If your idea of a good time at the movies requires a three-act narrative consisting of the hook, the conflict, and the climax, followed by a quick resolution, then Amateurs of the Impossible is not for you. Filmmakers Margaret Rorison and Zach Iannnazzi are like painters — or, as Orson Welles suggested, poets with camera lenses for eyes. They reach beyond the presentational to build film-loop elegies, plein air panoplies, and celluloid sonatas that whip up dreams, memories, emotions, and musings. Rorison, co-founder of Baltimore's much-loved roaming experimental film series Sight Unseen, contributes six shorts, including a handmade study of Danish wind power, a collaboration with the Effervescent Dance Collective, a landscape portrait of Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal, and a 16-mm tribute to her grandfather that is saturated by field recordings of oil rigs and fishing lines on the Louisiana bayou. Iannazzi offers three shorts, including a found-footage scrapbook of fading Northern California and a superimposed diptych of home movies that explores "mid-century male bonding and the hubris of hunting culture."
"Amateurs of the Impossible" begins at 7:30 p.m. at Artists Television Access, 992 Valencia St., S.F. $10; 415-824-3890 or sfcinematheque.org. More
Scientists used to consider it balderdash, but the belief that humans can cause earthquakes has recently been validated by a significant increase in tremors occurring in the Central United States. Nearly twice as many quakes, magnitude 3 and up, have happened there in the last six years than in the previous 36 years; in 2014, more strong earthquakes jolted Oklahoma than California. Justin Rubinstein, a U.S. Geological Survey research geophysicist, believes oil and gas extraction is responsible for this. Hydraulic fracturing is part of the problem, but Rubinstein says the top culprit is the injection of wastewater from oil and gas operations into permanent storage areas underground. He believes that human activity of this sort could trigger a magnitude 7 shaker. All agree that San Francisco's expected Big One will be an act of nature, not industry, but anyone earthquake-curious should find Rubinstein's talk ("Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes") of interest. The event is part of a USGS series of free lectures for non-experts.
Justin Rubinstein’s lecture, “Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes,” is set for 7 p.m. at USGS, Building 3, Rambo Auditorium, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park. Free; online.wr.usgs.gov/calendar.More
At the risk of bringing hellfire on ourselves by not acknowledging the Bloody Mary at a different Mission punk bar (starts with Z, kicks you out a lot), we must recognize excellence when the situation demands it.
Jia Zhangkes last feature, Still Life (2006), was set in Fengjie, an ancient river city flooded and rebuilt as part of Chinas monumental Three Gorges Dam Project; his latest, 24 City, takes place in and around a giant, formerly-top-secret aircraft plant in Chengdu City, Sichuan. Again, the subject is displacement. Having been purchased by a state-controlled real estate developer, China Resources, Factory 420 is slated for demolition. More precisely, it will be converted into a luxury housing complex named 24 Citycondos at a cost of only 20,000 jobs. 24 City is largely oral history, real and invented. Its mainly populated by retired workers, posed in situ and talking about their livesflesh-and-blood monuments of Maos China. But 24 City is not exactly cinema vérité. Jia originally planned to make two movies about Factory 420, one fictional and the other documentary. To the discomfit of many critics, however, the two modes merged in a single work: 24 City is more obviously documentary than most of Jias fiction films, and also vice versa. Three of the interviews are staged. Released a few months back in China, it has proven to be Jias most commercially successful film, but its not an easy movie to read. What is one to make of the casually revealed information that the movie itself was partially financed by 24 Citys developer? Have we been watching a kind of infomercial? Is there irony or pathos in the juxtaposition of retired workers enthusiastically singing The International as their factory collapses?
July 31-Aug. 14, 2009