Posted on January 31, 2008 by Lincoln Spector
What’s the sound of one audience clapping?
Starting February 14, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts screens 12 films in a series titled Projecting Buddha. Hosted by the International Buddhist Film Festival, The movies are intended to complement the current YBCA exhibition, The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama. The series features, according to the press release, “the Dalai Lama, Martin Scorsese, Thich Nhat Hanh, John Giorno, Sakyong Mipham, Noah Levine, Robina Courtin, Bobby Hill.
I’ve seen two of the films. The documentary Chasing Buddha introduces you to Robina Courtin, an Australian-born Buddhist nun now living in the Bay Area (or at least living here when the movie was made). A former hippy and political radical, Courtin spends much of her time these days in prisons, helping condemned criminals find a spiritual path. She’s strong-willed, direct, and uses language that would easily earn this movie an R rating if it was shown commercially. This 52-minute semi-feature plays on Sunday, February 17, 2:00, with the short subject “Satya: A Prayer for the Enemy.
I’ve also seen the King of the Hill episode “Won’t You Pimai Neighbor.” It’s funny, and it’s screening Sunday, February 24, with the short feature Compassion In Exile.
Projecting Buddha runs through March 6, Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
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Posted on January 30, 2008 by Lincoln Spector
My wife and I went to the Cerrito last night for a screening of Freeway Philharmonic, a documentary about Bay Area classical musicians who drive all over Northern California to scratch out a living playing in multiple orchestras. Filmmakers Tal Skloot and Steven Baigel profile seven such musicians, although there are many more.
The capacity audience appeared to be mostly musicians and at least one musician’s spouse. That would be me, as my wife plays viola professionally. She seemed to know half the audience, including several of the musicians profiled in the film. In fact, one of Freeway Philharmonic‘s subjects is our daughter’s bassoon teacher.
At 55 minutes, Freeway Philharmonic isn’t quite feature length, but it’s the right length for the story Skloot and Baigel have to tell. We meet the musicians, get to know their lives, their dreams, and their frustrations. Two of them get married, another two–already married–contemplate parenthood. One injures her hand and worries if that will destroy her career. And we come to understand the passion, dedication, and struggle involved in an artistic career.
Good music, too.
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Posted on January 24, 2008 by Lincoln Spector
The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival comes to the Bay Area again in February with screenings at the Pacific Film Archive and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. This is a modest festival: Only nine films (including shorts) presented in 12 screenings. All of the films are documentaries.
So far, Iâ€™ve seen one of them, Strange Culture, which was shown last year at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and then received a limited theatrical release. I liked the movie, and gave it a B. Click here for my review.
Other films deal with global warming, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and violence in the Congo.
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Posted on January 23, 2008 by Lincoln Spector
Quite a day. The Academy announces the Oscar nominations, and Heath Ledger dies in what looks like a suicide.
I first saw Ledger in The Patriot and Monster’s Ball. Both performances impressed me, but they left me wondering if I would ever see this young man alive in a final fade-out. I finally did, of course, in Brokeback Mountain; alive, but very sad, standing both literally and figuratively in a closet. I finally saw him in a happy ending with Casanova.
But there was no happy ending for Ledger himself. We still don’t know why.
Should we care more about Ledger than about the many other people who must have died before their time that day–including, I’m sure, others who left young children behind? I suppose not. Yet we do, because we’ve all lost something: the chance to watch a talented young artist mature and improve with age.
And what about the Oscar nominations?
I have yet to see There Will Be Blood, which seems to have momentum behind it. I’ll have to rectify that. I liked the other four Best Picture nominees, although only Juno made my top ten (and topped it). I’m rooting for Juno, but I don’t think it will win. It’s not the sort of movie that does.
On the animation front, I loved both Persepolis and Ratatouille, although I don’t think of Persepolisas a 2007 film because it didn’t open in the Bay Area before 2008. And, of course, I’m hoping No End in Sight makes Best Feature-Length Documentary.
But we’ll have to wait until February 24 to answer the big question: What is an Oscar ceremony like during a writer’s strike?
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Posted on January 16, 2008 by Lincoln Spector
Another big film festival on the way. IndieFest (AKA, The Tenth Annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival) opens February 7 and plays through the 20th. Venues include the Castro, the Roxie, and the Victoria Theater.
It starts on Thursday the 7th at the Castro (all festivals start on a Thursday night at the Castroâ€¦itâ€™s the law) with Shotgun Stories, the story of a modern-day rural family feud, and ends nearly two weeks later with Gus Van Santâ€™s latest work, Paranoid Park.
Van Santâ€™s contribution is the only film Iâ€™ve heard of, and Iâ€™ve yet to see any of them (that is sort of the point). Among the more curious-sounding titles on the schedule are Sexina: Popstar, P.I., Driving To Zigzigland, and Alligator On the Zipper. Thereâ€™s also an Armenian â€œscrewballâ€ comedy called A Big Story in a Small City. Sounds good.
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