What’s happening this week in Bay Area cinema? We’ve got three new movies coming to theaters: one about a budding drag queen, another about America’s doctor, and finally an environmental activist who seriously talks to elves. You can also find out what happens when David Byrne mixes up with Spike Lee.
Festivals & Series
- The Rose Foundation’s 2021 Virtual Film Fest continues through this week and beyond
New films opening
B+ Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021), Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD, opens Friday
Have you noticed that musicals are a thing again? Now we’ve got another one, this time from Britain, and if it’s no masterpiece, it’s a funny, entertaining, and good-hearted tale. Jamie just turned 16, and he wants to become a drag queen. Not everyone in class likes the idea, although his mother and best friend – a Muslim girl – think it’s just fine. Even the class bully isn’t that bad. The songs get better through the movie. Read my full review.
B+ Fauci (2021), Elmwood, Vogue, opens Friday
Anthony Fauci, arguably America’s doctor, has gained rockstar celebrity. So, of course, he gets his own documentary. Luckily, Fauci seems to be extremely likeable. He has an engaging smile, a good sense of humor, and he accepts his mistakes. He seems to be managing his celebrity and his notoriety. As he talks into the camera, he’s relaxed. He jokes about himself. And yet, I just wished there was a little bit more about his faults. I’m sure he has some. Read my full review.
C The Seer and the Unseen (2021), Rafael, Sunday, 4:15; Roxie, Monday, 6:30; Elmwood, Wednesday, 7:00
I’ve seen a lot of documentaries about people despoiling the environment, but not one with elves. Okay, we don’t actually see or hear elves in this doc from Iceland. The main subject, Ragnhildur Jonsdottir, believes she does – and so does her family and, apparently, a lot of people in Iceland. If nothing else, the scenery is often beautiful, but the film is often boring and seems stretched. Director Sara Dosa and Producer Shane Boris will be in attendance for post-screening Q&A at all screenings.
New to the big screen
A David Byrne’s American Utopia (2021), Embarcadero Center, Rafael, Shattuck, Wednesday, 7:00; Roxie, 6:45
You can reasonably call this a sequel to Stop Making Sense, with great music, visuals, and choreography, all with Byrne at the center. Thanks to new technology, even the pianist can dance and play all over the stage. About half the songs came from The Talking Heads era, while others were new (at least to me). But this concert video is more political, and Byrne talks much more to the audience, about everything from houseguests to voting. Director Spike Lee keeps the sounds and visuals always exciting.
Another chance to see (theatrically)
B Summer of Soul (2021), Shattuck, Rafael, opens Friday
If you go to see this concert documentary only for the music, you’ll be disappointed. I don’t think there’s a single song played from start to ending without interruption. The film is much more about race issues than music. It’s primarily a record, shot on primitive, 1960s video, of a free concert in Harlem just weeks before Woodstock. But each act is interrupted with someone talking about the artist, or the African American situation then or now. But the musicians, who include Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, and B.B. King, are fantastic. Just remember that the music takes backstage to the issues.
A Inside Out (2015), Lark Drive-in, Saturday, 7:50
Funny, technically dazzling, and suitable for adults, Pixar shows its magic touch in this family-friendly animated feature. When a young girl gets uprooted from the Midwest to San Francisco, her brain must deal with loss, fear, confusion, and hope. Inside Out is set almost entirely within her brain, where anthropomorphized emotions–Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness–become the film’s main characters. A lot of research into the human mind went into this film, making it all the more thoughtful and all the more entertaining.
A Fruitvale Station (2013), New Mission
The experience of seeing this independent feature is very much like waiting for a time bomb. You watch Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) go through the last day of 2008, knowing that he will be fatally shot by a BART cop in the early hours of the new year. Writer/director Ryan Coogler wisely avoids turning Grant into a saint but makes us care very much for him. The last moments of the film–not including some documentary footage and the closing credits–will break your heart. Read my longer report.
A- Coronation (2020), New Mission
Ai Weiwei created (to my knowledge) the first feature-length documentary about the current pandemic. With no narration, it follows people in the town of Wuhan (where Corona first appeared) in the first months of the disaster. Among the more powerful scenes are medical personnel suiting up and an old woman who still believes in Communism. The film is very slow, but that deliberate pace forces us to experience what these people, and all of us, are going through.
- Blue Velvet, Roxie, Friday, 9:15, 35mm!
- In the Mood For Love, Roxie, Saturday, 8:50, Sunday, 6:25, Monday, 9:00
- 8½, Roxie, Saturday, 2:10
- North By Northwest, Roxie, 1:10, 35mm!