Halloween is the season for self-expression in all of its many glorious forms: costumes, music, dance, art, theater, and maybe even a few forms that can’t be classified. Whether you’re a trash-culture junkie or a splatter-movie freak, a pagan ritual follower or a brazen exhibitionist, you’ll definitely find something chilling, somewhere in the Bay Area. Here’s a sampling; for more Halloween and Día de los Muertos events, go to www.sfbg.com.
PARTIES AND BENEFITS
The Enchanted Forest Cellar, 685 Sutter, SF; 441-5678. 10pm-2am. $5-10. Silly Cil presents the seventh annual Enchanted Forest costume ball; woodland nymphs and mythical creatures are welcome. DJs McD and Scotty Fox rock the forest with hip-hop and ’80s sounds.
Hyatt Regency/98.1 KISS FM Halloween Bash Hyatt Regency, 5 Embarcadero Center, SF; 788-1234. 8 pm. $28.50 advance ($30 door). KISS Radio’s Morris Knight MCs an evening of costumed revelry. DJ Michael Erickson brings the dance mix.
Rock ’n’ Roll Horror Show Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF; 820-3907. 7:30pm. $5-10 donation. Rock out and scream loud for a good cause: proceeds go to the ninth SF Independent Film Festival. A screening of 1987 B-movie Street Trash is followed by the sounds of Sik Luv, Wire Graffiti, Charm School Drop Outs, and Madelia.
SambaDa: Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Exotic Halloween Extravaganza Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF; 552-7788. 10pm. $8-10. Don’t feel like ghosts and goblins and blood and guts? How about samba and bossa nova grooves to keep your feet busy?
Halloween Madness Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln, Alameda; (510) 522-1300. 9pm. Free. Skip Henderson and the Starboard Watch offer hard-drinking sailor songs. Come in costume and get a free rum drink, matey.
Exotic Erotic Ball Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva, SF; 567-2255, www.exoticeroticball.com. 8pm-2am. $69. P-Funker George Clinton, ’80s icon Thomas Dolby, and rapper Too Short are among the musical guests at this no-holds-barred celebration. Put on your sexiest, slinkiest number and admire the antics of trapeze artists, fetish performers, and burlesque show-stoppers, as well as those of the attendees.
Fresh/Halloween T-Dance Ruby Skye, 420 Mason, SF; www.freshsf.com. 6pm-midnight. $20. Sassy, slinky, and sexy costumes abound at this Halloween dance party. DJ Manny Lehman spins.
Dead Rock Star Karaoke Cellar, 685 Sutter, SF; 441-5678. 8pm-2am. Free. Elvises, Jim Morrisons, and Kurt Cobains deliver heartrending renditions of favorite songs.
A Nightmare on Fulton Street Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton, SF; www.polenglounge.com. 8pm-2am. $5-10. The third annual Holla-ween showcases a rich harvest of fat beats, thanks to the DJ skills of Boozou Bajou.
Scary Halloween Bash 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission, SF; 970-9777. 8pm. $10. All dressed up but not feeling like heading to the Castro? Want to hear a marching band? No, wait, come back. It’s the Extra Action Marching Band, which specialize in baccanalian freak-shows. Sour Mash Jug Band and livehuman leave you grinning beneath that rubber mask.
Art Hell ARTwork SF Gallery, 49 Geary, suite 215, SF; 673-3080. noon-5:30pm. Free. Bay Area artists render darkness, death, and all things devilishly creepy. Sale proceeds go to the San Francisco Artist Resource Center. Also open Thu/26-Sat/28, same hours.
Babble on Halloween Dog Eared Books, 900 Valencia, SF; 282-1901. 8pm. Free. There’s nothing like shivers up the spine to go with cupcakes and wine! Bucky Sinister, Tony Vaguely, and Shawna Virago creep you out with spooky stories and bizarre performances.
A Second Final Rest: The History of San Francisco’s Lost Cemeteries California Historical Society Library, 678 Mission, SF; 357-1848. 6pm. Free. Trina Lopez’s documentary tells the story of how San Francisco relocated burial grounds in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire — ironically sending some of the city’s settlers on a last journey after death.
Shocktoberfest!! 2006: Laboratory of Hallucinations Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; 377-4202. 8pm. $20. The Thrillpeddlers are back with a gross-out lover’s delight: public execution, surgery, and taxidermy in three tales of unspeakable horror. Also Fri/27-Sat/28, 8pm.
BATS Improv/True Fiction Magazine’s Annual Halloween Show Bayfront Theater, 8350 Fort Mason Center, SF; www.improv.org. 8pm. $18 ($15 advance). Madcap improvisational comics of True Fiction Magazine transform audience suggestions into hilariously bizarre pulp fiction–inspired skits. In the spirit of the season, TFM is sure to throw ghoulish horror into the mix. Also Sat/28.
Hallowe’en at Tina’s Café Magnet, 4122 18th St, SF; 581-1600. 9pm. Free. What’s Halloween in San Francisco without any drag? Before you consider the sad possibilities, let Tina’s Café banish those thoughts with a deliciously campy drag queen cabaret show. Mrs. Trauma Flintstone MCs.
Rural Rampage Double Feature Alliance Française de San Francisco, 1345 Bush, SF; www.ham-o-rama.com. 7:30pm. Free. Those midnight movie aficionados at Incredibly Strange Picture Show unreel a shriekingly tasty lineup from the “scary redneck” genre: Two Thousand Maniacs and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
11th Annual Soapbox Pre-Race Party/Halloween Show El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 282-3325. 9pm. $7. What better way is there to get revved up for the Oct. 29 Soapbox Derby in Bernal Heights? With a full evening of good ’n’ greasy garage rock and rockabilly, thanks to the All Time Highs, Teenage Harlets, and the Phenomenauts, this party gets you in touch with your inner speed demon.
Pirate Cat Radio Halloween Bash Li Po Cocktail Lounge, 916 Grant, SF; www.piratecatradio.com. 8pm. $5. The community radio station presents an evening of crazy rock mayhem with Desperation Squad, the band now famous for getting shot down on TV’s America’s Got Talent! Wealthy Whore Entertainment, the Skoalkans, and Pillows also perform.
Shadow Circus Vaudeville Theatre Kimo’s, 1351 Polk, SF; firstname.lastname@example.org. 9pm. $5. Shadow Circus Creature Theatre hosts a variety show of ukulele riffs, comedy, burlesque, and filthy-mouthed puppets.
Spiral Dance Kezar Pavilion, Golden Gate Park, 755 Stanyan, SF; www.reclaiming.org. 6pm. Free. Reclaiming, an international group observing pagan traditions, celebrates its 27th annual Spiral Dance with a magical ritual incorporating installations, drama, and a choral performance.
Flamenco Halloween La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 849-2568, ext. 20. 8:30pm. $15. Flametal brings the evil to flamenco with mastermind Benjamin Woods’s fusion of metal and the saddest music in the world.
Murder Ballads Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 841-0188. 9pm. $8. Murder, misfortune, and love gone really, really wrong — all sung by an impressive array of garage rockers, accordionists, and female folk-metal songstresses. There’s even a duo who specializes in suicide songs! Dress up so no one can recognize you weeping into your beer.
The Elm Street Murders Club Six, 60 Sixth St., SF; www.myspace.com/theelmstmurders. 7:30pm. $20. Loosely based on A Nightmare on Elm Street, this multimedia interactive stage show promises heaping helpings of splatter.
The Creature Magic Theatre, building D, Fort Mason Center, SF; 731-4922. 8pm. Free. Reservations required. Black Box Theatre Company gives a single performance before a studio audience of their new podcast adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankensten. This version tells the story from the monster’s point of view.
Independent Exposure 2006: Halloweird Edition 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna, SF; 447-9750. 8pm. $6. Microcinema International assembles a festively creepy collection of short films from around the world, focusing on the spooky, unsettling, and just plain gross.
Bat Boy: The Musical School of the Arts Theater, 555 Portola, SF; 651-4521. 7pm. $20. It’s back: a Halloween preview performance of the trials and tribulations of everyone’s favorite National Enquirer icon, Bat Boy. Camp doesn’t get any better than this.
Cramps Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF; 346-6000. 8pm. $30. Don’t get caught in the goo-goo muck. The Demolition Doll Rods and the Groovie Ghoulies also whip you up into a rock ’n’ roll frenzy.
One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil) San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall, 800 Chestnut, SF; 771-7020. 7:30pm. Free. Before the Rolling Stones became some of the richest people on earth, Mick, Keith, and the boys dabbled on the dark side. At a rare screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s One Plus One, you get a chance to see them at the height of their flirtation with evil, performing the still-mesmerizing “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Haunted Haight Walking Tour Begins at Coffee to the People, 1206 Masonic, SF; 863-1416. 7pm. $20. How else can you explain all of those supernatural presences drifting between the smoke shops and shoe stores? Here’s a chance to find out about the more lurid chapters in the neighborhood’s history. Also Sat/28-Tues/31, 7pm.
Boo at the Zoo San Francisco Zoo, 1 Zoo, SF; 753-7071. 10am-3pm. Free with zoo admission. Costumed kiddies can check out the Haunted Nature Trail and the Creepy Crawly Critters exhibit. Live music, interactive booths, games, and prizes keep little ghosts and goblins delighted.
Children’s Halloween Hootenanny Stanyan and Waller, SF; www.haightstreetfair.org. 11:30am-5pm. Free. The Haight Ashbury Street Fair folks provide children ages 2 to 10 with games, activities, theater, and food. Costumes are encouraged.
Family Halloween Day Randall Museum, 199 Museum, SF; 554-9600. 10am-2pm. Free. Trick-or-treaters play games, carve pumpkins, create creepy crafts, and take part in the costume parade. Jackie Jones amazes with a musical saw and dancing cat; Brian Scott, a magic show.
Hallo-green Party Crissy Field Center, 603 Mason, SF; 561-7752. 10am-2pm. $8. It’s never too early to teach your children about environmentalism. The party includes a costume contest and a chance to bob for organic apples.
House of Toxic Horrors Crissy Field Center, 603 Mason, SF; 561-7752. 10am-2pm and 4-8pm, $8. Ages 9 and older. No, it’s not a Superfund site, but it should be equally educational: the center’s first haunted house addresses the scary world of environmental horror. Sludge and smog lurk behind every corner.
Boo at the Zoo Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links, Oakl; (510) 632-9525. 10am-3pm. Free with zoo admission. Dress up the kids and bring them over to the zoo for scavenger hunts, crafts, rides on the Boo Choo Choo Train, puppet shows, and musical performances. Also Sun/29, 10am-3pm.
Halloween’s True Meaning Shotwell Studios, 3252-A 19th St., SF; 289-2000. 1-3pm, $5-15 sliding scale. Kids are encouraged to come in costume for this afternoon of interactive theater led by Christina Lewis of the Clown School. Enjoy Halloween history, storytelling, role-playing, and face-painting.
Pet Pride Day Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF; 554-9427. 11am-3pm. Free. Dress up your pet in something ridiculous and head down to Golden Gate Park to laugh at all of the other displeased pups! The pet costume contest is always a blast, as is the dog-trick competition.
Haunted Harbor Festival and Parade Jack London Square, Oakl; 1-866-295-9853. 4-8pm. Free. Families can check out live entertainment, games, crafts, activities, and prizes. The extravagantly decked-out boats in the parade are not to be missed.
Rock Paper Scissors’ Annual Street Scare Block Party 23rd Ave. and Telegraph, Oakl; www.rpscollective.com. Noon-5pm. Free. Who doesn’t love block parties? The kid-friendly blowout has something for everyone: fortune-telling, craft-making, pumpkin-carving, and all sorts of wacky games and prizes. And barbecue — witches love a good barbecue.
