Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Bill Brand, Beer Columnist: 1938-2009

Sadly, former Oakland Tribune reporter and What’s On Tap columnist Bill Brand died the evening of February 19th, at the age of 70, from injuries sustained in a Muni accident on February 8th. He was struck by an N-Judah at 2nd and King near the 21st Amendment Brewery, where he had been covering an SF Beer Week event. Extended obituary here, some appreciative notes here and here by Jesse and commenters at Beer and Nosh, and here’s the comment stream on the notice at What’s on Tap.

Oscar Weekend around SF: AMC Best Picture Showcase, Oscar Parties at the Roxie, Balboa and Castro

Oscar night is Sunday, and if you’ve managed to somehow evade one or another of the Best Picture nominees — perhaps all five — it’s not too late to catch them all. They’re still playing at area theaters: Embarcadero Cinemas, the Kabuki, the Roxie, the Castro, the Balboa, and the Metreon all offer screenings of one or two of the nominees.

But what if you haven’t seen any of them? The AMC Van Ness is the only place where you’ll be able to see all five of the nominees in one monster marathon, thirteen and a half hours of putative greatness. They’re calling it the AMC Best Picture Showcase, and it may be too much for the soul to bear.

However, it shouldn’t be too much for the wallet. The ticket is $30 and it comes with free popcorn. Unlimited refills! Showtimes are: Milk at 10:30, The Reader at 1:05, Benjamin Button at 3:45, Slumdog Millionaire at 7:15, and Frost/Nixon at 9:45.

Then, once you’ve got your required (or desired) viewing out of the way, you can attend one of the live Oscar broadcasts in one of these fine independent theaters the following afternoon and evening:

The Roxie Theater will host the 17th Annual ‘Up the Oscars’ Benefit Bash. Tickets $15, and doors open at 3:45, just minutes before the Red Carpet show begins on the Big Screen. “Food, drink, and a big sassy attitude are allowed and encouraged,” at least according to the press release.

The Castro Theatre will also present the Oscars telecast, live on the great big screen, starting at 5:00 PM. Tickets $20, with champagne and hors d’oeuvres being served. The Castro, that is one classy place. The broadcast, naturally enough, will be followed by a screening of Milk at 9:45.

The Richmond’s Balboa isn’t just celebrating the Oscars: it’s also celebrating its 83rd birthday. And to mark the occasion, the early afternoon will feature the 1926 blockbuster, My Best Girl, starring Mary Pickford, whose charm is timeless. Prospective theatre-goers are encouraged to don clothing of the period. And if you pay $15 for the first show, you’ll get to hang out in your high-waisted pants and flapper dresses to watch the broadcast of the awards show, starting at 4:30 PM. The Balboa solemnly promises that whenever a commercial comes on, they will turn down the volume and provide live entertainment of much higher caliber.

Know of any other live broadcasts or Oscar parties around town? Let us know in the comments.

Film: "Absurdistan" opens tonight at Opera Plaza Cinema


[The sexes face off, with the lovely Aya (Kristyna Malerova) leading the ladies. Courtesy First Run Features.]

Men will do anything for sex; anything, that is, except what their wives want them to do. On the other hand, an unmarried man will really do anything — anything at all, just name it! — to win over the love of his life, no matter how outrageous his lover’s demands may be. These ancient facts get a delightful spin in Absurdistan, a takeoff on the classical Greek comedy Lysistrata that has nothing whatsoever to do with the best-selling novel.

It’s set in a remote mountain village “located on no map,” although with its Russian provenance and shooting location in Azerbaijan, the smart money is on some vowel-poor corner of the Caucasus. The narrator explains the village’s political situation at the outset: “for a long time now, nobody has felt responsible for us.” So when their water pipeline finally rusts through and a severe water shortage begins, it’s up to the men to fix it.

Only, they’re just too damn lazy to do anything about it: they’d rather spend their afternoons hanging out in the village tea house, playing cards and talking big. The women don’t know what to do.

That is, until Aya (Kristyna Malerova) shows them the way. Her fiancee, Temelko (Maximilian Mauff, no kidding), is a bright young man, freshly returned to the village from his studies in the city. He’s also been waiting longer than four years to sleep with his sweetheart for the first time, the propritious date having been astrologically ordained. When he arrives, he’s raring to go; but Aya insists on having a bath first. (Women! I mean, really.) So Temelko goes to some trouble to get together enough water for a bath. I don’t want to spoil the sequence — one of the best in the film — so I’ll just say that he gets her to the bath in the most imaginatively romantic way. But after she’s gotten over her delighted surprise, she notices the dusty, dry village around them, thinks of the others, and folds her arms. They have six days until the stars move on, she points out, and bath or no bath, until everybody has water, she’s keeping her clothes on, thank you very much.

