Reel World

Modern Times; Edward Scissorhands; Naked

Look closely at the San Francisco International Film Festival program and you'll spot a real scandal: This might be your only chance to see Our Song, Jim McKay's extraordinary slice of Brooklyn adolescent life. It's simple arithmetic: No Stars + No Sex + No Guns = No Distribution. ... Add the terrific Italian film Not of This World to your list, now that it's penciled into one of the Kabuki TBA slots (May 4 at 7). ... The festival's first sellout was Philip Haas' Up at the Villa. ... Since nothing puts me in touch with the power of love like actors dating actors, I'm thrilled to report that Matt Damon will join Winona Ryder at the Peter Owens Gala. ... Finally, a word on etiquette at those brief post-screening Q&As with visiting filmmakers: Don't be an ignoramus and ask what the budget was -- unless you're prepared to announce your annual income first.

Modern Times
The ugly little secret of the film business is that most theaters (and most chains) are in trouble. Since all you hear about (from ad campaigns, home-page updates, and the daily newspapers) are this Friday's openings and the top-grossing flicks, you might assume that movie houses are jammed. In fact, annual ticket sales continue to drop, home video's (and DVD's) market share continues to grow, and almost every theater depends on concession sales in order to clear a slim profit. Now, a whole new crisis has developed in San Francisco, which I learned of via this e-mail from a local theater manager.

"I can't find employees!" he writes. "With the booming economy and housing prices (I assume that's the reason) no one can afford to work at a movie theater anymore. Back in my days working behind a concession counter for minimum wage, I could afford rent, go to school and only work three or four days a week. As little as a year or two ago, I practically had a waiting list of people who wanted to work here -- a veritable parade of applicants. But when any 22-year-old can make $60 an hour designing Web sites, making minimum wage to serve those same 22-year-olds doesn't look too appealing anymore. I'm desperate."

Edward Scissorhands
Thanks to the Webby Awards for the reminder that everything in Willie Brown's town is for sale. A public Nob Hill park will be off-limits to the citizenry for five days in May -- and parking will be even worse than usual, if that's possible -- while a tent for the silicon-enhanced pseudo-event is erected. As Thomas Paine would have said if he had lived long enough: "Awards ceremonies are the last refuge of snake-oil salesmen and corporate extortionists." ... Tomb Raider begins production in England imminently and, yes, there's a local connection. Editor extraordinaire Glen Scantlebury (Big Time) jets across the Atlantic in June for his third gig (Con Air, The General's Daughter) with Brit director Simon West. ... The highlight of the next Lumiere calendar (outside of an R-rated version of The Idiots) is the director's cut of Blood Simple in July, along with midnight screenings of Miller's Crossing and Raising Arizona. ... Thanks to American Psycho, I was finally able to get through an entire song by Huey Lewis & the News, the Official Band of the Reagan Era. Who says the movies ain't therapeutic?

Michael Fox is host of Independent View, which airs Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on KQED (Channel 9).

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