Film Features

There's no business ...

ShowBusiness sets its sights on Broadway-or-bust babies
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One of the most entertaining books ever written about the commercial theater is Ken Mandlebaum's Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Broadway Musical Flops (St. Martin's, 1992). There's something inherently fascinating about the backstories and eventual fates of big stage musicals. Read more »

Call the docs

The Clinton 12, Silences , and the Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes doc at the San Francisco Black Film Festival
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Now in its ninth year, the San Francisco Black Film Festival continues to expand its scope, with two long weekends of narrative films and documentaries plus several shorts programs. If you didn't catch The Last Days of Left Eye during one of its recent VH-1 airings, it's well worth a look on the big screen. Read more »

Candid camera

Shohei Imamura captures Japan's red lights and black markets
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Shohei Imamura's 1961 film Pigs and Battleships opens with the impressive sight of gleaming modern buildings lining the landscape of an industrialized port town. This would-be idyllic image of newfound cooperation between the Japanese and the Americans is swiftly subverted with the upward yank of a crane shot, which ends with a bird's-eye view of the neighboring area. Read more »

Oh Mickey, you're so lame

"F@ck Mickey Mouse" shows precursors that beat Disney to the punch, imitators that ripped him off, and parodies that made fun of him
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In 1938, 13 years before a cinematic Alice visited Wonderland, Porky Pig flew to Wackyland, a Salvador Dalí painting come to life. Determined to find the last dodo bird on earth, he wandered through this surrealist landscape to the rhythm of the marijuana ditty "Feeling High and Happy." In 1931's One More Time, Mickey Mouse's ears grew bigger and his tail bushier as he transformed into Foxy, a police officer who then chased the Prohibition-era villains who had kidnapped his girlfriend. Read more »

Return to the sixth dimension

Richard Elfman on his freaky, fabulous Forbidden Zone
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cheryl@sfbg.com

It's nearly impossible to describe Forbidden Zone to the uninitiated. It's a musical, a surreal fairy tale, an avant-garde live-action cartoon, and a strangely alluring jab at the boundaries of good taste. It's black-and-white and nutty all over — and has become a cult sensation since its 1980 release. A film as singularly odd as Forbidden Zone obviously has one hell of a backstory. Fortunately, I didn't have to sneak through any basement portals to track down director and coscripter Richard Elfman. Read more »

This is your brain on drugs

With or without the influence of acid, Forbidden Zone is a trip
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"When you're smilin'," Satchmo sang, "the whole world smiles with you." Likewise, when you're on acid, the whole world is frying with you, like that egg in the Just Say No commercials of the '80s. After watching Richard Elfman's black-and-white, semianimated, vaudevillian, blackface, sadomasochistic, surrealist musical masterpiece Forbidden Zone, my dosed-up high school friends and I were convinced that Elfman and the entire cast must have been on copious amounts of mind-altering substances. Read more »

Occupational hazards

How can we be coworkers if we can't be friends; or survive an attack by masked Eastern European Rambos? Find out in Severance.
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You think your job sucks? Imagine working as an office drone for multinational corporation Palisade Defence, whose slogan is "We're hitting a home run for freedom and a time-out for terror!" In Christopher Smith's black comedy Severance, a team-building weekend (shades of The Office) in Eastern Europe (shades of Hostel) goes gruesomely, satirically awry (shades of Shaun of the Dead). Read more »

Czech, please!

A new film series revives old modernist spirits
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A faltering economy is the biggest threat to most national film industries, but Czechoslovakia's had a more distinct misfortune: it was shut down by occupation forces not once but twice. Most famously, the 1960s Czech new wave, in which talents like Jirí Menzel, Ivan Passer, Vera Chytilová, and Milos Forman first flourished, was abruptly dammed by the 1968 Soviet invasion. Read more »

The mark of Zidane

Douglas Gordon speaks about Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait
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johnny@sfbg.com

Z marks the spot, whether that spot is the television, cinema screen, museum installation, or the memories of millions of people who've borne even cursory witness to the career of Zinedine Zidane, especially its instantly mythic — as opposed to merely controversial — final athletic moments. All of the above spots are touched on by the masterful Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, a multiformat work at the crest of a current fascination with athletic documentary. Read more »

Vote or die

Party lines get bloody in Johnnie To's Triad Election
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cheryl@sfbg.com

Now that the wave of Asian horror films (and subsequent American remakes) seems to have crashed under the weight of too many spooky kids and ladies with long, wet hair, are Asian gangster flicks the new hotness? Practically everyone in the United States has now seen a Hong Kong cops 'n' robbers thriller or at least a film once removed from such, thanks to Martin Scorsese and his Best Picture–winning Infernal Affairs remake. Read more »