Saturday, April 8, 2017

Film Festival Line-Up Changes

This blog is in a sad state.  I'm too busy with work, other personal items and seeing films to maintain this blog.  I'll limp along for awhile and see if my life changes.


Among the news items:

Camera Cinemas is closing the Camera 7 Pruneyard (in Campbell) tomorrow.  I've only been there once so it's not as if I'll miss it.  However, coming on the heels of last summer's closing of the Camera 12, the Camera Cinemas are down to one theater (Camera 3).

This year's Cinequest was the first since the Camera 12 closed.  The main venue this year was the Cinemark Redwood Downtown 20 in Redwood City.  I believe they had five screens dedicated to Cinequest.  Essentially, Cinequest replaced the Camera 12 screens with screens at the Cinemark 20 in Redwood City.  In addition, they screened films at the old SJ Rep, the California Theater and Santana Row (new venue).  Maybe they screened at more venue but those were the only ones I went to.  Attendance at the Redwood City venue seemed significantly lower than Camera 12 in previous years.

Spreading the festival out between Downtown San Jose, Downtown Redwood City & Santana Row (about five miles from Downtown San Jose) detracted from the experience.  I hope attendance picks up for Cinequest next year.

I note that Cinequest did not screen any midnight movies this year.

Regarding the Camera 7, the space currently occupied by the Camera 7 will remain a movie theater.  "we [Camera Cinemas] are excited to be the first to welcome incoming Pruneyard Dine-In Cinemas.  With a planned opening in Fall 2017 after an extensive remodel, Pruneyard Dine-In Cinemas will be the South Bay's first luxury dine-in theater with chef driven kitchen, full bar, and food and drink service to VIP reclining chairs and love seats (with swivel tables) that can be reserved online. There will also be a new comfortable patio space and service."

The entire Pruneyard Shopping Center is undergoing a renovation and Camera Cinemas co-founder Jack Nyblom is part of the ownership group of the Pruneyard Dine-In Cinemas.


For the past few years (including this year), the first weekend of CAAMFest conflicted with the final weekend of Cinequest. After this year's CAAMFest (March 9-19), CAAM announced that starting in 2018, the festival will move to the month of May.  That will remove the conflict with Cinequest and allow me a breather.  January through March is a marathon of film festivals - Noir City to SF IndieFest to Mostly British to Cinequest to CAAMFest.

A new scheduling conflict may arise.  The California Film Institute (the organization behind the Mill Valley Film Festival & the Smith Rafael Film Center) have announced a new film festival called DocLands.   2017 is the inaugural year (May 10 to 14).  Tickets and presumably the full film lineup for DocLands go on sale on April 20.

Speaking of the Mostly British, I guess it has grown up.  I procrastinated in buying my festival pass this year.  When I attempted to buy it, I was informed that they had sold out of festival passes.


The San Francisco Film Society has changed its brand to SFFILM.  I guess that is different than changing it's name.  As the press release says "SFFILM is the new public-facing brand of the San Francisco Film Society."  Similarly, the San Francisco International Film Festival is now called SFFILM Festival.  A rose is a rose is a rose...

Of more substance is the change in festival dates and venues.  In past years, SFIFF was held in late April and the first week in May.  This year, SFFILM Festival runs from April 5 to 19.  In addition, SFFILM has expanded the number of venues for its festival.  In addition to previous venues such as the Castro, the Roxie, the Victoria, BAM/PFA & the Alamo Drafthouse, new venues such as the YBCA (the large live performance theater in addition to the screening room), SFMOMA and the Dolby Cinema have been added.

SFFILM is creating small clusters of venues for its festival.  SFMOMA and the YBCA are across the street from each other.  The Roxie & the Victoria are two blocks apart.  The Dolby Cinema is about halfway between the Roxie & SFMOMA.  The Alamo Drafthouse & the Castro are within walking distance of the Roxie and accessible via public transit.

The other change is that SFFILM is running from Wednesday (April 5) to Wednesday (April 19).  In past years, it ran for two weeks but Thursday to Thursday.  I'm not sure about the significance of the change.


I'm running about 10 films ahead of last year's pace.  In other words, I've seen more films YTD as of April 8, 2017 compared to April 8, 2016.  That should count for something.  At least it does with me.  I'm not so preoccupied with work or my father's estate which is a good thing in my opinion.  Now, if I could just find time to update this blog periodically.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2016 By the Numbers

I saw 321 "films" on a theater screen in 2016. For these purposes, a film is not just a feature length film but also includes programs (typically from film festivals) which consist of multiple short films. If it was categorized as a single program in a festival guide, it counts as one film entry on my list. Conversely, I saw several programs which consisted of a short film and a feature length film. For my counting purposes, those are counted as a single film entry.

