Miyazaki announced that Oscar nominee The Wind Rises would be his final film before retiring — though he later amended that declaration, as he’s fond of doing, so who knows. At any rate, it’d be a shame if this was the Japanese animation master’s final film before retirement; not only does it lack the whimsy of his signature efforts (2001’s Spirited Away, 1997’s Princess Mononoke), it’s been overshadowed by controversy — not entirely surprising, since it’s about the life of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed war planes (built by slave labor) in World War II-era Japan. Surprisingly, a pacifist message is established early on; as a young boy, his mother tells him, “Fighting is never justified,” and in a dream, Italian engineer Giovanni Caproni assures him “Airplanes are not tools for war.” But that statement doesn’t last long; Caproni visits Jiro in his dreams as his career takes him from Japan to Germany, where he warns the owlish young designer that “aircraft are destined to become tools for slaughter and destruction.” You don’t say. A melodramatic romantic subplot injects itself into all the plane-talk on occasion, but — despite all that political hullabaloo — The Wind Rises is more tedious than anything else. (2:06) Embarcadero. (Eddy)


About Last Night (1:40)

American Hustle David O. Russell’s American Hustle is like a lot of things you’ve seen before — put in a blender, so the results are too smooth to feel blatantly derivative, though here and there you taste a little Boogie Nights (1997), Goodfellas (1990), or whatever. Loosely based on the Abscam FBI sting-scandal of the late 1970s and early ’80s (an opening title snarks “Some of this actually happened”), Hustle is a screwball crime caper almost entirely populated by petty schemers with big ideas almost certain to blow up in their faces. It’s love, or something, at first sight for Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who meet at a Long Island party circa 1977 and instantly fall for each other — or rather for the idealized selves they’ve both strained to concoct. He’s a none-too-classy but savvy operator who’s built up a mini-empire of variably legal businesses; she’s a nobody from nowhere who crawled upward and gave herself a bombshell makeover. The hiccup in this slightly tacky yet perfect match is Irving’s neglected, crazy wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who’s not about to let him go. She’s their main problem until they meet Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious FBI agent who entraps the two while posing as a client. Their only way out of a long prison haul, he says, is to cooperate in an elaborate Atlantic City redevelopment scheme he’s concocted to bring down a slew of Mafioso and presumably corrupt politicians, hustling a beloved Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) in the process. Russell’s filmmaking is at a peak of populist confidence it would have been hard to imagine before 2010’s The Fighter, and the casting here is perfect down to the smallest roles. But beyond all clever plotting, amusing period trappings, and general high energy, the film’s ace is its four leads, who ingeniously juggle the caricatured surfaces and pathetic depths of self-identified “winners” primarily driven by profound insecurity. (2:17) (Harvey)

August: Osage County Considering the relative infrequency of theater-to-film translations today, it’s a bit of a surprise that Tracy Letts had two movies made from his plays before he even got to Broadway. Bug and Killer Joe proved a snug fit for director William Friedkin (in 2006 and 2011, respectively), but both plays were too outré for the kind of mainstream success accorded 2007’s August: Osage County, which won the Pulitzer, ran 18 months on Broadway, and toured the nation. As a result, August was destined — perhaps doomed — to be a big movie, the kind that shoehorns a distracting array of stars into an ensemble piece, playing jes’ plain folk. But what seemed bracingly rude as well as somewhat traditional under the proscenium lights just looks like a lot of reheated Country Gothic hash, and the possibility of profundity you might’ve been willing to consider before is now completely off the menu. If you haven’t seen August before (or even if you have), there may be sufficient fun watching stellar actors chew the scenery with varying degrees of panache — Meryl Streep (who else) as gorgon matriarch Violet Weston; Sam Shepard as her long-suffering spouse; Julia Roberts as pissed-off prodigal daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts), etc. You know the beats: Late-night confessions, drunken hijinks, disastrous dinners, secrets (infidelity, etc.) spilling out everywhere like loose change from moth-eaten trousers. The film’s success story, I suppose, is Roberts: She seems very comfortable with her character’s bitter anger, and the four-letter words tumble past those jumbo lips like familiar friends. On the downside, there’s Streep, who’s a wizard and a wonder as usual yet also in that mode supporting the naysayers’ view that such conspicuous technique prevents our getting lost in her characters. If Streep can do anything, then logic decrees that includes being miscast. (2:10) (Harvey)

Dallas Buyers Club Dallas Buyers Club is the first all-US feature from Jean-Marc Vallée. He first made a splash in 2005 with C.R.A.Z.Y., which seemed an archetype of the flashy, coming-of-age themed debut feature. Vallée has evolved beyond flashiness, or maybe since C.R.A.Z.Y. he just hasn’t had a subject that seemed to call for it. Which is not to say Dallas is entirely sober — its characters partake from the gamut of altering substances, over-the-counter and otherwise. But this is a movie about AIDS, so the purely recreational good times must eventually crash to an end. Which they do pretty quickly. We first meet Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) in 1986, a Texas good ol’ boy endlessly chasing skirts and partying nonstop. Not feeling quite right, he visits a doctor, who informs him that he is HIV-positive. His response is “I ain’t no faggot, motherfucker” — and increased partying that he barely survives. Afterward, he pulls himself together enough to research his options, and bribes a hospital attendant into raiding its trial supply of AZT for him. But Ron also discovers the hard way what many first-generation AIDS patients did — that AZT is itself toxic. He ends up in a Mexican clinic run by a disgraced American physician (Griffin Dunne) who recommends a regime consisting mostly of vitamins and herbal treatments. Ron realizes a commercial opportunity, and finds a business partner in willowy cross-dresser Rayon (Jared Leto). When the authorities keep cracking down on their trade, savvy Ron takes a cue from gay activists in Manhattan and creates a law evading “buyers club” in which members pay monthly dues rather than paying directly for pharmaceutical goods. It’s a tale that the scenarists (Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack) and director steep in deep Texan atmospherics, and while it takes itself seriously when and where it ought, Dallas Buyers Club is a movie whose frequent, entertaining jauntiness is based in that most American value: get-rich-quick entrepreneurship. (1:58) (Harvey)

