“Wait, Who Won What at the Where?” in Science Fair
As seen in Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster’s documentary, 17-year-old hijab-clad science whiz Kashfia Rahman attends a South Dakota high school which focuses on athletics even though they aren’t very good at it. (Their football team was 0-9 the year before.) But the school has done nothing to commemorate the fact that when she was a freshman, Kashfia placed third in the International Science and Engineering Fair. Other students have no idea that Kashfia even exists, and one towheaded jock comments that he’s surprised Kashfia didn’t get so much as an announcement over the speakers. Yeah, exactly: The tragedy isn’t that her classmates don’t care about Kashfia’s accomplishments, but that they were never given the opportunity to care.
Screaming Lessons with Danyelle in Support the Girls
Even for the manager of a Hooters-knockoff restaurant, it’s been a spectacularly trying day for Lisa (Regina Hall). Sharing a bottle of El Jimador tequila on a roof overlooking an Austin freeway with her now-former employees Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and Danyelle (Shayna McHayle), they engage in the third step of Danyelle’s ritual of dealing with life’s bullshit: “Crying, then laughing, then screaming your ass off.” The three of them proceed to scream into the sky before a hard cut to the credits, and there wasn’t a more cathartic denouement this year.
Unicorns Don’t Have to Put up with Your Shit in Half Magic
Candy (Stephanie Beatriz) is a bubbly witch who loves unicorns because they’re awesome, and it’s bad enough when her boyfriend Daniel (Alex Beh) refuses to be monogamous yet still expects her to do his laundry and support his career. But when Daniel tells Candy that he thinks unicorns are lame and that she shouldn’t talk about them in front of other people, that’s the dealbreaker: Everyone knows you can’t see a unicorn unless you believe in them, and since Daniel doesn’t believe, he’ll never see how magic she is. Candy tells Daniel they can just be friends, she shakes his hand, and that is that.
The Wonderful Drone-and-Electronic-Boopery of Milford Graves Full Mantis
This documentary about free-jazz drummer Milford Graves doesn’t identify the music being played on screen at any given time, but judging from the closing credits, the mesmerizing composition heard around the hour mark is “Unreleased electronic music heartbeat recordings and LabVIEW sonifications by Milford Graves.” Don’t try to analyze it. Just take it in.
Driving Through Hell Can’t Stop the Russian Jams in The Road Movie
Comprised entirely of footage of accidents, fights, and general mayhem recorded by dashboard cameras on the gray roads of Russia, Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s film has plenty of flared tempers and countless F-bombs and more than a few straight-up crazy people, but what’s remarkable is how sanguine many of the drivers are. Case in point is the couple who drive through a forest fire: Although they appropriately call it “a nightmare,” they never bother to turn down the music blasting from their stereo, either. It’s no wonder their country is so hard to conquer.
The Roxie on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018: A Personal Viewing of Wings of Desire
We’re told by purists that we’re supposed to see movies on the largest screen possible with a packed audience. I agree it’s a lovely ideal — unless it was Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria at the 800-seat Castro this past September, which was ruined by a group of bears who laughed riotously yet joylessly every time a new character appeared, and yelled out the same tired heckles they’d been using since the VHS days. (It was a reminder of why seeing movies with female protagonists at that theater, especially older movies, is always a risk: Femininity is sooooo funny!) But there’s also an undeniable romance to having a 300-seat theater to yourself.
The Roxie received its digital print of the new 4K restoration of Wim Wenders’ 1987 Wings of Desire a week early, and I was the only critic who showed up to their last-minute press screening. I’ve seen Wings of Desire countless times over the past 28 years in theaters and on every video format, and as we both age, it’s like we keep rediscovering each other anew.
The translation was just different enough this time around to keep me on my toes. The subplot with the aged poet (Curt Bois) lamenting the disappearance of Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz had always felt a little tedious in the past, but now felt vital as I’ve seen my own city change over the decades. (Less cataclysmically, for sure.) The angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz) stalking the mortal Marion (Solveig Dommartin) feels more like, well, stalking than it used to, but goddamn if it isn’t still the most beautiful stalker movie ever.
Sometimes this job is a grind — what job isn’t? — but it also occasionally puts me in a position where I can be one of the first people to see a restoration of one of my favorite movies by myself in San Francisco’s best theater. Nous sommes embarqués.
Read more from SF Weekly’s Year in Film issue:
The 10 Best Movies of 2018
Both our state and our democracy burned at an alarming rate this year, but at least good movies were still being made.
Looking for Hope from Frostbite Falls to Emerald City
In the darkness of the Trump era, our chief film critic finds a light on the other side of a tornado.
Mary Poppins Returns: Don’t Spoil It With Questions
No amount of pixels can produce greater fireworks than Blunt and Miranda singing and dancing together.