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Rocky Horror’s 45th Birthday And Other Weird January Films

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The new year and the new decade kicks off with a bunch of films for weirdos of all stripes.  S.F. Indie Fest and Noir City have their annual shows this month. S.F. Sketchfest presents a very special anniversary screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”  The follow-up to anime classic “Your Name” makes its theatrical debut. There’s even a strange-but-true documentary about a very unusual video archivist. But the primo strangeness on top of strangeness cinematic experience belongs to the upcoming David Lynch film series.

January 3

2019 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour–New and upcoming filmmaking talent have often introduced their creativity to audiences via the Sundance Film Festival Shorts Programs.  For those who can’t get to Park City or Salt Lake City to visit the annual festival, this touring short film program delivers a sampler of shorts screened at the 2019 festival.  Included in the program are “The MINORS” (award-winning slice of life tale about a grandpa and his grandsons), “Fast Horse” (an award-winning documentary about a Blackfoot horseman trying to train for the very competitive Indian Relay), and “Suicide By Sunlight” (day-walking vampire fights both blood lust and the stresses of family court). (Roxie Theatre)


Cunningham–Choreographer Merce Cunningham produced works that revolutionized the world of modern dance.  Alla Kovgan’s dazzling documentary portrait of the late choreographer is not just a biography. It shows how Cunningham’s philosophy of instinctual movement in dance played out in the works he created.  His collaborations with artists such as composer John Cage and the notorious Andy Warhol show another side of this genius. (Embarcadero Center Cinemas)

Invisible Life–In 1950s Argentina, a parental lie “to preserve family honor” winds up separating pregnant single mother Guida from her close sister aspiring pianist Euridice.  The unwed mother struggles to make do with very limited resources. Meanwhile, Euridice gets stuck in a loveless marriage to an older man. As time passes, can the two sisters fulfill their dreams and even reunite with each other?  Winner of the Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard Award. (Embarcadero Center Cinemas)

January 3 to 9

For Your Consideration 2020–Every year countries around the world submit films for consideration for the Foreign Picture Oscar.  For the past 16 years, the Smith Rafael Film Center has been showing a sampler of these entries. This screening series offers a chance to catch acclaimed films you may have missed during their theatrical runs (“Pain And Glory,” “Monos”) or even catch some new favorites.  For example, there’s “And Then We Danced” (coming-out and coming of age tale set in the world of competitive Georgian dance), “Beanpole” (two young Russian women who fought on the World War II frontlines try to find post-war purpose in their lives), and “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha” (this film technically disqualified from Academy consideration follows the destinies of three different women in a Kabul riddled by bomb attacks).  (Smith Rafael Film Center)

January 8


David Bowie 73rd Birthday Double Feature–Celebrate the late Ziggy Stardust’s 73rd birthday in spirit via this screening of two classic Bowie films.  “Labyrinth” sees Bowie play the charming singing Goblin King, who gives Jennifer Connelly’s boring girl 13 hours to thread his maze to rescue her baby brother.  In “The Hunger,” Bowie is a rapidly aging centuries old vampire who, with bisexual vampire wife Catherine Deneuve, turns to Susan Sarandon’s doctor for help. (Castro Theatre)

January 9 to February 1

S.F. Sketchfest 2020–Yes, the S.F. Sketchfest is primarily dedicated to live comedy performances of various shapes and sizes.  But special movie screenings are also a part of S.F. Sketchfest, and some of this year’s shows may interest Broke-Ass readers: 

*”Galaxy Quest” 20th Anniversary w/ Tony Shalhoub In Person–Tony Shalhoub, best known as TV detective Monk, appears in person for a conversation with Kevin Pollak, his co-star on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”  Afterwards, there will be a 20th anniversary screening of the Hugo Award-winning science fiction comedy “Galaxy Quest” (the cast of a cult “Star Trek”-like TV show unexpectedly find themselves becoming the characters they play to save an alien race from an evil general).

*”Metropolitan” 30th Anniversary–”Midnite For Maniacs”’ Jesse Hawthorne Ficks hosts this 30th anniversary screening of Whit Stillman’s witty and perceptive tale of a young man’s comic attempts to fit into New York City debutante society.  Stillman himself will appear at the screening along with some actors from the film. 

