Dennis Harvey

O.G. sleaze

The glory of 1978's Inglorious Bastards
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

A full range of involuntary facial-muscle responses have already been triggered by the trailer to Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, which premieres at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. First 2008's Valkyrie, now this: Brad Pitt's Tennessee-hills-bred Lt. Read more »

CounterCorp Anti-Corporate Film Festival

An apt alternative-entertainment prelude to Memorial Day
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PREVIEW Moving in its fourth year from autumn to an early summer slot, San Francisco's CounterCorp Anti-Corporate Film Festival now provides an apt alternative-entertainment prelude to Memorial Day — because what, after all, is more patriotic these days than asking the question, "What are we fighting for?" Fittingly, the opener is about Big Oil. Sandy Cioffi (who'll be present) at one point spent five days in the custody of Nigerian security forces while making Sweet Crude, an investigation of Shell Oil Corp. Read more »

From the shadows

"Ow, ya got me!" "I Wake Up Dreaming" celebrates rare, plutonium-hot noir
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

The cheapest special effect in the world is having one actor fire a cap gun as another cries, "Ow, ya got me!" Ergo crime did pay, in spades, for Hollywood's "Poverty Row" studios in the disillusioned years between World War II and Eisenhower-era prosperity. Subsequently dubbed "film noir," this period's myriad violent melodramas were cranked out fast, exhibited briefly, then forgotten.

Yet recent years have left very few stones unturned in the quest for buried gems. Read more »

On the (closet) case

Kirby Dick's Outrage aims to have an explosive breaking-news impact
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While gay rights have been a hot political button for a solid three decades-plus now, there is at least one arena in American life where the issue remains hush-hush: the corridors of actual political power. Such is the thesis — or rather accusation — of Kirby Dick's new documentary, which wants to light a shaming agitative fire like his last one (2006 MPAA expose This Film Is Not Yet Rated), and with any luck will do so. His subject is the bizarre, undiminished existence of top U.S. Read more »

Sita Sings the Blues

A blatantly autobiographical tale of romantic woe and the mythological travails of Sita, beloved of the noble Rama
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REVIEW A few years ago, independent animator and comic strip artist Nina Paley left San Francisco for India, where her boyfriend had found employment. A while later, during a visit home, she received a surprise, brusque communication from the bf informing her she need not return — the relationship was over. Just what the bf ultimately got out of this episode is unknown. Read more »

Pretzeled logic

Filmmaker Kate Churchill overshadows her subject in Enlighten Up!
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

Ever since Michael Moore first attempted to meld Woody Allen and Ralph Nader, and Morgan Spurlock made himself the genially comic-lite host of an experiment in culinary consumerism, more and more documentarians have been tempted to star in their own movies. This is dangerous terrain, given that whenever one introduces the Element of Me into examination of a larger issue, Me tends to hog the spotlight. Read more »

Lymelife

Do we really need another dysfunctional-family flashback with the requisite retro pop hits, pot smoking, awkward virginity loss, and nostalgically horrible decor?
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REVIEW It's 1979, and disco isn't the only thing that sucks for Long Island teen Scott (Rory Culkin). Bullies at school beat up his skinny 15-year-old ass; girl next door Adrianna (Emma Roberts) likes him, but "like a brother." Housewife mom Brenda (Jill Hennessy), neglected by real estate magnate spouse Mickey (Alec Baldwin), has gone kinda crazy. Buying into the paranoia around deer-tick-carried Lyme disease, she won't let Scott go outside without duct-taping shut all worrisome gaps in his clothing. Read more »

SFIFF: Shots in the dark

Short takes on SFIFF
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THURS/23

La Mission (Peter Bratt, USA, 2009) A veteran S.F. vato turned responsible — if still muy macho — widower, father, and Muni driver, 46-year-old Che (Benjamin Bratt) isn't the type for mushy displays of sentiment. But it's clear his pride and joy is son Jess (Jeremy Ray Valdez), a straight-A high school grad bound for UCLA. Read more »

SFIFF: Tune boon

Before there was Barney or Raffi -- catchy ditties and dino-riffs at SFIFF
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

Before there was Barney or Raffi, the answer to the question, "Who is most responsible for songs most likely to make children sing and push their parents to the very brink of sanity?" was most likely "the Sherman brothers." It might have been enough for Robert and Richard Sherman to write "Supercalifragiliciousexpialidocious," "It's a Small World," and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," each of which when heard once — let alone a zillion times — became instantly imprinted on the DNA of several juvenile generations. Read more »

Fiends, eyepatches, and femmes fatales

Cinemapocalypse unleashes a Texas cinema massacre
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The cause of showing neglected old films on 35 mm — that vanishing format — is one recently taken up by a number of local presenters, including the Film on Film Foundation and Midnites for Maniacs. We're not alone in that pursuit, with one notable purveyor of vintage esoteria on celluloid being Austin, Texas' Alamo Drafthouse. Read more »