Endless Love Just about everything about this very, very loose rework of the 1981 Franco Zeffirelli schmaltzathon-slash-cinematic stab at Scott Spencer’s well-regarded novel — apart from Alex Pettyfer’s infallible chest — is endlessly laughable. The Zeffirelli effort was dedicated to the nation’s sexualization of all things Brooke Shields, with an added Reagan-era rebuff of perceived loosey-goosey boomer mores. Mixed messages, certainly, but that was a different time and place, and instead of viewing youthful sexual obsession-cum-romance as an almost-anarchic force of nature, threatening life, limb, and everything we hold dear, this venture defuses much of that dangerous passion and turns it all into a fairly weak broth of watered-down Romeo and Juliet. Here, Jade (Gabriella Wilde) is the privileged, golden-girl bookworm who has no social life — her family, headed by control-freak doctor dad (Bruce Greenwood), has been preoccupied with the care and finally passing of her beloved, cancer-striken brother. Enter hunky po’ boy David (Pettyfer), who finds a way into a lonely girl’s heart, with, natch, his social savvy and fulsome pecs. Standing in the way of endless love? A great medical internship for Jade and a bossy pants father who worked very hard to get that internship for her. Pfft. Love finds its work-around amid those low stakes, and we’re all left marveling at Wilde’s posh, coltishly thin limbs and Pettyfer’s depthless dimples. (1:44) (Chun)

Frozen (1:48)

Gloria The titular figure in Sebastian Lelio’s film is a Santiago divorcee and white collar worker (Paulina Garcia) pushing 60, living alone in a condo apartment — well, almost alone, since like Inside Llewyn Davis, this movie involves the frequent, unwanted company of somebody else’s cat. (That somebody is an upstairs neighbor whose solo wailings against cruel fate disturb her sleep.) Her two children are grown up and preoccupied with their adult lives. Not quite ready for the glue factory yet, Gloria often goes to a disco for the “older crowd,” dancing by herself if she has to, but still hoping for some romantic prospects. She gets them in the form of Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), who’s more recently divorced but gratifyingly infatuated with her. Unfortunately, he’s also let his daughters and ex-wife remain ominously dependent on him, not just financially but in every emotional crisis that affects their apparently crisis-filled lives. The extent to which Gloria lets him into her life is not reciprocated, and she becomes increasingly aware how distant her second-place priority status is whenever Rodolfo’s other loved ones snap their fingers. There’s not a lot of plot but plenty of incident and insight to this character study, a portrait of a “spinster” that neither slathers on the sentimental uplift or piles on melodramatic victimizations. Instead, Gloria is memorably, satisfyingly just right. (1:50) Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

Gravity “Life in space is impossible,” begins Gravity, the latest from Alfonso Cuarón (2006’s Children of Men). Egghead Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is well aware of her precarious situation after a mangled satellite slams into her ship, then proceeds to demolition-derby everything (including the International Space Station) in its path. It’s not long before she’s utterly, terrifyingly alone, and forced to unearth near-superhuman reserves of physical and mental strength to survive. Bullock’s performance would be enough to recommend Gravity, but there’s more to praise, like the film’s tense pacing, spare-yet-layered script (Cuarón co-wrote with his son, Jonás), and spectacular 3D photography — not to mention George Clooney’s warm supporting turn as a career astronaut who loves country music almost as much as he loves telling stories about his misadventures. (1:31) (Eddy)

The Great Beauty The latest from Paolo Sorrentino (2008’s Il Divo) arrives as a high-profile contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, already annointed a masterpiece in some quarters, and duly announcing itself as such in nearly every grandiose, aesthetically engorged moment. Yes, it seems to say, you are in the presence of this auteur’s masterpiece. But it’s somebody else’s, too. The problem isn’t just that Fellini got there first, but that there’s room for doubt whether Sorrentino’s homage actually builds on or simply imitates its model. La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8 1/2 (1963) are themselves swaying, jerry-built monuments, exhileratingly messy and debatably profound. But nothing quite like them had been seen before, and they did define a time of cultural upheaval — when traditional ways of life were being plowed under by a loud, moneyed, heedless modernity that for a while chose Rome as its global capital. Sorrentino announces his intention to out-Fellini Fellini in an opening sequence so strenuously flamboyant it’s like a never-ending pirouette performed by a prima dancer with a hernia. There’s statuary, a women’s choral ensemble, an on-screen audience applauding the director’s baffled muse Toni Servillo, standing in for Marcello Mastroianni — all this and more in manic tracking shots and frantic intercutting, as if sheer speed alone could supply contemporary relevancy. Eventually The Great Beauty calms down a bit, but still its reason for being remains vague behind the heavy curtain of “style.” (2:22) (Harvey)

