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Notes from the indie underground: the ATA Film Festival

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For more reviews from the sixth ATA Film and Video Festival, check out this week's film listings. The fest kicks off tonight with an opening reception.

Piena En Mi Alexandra Cuesta’s short film “Piena En Mi” is an impressionistic portrait of Los Angeles, where, in addition to Quito, Ecuador, the filmmaker lives and works. Primarily shot from a bus that traverses the sprawling metropolitan, the film is told with the the city’s different neighborhoods, its sounds, and its patchwork of ethnic groups. It’s an honest portrait of  LA — economically depressed in most places, polluted, congested – but beautiful, nonetheless, and unapologetic. Cuesta treats her city with tenderness and it renders her film graceful and intimate. It’s sensitive to the very subtlties that make LA radiate with character, whether it’s odd haircuts, dirty bus windows, or bells on an ice cream carriage. It’s in these shots that the filmmaker’s background in street photography shows, and make it a highlight of the ATA festival. Program One, "City Symphonies" Read more »

Snap Sounds: Celsius 7's "Life Well Spent"

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"First date was lovely, and the second was stellar: by the third I was liking you hella," Bay Area MC Celsius 7 states on my Indian Summer jam "Difficult" from his new album Life Well Spent. Leave it to  the former Psychokinetics crew member to vibrantly revive the hoary "hella" chestnut -- it's not the first time you hear it on a disc that's full of sunny tracks from the hip-hop comfort zone, and also includes references to Wild Style, Krush Groove, Doug E. Fresh, Rubik's Cube necklaces, "Where's the beef?," and Dungeons and Dragons. Hey, what's that? An EPMD sample? Aw yeah.

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Get lit! A handy guide to Saturday night's LitCrawl

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LitQuake has been rough. You’ve been dashing out of work, shoving people away from their cabs to make it to the Chuck Klosterman event and sprinting after buses to catch Karen Russell; you’ve had to make the hard decision between “Kafkaesque” and “Rock Out with your Book Out;” and all the while, you keep thinking Jeffrey Eugenides has just passed you on the street. With LitCrawl coming up Sat/15, things become even more overwhelming and terrific. In the Mission, bars, cafes, and bookstores together host 450 readers in 79 readings, all free and open to the public. One way to navigate the event might be to pick your favorite bar or cafe, find a chair, order a drink and wait for something to happen. Or, you can check these readings out:
 
I Live Here: SF. How We Got Here, Why We Stay
Not a lot of us can say we were born and raised in San Francisco. Most of us fled here from elsewhere for one reason or another: failed relationships, parents kicked you out, a nervous breakdown, a mid-life crisis, you formed an indie-rock band. Maybe you came for LoveFest and simply forgot whom you were. There are a thousand reasons for arriving and a thousand more for staying. In Clarion Alley, writers and non-writers alike including Mark Bittner and M.C. Mars talk about what brought them here and why they haven’t budged. 6 p.m., Clarion Alley, between Mission and Valencia, and 17th and 18th Sts, SF

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A decade of DocFest: more reviews!

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Check out more coverage of the 10th San Francisco Documentary Film Festival in this week's Guardian.

Beaverbrook (Matthew Callahan, U.S., 2010) If you attended Camp Beaverbrook, which operated in California's Lake County from 1961-85, this film is required viewing. It offers an intensely wistful look at an old-fashioned sleepaway camp that thrived in an era before insurance companies started frowning on things like helmet-free kids galloping wildly on horseback. If you don't have Beaverbrook in your blood, however, watching 1979's Meatballs will offer a similar overdose of nostalgia, plus the huge added bonus of Bill Murray. Sun/16, 5 p.m. and Oct. 18, 7:15 p.m., Roxie; Fri/14, 7:15 p.m., Shattuck.

Heavy Metal Picnic (Jeff Krulik, U.S., 2010) Everyone's seen Heavy Metal Parking Lot, the 1986 Jeff Krulik and John Heyn short that became a pre-internet cult classic. Shot amid the beer-y, mullet-y, "party-as-a-verb" shenanigans that transpired before a Judas Priest-Dokken show, Parking Lot is a seminal document for metalheads and anthropologists alike. Twenty-five years later, the prolific Krulik, again with Hayn, returns to the subject matter that made him famous with Heavy Metal Picnic, a 666 ... er, 66-minute look at an notorious 1985 concert known as "The Full Moon Jamboree" — described as a "heavy metal Woodstock" by the nervous local press at the time. Basically, this is Parking Lot shifted to the Maryland woods; there's a concert going on in the background (the bigger acts were Pentagram and the Obsessed, but there's hardly any footage of them; local boys Asylum and show organizer Billy Gordon of Blue Rockers are prominently featured, however) but the main attraction is, as ever, the fans assembled for raucous raging.

