Tag Archives: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood

Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Zero Days’ and ‘Nuts’

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At the end of last year, I made a modest but achievable resolution: In 2016, I’d write about a few less documentaries (and a few more fictional features) than I’d written about in 2015. And so far, I think I’ve done pretty well: By my count, only four of the 33 films discussed this year in Big Screen Berkeley have been docs. Mission accomplished!

After zigging through the last six months, however, it’s now time to zag in the opposite direction. This weekend, two very different – but equally intriguing – documentaries open in the East Bay.

Zero Days (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, July 8) is the latest effort from Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side). The film examines one facet of the West’s war against Iran’s nuclear program – a program that many Western governments insisted, despite repeated Iranian denials and evidence to the contrary, was a precursor to nuclear weapons. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Frameline40 in the East Bay

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It’s time once again for the annual San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival (more succinctly known as Frameline40). This year the Festival further expands in the East Bay, offering five days of programming at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood.

I’ve always had a soft spot for biker movies, so when I read the précis for Ovarian Psycos (screening at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, June 20) my interest was immediately piqued. Could the film possibly be a distaff version of 1971’s legendary gay biker epic, The Pink Angels?

Alas no, but Ovarian Psycos still largely succeeds on its own terms. While the Psycos might be considered a ‘gang’ by some, they ride pedal bikes as opposed to Harleys, and are actually more of a community organization cum bicycle club serving women of color living in or near East L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood.

Primarily (though not exclusively) young and Latina, the Psycos organize large-scale rides through the streets — sometimes dubbed ‘Clitoral Mass’ — in an ongoing effort to reclaim the streets for women. Their meetings also serve as open-ended opportunities to discuss issues that affect members’ daily lives — particularly male violence against women. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘The Winding Stream’

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I don’t much care for country music – particularly what’s passed for it since ‘The Nashville Sound’ developed during the anti-rock ‘n’ roll backlash of the 1950s. Slick and overproduced (and now barely distinguishable from mainstream pop rock), country has long since lost its ability to reflect the hopes and fears of the dirt-poor white working-class that gave it life.

Of course, prior to the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll (itself a misbegotten but marvelous stew of country, western swing, blues, and gospel music), country music was more than just a marketing niche — which brings me to The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes, and the Course of Country Music, a documentary opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, April 22.

Maces Springs, Virginia may be a tiny dot on the map, but its impact on the development of American popular music is immeasurable. It was here that the young A.P. (Alvin Pleasant) Carter was born in 1891, and where he worked the land during the 1910s and ’20s. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Wiseman’s ‘In Jackson Heights’

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Three hours, eight minutes and thirty-one seconds: that’s the amount of time you’ll devote to In Jackson Heights (opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, Dec. 18, the new feature from documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Is it a worthwhile investment, or is it one of the legendary director’s occasional snoozers?

Happily (and in spite of its epic running time) In Jackson Heights falls into the ‘worthwhile’ camp. If there are several million stories to be told in the naked city, Wiseman’s film gives a handful of them a thorough airing – and while some are more interesting than others, there’s enough variety here to keep viewers engaged.

Located to the south of La Guardia Airport in the borough of Queens, Jackson Heights is a half-hour subway ride east of Manhattan – but culturally, it’s a world away. Home to an incredibly diverse community of 100,000 plus, it’s claimed that 167 different languages are spoken there. Its geographic proximity to Manhattan makes the area a prime target for gentrification. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley merchants: New minimum wage proposal would ‘decimate’ businesses

Elmwood by Sharon Hahn Darlin
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Berkeley business owners say a new proposed minimum wage hike will quite simply drive them out of business and, in the process, destroy the unique flavor of shopping districts such as the Elmwood, Telegraph Avenue, downtown and Fourth Street.

At the same time, given that the city is at the forefront of progressive politics on so many issues, many merchants fear they will appear politically incorrect for opposing a higher minimum wage.

“A living wage is a great and lofty goal, but the business community feels very, very intimidated,” said Ky J. Boyd, proprietor of the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. “People feel they will be retaliated against. Somebody’s got to stand up and speak out about this.”

The current minimum wage in Berkeley, which took effect Oct. 1, 2015, is $11 per hour. Last year, the Berkeley City Council voted to increase the minimum wage annually to $12.53 by October 2016, but the city’s Labor Commission is calling for a higher wage than that (annual increases up to $19, to take effect in 2020) and has called for local enhancements to California’s new paid sick leave amendment.

Council will hold a special meeting to discuss proposed changes to the minimum wage and sick leave policy Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School Auditorium, at 1500 Derby St. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Experimenter; Amazing Nina Simone

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Long time readers are familiar with my biopic rant by now. Regardless of the occasional exception (I’m still looking at you, Hannah Arendt), Seal’s First Law of Cinema states emphatically that biopics turn the lives of the most remarkable people into the most unremarkable films.

At first, that seems the path likely to be taken by Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter, opening on Friday at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinema – until an elephant, quite literally, walks into the room. You’ve been put on notice that this is no ordinary biopic. … Continue reading »

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‘East Side Sushi’: Gratifying food film set in East Bay

Diana Elizabeth Torres as Juana in 'East Side Sushi.' (Blue Sun Pictures/Sparklight Films)
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By Tien-Tien Jong / Eat Drink Films

East Side Sushi, the directorial debut of Anthony Lucero, belongs to a select category of “food films” that strives to capture not only an array of photogenic dishes (in this case attractively plated sushi, nigiri, and sashimi, as well as tacos, enchiladas, and fresh mangos drizzled with Valentina), but also to convey the differences and seeming incompatibilities in the two cultural traditions, and the emotions and stories, behind those dishes.

