Saturday, April 30, 2016

NUTS! (2016)

Screen capture from trailer
WHO: Penny Lane, director of Our Nixon directed this as a follow-up. She also was an editor, cinematographer and producer on the documentary.

WHAT: Another hold review; sorry to make it two in a row. But I can't resist plugging this one. My 100-word capsule:

Ever wondered why Buster Keaton brings his horse to a "goat gland specialist" in Cops? Thanks to John R. Brinkley these were the Viagra of the 1920s, except they didn't work. Brinkley's treatments were questionable at best, but his innovations in promotion & distribution were game-changers still impacting our economic landscape. Lane collages archival audio and film footage (in its correct aspect ratio - avoiding a common pet peeve in history-centric documentaries) with myriad animation techniques, digitally-rotoscoped re-enactments especially effectively, to explore a corner of weird American history that's unfortunately been forgotten. Perfect entertainment for this erection year.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at BAMPFA at 6:15 PM, presented by the San Francisco International Film Festival.

WHY: If you weren't aware of Penny Lane from Our Nixon, perhaps you read her open letter to the Tribeca Film Festival last month in protest of their announced (and subsequently withdrawn) screening of the anti-vaccination propaganda film Vaxxed. I haven't seen Vaxxed (it opened at the Opera Plaza yesterday, which is very disappointing to this longtime Landmark Theatres patron) but I don't have to see it to know that a co-directing credit from a proven research fabricator marks it as an anti-scientific example of 21st-Century quackery.

I hate to trot out the "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it" cliche, but NUTS! reminded me how little I actually know about certain aspects of American society in the 1920s and 30s, despite devoting a great deal of time immersing myself in the popular culture of the era. Any regular attendees of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (which recently announced its 2016 slate), for example, should definitely see NUTS! to get a fuller sense of the era in which its films were initially received. The fact that it includes a brief excerpt from Cops is a pleasant bonus for Buster Keaton fans.

HOW: Digitally projected.

OTHER SFIFF OPTIONS: Today marks the final SFIFF screenings of No Home Movie and of Sixty Six, both also at BAMPFA. The sole festival screening of the Johnny To-produced action thriller Trivisa is at 11:30 PM tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission. At 3PM Joel and Ethan Coen will appear at the Castro Threatre to present the festival's Mel Novikoff Award to Janus Films and the Criterion Collection; the Coens named a character from Inside Llewyn Davis after Novikoff as belated tribute to his championing of their first feature Blood Simple more than thirty years ago; it will screen at the event. Finally, Wesley Morris delivers the festival's annual State of the Cinema Address at the Victoria at 1PM; it's the first time a film critic has been given the job since 2004 when B. Ruby Rich did it. (I strongly approve but am still waiting for an archivist to get a chance at-bat.)

NON-SFIFF OPTION: The Niles Film Museum screens Buster Keaton's masterpiece Steamboat Bill, Jr. as well as his short film The Bellboy and a Mutt & Jeff comic short The Big Swim. All are 35mm prints, the latter tinted.

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