Halloween Heroes Benefit Exploratorium, Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon, SF; (650) 321-4142, www.wenderweis.org. 6:30pm. $185 for a parent and child. A benefit for the Exploratorium Children’s Educational Outreach Program and the Junior Giants Baseball Program, this lavish costume party for kids promises to be equally fun for the parents. Many of the exhibits are turned into craft-making and trick-or-treat stations.
Halloween in the Castro Market and Castro, www.halloweeninthecastro.com. 7pm-midnight. $5 suggested donation. You and 250,000 of your new best friends — reveling in the streets and getting down to thumping beats. Don’t even think of driving to get there, and don’t forget: no drinking in the streets.
Vampire Tour of San Francisco Begins at California and Taylor, SF; (650) 279-1840, www.sfvampiretour.com. 8pm. $20. This isn’t Transylvania, but San Francisco has had its share of vampires. Just ask Mina Harker, your fearless leader, if you dare take this tour.
DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS
‘Laughing Bones/ Weeping Hearts’ Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak, Oakl; (510) 238-2200. Wed-Sat, 10am-5pm. $8. Guest curator Carol Marie Garcia has assembled a vibrant collection of installations produced by local artists, schools, and community groups, all celebrating the dead while acknowledging the sorrow of those left behind. Through Dec. 3.
THURSDAY NOV. 2
Death and Rebirth Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, 2981 24th St, SF; 334-4091. 7-10pm. Free. Precita Eyes Muralists will be celebrating the work of founder Luis Cervantes with a breathtaking mural exhibit and celebration.
Día De Los Muertos Procession and Outdoor Altar Exhibit 24th St and Bryant, SF; www.dayofthedeadsf.org. 7pm. Free. Thousands of families, artists, and activists form a procession to honor the dead and celebrate life, ending at the Festival of Altars in Garfield Park, at 26th Street and Harrison. Local artists have created large community altars at the park; the public is invited to bring candles, flowers, and offerings.
Fiesta De Los Huesos’ Gala Opening Reception Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF; 643-5001. 6-11pm. $5. Curator Patricia Rodriguez has put together a family-oriented party, with musical performances, mask carving, sugar skull–making, videos, and other tempting creations among the exhibits, altars, and installations. The exhibition opens Oct. 27.
Día De Los Muertos Benefit Concert 2232 MLK, 2232 Martin Luther King Jr., Oakl; www.2232mlk.com. 7pm. $8-20 sliding scale. Hosted by the Chiapas Support Committee, this benefit concert features Fuga, los Nadies, la Plebe, and DJ Rico. Early arrivals get free pan dulce and hot chocolate.
SUNDAY NOV. 5
Dia De Los Muertos Family Festival Randall Museum, 199 Museum, SF; 554-9681. 1-5pm. $100 and up for family of five. The family event benefits the museum’s Toddler Treehouse and other toddler programs. Arts and crafts, food, and entertainment make this a rewarding educational experience for kids. Attendees learn how to make masks and sugar skulls and to decorate an altar. Los Boleros provide festive entertainment.
Día De Los Muertos Fruitvale Festival International Blvd., between Fruitvale Ave and 41st Ave, Oakl; (510) 535-6940. 10am-5pm. Free. With the theme “love, family, memories,” the Unity Council in Oakland has put together a full day of family celebration. Five stages showcase music and dance performances by local and world-renowned artists. More than 150 exhibitors and nonprofits highlight wares and services. Art and altars are on view, and the Children’s Pavilion promises to be a rewarding educational experience for kids of all ages.
THURSDAY NOV. 9
Mole to Die For Mission Cultural Center For Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF; 643-5001. 7-10pm. $5. Try it all at this mole feeding-frenzy and vote for your favorite.
CULT MOVIE Movie history is full of figures who could do no wrong one minute, then blew it — never trusted to do right again — the next. This year alone something like this happened to the richly deserving M. Night Shyamalan, and it might soon be happening to Darren Aronofsky, whose sci-fi soap opera The Fountain is arguably the most daft hijacking of major-studio cash in 35 years — since Dennis Hopper morphed from princeling to pariah via something called (with masochistic foreboding) The Last Movie.
An eccentric journeyman actor onscreen since 1955, Hopper was way past 30 when he codirected Easy Rider with Peter Fonda. Any studio would have supplied him any sum to get the follow-up. Universal gave him half a mil for The Last Movie, and he stayed on schedule and on budget throughout shooting in a far-flung Peruvian Andes village.
Then the aging boy wonder returned home to edit — for 18 druggy, hazy months, as executives freaked and anticipation rose to a tottering peak. A documentary chronicling that period, The American Dreamer, shows Hopper in extremis — doffing clothes (“symbolically,” he says) to run around suburban Los Alamos; cohabiting with a harem of hippie goddess freeloaders; comparing himself to Orson Welles, then exhaling, “I’d like to go about a month with three chicks in a hot tub.”
Upon release, The Last Movie — which screens in a new, Hopper-funded 35mm print this weekend — looked like the nail in the coffin of acid casualty cinema. The film was a mess, a freak show, an indulgence par excellence — with an incoherent quasinarrative that had Hopper as a stuntman on a western who stays on during postproduction to reenact the mythic pulp action with villagers who can’t or won’t separate the phony spectacle they’ve hosted from more spiritual yet violent reality.
“I only hope that after this game is over, morality can begin again,” prays (in vain) the local priest, played by spaghetti western icon Tomas Milian. But morality has left the building. The Last Movie isn’t the balm for stoner egos that Easy Rider offered. It incriminates everybody — colonialists, swingers, industry suits, the greedy (like our hero’s covetous Indio girlfriend), and filmmaking itself. Periodic “scene missing” titles help make this a deconstructive metamovie well ahead of its time. It’s an antiaudience picture, now more breathtaking than ever in sheer gall.
Who could make such a movie now? Might stars align again to permit such major-studio strangeness? Hard to imagine: The Fountain is nutty and navel-gazing but sentimental in a way Hopper’s auto-excoriating wack-off abhors. All those lysergically and vaginally oversatiated months spent editing The Last Movie make it a stand as memorably bold — if ruinous — as Custer’s.
Hopper is 71 now, but The Last Movie will always be a boy-man’s definitive up-yours against pricks in suit and tie. It’s a lyrical abstract as yet unchallenged for discombobulation by any film made under a major studio’s umbrella. It remains a startling finger driven straight up the Universal. (Dennis Harvey)
THE LAST MOVIE
Fri/20–Sat/21, 7:30 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, screening room, SF
Kenny Shopsin is a philosopher-cook who shrinks his kitchen to the size of the world and enlarges the world to the size of his kitchen, likening his old stove to ”a whore’s ass” and pasting terrorists onto the wings of flies. Here are the rules at his General Store in Greenwich Village, New York City: no parties of five or larger, and everyone has to eat. Don’t insult the cook by ordering just coffee unless you want to eat it. Also, most legendarily, if you’re not a regular, you can go fuck yourself.
Why all the candy on the shelves?
“People like to take candy,” Shopsin tells Matt Mahurin in I Like Killing Flies. And as for whomever is waiting to kill themselves to blow up America, “I wish them luck.”
Mahurin, a committed regular at the General Store, is always in the right place with his camera. We hear from kindred spirits, meet the Shopsin family, and watch Kenny, an alchemist, turn soup into soup the way Harry Smith turned milk into milk. This is the cook as a cook in a kitchen where total collapse is fended off by duct tape, cups on string, a busted red flyswatter, and the metaphysics of telling fuckers off. A tin of shredded coconut, apparently invented to keep the dish rack from collapsing, is also and finally a tin of shredded coconut — useful for dusting a stack of pancakes speed-glazed with a flaming-hot spatula.
Mahurin’s film makes this clear: genius has something to do with food if the cook is a genius and everything to do with doing what you must do.
The Shopsins were squeezed out of their old shop of 32 years in 2002. I Like Killing Flies documents their lucky move down the street. Unscrewing the front door from the jambs, Shopsin cracks that he might use it as a cheap headstone. Compared to the original spot, the new Shopsin’s General Store is a sprawling, airy tree house but still quite funky. The West Village is getting way too slick and specialized, and everything about Shopsin’s funkifies through overdiversity — too much creativity. I counted 138 different soups on the menu, including pistachio red chicken curry and Peruvian shrimp avocado, as well as dozens of “Breakfast Name Plates,” including the Twain (“huckleberry Finnish crepes”) — yet all Shopsin cares to eat, he tells Mahurin, is his own chili stewed with a splash of coffee. He compares such counterintuitive fusions to sodomy. Mara and Zach Shopsin took orders from me and my girlfriend, and the cook himself, in his Shopsin’s T-shirt (he doesn’t remove it for the whole movie) made sure that we walked out with free candy.
Mahurin’s documentary is one you can live in. Your head fits right into this furnished hollow tree. The film mentions but does not explore the death of Eve Shopsin, Kenny’s wife, in 2003, but we get to enjoy her presence for the whole first hour or more, which is a blessing in itself. (Julien Poirier)
I LIKE KILLING FLIES
Roxie Film Center
3117 16th St., SF
MCCLA Video Fest
Filmmakers from nine countries submitted pieces for judgment in the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts Video Fest. Each film was to be representative of the artist’s view of the Latino community, and from the looks of it, no two views are remotely alike. The winning pieces, which range from fiction and experimental to documentary, will be shown in four programs this Wednesday and Thursday at the Roxie. For anyone who is interested in amateur filmmaking, this should prove to be a visual treat indeed. (Erin Halasey)
6:45 and 9 p.m.
Also Thurs/12, 7 and 9 p.m.
Roxie Film Center3117 16th St., SF
John Scofield plays the Music of Ray Charles
Jamie Foxx has already made a lucrative career out of impersonating Ray Charles, and I’m not sure how many Charles tribute acts we really need. That said, there’s nothing normal about the music of John Scofield. Scofield is one of the best and most unpredictable jazz guitarists working today. He has more than held is own while playing with heavyweights Miles Davis and Medeski Martin and Wood. In 2005, Scofield cut an album of Ray Charles covers, That’s What I Say (Verve), that blew both the Ray movie soundtrack (Atlantic/WEA) and Genius Loves Company (Concord) out of the water. Maybe after seeing this show you’ll think all the other Charles-related tributes are a bit pointless. (Aaron Sankin)
Director Paul Rachman and writer Steven Blush collaborated on every aspect of American Hardcore — literally. “This is a two-person operation,” Blush explained as we settled into a booth at a downtown San Francisco restaurant, where the filmmakers (and passionate music fans) discussed their new documentary.
SFBG What drew you into the hardcore scene?
PAUL RACHMAN I was a college kid at Boston University in the early ’80s [when] I went to my first hardcore show at the Gallery East: Gang Green, the Freeze, and the FU’s. I’d never heard anything like it. It was dissonant, it was loud, and it was coming from 16-year-old angry kids. It just socked it to me, and I wanted more of this all the time. That’s what made me pick up a Super 8 camera and start shooting; it was the beginning for me in terms of both my introduction to hardcore and me becoming a filmmaker. Ever since those days I’ve never, ever done anything else.
STEVEN BLUSH Somewhere at the end of my freshman year [at George Washington University in Washington, DC], I saw Black Flag at Nightclub 9:30, right before Henry Rollins joined the band. It just wrecked my life. A decade later I realized how much the subculture affected me, as to who I am today — but I also realized that the history was totally lost. I just decided, DIY-style, to write a book. Around that time [when it came out], I ran into Paul again — we knew each other from the hardcore scene — and he broached the idea of making the film.
PR I instantly knew what the film should be. It needed to be this kind of visceral, first-person account — no narrator, no experts. Because hardcore didn’t have that. You didn’t listen to anybody. Nobody explained to you how to do anything. You didn’t want that around, and the film had to reflect that. So it was documentary in its rawest, purest form: let your subject tell its story. We shot 120 interviews and it was about culling the story out of that.
SFBG Were there any artists not in the film that you wish you could have included?
