Best Arts & Entertainment

MOST PRACTICAL USE OF THE MISSION’S COLLECTIVE OUTRAGE

Stopping or at Least Postponing Yass

The Beast on Bryant and the Monster in the Mission are set to shift the neighborhood’s character ever whiter and wealthier when those new developments open. But perhaps nothing chucked a javelin at the Mission’s sense of outrage quite like the news that vulture capitalist and Gawker destroyer Peter Thiel’s company was backing a new members-only social club for gay men called Yass. It’s supposed to open in the former Farina on 18th Street sometime later this year, but then again maybe not, because few things have inspired progressive San Francisco to rise up as one against this exclusive gentrification accelerant with the tired name. Have we stopped it outright? Caused them to pivot until they escape the Earth’s gravity? We don’t know, but we stand ready to make fun of it until the heat death of the universe if need be.


 

BEST HOME FOR SEX POSITIVITY

O.School

The internet has been a bone to people with unusual fetishes, allowing them to connect in ways that would have been much harder decades ago. But beyond being rife with misinformation and revenge porn, it’s also famously censorious. Instagram won’t let you post an exposed nipple without a passive-aggressive letter. Countering the puritanism and contradictory information is O.School, Andrea Barrica’s startup dedicated to streaming short broadcasts by sexologists on various sexual topics. “You can’t talk about anything on the internet — let alone if you’re queer or a woman,” she told SF Weekly at last fall’s pre-launch, but with clips like “F*** Yes to Please” and “How Do I Keep My Sex Toys Clean?” O.School is banishing shame and foregrounding pleasure.


 

BEST STREET PHOTOGRAPHER

Darwin Bell

A decades-long San Francisco resident who’s made the Tenderloin his home the last few years, Darwin Bell excels at finding the precise angle by which otherwise mundane streetscapes become little treatises on contemporary life in the city. A fixture of SFist before that aggregator’s untimely demise last fall, his latest show at the Tenderloin Museum showed that frequently misunderstood neighborhood in positive ways — but without ever being mawkish. Diane Arbus was accused of being cold toward her subjects (and she worked in black-and-white besides). Bell humanizes his.


 

BEST NEW COOKING SCHOOL

The Civic Kitchen
2961 Mission St., civickitchensf.com

Let’s say you’re throwing a dinner party and feeling a little ambitious, only to realize you’re courting disaster have absolutely no idea what you’re doing since you’ve eaten nothing but UberEats for three years. The Civic Kitchen founders Chris Bonomo and Jen Nurse have built out a huge workspace in the Mission that’s not only a great place to learn what and you don’t know what “fold” means in a culinary context, but where you can actually figure out how to make lemon custard three ways — and then eat a lovely meal with your fellow students once you’ve mastered your new skills.


 

BEST REIMAGINING OF S.F. HISTORY

The Tenderloin Museum’s – Compton’s Cafeteria Riot

When a trans woman lobbed a cup of coffee in an SFPD officer’s face in August 1966, it helped set in motion a chain of events that brought us to the present moment and the cusp of true LGBTQ equality. But for decades, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot languished in the shadow of New York’s Stonewall uprising, three years later. To give the neighborhood’s place in U.S. history its due, the Tenderloin Museum worked with Collette LeGrande, Mark Nassar, Donna Personna, and director AeJay Mitchell on an interactive theater piece that placed patrons in a re-created diner that fateful evening. The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, at New Village Cafe, corrected the historical record while pushing the Bay Area’s trans and gender-nonconforming POC populations to the artistic forefront. Excellent work.


 

BEST ARTISTIC CRITIQUE OF CAPITALISM

“Isaac Julien: Playtime”

The Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture has slowly reinvented itself from a venue for weddings and giant sales of surplus library books to a place where those wonderful things still happen all the time, only they’re now surrounded by world-class art installations. When FMCAC showed the British artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien’s suite of multi-screen works, “Playtime,” it maximize the site’s potential while offering a pointed critique of globalized capital by following people from different walks of life in starkly different places: China, Dubai, and Iceland. Marxist philosopher David Harvey famously said we can more easily imagine the end of life on Earth than the end of capitalism, but after Playtime, that chilling formulation no longer holds.


 

BEST COOKBOOK WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY LOCALS

Salt Fat Acid Heat

Everyone with a phone is a photographer, and cookbooks have been enjoying a resurgence for years, but our favorite cookbook of the last year contains zero photos. Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat breaks the alchemy of cooking down into its four most basic components — the air, fire, water, and earth of gastronomy — in ways that demystify the Maillard reaction and the art of fermentation. Better yet, it’s illustrated by prolific San Francisco designer Wendy MacNaughton, whose endearing linework and charmingly intellectual jokiness simultaneously give the work humor and heft. Nosrat is an educator and chef who’s worked with Michael Pollan and Alice Waters — and not for nothing did this culinary tome win a James Beard Award earlier this year.


