Tim Robbins

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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Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2015

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2015. Here is Carrie’s list, presented in alphabetical order. (And you can find Chad’s here.)

1.) Brooklyn

Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) shares a tender moment with boyfriend Tony (Emory Cohen).

The immigrant experience in America is exquisitely captured in director John Crowley’s finely crafted film about love, loss, and longing in 1950s Brooklyn. Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín, Nick Hornby’s screenplay presents us with the intrepid young Irish woman Eilis, who leaves her family in the Irish countryside for adventure and opportunity in New York. Saoirse Ronan suberbly conveys Eilis’s gradual shift from shy newcomer to confident cosmopolitan. Called back home for a family emergency, Eilis must choose between familiar comforts and new possibilities, and Ronan depicts Eilis’s struggle with heartrending openness and aching honesty. Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson, as competing suitors on opposite sides of the Atlantic, also deliver strong, sharply drawn performances.

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The 58th San Francisco International Film Festival closes tomorrow, Thursday, May 7th, but that still leaves you time to see some films, including the closing night film, Experimenter (with Winona Ryder in attendance for the Q&A!). The screening is at 7:00pm at the Castro Theatre, and info and tickets are available here.

In the meantime, we’re spotlighting three other films that played during the Fest. And be sure check back after Thursday for our final wrap up.

Welcome to Me
(USA, 2014, 86 min, Marquee Presentations)

Alice (Kristen Wiig) and Gabe (Wes Bentley) form a connection.

Saturday Night Live and Bridesmaids alum Kristen Wiig stars in director Shira Piven’s new film, but the picture is no lightweight comedy. It has some rich laughs, to be sure, but, ultimately, it’s a smart, compassionate, and serious look at mental illness and the narcissism of new social media and reality TV platforms. Wiig plays Alice, a Palm Desert former veterinary nurse with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery and decides to invest her winnings in a local talk show hosted by, and entirely about, her. The film deftly explores the collision between mental and cultural illness, and Wiig continues to flex the dramatic muscle we saw in last year’s The Skeleton Twins by giving her bravest performance yet. A stellar supporting cast, helmed by Tim Robbins as a patient but firm therapist, and the wonderful Joan Cusack, channeling her famous Broadcast News character, help to shape the picture’s serio-comic tone. Wes Bentley, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, and Jennifer Jason Leigh nicely complement the proceedings as well, but this is Wiig’s show all the way, and she’s absolutely masterful. Put this one on your must-see list now.


  • Opens this Friday, May 8th, in limited release in the Bay Area, including at the AMC Van Ness and the Presidio Theatres in San Francisco, and the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley. You can watch the trailer here.

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