Pixel Vision

Sundance, part two: Linklater love

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My second year of attending the Sundance Film Festival was at the age of 15; it was 1991 and I took a chance on a film called Slacker by Richard Linklater. 

This is the ticket stub that started my film journals. It's still taped into a spiral ring notebook that cradles my coming of age, and I have treasured every film of Linklater's since: his mainstream breakthrough, cult classic Dazed and Confused (1993); his hilarious remake of The Bad News Bears (2005); his underrated adaptation of Fast Food Nation (2006); his overlooked staging of Tape (2001); his pioneering, existentialist, rotoscoped duet Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006). And, of course, his soul-searching Before trilogy.

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RIP Colonel Meow

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Alas, minions! Our fearless, fuzzy leader Colonel Meow has passed away. We will always remember him for championing the Cat Pack and sharing his wise words with us. The culling of beloved Internet kitties has begun too soon.

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Sundance, part one: crowd-pleasers and dino heists

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Check out Jesse's intro to his Sundance Film Festival series here.

This year, there were few films that stood out as across-the-board crowd pleasers. Gareth Evans' violent, 148-minute The Raid 2: Berandal (UK/Indonesia) — a sequel to his 2011 cult hit — is an absolute must-see, as is the latest from Wet Hot American Summer (2001) director David Wain, They Came Together (US); it's a comedy spoof that pitches Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler into a slew of rom-com tropes and clichés (delivering some huge laughs in the process).

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Tee time: a peek inside Urban Putt, the Mission's indoor mini-golf course

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On the back wall of the main room of the old Victorian building at 1096 S. Van Ness is a sculpture of two creepy angels. One holds the other in its arms, their wings keeping them up. These angels are part of the original construction of the building, back when it functioned as a mortuary. Perhaps due to the haunting angels, perhaps due to the thought of a dead body storage center, the building has sat empty on the corner of South Van Ness and 22nd Streets for 15 years.

Today, the angels are still there and the building’s new owner has no intention of taking them down. “We will preserve as much as we can from this old look,” says Steve Fox, the man behind San Francisco’s first indoor mini-golf course, Urban Putt, set to open in April. The “high-concept” course will feature a restaurant with “eclectic California comfort cuisine” upstairs and two bars with a “creative bar program,” according to Urban Putt’s most recent press release. 

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I Was a Teenage Sundancer

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I grew up at the Sundance Film Festival — beginning in 1990, when my father took my 14-year-old self to an archival screening of Melvin Van Peebles' X-rated Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971), and my best friend Grayson Jenson's parents introduced us to Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night (1963). 

These two films have polar-opposite subject matter, but they do share some odd similarities; they both make aggressive statements about counterculture, and both are cut together with hyperkinetic, French New Wave-esque editing. But back then, all I knew was that my life was maniacally changed ... forever. 

This transformative experience was enhanced by accidentally sitting next to only movie critic I had ever heard of: Mr. Roger Ebert. As it happens, a documentary about the late writer's career, Steve James' Life Itself, was one of the 2014 festival's biggest hits. Friendly and engaging, Ebert explained to me (at 14) that he personally enjoyed watching the Beatles' "best film" on 16mm as opposed to 35mm. The conversation we shared ("What are your favorite films?" Me: "Hellraiser II, Aliens, Evil Dead 2, and Phantasm II") left a long and deep impression on me.

That was my first memorable Sundance moment. But this year's Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals — celebrating their 30th and 20th anniversaries, respectively — were (on the occasion of my own 24th Sundance anniversary) maybe the best I've ever experienced, overall.

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'The Bachelor' (episode 4, what better time to start?) recap: APOLOGY PLZ

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Forgive the late (mid-season) arrival, some copy got lost in translation. And if you buy that, Juan Pablo's public image has a shot.

