Dennis Harvey

Constructing change

Despite bureaucratic frustrations, an innovative high-school program elevates lives in 'If You Build It'

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Two of the most deep-rooted national-character-defining American tropes are a) that we are a profoundly self-reliant people, and b) the Horatio Alger myth that anyone can go from "rags to riches" if they have a good heart and a tireless work ethic.Read more »

England made him

A Michael York tribute highlights this year's Mostly British Film Festival

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Mann up

PFA lures Anthony Mann's crime noirs out of the shadows

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Global tension

Noir City 12 widens its focus — but it still ain't afraid of the dark

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A tale of two

Actor-director Ralph Fiennes brings Dickens' love life into focus

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FILM No one reads Uncle Tom's Cabin today — Harriet Beecher Stowe's enormously popular novel that almost single-handedly tilted public opinion against slavery enough to support the Civil War — for anything but historical-footnote interest. Yet fellow 19th-century celebrity author Charles Dickens, who had nearly as direct and significant a reformist influence across the Atlantic, is still ubiquitous.Read more »

Bad company

Stage hit 'August: Osage County' loses potency on the big screen
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All that glitters

David O. Russell's 'American Hustle' delivers a giddy caper elevated by memorable performances

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM If longer were better, this would be the platinum era of movies. Never before have so many mainstream releases staggered toward or beyond the two-and-a-half-hour mark once reserved for the truly epic — in storytelling breadth, not just in fight scenes, expensive CGI effects, or simple directorial inability to say "when."Read more »

3-2-1 contact

Journey into Unarius with 'Children of the Stars'

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM El Cajon — between balmy coastal San Diego and arid desert mountains to the east — is just the sort of place where the dream of California living came true for a lot of industrious working-class people in the post-World War II boom years. It's also where their boomer children and generation-next grandkids are currently seeing that dream slowly expire.Read more »

La ho-hum vita

'The Great Beauty' has style, but doesn't live up to the hype

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FILM Paolo Sorrentino has only been directing features for 12 years, so perhaps it's premature to expect a masterpiece from him — although he probably doesn't think so. Amid generally tepid post-millennium Italian cinema, he's been consistently ambitious and bold, from 2001's One Man Up onward. That facility has won a lot of acclaim (most notably for 2008's Il Divo), but also attracted a certain amount of skepticism: Is he more style than substance? What does he have to say?Read more »

Life's work

Desperation breeds determination in 'Dallas Buyers Club'

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Beware Canadians — they may walk softly, but they carry a big hockey stick. The country next door has always had a bigger influence on American life than generally thought, especially at the movies. Mary Pickford, the medium's first superstar, was Canadian; so, a century later, are Ryans Gosling and Reynolds, Jim Carrey, Ellen Page, Rachel McAdams, and Seth Rogen. Canadians have directed a lot of seemingly very American films, from 1982's Porky's to this year's Prisoners.Read more »