Diana Elizabeth Torres stars as Juana, a young Mexican-American woman living in East Oakland who struggles to make ends meet for herself, her father (Rodrigo Duarte Clark), and her grade-school-aged daughter, Lydia (Kaya Jade Aguirre), by taking on a number of odd jobs, including shifts as a custodian in a gym and helping with her father’s fresh fruit cart, all with little job satisfaction and underwhelming returns.

The first shot in the film, which is playing at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, is a close-up on Juana’s alarm clock, which begins her day at 3:50 a.m.. From there we see that Juana has a special talent for preparing food quickly and efficiently, through creative shots of fruit for her father’s cart being sliced and rolled in such a way as to evoke parallels with sushi-making. Her father stresses that Juana could excel in a taqueria, but that’s a path she’s been down before, which Juana sees as a dead end when she would prefer to keep her options open for herself and her daughter. … Continue reading »

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Story of Berkeley’s Moe’s Books comes to big screen

Siciliano Trevino held a screening Aug. 27 of her new documentary at the Elmwood Theater. Photo: Ted Friedman
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The film that was found at the Berkeley dump of the 1965 opening night party for Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue now has a film of its own.

Thursday night was the premiere of New Mo’ Cut: David Peoples’ Lost Film of Moe’s Books, produced and directed by Siciliana Trevino. Dozens of people who had backed the film on Kickstarter, worked on it, or supported it in other ways, crowded into the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood for a screening. The general public got to see it at 8 p.m. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘We Come as Friends’

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Hubert Sauper, apparently, is a man of many talents. First, he spent two years building his own ultra-light aircraft, which he then flew from France to Libya (hardly a pillar of stability, even prior to the overthrow of the Gaddafi government). Then he winged his way towards an even more dangerous destination – the nascent Republic of South Sudan.

And only then did he get around to shooting We Come as Friends, a documentary opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, Aug. 28. Though his aircraft hasn’t been granted any special recognition by the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences, his film has since gone on to win prizes at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, and Sundance. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘3 1/2 Minutes 10 Bullets’

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For a brief period in late 2012, it was front page news from coast to coast: on ‘Black Friday’, the biggest shopping day of the year, a white man had fired ten shots at four African-American teenagers in a Florida parking lot. Before long, of course, the story was eclipsed by other tales of America’s festering racism problem – but for a little while it was unavoidable.

Now the case is reexamined in 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets, a new documentary opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, July 24. Directed by Marc Silver and featuring extensive courtroom footage, it’s a wrenching examination of perception, truth, and a culture steeped in frequently invisible but unavoidable discrimination and a nation awash in guns, guns, guns. … Continue reading »

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Preview: San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival

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It’s time once again for the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, which – in addition to screenings in Berkeley – expands its East Bay presence into Oakland this year. The festival (produced, as in years past, by Frameline) comes to both Rialto Cinemas Elmwood and Landmark Theatres Piedmont, bringing with it a wide assortment of programming – including a number of films made by local artists.

Screening at the Elmwood at 9:30 p.m. on Wed. June 24, director Laura Bispuri’s Vergine giurata (Sworn Virgin) is an Italian feature about young Albanian Hana/Mark (Alba Rohrwacher), born and raised female but now living as male. Despite taking a traditional vow of chastity that ‘allows’ the locals to recognize her as a man, Hana/Mark still finds the ultra-conservative climes of her homeland stifling and decides to up sticks for liberal Italy, where stepsister Lila (Flonja Kodheli) now lives. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘I Am Big Bird’; ‘100 Year Old Man’

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Fancy feeling warm, fuzzy, and feathery next time you go to the movies? Then make plans to see I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, a delightful piece of cinematic iconography opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, May 15.

Public television’s “Sesame Street” first aired in 1969, and (with apologies to Kermit the Frog and Elmo) Big Bird soon became the show’s most popular character. Ever since, he (or is Big Bird a she?) has been played by puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who also created the eight-foot, two-inch tall vertebrate.

Now 81 years of age, Spinney remains active and continues to appear on “Sesame Street” whenever Big Bird’s presence is required, though his apprentice takes over for some of the trickier and more physically demanding scenes. When not treading the boards in his super-sized costume, Spinney also provides Oscar the Grouch with his grumpy, trash-talking persona. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten’

Don't Think I've Forgotten
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I wrote a brief capsule review for Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll when it played CAAMFest earlier this year. Generously received at the festival, the film now gets a general release, opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, May 8.

Understandably, a mournful air hangs over filmmaker John Pirozzi’s nine-year labor of love. Cambodia suffered two doses of massive slaughter in the late 20th century: first courtesy the United States Air Force, which dropped almost 3 million tons of bombs on the tiny Southeast Asian nation, displacing 30% of the population and killing around half a million Cambodians; secondly, in the period following the 1975 ascension to power of the Khmer Rouge.

At first, many Cambodians considered the Khmer Rouge an improvement on the corrupt Lon Nol government that had preceded it. Things changed quickly, however, when Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and company implemented a massive program of social leveling designed to teach the educated classes the value (if not the dignity) of labor. … Continue reading »

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