Bay Area-based filmmaker Jeremiah Birnbaum's Torn, which won Best Feature at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and has been slowly and quietly making its way across the US since, can be a bit of a hard sell, but it's a film that deserves an audience.
Dreaming of a white Christmas? You're probably out of luck. But for those whose holiday celebrations traditionally involve a trip to the movies – as well as those who've lost their taste for the TBS network's annual 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon – San Francisco's indie theaters are serving up a seasonal concoction of time-honored Hollywood classics and contemporary Oscar hopefuls. Among them:
1. War Horse
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650; Balboa Theatre, 3630 Balboa St., 415-221-8184
When: All Week
December is here, leaving critics and industry insiders to sort through the year's offerings, separating the contenders from the pretenders in the race for Oscar gold. This weekend brings to the Bay Area a popular dark horse: The Artist, a love letter to the era of silent cinema that could upset expected favorites War Horse, The Descendants and Hugo this February at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
“Ten years from now, it will be the 1968 version that people are still renting.” So predicted Roger Ebert, after Tim Burton’s scattershot Planet of the Apes remake, released a decade ago this summer, did more to discredit primates than Charlton Heston ever could.
Whether the stench of that earlier experiment still lingers could help determine the future of a still-vital franchise, confidently revived this week in Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
If the prospect of watching James Franco play with primates in Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't enough to get you off the couch this weekend, we've got several worthy alternatives in this week's Indie Theater Roundup, which comes complete with an Easter egg of sorts: a YouTube video of the late Patrick Swayze recalling his least favorite line in Dirty Dancing! Enjoy.
1. The Guard
Summer is slowly winding down, giving Hollywood just a few more weeks to unload the last of its annual sequels, prequels and remakes before Oscar season begins in earnest. The bad news, for some: School will be back in session soon. The good news: August packs a promising lineup of big-screen spectacles, including:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug. 5)
The primates: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis
The author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook is known as a great satirist, so it's no surprise that the promo for his third novel Super Sad True Love Story is a complete joke. Starring as himself—complete with fake Russian accent—and claiming he can't even read, the ridiculous trailer also features such seasoned writers as Jeffrey Eugenides and Mary Gaitskill. But perhaps the best clip is of James Franco as one of Shteyngart's Columbia students. If you like his brand of funny, get tickets to City Arts & Lectures' conversation on Wednesday (May 11) at Herbst Theatre.
David Gordon Green, who directed Your Highness from a script co-written by Ben Best (The Foot Fist Way) and star Danny McBride, describes his new high-concept comedy as the story of a medieval prince who smokes weed and fights dragons.
Right he is. Whether a tale so slight, framed within an adventure of such modest visual sophistication, will leave a lasting impression – especially in the perpetually impaired memories of the movie’s stoner demographic – seems unlikely. But Highness lives and dies not by the sword, but by the charisma of the man so clumsily wielding it, the exquisitely coiffed McBride.
The day after the Oscars, the ceremony is poked, prodded and reconsidered ad nauseam. Was the telecast too long? (This year, no – although the show typically lasts around four hours, the 2011 version clocked in at an economical three-and-a-quarter.) Were there any shocking upsets? (Sadly, no.) Did the hosts live up to expectations?
And that, in an otherwise quiet year, seems to be the most hotly debated question. Or maybe not – the general consensus, among those who cared to weigh in, is that co-hosts Anne Hathaway and (Palo Alto’s own!) James Franco failed at that most daunting task, opening the show and keeping viewers amused between award presentations.