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.
Quick! Noël Cowardsage or supercilious bitch? No matter where you stand, Stephan Elliotts deliciously cheeky screen adaptation of one of the satirists lesser-known jabs at the British upper crust will charm your pants off. The movie opens with a contemporary rendition of Cowards Mad About the Boy, impressively sung by Jessica Biel, her customary luminous self as a Roaring Twenties American race car driver who marries into British aristocracy and finds herself on the losing end of a war of words with the grooms mother (Kristin Scott Thomas). Though Elliott, director of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, gussies up the action with clever and lyrical visuals, words are what count in this scantily plotted piece (hard to believe that Hitchcock made a silent version in 1928), a light variant on Oscar Wildes Lady Windermeres Fan with the same libertarian message that the morally compromised inherit the earth while the self-righteous wither on the vine. A uniformly great cast (Kris Marshall is a scream as the eye-rolling butler) is upstaged by a hilariously WASP-ish Thomas, who strides away with the movie wearing sensible cardies, QE II hair, and all the best lines as Mummy Dearest, with Colin Firth modestly bringing up the rear as her war-ruined lush of a husband. Easy Virtue may seem like little more than a big, fat mother-in-law joke, but Elliott pointedly recasts it as a nail in the coffin of an increasingly irrelevant gentry.
May 26-June 11, 2009