*”SpongeBob Squarepants”’ 20th Anniversary–TV’s #1 animation series for kids (and the young at heart) celebrates its 20th anniversary, and you’re invited to join in the celebration.  Not only will attendees hear a reading of a fan-favorite episode, but there will also be the latest news about the series and even a sneak preview of a new episode.  Coming by for the celebration are actors Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick), and Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs) among other guests.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

*”The Rocky Horror Picture Show” 45th Anniversary–The movie that established the concept of the cult midnight movie screening is now 45 years old…and will play the Castro Theatre!  Peaches Christ, no stranger to midnight screenings, provides hosting duties. To liven the festivities, Barry Bostwick (Brad), Nell “Little Nell” Campbell (Columbia), and Patricia Quinn (Magenta) will appear in person to dish dirt on the making of the film.  While attendees are encouraged to do the Time Warp, tossing rolls of toilet paper at the screen might be frowned upon by Castro staff.

*”Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour”–Here’s your chance to see original “MST3K” host Joel Hodgson perform live with his robots Crow, Tom Servo, and Gypsy for the last time.  Obviously, the awful movie getting hilariously riffed on has not been announced. But you can expect the whole event to resemble a rather twisted circus. 

(Castro Theatre, other venues)

January 10

Coup 53–Want to know a big reason why the Iranian people aren’t necessarily fans of the US and the UK?  Try the two governments’ involvement in overthrowing Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh so both Western countries could control the country’s oil.  This story of the coup gets told with footage that had been buried for literal decades. (Roxie Theatre)

Varda By Agnes–Missed the PFA sneak previews of French New Wave director Agnes Varda’s last film?  Don’t sleep on this opportunity! It’s the director’s personal retrospective of her cinematic work, done as a survey of her analog and digital filmmaking periods.  Filled with personal anecdotes and encounters with project collaborators (e.g. Sandrine Bonnaire from “Vagabond”), this film serves as a charming farewell to this beloved filmmaker.  (Note: For those who want to check out some of the films referenced in this documentary, the SFMOMA and the PFA are jointly screening a retrospective of some of Varda’s films.) (Roxie Theatre)

January 10 to February 29

Mulholland Drive

Next Door To Darkness: The Films of David Lynch–If you prefer your films to be heavily steeped in WTF-ery, you can’t go wrong watching the films of David Lynch.  The PFA has you covered with a film series featuring Lynch classics such as Blue Velvet (naive Kyle MacLachlan discovers the evil lurking in his placid small town, embodied in Dennis Hopper’s psycho…who should be given a wide berth whenever he huffs his special gas tank) and Mulholland Drive (this story starts out with Naomi Watts as an aspiring starlet in Hollywood attempting to help a beautiful amnesiac, but becomes someone else entirely).  There are also rarities such as The Straight Story (elderly man drives his lawn mower across the Midwest to visit his ailing brother) and Premonitions (a collection of short live-action and animated films inspired by dreams or nightmares, such as the tale of a lonely abused child who grows a loving grandmother from a seed).  (Pacific Film Archive)

January 11 & 25

Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic–Famed German director Fritz Lang returned to Germany over a dozen years after World War 2’s end to direct this late career epic.  This two-part film involves a German architect’s adventures in India, which translate to encounters with a man-eating tiger, a sultry temple dancer (her snake dance is an up yours to censors), and a jealous maharajah.  Cultural accuracy is less important than period visual spectacle, which this epic has plenty of. (Pacific Film Archive

January 12

2040–What could the world look like in 2040 if humanity implemented currently available solutions to climate change?  Award-winning Australian director Damon Gameau provides a cinematic answer in the form of a fictional letter to his 4-year-old daughter.  The result is part documentary, part speculation. A panel discussion with members of Children For Change and Drawdown Marin follows the screening. (Smith Rafael Film Center

January 15

GLAS Presents Animation Next–Berkeley’s GLAS Animation Festival presents seven animated shorts from its most recent festival.  These selections highlight the next generation of animation artists from around the world. Included in the program are New Talent Award winner “Bloeistraat 11” (film from The Netherlands about the lives of a group of adolescents), Meghan Oretsky Special Mention winner “The Night of The Plastic Bags” (climate change as a horror story) and Grand Prix winner “Acid Rain” (a boy meets girl story involving a psychedelic zone and a camper van). (Alamo Drafthouse

