Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Only Have Two Eyes: 2014 Edition

Screen capture from Warner DVD of Macao
We're already well into the 2015 film-going year, but it's not too late to take time to reflect on the cinematic character of 2014 before it recedes into memory too far. One major release bucked trends by bringing 35mm and 70mm projectors back to life in a few cinema spaces. Otherwise, 35mm screenings of new films all but disappeared from the Frisco Bay screening landscape, with only the 4-Star in San Francisco and the Bluelight Cinemas in Cupertino by year's-end still regularly playing whatever new commercially-available films they're able to track down prints for from the studios still striking them. Remaining film projectors at a place like the Opera Plaza were so under-utilized in the past twelve months that learning that the venue just the other day removed them from all but one of its tiny screening rooms (installing DCP-capable equipment into its two comparatively "larger" houses) felt completely unsurprising and barely disappointing at all to me. It's safe to say that film festivals are no longer a home for 35mm either; as far as I'm aware the only new films that screened in that format at any local fests in 2014 were the throwback short Broncho Billy and the Bandit's Secret at the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival in June, and Yoji Yamada's The Little House at Mill Valley in October.

Most of the major local festivals have only kept the embers of sprocketed film warm in 2014 either by showing 16mm works by "experimental" artists still employing celluloid, or by showing a few revival titles in 35mm. Indeed, revivals and repertory houses are now where almost all of the action is at for those who like to view light passing through 35mm strips onto screens. Frisco Bay still has venues where this is a major component of programming, as well as a growing contingent of cinema spaces finding creative ways to attract audiences out of their home-viewing patterns (which are shifting themselves) by embracing digital-age developments. I'm eager to see what 2015 will bring to the cinephiliac landscape in San Francisco and its surroundings. Changes are afoot; the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley will be closing midyear to prepare for a move to a new, more transit-connected space; meanwhile the biggest DCP advocate among its programming team has just retired. The Alamo Drafthouse is expected to open its first branch in the region in 2015 as well, at a site within walking distance of several cherished repertory haunts. As highlighted in the new Film-Friendly Links section of the Film On Film Foundation website, Alamo CEO Tim League appears committed to involving 35mm in his company's continued expansion. I'm excited to see how that shakes out.

My annual "I Only Have Two Eyes" survey of local cinephiles' favorite screenings of revival and repertory films may have more mentions of digital screenings than ever for 2014, but as you'll see as I unveil the various contributions over the next week or so, there is plenty of diversity of format, venue, and of course the films themselves, in their selections. I'm so pleased to have gotten a strong turnout for this year's poll, including many participants from the past seven years when I've conducted it, as well as new "faces". Enjoy perusing their lists and comments as more are added!

January 26: Veronika Ferdman, who writes for Slant Magazine, In Review Online and elsewhere.
January 26: Lucy Laird, Operations Director for the SF Silent Film Festival.
January 27: Michael Hawley, who blogs at his own site film-415.
January 27: Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, educator at the Academy of Art & MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS
January 28: Margarita Landazuri, who writes for Turner Classic Movies & elsewhere.
January 28: Ben Armington, Box Cubed Box Office guy for many Bay Area Film Festivals.
January 29: Terri Saul, a visual artist who posts capsule reviews on Letterboxd.
January 29: Lincoln Spector, the proprietor of Bayflicks.
January 30: Michael Guillén, schoolmaster of The Evening Class and contributor to other publications.
January 30: David Robson, editorial director of Jaman and caretaker of The House of Sparrows.
January 31: Jonathan Kiefer, critic for SF Weekly and the Village Voice.
January 31: Adrianne Finelli, artist, educator, and co-curator of A.T.A.'s GAZE film series.
February 1: Haroon Adalat, a designer, illustrator and video editor.
February 1: Maureen Russell, cinephile and Noir City film festival volunteer.
February 2: Ryland Walker Knight, a writer and filmmaker with a new short at SF IndieFest.
February 2: Carl Martin, film projectionist and keeper of the FOFF Bay Area Film Calendar.
February 3: Claire Bain, an artist, filmmaker and writer.
February 4: Brian Darr, a.k.a. yours truly.

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