 

BEST NEW INDIE BOOKSTORE

Black Bird Books
4033 Judah St., blackbirdbooksf.com

A fundraising campaign to bring a bookstore to the Bronx went viral last year after readers in that New York borough of 1.4 million people grew frustrated with the total lack of a general-interest shop. The Outer Sunset didn’t have quite such a groundswell of literary angst, but when Black Bird Bookstore opened up last year, it was because former NYC bookstore owner Kathryn Grantham was determined to buck the nationwide trend of closures. With its large selection of children’s books — they’re immune to the e-book phenomenon, Grantham says — it’s not a musty emporium of slowly yellowing trade paperbacks, but a curated gift shop amid Judah Street’s surfwear purveyors.


 

BEST NEW LOCAL BAND THAT WILL RESTORE YOUR FAITH IN ROCK MUSIC

Pardoner
pardoner.bandcamp.com

Do not let the Billboard charts fool you. There are still exciting, young bands out there who are igniting creative energy into guitar-heavy music, and local post-punk group Pardoner are an exemplary group who fit this bill. Taking notes from ’90s indie legends like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr., the quartet is comprised of guitarists and vocalists Max Freeland and Trey Flanigan, along with bassist Will Mervau and drummer River van den Berghe. Well known in the Bay Area rock scene for their chaotic live shows, along with the critical-acclaim for their riotous debut album Uncontrollable Salvation, released last September, we may not have to look further than our own backyard for the next big rock band. .


 

BEST COMMUNITY RADIO SHOW

Roll Over Easy,bff.fm
bff.fm/shows/roll-over-easy

It’s easy to get swept up in the negative, complaint-driven narrative of S.F. The streets are dirty, Muni is unreliable, politicians are corrupt, the homelessness crisis is spinning out of control. But on Thursday mornings there’s an opportunity to take a break from all that, with the ever-optimistic Roll Over Easy, a two-hour talk radio show whose every episode feels like a love letter to San Francisco. From 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., BFF.fm hosts Sequoia and Early Bird take you from “under the covers to after coffee” — as their slogan says — with morning weather reports, fictional helicopter rides, the news, adventure suggestions, and a local guest. There’s no better way to start your morning.


 

BEST STANDUP COMEDY JOINT

The Set Up
222 Hyde St., setupcomedy.com

You’d be hard-pressed to find any comedy basement in the city that more closely resembles the classic, brick-lined institutions across New York. The Set Up at 222 Hyde St. has suffered through several changes as the street-facing bar has changed ownership a few times, but this version may be the best yet. The lineup of comedians is diverse (be it tech worker from a small town in the Midwest to a dishwasher from the Mission) the routines are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, and the venue is small enough to make the vibe intimate. Plus, Ales Unlimited up front has a surprisingly awesome tap list, with Henhouse, Sante Adairius, Cascade, and more. If you miss the vibe of the old, shuttered Dark Room on Mission, the Set Up will fill that void.


 

BEST VENTURE SAVING SF THEATER

The Curran
445 Geary Street, sfcurran.com

Since it was announced three years ago that longtime Broadway producer and local arts patron Carole Shorenstein Hays was breaking up with the touring-production outfit she helped found (SHN) and bankrolling a multi-million-dollar renovation of the 96-year-old Curran, it’s been clear that the local theater scene had scored a big win. The refurbished theater is gorgeous, and fans of quirky musical theater and envelope-pushing drama have been increasingly thrilled with each successive show announcement — the Curran’s offerings have been the most critically acclaimed and intellectually rich local productions of the past two seasons with only the exception of Hamilton. Beginning with Fun Home early last year, and with subsequent productions of the Tony-winning play Eclipsed, the Tony-nominated bluegrass musical Bright Star, and the blow-me-down brilliant 24-Decade History of Popular Music by Taylor Mac, the Curran has staked a major claim as SF’s home for large-scale, Broadway caliber fare that doesn’t fall into the “commercial” category that has long shaped SHN’s seasons. Now this season, with the arrival of a new holiday show by Taylor Mac, and the first touring production of the Tony-winning Dear Evan Hansen, theater geeks are already over the moon. And with the delightful, just-closed pre-Broadway tryout of Head Over Heels (a jukebox musical of Go-Go’s tunes framed by a 16th-century prose fable), the Curran joins Berkeley Rep in staging Broadway-ready work for the Bay Area’s early stamp of approval. Brava, Ms. Hays. Brava.


