Dennis Harvey

Alternative medicine

Got Hollywood fatigue? Seek out 'Starbuck' and 'The Silence'

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM No country exports mainstream films to the extensive success that the US does. To the frequent chagrin of local filmmakers and cultural watchdogs, Hollywood dominates many nations' box offices, non-English-speaking ones included. Nor do we reciprocate much — there remains a wide separation between what are perceived as commercial entertainments and "art house" films, with foreign-language (or even just British) ones almost invariably limited to the latter category.Read more »

The Nonconformist

'And God Created Jean-Louis Trintignant' celebrates a legendary career

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If you're nasty

Exotic terrors and fast women abound in the Roxie's latest 'pre-Code' series

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM The current hand-wringing over whether an irresponsible entertainment industry corrupts our youth is notable for being such a blatant diversionary tactic by gun-control foes — their argument being a little beside the point, of course, since incidents are rather few of people being shot dead by a copy of Grand Theft Auto or a Saw flick.Read more »

Heat of the moment

Local retrospectives spotlight Japan's innovative Art Theater Guild

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My campy Valentine

Fall in love with vampires, acid, severed hands, and interplanetary war at the Vortex Room

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FILM Love is the drug, or so sang somebody once. Yet violent conflict has always been a more predominatingly addicting factor in movies — which is why it seems both natural and despairing that the Vortex Room's "For Your Vortex Only" celebration of "Love...Vortex Style" (please guys, only one title per series), every Thursday in February, features eight vintage movies in which "love" is less a matter of romantic fulfillment than a titular selling point.Read more »

Smith happens

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Every year there's at least one: the adorable-old-coot fest, usually British, that proves harmless and reassuring and lightly tear/laughter producing enough to convince a certain demographic that it's safe to go to the movies again, just this once. The last months have seen two, both starring Maggie Smith (who's also queen of that audience's home viewing via Downton Abbey), and in this case more is probably less.Read more »

Damnation investigation

A new doc goes to hell and back

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM It's a peculiarity of our moment that the worse things get, the more people seem inclined to think everyone else is going to hell. Their interpretation of the Bible (or Quran, or whatever) is seemingly absolute, yet God seems to stay on their side no matter which way the worldly wind might blow. Righteous judgment of others has practically become the American way, not that we were ever less than an opinionated bunch.Read more »

Nero worship

The original 'Django' rides again at the Castro

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Though it's much more a Southern than a Western — closer to Mandingo (1975) than Red River (1948), that's for sure — Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained nonetheless pays specific homage to spaghetti westerns in its title and some stylistic fillips.Read more »

The damage done

The versatile Robert Carlyle hits a melancholy note in 'California Solo'

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Robert Carlyle is the kind of actor who usually elicits a slow-dawning response in realm of "Oh, right ... that guy. What was he in again?" Well, a lot, but if you're not British (let alone Scottish), his visibility has probably been erratic and infrequent — plus he does that exasperating English thing of taking TV assignments like they're perfectly OK, as opposed to the US approach of doing series work only when your big-screen career is in the toilet.Read more »

Still the fairest

Heigh-ho to 'Snow White' on her 75th birthday

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM One of the few upbeat by-products of the increasing infantilization of popular movies is that the same impulse to dumb down live action for permanently adolescent tastes also raises the bar for animation, which no longer has to target grade schoolers as its primary audience. Even not-so-special 2012 had more sophisticated and interesting animated features than you'd find in any given year a couple decades or more ago. Wreck-It Ralph won't win the Best Picture Oscar. But it will almost certainly be better than whatever movie does.Read more »