Pixel Vision

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 »

The Performant: Parts is Parts

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FoolsFURY’s Factory Parts Builds a Future for Ensemble Works

Ever ambitious, the process-oriented foolsFURY theater ensemble has added yet another performance series to its production calendar: "Factory Parts," focusing on works-in-development from fellow ensemble companies from both coasts.

Structured like a lower-key version of its biennial festival of ensemble theater, "The FURY Factory," "Factory Parts" brings together ten companies to present segments of unfinished works before an audience (and each other) to gain perspective on how to shape them for the future. Broken up into three separate programs each showing three times over the course of ten days, Factory Parts offers artists and audiences alike to get in on the ground floor of a production’s existence and offer insight and feedback to the companies involved, turning what would normally be behind-the-scenes workshopping into a form of participatory theatergoing.

I caught up with foolsFURY’s associate artistic director Debórah Eliezer to get the inside scoop on the series, which opens tonight.

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Labors of love

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Los Angeles's Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras makes common cause with Santa Rosa's the Imaginists

(Note: what follows is an extended version of a story and interview that appears in this week's Guardian.)

A white passenger van pulls to the curb in a largely residential Spanish-speaking neighborhood in Santa Rosa, discharging a group of Latino men and women at the door of a converted warehouse. The visitors vary by age, class, and education. All hail from Mexico or Central America, but more recently Los Angeles, where they're among the cities thousands of jornaleros, or day laborers, making their way job by job, often without secure documentation, or much security of any kind.
Standing beside the warehouse on this quiet street, they could be mistaken for an ad hoc work crew. But the warehouse is a theater, and this sunny afternoon in June is the culmination of a precious week off. Not that these men and women aren't here in Santa Rosa to work — just this time it's on a play.

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'Fruitvale Station' opens! Plus, giant monsters, giant robots, and more new movies!

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This week marks the opening of Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station, a moving look at Oscar Grant's final hours; it's an especially important film for Bay Area residents, but will likely have nationwide impact. Check out my interview with rookie writer-director Ryan Coogler here.

And, as always, there's more. SO MUCH MORE. Emily Savage writes about Peaches Christ's campy, vampy, celeb-filled tribute (Sat/13 at the Castro!) to 1996 cult classic The Craft here.

PLUS! Pacific Rim's giant robot vs. giant monster smackdown, a 3D surfing doc, and all the rest, after the jump.

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Nothing could be more super duper than 'So Super Duper'

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On Saturday evening in the Castro at 7pm, quite possibly one of the gayest things ever will occur, as queer comics artist Brian Andersen debuts his colorful new teen-friendly, straight-friendly, unabashedly queer So Super Duper volume, which stars "a little gay empathic hero (he can read emotions) named Psyche who doesn't quite know he's gay yet – even though it's painfully obvious to everyone around him."

It is so cute. And gloriously upping the pink quotient at the book launch, nationally televised diva Jason Brock will be hitting some high notes (he basically ruled the Bike Music Festival a few weeks back). Comics, superheroes, man-divas: It's a gaysplosion.

I asked the infectiously smiley Brian to talk a little about the So Super Duper's inspiration, and he had some very interesting things to say about being a proud femme-y gay guy in a world of macho stereotypes. 

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I see pugs, I see France...

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Vive Le Pug! isn't your average dog park get-together — it's a French revolution-themed party for pug lovers and their pups, with food, wine, and activities for both four- and two-legged friends. The festivities benefit Central Coast Pug Rescue, which is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming of unwanted, abused, displaced, and neglected pugs, regardless of their age or condition.

The event is on Bastille Day — Sun/14, naturellement — and although the event focuses on raising money for pugs, it's open to all breeds, so bring out your Air Buds and Scooby Doos, too. "We're a very open society," Layne Gray, one of the event coordinators, said. "The event is for pugs, but we're lovers of all dogs."

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