Pixel Vision

Can't-miss treats at the upcoming SF Street Food Fest

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The smells of deliciousness were overwhelming. Where do we start?!

As Sam Love and I wandered around the La Cocina media preview for August 17's San Francisco Street Food Festival, everywhere we looked there were delightful taste treats, colorful, fresh and also deep fried. I'll take four of each, thank you.

We made the rounds, chatting with fantastic chefs who are living their dreams, whipping up flavors from around the world. We tried everything and, while we enjoyed it all, becoming clean plate champions many times over, there were three highlights that made our short list. If you don't have the stomach to make it to all the vendors at the Street Food Festival, we'd recommend trying these first:

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Woody does SF in "Blue Jasmine" ... plus more new movies!

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Remember that brief, exciting period last year when Woody Allen sightings were being breathlessly reported on 'round town, particularly in the Mission? Here's your chance to see Allen's take on San Francisco (it ain't exactly glossy) in Blue Jasmine, which boasts a stellar performance by likely Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett as someone you would not want to have as a houseguest. Dennis Harvey's take on the film here.

Also opening today: a doc about Napster, a so-so biopic of political theorist Hannah "Banality of Evil" Arendt, an action flick for Denzel Washington completists, and likely Oscar nominee (um...) Smurfs 2. What can I say...if you're not a Woody Allen fan, it's kind of a slower week. Read on for short reviews.

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Baring all: Red Hots Burlesque presents “Burlesque and WHY”

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Red Hots Burlesque — the longest running queer burlesque show in the country, according to founder and producer Dottie Lux — moves out of the bars and into the theater with Burlesque and WHY (The Naked Truth), a show-and-tell built around the biographies and personalities of its performers, an eclectic group of burlesque artists comprised of Dottie Lux, the Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins, Magnoliah Black, Lay-Si Luna, Alexa Von Kickinface, and Burlesque Hall of Famer Ellion Ness. It runs through Sun/4 at StageWerx.

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The Performant: Brave Old World

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Tweaking tradition with Minor Empire and Thingamajigs

There are as many roads down the path of “world music” as there are countries represented within that nebulous category. And while there’re still plenty of purists adhering strictly to the musical traditions of the past, it’s just as common for today’s world musicians to use those traditions as a kind of jumping-off point for their compositions, in much the same way that the 12-bar blues have been the foundation for numerous offshoots of “American” music.

A good example of this conscious hybridization between past and present, old word and new, is Toronto-based Turkish-Canadian combo Minor Empire, who blend sinuous Eastern folk tunes with Western jazz-jam, desert rock, and pulsing electronica, providing multiple entrance points to their specific sound.

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Counterpoint: an appreciation of 'The Lone Ranger'

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Warning: slight spoilers ahead.

I will say it and I will say it loudly: Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger is perhaps the most subversive Hollywood film since Paul Verhoeven's still misunderstood sci-fi masterpiece, Starship Troopers (1997).

Not only does this sneaky, revisionist epic attempt to recontextualize the history of Western films, screenwriters Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio — working directly from Zane Grey's 1915 novel The Lone Star Ranger — have designed an ambitious journey through America's tainted, tattered history. And like Starship Troopers, the combination of ruthless "all-American" violence, ironic historical references, and off-beat slapstick comedy give The Lone Ranger legs that audiences will get to uncover for decades to come. (Sadly it will have to happen after the film leaves US theaters this week.) Read more »

SF Jewish Film Festival, Hugh Jackman, killer whales, and more: new movies!

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This week: the 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival takes off with screenings all over the Bay Area; check out my take on some of the documentary selections here. Also, the harrowing documentary Blackfish opens, a film that will make you never want to visit SeaWorld again (with good reason). My interview with the film's director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, here.

Elsewhere, Hollywood hopes you're ready for yet more claw-bearing Hugh Jackman (in The Wolverine), Danish actor Mads Mikklesen shines as a falsely-accused man in The Hunt; indie darling Andrew Bujalski delivers what may be his finest film to date with Computer Chess; a majorly great/bad/quotable/mind-blowing cult film plays the Clay's midnight series; and more. Read on for our short takes.

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The Performant: Roll Out the Barrel

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At Nerd Nite, beer + nerds = fun

One of beer’s most intriguing qualities is that it’s an incredibly easy elixir to get nerdy about. In fact, it’s almost like a double gateway — attracting regular folk to the wide wonderful world of microbiology and science-minded folk to the bar scene. What’s more, beer as a social catalyst has been bringing people together for possibly over 10,000 years and is the third most popular beverage in the world after water and tea, providing plenty of opportunity for historical insight and cultural exchange.  All of which made hosting a beer-tasting event at San Francisco’s 38th edition of Nerd Nite kind of a no-brainer … except with brains. Read more »

Run, Chewie, run: Star Wars fashions fly at 'Run the Course'

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Many people say that the Star Wars movies are phenomenal, and I’m sure that if I’d seen any of them, I’d agree. Although I don’t know much about the series, there is one thing I do know – the fashion of Star Wars fans is vastly underrated.

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Silent films, racing snails, haunted houses, and more in weekend movies!

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Those long, well-dressed lines wrapping around the Castro Theatre signal the advent of the annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, now in its 18th year and popular as ever. Though the fest opened last night, programming continues through the weekend; check out my take on some of the films (including one of tonight's selections, 1928 rom-com The Patsy) here.

Elsewhere, in first-run and rep theaters, it's a robust week for openings. There's something for nearly every age and appetite (plus a few recommendations on what to avoid) in the short reviews below.

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Brutal murder, wrenching trial: HBO's must-see doc "The Cheshire Murders"

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It was, people said, Connecticut's version of the In Cold Blood murders. In July 2007, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, were murdered by a pair of strangers — Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who'd picked the family at random — while patriarch William Petit lay bound and beaten in the basement of their suburban home. He survived; the women perished either at the hands of their attackers or in the fire the men set to cover their tracks.

Clearly, the bare facts of the case — which took place in Cheshire, Conn., a bedroom community near New York City — are horrific enough, without considering any of its other elements. But The Cheshire Murders, created for HBO's Summer Documentary Series by married filmmaking team Kate Davis and David Heilbroner (2010's Stonewall Uprising), reveals that the deaths may have been preventable if only police had intervened; a frantic bank teller dialed 911 after observing a frightened Jennifer Petit withdrawing a large sum of money for the waiting Hayes. Or, perhaps the family would have been spared if Komisarjevsky and Hayes, men with long rap sheets, had been more closely monitored by their parole officers and drug counselors — or had received better mental-health care during their respective troubled childhoods.

But all the "what if" scenarios in the world can't restore three lives — or fill the void felt by those they left behind. Using revealing interviews that explore the many facets of the case, deft editing, and a sensitive yet questioning tone, The Cheshire Murders is a both thought-provoking and disturbing viewing experience. I spoke with Davis and Heilbroner ahead of the film's Mon/22 HBO debut. Read more »