Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sneak Peek: Napa's Uptown Theatre

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 4:00 AM

This week's cover story is on the amazing restoration of Napa's Uptown Theatre, and it's truly awe-inspiring to see—when people walk inside, they won't believe their eyes. Pictures can't possibly do it justice. Let's try anyway!

The view from the back row:

Love that seat detail:

Behold, the ceiling mural! When originally completed in 1937, the outlines of the figures were raised just 1/16 of an inch. 72 years later, the restoration crew noticed those raised lines beneath the latex paint and eventually re-created this:

I couldn't help but take a photo of the underbelly of the theater, beneath the orchestra floor. Such a stark contrast to the beauty above:

Painting the lobby:

View from the old projection booth:

And one more glimpse of that ceiling. Amazing!

The Uptown's doors swing wide on May 14 with a grand opening party featuring Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Read the full story of the restoration and reopening in this week's Bohemian, and check out the full lineup of acts over at the Uptown's official site.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gushing About Noir City

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 4:00 AM

The Noir City Film Festival opened this past weekend at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, and how else to kick things off but by showing a short compilation on the historic theater's screen of classic noir scenes edited by 20-year-old SRJC student Serena Bramble from Santa Rosa?


Yes, that's Massive Attack's "Angel," juxtaposing nicely with scenes of murder, double-crossings and larceny. The crowd at the Castro loved it. Big ups, Serena!

Noir City is an incredible festival, and I'm not just saying that because last year's theme was newspapers (read about it here). It's because it does what any great film festival should do: inspire. After renting nothing but pre-1965 movies for a solid ten years, I still wasn't sold on film noir. One-note and blasé, I surmised. The festival changed my stance, and especially the passionate, smart and wry introductions to each movie by festival founder Eddie Muller. Consider that all proceeds go directly to the restoration of lost films, it's truly a labor of love for the guy. And the love is contagious.

I went to last Sunday's Marilyn Monroe double feature for two Monroe pictures I'd never seen: Niagara and The Asphalt Jungle. Coincidentally, I'd re-watched the ho-hum How to Marry a Millionaire just last week, and the difference was immeasurable. Monroe's performance in Niagara is everything her legend is built on—sex, guile and manipulation—aided by the thundering, ominous falls themselves and a compelling script cobbled from the Double Indemnity workbook. Throw in some Hitchcockian camera angles at the top of a bell tower and a swell performance by Joseph Cotten, and you've got a film that blows away Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by miles.

There's still time to catch some true gems the festival has to offer this year. Might I recommend Pickup on South Street, an evocative Samuel Fuller vehicle for the usually typecast Thelma Ritter to shine in an outstanding role. Other well-knowns include A Place in the Sun and Odds Against Tomorrow, with a slew of other treasures never released on DVD. Do yourself a favor and check the festival schedule. Pick a double feature, drive down to one of the country's most beautiful theaters, and experience the thrill of film noir with a crowd of smart, savvy film fans. You won't regret it.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

'Saving Newspapers, The Musical'

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Fresh from their anger-inducing (read: excellent) exposé of Yelp's grainier tactics, staffers at the Oakland-based alternative newsweekly the East Bay Express have somehow found the time to film and perform this bit of tomfoolery, a musical skit on the fate of the print newspaper. Their answer to saving papers from a certain demise is a lot like ours. (Pssst: Half-dressed good-lookin' women sell free papers.)

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lunch With Francis: Coppola, Rubicon and the 'Foie Gras Wars'

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2009 at 4:00 AM


Sometimes I actually do have the life I'm supposed to have, and last Friday, March 27, contained a slice of that supposed pleasure. The occasion was twofold: The launch of Chicago Tribune writer Mark Caro's new book The Foie Gras Wars, and a celebration of Francis Ford Coppola's 2005 Rubicon Estate Cabernet, held in the caskroom of the 1860 Rutherford chateau formerly home to Inglenook.

Caro, who is primarily an entertainment writer, has interviewed Francis, his wife Eleanor and their daughter Sofia on several occasions. They consider him a family friend, and so flew him and his wife out to Rutherford for a weekend launch of the book that began with local journalists on Friday and segued to wine club members and the public on Saturday. Focusing on California's Sonoma Saveur as well as the two other U.S. foie gras producers, Wars is a lively read about a deeply misunderstood food targeted by animal rights activists in great part because it has no lobby to protect it.

Francis, whose new film Tetro, starring Vincent Gallo, comes out in June, hosted CNN to the journo luncheon as they filmed the proceedings for a short doc that will debut with Tetro. But his real passion was discussing what it takes to make a great wine as opposed to a merely "good" one. Francis—and yes, in the life I'm supposed to have, he and I are first-names only—reckons that he's got a mere seven years left to segue his Rubicon firmly from the good to the great and if he's unable to do that, he'll give the whole danged franchise over to his son Roman.

