As an antidote, or rebuff, to the garish and fleeting pleasures of Hollywood's overhyped holiday movies, the Bay Area's vital contingent of curators and programmers present a singular array of celebratory tributes and timeless classics. There's something for everyone, from lowbrow to highbrow, from goofy to poignant, and from around the corner to medieval England to mid-century France. When you toast the season, friends and family this December, be sure to include a "skol" to the dedicated local savants that keep our movie stocking filled year-round.
Midnites for Maniacs, Jesse Hawthorne Ficks' ongoing excavation of his formative years via triple bills culled from the 1970s and '80s -- if Freud was alive, he'd call it "the watching cure" -- hits an entertaining low Friday, Dec. 2 with More Fun Than Games: A Genuine Tribute to the Exploitation Cinema of Greydon Clark. The jiggle-and-giggle marathon, shown on rare 35mm prints, revs its engine at 7:30pm with the motorcycle flick Hi-Riders (1978), followed by the video arcade epic Joysticks (1983) and the slasher knockoff Wacko (1981). Joe Don Baker fans of the world, unite! Speaking of cult favorites, Udo Kier will be next door at the Little Roxie the same night for the opening of House of Boys, a dance-music-infused drama set in Amsterdam's gay club scene at the dawn of the AIDS era. For more information visit roxie.com
When local filmmaker and teacher George Kuchar died in September at the age of 69, a light truly went out. Enthusiastic, irreverent and endlessly self-deprecating, Kuchar embodied the principle of taking one's work seriously but not one's self. San Francisco Cinematheque and Canyon Cinema honor the work and the artist with two programs aptly titled Celebrating George Kuchar. The SFMOMA show on Thursday, Dec. 8 features the vintage camp classics Hold Me While I'm Naked (1966) and Wild Night in El Reno (1977), while the Friday, Dec 16 program at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center includes Aqueerious (1980) and Cattle Mutilations (1983). For more information visit sfcinematheque.org.
Lost Landscapes of San Francisco
San Francisco archivist and curator Rick Prelinger has made a career out of preserving the moving images that convey our cultural and communal history. Yes, Bogart's fedora and Hepburn's slacks reflect the mores of an era, but amateur home movies and professional educational and training films tell us even more. In the new edition of his now-annual show, Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 6 (Thursday, Dec. 8 at the Castro), Prelinger invites the audience to vociferously identify the sights -- some gone, like the Produce Market or the pre-development sand dunes of the Sunset District, and others still extant -- on a delicious, bittersweet tour of the town. For more information visit castrotheatre.com
Chimes at Midnight
The marvelous Pacific Film Archive retrospective Jeanne Moreau: Enduring Allure ends Sunday, Dec. 11 with Orson Welles' remarkable, rarely screened Shakespeare adaptation Chimes at Midnight (1966). The brilliant actor-director delivers a buoyant, heartbreaking performance as the rotund Falstaff opposite Keith Baxter's callow, impressionable Prince Hal and John Gielgud's sternly austere Henry IV. The dialogue can be hard to decipher, but the performances and staging carry the day regardless. For more information visit bampfa.berkeley.edu.
The Bride Wore Black
The PFA series reminds us that the sharply intelligent French actress starred in an extraordinary number of great films, notably Francois Truffaut's Jules and Jim. Another Truffaut-Moreau collaboration, the delightfully suspenseful 1968 revenge escapade The Bride Wore Black, adapted from a Cornell Woolrich novel and featuring a Bernard Hermann score, screens Saturday, Dec. 11 at the PFA followed by a week-long run Dec. 16-22 (excepting Dec. 17) at the San Francisco Film Society's New People Cinema. For more information visit sffs.org.
Shoot the Piano Player
As it happens, two new holiday releases (the Paris-set Hugo and the Hollywood-set The Artist) pay homage to the early years of moviemaking. Nostalgia is where you find it, and for some reason that Jesse Hawthorne Ficks can explain, I associate the holidays with the humanist Truffaut. Dive deep into the late, great director's exciting early films with the adulterous The Soft Skin (1964) and the noir-inspired Shoot the Piano Player (1960) in a Castro double bill Thursday, Dec. 15. For more information visit castrotheatre.com
Clearly, anyone who says you can't live in the past isn't a film buff.