“Did you hear about Aya and Temelko?” soon becomes the topic of whispering all over the village. In this, the women see a way forward, and the plan becomes clear: No water? No sex. They throw down their empty pails in challenge.

Of course, middle-aged men are generally more tolerant of sexual frustration than young men; plus, they have their pride. And these guys, frankly, have little else. So they dig in. Battle lines are drawn. The women arm themselves with rifles and guard the perimeter to prevent anybody leaving, and they cut the phone line (yes, singular) to prevent any contact with the outside world. The village is split down the middle with a barbed-wire fence. The men send in a spy, in wig and stuffed bra, who promptly forgets his allegiances and begins fraternizing with the (incredibly unobservant) enemy. Things only get wilder from there.

But the pipeline? Still broken. Temelko is on his own. So he sets forth for the mountain with a little red wagon-ful of tools, determined to bring water to the village and sleep with his bride to be, or die trying.

It’s a cliche to describe a film as a “delightful romp,” but it seems to suit this movie perfectly, what with its high energy, sexual hijinks, slapstick humor, and the touch of surrealism that director Veit Helmer brings to every moment. Highly recommended.

[Absurdistan screens at the Opera Plaza Cinema daily at 7:15 and 9:55, matinees at 1:50 and 4:40.]

Wetter and wetter

That’s the weather radar at 6:50 this morning, and the storm is moving pretty much south-to-north, so we were about to get hammered with that orange stuff. I wonder how many Valentine’s Day first flings are waking up this morning and wondering how, in this rain, to tactfully get the hell out of the apartment of the person whose name they don’t remember.

Valentine’s Day

A magnolia tree near the corner of Precita and Alabama begins to blossom after days of rain. Bernal Hill is in the background.

Love Day in San Francisco

Even if you are the most anti-Valentines’ Day, anti-mushy person in the universe, it’s pretty hard to avoid all the fun that happens on Feb. 14th in San Francisco. There are hundreds of events and here are a handful that I would definitely be attending if I wasn’t in Los Angeles with my honey for the weekend. So go and report back on how much fun you had!!

Have bike? Have some pre-Valentines’ Day fun tonight at the SF Bike Coalition’s “Love on Wheels.” This is a great opportunity to meet fellow bicyclists and maybe even ride away hand in hand.

What better way to take all that aggression bubbling in you out on the entire city at Pillow Fight! Bring your pillow to Justin Herman Plaza at 6pm and be prepared to whack a few moles.

Fancy some tea and crumpets? Crown & Crumpet have a menu full of l’amour and a it’s a great excuse to dress-up like you did as a kid for tea parties.

Had a hard week? How about a full day of massage? Yes please! You and your playmate can spend an entire day learning how to massage each other at The Center For Healing and Expression. Sounds better than a box of chocolates!

Have you ever attended a “no pants party?” Trust me when I say everyone should do it at least once. The Knockout is hosting the “5th Annual Underwear Party.” You don’t even have to fret over what to wear! Be sure to check your undies for holes!

For a list of other fun events on Love Day, check out SF Station and Upcoming

The MLA’s in town; readings

The annual convention of the Modern Language Association, the foremost professional association for humanities academics, opens today in San Francisco. They’re the ones filling all the convention hotels downtown, so if you see an explosion of tweed at this weekend’s demolition derbies and sex parties, you’ll know where it’s coming from.

If you’d like to hobnob or pick up any of the sexy librarians and litprofs, two offsite readings will be held (courtesy Ron Silliman):

The first, Sunday night, December 28 at 7:00 PM, in the Forum at the Yerba Buena Center, 701 Mission (and thus directly across the street from SF MoMA in one direction & the Moscone Convention Center in another), is sponsored by SPD & the Poetry Foundation, and includes numerous out-of-town celebs, including several (Dale Smith, Carla Harryman, Michael Davidson, Barrett Watten & Timothy Yu) with important links to the Bay Area.

The second, Tuesday night, December 30 at 7:00 PM, at the Hotel Utah at 500 Fourth Street (at Bryant just east of the freeway overpass) is sponsored by Small Press Traffic & includes more than 30 local poets. It’s a terrific opportunity for MLA nomads to check out what’s new & hot in one of the great writing cities of the U.S.

Also, there’ll be a huge exhibit hall at the Hilton where publishers — both university presses and mainstream presses with literary and academic releases — will have booths. It costs money for civilians to enter, unless you have one of those sexy humanities profs in tow. They have free guest coupons.

Film: "Ciao" from Dec 12 at Landmark Lumiere

[Photo courtesy Regent Releasing; film website and trailer here.]