SB There’s two bands you will not see in American Hardcore: Dead Kennedys and the Misfits. With both bands there’s a real problem between the singer and the other band members. It was like, if you work with one, you couldn’t work with the other. We just had to bail out of that situation. Ultimately, this is the story of a culture. It’s the story of a scene and a community. There were no stars in hardcore. We wanted every single person — we did extend the offer to everybody. But at a certain point, if they don’t come through, you have to move on.
SFBG Do you hope that people who aren’t hardcore fans will see the movie, and what do you think they’ll take away from it?
SB American Hardcore is a rock film, but it’s really about youth culture. It’s a testament to the power of youth, about what you can achieve against all odds. Because these bands had nothing. They had no resources, no talent, no hot look. They had nothing to fall back on except their conviction. So it is kind of a clarion call to kids to say, you know, seize the moment. Take off the iPod. Log off MySpace and get with it. (Cheryl Eddy)
For an extended interview with Paul Rachman and Steven Blush, visit www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.
REVIEW Tired of those battered punk-rock veterans of the hardcore years? You know, the geezers rocking in their thrift-store easy chairs, wheezing, “You had to be there — those were the days. I saw Darby when …” before heading to the acupuncturist? Can you help it that you never saw Flag back before My War? That you never tasted the ostracism that the real punks experienced?
No — and those born too late, after the jocks took over the mosh pit, will be thankful that none of the aforementioned ’tude is present in this exhaustive but not exhausting documentary by Paul Rachman and Steven Blush. The filmmakers’ cred is impeccable (Rachman directed music videos for Bad Brains, and Blush wrote Feral House tome American Hardcore: A Tribal History, upon which the film is based), and their resilience (the two toiled in true DIY style for five years on this sprawling document) allows them to rise above Johnny-slams-lately poseur status. And as historians, journalists, and cat wranglers, they deserve the highest praise meted out to those hoping to encapsulate a fired-up, barely containable, and truly grassroots DIY movement: they get the story mostly right.
The filmmakers conducted more than 100 interviews with key players in the US hardcore scene (as well as sundry head-scratchers like, um, visual artist Matthew Barney). My, does it show. Getting essential punkers like Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye, Bad Brains’ HR, Circle Jerks’ Keith Morris, Cro-Mags’ Harley Flanagan, and Black Flag’s Henry Rollins to party with the camera and to tell their own stories was the best possible move the filmmakers could have made. Their subjects look back with all the intelligence, humor, honesty, urgency, and perhaps surprising to some, subtlety that made them form their own bands, book their own tours, and put out their own music in the first place.
Within the first half hour, Rachman and Blush do the important work of politically contextualizing the 1980–86 wave of hardcore, connecting the dots between the “mourning in America” election of Ronald Reagan; an era that only appeared to offer the alternate balms of disco decadence and shallow sitcom kicks; and the rise of a disgusted and less-than-heard generation that produced more songs, posters, and agitprop railing against a sitting president than the world has seen … until Dubya. Few other recent music docs have been as refreshingly clear-cut — and cutting — about their politics, a direct reaction to an ’80s marked, as one commentator puts it, by a ’50s-style return of the “white man’s order.” In a sense, American Hardcore will be an education not only for kids bred on MTV-appropriated mall punk but for baby boomers convinced of Generation X’s apathy; a far-from-mellowed Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith) offers, “If you’re looking for radicalism in the 1980s, you should look at hardcore.” The film also gives adequate shrift to the pressures that shaped and perhaps ultimately destroyed the genre — for instance, the TV news–making melees between punks and the Los Angeles Police Department — drawing the line from those clashes and band names like, natch, Millions of Dead Cops (MDC).
Bristling with the energy of its music, fans, and grainy shots of men yelling into mics at rec centers, Kiwanis clubs, and random bunkers-turned-venues throughout the country, American Hardcore abounds with great moments. Rachman and Blush rightfully focus on the nexus between DC and LA — Minor Threat–Bad Brains and Black Flag–Circle Jerks — giving Bad Brains in particular, and notably the few black faces in a wash of pasties, their genuine due and eyeballing that straight-outta-an-unwritten-great-American-novel, Apollonian-Dionysian odd couple, MacKaye and Rollins. Though one wishes the filmmakers had snagged more and better live footage, American Hardcore can still claim such incredible, illustrative instances as that of the graying Rollins complaining today of all the crap he’d catch from audiences as Black Flag’s frontperson (remember the halcyon days when being in a punk band meant getting loogied on?) followed by archival images of Rollins onstage getting repeatedly pummeled by an audience member before the vocalist finally loses it and starts wailing back a hundredfold.
But even as the filmmakers display a real affection for their subject, they resist getting too nostalgic. Rachman and Blush don’t pull punches when it comes to fingering the sexism and violence in the scene — and go as far as to name names. Yet the filmmakers talk to too few women and apart from Bad Brains, too few players or observers of color: perhaps there’s no skewing reality, but for a scene that’s this politicized, it looks pretty pale and male.
Perhaps revealing their native predispositions and personal connections, the pair also give the Boston and NYC scenes far too much emphasis and they pointedly neglect the flyover zones. Where are Minneapolis’s Hüsker Dü and Texas’s Big Boys? And while Rachman and Blush get brownie points for their cultural-anthropological leanings and quirky side stories, they eventually fall down on exploring the music itself, its permutations, and its impact outside the rec rooms: do we get any inkling, for instance, of the fact that hardcore started to seep into the MTV mainstream with bands like Suicidal Tendencies?
When the scene finally peters to a close in ’86, Rachman and Blush chalk it up to fickle fans moving on with the trends — wither hair bands? — and stalwarts like MacKaye wearying of the fisticuffs, but there’s just as valid a case to be made for the music changing and artists evolving, as they so often inconveniently do. Black Flag morphed toward heavier, sludgier metal, Bad Brains embraced tradder Rasta sounds, and MacKaye broke it down, post-punk-style, with Fugazi. But perhaps that’s for the next installment: American Hardcore: the Metal/Grunge Years. SFBG
Opens Fri/13 in Bay Area theaters
Check out Ron Dorfman and Peter Nevard’s 1970 documentary Groupies, a fave amongst employees at at least one adventurous record shop that ain’t afraid of soul.
Once upon a time, a fair number of people, heartened by the Sexual Revolution and the corresponding collapse of censorship in movies, thought porn was just the preliminary phase to the next obvious step: soon, they assumed, mainstream films would also have real, explicit sex.
The last time anybody thought that was probably 1975 — or if really stoned, 1977. But for a while there, that wild idea seemed not only possible but inevitable. Deep Throat pretty much closed the obscenity conviction book on consenting adults watching adult content in public venues. Hugely successful mainstream films such as Carnal Knowledge and Last Tango in Paris seemed to be tearing down the last “good taste” barriers protecting viewers from having frank discussions about sex and its explicit simulation.
The wide-open ’70s offered a variety of liberated lifestyle choices. Cities had singles bars and sex clubs; the suburbs had hot tubs. Top 40 radio was smirking “Mama’s Got a Squeeze Box” and “More, More, More.” Even network TV had gone raunchy with “jiggle” shows (Charlie’s Angels) and odd one-off leering atrocities like the 1979 Playboy Roller Disco Pajama Party. In the midst of all this sex, sex, sex, it seemed a logical end point would be the total de-shaming of America. Fuck movies would become “real” ones, and “real” movies would include fucking.
Who could imagine how far back the pendulum would swing? Porn would survive, but it and sex would retreat behind closed doors. These days the annual art house succes de scandale, like Brown Bunny and Baise-Moi, is invariably depressing and negative.
Ergo, it is worth all kinds of cheering that somebody has finally made that movie. The one that has talented actors having plot-relevant and unfaked sex, that is beautiful, touching, funny, and artistic enough to be one of the best films of the year. It’s John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, which knows exactly how anomalous it is and where it fits into the current zeitgeist. (The most quotable line occurs when one character surveys an orgiastic scene: “It’s like the ’60s but with less hope.”) Mitchell is defiant enough to create hope, even his own zeitgeist if need be.
Cute New York City gay couple the “two Jamies” (Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy) are considering spicing up their routine, so they consult sex therapist Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee). In a frazzled moment, she admits she’s never had an orgasm, something she’s never told her husband (Raphael Barker). These questing characters intersect with others at the sex party held regularly at chez Justin Bond (with the performer playing himself).
Shortbus finds narrative room for stalking, attempted suicide, three-ways, and every numeral on the Kinsey Scale. Yet the film never feels cluttered or sensational. In fact, its openhearted seriocomedy (the script is a collaboration between Hedwig and the Angry Inch writer-director Mitchell and the cast) integrates sex so fully into a plaintive, affirmative call for communality that shock value is only intermittent — and deliberately funny when it occurs.
Will Shortbus occasion new local obscenity challenges? Probably not. But 40 years ago, censorship battles were a constant source of news and box-office draw. Before the United States graduated from softcore to hardcore, with many court decisions en route, the hot spot for all things smutty was several thousand safe yet alluring miles away.
This passing rage for cinematic “sin” from parts North will be chronicled by SF-to-Denmark émigré Jack Stevenson at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this week. He’ll present three programs (a clip show and features Venom and Without a Stitch) during “Swinging Scandinavia: How Nordic Sex Cinema Conquered the World.”
It really did. This “myth of total sexual freedom” — as put forth in Stevenson’s book Totally Uncensored!, due in 2007 — was particularly seductive to uptight Americans. By and large, Sweden and Denmark enjoyed remarkably progressive social attitudes at the time. After preliminary taboo-nudging efforts, one dam broke with I, a Woman, a notorious tell-all turned into a show-all (by 1966 standards) portrait of the sexually restless “new woman.” It grossed an astonishing $4 million in the United States alone. But that was nothing compared to I Am Curious (Yellow), a Godardian “kaleidoscope” of hard-to-separate documentary, improv, and staged elements encompassing all the era’s sexual, political, and intellectual questionings. Finally allowed to screen in America (over 18 months after its late-1967 Stockholm premiere), it was probably the most-seen and most-loathed crossover hit prior to The Blair Witch Project — similarly drawing audiences who expected familiar genre exploitation but got something much rawer and more challenging.
A whole series of Danish porn comedies and angsty Swedish sex dramas continued to be churned out until the mid-’70s. The Scandis had brought down many original barricades: Torgny Wickman’s 1969 Language of Love (which Robert de Niro takes Cybill Shepherd to see in Taxi Driver) might be the first commercial feature to show unobscured intercourse. But they soon found themselves intellectually bored and pushed aside marketwise by the expanded allowance for soft- and hardcore production elsewhere. The yahoos (us folks) had won by simultaneously commercializing and marginalizing the Sex Rev. SFBG
Opens Fri/6 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com for showtimes
“SWINGING SCANDINAVIA: HOW NORDIC SEX CINEMA CONQUERED THE WORLD”
Thurs/5, 7:30 p.m.; Sat/7, 7 and 9 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF
TECHSPLOITATION I think ubiquitous digital surveillance and searchability have given me a weird new sense of entitlement. I feel like I should be able to find anybody on the Web, and if I can’t — well, why not hire somebody to search the databases I can’t access? I caught myself having this exact bizarro train of thought the other day, when I was trying to locate an old friend of mine from high school.
I did all the usual things that generally yield results and have helped me find out all kinds of useless things about lost childhood friends. (That hardcore rocker boy is now a real estate agent! No way!) First I searched on his name in Google, but all I discovered was that somebody with his exact (and fairly common name) died in the Twin Towers. There was a catch though — my old friend went by his Korean name in high school but adopted an American name in college. So I started searching on his Korean name, feeling very clever. Unfortunately his Korean name is actually more common than his American one. Then I narrowed my searches, looking for his names in connection with our hometown, his college, and the city where he lived the last time I saw him. I searched news groups, MySpace, LiveJournal, and Technorati.
