With 2010 about to fade into our rearview, it's time to pay our respects to a year that produced its share of very good movies, but precious few great ones. It was a year dominated by memorable performances in supporting roles – Christian Bale as a crack-addicted burnout in The Fighter, John Hawkes as a rough-and-tumble hillbilly in Winter's Bone, Jacki Weaver as an insidious matriarch in the overlooked Australian import Animal Kingdom – and the visual bravura of Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and TRON: Legacy.
'Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the flat, not a creature was stirring... except for me (with my mom's cat), hastily posting this week's Theater Roundup before returning to wrapping presents, re-watching some of the year's best movies (currently playing: The Tillman Story) and sipping on low-fat egg nog. Happy holidays!
1. True Grit
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
The weather outside is frightful, the fiery resurgence of Mike Singletary's 49ers so delightful, but if you've no place to go, check out one of these fine films at the city's venerable collection of indie theaters.
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: Dec. 9
If your post-holiday plans don't involve football and a tryptophan-induced nap, make your way to Embarcadero Center, where some of this year's strongest Oscar contenders, including 127 Hours and Fair Game, are now playing. Check out the Castro's two-day celebration of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, beginning Saturday. Or update your Netflix queue to include John Hughes' classic Thanksgiving comedy Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Happy Turkey Day!
1. Animal Kingdom
The San Francisco Film Society's annual celebration of New Italian Cinema, which closes Sunday with Paolo Virzi's touching drama The First Beautiful Thing, takes center stage at the Embarcadero this weekend, while Harry Potter and his magical minions take the fight to the murderous Lord Voldemort in the first installment of David Yates' Deathly Hallows. Elsewhere:
1. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
In April 2003, a falling boulder pinned Aron Ralston to the wall of Utah's remote Blue John Canyon for nearly five days, forcing the 27-year-old mountain climber to amputate his right arm in a desperate bid to survive.
In bringing his story to the screen, Danny Boyle deftly avoids the obvious stumbling blocks, transforming a mostly one-man show with a well-publicized ending into arresting drama that speaks not only to Ralston's implacable will but also to the durability of the human spirit. Boyle has described 127 Hours as an action movie about a man who can’t move, and the description is apt. Ralston’s existential struggle seems almost to sprint to its grisly conclusion.
The fifth San Francisco International Animation Festival kicks off tonight at the Embarcadero with Here Comes the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized, a colorfully eccentric interpretation (by four different artists) of the acclaimed 2009 album by indie-rock stalwarts The Decemberists. The festivities wind to a close Sunday with Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, Brent Green's moving tribute to a Kentucky hardware-store clerk who, during the 1970s, built a crazy-quilt house to cure his wife's cancer. Elsewhere:
Danny Boyle has directed stories about rage-driven zombies, Scottish junkies on the lam, and an unlikely game-show champion educated on the unforgiving streets of Mumbai, but never has he accepted a challenge as daunting as 127 Hours.
Inspired by the real-life ordeal of mountain climber Aron Ralston, pinned to the wall of Utah’s Blue John Canyon for nearly five days by an errant boulder, Hours, which opens Friday, finds the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy pulling their most ambitious trick to date – translating the agony of a man totally immobilized into riveting, briskly paced drama.
The 34th Toronto International Film Festival, billed by organizers as "the most important festival after Cannes," concluded Sunday, Sept. 19, with the announcement of this year's Audience Award winner: The King's Speech, Tom Hooper's account of Bertie (A Single Man's Colin Firth), the man who overcame a humiliating stutter to become King George VI. (Bay Area moviegoers will get a sneak peek of Speech when it opens the 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.) Here's an account of the 10-day Toronto festival's highlights, lowlights and (almost) everything in between.