Her Morose and lonely after a failed marriage, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) drifts through an appealingly futuristic Los Angeles (more skyscrapers, less smog) to his job at a place so hipster-twee it probably will exist someday:, where he dictates flowery missives to a computer program that scrawls them onto paper for paying customers. Theodore’s scripting of dialogue between happy couples, as most of his clients seem to be, only enhances his sadness, though he’s got friends who care about him (in particular, Amy Adams as Amy, a frumpy college chum) and he appears to have zero money woes, since his letter-writing gig funds a fancy apartment equipped with a sweet video-game system. Anyway, women are what gives Theodore trouble — and maybe by extension, writer-director Spike Jonze? — so he seeks out the ultimate gal pal: Samantha, an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson in the year’s best disembodied performance. Thus begins a most unusual relationship, but not so unusual; Theodore’s friends don’t take any issue with the fact that his new love is a machine. Hey, in Her‘s world, everyone’s deeply involved with their chatty, helpful, caring, always-available OS — why wouldn’t Theo take it to the next level? Inevitably, of course, complications arise. If Her‘s romantic arc feels rather predictable, the film acquits itself in other ways, including boundlessly clever production-design touches that imagine a world with technology that’s (mostly) believably evolved from what exists today. Also, the pants they wear in the future? Must be seen to be believed. (2:00) Castro. (Eddy)

Inside Llewyn Davis In the Coen Brothers’ latest, Oscar Isaac as the titular character is well on his way to becoming persona non grata in 1961 NYC — particularly in the Greenwich Village folk music scene he’s an ornery part of. He’s broke, running out of couches to crash on, has recorded a couple records that have gone nowhere, and now finds out he’s impregnated the wife (Carey Mulligan) and musical partner of one among the few friends (Justin Timberlake) he has left. She’s furious with herself over this predicament, but even more furious at him. This ambling, anecdotal tale finds Llewyn running into one exasperating hurdle after another as he burns his last remaining bridges, not just in Manhattan but on a road trip to Chicago undertaken with an overbearing jazz musician (John Goodman) and his enigmatic driver (Garrett Hedlund) to see a club impresario (F. Murray Abraham). This small, muted, droll Coens exercise is perfectly handled in terms of performance and atmosphere, with pleasures aplenty in its small plot surprises, myriad humorous idiosyncrasies, and T. Bone Burnett’s sweetened folk arrangements. But whether it actually has anything to say about its milieu (a hugely important Petri dish for later ’60s political and musical developments), or adds up to anything more profound than an beautifully executed shaggy-dog story, will be a matter of personal taste — or perhaps of multiple viewings. (1:45) (Harvey)

Labor Day Sweet little home repairs, quickie car tune-ups, sensual pie-making, and sexed-up chili cookery — Labor Day seems to be taking its chick-flick cues from Porn For Women, Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative’s puckish gift-booklet that strives to capture women’s real desires: namely, for vacuuming, folded laundry, and patient listening from their chosen hunks of beefcake. Let’s call it domestic close encounters of the most pragmatic, and maybe most realistic, kind. But that seems to sail over the heads of all concerned with Labor Day. Working with Joyce Maynard’s novel, director-screenwriter Jason Reitman largely dispenses with the wit that washes through Juno (2007) and Up in the Air (2009) and instead chooses to peer at his actors through the seriously overheated, poetically impressionistic prism of Terrence Malick … if Malick were tricked into making a Nicholas Sparks movie. Single mom Adele (Kate Winslet) is down in the dumps over multiple miscarriages and her husband’s (Clark Gregg) departure. Son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) becomes her caretaker of sorts — thus, when escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin) forces the mother-and-son team to give him a ride and a hideout, it’s both a blessing and a curse, especially because the hardened tough guy turns out to be a compulsively domestic, hardworking ubermensch of a Marlboro Man, able to bake up a peach pie and teach Henry to throw a baseball, all within the course of a long Labor Day weekend. Hapless Adele is helpless to resist him, particularly after some light bondage and plenty of manly nurturing. Ultimately this masochistic fantasy about the ultimate, if forbidden, family man — and the delights of the Stockholm Syndrome — is much harder to swallow than a spoonful of homemade chili, despite its strong cast. (1:51) (Chun)

The Lego Movie (1:41)

Like Father, Like Son A yuppie Tokyo couple are raising their only child in workaholic dad’s image, applying the pressure to excel at an early age. Imagine their distress when the hospital phones with some unpleasant news: It has only just been learned that a nurse mixed up their baby with another, with the result that both families have been raising the “wrong” children these six years. Polite, forced interaction with the other clan — a larger nuclear unit as warm, disorganized, and financially hapless as the first is formal, regimented and upwardly mobile — reveals that both sides have something to learn about parenting. This latest from Japanese master Hirokazu Koreeda (1998’s After Life, 2004’s Nobody Knows, 2008’s Still Walking) is, as usual, low-key, beautifully observed, and in the end deeply moving. (2:01) (Harvey)

