Despite Cory McAbee's fairly rigorous schedule -- the guy's a visual artist, songwriter, novelist, and frontman for the much-beloved art-rockin' indie band the Billy Nayer Show -- the prolific chap has been making short films since 1993. Most of them are rather bizarre meditations on wacky subjects: For example, 1994's Pixelvision-shot The Man on the Moon is a 20-minute look at a cuckolded gent who deserts Earth for a lunar trip with his cat.
But with 2001's American Astronaut, McAbee took a giant leap forward, releasing a full-length feature that's less an artsy curiosity than a genuinely entertaining movie. Working under the auspices of the Sundance Feature Film Lab and serving as his own writer, director, and leading man, McAbee blended classic western and noir elements with space themes, brainy and hysterical dialogue, and a truly choice Billy Nayer Show soundtrack to create a flick that's something like a mishmash of Star Wars, Stranger Than Paradise, and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books. Absorb McAbee's genius at a screening of Astronaut at 7:15 and 9:20 tonight and tomorrow (with Saturday afternoon shows at 2 and 4:15) at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $4-7; call 668-3994 or visit www.redvicmoviehouse.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Spy a falling star?
Smart leading ladies from Hollywood's golden age retired as soon as the quality of the scripts they were offered dropped, but Joan Crawford kept right on working. As a result, her oeuvre is wildly diverse -- ranging from early ingénue roles (Rain, Grand Hotel) to her Oscar-bait years (Mildred Pierce, Sudden Fear) to crappy horror films (Berserk, Trog).
Somewhere in between she was tapped to provide fading star-power for the movie adaptation of Rona Jaffe's 1950s pulpy, fictional, Manhattan book-publishing industry exposé, The Best of Everything. The melodramatic outcome is everything kitsch lovers could want: foxy downtrodden secretaries, seedy alcoholic execs, a youthful Robert Evans orchestrating a back-alley abortion, and a big-eyebrowed Joan sneering at it all. Soap up starting at 1:30 p.m. (and again at 4:15, 7, and 9:30) at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro (near Market), S.F. Admission is $5.50-8.50; call 621-6120 or visit www.castrotheatre.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Art for the disturbing-cartoon aficionado
Matt Furie's world is the kind of joyful, creepy place we love. The keen fashion sense of his figures, many of them stuffed animals gone awry, doesn't hurt, and neither do the cartoonishly bleak backgrounds full of rocks and scrub grass. The Ohio artist's quirky crayon-colored drawings show such things as baboons in altrock-wear and cute animals making sweet, sweet love to ecstatic birds; you'll also catch the occasional obsessively detailed self-portrait. A new show, "The Mating Season," promises more windows into Furie's strange and charming mind. The opening reception begins at 7 p.m. (and the exhibit continues through Aug. 14) at the National Product Gallery, 1845 Market (at Guerrero), S.F. Admission is free; call 255-1920 or visit www.mattfurie.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
It's hard to predict how the professional, sophisticated Broadway musical appreciating crowd at Martuni's piano bar will react to the gleeful vulgarity and saucy antics of tranny band Lipstick Conspiracy. But won't it be fun to show up at the group's CD release party and find out? The bash begins at 5 p.m. at Martuni's, 4 Valencia (at Market), S.F. Admission is free; call 241-0205 or visit www.lipstickconspiracy.com.
-- Joyce Slaton