FILM The San Francisco Documentary Film Festival returns for its 11th year with a typically strong program — whether you like your docs quirky, political, musical, experimental, or just plain strange, DocFest has you covered. Plus, there's an "80s New Wave Sing-a-Long," because who doesn't love screaming Spandau Ballet with a few hundred pals? Read on for more recommendations.Read more »
FILM First and foremost, make it your business to see Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet, which is playing the San Francisco Film Society's "Cinema By the Bay" series and the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, both of which open this week. (See DocFest article elsewhere in this issue.)Read more »
An array of new liquor tastes, and a Whiskyfest recap
NAVY STRENGTH GIN REACHES US SHORES
Unforgettable: my journey to the south of England town of Plymouth and its legendary distillery with Master Distiller Sean Harrison. Possibly the most beautiful distillery I’ve yet visited. I relished drinking Plymouth Navy Strength ($34.99) while in the UK, a bracing version of their classic gin at 57% ABV/114 proof, the preferred gin of the British Royal Navy.
Though still smooth like Plymouth gin, Navy Strength packs a greater botanical punch, enlivening cocktails. The good news is it finally arrived to the US merely weeks ago in September so drink up.
FILM It is one of those hard truths one must learn to live with: Quentin Tarantino will always have seen more obscure exploitation movies than you. His new Django Unchained will arrive just in time for Christmas like a gift wrapped severed limb, leaving dedicated fanboy/fangirl types just weeks yet to immerse themselves in the world of spaghetti westerns to which it pays homage.Read more »
On the Road (Walter Salles, US/France/UK/Brazil, 2012) Walter Salles (2004's The Motorcycle Diaries) engages Diaries screenwriter Jose Rivera to adapt Jack Kerouac's Beat classic; it's translated to the screen in a streamlined version, albeit one rife with parties, drugs, jazz, danger, reckless driving, sex, philosophical conversations, soul-searching, and "kicks" galore. Brit Sam Riley (2007's Control) plays Kerouac stand-in Sal Paradise, observing (and scribbling down) his gritty adventures as they unfold. Read more »
FILM The 35th Mill Valley Film Festival is a star-studded affair, with tributes to Dustin Hoffman and 1977's Star Wars and celebrity guests (Ben Affleck! Ang Lee! Stevie Nicks!), but indie cinema fans won't want to miss Strutter. It doesn't have any movie stars, but it comes courtesy of indie heroes Allison Anders (1992's Gas Food Lodging, 1993's Mi vida loca) and Kurt Voss, Anders' co-director and co-writer on 1987's Border Radio and 1999's Sugar Town.Read more »
I'll take whisk(e)y year round. But as summer evolves to fall, it seems all the more appropriate enjoyed on crisp nights, preferably fireside. Thankfully, WhiskyFest approaches this Friday/5, in the usual massive, underground Marriott ballrooms. Recapping past years, VIP early pours of rare whiskies and seminars tend to be highlights. There's another seminar this week with the legendary, delightful Parker Beam, exploring Japanese Whisky with Suntory brand ambassador Neyah White, and I'm particularly looking forward to beer and single malt pairings with Highland Park brand ambassador Martin Daraz.
There's a number of new pours this year, including Glenfiddich's Malt Master which I review below, Parker's Heritage Collection release for 2012, the Master Distiller’s Blend of Mashbills (Parker Beam's annual, limited edition releases are among the most exciting American whiskies made), and for the first time ever Nikka Japanese whisky, which I've long had to enjoy when in Europe, as you can't get it here in the US... until this fall, thanks to SF's very own Anchor Distilling here in SF. Anchor is importing Nikka with, as Anchor President David King told me recently, a few more Japanese whiskies to come -- a huge win for whisky lovers like myself who've been longing for more imports from Japan. I sampled Taketsuru 12 year, which will also be poured at WhiskyFest, while Anchor will soon import their 17 yr and 21 yr whiskies.
FILM It can't be a coincidence that within a week, a pair of films have been released about 35-year-olds who contemplate hooking up with 19-year-olds. That 16-year age gap — with an immature or other otherwise emotionally stunted thirtysomething on one end, and a precocious millennial on the other — is narrow enough to be plausible, but just wide enough to be awkward.Read more »
THEATER The word "challenging" gets thrown around a lot in the art world. Everyone wants to be considered challenging. So much so, it starts to sound like a byword for its opposite. A plea to "like" on Facebook. That sort of thing. In truth, few pieces of theater, dance, or performance actually live up to the meaning of this over-used phrase by unsettling basic assumptions about our relation to the work itself and its social and institutional contexts.Read more »