 

SCRAPPIEST SF THEATER COMPANY

San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post Street, sfplayhouse.org

As a rule, small theater companies don’t tackle full-scale musicals, full stop. Most theater pros know that without the budgets and talent magnets of at least a larger regional theater, the results can feel like rag-tag community theater at best, or a high school production at worst. But some small companies manage to pull off the feat with astonishing ease, making do without elaborate sets or large houses, and attracting talented performers who hold the shows together. San Francisco Playhouse, housed in a former ballroom on the second floor of the Elks Club near Union Square, is one of those companies — and they describe their mission as being an “empathy gym” in which theatergoers come to “practice our powers of compassion.” Recent ambitious undertakings have included La Cage Aux Folles, Into the Woods, Company, and the musically complex Promises, Promises, and their productions of new and vintage plays have been similarly impressive, including this season’s Born Yesterday. The upcoming season includes a revival of Mary Poppins (will they actually have a fly rig?), the world premiere of Christopher Chen’s You Mean to Do Me Harm, and Cabaret. I can all but guarantee that one or all of these will be far better than you’d expect from a company of this size, and this low profile.


 

BEST MOVIE THEATER TO USE MOVIEPASS ON

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – New Mission

2550 Mission St., drafthouse.com/sf

When MoviePass lowered its monthly price to $9.99 in September, it benefited residents of expensive cities like San Francisco. Ticket prices at one of the most expensive theaters, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, range from $11 to $15.75 before online booking fees and 3D surcharges. But MoviePass miraculously includes the theater, which encourages users to be served concessions like drinks and popcorn they now feel they can afford. Plus, the theater often shows movies with a limited release like The Florida Project and Call Me By Your Name. But because MoviePass users can’t reserve ahead of time, the theater’s limited seats mean arriving early is the only way to ensure you don’t end up a few feet from the screen, if you get in at all.


 

BEST LOCAL PODCAST

KQED’s Bay Curious
kqed.org/baycurious or Apple Podcasts

KQED has a lot of podcasts worth a listen but none are more light, informative, and fun as Bay Curious. Not only does it have a clever name, it answers listener questions on subjects big and small. Bay Area residents have learned so much about San Francisco’s cisterns, how 420 definitely started in San Rafael, and if the Castro is “getting less gay” and more — all in short episodes up to 15 minutes. The podcast launched days before the 2016 election would send the Bay Area into a political mourning, which makes host Olivia Allen-Price’s sense of normalcy a needed break in between the torrent of disturbing news spurred by a norm-shattering administration.


 

BEST BACK-FROM-THE-DEAD MUSEUM

Cartoon Art Museum
781 Beach St., cartoonart.org

There’s nothing comical about the recurring tragedy of Bay Area artists and art spaces being evicted amid gigantic rent increases. But one storied comic art shrine got the last laugh on tech-boom displacement, as the Cartoon Art Museum proved the old adage that “No one stays dead in the comics.” After a two-year exile when the rent was doubled at their old Yerba Buena Gardens location, the museum was gloriously resurrected last October at a new Fisherman’s Wharf location. The new and improved Cartoon Art Museum still has its thousands of goosebump-inducing original works by Peanuts’ Charles Schulz and Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Watterson, an Infinity War exhibit up all summer long featuring Marvel movie costumes and props, and the first Tuesday of every month still operates as a pay-what-you-wish day.


 

BEST STRIPEY-TIGHTED TRICKSTER TROUPE

Fou Fou Ha
foufouha.net

The “sexy clown” thing has been done to death, but no one can hold a clown nose to Fou Fou Ha’s gargantuan technicolor wigs, masterful choreography, and cavalcade of candy-striped tights, lingerie, and humongously high heels. Fou Fou Ha continues their 17 years of bombastic variety show mischief this summer with a “Menagerie of Fools” residency at the Circus Center and more of their signature acrobatics, show-stopping musical numbers, and cartoonish cake make-up stylings. The Fous have dispatched their gender-bending satirical shows out to other cities, with a New York offshoot called “Fou York,” and new branches in Portland and Austin. And fans can support their just-launched Patreon campaign to ensure Fou Fou Ha always has the last laugh.


 

BEST POST-OKCUPID WAY TO GET SOME ACTION

Kinky Speed Dating
kinkyspeeddating.com

Those who dumped OKCupid when the dating site started demanding quote-unquote real names can now take their swiping-right pursuits into real life and meet interested parties face-to-face. Kinky Speed Dating with Psychokitty is a live, human, in-person event for finding delectable new kinky people — a lot of them, in a short amount of time — with a variety of insatiable sexual appetites. Generally held at SoMa leather space The Citadel (where the next one is June 21), Kinky Speed Dating also pops up at SF Catalyst, and they’ll be at the Mendocino County leather weekend getaway Boundless. Kinky Speed Dating is a great way to find magnificent people whose kinks play well with yours, and best of all, it never asks for your “real” name.


 

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