At last I couldn’t think of anywhere else to search. That’s when I had the aberrant thought: why not just hire a private detective? Everybody’s doing it — even HP! And I’d get one that wasn’t too expensive. Admittedly my subconscious was spiked with reruns of Veronica Mars and memories of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a documentary in which a guy hires private detectives to figure out who the members of the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board are.
But I think I hit upon this rather extreme idea — hiring a detective to find my old friend — because I’ve become conditioned to think that all information should be accessible. Despite my belief in online privacy and anonymity, my unexamined, knee-jerk response to the situation was that somebody should be able to get this guy’s contact information for me. I mean, all I wanted was an e-mail. I wasn’t trying to get his home address or voting records.
Needless to say, I did not get a private detective, nor have I found my old friend yet. I’ve avoided becoming creepy but I’m left unsatisfied. The old promises of the Web, which David Weinberger famously characterized as “small pieces loosely joined,” have turned out to be quite different from what we all imagined. Many of us are connected, sometimes to a degree bordering on incestuousness, but many of us are not. The threads do not attach to each other. Names are lost in a sea of names. People fill blogs with entry after entry that never get read, never get linked, never receive comments. Certainly there are spirited local debates that bring us together online and amateur writing that’s as findable as a New York Times headline, but these things are rare and getting rarer. The Web is beginning to feel just like a city street: you can see all the houses, but you have no idea what’s in them. Unless you’re a thief.
I feel cheated by the walls that have gone up on the Web — not the walls that protect my personal information, but the ones that prevent me from finding friends (real friends — not friendsters). They aren’t the same walls, by the way. Walls that protect personal information should prevent people from getting access to whatever crap ChoicePoint and Visa have on you. The walls that stand between me and my old friend are the cacophony of filtered data that the Web has become. I’m sure his e-mail is out there somewhere floating around, but because he hasn’t been writing a popular blog or posting obsessively on the Linux kernel list, it’s got no juice on the search engines. Because he’s not socially findable, he’s not technically findable either. And no, it’s not because he has no e-mail. The guy is an engineer. So much for the Web breaking down barriers.
I’m going to try one last time to find him — but this time, I’ll go at it from the other direction. I’ll call his name and see if he hears me. Let’s see if there are any holes in those walls. If you know a guy who goes by Lawrence Kim or Chong Kim and who once lived in Orange County, let me know. Especially if you are him.
Let’s see if my experiment works. SFBG
Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who can find rare, out-of-print books online but can’t find Chong.
Ask Aron Ranen about his filmmaking philosophy, and he won’t pause long. “I’m a reality surfer. Things pop up as I’m quote-unquote traveling around the world with my camera.”
When he says “pop up,” he ain’t kidding. While attempting to uncover the truth about the Apollo 11 moon landing in Did We Go? (which screened in 2000 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art), Ranen stumbled upon the fact that the magnetic tapes used to record the 1969 event had gone missing. This peculiar nugget resurfaced in the news lately, generating enough buzz beyond the conspiracy fringes to nudge NASA into a response via its Web site: “Despite the challenges of the search, NASA does not consider the tapes to be lost.”
A month ago Ranen appeared on CNN to discuss the controversy. Host Glenn Beck tried awfully hard to paint the doc maker as a wackjob; the segment ends with a joke likening those who believe the moon landing was faked to those who are “still wondering why Darrin One was mysteriously replaced by Darrin Two.” This kind of reaction doesn’t seem to bother Ranen, who between movies teaches digital filmmaking at DV Workshops, the school he runs out of his Mission District studio.
“My motto is film the obvious,” he explains. (Later in our conversation he expands that motto to include “trust reality … and also don’t fuck it up.”) “I’m just trying to illuminate some of the things that are going on in our culture.” Did We Go? is actually not a wackjob’s manifesto; it features interviews with Apollo 11 flight director Gene Krantz and astronaut Buzz Aldrin — as well as the NASA employee who physically closed the hatch on the rocket before its launch. The film doesn’t try to discredit the moon landing; it tries, with sincerity, to prove that it actually happened. (In other words, there’s a reason it’s not titled We Didn’t Go.)
A filmmaker since he was 13, Ranen has made so many short documentaries that he’s lost count. Over the years the self-funded artist has developed his own approach to shooting. His films are generally unstructured — expecting the unexpected — and are guided by Ranen’s first-person voice-overs, delivered in a tone that hovers between curiosity and amazement.
“Everyone trusts me and talks to me in my films,” he says. It’s a claim backed up by the openness displayed by his diverse array of subjects, many of whom Ranen meets on the fly. His film Power and Control: LSD in the 60s — a tangent-riddled exploration of the drug’s influence on politics and counterculture — features chats with an ex–Stanford University researcher whose simian LSD tests earned him the nickname “Monkey Mike” and a now-elderly professor who was among the Harvard students who participated in Timothy Leary’s 1962 Good Friday experiment. Ranen attributes this kind of access to his lone gunman style.
“I refuse to let anyone go with me. I believe so much of documentary is about the relationship between the filmmaker and the subject. I don’t want a crew or a sound man to mitigate my relationships with these subjects,” he explains. “When I’m talking to someone, you can see their enthusiasm in talking to me.”
Ranen’s go-with-the-flow methodology extends to postproduction. He “edits organically,” subscribing to what he calls “the pinball effect: as you’re watching it, the edit speaks to you and says, no, take that stuff in the middle and put it up front.” He’s also not opposed to altering his films after they are finished. Power and Control screened as a 70-minute feature at the 2005 San Francisco Independent Film Festival; the version at Other Cinema this weekend hovers closer to 40 minutes. Eventually, Ranen hopes to add a chapter exploring the possible LSD-KGB connection.
His most recent film, Black Hair, is also his most widely seen, thanks to a strategy of free distribution via YouTube. The doc, which Ranen says has been viewed some 100,000 times, delves into the racial and economic issues raised by the fact that most of the black hair-care industry’s retail and wholesale markets are controlled by Korean, not African American, businesspeople.
Ranen’s film inspired Bay Area hair-product manufacturer Sam Ennon to found the Black Owned Beauty Supply Association, or BOBSA, now a national organization aimed at what Ennon calls “reorganizing the whole industry in terms of the distribution channel. It’s not that we want to run the Koreans out of business — we just want to share in the business. We want to recirculate the black dollar.”
Ennon says Black Hair gave BOBSA’s cause a major assist. “A picture speaks better than words. The film is really what turned it completely around.”
It’s all in a day’s work for Ranen, who seems to attract unexpected spontaneity and the not-occasional weird coincidence. His DV Workshops was funded with a settlement he received after learning that Nine Inch Nails had sampled one of his films without permission. The dialogue snippet, taken from Ranen’s film Religion in Suburbia, just happened to include this phrase: “do you believe in miracles?” SFBG
POWER AND CONTROL:
LSD IN THE 60S
Sat/30, 8:30 p.m.
Artists’ Television Access
992 Valencia, SF
Film in the Fog: Them!
What sounds like a broken air conditioner, looks like a ghetto-rigged muppet, and will kill its own mother for a small taste of sugar? A big fly? A bear? Nope. I’m talking about the horde of giant motherfucking ants from the 1954 horror classic Them! Gordon Douglas’s quintessential nuclear monster movie opens with a young autistic girl wandering through the desert and ends with the bombing of a group of ants who have somehow taken over a military battleship. In between these two moments lie multiple flame-throwing sessions, a small dose of sexual tension, and a 15-minute documentary about the inherent evilness of the species Formicidae. (Justin Juul)
Main Post Theatre lawn
99 Moraga (at Montgomery), Presidio, SF
Refrigerated love is one of the treats in store for viewers of choregrapher Mark Morris’s somewhat radical restaging of King Arthur, the late-17th century semiopera by Henry Purcell. In addition to cleaving long narrative passages by John Dryden out of his production, Morris has added touches such as the Cold Genius (baritone Andrew Foster-Williams) first appearing in a fridge before being roused by Cupid. If it didn’t divide critics, it wouldn’t be a Morris production, and the eternal “bad boy” creator of this King Arthur was accordingly awarded with bouquets and some light spankings upon its London premiere. (Johnny Ray Huston)
8 p.m. (also Tues. and Thurs-Sat.; through Oct. 7)
UC Berkeley, Lower Sproul (near Bancroft and Telegraph), Berk.
“Slam Arnold Poetry Competition”
Arnold Schwarzenegger has been shot at, beat up, and humiliated as Conan, Commando, the Terminator, and a kindergarten cop. Most Bay Area residents would agree the governor can handle a little bit of verbal abuse. The San Francisco League of Young Voters is hosting the “Slam Arnold Poetry Competition” at the Balazo Gallery to help boot the actor out of office, register voters, and educate young people about important issues. The event will open a forum for discussion regarding current political concerns. Work by local artists will be on the walls, and 12 popular regional poets will compete for prizes and laughs. Ill-Literacy will perform, along with female MCs Rhapsodistas. (Kellie Ell)
Balazo 18 Art Gallery
2183 Mission, SF
$10-$25, sliding scale
SF 360 Home Movie Night: American Blackout
It’s a little too late for you to host an American Blackout screening, but it isn’t too late to attend one at someone else’s house – even though some places have already reached sold-out capacity. This first installment of SF360 Home Movie Night showcases Ian Inaba’s documentary about schemes against black voters, which generated waves of praise at the latest SF International Film Festival. Guerilla News Network member Inaba focuses on the campaigns – including covert ones – waged against Democratic Rep. (and outspoken George W. Bush and 2000 presidential election critic) Cynthia McKinney. (Johnny Ray Huston)
10 p.m. (postscreening after-party)
242 Columbus, SF
RANT/FILM I’m all for the current bicycle renaissance in San Francisco. As the Indian summer heats up, you’ll notice the bike lanes will be nose to tail with bikers — like a line of baby elephants. This is a good thing. Maybe the notoriously free-form, Tijuana driving style of SF residents will ease up a notch and they’ll return to mowing down pedestrians exclusively. There’s safety in numbers.
Of course, every revolution has its drawbacks. There’s always going to be that crew that wants to convince the world they’re that much more revolutionary, devoted, and pure than everyone else. And as the rubber hits the roads in San Francisco, a clan of tight-trousered, mullet-headed, vintage-T-shirt-clad Robespierres has coalesced around the fixed-gear bicycle, or as it’s called in its proponents’ cutesy parlance, the “fixie.”
What’s a fixed-gear? Imagine yourself cruising down the street on your bike. You get tired and so you stop pedaling and coast. The freewheel mechanism in your hub disengages the drive train and lets the back wheel continue to spin while the cranks and pedals are still. On a fixed-gear the rear cog is bolted directly to the hub. There is no freewheel or cassette mechanism, so if the hub is moving, the cog is moving. Which means if the chain is moving, the pedals are moving, and if the bike is moving, you’re pedaling. There is no coasting.
Sounds like a pain in the ass. If you’re like me, the first question that comes to mind is “why?” Well, the modern SF two-wheeled steel, aluminum, and rubber hipster fashion accessory has its roots in racing, like other wheeled vehicles that don’t really translate to street usage. They were — and still are — used on banked, velodrome-style tracks during races that employ all manner of strategies, including slowing down to a stop or near stop and doing a “track stand” — balancing at a standstill without putting your feet down — so your opponent can pass you and you can ride in the draft.
Since you’re not likely to be drafting anyone on city streets, a track bike is a highly impractical choice of wheels. What’s more impractical is that fixed-gears often appear to lack brakes. The bike’s speed is controlled by the rider’s pedaling cadence — slow the pedaling, you slow the bike. Stop pedaling, stop the bike. This effect can be augmented by adding a front caliper brake, but that’s frowned upon by fixie fashionistas who do things like cut their handlebars down to a foot and don’t run bar tape or grips. The problem with using pedal cadence as a braking mechanism is that stopping is dependent on rider skill.