So last week, amid all the real news (Chris Christie things, GOP things, Obama-NSA things, Sochi things) and amid all the Bieber news (eggs, DUI's, Jeremy Bieber's existence, shiny shorts, smiling mugshots) there was a bad piece of Bachelor news. 

Juan Pablo, the current Bachelor, decided to share his feelings on a matter he was totally unqualified to address, he did so in a socially tone-deaf manner and is now dealing with that fallout. 

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Pure poetry

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"I didn't know I was a Chicano until I met Jose." -- actor and activist Edward James Olmos at the Jose Montoya Memorial Celebration at Sacramento's Crest Theater, Jan. 23, 2014. Photo by Fernando Andrés Torres.

Read Fernando Andrés Torres' story on NorCal's poesia en espanol revival in this week's paper.

The bulging eyes of rock-stardom absurdity: An evening with Tenacious D

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About 15 minutes into taking a seat at center stage of the Castro Theatre last night before an enthusiastic and fairly inebriated crowd, Jack Black turned to the audience and sheepishly confessed, “I’m getting sleepy.” To which, his cohort Kyle Gass added, “Is any of this even interesting?’

It was an honest, and funny, way to acknowledge a slow-out-of-the-gate interview moment for Tenacious D — comedic duo Black and Gass as the greatest acoustic heavy metal band in the world — who would probably have felt more in their element battling Satan in an epic guitar showdown than awkwardly sitting in tall chairs answering questions with a moderator.

And after all, expectations in the room were considerable. For the high-profile opening night of SF SketchFest on Jan. 23, the devoted audience in attendance had waited outside nearly two hours — in a quarter mile line that rambled throughout the neighbor — in an effort to see the duo take the Castro stage to be honored for their hyper brand of rock-stardom absurdity and Spinal Tap genius. But after a big-screen montage of the duo’s funniest clips got the event rolling, the D sitting down to chat with moderator and fellow comedian Paul F. Tompkins took a moment to get momentum.

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RIP Gary Arlington, underground comix hero (UPDATED)

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UPDATE: This just in from Ron Turner: "Hello Friends.  There will be a memorial for Gary this coming Tuesday at 11 AM at 225 Berry St. off 4th, very near the Giants ballpark and the Cal Train station.  Hope to see you there.  It is a modern Senior Center where Gary made his home. Bring stories and memories to share."

Just got word from Last Gasp Press founder Ron Turner that comics legend Gary Edson Arlington has passed away at age 75. In 1968, he opened what is considered the first comic book store in the United States, San Francisco Comic Book Company, which galvanized the hotbed Bay Area underground comix scene (and helped house his enormous collection, too).

As Art Spiegelman told the Chronicle in 2012, on the occasion of the publication of "I Am Not of this Planet," a book of Arlington's colorful artwork published by Last Gasp:

"San Francisco was the capitol of comix culture in the '60s and early '70s; and Gary Arlington's hole-in-the-wall shop was, for me, the capitol of San Francisco."

He was truly a fascinating character who supported local comics and art until the end, and influenced pop culture exponentially. 

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Welcome to San Francisco, "Welcome to Night Vale"

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Hello, listeners. Brilliant breakout podcast "Welcome to Night Vale" has gained a rabid (yet adorably introspective) fanbase since it launched in June 2012. The twice-monthly, 20-minute-long show, created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, takes the form of a surreal newscast, coming to us from "somewhere in the Southwestern United States" by way of Twin Peaks.

Describing a community of indelible characters, it's a twisted take on Lake Wobegone that vacillates cunningly from whimsical to chilling, often veering into outright poetry. "Night Vale" also recalls the golden age of radio plays: even though it lacks sound effects and depends mostly on the deep, hypnotic voice of narrator Cecil, it summons the entrancing atmosphere of such classics as "The Shadow."

And now it's coming to the Victoria Theater for a big live show-reading on Tue/21. Expect seismic things, tiered heavens, off-limits dog parks, magic lightbulbs, hovering livestock, public service koans, and the heirarchy of angels.

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