Wrap up: 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival 

The 61st San Francisco International Film Festival ended last Tuesday, but many of its offerings will find their way to your neighborhood cinema in the near future. We conclude our coverage of this year’s Fest by taking a look at four of the Fest’s films that you may want to keep your eye out for in the coming months (our previous coverage posts can be found here, here, and here). And if you’re curious to see which Fest films took home awards this year, you can see all the winners here. In the meantime, we’ll see you next year for SFFILM #62! 

1.) Sorry to Bother You  (USA 2018, 107 min. Centerpiece)

Detroit (Tessa Thompson) and Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield) join with striking workers at their telemarketing firm in Oakland.

Oakland rapper and artist Boots Riley got the hometown reception from the Festival this year, as his debut feature film was given a first-of-its kind, dual-venue Bay Area premiere at two of the Bay Area’s most iconic and beloved theaters: Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater and San Francisco’s Castro Theater. The movie had previously premiered at Sundance, where it garnered a Grand Jury prize nomination, but its Bay Area premiere definitely felt more special. Riley’s film centers on Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield, Get Out), a new employee at a telemarketing company in downtown Oakland (exteriors were shot around Kaiser’s Franklin Street building) whose rise up the corporate ladder doesn’t come without cost, to himself, his girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), and his friends, colleagues, and community. While inarguably entertaining, Riley’s film has a definite first attempt feel: elements of political satire, social criticism, surrealist comedy, outrageous sci-fi, and sweet romance often overlap to an extreme, coming dangerously close to burying the picture beneath its own everything-but-the kitchen-sink weight. Comedically deft performances from Stanfield and Armie Hammer, as a villainous corporate head, though, are appealing enough to make the flaws of Riley’s jam-packed screenplay forgivable.

Sorry to Bother You will open in the Bay Area on Friday, July 6th.

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Ubuntu Theater Project explores a fresh take on the American Dream in the West Coast premiere of Ed Cardona Jr.’s American Jornalero

Edited by Jessica Vaden

From L. to R.: Jose Rodriguez (Luis), Benoît Monin (Montezuma), Cristhian Ayvar (Marcelo), Juan J. Berumen (Michigan), and the phone that won’t stop ringing. Photos courtesy of Simone Finney, 2018.

On the corner of Hope and Haven stand six men, waiting. Four of them are jornaleros, day laborers, waiting for the work that may not come. Two are law-abiding, border protecting Minutemen, waiting to indict them with the charge of wanting a better life.

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If you missed your chance to see Tracy Bonham in a smoke-filled ’90s concert venue, you were able to repent for your sins at the Lost Church, which isn’t even a church. Luckily for you (or is it divine intervention), it’s a cozy 50-seater with acoustics that would make a choir blush.

Blake Morgan took the stage first. The native New Yorker was decked out in a black suit with a black shirt, even a black tie. Playing a silver guitar, it makes one wonder whether he’s an Oakland Raiders fan.

A good storyteller, Morgan sharing many anecdotes from the road, which for him covered 75,000 miles during the past 2 years. And as is common these days, some of those anecdotes had political overtones. One of them ended with his encouraging us to vote, and if we couldn’t do it for us, could we at least do it for him? San Francisco seemed to be a safe space for him.

Morgan switched to his keyboard for a song, showing a professional aptitude for playing the piano. He introduced “Baby I Would Want You” as an “apocalyptic love song.” He also threw in how his girlfriend once asked him whether he would watch all 79 episodes of the original Star Trek with her. The song itself was very Posies-esque, but I was busy trying to figure out what she must have thought of Tribbles.

“Helping Hand” was a duet, with Tracy Bonham joining the stage for the first time. It would set a tone in that later he would join her on stage for several songs, including “Luck.”

Morgan finished his hour long set with a couple more on the keyboard, channeling his inner Ben Folds.

After a 20-minute break, Bonham took the stage for an hour or so. She sat behind the same keyboard-set-to-piano and launched into “Naked.”

The first thing you notice about Bonham is she sings even better now than she did during her initial rise to fame more than 20 years ago. The easiest job in the world must be to mix her vocals.

Her tremendous range extended to “Devil’s Got Your Boyfriend,” even causing her to pause and observe how the room’s acoustics enabled her to even hit the low notes.

On that point, the Lost Church has the best sound of any venue I’ve been to. The small capacity helps, but regardless, a tech bro could read the phone book, and it would sound great.

The Lost Church is less a place for a show and more a place to have a passive conversation with a performing artist. Or an active one, as there were a few back and forths with the crowd.

Anyway, the deal with Bonham is she rerecorded her 1996 record, the Burdens of Being Upright, calling the modernized version, Modern Burdens.

As part of this, she played the original and redone style of “Brain Crack,” the original on her violin, then the new version on the keyboard. It’s a fine example of the detailed thought she put into the new record.