The Monuments Men The phrase “never judge a book by its cover” goes both ways. On paper, The Monuments Men — inspired by the men who recovered art stolen by the Nazis during World War II, and directed by George Clooney, who co-wrote and stars alongside a sparkling ensemble cast (Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh “Earl of Grantham” Bonneville, and Bill Fucking Murray) — rules. Onscreen, not so much. After they’re recruited to join the cause, the characters fan out across France and Germany following various leads, a structural choice that results in the film’s number one problem: it can’t settle on a tone. Men can’t decide if it wants to be a sentimental war movie (as in an overlong sequence in which Murray’s character weeps at the sound of his daughter’s recorded voice singing “White Christmas”); a tragic war movie (some of those marquee names die, y’all); a suspenseful war movie (as the men sneak into dangerous territory with Michelangelo on their minds); or a slapstick war comedy (look out for that land mine!) The only consistent element is that the villains are all one-note — and didn’t Inglourious Basterds (2009) teach us that nothing elevates a 21st century-made World War II flick like an eccentric bad guy? There’s one perfectly executed scene, when reluctant partners Balaban and Murray discover a trove of priceless paintings hidden in plain sight. One scene, out of a two-hour movie, that really works. The rest is a stitched-together pile of earnest intentions that suggests a complete lack of coherent vision. Still love you, Clooney, but you can do better — and this incredible true story deserved way better. (1:58) (Eddy)

Nebraska Alexander Payne may be unique at this point in that he’s in a position of being able to make nothing but small, human, and humorous films with major-studio money on his own terms. It’s hazardous to make too much of a movie like Nebraska, because it is small — despite the wide Great Plains landscapes shot in a wide screen format — and shouldn’t be entered into with overinflated or otherwise wrong-headed expectations. Still, a certain gratitude is called for. Nebraska marks the first time Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor weren’t involved in the script, and the first one since their 1996 Citizen Ruth that isn’t based on someone else’s novel. (Hitherto little-known Bob Nelson’s original screenplay apparently first came to Payne’s notice a decade ago, but getting put off in favor of other projects.) It could easily have been a novel, though, as the things it does very well (internal thought, sense of place, character nuance) and the things it doesn’t much bother with (plot, action, dialogue) are more in line with literary fiction than commercial cinema. Elderly Woody T. Grant (Bruce Dern) keeps being found grimly trudging through snow and whatnot on the outskirts of Billings, Mont., bound for Lincoln, Neb. Brain fuzzed by age and booze, he’s convinced he’s won a million dollars and needs to collect it him there, though eventually it’s clear that something bigger than reality — or senility, even — is compelling him to make this trek. Long-suffering younger son David (Will Forte) agrees to drive him in order to simply put the matter to rest. This fool’s mission acquires a whole extended family-full of other fools when father and son detour to the former’s podunk farming hometown. Nebraska has no moments so funny or dramatic they’d look outstanding in excerpt; low-key as they were, 2009’s Sideways and 2011’s The Descendants had bigger set pieces and narrative stakes. But like those movies, this one just ambles along until you realize you’re completely hooked, all positive emotional responses on full alert. (1:55) (Harvey)

“Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated” Five nominees — plus a trio of “highly commended” additional selections — fill this program. If you saw Frozen in the theater, you’ve seen Get a Horse!, starring old-timey Mickey Mouse and some very modern moviemaking techniques. There’s also Room on the Broom, based on a children’s book about a kindly witch who’s a little too generous when it comes to befriending outcast animals (much to the annoyance of her original companion, a persnickety cat). Simon Pegg narrates, and Gillian Anderson voices the red-headed witch; listen also for Mike Leigh regulars Sally Hawkins and Timothy Spall. Japanese Possessions is based on even older source material: a spooky legend that discarded household objects can gain the power to cause mischief. A good-natured fix-it man ducks into an abandoned house during a rainstorm, only to be confronted with playful parasols, cackling kimono fabric, and a dragon constructed out of kitchen junk. The most artistically striking nominee is Feral, a dialogue-free, impressionistic tale of a foundling who resists attempts to civilize him. But my top pick is another dialogue-free entry: Mr. Hublot, the steampunky tale of an inventor whose regimented life is thrown into disarray when he adopts a stray robot dog, which soon grows into a comically enormous companion. It’s cute without being cloying, and the universe it creates around its characters is cleverly detailed, right down to the pictures on Hublot’s walls. (Eddy)

“Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Live Action” With the exception of one entry — wryly comedic The Voorman Problem, starring Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman as a prison doctor who has a most unsettling encounter with an inmate who believes he’s a god — children are a unifying theme among this year’s live-action nominees. Finnish Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?, the shortest in the bunch, follows a cheerfully sloppy family’s frantic morning as they scramble to get themselves to a wedding. Danish Helium skews a little sentimental in its tale of a hospital janitor who makes up stories about a fanciful afterlife (way more fun than heaven) for the benefit of a sickly young patient. Spanish That Wasn’t Me focuses on a different kind of youth entirely: a child soldier in an unnamed African nation, whose brutal encounter with a pair of European doctors leads him down an unexpected path. Though it feels more like a sequence lifted from a longer film rather than a self-contained short, French Just Before Losing Everything is the probably the strongest contender here. The tale of a woman (Léa Drucker) who decides to take her two children and leave her dangerously abusive husband, it unfolds with real-time suspense as she visits her supermarket job one last time to deal with mundane stuff (collecting her last paycheck, turning in her uniform) before the trio can flee to safety. If they gave out Oscars for short-film acting, Drucker would be tough to beat; her performance balances steely determination and extreme fear in equally hefty doses. (Eddy)

“Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Documentary (presented in two separata programs)”

Philomena Judi Dench gives this twist on a real-life scandal heart, soul, and a nuanced, everyday heft. Her ideal, ironic foil is Steve Coogan, playing an upper-crusty irreverent snob of an investigative journalist. Judging by her tidy exterior, Dench’s title character is a perfectly ordinary Irish working-class senior, but she’s haunted by the past, which comes tumbling out one day to her daughter: As an unwed teenager, she gave birth to a son at a convent. She was forced to work there, unpaid; as supposed penance, the baby was essentially sold to a rich American couple against her consent. Her yarn reaches disgraced reporter Martin Sixsmith (Coogan), who initially turns his nose up at the tale’s piddling “human interest” angle, but slowly gets drawn in by the unexpected twists and turns of the story — and likely the possibility of taking down some evil nuns — as well as seemingly naive Philomena herself, with her delight in trash culture, frank talk about sex, and simple desire to see her son and know that he thought, once in a while, of her. It turns out Philomena’s own sad narrative has as many improbable turnarounds as one of the cheesy romance novels she favors, and though this unexpected twosome’s quest for the truth is strenuously reworked to conform to the contours of buddy movie-road trip arc that we’re all too familiar with, director Stephen Frears’ warm, light-handed take on the gentle class struggles going on between the writer and his subject about who’s in control of the story makes up for Philomena‘s determined quest for mass appeal. (1:35) (Chun)

Ride Along By sheer dint of his ability to push his verbosity and non-threatening physicality into that nerd zone between smart and clueless, intelligent and irritating, Kevin Hart may be poised to become Hollywood’s new comedy MVP. In the case of Ride Along, it helps that Ice Cube has comic talents, too — proven in the Friday movies as well as in 2012’s 21 Jump Street — as the straight man who can actually scowl and smile at the same time. Together, in Ride Along, they bring the featherweight pleasures of Rush Hour-style odd-couple chortles. Hart is Ben, a gamer geek and school security guard shooting to become the most wrinkly student at the police academy. He looks up to hardened, street-smart cop James (Cube), brother of his new fiancée, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Naturally, instead of simply blessing the nuptials, the tough guy decides to haze the shut-in, disabusing him of any illusions he might have of being his equal. More-than-equal talents like Laurence Fishburne and John Leguizamo are pretty much wasted here — apart from Fishburne’s ultra lite impression of Matrix man Morpheus — but if you don’t expect much more than the chuckles eked out of Ride Along‘s commercials, you won’t be too disappointed by this nontaxing journey. (1:40) (Chun)

RoboCop Truly, there was no need to remake 1987’s RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven’s smart, biting sci-fi classic that deploys heaps of stealth satire beneath its ultraviolent imagery. But the inevitable do-over is here, and while it doesn’t improve on what came before, it’s not a total lost cause, either. Thank Brazilian filmmaker José Padilha, whose thrilling Elite Squad films touch on similar themes of corruption (within police, political, and media realms), and some inspired casting, including Samuel L. Jackson as the uber-conservative host of a futuristic talk show. Though the suit that restores life to fallen Detroit cop Alex Murphy is, naturally, a CG wonder, the guy inside the armor — played by The Killing‘s Joel Kinnaman — is less dynamic. In fact, none of the characters, even those portrayed by actors far more lively than Kinnaman (Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, Jackie Earle Haley), are developed beyond the bare minimum required to serve RoboCop‘s plot, a mixed-message glob of dirty cops, money-grubbing corporations, the military-industrial complex, and a few too many “Is he a man…or a machine?” moments. But in its favor: Though it’s PG-13 (boo), it’s also shot in 2D (yay). (1:50) (Eddy)

Saving Mr. Banks Having promised his daughters that he would make a movie of their beloved Mary Poppins books, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has laid polite siege to author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) for over 20 years. Now, in the early 1960s, she has finally consented to discuss the matter in Los Angeles — albeit with great reluctance, and only because royalty payments have dried up to the point where she might have to sell her London home. Bristling at being called “Pam” and everything else in this sunny SoCal and relentlessly cheery Mouse House environ, the acidic English spinster regards her creation as sacred. The least proposed changes earn her horrified dismissal, and the very notion of having Mary and company “prancing and chirping” out songs amid cartoon elements is taken as blasphemy. This clash of titans could have made for a barbed comedy with satirical elements, but god forbid this actual Disney production should get so cheeky. Instead, we get the formulaically dramatized tale of a shrew duly tamed by all-American enterprise, with flashbacks to the inevitable past traumas (involving Colin Farrell as a beloved but alcoholic ne’er-do-well father) that require healing of Travers’ wounded inner child by the magic of the Magic Kingdom. If you thought 2004’s Finding Neverland was contrived feel-good stuff, you’ll really choke on the spoons full of sugar force-fed here. (2:06) Castro. (Harvey)

