In Bay Area Virtual Cinema: August 14 – 20

Boots Riley, Humphrey Bogart, trans prostitutes, a fearless photographer, fire, and music. You can watch some or all of these this week through the magic of virtual cinema.

Bay Area theaters with virtual cinema

Special online events

Roxie Quick Takes: Boots Riley, Roxie, Wednesday, 6:00

Photo by Claudia Miller. The Roxie will start off their new discussion series with rapper and filmmaker Boots Riley, moderated by Caroline Kaplan. You’ll need a Roxie Virtual Membership, but that costs only $30 a year. If you don’t know much about Riley, you can read my review of his film Sorry to Bother You and my report on his SFFilm State of the Cinema address.

A Popcorn PopUp: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Balboa, Saturday; food 4:00; movie 7:30

The event: From 4 to 7pm, the Balboa will be selling popcorn, beer, and other snacks (masks required, of course). Then go home, and at 7:30, you stream the movie while taking part in the Chat Room.
The movie: Dashiell Hammett’s novel had been filmed twice before, but screenwriter and first-time director John Huston did it right with the perfect cast and a perfect everything else. The ultimate Hammett motion picture, an important early film noir, and perhaps the most entertaining detective movie ever made. Truly the stuff that dreams are made of.

Not quite new

A Tangerine (2015), New Mission

Sometimes a movie blows apart every concept you had about what a motion picture can be. Sean Baker’s tale of a transgender prostitute out for justice creates that sort of magic. Fast, frenetic, funny, and sad, Tangerine looks like no other movie I’ve ever seen, in part because it was shot entirely on iPhones. And yes, that works, allowing the filmmakers to capture the tarnished glamour of today’s Hollywood (the neighborhood, not the industry). The most exciting and original new film I saw in 2015. Did I tell you it’s a Christmas movie? Read my full review.

Recommended and available

A  Picture of His Life (2019), Roxie; ends Sunday!

Amos Nachoum, a veteran of Israel’s Yom Kippur war, turned his PTSD into something incredible, magical, and insanely dangerous. As an underwater wildlife photographer, Nachoum photographs sharks, sea lions, and other giant predators of the deep, often very, very close (you should check out his photography). This documentary by Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir follows him as he sets out to do something no one else has ever done; photograph a swimming polar bear from inside the water. For more information, see my SF Jewish Film Festival report.

B+  River City Drumbeat (2019), Roxie

Yes, this is another inspiring music documentary, but that’s not a bad thing. The star of this documentary is Ed “Nardie” White – a widower and senior citizen with thin dreadlocks – and he has been running the River City Drum Corp for decades. This is more than a hobby, but a deep calling. By teaching young kids to drum as a group, he gives them the abilities to succeed in life in a society where they’re expected to fail. Read my full review.

B+ Rebuilding Paradise (2020), BalboaCerrito, Elmwood, Vogue

Remember the notorious Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, CA? This spellbinding documentary starts, as you’d expect, with news clips and home videos of people trapped while flames leap all around them. But the film asks a much more interesting question: How do you rebuild the town and community you love? Director Ron Howard avoids narration and concentrates on those willing to rebuild. Townspeople deal with FEMA, PG&E, and other bureaucratic entities. Teenagers graduate when there’s no usable school building. And yet almost everyone interviewed tells people how much they love Paradise and why they’re not leaving. Read my full review.

Old but recommended

A Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959), opens Wednesday, Balboa, BAMPFACerrito, Elmwood, Rafael, Vogue

The concert documentary didn’t start with Woodstock, Gimme Shelter, or even Monterey Pop. But it just may have started with Jazz on a Summer’s Day. Shot in and around the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, and released a year later, it’s one of the best of its kind. But what else can you expect with Louis Armstrong, Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, and even a little upstart named Chuck Berry. The filmmakers were smart enough to celebrate the joy in the audience as well as in the performers. Read my full review.