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
20 Yerba Buena Lane, 415-744-5000
San Francisco is the gateway to California wine country and for those who can’t seem to find a designated driver to schlep them up for a round of tastings, the luxurious Press Club converts a day trip to Napa or Sonoma into an evening of liquid bliss.
Mel Ramos makes the kind of paintings you're embarrassed to encounter while strolling through SFMOMA with your family. Currently one of the elder statesmen of California art, his technical chops and his ability to represent the human figure cannot be contested. It's just that penchant of his for painting voluptuous naked women that makes things a little awkward with the fam. Ramos' art transcends mere cheesecake, however, thanks to the cheeky juxtapositions he creates with commercial products. In his show "New Paintings" the suite of recent work includes an image of a leggy blonde reclining atop an oversized box of Red Hots, and in another painting a topless woman enthusiastically bursts out of the wrapper of a Bit-O-Honey candy bar. The implied commentary about American consumerist culture pairs well with Elena Dorfman's "Empire Falling" series, large-scale photographs of rock quarries in the Midwest. Dorfman is interested in what these sites reveal about our attitude toward the earth, that we frequently mine its resources until there is nothing left except a hole in the ground. She often manipulates her images, layering photos on top of each other until the resulting landscape is deliberately surreal. Ramos and Dorfman come at the topic from different angles, but each artist has something witty to say about where we're at as a society.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: Jan. 17. Continues through March 2, 2013