Oscar season is over at last, and the summer blockbusters are still a long way off. So movie maniacs are in a kind of limbo, drumming their fingers in restless anticipation of the next Really Big Event on the calendar: The San Francisco International Film Festival in late April. Take a breath, chill, and check out these tasty fixins for your movie jones.
Tapping into the veritable army of graphic designers and marketing communication managers in the Bay Area, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts scored surprise hits a few years ago with the documentaries Helvetica and Objectified. Nothing succeeds like success, which accounts for the Design and Architecture Films Showcase unspooling at YBCA throughout March. The dozen films on view, including Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterwork (Mar. 13 and 16) and Tadao Ando: From Emptiness to Infinity (Mar. 27), seek to expand YBCA's audience of professionals to architects and urban planners. Not to worry, the venue has abandoned neither politics nor its street sense, as evidenced by the return of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in April. For more information visit ybca.org.
The Pacific Film Archive has been on fire lately, drawing big crowds for in-depth series of Jean-Luc Godard, classic American comedy, Satyajit Ray and Anthony Mann. Another towering artist, Orson Welles, commands the screen TONIGHT, Mar. 3 with the West Coast premiere of his long-lost, newly restored, ahead-of-its-time experiment with the Mercury Theater, Too Much Johnson. Welles imagined the 66-minute silent film, made in 1938, integrated with live theater in a pioneering multimedia spectacle. Another larger-than-life figure, Oscar-winning producer and local film-community supporter Saul Zaentz, who died on January 3, is remembered with screenings of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Mar 22), Amadeus (Apr. 5) and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Apr. 13). For more information visit bampfa.berkeley.edu.
The Dead Masters salute continues, all too sadly, with a Philip Seymour Hoffman retrospective at the Castro. One of the most versatile and gifted character actors of the last half-century, which is to say one of the great actors in the history of American film, Hoffman left us mourning the innumerable wry, intelligent and moving performances we anticipated in the coming years. Each of the five double bills has its own peculiar allure, but the unexpected titles offer a particular opportunity for rediscovery and appreciation: Flawless (Mar. 12), Love Liza (Mar. 19) and Happiness (Mar. 25). R.I.P., Phil. For more information visit castrotheatre.com.
The 9th Annual San Francisco International Women's Film Festival boasts a splendiferous and, perhaps, slightly extravagant moniker. After all, the entire event consists of two shorts programs and an awards reception. I'm not dissing female filmmakers, whose enormous contributions to the American documentary and avant-garde cinema throw into sharp relief the perennial stonewalling of women directors in Hollywood. Nor am I dinging S.F. Women's Film Institute founder and executive director Scarlett Shepard, whose unflagging efforts to increase support and recognition of female artists -- like Cheryl Dunye, Dorothy Fadiman, Tracey Quezada, Tamata Perkins and Debbie Brubaker, who are among the honorees at the Mar. 29 reception at Brava Theater Center in S.F. -- is to be admired. Nor, for that matter, am I critiqueing the SFIWFF lineup, with its blast of recent shorts by Bay Area artists (Mar. 7 at the New Parkway in Oakland) and compilation of recent work from the U.S. and a few foreign lands (Mar. 29 at Brava). I just wish the festival was bigger. For more information visit womensfilminstitute.com.
The S.F. International Asian-American Film Festival exchanged its lengthy handle for the snappier CAAMFest (Mar 13-23 in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland) a couple years ago, partly to allow for the addition of food and music events. But movies remain the primary focus, with a clutch of world premieres, hot new films by Bay Area directors and a provocative documentary lineup. Grace Lee is the Spotlight Honoree, with the genre-blurring writer-director holding forth in an onstage interview (Mar. 16 at the Kabuki) and presenting her new doc American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (Mar. 16 at the Castro) and 2006 comedy American Zombie (Mar. 14 at the Kabuki). Other highlights include Anthony Lucero's cross-cultural, Oakland-set drama East Side Sushi (Mar. 15, 20 and 22) and Louisa Wei's centennial study of pioneering Chinese-American director (and S.F. native) Esther Eng, Golden Gate Girls (Mar. 18 at the Great Star in S.F.). There's more than enough variety, and quality, at CAAMFest to soothe any film buff. For more information visit caamfest.com.