January 17

Les Miserables–No, this isn’t a modern day adaptation of Victor Hugo’s titular novel.  However, Ladj Ly’s film is also set in the Paris suburb of Montfermeil. Three plainclothes cops (a racist, a good guy with an itchy trigger finger, and a newbie) are tasked with finding a stolen lion cub.  However, Montfermeil is a Muslim immigrant-heavy neighborhood where ever present tensions exist between its impoverished residents and the larger society which won’t do much for them. So is it better to “keep the peace” or let tensions explode?  This film is France’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar. (Embarcadero Center Cinemas)    

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project–Marion Stokes was a radical Communist activist who embarked on an amazing decades-long project.  From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Sandy Hook massacre, she recorded the news and talk shows that the television networks consigned to history’s dustbin.  The accumulated VHS hoard would run to 70,000 tapes. Matt Wolf (“Teenage”) directs this documentary, which includes excerpts from the Stokes archive. (Roxie Theatre)

VHYes–12-year-old Ralph’s obsession with the new home video technology leads to his accidentally turning his parents’ wedding video into his cinematic “masterpiece.”  This comedy, shot entirely on VHS and Betamax, mixes in parodies of such 1980s cable-TV staples as infomercials and Bob Ross in between snippets of the boy’s home life.  Features performances by such comedians as Kerri Kenney and Mark Proksch as well as a cameo from the director’s parents Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. (Alamo Drafthouse)      

Weathering With You–Director Makoto Shinkai arrives with his follow-up to his hit anime “Your Name.”  High school freshman Hodaka runs away from his island home to live in Tokyo. To survive, he eventually lands a job writing for an occult magazine.  One day, Hodaka meets the strong-willed Hina. The girl possesses amazing talents, particularly the ability to stop the rain and clear the overcast skies… (Roxie Theatre)

January 21

Tremors–In this cult monster comedy, repairmen Val Mc Kee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward)’s plans to leave their dull town of Perfection, Nevada hit a big snag.  The desert town’s been struck by a string of mysterious deaths and some weird underground rumbling. The cause of these troubles turns out to be sand-burrowing and human-eating giant worm creatures…which means the humans stuck in Perfection are in for the fight of their lives.  Partly a parody of 1950s monster movie cliches, the film also features a hilarious supporting performance by Reba McEntire as half of a survivalist couple. (Alamo Drafthouse)   

January 24 to February 2

18th Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival–”Noir City: International II” is the theme of this year’s annual film noir festival.  Viewers will be taken to such countries as Argentina, South Korea, and West Germany for violent tales of revenge and/or obsession.  Among this year’s offerings are “…And The Fifth Horseman Is Fear” (An ex-doctor tries to save a resistance fighter’s life over one long surreal night), “Salon Mexico” (To save her younger sister, a club dancer must stand up to her pimp), and “Rusty Knife” (An ex-con may be involved in a plot to bring down a yakuza boss, but he’s more interested in avenging his fiance’s murder). (Castro Theatre)

January 28

The House By The Cemetery–Lucio Fulci’s gory tribute to academic persistence gets a 4K restoration. Professor Norman Boyle moves his family to an old New England mansion to continue his recently deceased predecessor’s scholarly research.  Cause of Boyle’s predecessor’s death: suicide, occurring after he murdered his girlfriend. Boyle’s decision to unearth the mansion’s secrets will lead to his discovering the work of surgeon Dr. Freudstein, who performed sinister surgical experiments on his family members.  (Alamo Drafthouse)

January 29 to February 13

Come As You Are

22nd S.F. IndieFest–While the full 2020 program has not been made available as of this writing, it can be said that this year’s festival opens with “Come As You Are.”  It’s a dark road trip comedy centering on three young men with disabilities. Their destination is a brothel catering to special needs clients. There, they hope to lose their virginity and embrace personal independence…if their pursuing parents don’t catch them first.  Directing the film is Bay Area filmmaker Richard Wong (“Colma, The Musical”). (Note: Broke Ass Stuart’s is an S.F. IndieFest Media Sponsor)

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.

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