My annual film totals for the past few years are:

2010 - 385 films
2011 - 406 films
2012 - 436 films
2013 - 397 films
2014 - 388 films
2015 - 336 films
2016 - 321 films

For four consecutive years, I have seen fewer films than the previous year.


The top 10 venues in which I saw films in 2016 were:

1)  Roxie Theater (72 films) - 15 films from IndieFest, 12 films from DocFest and 10 films from various Elliot Lavine and Mid-Century Productions events.  I should acknowledge Elliot Lavine who is moving (to Portland?) and will no longer be programming films in the Bay Area.  The Roxie Theater was my #2 film-going destination from 2013 to 2015.

2) Castro Theatre (65 films) - 15 films from Noir City and 21 films from two Silent Film Festival events.  The Castro Theatre was my #1 film-going destination from 2013 to 2015.

3) Vogue & Balboa (25 films) - 13 films from the Mostly British Film Festival and 7 films from New Italian Cinema.  The Vogue & Balboa are operated by the same people.

4) Landmark Theaters (24 films) - 13 films at the Embarcadero (SFFS Hong Kong Cinema), 7 films at the Opera Plaza & 4 films at the Clay.  I did not see any films at the Aquarius or Guild on the Peninsula or any at the East Bay Landmark Theaters.

5) Camera Cinemas (20 films) - all from Cinequest and all at the now defunct Camera 12 which closed in September.  I did not see any films at the Camera 3 or Camera 7 Pruneyard.

5) Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (20 films) - buoyed by the SF International Film Festival's move from the Filmore to the Mission.

7) Viz/New People (14 films) - 9 films from the Japan Film Festival of SF and 3 films from Another Hole in the Head.

8) Crest Theater (11 films) - this Sacramento theater made the top 10 list due to three trips.  For the first time, I attended both weekends of the Sacramento French Film Festival in June and I attended the Sacramento Mini French Film Festival in November.  These two festivals accounted for all 11 films.

9) Great Star Theater (8 films) - CAAMFest and the Not Just Hong Kong Film Festival accounted for the 8 films.

10) Sequoia Theater (7 films) - I saw 7 films as part of the Mill Valley Film Festival at this theater.

Honorable Mentions:  PFA (6 films), California Theater in San Jose (6 films; all Cinequest), Victoria Theater (6 films; all SFIFF), Lark Theater (6 films; all MVFF), San Jose Rep (5 films; all Cinequest), New Parkway (5 films), 4 Star (4 films), YBCA (3 films), Smith Rafael (3 films; all MVFF) and Oddball Films (3 films)


On 191 days in 2016, I saw at least one film. The 2016 breakdown is:

On 175 days, I saw zero films.
On 101 days, I saw one film.
On 69 days, I saw two films.
On 9 days, I saw three films.
On 6 days, I saw four films.
On 5 days, I saw five films.
On 1 day, I saw six films.

On December 3 (Saturday), I watched six films at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Day of Silents at the Castro Theater.

On both March 6 (Sunday) and March 12 (Saturday), I saw five films at Cinequest.  On June 4 (Saturday) and June 5 (Sunday), I saw five films at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  On June 18 (Saturday), I saw five films at the Sacramento French Film Festival

Breaking down the number of films by month:

January - 25 films
February - 33 films
March - 45 films
April - 22 films
May - 30 films
June - 40 films
July - 32 films
August - 4 films
September - 14 films
October - 22 films
November - 31 films
December - 23 films

The 4 films I watched in August represents the lowest monthly film total since I started this blog.  August is the busiest month of the year at work for me.  I have been in my current job since September 2012 so 2016 was my 4th "busy" August.  Looking at the last four years, the busy period seems to straddle August & September in the past but was largely confined to August this year.  That's because I decided to travel for Labor Day Weekend whereas in years past, I used that weekend to work. 

I saw 8 films in September 2015 but that number was depressed because I was standing deathwatch at my father's bedside.  Those are the only two calendar months when I watched films totaling in the single digits since January 2010.