A man named Mark dies suddenly, leaving just one close survivor: Jeff, a former lover. When Jeff accesses Mark’s email account, he discovers that Mark has been corresponding with an Italian man whom he had met online, Andrea. He was about to visit Mark in Dallas for the first time, just for a weekend (in case they didn’t get along after all). After a brief hesitation, Jeff invites Andrea to visit anyway and stay with him.

Andrea takes up the invitation, and thus begins a very quiet drama. When Andrea does arrive, the two begin a conversation — about themselves and their lives, and their relationships with Mark and with one another — that stretches over the weekend, until it’s time for Andrea to go.

That’s it, but it’s enough, and the rest of the film, essentially, is the record of that long conversation.

Considering how heavily Ciao relies upon dialogue for its effect, it’s unfortunate that the writing is often so inexcusably lame, marred by exactly the kind of rigid, superfluous exposition and unrevealing chit-chat that are a feature of student work. “Here’s the box of Mark’s stuff that you asked for,” Jeff says to the parents at one point, as if it wasn’t perfectly obvious what he was up to, and exchanges such as “How are you? — Fine. You?” seem to open every conversation. The two lead actors, who give remarkable performances, often seem to be struggling against these banal moments. However, these moments are fleeting enough, and the long conversation never departs much from the central subject, this absence in both their lives.

Whatever weaknesses the dialogue has, they are overbalanced by the incredible photography and shot design throughout. From the first moments I was struck by the beautiful composition and lighting of each shot; everything is put together with such a fine sense of composition and lighting that almost every scene had an iconic quality. Whereas the dialogue explores the backstory, the story unfolding before us — a story about the growing closeness between these two men — is told through these shots. At first we see each man alone, each in his own space, then as they grow closer, more and more shots include both of them. In the end, of course, each is left in solitude, with his individual loss. The closing sequence is especially brilliant, in that it manages to summarize Jeff’s feelings about his lost lover without being maudlin in the least.

Ultimately, the film develops into a moving exploration of — among many other themes — the experience of friendship, love and loss.

Ciao plays from December 12 at Landmark’s Lumiere Theatre and Shattuck Cinemas.

Film: Alain Robbe-Grillet Series at YBCA, Dec 4-18

[Image via.]

Tonight at 7:30 PM, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts begins its series on the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet, the postmodern novelist, screenwriter, and director who died in February this year at the age of 85. Tonight’s film is the first one he wrote and directed himself: Trans-Europ Express. In it, an author — played by Robbe-Grillet himself — is passing the time on the Trans-Europ Express by concocting a “sordid melodrama of gangsters, drugs, and bondage,” to quote the YBCA page. Then an actual gangster, who may or may not be be an actual gangster, appears on the train, and the melodrama becomes all mixed up with reality. Fun fact: The film was banned by the British Censors in 1966 because it portrays light bondage! (It turns out that Robbe-Grillet’s wife Catherine, better known as Jeanne de Berg, is something of a BDSM icon.)

Sunday afternoon at 2:00, check out his best-known film: Last Year at Marienbad (trailer), pictured above. When I saw it for the first time, several months ago at the Castro, it pretty much blew my mind, because I didn’t realize it was possible to do something like it, whether in film or any other narrative art form. It takes place at an elite social gathering in a chateau, and begins when a man approaches a woman there and says: “Didn’t we meet last year, at Marienbad? Didn’t you say you would leave your husband, and we would run away together?” She won’t say yes or no, but they continue to talk as though they have made plans; as soon as a second man approaches them — who might be her husband — the conversation breaks up.

That and several other similarly enigmatic conversations are densely repeated and circled back on with changes: they take place in different locations, or different characters speak the same lines, or there are subtle changes to the phrasing, each of which implies a slightly different backstory from what had been implied before. In other words, each sequence selectively undermines the preceding sequences.

No story, as such, ever develops, and you end up remembering the film the way you remember a vivid dream: uncertain about the sequence of events, uncertain about what actually happened, uncertain who the people in it were, or how exactly they related to one another and to you, but entirely certain that the whole thing was imbued with immense significance.

Of course, you might just hate it too. It has that effect on people.

Three more films by Robbe-Grillet — L’immortelle, Eden and After, and The Man Who Lies — are included in the series. Each film is either on a Thursday night at 7:30 or Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM. Advance tickets and further info on the series is available here.

Free money

In need of an economic stimulus? Well, 896 San Francisco taxpayers have one coming. And 104 people in Berkeley. And 506 people in Oakland.

From last spring.

300,000 economic stimulus checks were returned as undeliverable to the IRS. Click that link for a form on the San Jose Mercury News website to see if you’re due some dough.

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