Eleanor was also talking progeny, saying that families have changed over the years. "When our children were young," she said, "if Francis was going to be gone more than two weeks, we'd pack everyone up and go with him."

I earnestly rejoined, "Like when you spent three years in Thailand! I just loved Hearts of Darkness!"

She paused politely and continued. "Now, my daughter and her rock star boyfriend have a two-year-old and only see each other when they feel like it."

(A neighbor with an iPhone quietly Googled Sofia to determine that the "rock star" is singer Thomas Mars of the French band Phoenix, which just reinforces that asking journalists into your environs and then being actually nice to them is a poor idea.)

Francis, a napkin tucked into his lapels over his tie, remembered the early 1970s when he was deeply in debt. Worried about losing American Zoetrope and its San Francisco building, he cast about to make a film that might make some money. He was given what he remembers as a dirty awful book about dirty awful people written by Mill Valley novelist Mario Puzo. The punchline remained unsaid.

Other than that small gushing outburst with Eleanor, I played it cool. A cucumber was I until, after several lovely glasses of 2005 Rubicon Cab, I was in the ladies room preparing to leave. Bam! It hit me that I'd been having lunchwith Francis Ford Coppola!!!!!

I washed my hands and rushed back into the cask room. "Francis! Francis!" I fairly shouted as he was leaving, trailed by the CNN camera. "I've been cool up until now but I just have to say what an impact your art has had on my life. I gave birth to my second son while watching all three Godfather films back-to-back and, next to Lawrence of Arabia, Apocalypse Now has to be the best film ever made!"

I panted and sweated, bug-eyed and immediately embarrassed."Well," he said appraisingly, "you did keep your cool for quite a while."

Back to the life I really have, instead of the one I should have. Clearly, I can't keep my mouth adequately shut for the promised land.


Fuzzy Francis

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Film Review: 'He's Just Not That Into You'

Posted By on Fri, Feb 6, 2009 at 4:00 AM


Listen, HJNTIY, We Need to Talk…

If he’s not calling you, sleeping with you, marrying you—or is sleeping with someone else—it could be that he’s just not that into you. It seems like a simple enough guideline. Yet most women wish to be an exception to such rules. That is why so many hopeless romantics will be gathering up their girlfriends with rabid excitement to go see He’s Just Not That Into You, the film based off the self-help dating book of the same name. They shouldn’t.

According to script, we ladies love to have our girl’s nights, which usually include Champagne, group readings of Cosmopolitan, and sharing advice on men. HJNTIY promises all of this in movie form, but all the witty, relatable scenes are easily seen in the previews. Sympathizing with the women in the film turns out to be more depressing than eating a carton of Ben & Jerry’s when home alone on a Friday night.HJNTIY focuses on the intersecting lives of five women and the men they constantly misread. Every time one of them starts to smarten up to the man’s real feelings, their girlfriends ease them back into oblivion by saying that this one time they knew this one girl who ended up falling in love. This distorted view of reality makes many of the characters pathetic in their attempts to understand and snag themselves a man.

Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin of Big Love) sits by the phone all day stalking potential mates. Her desperate, over-the-top need to be loved causes her to pretend she is meeting men for dates and will make you think twice about calling the next guy who gives you his card. Her polar opposite Beth (Jennifer Aniston) has been dating Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years without a ring. Affleck and Aniston are always playing down-to-earth, puppy dog characters, so it’s no surprise that their chemistry seems real and their scenes of the movie are the sweetest.

It’s hard to relate with many of the characters because, well, there is too many of them. You just can’t get that into them. They each get so little screen time that it’s hard to get to know or understand their many problems. Mary (Drew Barrymore cute as always), has a small part, but reflects the most on women in today’s society. Mary only meets and connects with men through technology like Myspace, videochatting and texting. She complains about how we don’t meet people organically anymore and how being rejected by “seven different technologies” is exhausting. Thankfully she has her gay entourage to give her advice, but don’t worry about their love lives. According to one gay character, it only takes them two or three seconds to understand if someone wants to sleep with them or not.He’s Just Not That Into You doesn’t have a fully rounded enough script for its talented actors, but it’s a cute enough movie with some decent laughs. And don’t worry, single ladies, the end of the movie reminds us that there is still hope in our sad dark lives. Attached? Don’t take your boyfriend to see this film. He might get some ideas, and you don’t want to find out that honestly, he’s just not that into you, either.Hannah Smith

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