We still can’t go to a regular, Bay Area movie theater, but we’ve got three virtual film festivals, a lot of drive-in action – including Black Panther, Black Spider-Man, and a very white Indiana Jones. Also, three relatively new movies streaming through your favorite theaters.
- The San Francisco Frozen Film Festival opened last week (sorry about that) and closes Saturday.
- The San Francisco Black Film Festival is already streaming, and runs through August 2. [Note: I’ve altered this listing.]
- Cinegogue Summer Days opens Thursday. Read my preview.
Bay Area theaters with virtual cinema
New films available
B Ray Harryhausen: Master of Cinema Magic, Rafael
On Monday, June 29, the California Film Institute celebrated the 100th birthday of the late, great special effects artist, Ray Harryhausen with a live discussion. Four contemporary filmmakers – Craig Barron, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Phil Tippett – explained how Harryhausen did his magic and how he inspired them. Their talk was informative and entertaining, with many clips of Harryhausen’s work. Unfortunately, a technical glitch kept the audiences at home from asking questions. Fortunately, the talk was recorded, and you can watch the video here.
Great double bill:
A Black Panther & A Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Solano Drive-in, check website for times and dates
Black Panther: Yes, it was revolutionary to make a huge-budget superhero movie with an almost entirely black cast. But there’s more. The main villain has a serious point, and the hero must face some ambiguously moral choices. It’s also a lot of fun. On some days you can see this movie with Inside Out or Mad Max: Fury Road
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: This enjoyable and entertaining animated superhero movie has multiple Spider people from different dimensions popping up, including an aging Peter Parker with a pot belly. But the main Spider-Man here is a black kid from Brooklyn who must learn how to use his accidentally-given powers. Read my full report.
A- Raiders of the Lost Ark, Corica Park, Friday, opens 8:00; movie starts at 9:00. Tickets through the Alameda
The original Indiana Jones movie is, in most people’s eyes, the best, even if I disagree. But I still considerate it a wonderful (if somewhat racist) roller coaster of a movie, giving you one thrill or joke after another. Read my thoughts on the film.
Recommended and available
A- Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things, Balboa, Cerrito, Elmwood, Lark, Rafael , Roxie, Vogue
Ella Fitzgerald was all about the sound. Heavy set, she wasn’t conventionally beautiful. She couldn’t be successful at her childhood ambition as a dancer. But when she sang, everyone listened. This documentary isn’t entirely about the music. It’s also about being a black woman in most of the 20th century. Even when she was rich and famous, she was still locked out of clubs. Fitzgerald herself avoided discussing race issues publicly until the Civil Rights era. Read my full review.
A- Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly, BAMPFA, Lark
This documentary, with its interviews with prisoners of conscience and their families, will leave you feeling guilty – and that’s a good thing. It’s not really about the Chinese artist and political agitator Ai Weiwei, but about the many peaceful dissidents imprisoned around the world. Much of the film concerns co-director Cheryl Haines’ 2014 collaboration with Weiwei to create an artistic installation on Alcatraz island about political prisoners. Weiwei couldn’t be there; he was not allowed out of China at that time. By the way, Weiwei now lives in the west and made the excellent but overlooked documentary Human Flow.
B+ John Lewis: Good Trouble, BAMPFA, Cerrito, Elmwood, New Mission, Rafael, Roxie
It’s easy to worship John Lewis, the former civil rights hero turned senior congressman. He claims that he was arrested 40 times during the civil rights era, and five times more since he’s been in Congress. With Lewis narrating, we learn about the lunch counter protests, the Freedom Riders, the March on Washington, the church bombing in Birmingham, and so on. He’s a real hero, but the documentary makes him too good to be true. Read my full review.