Oscar Post-Moderm

Michael Medved is right—Hollywood is out of touch with America. Sunday night, we watched the Academy pick the smart one, the one with quality, the right one. That’s not the way America votes.

In all the post-Oscar talk about Chris Rock and Beyonce, there’s one interesting statistic that no one seemed to notice: For the second year in a row, half of the acting Oscars went to performances directed by Clint Eastwood. That’s got to be some kind of record.

Twenty years ago, would you have believed that Clint Eastwood would one day be a better director than Martin Scorsese? Me, neither. But Scorsese peaked early, and Eastwood peaked late. Somewhere in the 1990’s, they passed each other.

But enough of the past. This Thursday marks the opening of two local festivals, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the Tiburon International Film Festival. The later takes over the three-screen Tiburon Playhouse for a week, showing 270 films from over 60 countries. Among the major events are tributes to Orson Welles, stuntmen, and Malcolm McDowell (including a screening of Clockwork Orange). And those are just next Saturday!

The Asian American Festival isn’t offering half as many movies, but you won’t have to drive to Marin to catch it, since there will be showings in San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley. The line-up includes three world premieres, several local premieres, an on-stage interview with documentary filmmaker Steven Okazaki, and both a documentary about and concert by Margaret Leng Tan, master of the toy piano (yes, you heard that right).

And now, this week’s notes and recommendations:

  • Recommendation: A Very Long Engagement, Balboa and Parkway, ongoing. True, this World War I epic by the folks that brought you Amélie is difficult to follow. It’s a mystery, which makes it dialog dependent. But it’s also a visual feast, which tempts your eyes away from the subtitles. But the atmosphere, the characters, and the recreation of war’s horrors make it worth seeing, anyway. Think of it as the romantic version of Paths of Glory.

  • Recommendation: Safety Last, California Theatre (San Jose), Friday night. Harold Lloyd’s iconic image–hanging from the clock. This isn’t Lloyd at his best until the last third, but even mediocre Lloyd is funnier than most comics. And when he starts climbing that building, the laughs don’t stop. With organ accompaniment by Chris Elliott.

  • Recommendation: The Conformist, Castro, Friday through Wednesday. Bernardo Bertolucci’s early masterpiece about fascism and the type of people who make it possible. The Castro promises a restored print in “great shape,” along with the original trailer for Nicholas Ray’s 1956 Bigger Than Life.

  • Recommendation: Christmas in July & Monkey Business, Stanford, Friday through Sunday. The Preston Sturges and Marx Brothers festival continues. If you can’t sleep at night, it’s not the coffee, it’s the bunk.

  • Noteworthy: A Star Is Porn, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Friday night. Remember that old SCTV sketch about non-sex scenes in porn? Well, YBCA has actually put together a program of such entertainment, specifically from hardcore movies that parodied legitimate flicks like Clockwork Orange, Gone with the Wind, and Snow White.

  • Recommendation: Saving Face, Castro, Thursday night. The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival gets off to a great start with this Chinese American lesbian comedy (sounds like it should be set in San Francisco, but it isn’t) about a young doctor (Michelle Krusiec) trying to hide her homosexuality. It’s funny, touching, and sexy, even if by the last act you can feel the screenwriter straining to deliver a happy ending. Joan Chen does a wonderfully funny turn as the doctor’s widowed, pregnant, and disgraced mother. Watch for the Graduate homage.

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