Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Betty Nguyen Has Two Eyes

The Frisco Bay repertory/revival scene cannot be taken in by a single pair of eyes. Thankfully, a number of local regular filmgoers have agreed to share their favorites from 2009. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Betty Nguyen, founder and creative director of First Person Magazine:

1. Kenneth Anger
Rabbit's Moon, Kustom Kar Kommandos, Scorpio Rising

I actually hadn't seen Scorpio Rising before, and it was great to experience these films on a screen. The ultimate bonus here, was when Kenneth Anger came out to present the shorts, to my total surprise and delight. He was wearing a red knit sweater which read "Anger" in relief, and in the Q & A afterward a staff member disclosed how the editing of the Jesus footage came to be in his work. See for more.

2. Orson Welles
Citizen Kane
A living room in Oakland

I hope this counts as it was one of the best movie experiences I've had w. live music accompaniment. I tried to get through this film several times in college. A friend of mine from outta town even teased me saying, "It's a classic!" as we cringed during the first 20 minutes of it and finally gave up. But I was at this house party with snacks and booze, and this local band, Raccoons played in the living room and I think just off the cuff chose this dvd off the shelf to play on the home's projector. And it was amazing how the film and music brought each other to life. It was also the first time that I was able to fully realize the potential and depth of the music from this band which doesn't really translate to a mere night club venue experience. They had found their match here in the film genre, and again, it happened when they played in front of the youtube version of Carl Theodore Dreyer's Le Passion de Jeanne d'Arc. Brilliance for brilliance!

3. Holt Planetarium, Berkeley

I'd like to say that the film I watched in here, was indeed a cinematic experience. It was a rainy day, pouring down on the larger-than-life bronze whale sculpture outside in the courtyard. I wanted to take a daytrip here, as I had passed by the 60's utopian architecture of the science museum geared towards helping kids learn about how things work (there was an exhibition about poop, if I remember correctly and how gas passes with huge plastic models). The film was seated in the round, and it was so crowded I had to sit on my dear's lap, but it made me feel 5 again as I shucked my shoes off and leaned back to learn about the destinations of comets, how the moon changes position year round, and what stars to look for in certain seasons. I love these "movies" because I know that someone constructs them in some poetic real science way. The way Carl Sagan just slips off the tongue with his unforgettable perspectives of how to view the world as a tiny finite humble molecule in this vast universe.

4. Knockout, SF

So, the guy who runs / manages the bar here, has a brother with really interesting taste in movies. So, if you ever go to a show here, and there's a lull for whatever reason... I tend to turn around and simply watch the films. They're usually of the vintage variety, a bit camp, and maybe other worldly. But I highly recommend looking up when you are here looking down in your beer pint.

5. International Freak Out-a-go-go
Fractal Mindgaze Hut, Oakland

My friend Mark Gergis from the band Porest, who also contributes to the record label Sublime Frequencies deejays this night with another longtimer, Paul Costuros from Death Sentence Panda amongst a million other awesome side projects. The music night is a global swarm of sounds from Asia and the Middle East paired with a rare assortment of videos from these regions. The footage is usually documentary with an intense selection and flavor. I find myself in a trance from the crazy Syrian ghettotech and staring up at these films either projected on the ceiling or wall.

6. Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (1977)

One of my oldest and coolest friends Lila, invited me to this speakeasy called the Vortex one night. I had gone to see one of my fave local music producers, WOBBLY, play at QNE on this crazy speaker art installation in quadrophonic sound. And surprisingly ran into artist Jacob Ciocci there, so I invited him and a gaggle of kids, Nate Boyce and crew to the show after. I was like, "Death Bed: The Bed that Eats" who doesn't wanna see that? Nate vouched and we had an hour of downtime so in between went to my friend Yuko's house. She told me for Halloween she wore this incredible chainmail outfit that she thrifted and I was super psyched as I was practically raised on uncensored movies like Excalibur, so she let me wear the headpiece to the movie. I had never been to the Vortex before. It's $5 and the door guy pleasantly let me park my bike inside, as it's South of Market sketch sorta. I proceeded down the long draped hallway and arrived into this exotic dark room of cozy booths and lil' bar. And all my friends were like, "So, where did you stop to get chainmail?" Anyway, all the trailers were those camp instructional videos that tell you not to do drugs in Spanish, and of course, they make you want to do them cuz they're hilarious with great cartoon graphics of your bodily insides or scenarios at parties tripping out. The movie was brilliant. Just this yellow foam core porn that ate people throughout time with this kinda Dorian Gray painting narrator in the bedroom. The Vortex screens every Thursday evening. And, it's a great hidden joint to see projected 16 mm and it might be chill to comment at the screen, if yr funny.

7. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Variety Club, Downtown SF

I hope I can count my experience screening this in the Variety Club downtown, because the doorman for the building put out gingerbread man cookies and pecan pie slices, and hot apple cider. I was so excited to see the film already, and usually folks put out coffee as the per usual press beverage, but when I asked if it was tea, he replied, "oh, it's cider", my smiling eyes sparkled and my mouth "mmmm" quietly.

I plopped down in the front row, and these two film heads were blah blah-next to me. As the credits rolled I read aloud at the absurd production company "Poo Poo Films". The scowling critic a seat over bitterly commanded, "Please don't talk during the film." To which I looked over at him and repeatedly questioned, "Poo Poo Films?", and he shushed me.

Anyway, the rest of the movie was brilliant. Live theatre coupled with modern day hooliganism and clubs, symbolism, mysticism and of course, Heath Ledger's brilliantly culled performance was totally worth salvaging and celebrating here. The CGI experience was a more malleable and whimsical Avatar. Yes, go. Afterwards, I came out hugging everyone I met on the street, even texting a friend telling him I wanted to hug him. Positive and creative vibes generated throughout my body like a good "sit" in Vipassana meditation, empowering and happy.

8. Avatar
Brendan Theatres, Modesto

I always pick a movie for the family to watch when I go up to see my father for the holidays. I fandango'ed the time for Avatar at Brendan Theatres before we went up there, to plan our Christmas luncheon, and off we went. The theatre experience was a bit strange here, well, they had us line up inside, and then entering the individual theatre, there was a metal detector. "I guess there's no metal allowed in here", my sister commented. She's a biochemist. It made me feel awkward, but I guess you gotta do whatcha gotta do. So, this one was great for everyone. As my father can't really follow plot too well, the eyecandy held up obviously. My brother, as an ex-Military intelligence was psyched on the big Robotech toys, and well, I didn't really hear any complaints from my sister two seats away or afterwards... THIS CARTOON MADE ME CRY. Aliens with a dash of Lord of the Rings ending with some Woody Harrelson commando good guy vibes. If you want to get me to see Hollywood, make it in 3D. Cuz i woz dere for Beowulf and UP!

9. Wild Combination
Roxie Theatre, SF

I brought my fashion editor to this film. I honestly didn't know anything about Arthur Russell til I saw this movie that was much hyped by my New York friends. And for good reason. And my fashion editor didn't leave. I was like, "You don't have to feel obligated to stay". But I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. It was super sad, beautiful, punk and tragic. Super 8 makes the world go round. RIP AR. The experience in the lil' side theatre at the Roxie is so nice. It feels like I'm watching a snuff film vibe. I like. And Rick does an amazing job curating for this theatre, which btw, was the first movie house I ever experienced in SF when I was a wee punk 18 yr old. I'd like to see this again. I've urged the Public Library to order this because I think he's a super important artist. Reminded me of seeing Maestro in New York, just as historical of a music era.

10. Pidgeon Funk
Elbo Room

Can you tell I like my movies with my music? So, there's a new band by my artist friend Josh (Kit Clayton) called Pidgeon Funk and their short films / videos are amaaazizinggfantasticcrunklousylowfispectacles of pidgeons, themselves photoshopped into Burning Man footage, throwing shit (yoghurt) in each other's faces while lying down, playing as the backdrop or centerpiece while they prance around into the audience and handing out insta-costumes for Halloween. MC-ing, beat making and just whimsical danceable fun on the floor.

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