This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Modern movie-watchers who've been exposed to Greta Garbo only through clips of scenes from her most famous roles, such as Camille's dying plea for solitude, often wonder what the big deal is. She's cute enough, sure, but she's also stiff and saddled with a heavy Swedish accent. What these nonbelievers don't know is that the only way to appreciate the spellbinding hold Garbo still exerts is to see her carry a film from start to finish. Tonight's segment of the "Garbo's Back" series is a perfect opportunity, with a double bill of Grand Hotel (starring Garbo as a lonely ballerina and Joan Crawford as a scheming young secretary) and Mata Hari (sublime art deco costumes enliven this biopic about the World War I spy). Hotelscreens at 1:10, 4:55, and 8:40, Mata Hari at 3:15 and 7, at the Balboa Theater, 3630 Balboa (at 38th Avenue), S.F. Admission is $6-8.50 for both films; call 221-8184 or visit www.thebalboatheater.com.

Thursday, March 3, 2005
Our love for film critic Roger Ebert was born after we read Ebert's Little Movie Glossary, a slim compendium of cinematic definitions that's uproarious and insightful in equal measure. Some gems: "The Talking Villain" (a bad guy who has the hero cornered will spend enough time explaining his diabolical machinations that the protagonist can escape) and the ever-popular "Fruit Cart" (a chase scene set in a market or crowded urban area will result in the overturning of a fruit cart; this one's popular enough that sophisticated moviegoers can often be heard shrieking "Fruit cart!" at the screen during appropriate scenes). The writer continues his hot streak with his latest book, The Great Movies II, loving tributes to the films he adores most. Hear him read from his work at 12:30 p.m. at Stacey's Bookstore, 581 Market (at Second Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 421-4687 or visit www.staceys.com.

Friday, March 4, 2005
Unpredictability is a friend to many artists. The visually pleasing flow of an accidental paint drip or the appealing and erratic way layers of rock peel apart under a hammer and chisel grants thrilling potential to experimental types. But Ted Vasin was after an entirely different experience when he began using software to seek "mathematical perfection" in his paintings. He starts with simple forms like circles and stripes that he then plies with algorithms to digitally manipulate them into psychedelic swirls and overlapping pools of color. These trippy images are then affixed to canvas and pieced together into multipaneled works whose incongruous parts add up to mesmerizing wholes. The first major solo exhibition of Vasin's work, "Mathematical Perfection: Debut of Ted Vasin," is up until April 21 at the Frey Norris Gallery, 456 Geary (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is free; call 346-7812 or visit www.freynorris.com.

Saturday, March 5, 2005
There was a period in the '80s during which music magazines enthused over the emergence of "girl groups" like the Go-Go's, Pat Benatar, and Joan Jett. But Jett took exception to her hard rock being compared to the output of pop songstresses, at one point even asking something like, "What do I have to do to get compared to the Kinks -- grow a penis?" Considering that many still believe female musicians produce only teeny-bopper pop (Britney and her ilk) or neo-soul (Mary J. Blige, India.Arie), a penis might have helped. But the female foursome Binky is a horse of a different color, producing infectious punk-metal soundscapes laced with pounding drums, throbbing bass, and curiously cheerful trumpet blasts that rock as hard as anything Metallica ever made. See the gals tonight, with Cookie Mongoloid and Aqui, at 9 p.m. at 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $8; call 970-9777 or visit www.12galaxies.com.

Sunday, March 6, 2005
While the women behind the comedy/ cabaret/burlesque vaudeville show Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad certainly aren't trying to shy away from their religion, they also aren't particularly devout. Nearly nude human dreidels, sacrilegious comedy routines, and singalongs of Adam Sandler's now-classic "The Chanukah Song" are the kinds of acts you'll see here. These people would, as they'd be the first to tell you, "rather have more shtuppa than the chuppa." (For those not familiar with those terms, they indicate that the performers aren't exactly ready to settle down.) Lighting cigars off the menorah is more to their taste. Klezmer rock band Golem joins the nice girls at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at Café Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $15; call 861-5016 or visit www.nicejewishgirlsgonebad.com.

Monday, March 7, 2005
Though it's always difficult to lure hard-core gamers away from their PlayStations and Xboxes, persuading them to pony up for tickets to the symphony is a task roughly analogous to completing Halo 2 on the "legendary" setting. But tonight players should be heading to Nob Hill in droves to catch a one-of-a-kind event: "Dear Friends: Music From Final Fantasy," a concert in which the Symphony Silicon Valley reproduces the score of the blockbuster video game. By all accounts Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu's music is stirring -- surging strings, ominous brass -- even for nonplayers, but those who associate its strains with epic battles won and lost should be in aural ecstasy at 7:30 p.m. at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, 1111 California (at Jones), S.F. Admission is $45-125; call 776-4702 or visit www.masonicauditorium.com.

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