Breaking down the number of films by day of the week:

Sunday - 57 films
Monday - 34 films
Tuesday - 30 films
Wednesday - 45 films
Thursday - 33 films
Friday - 49 films
Saturday - 73 films


2016 was the first year I did not see any films at the Kabuki Theater (which is no longer associated with Sundance Theaters).  CAAMFest and the SF International Film Festival abandoned the Kabuki for theaters in the Mission District (Roxie, Alamo Drafthouse & Victoria).

I also did not see any films at the Camera 3 in 2016.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Castro Theater's December 2016 Calendar

The reason I started posting the Castro Theater's monthly calendars was because there was a puzzle within them.  However, the Castro Theater has not put the puzzles in their calendars for quite a some time.  I'm not sure if I will continue posting the calendar in 2017.

Of course, I'm not posting much at all.  I track my film viewing and 2016 is on pace to be slightly behind 2015.  I didn't watch many film in the final 3 months of 2015 because of my father's death.  I saw 336 films in 2015 and I'll have to have an extremely busy December to match that number in 2016.  There is no way to put it except to say I'm watching fewer films than before although 300+ films in a year is quite a bit compared to "normal" people.

If the Castro is screening films I have already seen, there are only two rep house cinemas remaining for me to choose from:  the Roxie & the PFA.  For reasons I have not determined, I am less inclined to take BART to Berkeley since the PFA reopened.  Before the closure I would have imagined the opposite since the new PFA location is much closer to the Berkeley BART station than the old location on Bancroft Avenue.  If I'm not going to the PFA or the Castro, that leaves the Roxie which has the additional benefit of "free" admission via my membership.  The explanations for my reduced film consumption are programming choices and an unexplained indifference towards PFA.

If I'm not spending my time at the movie theater, where am I spending my time?  I used to read movie blogs and review sites.  Now I read personal finance blogs and websites.  My father had an extremely conservative investment portfolio at the time of his death (conservative even for a 91 year old) which I have converted to serve my purposes.  I had my own investment portfolio before his death and I could have done more of the same but I decided to have a little fun with my father's portfolio.  I've kept some of his better yielding investments but I've converted most of it to higher yielding investments.  Higher yields come with increased risks.  Finally, I've taken a small portion of his portfolio and converted it to extremely risky investments hoping to hit the idiomatic home run.  I have found this exercise to be educational and entertaining.


As for December at the Castro Theater, I have seen most of the films being screened.  This seems to be happening quite often.  I don't have my film log on me but the number of films viewed at the Castro is down from previous years.  The Castro has been my leading film viewing venue for three consecutive years but the streak will not make it to four years.

December 14 - the annual Noir City kickoff event screens two films I have not seen - Cash on Demand (1961) and The Ice Harvest (2005).  Noir City will be held from January 20 to 29 at the Castro Theater.

December 17 - The Mosquito Coast (1986); I saw this on television many years ago.  In my late teens, I was mildly impressed with the film.  I'm more anxious to see it as a 40something year old.  The cast is quite impressive in retrospect - Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix & Martha Plimpton.

The Roxie has had some intriguing programming as of late and December promises more of the same.  Among films being screened at the Roxie in December are:  Drop Dead Gorgeous, Being John Malkovich, and Anna Biller's The Love Witch.  All three films will be screened in 35 mm.

Being John Malkovich is part of a Midnites for Maniacs triple feature of Spike Jonze films.  Midnites for Maniacs returns with a week later with a Jason Statham double bill - Crank and Crank High Voltage.

The Roxie closes out the year with a set of Pedro Almodovar films.

I'm also looking forward to Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy at the PFA.  White (1993) screens December 11 & 17.  Red (1994) screens December 14 & 18.  Blue (1993) screens December 17.


Castro Theater Calendar - December 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Castro Theater's November 2016 Calendar

The November 2016 calendar at the Castro Theater has some appealing entries.

November 1 - The Birth of a Nation is Nate Parker's directorial debut and feature him in the lead role as Nat Turner (of the slave rebellion fame).  The film has mixed reviews and was a box office disappointment.  Despite its title and similar historical setting, the film is not a remake of D.W. Griffith's epic.

November 3 - Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds is the opening night film of the San Francisco Film Society's DocStories program.  I already have my ticket.

November 18 - Donnie Darko and Prisoners form a Jake Gyllenhaal double feature.  It's been a few years since I last watched Donnie Darko.  The synopsis states the "Original cut" will be screened which I interpret to mean the version with the Echo and the Bunnymen score which is my preferred version.

