It would be too easy to disdain the earnest sentimentality on display in Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, about a recent widower who, struggling to restore a glimmer of hope to his children’s eyes, retires from city life to raise them in a downtrodden animal park.
It’s based on a true story, of course, though it’s hard to imagine such a Hollywood-ready fairy tale unfolding so neatly off the screen. Cynics will surely scoff at the underlying message – that happiness is worth pursuing at any cost, because it’s better to soak in the sunshine than wallow in a morass of self-pity. Optimism, they’d say, is a sucker’s bet.
Maybe this is how the world ends – not with a bang but a wheeze. Paranoia seems almost sensible under certain circumstances – a late-night stroll through a dark, deserted alley, perhaps – but what about riding the bus to work, where killers could be sitting beside us, polluting our space with their germs?
Exposed on Film, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's ongoing film series presented in conjunction with Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera Since 1870, returns to the Castro this weekend with Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool, a cinema verité-style exploration of social tension in America during the 1960s, and David Lynch's macabre fantasy Lost Highway. Elsewhere:
1. The Found Footage Festival
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: March 4-5
The Adjustment Bureau – the new Philip K. Dick-inspired thriller about an otherworldly crew of mystery men who mean to ensure that God’s master plan unfolds just as intended – brought at least one of its stars to tears. And no, it wasn’t Matt Damon, who absorbs a surprise shot to the gut from his on-screen love interest, played by Emily Blunt.
It was Blunt herself, the London-born star of The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and last year’s The Young Victoria, whose six-day-a-week training in New York with Swan Pouffer, artistic director of the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, left her battered and emotionally bruised.
OK, one last time for the cheap seats. If you haven't seen this year's crop of Oscar heavyweights by now, the chances are good you never will. But if you want to shore up your rooting interests this Sunday night, or just to impress your friends at their awards party by reeling off useful facts about the nominees, get to an indie theater tonight.
1. Oscar-Nominated Shorts
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201; Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
With the city's 13th Independent Film Festival set to kick off next week, now is the time to catch up on all the major players in this year's Oscar sweepstakes, including Best Actor favorite Colin Firth (The King's Speech, playing at the Embarcadero) and Best Actress favorite Natalie Portman, whose tour-de-force performance in Black Swan is currently the featured attraction at the Balboa.
1. The Illusionist
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
After five successful collaborations including Che: Part Two (2008), the corporate whistleblower comedy The Informant! (2009) and the star-studded Ocean's Eleven trilogy, director Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon will reteam for the upcoming thriller Contagion, about a team of doctors hired by the Center for Disease Control to prevent the outbreak of a lethal virus. Better yet, Damon, along with co-stars Kate Winslet and Jude Law, will be filming their latest adventure in San Francisco, starting Feb. 9.
Fifteen minutes after Josh Brolin met 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld for the first time, he was pinning her down with a blade to her throat.
No, this was not another shocking case of When Celebrities Attack. Brolin and Steinfeld were on the set of Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit remake, opening today, and their introduction preceded the rehearsal of one of the movie’s tensest scenes.
You might need subtitles to understand what Jeff Bridges is growling at you in True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation of the 1968 Charles Portis novel.
Here, reprising John Wayne’s 1969 role as irascible U.S. marshal “Rooster” Cogburn, Bridges doesn’t try to fill The Duke’s boots so much as he gives them a new shine, his ornery, whiskey-voiced grumblings a far cry from Wayne’s unmistakable drawl. A character actor rather than a Hollywood monument, Bridges so thoroughly cloaks himself in Cogburn’s darkness that he threatens to disappear altogether.
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