Tag Archives: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood
I’m not speaking from experience, of course, but I have to believe that adapting a play for the big screen isn’t easy. Tough decisions must be made: are you going to film an Olivier-style Shakespearian adaptation, sticking to every jot or tittle of the original text, or are you going to trim a little fat from the edges? Is your adaptation going to be little more than a filmed version of the play (making for a dull and static — if faithful — representation of the original work), or are you going to open up the story and take it places it could never go on stage?
These haven’t proven to be particularly formidable challenges for the good folks at PlayGround and Dances With Light. Based in the Bay Area, PlayGround has produced over 100 short plays since 1994, while Dances With Light has been in the film biz since 1979. In one of the best synergistic developments since one teenager got his chocolate in another teenager’s peanut butter, the two have combined forces for the 2nd Annual Playground Film Festival, screening at Rialto Cinema’s Elmwood at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1 and at the Zaentz Media Center, 2600 10th St., Berkeley at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 4. … Continue reading »
In late 2004, the Elmwood Theatre — owned at the time by San Carlos Cinemas — closed. I passed the theatre on the way to and from work each day, and, despite the somewhat hopeful message on the marquee (“Closed for Remodel”) I was convinced that the last bucket of spilled popcorn had been swept up there.
Victims of America’s love affair with the multiplex, over 500 single-screen movie theatres around the country had been shuttered over the preceding five years. How could Berkeley’s little neighborhood cinema resist the inexorable market forces working against it? … Continue reading »
You’re no doubt familiar by now with Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, but do you know from which town he hails? The answer is Janesville, Wisconsin, the small downstate city that’s also the focus of As Goes Janesville, a new documentary that is screening — for free — at 7:00 pm this Wednesday, October 10th at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood.
For decades, the city’s fortunes were inextricably linked with those of General Motors, Janesville’s largest employer. GM operated an assembly plant from the early 1920s until late 2008, when the financial crisis dealt a fatal blow to consumer spending. After the final sport utility vehicle rolled off the line two days before Christmas, union jobs that had allowed generations of residents to buy homes, send their children to college, and (of course) purchase their own Chevys literally disappeared overnight.
In a community of 63,000, the loss of 11,000 well-paid jobs was a stunning blow. Hundreds of other Janesville residents were forced to relocate to Indiana or Texas, home foreclosures skyrocketed, and, in the space of only a few months, Paul Ryan’s hometown went from boom to bust. Atlas, of course, merely shrugged. … Continue reading »
Even if you’ve never heard the name Wayne White before, you’ve probably seen his handiwork. An artistic polymath and obsessive junk collector whose influence on late 20th-century pop culture is greater than one might suspect, White is the focus of Beauty is Embarrassing, an entertaining and surprisingly uplifting documentary opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, September 14.
Born and raised in rural Hixson, Tennessee, White grew up in a home filled with folk art made and collected by his mother Billie June. An obsessive artist from the age of two, White’s drawings were already controversial by the time he reached high school, where the principal described his work as “not the drawings of a red-blooded American boy.”
Inspired by the sneering disapproval of his elders, White matriculated at Middle Tennessee State University in 1975, where – in addition to pursuing a self-proclaimed “education in braless hippie chicks” – he began designing and constructing puppets, staging bizarre theatrical shows, and making crude animated films. MTSU soon proved too small a pond for the ambitious White, who moved to New York City in 1980. … Continue reading »
Don’t believe everything you’ve heard about Arizona. Despite being stereotyped as the land of border-patrolling Minutemen, gun nuts, Birchers, and birthers, it turns out that the Grand Canyon State is just like Berkeley, only with more pools. All this and much more is revealed in Kumaré, a new documentary opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, September 7th.
A second generation Indian-American from New Jersey, Kumaré director Vikram Gandhi was immersed in Hindu philosophy and ritual from an early age by his deeply religious parents, who – like many first-generation immigrants – were desperate to ensure their offspring didn’t stray too far from his roots. Gandhi predictably rebelled, and, despite studying religion in college, became increasingly skeptical as he grew older.