Now there’s the rub. Like trucker hats and PBR, what started as a bike messenger thing has become a fashion statement and status symbol. You’ve got kids in the Mission with the left leg of their jeans rolled up, a little biker hat on crooked, slip-on Vans, and a brand-new fixed-gear Bianchi; and they don’t know their ass from a light socket. Cadence? You may as well be talking astrophysics. They just know that it looks cool. It looks less cool, however, when one of these lemmings comes screaming down the Haight Street hill unable to keep up with the speed of the pedals and wrecks in the middle of Divisadero. A friend was riding down Stanyan with a box in his hand when some goon on a fixed-gear, unable to slow down, ran into his back wheel and crashed him in the middle of the street. He didn’t even stop to see if my friend was OK.
So what was the original draw that caused the person I’ll call “Biker Zero” — to crib epidemiological lingo — to ride a track bike on the street? The people I know who ride them talk about being at one with the bike, feeling part of it, in the bike instead of on the bike. I’ll go with that. But this human-bike-cyborg crap has reached the level of “I like the East Coast because I like to see the seasons change” tripe. Respect to the old-school heads who’ve been riding them since way back, but as someone who’s done way gnarlier things on wheels, it’s just not all that impressive. The Bicycle Film Festival had scheduled a screening of M.A.S.H., an unfinished fixed-gear documentary by Mike Martin and Gabe Morford, until it got pulled at the last minute. It was shot here in San Francisco and showcased the “skills and beauty of these riders.” Beauty, no doubt — as in perfect hair. So you can ride down a hill and lift up your back wheel and do little skids to slow down. So what?
Riding a fixed-gear is like handicapping yourself. The bikes are so awkward to ride that not looking like an idiot while riding one is an accomplishment. It’s like riding a three-legged horse in the Kentucky Derby. To do that well, you’d have to be an excellent jockey. At the same time, why not be in it to win it and ride a horse with four legs? To me, it takes the choices — and therefore some creativity — out of riding. I don’t ride a fixed-gear for the same reason I won’t drive an automatic: no car is telling me when to shift, and no bike is going to tell me when I can pedal. If you’ve got bike skills, why not take them to a higher level? Go home and search for “Steven Hamilton” or “World Cup Downhill” on YouTube and see what can really be done on a bike that has the capabilities to be pushed. (There is a whole European tradition of flatland tricks on fixed-gears that takes serious skills, but it doesn’t seem to be a part of the current SF scenester fixie explosion.)
Not everyone is riding a bike to push limits. Still, the fixie cabal sticks in my craw, and it’s not because I’m unimpressed with the virtuosity. It’s not the misuse of a track-racing bike on city streets that bugs me. BMX bikes came about through the misuse of Schwinn Stingrays in dirt lots, and mountain bikes were the result of chopped-up road bikes on dirt. Misuse can mean progress. What kills me is the sinking feeling I get when I ride down Valencia and think, “Does anyone in this town ever do anything original?”
Now there’s even fixed-gear graffiti, Krylon line art of single-speed bikes with bullhorn handlebars, and the dubious slogan of “gears are for queers.” The fact of the matter is, the popularity of these bikes has nothing to do with the bikes themselves or the few people who actually have the chops to ride them with style. The fixed-gear is to 2006 what the Razor scooter was to 1996: a wheeled freak show for wannabes. Test it: send the right guy with the right clothes and the right haircut out around town on one of those old-timey bikes with the enormous front wheel with the cranks mounted directly to it like a tricycle. You know, the ones you need a ladder to get on and off of. Just see how many giant-wheeled ladder bikes are locked up in front of Ritual Coffee Roasters next week.
Do what makes you happy, but also do some soul-searching, champ: does riding a fixed-gear make you happy or does fitting in make you happy? Ask yourself, what bike was I riding last year? Was I riding one at all?
BICYCLE FILM FESTIVAL
2961 16th St., SF
SONIC REDUCER Which John Lennon did you know? Initially, I was too young to know him as anything more than the moptop behind the chipped bobble-headed garage-sale find — and as one of the songwriters behind my parental units’ token soft-rock gatefold, the Beatles’ Love Songs (Capitol, 1977) (the “White Album”’s “acid rock,” as Moms described it, went way beyond the pale). That’s all the Lennon I could grasp until the Rolling Stone cover pic that accompanied news of his 1980 murder — that coverlineless image picturing a nude Lennon fetally curled around a clothed Yoko Ono. If you dug the raw romanticism of that Annie Leibovitz image and Lennon’s 10-point program to success, excess, then bread-baking, Sean-rearing semiretired rock-star redemption, then you were with us. If you didn’t and you were disgusted, you weren’t — go hang with the Yoko-booing minions at, say, the recent Elvis Costello–Alan Toussaint Paramount show. It was that simple when you were an already media-saturated brat ready to draw battle lines and take pop music dead seriously.
Nowadays, the very undead but still much-pondered Bob Dylan may inspire a higher page count than Lennon when it comes to critical essays, encyclopedias, and that ilk. But I’d venture that Lennon’s influence continues to echo subtly through the culture, starting with the recommended banishing of “Imagine” from Clear Channel airwaves shortly after 9/11 and continuing through to some recent docs, DVDs, and dispatches from his estate.
Ignore the critically mauled 2005 musical Lennon and don’t wait for a Martin Scorsese PBS-approved documentary treatment — though, oh, to glimpse Abel Ferrera’s charred take on Lennon’s Bad Lieutenant–style “lost weekend” with Harry Nilsson. For somewhat unvarnished, intimate footage of Lennon with Ono in their Ascot, England, estate studio and shooting hoops with Miles Davis, check Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon’s “Imagine” (2000) — the material of Lennon warbling “Jealous Guy” and trianguutf8g in the studio with a very active Ono and a stoic Phil Spector is eye-cleansing.
After sampling Lennon and Ono’s frank BBC interview there, you’ll want even more truth — so turn to last year’s The Dick Cavett Show: John and Yoko Collection DVD, which collects three 1971–72 episodes featuring the gabby couple. It encompasses some of Lennon’s most in-depth US TV interviews, as the relaxed, wise-cracking musician sparred and jabbed with the clearly nervous and very deeply tanned Cavett in between sizable excerpts of Ono’s great Fly and Lennon’s Erection, a cinematic “construct” if there ever was one. Even more astounding than Cavett’s half-baked monologues are the lengthy stretches of airtime devoted to Lennon and Ono explaining their 1972 deportation case — one suspects even Jon Stewart would yelp, “TMI!” — and the pair’s impassioned, controversial performance of “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” (worth it alone to Bay Area–philes when Lennon pulls out a Ron Dellums quote to back up the lyrics) and Ono’s still-nervy, saxed-up “We’re All Water.” The versions of Lennon visible here are familiar and complementary — John as the willful dreamer and the provocative righter of wrongs, be it the plight of American Indians or the lack of consideration given Ono’s art. And one wonders, will network TV ever be quite this maddening — and challenging — again?
Scenes from both The Dick Cavett Show: John and Yoko Collection and Gimme Some Truth surface in The US vs. John Lennon, a new feature film revealing the latest Lennon iteration: the musician as a political animal hounded by the Nixon administration and threatened with deportation. Lennon considered a peace-promoting concert tour following Nixon’s reelection jaunt around the country — and posed a serious enough threat to Tricky Dicky, in the very year millions of 18-year-old Beatles fans were given the vote for the first time, that the US government moved to stop him. Focusing on Lennon’s significance as an activist who devoted his personal life (transforming the Lennon-Ono honeymoon into the peacenik, media-lovin’ bed-in) and considerable platform to antiwar efforts, filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld (Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of “Smile”) worked with documents released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act suit (aided and abetted by Jon Weiner, who consulted and wrote Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files) to make their film. Supported by commentators ranging from Ono and Noam Chomsky to Angela Davis and G. Gordon Liddy, the two have fashioned a sleek, informative primer on the importance of being Lennon and the historical context he emerged from. The only images they wish they had included but didn’t, Leaf told me, were World War II pictures of a bomb-besieged Liverpool and war-torn Japan.
“What’s important to note is that being for peace meant more than being nonviolent for John and Yoko,” he explained from an office in Century City. “This was in their bones, if you will. John saw firsthand what war caused.”
Leaf and his partner have had the film in mind since the mid-’90s, when Lennon’s FBI file was opened. After the disappointments of 2004, it’s intoxicating to imagine an artist and his listeners changing history, and at the very least The US vs. John Lennon allows one to dream, even briefly. Why was Lennon such a menace? “I think what terrifies power the most is truth,” Leaf says. “When truth is spoken without fear of consequence, it is threatening, and when John and Yoko embarked on their campaign for peace, they weren’t promoting themselves or a record but peace or nonviolence.” SFBG
THE US VS. JOHN LENNON
Opens Fri/29 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com
Dancer-choreographer David Dorfman is a poet of the ordinary. He digs below the commonplace and lets us see what’s underneath. Early in his career, with Out of Season, he paired football players with highly trained dancers. Ten years ago he invited his ensemble’s family members to join in performances of Familiar Movements. Both pieces revealed fresh ideas about dance, community, and beauty. They also showed Dorfman to be an artist of sparkling wit with a generous spirit.
In the two pieces that his David Dorfman Dance company made its Bay Area debut with last year, he worked single conceits into exuberant, athletic choreography that resonated beyond its voluptuously evocative appeal. In See Level, sprawled bodies on a studio floor suggested maps of continents, with individual countries that were self-contained yet had relationships with each other. A naked lightbulb inspired Lightbulb Theory, a meditation on death. Is it better, the piece asked in densely layered images, to die quickly or to flicker for a while?
Dorfman’s newest work, the 50-minute underground, opens the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ new Worlds Apart series, which according to executive director Ken Foster features artists who “create work that inspires us to think deeply and become responsible citizens of the global village.”
For underground, Dorfman started with history, using local filmmaker Sam Green’s Oscar-nominated documentary The Weather Underground as a jumping-off point. The film documents the activities of the Weathermen (later, Weather Underground). In the 1960s and ’70s, this radical offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society advocated violence to incite change. For Dorfman, the film and his associated research raised questions about individual and social responsibilities when faced with injustice. He also began to wonder about the effect of age on one’s perspective and decision-making process.
Speaking from his home in Connecticut, Dorfman explained that he was a Chicago teenager during the Days of Rage — four days in 1969 when stores and public buildings were attacked in protest of the Chicago Seven trial. “Now, I wanted to look at the idea of resistance against an unwarranted war from the perspective of a man with a 50-year-old body.”
Dorfman’s underground will strike a raw nerve with audiences, though he refuses to narrowly assign blame for the causes of societal unrest. He wants to unearth root causes, not apply Band-Aids. “Yes, of course I feel burned by the elections of 2000 and 2004 and the shameful behavior of our government. But this is not just about the current administration. Much damage was done before,” he said, pointing out that our conversation happened to be taking place on the anniversary of 9/11.
“I try hard to be a good global citizen, and I mourn the needless loss of life. So I want my generation and younger people to look at the nature of activism and what, if anything, justifies the use of force and violence.”
After the June premiere at the American Dance Festival, which occurred during the Israel-Lebanon conflict, a young audience member told Dorfman that he wanted to get off his backside and do something. “I don’t know what that something is,” Dorfman responded. “But we have to talk about it.”
The show stitches documentary footage, photo collages, spoken and projected text, and a commissioned score by Bessie winner Jonathan Bepler to Dorfman’s choreography for his nine dancers — plus some 20 local performers whom he auditioned this month. Though he still loves to work with people he calls “folks who don’t think they can dance,” underground’s choreography requires professionally trained artists.
Reminded of his ideal “to get the whole world dancing,” Dorfman is quick to point out that while realistically war may not always be avoided, perhaps we could learn to tolerate each other, and that dance — “nonsexual, noninvasive physical contact” — just might help.