November 20 - Mississippi Mermaid and Rear Window is a pairing of the renowned mutual admirers Alfred Hitchcock and Fran├žois Truffaut.  Mississipi is spelled with only one "p" in the French title and stars two icons of French cinema: Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve.

November 23 - The Ice Storm is an early (1997) English language Ang Lee film with a eye-popping cast:  Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci & Elijah Wood.

Among the non-Castro Theater screenings which I have put on my November calendar are:

November 3 to 7 - The French Had a Name For It 3 at the Roxie.

November 10 to 13 - Third I San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival with screenings at the Castro Theater and the New People World Cinema.  There is a one-day South Bay session on November 19 at Bluelight Cinemas in Cupertino.

November 19 - 2016 Sacramento Mini French Film Festival at the Crest Theater.

October 27 to November 20 - 2016 Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival at various venues.  The two films which appeal most to me are Rabin, The Last Day (November 19) and Sabena Hijacking: My Version (November 17).

October 27 to November 9 - 2016 Another Hole in the Head Film Festival at New People World Cinema.  Horror films don't appeal much to me anymore but I feel like I should support the IndieFest team by attending a few screenings.

November 23 - Blind Woman's Curse at the Roxie as part of their Nippon Nights series.  BWC is a 1970 tale of revenge starring Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood and Female Convict Scorpion series) as a female Yakuza.


Castro Theater Calendar - November 2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Castro Theater's October 2016 Calendar

I've noticed the Castro has stopped showing new releases.  They used to show films after they ended their first run.  It's been several months since they screened a film released in 2016.  The Castro is largely a rep house/revival film theater now.  They show mostly American/Hollywood films and host film festivals with live events often featured.

On the October calendar, a few films catch my eye.

October 13 - De Palma paired with Vertigo.  This is part of a 4 day series with Vertigo screening each night and paired with a Brian De Palma film.  On October 16, they screen Body Double which is my favorite De Palma film.  Unfortunately, October 13 to 16 conflicts with the 2016 Mill Valley Film Festival (October 6 to 16).

October 19 - Jim Jarmusch double feature:  Dead Man and Ghost Dog.  Dead Man is my favorite Jarmusch film and Ghost Dog is the film by Jarmusch I most want to see.  The full title of the film is Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.

October 23 - a Marlon Brando double feature.  One-Eye Jacks (1961) is the only film for which he received a director's credit.  I have not seen the film or at least, I don't remember seeing it.  The Missouri Breaks (1976) was directed by Arthur Penn and pairs Mulholland Drive neighbors Jack Nicholson & Marlon Brando.  A critical & commercial flop upon its release, I recall seeing the film 25 years ago and not being impressed.  However, the film has received a reevaluation in intervening years and is viewed favorably by some.


I hope to attend the following film festivals before the end of the year.

Mill Valley Film Festival - Oct. 6 to 16
Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival - Oct. 27 to Nov. 20
Another Hole in the Head Film Festival - Oct. 27 to Nov. 6
The French Had a Name For It 3 - Nov. 3 to 7
San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (Third I) - Nov. 10 to 13
Sacramento French Film Festival (Fall Mini-Fest) - Nov. 19
A Day of Silents (San Francisco Silent Film Festival) - Dec. 3


Castro Theater Calendar - October 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Camera 12 Cinema Closes - They (Don't) Live

It was with sadness that I read that Camera 12 Cinemas in Downtown San Jose closed last week.  Camera Cinemas announced "the staggering costs of maintaining a large, aging, poorly designed building has led us to this decision to close."  I've noticed that vacancies in the area around Camera 12 have been increasing and long standing.  The space that held the Blackbird Tavern (on the same block as Camera 12) has been vacant for two years.

I did not visit Camera 12 often.  Excluding Cinequest screenings, I have seen more films at Camera 3 than Camera 12.

Speaking of Cinequest, I wonder what they will do now.  Cinequest has become my favorite film festival largely because of the close proximity of venues.  They simultaneously screen six films at three venues within a two square block area.  Four of the six films typically screen at Camera 12.  If you have a festival pass, the proximity of venues makes it easy to change your viewing schedule to take advantage of word-of-mouth film recommendations.  With Camera 12's closure, I wonder how Cinequest will maintain their screening schedule much less keep everything within walking distance.  Cinequest assures everyone that they are up to the least w.r.t. venue capacity.

