Riding high on "House of Cards" intrigue, Netflix has quickly become a prime source for political docs. Recently, its documentary Mitt was praised for its humanizing portrait of the candidate, but before that, Netflix had exclusive lease of HANK: 5 Years from the Brink, an eye-opening doc that makes its way out of the browser and onto Bay Area screens this weekend.
Proving himself a core humanist, academy-vetted director Joe Berlinger (Some Kind of Monster) leans away from heady explications of the crisis itself and hands over the narrative to the man who authored nearly $1 trillion in bailouts, former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, and his no-nonsense wife Wendy. Schematically, HANK could be a response to SF native Jacob Kornbluth’s highly instructive Inequality for All, replacing the former’s sermon with a sympathetic character study. For all his eagerness and vindication, Paulson’s predecessor Robert Reich ultimately proves less compelling of a subject than the former Goldman Sachs CEO.
Paulson, a naturally thrifty everyman with a grandfatherly air that once returned a coat to Bergdorf Goodman on the advice of his wife (“You already have a coat”) never wanted to be the Sec of the Treasury. A healthy distaste for Bush’s policies and bipartisan politics kept him out of the position until he was asked not once, but thrice, to be the president’s “wartime general” during the financial meltdown.
It’s a strange comfort to see the man vilified for getting the ball rolling on our current financial crisis look into the camera and express a deep distrust in the very institutions that he enabled, but there's profound truth here. Those that adhere to the maxim “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” may find Paulson draws little sympathy, and perhaps that’s the point—we’re all stuck within the same system, from the man on the street to the man with his finger on the button. Roxie. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%.
Kreative Killers - Midnites for Maniacs returns with a triple bill of diabolical crime including the movie version of Milton Bradley's Clue, starring a delirious Tim Curry, Woody Allen's Crimes & Misdemeanors and the piece-de-resistance, a rare 35mm screening of Abel Ferrara's profoundly unhinged The Driller Killer. Friday only. Castro.
Mistaken for Strangers - This doc about NPR darlings The National, made by front man Matt Berninger’s bumbling brother (and foil) Tom, mirrors the band’s impossible appeal. Plenty of great performance footage balances the family drama in this gem. Roxie. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Pompeii - Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) once again delivers big dumb thrills with this gladiator-on-fire tale starring "Game of Thrones" hot property Kit Harington (John Snow). If you like swords, fire, and spectacular abs… Bay Area Theaters.
The Wind Rises - Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki delivers his stated last film, a heavily historicized paean fighter pilot designed with his trademark sumptuous visuals but little consolation to the whimsy and sweeping themes that have marked his career. Sundance Kabuki. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%.
What Difference Does it Make? A Film About Making Music - The ever-expanding Red Bull Music Academy swings into town to present a free screening of this studio exploration, which is as jam-packed as its name implies, featuring a slew of artists from Q-Tip to Brian Eno to James Murphy. A discussion with multi-hyphenate DJ Francois K precedes the screening. RSVP here. Saturday only, Victoria Theatre.
Roxie J’Adore Auction Party - The Roxie Theater, recently the subject of an illuminating NPR feature closes out their Valentine’s photography auction/fundraiser with a mini soiree. Go for the party, leave with a picture. Benefits support Roxie’s continuing operation. Thursday, 2/27 only, Roxie.