Besides, he said, “If people are dancing, for that one brief moment they cannot kill each other.” SFBG
Thurs/21 and Sat/23, 8 p.m.;
Sun/24, 2 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
700 Howard, SF
B. Ruby Rich reflects on some of her favorite TIFF ’06 moments.
* The scene: the world premiere of Dixie Chicks: Shut Up And Sing. Filmmakers Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck (daughter of Gregory) were in the audience, as were the Dixie Chicks themselves. The documentary tells the story of the past three years as the Chicks dealt with protests, concert cancellations, radio blackouts, and a death threat resulting from Natalie Maines’ remark: “We’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” When a scene played showing the decision to re-route the tour to Canada after Toronto was the only city to sell out immediately, the whole theatre erupted in wild hooray-for-us applause.
* Christine Vachon at TheatreBooks, one of Toronto’s great bookstores, signing copies of her new memoir about her experiences in the indie-film trade, A Killer Life Of course I bought one. She’s only in town for one night: she’s in the middle of shooting Todd Haynes’ new opus on Bob Dylan. Cate Blanchett just finished her section, so she got a break to come to Toronto for the premiere of Infamous. Vachon tells me she’ll be in San Francisco, at the Commonwealth Club, at the end of the month.
* Camila Guzman Urzua’s screening of The Sugar Curtain, her documentary on growing up in Cuba during the golden age of socialism. One audience member, an exiled Uruguayan, objected to her clear-eyed view of the terrible failures of the Revolution in the years since her childhood era. “Why don’t you talk about the embargo?” he wanted to know. Yeah, like every other Cuban film that’s ever been made. Old patterns die hard.
* Crowds jammed the sidewalk outside the Four Seasons, driven into a frenzy by a bumper crop of celebrities this year. My standards are different: Costa-Gavras at the Unifrance party was my idea of stardom. Talking to SFIFF’s Linda Blackaby and the NY Film Festival’s Marian Masone, he tried to explain the arrival of so many French films dealing with Algeria. “One million people left Algeria for France after the end of the war,” he said. “There are many stories, and different points of view. They should have been made ten years ago.”
* The moment the rain starts. Every year, mid-festival, the hot waning days of summer stop abruptly for a rainstorm. When the rain ends, the thermometer drops and fall is here. The mid-point of the festival is the change of seasons, and today I saw my first leaves turn red. Shadows of mortality. There’s nothing sadder than the end of a film festival. And at this writing, it’s only four days away.
SONIC REDUCER You scream, I scream, we all scream for … the black concert T. It’s the music-merch phenom that will always annoyingly outsell all other comers, as Brad Hudson of JSR Merchandising explained at SXSW earlier this year. Keep your bandeezys and doggie baseball jerseys — the black T-shirt is the Coke Classic of live-show sales, the fail-safe upon which Stones tours are built. Why? Well, as one multitentacled insider recently announced to me, you can’t download a T-shirt!
But what to wear after that? It wasn’t hard to figure that out during my struggles through the two recent diva releases, Beyoncé’s strident, backward-glancing sophomore full-length, B’Day (Sony BMG), and Paris Hilton’s microdermabrasioned lite-pop debut, Paris (Warner Bros.). Both CDs find the ladies busily hawking duds and assorted nonmusical product. Why even bother critiquing what lay embedded in the shiny plastic discs behind Beyoncé’s eerily blank Madame Tussaud’s wax cover image or Hilton’s sleek rich-bitch-slash-sexpot pose? Why celebrate Hilton’s easy, sleazy, ultimately unfulfilling musical grabs at the Grease soundtrack and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” or bash Beyoncé’s dog-note shrieks (she’s playing Diana Ross in Dream Girls, so why compete on record?) and frantic but intriguing ladies-first messages? These CDs are so clearly vehicles from which to launch clothing lines (in Beyoncé’s case, her mother’s Dereon by House of Dereon label, baldly peddled in the inside booklet) and perfume (Paris’s Heiress, as well as handbags and watches).
Too bad then that Beyoncé has simultaneously hit a fashion low point, modeling a hideous mod houndstooth swimsuit and bastardized Bardot milkmaid frills on her CD — B has been damaged by one too many Guess Jeans and Baby Phat advertising campaigns, I presume. All of which could have been forgiven if Beyoncé had coughed up a track on par with “Crazy in Love” — but no such luck. The emergency-siren sample of “Ring the Alarm,” echoed on Paris’s opening, “Turn It Up,” can’t save that siren’s single; I prefer the unexpected guilty pleasure kick-him-to-the-curb power ballad “Irreplaceable.” How telling that as the B girl declares war on good taste on B’Day, the worst faux-fierce track is titled “Freakum Dress.”
Amid all this accessorized insanity, we should thank our musical deities that when it comes to local clothes hos, we have been gifted with the gifted Music Lovers. The band’s singer-songwriter, Matthew “Ted” Edwards, has been much in demand of late. When he and drummer Ping Chu sat in last month at the Sonic Reducer DJ night at Hemlock Tavern, the Birmingham, England, native was psyched about the group’s rave reviews in Europe and was occupied writing the music for superfan Margaret Cho’s latest burlesque project, “Sensuous Woman Cabaret,” and rehearsing with Cho at the Plush Room. But who wants to get into details about the new Music Lovers’ Guide for Young People (le Grand Magistery) — and its songs of kebabs and lager (“Brother, I Am Walking”) and a certain Anglo avant-garde Marxist composer (“Thank You, Cornelius Cardew”)? Edwards would much rather discuss the Music Lovers’ love of shopping.
“We adhere to a pretty strict dress code, which is enforced by all of us,” he told me recently over the phone, “because it’s respectful to the audience. I want to say I made an effort and do the best I can. I’m not interested in seeing another group of lads in T-shirts.”
So the besuited Music Lovers are actually a little like — the Ramones?
“Except we’re tidier,” he replied. “I make no apologies for that. I’ll spend my last 60 bucks on a decent shirt.
“We’re a band apart.”
You have to admire such a hard stand on the seemingly superficial topic of style, but then Edwards does fall in line with a mod way of thought: dress sharp, seize that dream, and maintain a sense of dignity even if you have to spend every bit of your bellhop wages to do it. Likewise, the rangy, suave pop Guide, which boasts harder-rock moments than the Lovers’ debut, The Words We Say before We Sleep, maintains a subtle, knifelike edge and wit that a cultural connoisseur like SF-reared comedian Margaret Cho can appreciate. “I think that the Music Lovers are the greatest, and I love working with them because they have such a sophisticated sound, completely new yet strangely familiar,” she e-mailed me. “Listening to them feels like I’m stepping into a film like Purple Noon or Belle du Jour, and I have really long earrings on that almost touch my shoulders.”
It takes an effort to maintain that romantic mood: Edwards, 38, never quite recovered from his “horrific experience signed to Virgin as a fresh-faced 20-year-old” fronting an R&B and pop band. “We recorded an album with a guy named Pete Walsh who recorded Climate of the Hunter with Scott Walker, and we made this incredible album. And Virgin put it on the shelf. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge, but I’ll never be on another major label.”
Since then, Edwards, now an occupational therapist, has been accruing the experience that comes in handy when writing songs about artful eccentrics like Cardew: he once called bingo numbers and sang covers aboard a Scandinavian cruise line and did a tour of Italian communist clubs. “We’re a band of Little Edies,” Edwards declares when I ask him for his favorite character from the brilliant Grey Gardens, the Maysles’ documentary that graced the cover of the Lovers’ 2003 EP, Cheap Songs Tell the Truth. “I probably veer between Little Edie and [handyperson] Jerry. Sometimes I’m Jerry and I mope around the garden. But I could also be Big Edie, because I do have a tendency to lie in bed covered with cats.” SFBG< MUSIC LOVERS Thurs/14, 8 p.m. Amnesia 853 Valencia, SF Call for price (415) 970-0012 Fri/15, 6 p.m. Amoeba Music 1855 Haight, SF Free (415) 831-1200
EDITORIAL Here’s the painful but undeniable truth: five years after a pair of airplanes flew into the Twin Towers in New York, killing almost 3,000 people, the world — and the United States — is a decidedly less secure place.
Sure, would-be terrorists can’t carry box cutters (or toothpaste) onto planes anymore. It’s harder to open cockpit doors. Some flights have fully armed undercover air marshals on board. Security screeners make passengers take off their shoes.
But the nation is bogged down in a deadly, pointless war, the Middle East is a powder keg — and all over the globe, the United States is increasingly seen as an enemy.
Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian of London on Sept. 11, described a fanciful interview with Osama bin Laden, in which he asked the secretive al-Qaeda leader how he was doing five years after the attacks. Fine, bin Laden says: the United States could have turned the attacks into a rallying point against terrorism but did exactly the opposite.
“Bin Laden need not have worried,” Jenkins wrote. “He would agree, as did the CIA’s al-Qaida analyst in Peter Taylor’s recent documentary, that the Americans have done his job for him. They panicked. They drove the Taliban back into the mountains, restoring the latter’s credibility in the Arab street and turning al-Qaida into heroes. They persecuted Muslims across America. They occupied Iraq and declared Iran a sworn enemy. They backed an Israeli war against Lebanon’s Shias. Soon every tinpot Muslim malcontent was citing al-Qaida as his inspiration. Bin Laden’s tiny organisation, which might have been starved of funds and friends in 2001, had become a worldwide jihadist phenomenon.
“I would ask Bin Laden whether he had something special up his sleeve for the fifth anniversary. Why waste money, he would reply. The western media were obligingly re-enacting the destruction and the screaming, turning the base metal of violence into the gold of terror. They would replay the tapes and rerun the footage ad nauseam, and thus remind the world of his awesome power…. As for European support for America’s world leadership, that has plummeted from 64% in 2002 to 37% this year.”
This will be the enduring historical legacy of the Bush administration: At last count, 2,996 dead or presumed dead at the World Trade Center. At last count, 2,668 US soldiers dead in Iraq. At least 41,650 civilian casualties of that war.
