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.
Meryl Streep is arguably Americas greatest living musical-theater actress. Anyone who saw the two-time Oscar winner shamelessly mug and prance through the mindless movie musical Mamma Mia! earlier this year might call me certifiable, but those who caught her Mother Courage in Central Park two years ago would probably agree. John Walters new documentary, Theater of War, has many virtues, but, most importantly, it preserves bits of that performance for posterity. Walter uses the Publics production not just as a backstage docudrama, but rather as a jumping-off point for a meditation on Brecht, performance, Marxism, and war. Walters clear inspiration for Theatre of War, subtitled Five Acts About Bertolt Brecht, is Errol Morriss Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara, which Walter emulates not just in name but also in structure and Robert Millers ominous, minimalist, Philip Glasslike score. The problem is that while Morriss film revolved around one man, Walters doc cant decide whether it wants to be about Brecht, Streep, or Mother Courage herself. What it says about all these subjects (especially in a sequence devoted to Brechts second wife, Helene Weigel, the first actress to play Mother Courage) is usually interesting and elegantly presented, but what ultimately stands out is Streeps performance of Brechts Song of the Great Capitulation. Few actors can act while they sing as effortlessly as Streep, and these minutes (which Walter shows as one long take) are almost powerful enough to carry an entire feature doc by themselvesand wipe the horrors of Mamma Mia! from memory.
April 3-7, 7 & 8:45 p.m., 2009