Films

The healing power of a natural disaster

Dash Shaw’s film mixes genres and mediums.

To a teenager, the world is a boundless sea of experiences and hopes and fears and people and possibilities. But when the confines of a public high school, with its endless days of tedium, unquestionable authority, and worst of all – other teenagers – impose arbitrary bounds, the dramatic possibilities are endless, and have tempted artists of just about every medium, style, and approach.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, the first feature written and directed by graphic novelist and animator Dash Shaw, manages to jolt the venerable high school film genre with new life from some surprising places, and suggests that nothing short of disaster can save those between thirteen and eighteen years old.

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Film Review: The Promise

by Carrie Kahn on April 21, 2017

Emotionally powerful new film brings story of Armenian genocide to light

Mikael (Oscar Isaac) arrives in Constantinople for medical school.

April 24th is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, so opening The Promise this weekend is obviously intentional. Irish director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and screenwriter Robin Swicord have made the first major Hollywood picture to tell a story about the horrific event commemorated by that date. If you can’t see the film this weekend, I would encourage you to see it when you can, as a way to both honor the tragedy’s victims, and to learn a history that many non-Armenians know far too little about.
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Five More Spotlights as SFFILM Enters Final Week

The 60th San Francisco International Film Festival wraps up this week, but there’s still time to catch a few screenings before closing day on Thursday; you can browse the schedule and buy tickets here. Stay tuned to Spinning Platters for our final spotlight posts to help finish up the Fest: we’ve got five more here (and you can read Chad’s previous posts here, here, here, and here).

1.) Maudie and Ethan Hawke Tribute
(Canada/Ireland 2016, 115 min. Awards and Tributes)

Everett (Ethan Hawke) and Maud (Sally Hawkins) on their wedding day.

In a true coup for cinephiles, SFFilm presented a tribute to actor Ethan Hawke at the YBCA Theater on April 8th. Following a delightful clip reel of Hawke’s career highlights, Michael Almereyda, Hawke’s director in 2000’s Hamlet, interviewed the actor. Hawke came across as smart, charming, modest, and immensely likable. In a conversation that ranged from Hawke’s start in high school plays to his embodiment of Gen X angst in 1994’s Reality Bites (“It’s a strange feeling to touch the zeitgeist,” he told us), Hawke gamely opened up on topics both professional and personal. His distaste for violence in films drew a round of applause. “It’s very hard to have a career in professional movies and not kill people,” he said, mentioning that Roger Ebert once toasted him for not killing anyone on screen until Hamlet. Movies that deal with connecting with other people are what he’s most drawn to, he told us, which helps explain his continuing collaboration with Richard Linklater, who memorably cast Hawke in the critically acclaimed Before Sunrise trilogy and Boyhood.

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A lovely night with Williams’s score, Ford’s performance, iconic scenes… there are no bad dates here!

Face melting, Nazi punching fun!

Raiders of the Lost Ark is the quintessential action-adventure film. One could confidently claim that it is the greatest action-adventure film of all time! There is nothing about Steven Spielberg’s 1981 classic that isn’t famous — the giant boulder, the snakes, the hat & whip, every single line of dialogue, Marion’s alcohol tolerance, the airfield fist fight, the melting faces, poisoned dates, and so on. Yet, one component of the film is arguably more iconic than all the rest: John Williams’s score. The awe-inspiring, galloping main theme that nearly all humans can identify is a benchmark against which all other adventure film music is compared, and it is the basis for which this amazing night at the San Francisco Symphony exists!

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(Films #31-#40 of Chad’s goal of seeing 60 films to commemorate SF Film Festival’s 60th anniversary! #60for60th)

The 60th SFFILM Festival is HALFWAY through! Be sure to get your tickets now — visit http://www.sffilm.org/festival for tickets and info. Also, be sure to check back here frequently, or follow along at our Facebook page and on Twitter (or follow film critics Carrie Kahn- @CKCinephile / Chad Liffmann- @chadcarsten). And now, time for 10 more spotlights:

The Paris Opera
(France/Switzerland 2017, 110 min; French/English with English subtitles)

A scene from THE PARIS OPERA, screening at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5-19, 2017.

This documentary is fascinating! The Paris Opera takes audiences behind the scenes of the legendary Palais Garnier and the newer Opéra Bastille, both in Paris. We meet a few veterans and some new members of the venues’ onstage talent for their show season, as well as some of the organizational heads. Director Jean-Stéphane Bron keeps the film tight and fluid, ensuring the excess fat is cut and leaving only the most interesting aspects of the run-of-show. To be honest, even the presumably mundane operations are more engaging than I’d imagine. From auditions and prop-finding to administrative tasks and marketing, this charming inside look is entertaining for fans of ballet, opera, and fans of interesting subject matters in general! 

No more screenings at SFFILM Festival.

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Film Review: Gifted

by Carrie Kahn on April 7, 2017

Talented cast is the real gift in otherwise predictable family drama

Young Mary (Mckenna Grace) embodies the title with her exceptional math prowess.

Director Marc Webb’s new film Gifted asks us to not only buy a 7-year-old girl as an MIT-level math genius, but also hunky Captain America star Chris Evans as a former Boston University philosophy professor; I’m not sure which characterization requires the greater suspension of disbelief, but there’s a post-film discussion point for you. While somewhat predictable, Webb’s picture pleasantly surprises by not being nearly as hokey as the trailer would lead you to believe, and by actually offering up some emotionally heartfelt sincerity.
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SFFILM Festival Spotlights #3

April 7, 2017
vimeo.com/20852777

(Films #21-#30 of Chad’s goal of seeing 60 films to commemorate SF Film Festival’s 60th anniversary! #60for60th) The 60th SFFILM Festival is in full swing! Be sure to get your tickets now — visit http://www.sffilm.org/festival for tickets and info. Also, be sure to check back here frequently, or follow along at our Facebook page and on Twitter (or follow film critics […]

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Film Review: The Zookeeper’s Wife

March 31, 2017
youtu.be/rJNFeHHGGN4

Profiles in courage: Inspiring true WWII story worth seeing Another film to consider in the context of Passover, but for entirely different, and far more somber, reasons happens to open the same day as In Search of Israeli Cuisine. The eve of Passover on April 19, 1943 marked the burning and total destruction of the Warsaw […]

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Film Review: In Search of Israeli Cuisine

March 31, 2017
youtu.be/mv_f11Ukz-I

Engaging Israeli food and culture doc is a must-see for food lovers Just in time for Passover comes this lovely and charming new documentary that is bound to delight foodies of all persuasions. Documentarian Roger Sherman will make your mouth water with his beautifully filmed images of sumptuous Israeli cuisine dished up by both street vendors […]

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Film Review: Life

March 24, 2017
youtu.be/cuA-xqBw4jE

Life shows us how a few complacent space people can endanger our entire existence When I first found out I was reviewing Life, I was super excited. I love big budget space movies! I love sci-fi! Then I remembered that I am terrified of aliens. Whoops. Soon the question became — will I actually be […]

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