Dennis Harvey

Married in Massachusetts

The doc Saving Marriage captures the firestorm after same-sex wedlock was first allowed
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REVIEW Mike Roth and John Henning's engrossing documentary chronicles the public firestorm that ensued after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex wedlock in 2003. A state constitutional amendment (loudly supported by Gov. Mitt Romney) was promptly drafted to ban it. When election time rolled around the next fall — after several months of marriage ceremonies — candidates' stance on the issue was make-or-break for many citizens. Read more »

Get rhythm

Music films highlight the 2008 Mill Valley Film Festival
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Perhaps because Marin County is the pasture to which many a semi-retired rock star got put out, the Mill Valley Film Festival has long emphasized music-related film and live performance. Now that the festival is officially over 30 (and hence untrustworthy according to ancient wisdom), MVFF '08 will wave its vintage freak flag even harder than usual.

We have seen the future of retro-rockumentary here, and it is groovy, man. Nothing dials the lysergic clock to quarter-past-wow faster than a dose of tribal-love rock. Read more »

Dirty young man

World class '70s sleaze and Nazisploitation from Italian director Tinto Brass
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The man himself would probably enjoy his artistic evolution being described as ass-backward. After a few years' absence, Italian director Tinto Brass re-emerged in the late 1970s with two world-class sleaze hits — Nazisploitation opus Salon Kitty (1976) and the notorious Penthouse-produced Caligula (1979), which he and scenarist Gore Vidal disowned (for different reasons). Thereafter he settled into glossy softcore romps whose fetish focus made him cinema's Trunk-Junk Laureate to Russ Meyer's Bard of Boob. Read more »

Black and white

A cop has rigid moral views about his neighbors in Lakeview Terrace
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REVIEW When Lisa (Kerry Washington) and Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) move into their "starter house" — since it has a three-car garage, sizable pool, sweeping hillside view, and god knows how many bedrooms, perhaps they ultimately plan to buy a castle — it seems a plus that their next-door neighbor is a policeman. Unfortunately, LAPD officer Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) has a rather heavy-handed sense of justice both on and off-duty. A widower who keeps his two children on a tight disciplinary leash, he has very specific ideas about what's right and wrong. Read more »

The filth and the fury

Obscene chronicles one man's lifelong crusade against censorship
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Apologies to all Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville fans out there, but the American novel didn't get good until it shook off the last vestiges of Puritanism and risked a certain shock factor. It wasn't just the authors pushing potentially offensive social-realist (Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair) or unflattering social-elite-portraiture boundaries (Edith Wharton, Henry James, etc.) who made the upstart nation's lit suddenly comparable to the Old World's new output. Read more »

"Riot on Sunset Strip" film series

Flash back to L.A. in the '60s
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PREVIEW Break out your go-go boots for this four-day flashback to Los Angeles' 1960s experience hosted by Dominic Priore, author of Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood and Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece. Read more »

Space is the race

Sputnik Mania is a hot look at the Cold War
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When conservatives wax nostalgic for a family-values America that liberals are hell bent on destroying forever, they're basically talking about the 1950s — that last oasis of prosperity for guiltless acquisitiveness, formulaic gender roles, and general agreement not to discuss any round peg not fitting into a square hole. Read more »

"Kenny"

Eating shit while charming pants off in this Brit mockumentary
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REVIEW This first feature by the Jacobson brothers — director Clayton and leading actor Shane, also coscenarists — is about a beleaguered working-class stiff. His disgraceful (to everyone but him) job is delivering and maintaining rental portaloos (read: portable toilets) to various public events, many attracting patrons who can't keep their aim straight or food down. Kenny has a bratty son, a vicious ex-wife, unreliable coworkers, an endlessly criticizing father, and myriad other woes. Read more »

Testimonies

The SF Jewish Film Festival takes on fascism in Italy
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Italy seldom figures much in Holocaust studies, as its Jewish population was relatively small (just under 50,000) and only about one-fifth failed to survive the war — even after far more anti-Semitic German occupiers and policies wrested power from Benito Mussolini in 1943.

But statistically limited evil is still evil. Italian (even papal) complicity in crimes against Jewry has weighed more heavily on the national conscience lately, if a recent spate of meditations on the subject in various media is any indication. Read more »

Orphan storm

The SF Silent Film Fest takes on the motherless and fatherless child
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The orphan was a staple figure in silent cinema. She or he evoked the pathos required in sentimental melodramas, and also highlighted a prevalent social problem. The predicament wasn't that orphans existed so much as that orphanages did. Dickensian clichés of wicked minders profiting from the ill-keeping of abused and undernourished charges were often not far from the truth.

The notion that flowers of pure innocence might spring from this kind of environmental mire was a popular dramatic conceit. Read more »