Dennis Harvey

Band of blabbers

Quentin Tarrantino's chatty war epic Inglourious Basterds
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With Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarantino pulls off something that seemed not only impossible, but undesirable, and surely unnecessary: making yet another of his in-jokey movies about other movies, albeit one that also happens to be kinda about the Holocaust — or at least Jews getting their own back on the Nazis during World War II — and (the kicker) is not inherently repulsive. As Rube Goldbergian achievements go, this is up there. Read more »

This is your film on drugs

THE DRUG ISSUE: One film critic's top movie freakout scenes
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

Movies and drugs were made for each other — depiction-wise that is, beyond experience-enhancing audience and creativity-enhancing (or canceling) maker usage. Too bad legality and morality so frequently messed with that perfect union. Herewith a highly selective, hardly definitive list of the medium's

resulting greatest freakouts. Read more »

G'day sleaze!

Not Quite Hollywood gives Aussie genre movies their overdue due
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In the late 1970s Australia suddenly looked like the new mecca for cinematic art, as movies like My Brilliant Career (1979), The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and Breaker Morant (1980)achieved unprecedented international critical and commercial success.

Those award-bait films are pointedly mentioned just in passing, for contrast, in Not Quite Hollywood, which is about all the other movies from Down Under during that period — those the tourist boards and arts councils preferred you did Read more »

Summer of '69

Easy Rider marks 40 years of road trippin'.
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When Dylan wrote "Forever Young," he surely didn't reckon on something that would make even the most yoga-limbered original hippie feel old: Easy Rider turning 40. But it just did, an occasion commemorated by the restored print playing the Red Vic this week. Read more »

Yoo-hoo, Gertrude Berg!

A new doc honors a forgotten sitcom star from the early years of television
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Even ginormous pop phenomena disappear from the collective consciousness faster than seemed possible during their heyday. Still, it's surprising that The Goldbergs doesn't loom larger in television history or general cultural awareness.

Admittedly, the show's heyday came in TV's early years as a mass medium. In 1949, when it commenced as a CBS half-hour, there were about 1 million television sets in use here. By 1954, at its run's end, nearly three-quarters of U.S. households owned their own boob tube. Read more »

Celluloid Nation

A History of Israeli Cinema chronicles just that
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Unsurprisingly, Israeli films have been a big part of each San Francisco Jewish Film Festival program from the beginning. Yet despite that annual local sampling, occasional theatrical exports, and Oscar's devotion (seven Israeli features have been nominated for Best Foreign Film so far, including 2008's highway-robbery loser Waltz with Bashir), the general narrative of how that industry got where it is today has remained hazy. Read more »

In the Loop

A comedy of behind-the-scenes backstabbing and its direct influence on the highest-level diplomatic and military policies
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REVIEW A typically fumbling remark by U.K. Minister of International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) ignites a media firestorm, since it seems to suggest war is imminent even though Brit and U.S. governments are downplaying the likelihood of the Iraq invasion they're simultaneously preparing for. Read more »

Mumblecorenography

What was that, again? Humpday's hot dude-on-dude inaction
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Nervous or slightly guilty laughter is a typical soundtrack to any fear that dare not say its name. It's not reading too deep to call the recent bromantic comedy explosion one conspicuous way in which Straight Male America is covertly coming to squirmy terms with a brave new gay = OK world.

I Love You Man, Superbad (2007), I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007), and so on provide sugar-coated therapy, allowing a youngish straight male audience to titter at the faux-mosexuality of Peter Pans with growing pains. Read more »

Poetry in (stop-) motion

$9.99 mixes animated images with serious themes -- and offers up the Meaning of Life
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

The bizarre news that the Academy Awards, which previously gave us such Best Picture nominees as Hello, Dolly! (1969) and The Towering Inferno (1974), will be boosting that category's nominations back to a pre-1944 quota of 10 has induced much skepticism. For starters, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is now an actual contender. Boosters claim this will make room for more indies, foreign titles, and documentaries, usually slighted because they don't have major studios' voting blocs and campaign funds behind them. Read more »

San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Minus the speaking voice, but hardly muzzled
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PREVIEW According to (disputed) legend, the 1944 death of 36-year-old Lupe Velez was far from glamorous, yet had classic Hollywood form: face-down in the toilet, choked on the pills she was regurgitating in a suicide attempt that succeeded, albeit not as planned. That sad end — she was despondent over a married lover and their unborn child — provided high contrast with her live-wire persona on and off-screen. The latter included high-drama involvements with legendary hunks Gary Cooper and Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller. Read more »