Introducing my favorite song of hers, “the One,” she explained how it was originally about a misogynistic ex, and to be inspired to rerecord it, all she had to do was project 45’s face onto her ex’s body. It was just that simple.

At least one person cried during her performance of it. There were probably others, but I was too … distracted to notice. If you’ve heard One Dove’s piano reprise of “White Love,” it had the same haunting effect.

Rather than apocalyptic, she introduced “All Thumbs” as a “clumsy love song.” Bonham continued to show off her range in this number. She mentioned adopting a child, and you have to be jealous when you think of all the lullabies that must be sung before bed.

Bonham then dedicated “Something Beautiful” to a couple in the audience she was staying with. It was nearly their two year anniversary, and it turns out she also played the song at their wedding. What a good friend!

She updated the second verse of “Mother Mother” to reflect current events, which garnered a laugh from the audience. To be clear, her performance here was just as flawless as the rest of the set, but the relative complexity of every other song shows how the “hit single” can’t help but feel less by comparison. But of course the audience ate it up. No one attended this show by accident.

It’s cliche, but seeing Tracy Bonham in 2018 is seeing her again for the very first time.

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Go-Go’s musical Head Over Heels misses the beat

Edited by Jessica Vaden

Peppermint (center) will become the first woman who is trans to originate a role on Broadway, starring as Pythio (The Oracle of Delphi), pictured here with members of the ensemble performing the Go-Go’s “Vision of Nowness.” All photos courtesy of Joan Marcus, 2018.

San Francisco got a peek at the new musical Head Over Heels before it heads to Broadway; it features hits from the iconic ’80s new wave band the Go-Go’s, known for their fun, cheeky songs. But underneath the funky stockings and pop sensibilities is a groundbreaking band led by five women, who ventured into what turned into the boys’ club of the late ’70s Los Angeles punk scene, playing legendary venues such as Whiskey a Go Go and The Masque. They wrote fierce lyrics, jammed with the rockers, made their way onto MTV, and paved the way for an entire generation of women who play. [read the whole post]

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Not much has changed since 1677 — Role Players Ensemble brings Aphra Behn’s The Rover to the Danville Village Theatre

Edited by Jessica Vaden

David J. Bohnet plays Don Pedro, Florinda’s overbearing brother. Nicolette Ellis is Florinda and Terrance Smith as Belville. Photos by Marian Bliss, 2018, courtesy of RPE.

Perhaps now more than ever we are questioning the social constructs that have been put into place for us, especially for those of us on the margins, or in places where our identities intersect. In an attempt at dismantling oppression, we look at its history… starting from gender bending to gender breaking, and finally, to what we assume will become the complete elimination of gender roles. [read the whole post]

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All Photos by Rob DeMartin.

Several months ago, I first read that Bruce Springsteen was setting out to do a one-man show on Broadway. My immediate thought was, “I would really like to go to that, but I doubt I’m going to make it to New York anytime soon.” There was a period where you could sign up for the “Ticketmaster Verified Fans” program, which, somehow, determined who was an actual fan and who was a reseller (not entirely sure how this works, and not really sure it does, but that’s for another article). I almost signed up for that, but didn’t. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. [read the whole post]

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Film Feature: SFFILM 2018 Festival Spotlights #3

April 16, 2018

2018 San Francisco International Film Festival ends this week If you haven’t made it out to the SF International Film Festival yet, don’t worry – you still have one more day to catch some great films. The Festival ends tomorrow, Tuesday, April 17th, and tickets to remaining screenings can be found here. Spinning Platters continues […]

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Show Review: Kate Nash and Miya Folick at The Fillmore, 4/9/18

April 12, 2018

Kate Nash is somebody that too many people have forgotten about. She put out Made Of Bricks, a massive, brilliant record of bright, yet jaded, pop nearly 16 years ago. The kind of album Elvis Costello could have done if he had been a teenage girl. Her follow up, My Best Friend Is You, recast […]

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Album Review: Laura Veirs – The Lookout

April 12, 2018

Laura Veirs hasn’t enjoyed the widespread popularity or been welcomed to the radio waves like her other Portland musician colleagues and frequent collaborators have, like The Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens. “Not a household name / but she’s been in your head all day / It would be so cool to be like Carol, Carol Kaye.” […]

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Film Feature: SFFILM 2018 Festival Spotlights #2

April 9, 2018

Make time for these three great documentaries at the 61st San Francisco International Film Festival 1.) Carcasse (Iceland/France 2016, 61 min. Vanguard) Faraway lands and anthropologic impulses lured filmmaker Gústav Geir Bollason to the subject of how we adapt the 21st century’s material bounty to the timeless problems of survival. Drawing heavily from Robert Flaherty […]

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