Pixel Vision

Gods and mom-sters: the week's new films

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This week: August: Osage County (bumped from its previously-scheduled opening last week) unleashes 2014's first bolt of LOOK AT ME I'M ACTING! Other choices you have while you count down to the Golden Globes (Sunday night) and the Oscar nominations (next Thursday) include Ralph Fiennes' latest actor-director turn in Charles Dickens tale The Invisible Woman; Mark Wahlberg's Navy SEALs drama Lone Survivor; and Renny Harlin's CG'd-up action-tacular The Legend of Hercules.

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Hole Lotta Love: Saturday night at SOMArts!

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A pit under the floor becomes a wellspring for 100 performances over six hours at SOMArts this Saturday night
 
There’s a hole under the gallery floor at SOMArts. And art abhors a vacuum.

This century-old sand casting pit rests under a trap door, a leftover of the 17,000-square-foot venue’s industrial past. But this weekend the hatch is lifted and the hole becomes a generative site of time-based art making. Six hours will see more than 150 local artists delivering two-minute performances “for the hole” in a mini-marathon like no other.

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Cage heat: salute the screen icon's 50th bday!

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Oscar-winning actor (for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas), cultural curiosity (for his Superman and Elvis obsessions, tax troubles, hair, etc.), Coppola family member (Francis Ford is his uncle), meme generator, and cult icon Nicolas Cage is about to become a half-century man. And what better way to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of the most predictably unpredictable movie stars of all time than by checking out a pair of his movies?

Tomorrow (NC's actual bday: Jan. 7), Midnites for Maniacs unspools a pair of Cage classics, starting with his breakout role as a totally tripandicular Hollywood punk mooning after the title character in 1983's Valley Girl. This movie has it all: a killer soundtrack, terrible-amazing hair and fashions, the immortal EG Daily, and maybe the best prom scene in the 1980s teen-movie canon. We melt with you, Nic.

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The Performant: Epochalypse Now

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Embracing the great unknown
 
While it could be argued that every day represents a new year, with each date falling exactly one year after the last, like unconscious clockwork, there’s something comforting in the ritual of observing the change in calendar year en masse. A time to take accounts, and make new goals. A time of psychic housekeeping: ridding oneself of the spiritual and mental detritus of the past, in order to make space for a future as yet undefined.

All of which is on my mind as I prepare to bang out my last Performant, at least for the time being. During the last three-and-a-half years I’ve witnessed hundreds of performances, featuring thousands of performers, in venues large and small, each one a brief, incandescent flame feeding into a bonfire of epic creativity. House concerts, punk shows, spoken word, street festivals, performance art meditations, live comedy, high drag camp, amateur wrestling competitions, robot soccer, battle rap, obscure cinema, alternative dance, home theater, and circus arts have all found a place in the Performant, proving, I hope, that just as borders geographical and psychological can be transcended, so too can artistic ones.

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The Performant: To Boldly Go

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Resurrecting the Exquisite Corpse
 
Welcome to the Starship Dental Prize. A vessel so intrepid it dares to probe the darkest, dankest folds of outer space, not to mention the incandescent snarls of surrealistic whimsy. Fish. Squonk. Celine Dion. Her stalwart crew includes a sassy computer powered by illogic (Becky Hirschfeld), a vodka-swilling ensign Anton Anton (Bryce Byerley), psychic science officer Mentoo Fractosa (Chandler White), and a pelvic-thrust obsessed captain Oliver Clozoffe (Jody Frandle). Her mission, undetermined. Her story, as yet unwritten.

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Joy to the stage: Smuin Ballet's 'The Christmas Ballet' is a tradition worth keeping

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Smuin Ballet's The Christmas Ballet, which the late choreographer Michael Smuin premiered in 1995, has earned its spot among the myriad of Bay Area holiday entertainments. This year's opening night at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts — performances run through Dec. 28 — was packed with a casually dressed yet festive crowd of all ages, including grandparents with their elementary school age charges. (Gratefully absent were the toddlers that flood ballet performances). It was probably the most diverse and receptive audience an evening of ballet can muster these days.

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The Burning Man Project's boring bait-and-switch

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In a series of stories earlier this year, I outlined how the board that controls Burning Man doesn’t appear to be “relinquishing our control” over the event, as founder Larry Harvey announced would be happening in 2014. Read more »

The Performant: Sleep No More

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Upon reaching the fifth floor of the California Institute of Integral Studies, a wall of makeshift web diagrams asks arriving oddience members to detail what the longest amount of time they went without sleep was, and what do they tell themselves to get through stress. The average appears to be around 36 hours — which is about as long as I can boast — but no responders quite match the Guinness Book record of 449 hours held by Maureen Weston, nor even to the 60 hours that Mugwumpin, creators of performative “occurrences,” intend to stay awake in this, its last presentation of the year, Asomnia.

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SF Sketchfest posted its schedule today! (Spoiler: it's awesome)

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Dudes! Nerds! Pedro-voters! SF Sketchfest 2014 posted its complete schedule today, unveiling over 200 shows to be held in 20 venues from Jan. 23-Feb. 9. Over the past 13 years, the fest has exploded from humble local offering to one of the most popular comedy events in the country, luring the biggest names in the biz — as well as cult comedy heroes — to town.

Tickets go on sale Sun/15 at 10am, and since SF Sketchfest is P.O.P.U.L.A.R., you won't want to delay if something in the line-up catches your eye. (Pro-tip: though the festival does contain sketch shows, it also has music, film screenings, live recordings of pod casts, panel discussions, lots of tributes, and more.) You want guidance? Highlights? Best bets and sleeper hits? Read on!

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Dragons and drag: new movies from Peter Jackson and Tyler Perry, plus more!

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Breathe easy, halfling: the middle installment in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy is a huge improvement over the first film. Also new this week: Emma Thompson turns in a cranky-yet-lovable performance as the woman who wrote Mary Poppins in Saving Mr. Banks (with Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney); Liev Schreiber battles oddly familiar space monsters in The Last Days on Mars; and Tyler Perry celebrates the holidays as only he can, with A Madea Christmas. Read on for reviews and trailers.

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