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City Lights celebrates a vital, veteran publisher

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The avant-garde publisher New Directions was founded in 1936, but the idea was borne two years earlier when Ezra Pound gave some fairly harsh advice to James Laughlin, a 22-year-old aspiring poet and Harvard undergrad. In 1934, Laughlin was ambitious enough to travel to Rapallo, Italy, to meet and study under Pound, who was by that time a fascist and outspoken anti-Semite, but still respected by young writers as the force behind Eliot, Joyce, and Hemingway, as well as Imagism, the movement he helped shape. After two months, though, Pound didn’t think Laughlin possessed enough talent, and told him to return to the states and “do something useful.”
 
Three quarters of a century later, “useful” hardly describes New Directions (which will be celebrated Tues/11 at City Lights Books) and its dedication to publishing eccentric and groundbreaking work, beginning with the likes of Dylan Thomas, Denise Levertov, Tennessee Williams, and Marianne Moore, and continuing today with contemporaries like László Krasznahorkai and Javier Marías.

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Foreplay: Two pre-Folsom scenes

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As Folsom Street Fair (Sat/24) looms over us like a leather daddy with an itchy whip paw, the city readies itself for the roughest, naughiest, sweatiest weekend of the year. Yesterday, I ran all over the city checking in with the sex scene. I kept my clothes mostly on, but then it is only Thursday... 

Monarchy-Andrew Wedge fitting at Mr. S Leather

"This is Spartaaa!" I'm standing outside one of SoMa's crucial leather one-stops with an old hand local kink photographer Rich Trove (check his site after the Fair for shots of your flings in the sunshine) and a fashion journalist from the Chronicle. Guess which one is trying to explain to the other what a traditional S&M harness looks like? Read more »

Presenting the Hottest Ass in the Bay

SEX ISSUE: The winner of our Bay Buns 2011 contest

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Hundreds of you voted for almost two dozen Bay Buns 2011 contestants -- but there could only be one fine-paired derriere that cracked the competition (and will strut away with a goodie basket from Good Vibrations).

Ladies, gentlemen, and others, a drumroll and cued up copy of "Baby Got Back" for ... MIKAELA of the Excelsior. W00T! Thanks to all our wonderful contestants -- and get that butt of yours ready for bay Buns 2012!

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The Performant: Space cadets

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Cosmic San Francisco mainstays Audium and Planet Booty shoot us to the moon.

Some only-in-San-Francisco adventures are subtler than others -- they're you-have-to-know-they’re-there treasures, unencumbered by a surfeit of fanfare or weight of fickle expectation.

Audium, a continually-morphing collaboration in sound design between composer Stan Shaff and electronics “architect” Douglas McEachern, definitely counts as one of these.

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Project Dog brings out the purebred in rescue dogs

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"I once split my pants photographing a Finnish spitz on the cliffs above Sutro Baths," the lovely, energetic Kira Stackhouse laughed over drinks at Blackbird Bar in the Castro last week. She was recounting some very interesting stories about her ambitious Project Dog -- an attempt to meticulously photograph woofy representatives of all 170 official American Kennel Club registered breeds next to purebred counterparts from dog rescue agencies.

"A big part of my mission is to photograph as many of these dogs as I can in iconic San Francisco and Bay Area settings, sometimes I'm trying to shoot five or six dogs a day. It's not like I travel around with a change of clothes --but apparently there's no lengths I won't go to! So I just tried to hold my legs together until I got the shot."

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Tim Carr is a "Fame Whore" (maybe)

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We were tickled earlier this year by local songsmith Tim Carr's clever "Shake Your Caboose" video -- now comes a Gaga-ripping, kiddy-hip clip for "Fame Whore" from his forthcoming album The Shadows, due out in December. How many infantilized SF club kids can you spot?