The Square Like the single lit candle at the very start of The Square — a flicker of hope amid the darkness of Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship — the initial street scenes of the leader’s Feb. 11, 2011, announcement that he was stepping down launch Jehane Noujaim’s documentary on a euphoric note. It’s a lot to take in: the evocative shots of Tahrir Square, the graffiti on the streets, the movement’s troubadours, and the faces of the activists she follows — the youthful Ahmed Hassan, British-reared Kite Runner (2007) actor-turned-citizen journalist Khalid Abdalla, and Muslim Brotherhood acolyte Magdy Ashour, among them. Yet that first glimmer of joy and unity among the diverse individuals who toppled a dictatorship was only the very beginning of a journey — which the Egyptian American Noujaim does a remarkable job documenting, in all its twists, turns, multiple protests, and voices. Unflinching albeit even-handed footage of the turnabouts, hypocrisies, and injustices committed by the Brotherhood, powers-that-be, the army, and the police during the many actions occurring between 2011 and the 2013 removal of Mohammed Morsi will stay with you, including the sight of a tank plowing down protestors with murderous force and soldiers firing live rounds at activists armed only with stones. “We found ourselves loving each other without realizing it,” says Hassan of those heady first days, and Noujaim brings you right there and to their aftermath, beautifully capturing ordinary people coming together, eating, joking, arguing, feeling empowered and discouraged, forming unlikely friendships, setting up makeshift hospitals on the street, and risking everything, in this powerful document of an unfolding real-life epic. (1:44) (Chun)

Stranger by the Lake Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) is an attractive young French guy spending his summer days hanging at the local gay beach, where he strikes up a platonic friendship with chunky older loner Henri (Patrick d’Assumcao). Still, the latter is obviously hurt when Franck practically gets whiplash neck swiveling at the sight of Michel (Christophe Paou), an old-school gay fantasy figure — think Sam Elliott in 1976’s Lifeguard, complete with Marlboro Man ‘stache and twinkling baby blues. No one else seems to be paying attention when Franck sees his lust object frolicking in the surf with an apparent boyfriend, one that doesn’t surface again after some playful “dunking” gets rather less playful. Eventually the police come around in the form of Inspector Damroder (Jerome Chappatte), but Franck stays mum — he isn’t sure what exactly he saw. Or maybe it’s that he’s quite sure he’s happy how things turned out, now that sex-on-wheels Michel is his sorta kinda boyfriend. You have to suspend considerable disbelief to accept that our protagonist would risk potentially serious danger for what seems pretty much a glorified fuck-buddy situation. But Alain Guiraudie’s meticulously schematic thriller- which limits all action to the terrain between parking lot and shore, keeping us almost wholly ignorant of the characters’ regular lives — repays that leap with an absorbing, ingenious structural rigor. Stranger is Hitchcockian, all right, even if the “Master of Suspense” might applaud its technique while blushing at its blunt homoeroticism. (1:37) (Harvey)

That Awkward Moment When these bro-mancers call each other “idiots,” which they do repeatedly, it’s awkward all right, because that descriptor hits all too close to home. Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) are douchey book-marketing boy geniuses, with all the ego and fratty attitude needed to dispense bad advice and push doctor friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), whose wife recently broke it off after an affair with her lawyer, into an agreement to play the field — no serious dating allowed. The pretext: Anything to avoid, yup, that awkward moment when the lady has the temerity to ask, “So — where is this going?” How fortuitous that Jason should run into the smartest, cutest author in NYC (Imogen Poots), all sharp-tongued charisma and sparkling Emma Stone-y cat eyes; that Daniel would get embroiled with his Charlotte Rampling-like wing woman (Mackenzie Davis); and Mikey would edge back into bed with his ex. That’s the worst — or best — these tepid lotharios can muster. The education of these numbskulls when it comes to love and lust aspires to the much-edgier self-criticism of Girls — but despite the presence of Fruitvale Station (2013) breakout Jordan and the likable Poots, first-time director Tom Gormican’s screenplay lets them down. (1:34) (Chun)

Tim’s Vermeer “I’m not a painter,” admits Tim Jenison at the start of Tim’s Vermeer. He is, however, an inventor, a technology whiz specializing in video engineering, a self-made multimillionaire, and possessed of astonishing amounts of determination and focus. Add a bone-dry sense of humor and he’s the perfect documentary subject for magicians and noted skeptics Penn & Teller, who capture his multi-year quest to “paint a Vermeer.” Inspired by artist David Hockney’s book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, Jenison became interested in the theory that 17th century painters used lenses and mirrors, or a camera obscura, to help create their remarkably realistic works. He was especially taken with Vermeer, feeling a “geek kinship” with someone who was able to apply paint to canvas and make it look like a video image. It took some trial-and-error, but Jenison soon figured out a way that would allow him — someone who barely knew how to hold a brush — to transform an old photograph into a strikingly Vermeer-like oil painting. He decides to recreate The Music Lesson (1662-65), using only materials Vermeer would have had access to, and working from an exact replica of the room in Vermeer’s house where the painting was made. A few slow moments aside (“This project is a lot like watching paint dry,” Jenison jokes), Tim’s Vermeer is otherwise briskly propelled by the insatiable curiosity of the man at its center. And Jenison’s finished work offers a clear challenge to anyone who subscribes to the modern notion that “art and technology should never meet.” Why shouldn’t they, when the end results are so sublime? (1:20) (Eddy)

