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
Well-worn irony is still the de facto tone for many stand-up comedians, while the Internet and Adult Swim have championed a type of comedy that resides somewhere between Dada and Jackass. Bearing that in mind, it may appear that there isn't much demand for an old-school observational comedian. And while it's true that observational comedy is in a fallow period, comics like Chris Porter endure, trying to rehabilitate the form after years of hack stand-ups who pandered to the lowest common denominator. He succeeds thanks to a down-home style honed in his native Midwest, lending him an affable air even when he gets rough. Porter may be down-home, but he's no idiot, and he kills with the wry wit familiar in the flyover states. Though he's now sober -- a frequent topic in his act -- there's still a hint of the loopy stoner's cadence and sensibility in Porter's jokes. It's an approach that's working out: He was a finalist on season four of Last Comic Standing, and he makes regular appearances on The Bob and Tom Show and Live at Gotham. He recently appeared in his own Comedy Central special, the proverbial brass ring for struggling stand-ups. Despite the observational style becoming something of an anachronism, Porter is ascendant, demonstrating that there's still life in the form.
Oct. 27-30, 8 p.m.; Oct. 29-30, 10 p.m., 2010