Film Review

One-on-one-on-one

Add it up for the sensual appeal of Glue
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Violent Femmes and wrestling boys. The same boys watching TV, huffing glue, jerking off, playing soccer, dodging water balloons, sharing headphones, and dancing, singing, and drumming at punk rock shows. Listed in this manner, the basic ingredients of Alexis Dos Santos's Glue don't sound that different from those of a dozen other teen films. But the way Dos Santos views such material is something else entirely. Glue is that rare kind of filmmaking so attuned to pleasure and spontaneity that it tickles your palate, opening up new possibilities about how to live. Read more »

From the ashes

Lizzie Borden's radical Born in Flames is reborn
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"They may label you, try to classify you, and even call you a crazy bitch — but don't flinch, just let them," Honey of Radio Phoenix says to the women of New York City after her black feminist–run station gets bombed by government agents, after her comrade in arms is found dead in her jail cell, as the fireworks are about to go off in a certain tall tower in Lower Manhattan.

There's no denying the evocative weight of that last image these days. Read more »

Hit it or quit it

Short takes on films at Frameline 31
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Black White and Gray (James Crump, US, 2007) If Andre Téchiné's The Witnesses colors the early '80s red, this documentary about Sam Wagstaff (and by extension Robert Mapplethorpe) opts for a relatively bloodless palette. Though its voice-over shows class chauvinism in asserting that Patti Smith brought validity to punk, Black White and Gray perceptively uses its enigmatic subject as a window onto the changing role of photography within the art world. Read more »

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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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 »

A horse is a horse?

Of course not: two views of Robinson Devor's provocative Zoo
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HANDS OFF A professor of mine was fond of posing a certain thought experiment. As Martian anthropologists, free from any earthbound cultural conceptions, his students had to come up with a baseline definition of sex. First he'd field their not wholly impartial attempts. Then he'd coolly roll out his description: it's an involuntary muscle spasm caused by applied friction.Read more »