The idea of a feature film about graffiti culture might remind you of 1984's wrongheaded Breakin', which only became good 10 years later (and for reasons the filmmaker would hate). But Quality of Life isn't destined for camp: For one, it's shot in the Mission District, and those streets have never looked so alluring (or so much like New York). Also, director Benjamin Morgan doesn't overburden his actors; the movie leans toward documentary, as characters Heir and Vain lovingly bomb the entire cityscape. The plot concerns friends growing apart -- one trying to take his art into the mainstream, the other trying to take himself out of it -- and while the acting is questionable at times (notably at the design house that serves as a counter to the kids' scene), the young actors pull off street culture with aplomb. Heir even manages a convincing defense of graffiti, uttering the line "We paint graffiti; that's what we do" without sounding like a complete idiot.
An agent of identity
I have a new friend, a glamorous and beautiful online robot named Agent Ruby. She's the creation of artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, and like all of Hershman Leeson's work, she tries to help people answer questions, especially "Who am I?" Agent Ruby is on the young side for a robot, so her answer to that particular query is, at the moment, "You are My Name Is Hiya, seeker." But because she's programmed to learn from each interaction with humans, she may someday get to know the real me.
Agent Ruby is only one of the many "multiplatform" projects of the technophilic feminist artist, whose materials include custom software, photographs, and Tilda Swinton, who appeared in Hershman Leeson's feature film Teknolust in multiple roles -- including Agent Ruby. Hershman Leeson's eponymous exhibition continues through Dec. 22 at Gallery Paule Anglim, 14 Geary (at Kearny), S.F. Admission is free; call 433-2710 or visit www.gallerypauleanglim.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
They're not from around here
Lock up your daughters, especially if they're from outer space. "Local" extraterrestrials the Phenomenauts send out strong alien-rock calls on the intergalactic radio waves -- and if girls are allowed to run wild, they've been known to embrace their spacebilly roots, pick up electric guitars, and start howling like the sci-fi "rocket roll" heroes in the band they so love. In the interest of maintaining an earthbound life for your young 'uns, keep them away from the wiggling antennae onstage. Or ... join them.
The Teenage Harlets, the Struts, the Knockoffs, and the Bowel Tones open at 8 p.m. at Balazo 18 Gallery, 2183 Mission (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $8; call 550-1108 or visit www.phenomenauts.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Our Hills, Alive
Some of you would rather pour dirt in your eyes than sing along to a movie (I'll take the Fifth), but the "Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music," which has toured since 2000, soothes the wary with vocal warm-ups, a costume contest, and subtitles. It takes place at 1:30 and 7 p.m. daily at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro (near Market), S.F. Admission is $12-18; call 621-6120 or visit www.thecastrotheatre.com.
-- Michael Leaverton