Even a skeptic, however, has questions he can’t answer. In Gandhi’s case those questions centered on his grandmother, whose ability to achieve profound calm through prayer had puzzled him since childhood. Determined to find the source of her calm, the aspiring filmmaker began the spiritual journey documented in Kumaré. … Continue reading »
Few things personify the musky odor of mid-20th century American masculinity quite as potently as the writings of Mickey Spillane. Born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn in 1918, the jut-jawed, fedora-wearing beer enthusiast penned a series of wildly popular Ayn Rand-approved pulp novels featuring a private eye named, with appropriate lack of subtlety (or perhaps candor), Mike Hammer.
Selling several hundred million books is a sure way to get Hollywood’s attention, and, since his print birth in 1947, Hammer has appeared on the big screen half a dozen times — most memorably in 1955’s Kiss Me Deadly, an ink-black nuclear noir directed by Robert Aldrich. As for Spillane, he was celebrity enough to play himself in Ring of Fear (1954), a goofy but enjoyable circus-set thriller, and actor enough to play his own creation in 1963’s The Girl Hunters, one of a double bill of Hammer adaptations screening this Thursday, June 29th at Pacific Film Archive as part of the pulp writers series ‘One-Two Punch ’. … Continue reading »
Payback, it is sometimes said indelicately, can be a bitch. Jennifer Baichal’s new documentary Payback, opening this Friday, May 18 at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas (and most definitely not to be confused with the 1999 Mel Gibson thriller of the same name), takes a more contemplative approach to the term: payback, it turns out, can also be a restorative in the right hands.
Inspired by Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s book “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth”, the film takes a decidedly broad approach to its topic. Traveling around the world, Baichal examines the interrelatedness of payback, debt, reparations, and revenge, with especial attention paid to debts of the non-monetary variety.
The film begins in Albania, where the question emerges — how do you keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Tirana? The not so obvious answer is to invoke Kanun, an ancient, quasi-legal code of honor developed hundreds of years ago. Kanun still holds sway in the remote regions of northern Albania, where farmer Llesh Prenaga has been under virtual house arrest for the last three years. … Continue reading »
Once again, the season of holiday movie-going — that special time of year when local art-houses overflow with Oscar bait and the multiplexi are stuffed with family-friendly fare sweeter and stickier than a supermarket Yule log — is upon us.
It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, those few weeks in December when even yours truly stops fruitlessly trying to better his mind and relaxes with a popcorn flick or three. Therefore, be it resolved: this week I’ll spare you any dissertations on the latest Estonian comedy or that depressing documentary about cute baby seals being turned into lamp shades in favor of something a little more mainstream.
The Muppets (currently screening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood) hits the family film sweet spot, taking the now grown children of the late 20th century on a delightful trip down memory lane while also tickling the funny bones of the younger set. Whether you’re 8 or 80, a chorus of chickens singing a G-rated version of Cee-lo Green’s Fuck You is going to make you laugh, but the film’s narrative structure is primarily designed to reel in those of us who spent the late 1970s following the prime-time adventures of Kermit the Frog. (Speaking of whom, it’s hard to imagine a time when the only remotely famous Kermit was Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson. It’s also hard to imagine a time when loving parents would name their son ‘Kermit’.)
Kermit was the only Muppet to take the leap from PBS pedagogue to network superstar, so it’s only proper that the lean green amphibian is the focal point of The Muppets. In brief: having retired into seclusion upon The Muppet Show’s 1981 cancellation, Kermit is called upon to save the old Muppet Studio from a nefarious oil baron (Chris Cooper) who intends to tear it down and drill for the Texas Tea rumored to be bubbling beneath its historic grounds. … Continue reading »
It would probably have been safe to assume on November 5, 2008 that Sarah Palin’s fifteen minutes were up. Vilified by the lamestream media and bad-mouthed by McCain campaign insiders, there seemed to be nowhere for her to go but back to the Great White North, where she’d quietly serve out the last two years of her gubernatorial term.
The canny pol, however, had no intention of being forgotten by Real Americans throughout the lower 48. Palin loved the limelight more than she loved the legislative process and resigned from office the following July. Since then she’s parlayed her infamy into two plus years of television appearances, patriotic road trips, and book signings. Marshall McLuhan would either be very proud, or extremely ill.
