Frances Ha @ SFIFF Happily Passes the Bechdel Test


A new friend of mine invited me to check out a movie at the San Francisco International Film Fest. At first when I heard the name, I thought it was going to be a documentary about an Asian chick. OOPS. Nope, it’s a movie cowritten by Noah Baumbach + Greta Gerwig!  Even better. I liked Greta in Lola Versus (she seriously saved that terrible movie), so I was pretty excited about checking out the film.  They (and the film)  appeared in a story in The New Yorker last week, so I took it as a sign that it was going to be awesome.

As an extra bonus, Baumbach and Gerwig were both at the screening to answer questions. In the past Gerwig has played  clumsy yet lovable space cadets, and she’s pretty similar in real life. A bit unpolished but utterly charming. Also, whoa she’s really tall. How did I never notice that?

Here’s the official movie blurb:

Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but shes not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named Sophie, but they aren’t really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. Frances Ha is a modern comic fable that explores New York, friendship,class, ambition, failure, and redemption

Anyway, I really enjoyed the movie. It was pretty short, but all ninety five minutes of it felt intoxicatingly frothy and hopeful about life. It didn’t hurt that it was also beautifully shot on the fly in New York. The film captures pretty well the way that close friendships change over time, and also that unsettled feeling of being left behind as your friends move on to other jobs, cities, relationships.

Definitely a must watch!


Judge a book by its covers…

Great Gatsby

The New York Times has a piece out about how people are getting all hot and bothered over the new movie tie-in cover for The Great Gatsby.

It’s true, it is atrocious.

I’m not partial to the original art, but this looks really really cheap. But I suppose whatever gets people reading books again ought to be commended. The Times also has a nice interactive module where you can check out all the different versions of the book’s cover.

Here are my favorites:


UM…Can I buy this copy somewhere? Seriously. THIS is how you do a movie tie-in book.



This one evokes time/memory/gears–>car thoughts for me. Classy.



Well, who WAS Gatsby, really?


It’s been a long time since I’ve read this book so I’m considering reading it again (even though I didn’t care for it the first go round). I’m probably going to rent it from the SF digital lending library (or even buy it online), so in a sense the cover doesn’t matter.

Are you going to see the Baz Luhrmann movie? Do you care what your book cover looks like at all, or am I just being a snobby book snob ?


Meet the Fokkens


No, no not ‘Meet the Fockers.’ I’ve avoided that one pretty well, even that one time that I went to LA for the holidays and my mom really wanted to watch it.

Here’s another prostitution documentary that’s available on Netflix. It’s perhaps the polar opposite of Whore’s Glory. I’m only 30 minutes into it, but I venture to say that it could almost be considered a… feel good? prostitution documentary. All I know is that that my Netflix algorithm is wrecked from here on out…

Meet the Fokkens

This doc follows a pair of 69 year old twin sisters in Amsterdam who have been working in the red light district for 50 years. One had to retire due to arthritis, and the other is still at it to cover her bills. The film has so far glossed over the more dangerous and sad aspects of the trade, and it’s really more of a character study of these willful ladies.

Check out the trailer:

It’s a fine line between a loving and a leering take on prostitution, but there’s not too many interviews, it’s mostly just following the sisters around as they service clients, make coffee, and go on beach rides where they read over old journals together and giggle. It makes life as an older person look like fun actually.

Art, San Francisco

Silent Winter @ The Castro 2013

Shhhhh… Silent Winter

I volunteered at the Castro Theater last weekend for a free ticket to “Silent Winter” the one day silent film festival. While I was there I met a number of silent film geeks who were not lacking in enthusiasm. When I asked “Which film are you seeing?” a few of them answered “ALL OF THEM.” Whaaaaa? It turns out that they were volunteering for the entire day, and watching all 5 movies! If I had known, I would have signed up too! 🙂

Since I’d only committed to working one shift, I chose tickets to “My Best Girl” which was Mary Pickford’s last silent film. I didn’t know much about Mary Pickford,but she was apparently THE silent film IT girl. She had control over her productions and image, which was pretty wild for a woman back then. To have money, power and beauty? Sheesh.

