A American Splendor, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:30. Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini mix biopic and documentary methods to tell the story of Harvey Pekar, a frustrated, angry, and intelligent man who found modest fame but little fortune as the writer (but not the illustrator) of a series of biographic comic books. For most of the film, Paul Giamatti plays Pekar and Hope Davis plays his wife, Joyce Brabner. But the real Pekar and Brabner also appear in the film, discussing the actual events and their cinematic recreation. And yes, this strange misplacement works, in large part because Pekar is as great a subject as Giamatti is an actor, and both have the same strange, unattractive charisma. Part of the series Drawn from Life: The Graphic Novel on Film.
Sesame Street at 40: Milestones on the Street, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Friday and Saturday. Who doesn’t have fond memories of Sesame Street? True, I’m too old to have experienced it as a member of its target audience, but I watched it with my son on a regular basis. This best-of compilation (I hope it has “Born to Add”) starts a month-long series More Muppet™ Magic: Jim Henson’s Legacy.
B+ Fresh, Rafael, Red Vic, Berkeley Oaks, opens Friday. Not so much about the problem of corporate factory farms as about the solution, Fresh spends most of its short, 72-minute runtime introducing us to farmers, distributors, and supermarket managers who are making a difference. Farmers like Will Allen and Joel Salatin (pictured here) work with nature rather than fight it to produce the food they eat and sell. We also meet experts like Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, who explains the problems of mass farming and how the nutritional quality of produce has dropped in recent decades. Yes, it’s another left-wing, didactic, political documentary that almost no one will see who doesn’t already agree with it’s point of view. That’s too bad, not only because the point of view needs to be heard, but because it’s an enjoyable, informative, and entertaining film. Read my full review. Note: The Red Vic engagement runs only through Thursday.
The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Presidio of San Francisco, Saturday, 7:00. After being exposed to really bad stuff in the environment, Scott Carey begins to slowly shrink. At first he’s just a little, um, small for his wife. Then his cat begins to relate to him as lunch. Additional existential threats as he continues to shrink include a huge spider and questions about the nature of existence, itself. At least, that’s how I remember this 1957 sci-fi epic, which I haven’t seen since college. I don’t know if I’d find it so profound now.
A+ Hitchcock/Grace Kelly Double Bill: Rear Window & Dial M for Murder, Castro, Friday. Rear Window represents Alfred Hitchcock at his absolute best. James Stewart is riveting as a news photographer temporarily confined to his apartment and a wheelchair, amusing himself by watching his neighbors. Then he begins to suspect that one of them committed murder. Hitchcock uses this story to examine voyeurism, urban alienation, and the institution of marriage, and to treat his audience to a great, suspenseful entertainment. Dial M—the only 3D film made by an important director until Avatar–isn’t great Hitchcock, but it’s passable. Unfortunately, the Castro will not present the movie in 3D.
A Psycho, Castro, Wednesday. Contrary to urban myth, Alfred Hitchcock didn’t really want people to stop taking showers. He was, however, inspired by the television show he was then producing to make a low-budget movie in black and white.