Thursday, February 20, 2014

Captain Phillips

On January 21, I went to the Castro to see Captain Phillips.

Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks & Barkhad Abdi; directed by Paul Greengrass; English & Somali with subtitles; (2013) - Official Website

With Captain Phillips, I have seen 7 of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards.  The two nominated films which I have not seen are Her and The Wolf of Wall Street. With any luck, I'll be able to see both films before the month is out.

Captain Phillips is based on a true story of an American cargo ship captain who was kidnapped by Somali pirates.  Ultimately, Navy SEALS snipers killed the pirates while Phillips was being held hostage in a lifeboat.  The 2009 incident is well known and I recall the initial cable news reports on the rescue.

I put Captain Phillips in the same category as The Hurt Locker & Zero Dark Thirty (what is Kathryn Bigelow up to?). These films are about real-life events which are so compelling that it would be difficult for any competent director not to make a great film.  Captain Phillips was riveting and suspenseful; even though I knew how it had to end.

Barkhad Abdi has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the lead pirate.  Eliciting some empathy from me, Abdi's portrayal was measured and for most of the film the pirates were seemingly motivated by existential concerns.  However, as the Navy closes in on lifeboat, the tension is ratcheted up and I couldn't help but empathize with the Somalis.  Although I could not condone their actions and I support the ultimate outcome, I clearly understood how these men could be driven to such depths.  In fact, the parallels between the Somali pirates and US inner city youths made me uncomfortable.  The chasm between the haves and the have-nots is made abundantly clear in this film and you don't have to go halfway across the world to witness it. 

Back to the film - it's a shame that even after being engrossed by the film for the entire 2.25 hour length, I left-handedly dismiss it as a film that only an idiot could have messed up.  My expectations for suspense were high going into the film and they were met.  The first half of the film played like a procedural.  The array of countermeasures cargo ships take to fend of the pirates was fascinating for me although some (many?) may find sight of fire hoses pointed outwards or zigzag maneuvering to be boring. 

I categorically praise Captain Phillips and recommend it to everyone.  My only disappointment was that my high expectations were not exceeded.


Several weeks ago, I received an email announcing that Second Act has opened in the old Red Vic location on Haight. "Second Act Marketplace and Events is a neighborhood public space. The marketplace includes five retail businesses bringing a fresh vision of food and beverages, and a venue that showcase events, which is also available for rent."  It's hard to believe that it's been 2.5 years since the Red Vic closed.

I also noticed that the Alamo Drafthouse San Francisco now states that it is set "to open during the third quarter of 2014 at 2550 Mission St. in the historic New Mission theater."  It's been two years since Alamo Drafthouse announced it was coming to SF and it'll be another four to seven months before it opens.  There were times I felt certain that they were stuck in building permit purgatory and would walk away from the project.  Call me a pessimist.  Regardless, I'm very much looking forward to the day they open and sampling their renowned programming.  The Castro Theater, the Roxie and the Alamo Drafthouse will form a Golden Triangle of rep house/art house film theaters in San Francisco.

Finally, I was on California Street recently and passed by the old Lumiere Theater.  It's the first time I have been on that block of California since before the Lumiere closed in late 2012.  Some of the Lumiere signage is still up.  It looks like there are no plans for leasing out the space at present. 

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