12 Years a Slave Pop culture’s engagement with slavery has always been uneasy. Landmark 1977 miniseries Roots set ratings records, but the prestigious production capped off a decade that had seen some more questionable endeavors, including 1975 exploitation flick Mandingo — often cited by Quentin Tarantino as one of his favorite films; it was a clear influence on his 2012 revenge fantasy Django Unchained, which approached its subject matter in a manner that paid homage to the Westerns it riffed on: with guns blazing. By contrast, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is nuanced and steeped in realism. Though it does contain scenes of violence (deliberately captured in long takes by regular McQueen collaborator Sean Bobbitt, whose cinematography is one of the film’s many stylistic achievements), the film emphasizes the horrors of “the peculiar institution” by repeatedly showing how accepted and ingrained it was. Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, an African American man who was sold into slavery in 1841 and survived to pen a wrenching account of his experiences. He’s portrayed here by the powerful Chiwetel Ejiofor. Other standout performances come courtesy of McQueen favorite Michael Fassbender (as Epps, a plantation owner who exacerbates what’s clearly an unwell mind with copious amounts of booze) and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, as a slave who attracts Epps’ cruel attentions. (2:14) (Eddy)

Vampire Academy After playing hooky for a year in the real world (if Portland, Ore. counts), nice vampire Lissa (Lucy Fry) and wisecracking half-human BFF Rose (Zoey Deutch, channeling plagiaristic levels of Ellen Page) are dragged back to their Hogswarts-like gated high school-estate where life is just like Beverly Hills 90210 except the parts that are more like Twilight or Harry Potter. I’m willing to believe Richelle Mead’s well-regarded series of YA novels are much better than the horrible first-last movie anyone will ever make from them. But once upon a time, the Brothers Waters made 1988’s Heathers (scenarist Daniel), Mean Girls (2004), and 1997’s The House of Yes (director Mark), so need this have been so bad? Vampire Academy is frantically paced in inverse proportion to its sluglike delivery of laughs, thrills, and general give-a-shit-ability. So you’ll be wide awake to all feelings of annoyance and déjà vu. Not to mention horror upon hearing such witty exchanges as “After all that, to be shamed by our queen bee?!” “You mean ‘queen bee-atch’?” Oh snap. As in, snap my cerebral cortex right off if you ever see me within a block of a theater playing Vampire Academy 2. (1:45) (Harvey)

Winter’s Tale Adapted from Mark Helprin’s fantastical 1983 novel of the same name, but with most of the sense and all of the wonder drained from it, Winter’s Tale follows the fortunes of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a mechanic turned expert thief on the run from evil incarnate in early-19th-century New York City. Having incurred the wrath of one Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) — presiding boss of the five boroughs and dedicated minion of Lucifer (Will Smith) — Peter Lake scrapes acquaintance with a magical white horse and then, while burglarizing her mansion home, with a lovely, doomed young consumptive named Beverly (Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay), with whom he falls in love. A marvelous destiny is much hinted at, and something about the balance of good and evil in the world, but it’s hard to connect these exalted bits, or a series of daffy voice-overs by the ethereal Beverly about light and stars and angels’ wings, with the tortured plotline. First-time feature director Akiva Goldsman, whose writing and producing credits include A Beautiful Mind (2001), I Am Legend (2007), and the TV show Fringe, has written a screenplay that attempts to rein in Helprin’s sprawling, complicated epic — and in doing so, simplifies his tale to the point of nonsensicality. The metaphysics are fuzzy, while the miraculous is so insistently heralded that when we see it, it doesn’t leave much of an impression.(1:58) (Rapoport)

The Wolf of Wall Street Three hours long and breathless from start to finish, Martin Scorsese’s tale of greed, stock-market fraud, and epic drug consumption has a lot going on — and the whole thing hinges on a bravado, breakneck performance by latter-day Scorsese muse Leonardo DiCaprio. As real-life sleaze Jordan Belfort (upon whose memoir the film is based), he distills all of his golden DiCaprio-ness into a loathsome yet maddeningly likable character who figures out early in his career that being rich is way better than being poor, and that being fucked-up is, likewise, much preferable to being sober. The film also boasts keen supporting turns from Jonah Hill (as Belfort’s crass, corrupt second-in-command), Matthew McConaughey (who has what amounts to a cameo — albeit a supremely memorable one — as Belfort’s coke-worshiping mentor), Jean Dujardin (as a slick Swiss banker), and newcomer Margot Robbie (as Belfort’s cunning trophy wife). But this is primarily the Leo and Marty Show, and is easily their most entertaining episode to date. Still, don’t look for an Oscar sweep: Scorsese just hauled huge for 2011’s Hugo, and DiCaprio’s flashy turn will likely be passed over by voters more keen on honoring subtler work in a shorter film. (2:59) (Eddy) *


Goldies 2014 Music: DJ NEBAKANEZA


GOLDIES “I don’t care how much equipment you have, how many laptops you’ve got hooked together — if you’re just making a bunch of trendy electronic sounds, if you don’t know melody or dynamics or how to really play an instrument… you aren’t making any music.”

