This venerable sneak preview club, which I have been moderating for <gulp> 10 years, returns for a new season of top-notch, discussion-worthy features on select Sunday mornings at the Sundance Kabuki. Actually, you’ve already missed the first one this past Sunday (I told you, it’s hard to keep up)— we showed the phenomenal Swedish psychodrama-cum-ski-movie Force Majeure (pictured), already garnering Oscar buzz—but you can still become a member for the remaining sessions or come a la carte. Subscription info here.
So many strong films lined up this year at MVFF, it’s hard to choose. I am especially looking forward to the producing debut of my friend (and former SF Jewish Film Fest director) Janis Plotkin, whose Plastic Man is a documentary about San Francisco bail bondsman-turned-artist Jerry Barrish. Of the films I have already seen, I was impressed with the Dardenne Brothers’ Two Days, One Night, a sensitive drama in which a working-class Belgian factory worker (Marion Cotillard in an understated, glamorless and lovely performance) has one weekend to convince her co-workers to give up their bonus so she won’t get laid off. And then there is the oddly captivating and unsettling dysfunctional marriage drama from Israel called Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, starring the intense Ronit Elkabetz, co-directing with her brother Shlomi. Here’s my catalog note on that one. Also MVFF is also showing the above-mentioned Force Majeure.
Last year’s blazing-star cookbook sensation was Jerusalem, whose message from its Israeli and Palestinian co-authors seemed to be “make food, not war.” Now the London-based Israeli half of that duo—chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi—is riding high with several new cookbooks and public conversations. I’ll be doing the onstage honors with him (and extracting some cooking advice) at the JCCSF on October 24. Tickets are going fast, but if you miss out you can watch the live stream at jccsf.org/live.
From a Tragic Loss,
a Lasting Institution
What is a Harvard guy doing plugging the founding story of Stanford University? Cool your jets, Crimson. I had the honor to work on the reinstallation of the Stanford Family Galleries at the university’s renowned Cantor Arts Center; the renovated galleries, which opened last month, tell a remarkable story in California and national history and include some fascinating historical artifacts like The Last Spike, which completed the Transcontinental Railroad, and artworks by Eadweard Muybridge and Thomas Hill. So if you’re heading down to Palo Alto, perhaps to check out the new Anderson Collection, stop in across the street at the Cantor and have a look at the galleries. You’ll discover the little-known (at least to me) tale of how both the university and the museum were created in a single gesture to memorialize the death of 15-year-old Leland Stanford, Jr., scion of one of the country's most influential Gilded Age families. My favorite anecdote: when Leland and Jane Stanford founded the university in 1891 in their son’s memory, they insisted it should be co-educational and tuition-free. But they felt the university museum (precursor to the Cantor) should charge an admission fee. Today, attending Stanford costs around $60,000 a year….but the museum is free. Oh, for the noblesse oblige of the Gilded Age!
Since English is read from the left, and Hebrew from the right, perhaps the only hope for making sense of our divided world is in a palindrome. May the coming year 5775 bring each of you much palindromic symmetry, calm, rationality, and order…but may it also provide many unexpected bursts of random pleasure in this irreproducible, irrational universe we inhabit, no matter from which direction you approach.