Film Features

Behind the public machine

"Public Image Ltd."
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The sales pitch is "democracy," suggesting national autonomy and individual choice. But the reality here and abroad is free-market corptocracy, which delivers pretty much the opposite. Yet for all their control on government policy and civilian life, corporations largely remain invisible to those not directly involved with them.

So, corporate culture — and the face-lifted culture it exports for public consumption — may be this century's Esperanto, a language everyone ought to speak but few have bothered to learn. Read more »

That's amore

DocFest loves up pizza, pageants, and pinball
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cheryl@sfbg.com

There are some serious-minded films on the program of this year's San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, like Cracked Not Broken, about a stockbroker turned crack addict, and The Chances of the World Changing, about one man's crusade to save endangered turtles. But when there's an option in life to sample something called Pizza! The Movie, there's really no way around it. You have to go for the pie.Read more »

Tragic replay

Are filmgoers ready for United 93?
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Occult classic

SFIFF taps into the magic of Harry
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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Harry Smith is a folk hero. Smith's masterwork, the definitive, meticulously edited Anthology of American Folk Music (1952), was the bible of the ’60s folk movement that spawned Dylan, Baez, Fahey, and others. To discover it is to stumble into a forgotten, marginalized world, a portal to as Greil Marcus put it in his book about Dylan's Basement Tapes "a weird but clearly recognizable America."Read more »

Pick: Thank You for Smoking

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SATIRE Outfitted with a name that sounds shiny and desirable, Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is in the business of eating shit with a smile, then pretending that aforementioned shit is, in fact, a brand! new! renewable! energy source! Such jaw-dropping insincerity is a must when you've got his job: chief national public-relations shill for the tobacco industry. There's no putting a good face on the promotion and sales of "cancer sticks" anymore, is there? Read more »

Big skies, broken hearts

Wenders and Shepard revisit Paris, Texas by way of Butte, Montana
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In the not-so-Wild West, where assistant directors on Segways roam, washed-up matinee idol Howard Spence (Sam Shepard) gallops right off the set of his latest picture, appropriately dubbed Phantom of the West. Where Howard's headed at the start of Don't Come Knocking

The 'ol whizbang

Oh! What a Lovely War substitutes for a cowardly current-day Hollywood
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Given that the phrase another Vietnam (with or without fucking in the middle) probably passes through lips somewhere every .0000398 seconds at present, it might be a good moment to ponder differences between war-themed movies from the 1960s and today.

Admittedly, the Vietnam War had been going on for a while by the time significant mainstream movieland responses emerged. Among them were John Wayne's notorious The Green Berets, the morally ambiguous Patton, and myriad antiwar diatribes, of which Catch-22, MASH, Little Big Man, Joe, and Soldier Blue were just the tip

Whose cheatin' Heart?

A fable of our era leaps - or hobbles - from page to screen
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Asia Argento's The Heart Is Deceitful above All Things is the preposterous story, once widely imagined to be true, of the childhood of Jeremiah "JT" LeRoy, as he bounces between the custody of his foster parents, his prostitute mother, and his sadistic, fundamentalist grandparents. Read more »

DNA

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For proof – as if any is needed – that television is overwhelmingly a right-wing medium, one need only contemplate the manner in which DNA evidence is cited in the glut of true crime shows that crowd A&E, CourtTV, and other networks. Almost without fail, DNA is shown being used to convict the guilty. It is presented as proof that the legal system – with scientific help – is just and right. Read more »

Behind and beyond bars

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Perhaps the best book written about a wrongly convicted man is Jack Olsen's Last Man Standing, a chronicle of the 27 years Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt spent caged in a California prison thanks to crooked FBI agents and Los Angeles cops. The narrative starts with Pratt's childhood in Louisiana, tracks his involvement in the Black Panther party and the decades he spent dwelling in the American gulag, and concludes with his triumphant release from prison thanks to the tireless lawyering of Stuart Hanlon and the late Johnnie Cochran. Read more »