The goodwill of the world squandered. Endless enemies all around. And every Republican running for reelection to Congress will have to deal with that. SFBG
Brian Jonestown Massacre
Local legends the Brian Jonestown Massacre will be playing two dates at the Independent before taking off on a world tour. The group, born out of the Haight Ashbury, were the original revivalists of psych rock. Though far more influenced by occultism than patchouli, the BJM set the stage for the present-day influx of irreverent, freak-fantastic SF bands. The B-list acclaim they enjoyed for their part in the 2004 documentary DiG! resulted in Joel Gion’s reign as the most infamous tambourine player of all time. (K. Tighe)
With the Tyde
628 Divisadero, SF
“Clinks and My If’s”
Jeff K. Butler’s art is precise, delivering witty conceptual jokes that rely equally on language and materials to deliver the punch line. World’s Lightest Painting is hand lettered on white Styrofoam, enclosed in a white Styrofoam frame, and probably weighs all of a few ounces. For Sale replicates a classic black, orange, and white “For Sale” sign. The joke is revealed on the wall tag after careful observation: it’s the only piece in the show that’s priced. The show’s other pieces contain similar wry observations – Canvas refers to the canvas of a punching bag – and speak to the poet’s capacity to cross over easily into art without pausing in between. (Katie Kurtz)
Through Sept. 23
Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
New College of California, 766 Valencia, SF
› email@example.com All opening dates subject to change, ’cause that’s how Hollywood rolls. The Protector and Jet Li’s Fearless Tony Jaa’s been trumpeted as “the future of martial arts” (and rightly so — did you see Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior? Holy scalp-cracking!); Jet Li’s said Fearless will be his last martial arts picture. Torch. Passed. (Sept. 8 and 22) This Film Is Not Yet Rated Kirby Dick’s doc about the creativity-smiting Motion Picture Association of America mixes Michael Moore–like first-person investigative work with feminist First Amendment points. And it’s funny. (Sept. 15) All the King’s Men Could’ve been an Oscar grubber in 2005, when this remake was originally slated for release. Now, who knows? The oft-nominated cast includes Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, and Anthony Hopkins. (Sept. 22) Feast Project Greenlight winner — a sure sign of doom? — John “Son of Clu” Gulager debuts his horror film about tavern dwellers fighting off flesh eaters. Henry Rollins has a role. (Sept. 22–23 midnight screenings) Jackass: Number Two Oh, shut up. You know you loved the first one. (Sept. 22) The Science of Sleep The title won’t win viewers, and the ad campaign and trailers aren’t much better, but Michel Gondry’s follow-up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is like a darker b-side of that film, with adorable Gael García Bernal in a not-sweet role and daughter-of-Serge Charlotte Gainsbourg dealing with him. (Sept. 22) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning A prequel to the (so unnecessary) remake of the best goddamn movie of all time. Will this be good headcheese or real good headcheese? (Oct. 4) Shortbus Loved at Cannes and hyped for its sexual candor, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig follow-up looks like a major turnoff, at least going by the trailer. Of course, trailers aren’t features. Will a cameo by Justin Bond as Kiki cancel out the possible deadly air of self-satisfaction? (Oct. 6) Old Joy A big favorite at Sundance this year, the second film by Kelly Reichardt — whose River of Grass is a little-known gem — features Will Oldham in a starring role. (Oct. 20) Babel Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), Cate Blanchett, and Gael García Bernal are always worth a peek; they cancel out the tiredness of Brad Pitt at any rate. (Oct. 27) The Bridge Eric Steel’s controversial and ethically dubious documentary about suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge gets a theatrical release. Curiously, IMDb.com recently listed a codirector. (Oct. 27) Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus Nicole Kidman as the photographer — the fact that the former looks and seems nothing like the latter matters little, we’re assured, because this is not a biopic but a speculation about three days in Arbus’s life. (November) Iraq in Fragments James Longley’s impressionistic and unembedded documentary isn’t “narrator-less,” as Entertainment Weekly claims. It is poetic and visually dazzling and provocative — perhaps problematic — because of it. (Nov. 10) Volver Pedro Almodóvar departs from masculine melodrama to reunite with Penélope Cruz and more excitingly, Carmen Maura; word is this riffs off Mildred Pierce the same way that Bad Education riffed off Vertigo. (Nov. 10 or 22) Casino Royale Daniel Craig as Bond. But nobody, and I mean nobody, better be trying to do “The Look of Love” — we all know it belongs to Dusty. (Nov. 17) Fuck A jazzy documentary about the most versatile and satisfying word in the English language. (Nov. 17) Tenacious D in “The Pick of Destiny” Will it be the greatest film in the world — or just a tribute? (Nov. 17) Bobby Emilio Estevez makes his directorial debut with this Altmanesque movie about Bobby Kennedy, played by Elijah Wood in a bad wig. Will it be a subtextual tribute to the Ambassador Hotel? Also, will the curse of Lindsay Lohan (who costars) continue? (Nov. 22) The Nativity Story Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) takes on the Blessed Virgin (Whale Rider’s Keisha Castle-Hughes). Nah, it won’t be controversial … (Dec. 1) Apocalypto … and neither will Mel Gibson’s all-Mayan adventure, sugar tits. (Dec. 8) The Pursuit of Happyness Remember when they built the fake BART station in Dolores Park? This is why. (Dec. 15) Charlotte’s Web Starring Dakota Fanning, with Julia Roberts as the voice of the spider. Will Charlotte urge us to join America Online? Why can’t they leave the classics alone? (Dec. 20) Rocky Balboa Sylvester Stallone wrote, directed, stars, punches things, and has a montage. Montage! (Dec. 22) Dreamgirls The (very) early Oscar favorite. And I’m telling you, Beyoncé’s not going to the Oscars unless she’s up for a statuette rather than delivering them. We’ll see … (Dec. 25) The Good German Steven Soderbergh directs a black-and-white George Clooney in this 1940s drama. Swoon. (Dec. 25) SFBG
“Before Vanishing: Syrian Short Cinema” A series devoted to films from Syria kicks off with a shorts program that includes work by Oussama Mohammed. (Sept. 7, PFA; see below)
The Mechanical Man The PFA’s vast and expansive series devoted to “The Mechanical Age” includes André Deed’s 1921 science fiction vision of a female crime leader and a robot run amok. The screening features live piano by Juliet Rosenberg. (Sept. 7, PFA)
“Cinemayaat, the Arab Film Festival” This year’s festival opens with the Lebanon-Sweden coproduction Zozo and also includes the US-Palestine documentary Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority, which looks at events before and after Israel’s 1948 occupation of Palestine.
Sept. 8–17. Various venues. (415) 863-1087, www.aff.org
“Global Lens” The traveling fest includes some highly lauded films, such as Stolen Life by Li Shaohong, one of the female directors within China’s Fifth Generation.
Sept. 8–Oct. 4. Various venues. (415) 221-8184, www.globalfilm.org
“MadCat Women’s International Film Festival” MadCat turns 10 this year, and its programming and venues are even more varied. Not to mention deep — literally. 3-D filmmaking by Zoe Beloff and Viewmaster magic courtesy of Greta Snider are just some of the treats in store.
Sept. 12–27. Various venues. (415) 436-9523, www.madcatfilmfestival.org
The Pirate The many forms and facets of piracy comprise another PFA fall series; this entry brings a swashbuckling Gene Kelly and Judy Garland as Manuela, directed by then-husband Vincente Minnelli. (Sept. 13, PFA)
“A Conversation with Ali Kazimi” and Shooting Indians Documentarian Kazimi discusses his work before a screening of his critical look at Edward S. Curtis’s photography. (Sept. 14, PFA)
“The Word and the Image: The Films of Peter Whitehead” The swinging ’60s hit the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as curator Joel Shepard presents the first-ever US retrospective dedicated to the director of Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London. Includes proto–music videos made for Nico, Jimi Hendrix, and others. Smashing! (Sept. 14–28, YBCA; see below)
Edmond Stuart Gordon of Re-Aminator infamy makes a jump from horror into drama — not so surprising, since he’s a friend of David Mamet. Willam H. Macy adds another sad sack to his résumé. (Sept. 15–21, Roxie; see below)
Anxious Animation Other Cinema hosts a celebration for the release of a DVD devoted to local animators Lewis Klahr, Janie Geiser, and others. Expect some work inspired by hellfire prognosticator Jack Chick!
Sept. 16. Other Cinema, 992 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-3890, www.othercinema.com
Kingdom of the Spiders Eight-legged freaks versus two-legged freak William Shatner. I will say no more.
Sept. 17. Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF. (415) 401-7987, www.darkroomsf.com
Landscape Suicide No other living director looks at the American landscape with the direct intent of James Benning; here, he examines two murder cases. (Sept. 19, PFA)
La Promesse and Je Pense à Vous Tracking the brutal coming-of-age of scooter-riding Jérémie Renier, 1997’s La Promesse made the name of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, but Je Pense is a rarely screened earlier work. (Sept. 22, PFA)
Muddy Waters Can’t Be Satisfied Billed as the first authoritative doc about the man who invented electric blues, this plays with Always for Pleasure, a look at New Orleans by the one and only Les Blank. (Sept. 22–26, Roxie)
Rosetta and Falsch The Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta made a splash at Cannes in 1999; Falsch is their surprisingly experimental and nonnaturalistic 1987 debut feature. (Sept. 23, PFA)
loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies A reunion tour movie. (Sept. 29–Oct. 5, Roxie)
American Blackout Ian Inaba’s doc about voter fraud made waves and gathered praise at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival; it gets screened at various houses, followed by a Tosca after-party, in this SF360 citywide event.
Sept. 30. Tosca Café, 242 Columbus, SF. (415) 561-5000, www.sffs.org
Them! “Film in the Fog” turns five, as the SF Film Society unleashes giant mutant ants in the Presidio.
Sept. 30. Main Post Theatre, 99 Moraga, SF. (415) 561-5500, www.sffs.org
“Zombie-Rama” Before Bob Clark made Black Christmas, Porky’s, and A Christmas Story, he made Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. The ending is as scary as the title is funny.
Oct. 5. Parkway Speakeasy Theater, 1834 Park, Oakl. (510) 814-2400, www.thrillville.net
“Swinging Scandinavia: How Nordic Sex Cinema Conquered the World” Jack Stevenson presents a “Totally Uncensored” clip show about the scandalous impact of Scandinavian cinema on uptight US mores and also screens some rare cousins of I Am Curious (Yellow). (Oct. 5 and 7, YBCA)
“Mill Valley Film Festival” Why go to Toronto when many of the fall’s biggest Hollywood and international releases come to Mill Valley? The festival turns 29 this year.
Oct. 5–15, 2006. Various venues. (415) 383-5256, www.mvff.org
“Fighting the Walking Dead” Jesse Ficks brings They Live to the Castro Theatre. Thank you, Jesse. (Oct. 6, Castro; see below)
Phantom of the Paradise Forget the buildup for director Brian de Palma’s Black Dahlia and get ready for a Paul Williams weekend. This is screening while Williams is performing at the Plush Room.
Oct. 6. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124, www.thelatenightpictureshow.com
Calvaire Belgium makes horror movies too. This one is billed as a cross between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance — a crossbreeding combo that’s popular these days. (Oct. 6–12, Roxie)
Black Girl Tragic and so sharp-eyed that its images can cut you, Ousmane Sembene’s 1966 film is the masterpiece the white caps of the French new wave never thought to make. It kicks off a series devoted to the director. (Oct. 7, PFA)
“Animal Charm’s Golden Digest and Brian Boyce” Boyce is the genius behind America’s Biggest Dick, starring Dick Cheney as Scarface. Animal Charm have made some of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
Oct. 7. Other Cinema, 992 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-3890, www.othercinema.com
Madame X, an Absolute Ruler Feminist director Ulrike Ottinger envisions a Madame X much different from Lana Turner’s — hers is a pirate. (Oct. 11, PFA)
“The Horrifying 1980s … in 3-D” Molly Ringwald (in Spacehunter), a killer shark (in Jaws 3-D), and Jason (in Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D) vie for dominance in this “Midnites for Maniacs” three-dimensional triple bill. (Oct. 13, Castro)
“Dual System 3-D Series” This program leans toward creature features, from Creature from the Black Lagoon to the ape astronaut of Robot Monster to Cat-Women on the Moon. (Oct. 14–19, Castro)
“Early Baillie and the Canyon CinemaNews Years” This program calls attention to great looks at this city by Baillie (whom Apichatpong Weerasethakul cites as a major influence) and also highlights the importance of Canyon Cinema. (Oct. 15, YBCA)
“War and Video Games” NY-based film critic Ed Halter presents a lecture based on From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games, his new book. (Oct. 17, PFA)
Santo Domingo Blues The Red Vic premieres a doc about bachata and the form’s “supreme king of bitterness,” Luis Vargas.
Oct. 18–19. Red Vic, 1727 Haight, SF. (415) 668-3994, www.redvicmoviehouse.com
“Monster-Rama” The Devil-ettes, live and in person, and Werewolf vs. the Vampire Women, on the screen, thanks to Will “the Thrill” Viharo.
