Projections - Page 8

A long list of short takes on SFIFF 57, in chronological order

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A teen fights for her rights in Ethiopian drama Difret.
Photo courtesty San Francisco Film Society

Palo Alto (Gia Coppola, US) Adapted from the 2010 short story collection by James Franco, first-time director Gia Coppola's depressive, aimless tale of disaffected youth tracks the ennuis and misadventures of a handful of Palo Alto teenagers: shy, inexperienced April (Emma Roberts), teetering on the edge of an affair with her soccer coach (Franco); naively promiscuous Emily (Zoe Levin); budding head case Fred (Nat Wolff); and his friend Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val, who plays April's out-to-lunch stepfather), who ambivalently participates in Fred's mayhem while pining after April. Adult supervision is nearly Peanuts-level sparse — in other Peninsula households, helicopter parents may be fine-tuning the lives of their children down to the last extracurricular; here, the stoned, distracted elders who occasionally wander in front of the camera are more like flaky, absentee roommates. Meanwhile, their young charges fill the empty hours with copious amounts of alcohol consumption, random property destruction, and a round or two of social crucifixion. May 3, 7:30pm, Kabuki. (Lynn Rapoport)

The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, US, 1941) Superficially the most conventional of Preston Sturges' classics — being a romantic comedy vehicle for two major stars — this 1941 gem is no less great for it. Barbara Stanwyck plays Jean, the feminine lure in a team of wily con artists who spy easy prey in Henry Fonda, a fabulously wealthy "bumble-puppy" more interested in studying Amazonian snakes than inheriting the family brewery fortune. They relieve him of considerable cash at the card table, but when Jean decides she really does love the big dope and comes clean, he thinks she's still lying. Now a woman scorned — and whatta woman! — Jean hatches a spectacular revenge scheme to teach him the lesson he deserves. As is Sturges' wont, the film goes over the top a bit toward the end. But who cares, when Eve is so brilliantly written and performed, not to mention consistently hilarious. Film critic David Thomson and journalist-novelist Geoff Dyer will be present for this screening in conjunction with Thomson's acceptance of the Mel Novikoff Award. May 4, 3pm, Kabuki. (Harvey)

Ping Pong Summer (Michael Tully, US) Eighties teen flicks of the My Bodyguard (1980), smart-dweebs-beat-the-bullies ilk are paid homage in Michael Tully's deadpan satire, which is closer in spirit to the Comedy of Lameness school whose patron saint is Napoleon Dynamite. Radley (Marcello Conte) is an average teen so excited to be spending the summer of 1985 in Ocean City, Md., with his family that he renames himself "Rad Miracle." He acquires a New Best Friend in Teddy (Myles Massey), who as the whitest black kid imaginable might make even Rad look cool by comparison. However, they are both dismayed to discover the local center for video gaming and everything else they like is ruled by bigger, older, cuter, and snottier douchebag Lyle Ace (Joseph McCaughtry) and his sidekick. Only kicking Lyle's ass at ping pong — with some help from a local weirdo (a miscast Susan Sarandon, apparently here because she's an offscreen ping pong enthusiast) — can save Rad's wounded dignity, and the summer in general. A big step up from Tully's odd but pointless prior Septien (2011), this has all the right stuff (including a soundtrack packed with the likes of Mr. Mister, the Fat Boys, Mary Jane Girls, New Edition, Whodini, and Night Ranger) to hilariously parody the era's inanities. But it's just mildly amusing — a droll attitude with lots of period detail but not much bite. May 4, 6:30pm, Kabuki; May 7, 8:45pm, New People. (Harvey)

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