Film Features

New generation, old joy

It was a good year for boy-men at the movies
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Once upon a time movie men were expected to be all action — confidence, whether in the form of a swagger or saunter, being the mark of the leading man. Such virility was served up uncooked by method actors such as Marlon Brando and James Dean, but it wasn't until the baby boom generation ushered in unlikely stars such as Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson that the archetype really turned over. Realism was the new fantasy, and these actors went to great lengths to convey hurt. Read more »

Revenge of the sloth

It was a bad year of movies about boy-men
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cheryl@sfbg.com

Male malaise sure had a banner year in 2006 — at least as far as Hollywood was concerned. How many more times are we gonna have to sit through the same story about some supposedly endearing dude in his 20s or 30s whose quest to figure shit out exasperates everyone around him? Read more »

Girls and monsters

Pan's Labyrinth is almost as fantastic as it is fantastical
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johnny@sfbg.com

Impish skittering insect fairies, horned Jean Cocteau–<\d>spawned romantic beasts, lascivious frogs that make Jabba the Hutt seem schooled by Jenny Craig, and murderous monsters with hands on their eyes — no doubt about it, the baroque and neo-Raphaelite splendor (or Splenda, since it's largely CGI-based) of Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth leaves the majority of 2006's unimpressive prestige movies looking drab and mechanical. Read more »

HUDSON RIVER

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Do you know where you're going to — have you ever seen Mahogany? What am I showing you? Well, for a start, that the facsimile of the Motown story presented by Dreamgirls is phony with a capital P. By the time Berry Gordy and Diana Ross reached their particular shared impasse on the road from Motown to Hollywood fantasyland, she was almost fatally eager to fold a twiglike body into the two-dimensional shallowness of fashion. Read more »

IN THE RED

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It's being released to coincide with World AIDS Day, but Thom Fitzgerald's 3 Needles isn't so much about AIDS as it is blood — human hemoglobin seems to pour from every frame. Part Holy Communion, part arsenic-laced Syrah, it's constantly being wielded by the film’s characters as a weapon in their desperate struggles to survive both the disease and its political and social ramifications.
The movie's sweeping triptych of stories spans three continents. Read more »

Mexico City, mi amor

Julián Hernández charts a broken sky — and the streets below it
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johnny@sfbg.com
If you live in the city and you've been blessed, you've had the experience of meeting a lover on a favorite street corner, in an open square, or by a favorite vista or shadowy and partially hidden place. The opening scenes of Julián Hernández's Broken Sky tap precisely into this hide-and-seek game for grown-ups — and the heightened expectations and disappointments it can create. Plaintive college student Gerardo (Miguel Ángel Hoppe) has the rare type of exaggeratedly masculine-feminine features — eyes wide and almost crossed — that are made for melodrama. Read more »

Fast Food Nation

Spit on your burger's the least of your worries
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Book lovers always lament movie adaptations: they rarely deliver. But Fast Food Nation, like a swift injection of growth hormone, adds flesh and character to the very real problems of where America's food comes from and the different ways it's absolutely mishandled. Read more »

For Your Consideration

For your critical devastation
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People like Christopher Guest's improv-based comedies — This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind — in a peculiarly self-satisfied way, confident that enjoying them means they’re in on a sophisticated joke that the ordinary Adam Sandler–liking rabble don’t get. Yet for all their small joys, Guest's films make me wish they had big ones — bigger laughs, sharper satire, more narrative drive. The actors automatically raise a smile because we've loved them so many times before. But are they the best judges of their material? Read more »

Goodbye PG

The educational documentaries you can't take your kids to see
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› a&eletters@sfbg.com
When Japanese documentary filmmaker Kazuo Hara was approached by Okuzaki Kenzo — the subject of his 1987 The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On — and asked to film him committing murder, Hara strongly considered it before turning him down, more than anything because he "had become really sick of Okuzaki." Or so he told an interviewer. This sounds like bullshit, and it may be, but the filming approaches and content of Hara's body of work make you think that maybe he could have done it. Read more »