Oct. 19. Parkway Speakeasy Theater, 1834 Park, Oakl. (510) 814-2400, www.thrillville.net
“Spinning Up, Slowing Down”: Industry Celebrates the Machine” Local film archivist Rick Prelinger presents six short films that epitomize the United States’ machine mania, including one in which mechanical puppets demonstrate free enterprise. (Oct. 19, PFA)
The Last Movie Hmmm, part two: OK, let’s see here, Dennis Hopper’s 1971 film gets a screening after he personally strikes a new print … (Oct. 20–21, YBCA)
What Is It? and “The Very First Crispin Glover Film Festival in the World” … and on the same weekend, Hopper’s River’s Edge costar Glover gets a freak hero’s welcome at the Castro. Sounds like they might cross paths. (Oct. 20–22, Castro)
I Like Killing Flies And I completely fucking love Matt Mahurin’s documentary about the Greenwich Village restaurant Shopsin’s, possibly the most characterful, funny, and poignant documentary I’ve seen in the last few years. (Oct. 20–26, Roxie)
“Miranda July Live” Want to be part of the process that will produce Miranda July’s next film? If so, you can collaborate with her in this multimedia presentation about love, obsession, and heartbreak.
Oct. 23–24. Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida, SF. (415) 552-1990, www.sfcinematheque.org)
The Case of the Grinning Cat This 2004 film by Chris Marker receives a Bay Area premiere, screening with Junkopia, his 1981 look at a public art project in Emeryville. (Oct. 27, PFA)
The Monster Squad The folks (including Peaches Christ) behind the Late Night Picture Show say that this 1987 flick is the most underrated monster movie ever.
Oct. 27–28. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124, www.thelatenightpictureshow.com
Neighborhood Watch Résumés don’t get any better than Graeme Whifler’s — after all, he helped write the screenplay to Dr. Giggles. His rancid directorial debut brings the grindhouse gag factor to the Pacific Film Archive. (Oct. 29, PFA)
“Grindhouse Double Feature” See The Beyond with an audience of Lucio Fulci maniacs. (Oct. 30, Castro)
“Hara Kazuo” Joel Shepard programs a series devoted to Kazuo, including his 1969 film tracing the protest efforts of Okuzaki Kenzó, who slung marbles at Emperor Hirohito. (November, YBCA)
“International Latino Film Festival” This growing fest reaches a decade and counting — expect some celebrations.
Nov. 3–19. Various venues. (415) 454-4039, www.utf8ofilmfestival.org
Vegas in Space Midnight Mass makes a rare fall appearance as Peaches Christ brings back Philip Ford’s 1991 local drag science fiction gem.
Nov. 11. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124, www.thelatenightpictureshow.com
“As the Great Earth Rolls On: A Frank O’Hara Birthday Tribute” The birthday of the man who wrote “The Day Lady Died” is celebrated. Includes The Last Clean Shirt, O’Hara’s great collaboration with Alfred Leslie.
Nov. 17. California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., SF. (415) 552-1990, www.sfcinematheque.org
Sites and Silences A shout-out to A.C. Thompson for his work with Trevor Paglen on the well-titled Torture Taxi, which helped generate this multimedia presentation by Paglen. (Nov. 19, YBCA)
“Kihachiro Kawamoto” One of cinema’s ultimate puppet masters receives a retrospective. (December, YBCA)
“Silent Songs: Three Films by Nathaniel Dorsky” The SF-based poet of silent film (and essayist behind the excellent book Devotional Cinema) screens a trio of new works. (Dec. 10, YBCA)
429 Castro, SF
2575 Bancroft, Berk.
ROXIE FILM CENTER
3317 16th St., SF
YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS (YBCA)
Screening room, 701 Mission, SF
Underground Sam Green’s documentary The Weather Underground helped spark David Dorfman Dance’s ambitious new 50-minute piece about activism and terrorism, but Dorman’s own experiences growing up in ’60s Chicago during the Days of Rage are an even bigger influence. Dorfman and Green will also discuss Green’s film in a related event.
Sept. 21 and 23. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org
“Kathak at the Crossroads” Working with companies in India and Boston, Chitresh Das Dance Company has put together perhaps the biggest event ever dedicated to Kathak in this country. No better figure than the energetic, veteran Das could be at the helm of such an undertaking.
Sept. 28–30. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 333-9000, www.kathak.org
Tarantella, Tarantula The local Artship Dance/Theater, led by Slobodan Dan Paich, explores the tarantella, a dance used to ward off the poison of a tarantula bite in particular and malaises of the heart in general. This premiere is paired with a visual art exhibit based on Artship’s years of research on the subject.
Sept. 28–Oct. 8. ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., SF. (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org
King Arthur Mark Morris collaborates with the English National Opera and takes on Henry Purcell’s semiopera, giving it a vaudevillian spin, with costume design by Isaac Mizrahi. Productions in England have already been lavishly praised.
Sept. 30–Oct. 7. Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft and Telegraph, Berk. (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu
The Live Billboard Project Site-specific specialist (and Guardian Goldie winner) Jo Kreiter knows how to create a dynamic, innovative image. This time she’s doing so at the wild intersection of 24th and Mission streets (near Dance Mission, no doubt). A 10th anniversary production by Kreiter’s Flyaway company, Live Billboard Project will feature her signature aerial choreography.
Oct. 4–8. 24th St. and Mission, SF. (415) 333-8302, www.flyawayproductions.com
The Miles Davis Suite Savage Jazz Dance Company and Miles Davis is a match made in dance heaven — or whatever sphere Davis’s music reaches and thus wherever Reginald Savage’s choreography manages to follow it. If any choreographer is well suited to the late, great Davis, it’s Savage — the real question is what compositions and recordings Savage will mine.
Oct. 12–15. ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., SF. (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org
Daughters of Haumea Patrick Makuakane and Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu pay tribute to the women of ancient Hawaii. Both hula kahiko and hula mua will figure in Goldie winner Makuakane’s adaptation of a new book by Lucia Tarallo Jensen that is devoted to fisherwoman, female warriors, and high priestesses.
Oct. 21–29. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon, SF. (415) 392-4400, www.naleihulu.org
Kagemi — Beyond the Metaphors of Mirrors The visual splendor within the title only hints at what the classical-, modern-, and Butoh-trained Sankai Juku company might present in this performance; raves for the mind-bending talents of artistic director Ushio Amagatsu, and the still photos alone make this event a must-see.
Nov. 14–15. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.performances.org
“San Francisco Hip-Hop Dance Fest” You can count on Micaya to not only showcase the best hip-hop dance in the Bay Area but also to bring some of the world’s best hip-hop troupes to Bay Area stages. This year Flo-Ology, Soulsector, Funkanometry SF, and Loose Change will be representing the Bay Area, and Sanrancune/O’Trip House will be traveling all the way from Paris.
Nov. 17–19. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon, SF. (415) 392-4400, www.sfhiphopdancefest.com
Dimi (Women’s Sorrow) The all-female, Ivory Coast–based Compagnie Tché Tché is renowned for pushing dance into realms that are both visually awe-inducing and physically explosive. This piece, overseen by artistic director Beatrice Kombé, entwines the stories of four dancers.
Dec. 1–2. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org SFBG
“I Love Bugs!”
Because I am an East Coast transplant, my childhood memories are riddled with insects – from catching fireflies, swatting cicada, and burning ants with a magnifying glass. I think I might karmically owe something to the wonderful world of bugs. The folks at Habitot must have been insect-infatuated children too, because they are hosting a whole day of bug activities for kids. Get in touch with your inner exoskeleton as the Oakland Zoo presents the Zoomobile’s bug display, which includes a tarantula and walking stick. (K. Tighe)
10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Habitot Children’s Museum
2065 Kittredge, Berk
“Rebellion from the Inside”
Turns out the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was pretty punk rock: “The one who indulges in sense desires and commits wrong deeds goes with the stream,” he said over 2,500 years ago. “He who lives the pure, decent life goes against the stream.” Dharma Punx author Noah Levine espouses the “Buddhism is punk” philosophy and is the subject of a documentary film in progress, Meditate and Destroy, by local filmmaker Sarah Fisher. “Rebellion from the Inside” is a benefit for the film featuring dharma funnyman and author of Essential Crazy Wisdom, Wes Nisker, as master of ceremonies, plus music by DFTRAM, free massages, a juice bar, and veggie appetizers. (Duncan Scott Davidson)
3030A 16th St, SF
$15-$45 sliding scale
A freelance documentary filmmaker is in jail in Dublin, CA, for refusing to comply with a subpoena to turn over to federal prosecutors the out-takes of his filming of a 2005 street demonstration that turned violent. And two San Francisco Chronicle reporters are packing their bags for jail while they appeal contempt judgments for refusing to reveal to federal prosecutors their sources for evidence given the grand jury in the BALCO investigation.
If I were Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or California Chief Justice Ronald George, I would be deeply troubled by these developments—not only because of the First Amendment issues at stake, which are huge, but because these federal actions against journalists in California represent a wholesale usurpation of state sovereignty. The Bush administration, which has been justly criticized for attempting to enhance executive power at the expense of Congress, is now eviscerating states’ rights in order to expand the power of the federal government.
William Rehnquist, the conservative former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court–and intellectual champion of American “federalism”—is no doubt turning over in his grave.
California, like the District of Columbia and every other state except Wyoming, has enacted a “Shield Law” to protect the news media’s independence from government and to assure public access to information about wrongdoing in high places. (Memo to media: stay the hell out of Wyoming.) California’s Shield Law, enacted both as a statute and constitutional amendment, protects the press from subpoenas demanding access to confidential news sources and unpublished information. State shield laws, however, don’t apply in federal proceedings–and the feds have no shield law of their own.
The U.S. Justice Department, in these two California cases and others, had a choice to make: It could defer to the nearly unanimous judgment of the states, or it could decide–states’ rights be damned–that the federal government would insist on enforcement of subpoenas that would be void or illegal in nearly all state courts. It chose the latter.
And so Josh Wolf, the freelance filmmaker whose unused digital film California voters clearly meant to protect from compulsory judicial disclosure, is in jail. And Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance
Williams, the Chronicle reporters who wrote about the BALCO case, will soon be in federal detention unless the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit can be persuaded to change course.
The Justice Department’s enforcement proceedings don’t just undermine a valid state policy, they completely nullify it. This is so because reporters and their sources have no way of knowing, at the time of an interview with a source or the filming of a news event, whether a subpoena will issue from a California state court–in which case it can be safely ignored–or from a federal court, in which case it will be enforced through fines, jail, or other sanctions. Since the only safe strategy is to assume that one could end up in front of a federal judge, the state shield law is effectively voided.
To appreciate the extent of federal usurpation of state authority, imagine that the feds were disregarding, not state shield laws, but the attorney-client privilege (which is also a creature of state law). The reason for the privilege, which is recognized in all states, is to encourage people to seek legal advice and to fully disclose relevant information to their lawyers, who are bound to secrecy.
If the U.S. Justice Department took the position that the attorney-client privilege did not apply in federal proceedings, most legal clients, not being able to predict where and how their communications with their lawyer might be sought, would behave as though the states’ attorney-client privilege did not exist. They would not seek legal advice. They would not speak openly with their lawyer.
The feds’ takeover of state sovereignty is especially egregious in the Wolf case. The street demonstration that was caught on Wolf’s video camera involved self-styled anarchists who, in a July 8, 2005 rampage through downtown San Francisco, destroyed property, resisted arrest, and assaulted and injured at least one San Francisco police officer. The persons responsible most certainly should be prosecuted–in state court by state prosecutors and under state law (including the shield law).
How did this quintessentially state law matter become a big federal case? According to their pleadings in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors assert federal criminal jurisdiction based on damage to a police car, which had been purchased partly with federal assistance. I’m not joking. And the damage to the police car, which is disputed, may have been limited to a broken taillight!
Bad enough that California’s authority is neutered by the feds. Far worse that it is neutered in a case in which a genuine federal interest is nonexistent–indeed, where the putative federal interest is, patently, a pretext for an end-run around California’s shield law.
It’s time that the federal courts wised up and put an end to this. The current appeals of the Wolf and Chronicle cases to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals provide an opportunity for the federal judiciary to rein in the Bush Justice Department, reassert the primacy of state law in the area of evidentiary privilege, and highlight the importance of a news media that is–and is seen as–independent of government investigators.
Peter Scheer, a journalist and lawyer, is executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition,