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
1977 was a very punk year. Bands like the Germs, Crass, Bad Brains, and Black Flag were freaking out parents everywhere, and new albums that are now considered classics by the Sex Pistols and Richard Hell & the Voidoids crystallized the angst of a generation. These were the kids who wondered where the promise of the '60s had disappeared to as they lived in a world threatened by environmental destruction and nuclear warfare. Over in France, a certain 70-something filmmaker named Robert Bresson tapped into these exact worries of his much younger contemporaries in The Devil, Probably. Bresson is renowned for his sparse style that refuses to play to either human feelings or the traditional conventions of cinema, and here he cast non-actor Antoine Monnier as the main character of Charles, a teenage student whose unease with contemporary society is not cured by his dabblings in sex and drugs and psychoanalysis. Charles and his friends barely let emotion flicker across their faces as they wander around Paris and discuss deep philosophical concepts in an oh-so-French manner, and Charles's apathy (not to mention his fashion sense) could give today's hipsters a run for their money. That is precisely why the film maintains its power today. Because here we are again in a world that seems to teeter on the brink of collapse, where opportunities to practice escapism are plentiful but ultimately unsatisfying. Bresson already nailed it in the zeitgeist over 30 years ago.
Aug. 3-9, 2012