San Francisco does not have the greatest track record when it comes to presidents. In 1923, President Warren G. Harding, by all accounts something of a jackass, keeled over at the Palace Hotel. In 1975, President Gerald Ford narrowly missed a bullet fired by Sarah Jane Moore in front of the St. Francis Hotel. In 2015, former President Jimmy Carter is visiting Books Inc. to sign copies of his autobiography, A Full Life, so we all need to be on our best behavior, everybody. Do not ask Carter to snap a selfie with you, do not ask him to sign a can of Billy Beer, do not impress him with your Saturday Night Fever dance moves. And Jimmy, maybe avoid The City's luxury hotels.
The former leader of the free world is appearing at 4:30 p.m. at Books Inc., 601 Van Ness Ave., S.F. Free; booksinc.net. More
Webster's dictionary defines neon as "a chemical element with symbol Ne and atomic number 10." And while that's true, there's much more to this rare element than a name and a number. For example, signs. Neon signs represent something in the imagination, particularly in the iconography of the American city. Without these late-night, back-alley beacons, how would we navigate our urban underworld? How would we know where to drink, to catch a late-night sex show, to have our palms read? Neon, lighter than air, occupies a space in San Francisco's urban history, and that's being celebrated with an illustrated talk by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan, authors of San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons, followed by a screening of The Lady from Shanghai. The 1947 film noir stars Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, and San Francisco's neon-drenched Chinatown.
The lights go on at 6:30 p.m. at the Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento St., S.F. $12-$15; 415-346-2228 or cinemasf.com/vogue. More
The Mexican supermarket is comedian Stephen Furey's Disneyland. The candy is weird, there's a dude selling corn from a cart, the expiration date on the meat just says "mañana" — ¡Es una aventura! The Sacramento comedian does not exactly live large (he once contemplated fighting a dog for a three-legged couch), but he does live funny. Furey, who co-hosts the Belligerently Uninformed podcast with Emma Haney, does observational humor about everyday situations. Well, everyday situations for the kind of guy who enjoys hanging out in McDonald's ball pits. Ask him why!
Stephen Furey performs at 8 p.m. at the Punch Line Comedy Club at 444 Battery St., S.F. $15; punchlinecomedyclub.com. More
Starting a punk band in 1977, in Northern Ireland, right in the middle of one of the most violent and politically fraught periods in the country's history, takes guts, resilience, and just a soupçon of crazy. Continuing to play in that band nearly 40 years later, however, is almost completely insane — or rather it would be if Stiff Little Fingers didn't still have such a huge and dedicated following and such large, still-untapped reserves of rage. The band's 10th album, 2014's righteous and critically acclaimed No Going Back, stands as proof that the Belfast quartet still have plenty to say for themselves. With an energetic live show that isn't afraid to hark back to the band's earliest albums as well, this is sure to be a riot for new- and old-school fans alike.More
If Melissa Leo were Charlize Theron with artfully applied bags under the eyes, an Oscar nomination would surely be forthcoming (Update: Leo has been nominated for Best Actress. -Ed.) for her terrifically truculent turn as Ray, a single mother of two boys who reluctantly teams up with an equally struggling Native American, Lila (Misty Upham), to smuggle illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Canada border. Like many first features that began life as shorts and were shot over two weeks with a Varicam, Frozen River can make for ragged viewing. First-time director Courtney Hunt has astute visual command of the dreary landscape that frames these womens struggle to survive, but the slathered-on pathos and abundant use of thin ice as a metaphor made me wince, and the movie careens uncertainly between gritty realism, sudden bursts of melodrama, and inspiration. Too many bad things happen, then too many good things, and I started taking bets with myself on the precise arrival time of the flowering female solidarity between these two tigresses risking all for their cubs. That Rays automaton hardness has its limits goes without saying, or Frozen River would never have been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics. But what sticks in the memory is the unnerving lack of basic safety that comes with living on the financial edge for these women, which ultimately forces them to take untenable risks.
Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2009