The movie was your basic poor girl meets rich boy who is pretending to not be rich movie (wait, isn’t that the storyline for Coming to America?), but it was so well done. I was really taken with the film’s charm. There were a few transcendent and very clever scenes in the movie (my favorite being the dizzying walk through traffic in the rain). My Best Girl isn’t on Netflix, but you can watch it on YouTube! The music is a little different than what I remember from the Castro, but that’s part of the fun of seeing movies live.

Other movies at the festival looked promising, and I’m kicking myself for not checking them out. Thankfully, a few of them are on Netflix.

The photos and film descriptions are from SF’s Silent Film Fest website. If you click on the movie name it will take you to the Netflix streaming page.



F.W. Murnau’s Faust is the most expressive telling of the old European legend, immortalized by Goethe, of the learned man who sells his soul to the devil. Magnificent in its surreal depictions of heaven and hell and a nightmarishly otherworldly world, Faust is masterpiece of German Expressionism, as boldly distinctive as Murnau’s other horror masterpiece, Nosferatu. When Emil Jannings’s wily Mephisto shows up to tempt Faust (Gösta Ekmann), a man of books and learning, with the ability to cure the plague and a 24-hour return to his youthful body, it seems God may have lost his wager with the devil over pious Faust’s immortal soul. Or has he? Murnau’s use of chiaroscuro effect beautifully contrasts light and dark, life and death; and evil is chillingly limned by Jannings’s brilliantly nuanced, subtly comic performance.

Kind of nervous about watching this one. The organist was practicing the music for Faust while I was volunteering, and it gave me the heebie jeebies.

The Thief of Bagdad


Douglas Fairbanks’s personal favorite, The Thief of Bagdad shows him at the top of his charming, acrobatic game. Directed by Raoul Walsh and adapted from One Thousand and One Nights, the story revolves around a thief (Fairbanks) who falls in love with the daughter (Julanne Johnston) of the Caliph of Bagdad. So overcome with love that he refuses to be deceptive about his true identity, Fairbanks’s thief still has the chance to win the fair maiden by bringing back the world’s rarest treasures. Thus begins a rousing fantasy replete with flying carpets, winged horses, and underwater sea monsters. Exquisite camerawork and lavish sets support early special effects to make Thief a wildly entertaining spectacle.

I’m watching Thief of Bagdad right now and it is epic. Watch this movie!

"Isms", Art

Whore’s Glory

I’m a documentary freak. I’ll watch anything.

Food and health documentaries, economic documentaries, crossword competition documentaries, they’re all gravy. Still, I feel a bit of unease at watching any film that is based around sex work, from prostitution to stripping to pornography. Most of these docs veer too far into the realm of manipulation for me.

Whore’s Glory

Netflix’s algorithm suggested that “I might enjoy” Whore’s Glory a week or so ago, and hey, the damn thing was right! Since last week, I’ve been preaching about the movie to nearly everyone I know. This film is a must watch. It’s haunting, it’s depressing, it’s an empathy explosion. Simply put, it covers the daily routines of three sets of prostitutes:

FishtankWomen who work in an upscale club in Thailand, called the “Fishbowl”


IndiaWomen and young girls who have been born into/sold into the brothel “The City of Joy” in Bangledesh



Crack addicted women who work a strip called “The Zone” in Mexico


The filmmaker is Austrian documentarian Michael Glawogger, and he’s as restrained as you’d imagine an Austrian filmmaker to be. Beyond the spooky and violent soundtrack (heavy on the CocoRosie), there is no narrative or voiceover to the footage. He allows the women and their customers to speak for themselves.  That’s really what makes the movie so powerful to me. There are moments of happiness and despair, but the rhythm of the movie gets you to realize that this is just these women’s lives, day in and day out. That was where the real shock and sadness crept in for me.

The movie is fairly even handed, but becomes devastating by the end. A full sex scene is included, which I thought was inappropriate, unnecessary and unfair to the Mexican prostitutes.

Anyways, enough of my blabbing.WATCH IT. Seriously!