SF Int’l Film Festival: Great writing and a deep love of cinema with David Thomson

On May 4th, 2014, the San Francisco International Film Festival will honor David Thomson with the Mel Novikoff Award at the 57th annual SF International Film Festival.

Photo credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
Photo credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

A British film critic and historian based in the United States and the author of more than 20 books, David Thomson is both a valuable import and local treasure here in the Bay Area.

Thomson has been a fervent film historian, recently offering searing investigations into films such as The Unknown Known and sweet delight at the sight of Shirley Temple.

I’ve been reading more and more film criticism from the likes of Richard Brody, Scott Foundas, David Thomson, and other seasoned critics and the common thread that is missing among them is that stark cynicism entrenched in the blogosphere we find ourselves in today. It begs the question why so many write about film if their main point is to worship at the altar of Paul Thomas Anderson without asking why?

As fellow writer Scott Foundas once remarked, Thomson’s writing “[continuously celebrates works of passion and commitment at a cultural moment when it is so much more fashionable to act cool and detached”. When harsh critique is necessary he doesn’t hold back but he also doesn’t retreat to riding the gravy train of dislike (see his review of Transcendence). He always takes a sharp look at why he doesn’t like a film, what didn’t work, if it has any worth, and why it was made in the first place.

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What I’m watching this week: Finding Vivian Maier at The Clay

Less a film review and more a recommendation, I’m going to see Finding Vivian Maier this evening and I think you should definitely join me!

This film entices me as it’s a documentary about the accidental fame of an artist, by which I mean Vivian being a woman who created art for herself and not the public. I love documentaries about art lacking in ego. I’m thinking of films like Herb and Dorothy, Journal de France, or Jazz on a Summer’s Day. 

Here is the trailer

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Made in SF: A Simple Intro to the SF Film Commission

One of my favorite professors while in school spent an  a lot of energy informing his students on ways to make shooting in the city affordable. From stealing shots while on BART and the makeshift “you’re on camera” signs that release liability we learned how to make films in a flash and off the grid.

However, I’d like to take a look at the legitimate incentives being created to elevate San Francisco professional filmmaking that HBO shows shouldn’t be the only ones taking advantage of.

Filming in San Francisco is a big choice and one that many elite Bay Area-based filmmakers choose to abandon when it comes to their chosen projects. Of course, many of these are set outside of the bay and I don’t want to suggest that creative license should be abandoned to satisfy city patriotism. I understand that Spider Man needs to be made in NYC while anything involving invasion of Apes includes CGI San Francisco and then runs over to Pasadena for pretty house shots.

There are many facets of filming within the city “walls” that so many seem to be unaware of.  From all phases of filmmaking there are vast resources in this city if you’re interested and willing to put the work in to familiarize yourself and learn its language.

Without further ado I introduce my first Made in SF beat:

A Simple Introduction to the SF Film Commission


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