Film Review

Naughty is nice

ConteXXXtualizing Shortbus. Plus: Swinging Scandinavians!
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Once upon a time, a fair number of people, heartened by the Sexual Revolution and the corresponding collapse of censorship in movies, thought porn was just the preliminary phase to the next obvious step: soon, they assumed, mainstream films would also have real, explicit sex.
The last time anybody thought that was probably 1975 — or if really stoned, 1977. But for a while there, that wild idea seemed not only possible but inevitable. Deep Throat pretty much closed the obscenity conviction book on consenting adults watching adult content in public venues. Read more »

The final frontier

Aron Ranen surfs reality - to the moon and beyond
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cheryl@sfbg.com
Ask Aron Ranen about his filmmaking philosophy, and he won't pause long. "I'm a reality surfer. Things pop up as I'm quote-unquote traveling around the world with my camera."
When he says "pop up," he ain't kidding. While attempting to uncover the truth about the Apollo 11 moon landing in Did We Go? (which screened in 2000 at New York's Museum of Modern Art), Ranen stumbled upon the fact that the magnetic tapes used to record the 1969 event had gone missing. Read more »

Pixies stick

The Pixies new band doc loudQUIETloud: demigods in a low-key mode
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A smiling Kim Deal holds up a T-shirt with "Pixies Sellout" emblazoned across the back. "Where did you get the inspiration?" she asks guitarist Joey Santiago, who named the band's comeback tour. “’Cause we sold out in minutes!" he offers sans irony. Santiago might not be in on the joke (somewhat inexplicably), but for the rest of us the subtext is clear. Sure, the Pixies are now well into middle age and showing it, but to claim these indie rock demigods are simply trying to cash in on past success is a little unfair. Read more »

Broken social scene

Fear and trembling in Andrew Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation
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Brooklyn, like Oakland and the Mission District, has swelled in the last decade with postadolescents: beards and black hoodies wandering streets on the verge of gentrification. This intermediary space is the setting and premise for indie filmmaker Andrew Bujalski's latest, Mutual Appreciation. Bujalski first made a splash with Boston-based Funny Ha Ha (2002), an unassuming feature made in the tradition of talky indie forbearers John Cassavetes, Eric Rohmer, and Richard Linklater. Read more »

Oh TV, up yours!

Animal Charm, Bryan Boyce, and TV Carnage chart the outer limits of piracy
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johnny@sfbg.com
Dick Cheney surveys the teeming white crowds at the 2004 Republican National Convention. With their Cheney Rocks! placards and stars-and-stripes Styrofoam hats, these people worship him, but he still looks like he wants to spray them with buckshot. "You're all a bunch of fucking assholes!" he sneers. "You know why? Read more »

Gregg the Ripper

A talk with the man behind the sampled sounds of Girl Talk
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You're walking down the street in the dark. You can hear the steps of a beast with many feet behind you. Every second it's getting closer and bigger. One minute it's got the juicy spirit of a young Biggie Smalls and a waterfall piano melody that inspires visions of a tiny dancer. The next, its Ciara-stamped "O" pulses over the metric bump and grind of an Elastica connection. Just when you think you have its ID down, it changes again, shifting sounds and songs at a rate of a dozen a minute. It's tapping you on the shoulder. It's gotten inside your brain. Read more »

American lie

This Film Is Not Yet Rated investigates Jack Valenti’s legacy
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johnny@sfbg.com
One of the many refreshing aspects of Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated is that it doesn't focus on an obvious topic. Documentaries have begun reaching more viewers in recent years, but few take on the many-fangled foibles of the Bush era in an imaginative manner. Dick's new film does, in addition to providing a lesson about the intersection between film history and American history, a convergence that isn't as petty or easily dismissed as one might think. This is a smartly comedic private-eye movie with a feminist, even lesbian sensibility. Read more »

Basehead of the class

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Low-key yet brutal, Half Nelson is exactly the kind of movie Hollywood will never make. Notably, it's entirely cliché free. There's no deliverance for Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling), an eighth-grade teacher whose raging crack habit is steadily taking over his life. There's no real turnaround for 13-year-old Drey (Shareeka Epps), one of Dan's students who's being eyeballed for drug-delivery service by the neighborhood dealer, Frank (Anthony Mackie). Read more »

Pedro's progress

An incomplete retrospective charts Almodóvar's shift from outrage to profundity
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Poor Generalissimo Franco, not yet dead a decade before the Spanish film industry he'd so carefully censored gained its new leading tastemaker: a plump, girly homo fond of gender blur, anticlericalism, and nuclear-family meltdowns. Twenty-two years have passed since What Have I Done to Deserve This? Read more »

VIDIOT'S DELIGHT

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With the simultaneous advent of personal computers and video games on a massive scale in the early ’80s, it was unsurprising that Hollywood tried to fit all things virtual into the exploitable framework of cheesy teen comedies. The latest Midnites for Maniacs triple bill reprises three of the era's daffier such efforts.
The eccentric Heartbeeps, a major flop released in 1981, puts Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters in constrictingly ingenious makeup as two servant robots who run away from their factory warehouse in the brave new world of 1995. Read more »