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
Although the Alcatraz website claims that the flora and fauna of Alcatraz Island are the allure of the historic land mass jutting out of San Francisco Bay, there's a feeling they don't allude to for fear of losing customers: isolation.
One of the biggest names in Formula 1 racing, Ayrton Senna was 34 years old when a well-placed blow from a suspension shaft ended his life at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. Overcast with foreboding, Asif Kapadia's expertly-orchestrated documentary-biography, Senna, condenses the breakneck decade leading up to its subject's apotheosis on May 1, 1994, beginning with Senna's arrival in Europe after a karting career in his native Brazil. Senna's life story is told through his races, including three World Championship wins in down-to-the-wire seasons. The journey is relived through a synthesis of broadcast footage, on-board camera feed, and omnipotent backstage camcorder recordings one extraordinary moment shows Senna, one day away from his own finish line, witnessing Roland Ratzenberger's fatal crash during a San Marino qualifying lap. There are also home movies of Senna, often traversing the waterways of Brazil, usually accompanied by a passel of women. The footage is silent, the private man left inscrutable. Senna appears also in his own words, in candid interviews talking about his favorite subjects: his faith in God and his skepticism toward the politics of F1 racing. Both provide the structure for Kapadia's film. It is a cynical truism that professional athletes are divided between egomaniacs and religious zealots, but Kapadia treats Senna's conflation of Catholic fundamentalism and state-of-the-art speed respectfully, so much so that Senna approaches the feel of a religious artwork. Even nonbelievers in Senna's sport and church will find it difficult to visit Kapadia's cinematic shrine without emotion.
Sept. 9-15, 2011