Dennis Harvey

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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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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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 »

In a Dream

Zagar's feature has a subject that's not just close to home, it's in his home
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REVIEW Jeremiah Zagar's feature has a subject that's not just close to home, it's in his home: father Isaiah is an eccentric artist who's created extraordinary mosaics covering myriad walls, rooms, and several entire buildings in Philadelphia. Julia, his wife of 43 years, views herself as the necessary "reality base" to his "crazy, self-absorbed but amiable ... rare flower." Isaiah is a bit of an exhibitionist, his art a "journal of my life" that might easily embarrass family members less accustomed to his idiosyncracies. Read more »

Diamond in the rough

Sugar defies baseball-movie cliches -- and builds, almost unnoticeably, to exhilarating effect
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Co-writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made their feature debut in 2006 with Half Nelson, a movie with an iffy concept — an at-risk Brooklyn middle school student discovers her teacher is a part-time crackhead but they become best buds anyway — somehow rendered utterly plausible. That same keen sense of atmospheric and character detail, as well as resistance to sensationalism or cliché, is on display again in their new film, Sugar. Read more »

Visceral reality

Art and horror converge in Brit director Steve McQueen's uncompromising Hunger
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Already a veteran Irish Republican Army volunteer serving his second penitentiary term at age 27, Bobby Sands was leader of Republican prisoners at HM Prison Maze, a.k.a. Long Kesh, outside Belfast in 1981. Early that year he commenced a hunger strike joined by numerous other inmates, an action intended to define IRA incarcerates as political rather than criminal prisoners while boosting international attention for the independence cause.

After 66 days, he was the first of 10 participants to die. Read more »

Kennedy, compounded

A new film imagines Vietnam if Kennedy had lived
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HYPOTHETICALLY SPEAKING It's chaos theory's maxim that the mere brush of a butterfly's wings might produce a ripple effect sufficient to changes history. But let's face it: it's more interesting to muse upon the big what-ifs, like assassination attempts. What if Lincoln or Archduke Ferdinand had survived? What if Reagan hadn't?

Are such speculations actually useful, or just a glorified party game? Clearly Koji Masutani thinks it's the former, since he's gone to the trouble of making Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived. Read more »