Dennis Harvey

Lovejoy and company

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"Think about the children!"

That cry, most memorably a mantra for Reverend Lovejoy's wife, Helen, on The Simpsons, encapsulates the pervasive movement to childproof American life. Parents no longer have the time, will, or ability (so they claim) to properly censor all aspects of culture their kids might be exposed to, so a rising chorus demands the government do it for them.

Yet these efforts only underline the scattershot nature of an institutional overview of today's wide-open mediascape. Read more »

Take it sleazy

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CULT FILM Erstwhile cofounder of San Francisco's late, lamented Werepad — a "beatnik space lounge" (among other things) — Jacques Boyreau, also a filmmaker (Candy Von Dewd), lives in Portland, Ore., these days. But he's dropping into town again with a characteristic surprise package in the form of the Supertrash Peepshow at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Read more »

Scary Larry

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Nature enjoyed rebelling against arrogant, polluting humankind in the paranoid ecosploitation cinema of the 1970s: Prophecy, Phase IV, Frogs, Sssssss, The Food of the Gods, and even the Oscar-winning fake documentary The Hellstrom Chronicle all suggested Mother Nature was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Back then, though, nature was just bitching within safe fantasy confines. Read more »

Tough turf

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CULT FILM "WAAAR-ee-erzzz — come out to PLAAY-ee-ay!" This catchphrase, first spoken in an annoyingly unforgettable singsong (and supposedly improvised) by actor David Patrick Kelly, has infiltrated pop culture to the extent that it's been sampled or mimicked by musicians from Twisted Sister to the Wu-Tang Clan to the Offspring. If you don't know — how could you not? — it's from The Warriors, Walter Hill's 1979 urban action joyride. Read more »

Fall Arts: Popcorn -- and human pies

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1. Across the Universe Stage visionary (The Lion King) turned occasional film director (Titus, Frida) Julie Taymor's latest attracted advance attention of the wrong kind. Revolution Studios found her final cut of this Vietnam War–<\d>era musical drama — whose characters break into Beatles songs — too surreal and abstract, reediting it without her consent. Read more »

Might makes wrong

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A couple of years ago, filmmaker Thom Anderson remarked to me that all films about war, even those that aim to show its injustice, are prowar.Read more »

Festival Guide

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The opening-night selection at the Jewish Film Festival is Israeli writer-director Dror Shaul's worldwide prizewinner, Sweet Mud. It views 1974 kibbutz life from a 12-year-old's perspective, but don't expect rosy childhood nostalgia. Read more »

Silent voice

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When US moviemaking started out, it was an enterprise disreputable enough to attract the wrong sort of people: get-rich-quick speculators, third-tier theater folk, organized crime, and even — god forbid — Jews. The last rose to pilot most major studios as Hollywood became a gigantic industry. Yet this alleged Jewish mafia (a term still not fully retired in some circles) seldom used wealth and imagistic power to integrate fellow Jews into the cultural mainstream. Read more »

Tune in, turn on, "Psych-Out"

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CULT FILM Some movies define a generation. Some distort a generation. Very special ones manage both. Welcome to the genius of Psych-Out, a 1968 American International Pictures epic (produced by none other than squeaky-clean American Bandstand icon Dick Clark) that remains perhaps the all-time high-water mark in cinematic hippiesploitation.

Oh, Psych-Out, Psych-Out, Psych-Out! How many times have I loved your psychedelic excesses since that fateful first viewing in the 1980s at Boston's annual Schlock-around-the-Clock marathon? Read more »

Cemetery gates

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Perhaps the only nonzombie movie in recent memory in which the dead outnumber the living, Colma: The Musical did not appear to be a hot prospect when it premiered at last year's San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. A musical suburban-youth angstfest made locally on a shoestring, starring and produced by no one you've heard of? A movie originally intended to be an indie concept album and a stage show? Read more »