The masked man known as DJ Nebakaneza is notorious for his dazzling and unsettling outfits, gonzo energy, brain-scrambling bass, and rollicking social media presence. He isn’t afraid to court controversy or speak his mind about what’s going on in dance music, either. But dig a little beneath the flash and bombast and a portrait of an artist as a young bass maven emerges, one brimming with deep musical knowledge, canny intellectual vision, disarming charm, and inspiring faith in his hometown scene.

It’s almost impossible to talk about Neb without including the rest of his Irie Cartel DJ crew — JohnnyFive, Mr. Kitt, Miss Haze, and Danny Weird. Irie Cartel has had a profound effect on the San Francisco dance music scene. But to understand just how much of an effect, we’ll need to run down a little history of what didn’t happen in the San Francisco clubs.

In the early 2000s a deep and throbbing apocalyptic sound from the grimier neighborhoods of London called dubstep started shaking the bass bins of the underground. By 2007, it was seeping into club nights here like Grime City, Brap Dem, and Full Melt, drawing critical interest and providing a nice complement to the minimal techno and disco revivalism that was also happening at the time.

But then a funny thing happened: mainstream America, apparently looking for a new arena-style rockout, hijacked dubstep, gutting it of all but its deep bass and catchy name. Pop artists adopted the sound, twisting it into a series of bowel-rumbling bass drops (nothing wrong with those, really), and it became known more for its fist-pumping frat party reputation than a reflection of the more angsty corners of urbanity. A wave of bro-step began washing over US clubs, threatening to wash out more subtle party expressions with its macho aggression.


Guardian photo by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover

That onslaught was stopped at our borders, thanks to Irie Cartel, whose weekly Ritual dubstep nights kept the fun factor high (and the bass extremely low), but also made room for classic bass music sounds, experimental electronic showcases, and flights of melodic beauty. It still melted your face, but poetically. Irie also emphasized old school rave community spirit: At its height, in the basement of club Temple, the Ritual party included a community marketplace for people to sell their handmade wares and food. It was like a cosmic bass bazaar full of beautiful bass faces. “We’re all musically nerdy,” Neb says of his crew. “But we strip out all the ‘look at me’ ego that came with the mainstream dubstep scene.”

DJ Neb got into dubstep, in fact, as a fresh-faced youth who wandered into Grime City one night. “I spotted this flyer pasted to a wall and decided to check it out — it was at the old Anu club on Sixth Street at the time. And when I walked in, I was blown away by this wave of bass, these awesome sounds that seemed to be pulling me apart. I never looked back from there,” he told me over the phone, as he prepared to leave for a gig in Uruguay. “It seemed to pull together something that had been brewing in me somewhere. I’d always been into music. I started working at Rasputin Records as soon as I could, and would spend all my free time in there, too — just digging through bins and listening to music. My paycheck would go right back into those records. They used to pay me in music, essentially.

“As a kid, I played percussion. I went through a Janet Jackson and New Jack Swing phase, got really into hip-hop. I was deep into downtempo, trip hop, and rare groove when I started DJing. It was the whole ‘lounge era’ of nightlife, so I started getting a lot of gigs as a cocktail hour DJ. I even had a chillout show on KKSF, the smooth jazz radio station,” he laughed.

“But when the dubstep thing started blowing up for me, I realized it was time to create a new persona, and that’s when DJ Nebakaneza was born. I had to delete my previous existence. I made a ceremonial sacrifice of that guy.” Neb went on to host the Wobble Wednesdays show on Live 105 and rise to the forefront of forward-thinking yet accessible bass purveyors.

But now it’s 2014, dubstep has almost completely played itself out — bro-step wiz Skrillex’s latest shows have been billed as “playing the classics” — and Ritual is on hold. (“When dubstep became popular, Ritual suddenly had this massive influx of people who were drawn to the sound but had never been in a club before, didn’t know how to act,” Neb said. “They were spurned by a lot of our regulars, who closed ranks. But I was like, ‘We were all new at the party at one point, wouldn’t it be better to connect with these people?’ It was sad that our scene got so defensive. I wish we could have embraced the fear a little more. But we’re just giving everything a time out. Ritual will be back.”)

If dubstep is no longer an option, what’s a dubstep DJ to do?

Go back to the drawing board, of course. Last year, DJ Nebakaneza started releasing a series of exquisite mixes tapping into his vast knowledge banks. Each month he would take on a new, unexpected genre — yacht rock, rare disco, Dirty South hip-hop, instrumental funk, even emerging ones like half-time — and weave something magical from his roots. The Expansion Series is one of the most ambitious things I’ve heard a Bay Area DJ attempt, and it comes off pretty flawless.

“I was having an identity crisis,” Neb said. “Dubstep had kind of moved on, and I missed my crate-digging days. Playing those lounge sets — some of them were four or more hours long. That’s a lot of music. I missed being able to sneak all kinds of colors into it. I also missed playing the music that’s closest to my heart: Isley Brothers, James Brown, all that beautiful old funk and soul. I needed to break myself down a little to see how to move ahead.”

Currently, Neb is throwing a bass-oriented monthly party called Paradigm with fellow head Lud Dub. But he’s still planning his next sonic move. “I want something sexy, still with the bass, but a more ‘purple’ feel. Not the trap sound that’s been happening, but something deep and hot.”

Heavens, does that mean the edgy Nebakaneza persona will be tossed to the wind? “Don’t worry, Nebakaneza’s not going anywhere. And I’m still keeping the mask.”