So many directors describe their movies as “personal” that the sentiment becomes commonplace, even cliché. Not so with Mike Mills – the Thumbsucker director, not the R.E.M. bassist – who drew on intimate details from his private life as the starting point for his powerful new drama Beginners, which opens Friday.
Sure, he changed the names and embellished the timeline – Mills, 45, says he never intended to make an autobiography, much less portray close friends on screen without their blessing. But in his real-life story, fraught with unexpected revelations and profound self-realizations, the director saw a unique opportunity to connect with wider audiences.
North America's longest-running celebration of cinema is over, but the city's indie theaters have a cure for your post-festival blues. So if you're disinclined to fight the crowds flocking to this weekend's hottest new release, Iron Man 2, there are plenty of worthy alternatives currently in rotation at a big screen near you.
Neither Christopher Plummer, 80, nor Helen Mirren, 64, the stars of Michael Hoffman’s The Last Station, took home Oscars from last Sunday’s awards ceremony. But as far as Hoffman is concerned, their work remains indispensable, the key to breathing the intensity of life into his screenplay, adapted from Jay Parini’s 1990 novel, about the last days of Leo Tolstoy.
When Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island had its long-awaited October 2009 release unceremoniously delayed by Paramount, it was only natural to assume the legendary director's new thriller, starring favorite son Leonardo DiCaprio, might have missed its mark. Hardly. (The studio blamed the decision on the economy and DiCaprio's lack of availability to the foreign press.) It opens today at the Sundance Kabuki for what should be a long, well-attended run, befitting one of the most cleverly confounding thrillers in recent memory.
The Independent Film Festival enters its second weekend, bringing with it Harmony and Me, this year's closing-night comedy about a slacker caught in the throes of a post-breakup malaise and seemingly incapable of snapping his way out of it. Also coming to the Roxie this Sunday afternoon: Double Take, Belgian filmmaker Johan Grimonprez's experimental rumination on Cold War paranoia featuring none other than the late Alfred Hitchcock. Elsewhere:
1. An Animated World
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Feb. 14, 15
With the 12th annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival taking over the Roxie for the next two weeks and The Last Station making its regional debut at the Embarcadero, it's an exciting time for Bay Area cinephiles. Here's a list of some of the finest films currently in rotation at an indie theater near you.
You’ve got to admire Terry Gilliam even when his madcap experiments shatter the test tubes. The former Python is the ultimate independent filmmaker. He has worked within the studio system before, often frustrating the moneymen, but you get the feeling he’d rather burn the negatives than conform to their whims. He is not, as they say, a company man.
There is no denying the technical wizardry of 9, Shane Acker’s feature-length reimagining of his own Oscar-nominated short from 2005. Backed by producers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), the young director has assembled a superior voice cast, led by the wonderfully expressive Christopher Plummer, to breathe life into a familiar post-apocalyptic fable distinguished by its exquisite artistry.
Does it detract from Pamela Pettler and Acker’s story that we’ve seen variations of it so often before, most recently in Terminator Salvation? It does, but hardly enough to dull the luster of its most innovative flourishes.
It hardly seems necessary to point out, as I and countless others have before, Pixar’s well-earned reputation for crafting animated tales that transcend the supposed limitations of the genre, populating aesthetically rich universes with characters who often seem more memorably human than those in live-action fantasies. But it’s still worth noting.
You’d be surprised at the number of people who harbor a latent desire to sit in a dark theater with a few hundred strangers and sing in chorus, “You Are Sixteen, Going On Seventeen.”
Nothing unites folks more than shared nostalgia. Reliving some of your favorite childhood things along with a roomful of stranger bonds the crowd, swiftly and inextricably.
And, in this crummy economy, maybe knowing that a gaggle of spunky kids had to wear drapes for play clothes -- and still managed to escape the Nazis, can make us feel a little better about thrift.