I actually learned of Camera 12's closing via an email from Cinequest.  Cinequest CEO Halfdan Hussey sent an email on September 8 stating that Cinequest has "been working successfully to insure that your next Cinequest Film & VR Festival has expanded (not decreased) venue capacity to meet the excitement of the burgeoning live event. We will announce venues along with our finest, biggest and most electrifying lineup on Jan. 26th.  Cinequest Film & VR Festival occurs February 28 - March 12, 2017."


Last night/this morning, I went to the Landmark Clay to see the midnight screening of They Live.

They Live starring Roddy Piper, Keith David & Meg Foster; directed by John Carpenter, (1988) - Official Website

I didn't count during the film but as I was leaving, I counted 8 people in the theater.

I'm still not sure why there have been so many San Francisco screenings of John Carpenter films this year.

I saw They Live when it came out in 1988.  I thought then (as I do now) that WWE wrestler Roddy Piper is an odd choice for the lead role.  "Rowdy" Roddy was at the height of his WWE popularity (he was a heel so maybe notoriety is more appropriate) so it may have been a marketing issue.  The role feels like one tailor-made for Kurt Russell who worked extensively with Carpenter.

Piper is flat in his role but he ad-libbed a classic line - "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubble gum."

They Live is not the kind of film where you quibble over the performance of the lead actor.  The plot involves a covert alien invasion of earth whereby the aliens communicate with each other via messages that are invisible to humans except those who wear the special sunglasses.  Heavy and heavy-handed on social commentary about class warfare and consumerism, the film nicely posits that the aliens are responsible for most of the social ills that bedevil us.  As an added bonus for modern times, in the film the LAPD are aliens who practice old-fashioned "shoot first, ask questions later" form of policing.  Actually, watching their tactics in the film, I was surprised when contrasting it to the response such tactics would elicit today.

Piper plays an unnamed construction worker/drifter who falls in with a homeless encampment.  It's denizens are fed by a soup kitchen run out of a church across the street.  The church is just a front.  It's actually the headquarters of the human revolutionaries who have uncovered the alien plot.  They transmit signals to jam the subliminal messages sent over television.  They also mass produce the aforementioned sunglasses.  After the cops raze the homeless camp in order to capture the insurgents, Piper and a fellow homeless construction worker (Keith David) take up the fight.

Meg Foster is an actress who is always memorable because of her piercing blue eyes; her eyes are hypnotic to me.  As a quick aside, there is a film called Stepfather II with Terry O'Quinn and Foster that I recall enjoying in the late 1980s.  I would love to see that film get a revival screening.  In They Live, Foster portrays the ersatz love interest for Piper's character.

Carpenter's direction of They Live is somewhat plodding but he peppers it with a lot of cheeky humor and frequent gunfights.  He switches from color to black-and-white when the protagonists put on the sunglasses.  He also gives the aliens a 1950s look.  Late 1980s make-up techniques could have made more elaborate aliens but Carpenter decides to keep the aliens just on this side of humorous.

There is no way I can call They Live a great film but it is very entertaining and richly deserves its cult film status.  It is certainly several cuts above the typical 1980s horror film.

Alien disguised as LAPD officer from They Live

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Castro Theater's September 2016 Calendar

As I mentioned before, the Castro Theatre has seemingly done away with their puzzles within their calendars.  For the second month, it appears they are taking stills from the films they are showing and displaying them as a drawing on the days they are closed.

September 6 - depicts the beginning and ending of Sunset Boulevard (Sept. 7).  That's William Holden's character laying face down in the pool.

September 12-13 - Marilyn Monroe in the bathtub with Victor Moore as the plumber from The Seven Year Itch (Sept. 14).

September 19 - Kirk Douglas from Ace in the Hole (Sept. 18).

September 26 - 27 - Tony Curtis in drag and Jack Lemmon also in drag behind him.  That image is from Some Like it Hot (Sept. 28).

I've seen most of the films on the calendar.  Among the highlights are:

September 11 - Howards End - an early Merchant Ivory production which I do not recall seeing with Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.

September 16 - Multiple Maniacs (John Waters' second film) and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the Russ Myers directed "sequel" to Valley of the Dolls

September 24 - an Anna Magnani four film series presented by Cinema Italia San Francisco.  The line up consists of Rome Open City (1 PM), Bellissima (3 PM), The Rose Tattoo (6 PM) and The Passionate Thief (10 PM).  Of those four films, I have seen all except The Passionate Thief.


Castro Theater Calendar - September 2016