FALL ARTS In 2010, I wrote a long piece on what Hollywood had in store for fall, and relegated rep houses to a shorter sidebar. But after a summer which produced exactly one truly great wide release (that'd be Attack the Block), and eye-bleeding amounts of unnecessary 3D, a switcheroo seemed only fair.
Artists' Television Access (www.atasite.org;  www.othercinema.com ) Escape Valencia Street's hipster-foodie menace by supporting ATA, home of Craig Baldwin's subversive Other Cinema (fall season begins in Sept.) Also look out for the latest "Mission Eye & Ear," spotlighting local film/video and music collaborations (Sept. 16).
Castro (www.castrotheatre.com ; www.midnitesformaniacs.com ) This majestic joint won a 2011 Best of the Bay award for a reason: anything screened here feels like a special event. Fall notables include a tribute to Tony Soprano's favorite actor ("Cary Grant: Definitive Star," Aug. 31-Sept. 6) and what's possibly Jesse Hawthorne Ficks' most insane Midnites for Maniacs season to date, with in-person tributes to Edgar Wright (Fri/26) and Joe Dante (Oct. 7) in the mix. Marc Huestis hosts a pre-Halloween gala screening of The Bad Seed (1956) with star Patty "Braids of Fury" McCormack in person (Oct. 15).
Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (www.cafilm.org ) The North Bay hotspot has a few special events for cinephiles leading up to the 2011 Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct. 6-16; www.mvff.com ). Catch former First Lady of San Francisco Jennifer Siebel Newsom's feminist doc Miss Representation before it heads to the Oprah Winfrey Network later this year (Sept. 20; proceeds benefit Huckleberry Youth Programs).
Film Night in the Park (www.filmnight.org ) There are some stellar selections left as this outdoor series winds down (Sept. 10 at Washington Square Park: 1964's Dr. Strangelove). But the season-ending screening of 1986's Top Gun (Sept. 24) is an absolute don't-miss. Highway to the danger zone ... in Dolores Park. MAVERICK!
Mechanics' Institute (www.milibrary.org ) Now in its 11th year, the library's "CinemaLit Film Series" lures intelligent film geeks with a September series of films and conversation, "Euro Passages" (kicking off Sept. 9 with Pedro Almodóvar's 1997 Live Flesh). The October series pays tribute to 1930s screwball darling Myrna Loy.
Pacific Film Archive The PFA says adios to summer with a garden screening of Roger Corman's 1956 It Conquered the World, starring the world's coolest alien sympathizer, Lee Van Cleef. Indoor programming looks just as spectacular: "The Outsiders: New Hollywood Cinema in the Seventies" (Sept. 2-Oct. 27) gathers up classics and rarities; and "Alternative Visions" (Sept. 7-Oct. 13) brings animator Martha Colburn in person. Plus: selections from UCLA's preservation series, a tribute to Russian silent pioneer Dziga Vertov, and a chance to see the entirety of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz (1979-80). Time to move to Berkeley!
The Room (www.landmarktheatres.com ) Oh, hi. Normally, the Red Vic would be here, but since it closed this summer (R.I.P.), you'll have to venture elsewhere to support your Tommy Wiseau habit. Former Red Vic'r Sam Sharkey shifts his semi-regular Room screenings to SF's Clay and Oakland's Piedmont — where the curious Mr. Wiseau will be appearing Oct. 14-15 with his 2003 cult classic.
Roxie (www.roxie.com ) No word yet on that license to sell beer, but popcorn is a sure thing, and you'll be able to scarf lots of it during Japanese import Love Exposure's 237-minute running time (Sept. 2-8). Also on deck: the San Francisco International Festival of Short Films (Sept. 8-10), a program of erotic European shorts (Sept. 18), the first annual City College Festival of the Moving Image (Sept. 19-20), and the San Francisco Irish Film Festival (Sept. 21-25).
San Francisco Cinematheque (www.sfcinematheque.org ) The fall season kicks off Sept. 22 with "Living in the World: Films by Helga Fanderl," a program that curates an hour's worth of the prolific artist's super-short, silent 8mm works.
San Francisco Film Society (www.sffs.org ) Myth: the only thing the SFFS folks do all year is plan the San Francisco International Film Festival each spring. Reality: there are more films on the SFFS calendar in the fall than ten film festivals combined. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. After the grand opening of the newly-partnered San Francisco Film Society-New People Cinema (Sept. 22 — though it'll already be hosting the "Film Society Cinema" series, with entries like Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialisme, starting Sept. 2), "Hong Kong Cinema" (Sept. 23-25) unspools.
Then: the annual "Film in the Fog" screening in the Presidio (this year it's 1947 noir Dark Passage, Oct. 1); "Taiwan Film Days" (Oct. 14-16); "French Cinema Now" (Oct. 27-Nov. 2); "Cinema By the Bay" (Nov. 3-6); and a screening of Fritz Lang's 1928 Spies, with an original score by Stereolab's Tim Game and the High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan (Dec.14). Plus, seriously, there's tons more. SFFS people do not sleep.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (www.sfmoma.org ) SFMOMA marks Canyon Cinema's 50th anniversary with "Quick Billy," films from 1967-70 by Canyon co-founder Bruce Baillie (Sept. 29).
Vortex Room (Facebook: The Vortex Room) Hell to the yes: the South of Market screening room presents "The Hades Channel," an epic unfurling of Satan-themed episodes of classic TV programs like Starksy and Hutch (Oct. 2), and "The Vortex Incarnate," six weeks of Thursday night Dark Lord double-features. Surrender your soul starting Oct. 6, when 1975's The Devil's Rain and 1984's Invitation to Hell lure actors like Ernest Borgnine and Susan Lucci into cinematic devilry.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (www.ybca.org ) His 2009 Kinatay was controversial; will Brillante Mendoza's crime story Lola (also 2009) cause the same stir? (Sept. 29-Oct. 2.) Plus: "Cruel Cinema: New Directions in Tamil Film" (Oct. 6-9); "Mexico Rising: The Films of Nicholás Pereda" (Oct. 13-27); and "Women and Children Last: Masculinity in Film" (Nov. TBD).
...and more! Since it wouldn't be the Bay Area film scene without a healthy dose of festivals: Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema (Aug. 31-Sept. 4; www.bhoutdoorcine.org ); Iranian Film Festival (Sept. 10-11; www.iranianfilmfestival.org ); San Francisco Latino Film Festival (Sept. 16-25; www.sflatinofilmfestival.org ); Good Vibrations' Sixth Annual Independent Erotic Film Festival (Sept. 17-22; www.goodvibes.com ); the 10th San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (Oct. 14-27; www.sfindie.com ); and the 16th Berlin and Beyond Film Festival (Oct. 20-26; www.berlinbeyond.com ).