However, the endless campaign to keep the spotlight on Sarah hit a speed bump earlier this year. A hagiographic documentary entitled The Undefeated leaked into a few dozen red state theaters over the summer and subsequently crashed and burned at the box office. It seemed that America’s appetite for Caribou Barbie had finally been sated.
Not so fast! With the release of Nick Broomfield’s new feature, Sarah Palin: You Betcha!, blue staters have an opportunity to bask in the celluloid glow of the woman they love to hate (or at least make fun of). Currently screening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, the film is a compendium of perfidy guaranteed to soothe the soul of Democrats and fellow travelers disappointed at the performance of their own political savior. … Continue reading »
Mr. Go sounds like the name of a comic book superhero, but such is not the case. As we learn from Harry Shearer’s new documentary, The Big Uneasy (opening this Friday, July 8th at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood), Mr. Go is actually a bit of a villain — an anthropomorphized representation of the slow-motion, decades-long disaster that culminated in the inundation of New Orleans on August 29th, 2005.
The scale of the catastrophe is still hard to fathom, but The Big Uneasy uses computer-generated mapping imagery (provided by the former director of Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Center, Dr. Ivor van Heerden) to make the truth abundantly clear. When New Orleans’ hurricane defenses failed, huge areas of the city were rapidly inundated, causing approximately 81 billion dollars worth of damage.
The federal government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers went into damage control mode almost immediately: “no one” could have anticipated such a huge storm, which was a once in a lifetime “storm of the century”. Some scientists, however, weren’t satisfied with easy bromides, and two independent investigations — one led by the LSU Hurricane Center, the other by UC Berkeley’s own Robert Bea and Ray Seed — swung into action to determine what actually went wrong. … Continue reading »
Beginners, which opened in Berkeley on Friday, is by turns moving, sad, and funny. Its director, Mike Mills, has roots in Berkeley. He was born in 1966 at Alta Bates Hospital and lived in the Bay Area for a few years before his family moved to Santa Barbara.
The movie — which is Mills’s second, his first was Thumbsucker — tells the story of his father, Paul Mills, who, after many years of marriage, came out to his son as being gay after his wife had passed away. Soon afterwards, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It stars Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent.
Mills spoke to Berkeleyside on Friday June 17, the day Beginners opened in the East Bay, about his early years, including his mother’s endeavors to preserve some local architecture, his personal style as a filmmaker, and about why none of his three leading actors are American.
How close to your own life is the narrative of the film?
Well, I had to turn it into a story and have it talk to an audience, but many of the elements are from my experience. My parents really were married in the Swedenborgian church in San Francisco and the map shown in the movie is right in that they lived very close to where Ginsberg wrote “Howl”. … Continue reading »
Queen of the Sun’s arresting first image — that of a young woman covered with hundreds, if not thousands, of honey bees — provided a clue. A quick rifle through the tubes of the internets revealed more: placing a queen bee in a cage and hanging it around your neck will attract her friends and family, who will land on your face and upper torso, thus creating a beard effect. This, it seems, has been going on for both fun and profit since the 1700s.
The film is, however, concerned with something a little more serious than this somewhat outré hobby: the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder, the still not fully understood phenomenon that has decimated bee populations throughout North America and Europe over the past few years. Bees pollinate approximately 40% of the food we eat; without them, mass starvation is all but guaranteed (unless, of course, Soylent Green finally becomes a viable source of nutrients). … Continue reading »
I’m a music lover. I’ve caterwauled in front of many a microphone, avoided countless nightclub two-drink minimums, and spent far too much money on records (and, grudgingly, CDs, but that’s another story). And I’m catholic in my taste: if it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it, chances are I’ll give it an eighty. Which, perhaps, explains why there are two types of music I generally don’t like: heavy metal and folk. The tuneless macho bluster of metal (hello Led Zeppelin) and the tasteful harmonizing and acoustic plucking of folk (hello Kingston Trio) are as nails on a chalkboard to me.
Which brings me, of course, to Phil Ochs, the subject of a superb new documentary, Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune, currently playing at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. (The film opened last Friday, but due to my coverage of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, I’m reviewing it now.) Even folk-hating philistines such as myself will find it a deeply moving and illuminating experience — and if they’re not careful, they might even end up enjoying some of the music. … Continue reading »