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Walton wants SF to get serious about reparations

Sup. Walton wants the city to take action on reparations for the Black community.

Supervisor Shamann Walton announced Friday that he’s asking the city to develop a reparations plan for the Black community.

“The effect of slavery still remains and still resonates in our policies,” Walton said. “I am committed to create an advisory committee to develop a true reparations plan that will address the systemic inequities that continue to exist in our African American communities and neighborhoods.”

Sup. Walton wants the city to take action on reparations for the Black community.

The committee will be led by Walton’s office and consist of Black community leaders who will seek input from the Black community. The committee’s task will be to determine which reparations are to be addressed first.

The plan will include prioritizing areas such as education, housing, violence prevention, workforce development, and alternatives to incarceration; this could then lead to further legislation.

The legislation creating the task force is likely to be introduced in the first week of February and is supported by Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney, Gordon Mar, Dean Preston, Sandra Lee Fewer, and Ahsha Safai.

At a City Hall press conference, former District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell echoed sentiments from many that reparations were long past due: “Pay back what you owe for 400 years of unpaid labor.”

While San Francisco’s total population has been steadily increasing, the city’s Black population has decreased dramatically, from 13 percent in 1970 to less than five percent today. The economic inequality statistics are just as alarming: The average income Of SF’s Black households is only $46,000, compared to $107,000 for white households.

The announcement comes just a few days after activists called for action after three black women were killed in the city within a month.Emma Hunt, Ronisha Cook, and Latanette McDaniel were all young mothers in their early thirties when they were violently murdered.

“This is the reason why reparations are needed,” said community activist Geoffrea Morris at the press conference.

Last year, the supervisors voted to create San Francisco’s first Office of Racial Equity, which will be headed by former District 5 legislative aide Shakirah Simley. The office will be tasked with developing a plan to address racial inequities in similar priority areas to the reparations advisory committee.

In 2006, the city passed the Slavery Disclosure Ordinance. The measure requires that insurance, financial and textile businesses that contract with the city disclose information regarding prior involvement in the slave industry. No businesses have opted into the voluntary fund to ameliorate the effects of slavery, according to the 2017 annual report.

The joy of ‘Gayface’

"Zack" from the Gayface series by Lauren Tabak

“Well, you’re queer,” photographer-artist-musician-coolperson Lauren Tabak says to me, quite correctly, on the phone. “What do you think about when you’re putting together a look?”

I’m a ’70s kid who blossomed in the ’90s, so for better or worse, everything I wear is politically fraught, hopelessly ironic, and ever-shadowed by guilt. (Is this from a sweatshop? Am I appropriating anything cultural? Is this something Rosie O’Donnell would wear?) So basically, in all senses of that adverb, I’m a typical older gay person.

“When I came out, I pierced my septum so everyone would know,” Tabak, who’s of my general generation, told me. Ah, for the days when piercing a body part meant something.

‘Amaris’ by Lauren Tabak

Tabak has launched a series of portraits (on display at gallery-cafe The Laundry through March 30, opening reception Fri/17 6pm-8pm) that explores contemporary queer identity—how are we seen, how do we make ourselves seen, what does our constructed appearance mean—in an era of melting definitions and binaries, uploads and filters, apps and ad-targeting, liberation and backlash, branding and resisting.

“I was interested in, and became fascinated by, how people ‘flag’ their identities now,” Tabak said, referencing the ancient dress codes (colored handkerchiefs, bar t-shirts, items of clothing, etc) and the gay gazes/looks that used to be necessary to identify one another on the street, while swimming in a silencing sea of heteronormativity.

The series of striking portraits, representing a huge variety of folks, is a labor of love for Tabak, who said she started it at first to be able to hang out with friends and people she likes. (The portraits are shot in her home, and there’s been a lot of day-drinking involved.)

‘Sergio’ by Lauren Tabak

But soon the circle widened as she began to digest the sheer amount of individuality and originality in today’s queer looks. Compared to the “Castro clone” look of 50 years ago, which flagged a generation of gay men (and butch women), there seems to be an endless variety of styles that fall under the wondrously growing LGBTLMNOP umbrella. With such diversity, she became curious: How does queer visibility matter, here and now?

Each portrait is taken against a pink background (duh) and comes with an accompanying story from the subject about their llfe. (We’re debuting one portrait and story, Andrea’s, below.) For her show at The Laundry, Tabak will also include an audio element, in which you can hear each subject telling their own tales.

“Some stories are powerful and poetic, some are just funny, and some are totally unexpected,” Tabak told me. “One of my subjects, Miles, came in and I thought he was just another gay boy for a fun shoot—but it turned out he was trans, with an incredibly deep story about hiding himself. So this project also seems to be a way of bringing those stories to light, and maybe a way of keeping them in one place. I think of it as a referendum on the state of gay.” (One subject, Amaris, says in her story that the exodus of queer people from San Francisco makes her want to be as visible as possible, a beacon of queerness.)

‘Kyle’ by Lauren Tabak

So, I asked, in this moment of Instagram and Grindr, when everyone already shows their own Gayface to the world, how is this project taking a different and necessary approach?

“The people featured in Gayface aren’t just people I photograph, they’re my collaborators,” Tabak replied. “I’ll send them a bunch of proofs afterwards and we pick out ‘the one’ together. And then I’ll ask them why they like what they liked. Some of the time, they say ‘I look really hot’—which can be very affirming when someone else puts you in that light. But a lot of the time they say ‘I look like me.’ And I think that’s just such a wonderful alchemy to have happen in a collaboration like this.

“One thing I’ve discovered is that younger people don’t care as much about the heavier political meanings of how they’re presenting themselves to the world, like maybe someone from our generation would,” Tabak said. “They’re less about representation and more about ‘I’m just doing me.’ There’s an openness to that, which was unexpected. They’ve already claimed it.”

With so many flavors of queer at the moment, how will she know when the series is finished? “We live in a bubble,” Tabak says, again quite correctly. “My dream is to hop in an RV with my dog and travel the country, have these conversations with and photograph as many people as I can, and see how things are looking out there.”


Below is a debut portrait of Andrea, along with her story

‘Andrea’ by Lauren Tabak

Goldilocks and the 3 bears was my favorite book as a kid. I loved that this lost child found her perfect ”chair,” a safe space, a place she belonged, or so she thought.

This year I will have been out for half my life. The queer community I was born into was defined by gay and lesbian bars and the poster child was a blonde haired, blue-eyed lesbian comedian. While my curly hair is messier and darker than Goldilocks and my eyes are more gray than Ellen’s, I still pass for white. As a young queer I settled for this because at least I felt accepted, at least a part of me belonged as opposed to the whole of me feeling alone. 

Both sides of my family migrated from Mexico to Stockton. We would visit San Francisco often and I was drawn to the outright defiance of conformity that pervaded the SF of the ’90s. A place where immigrants, artists and outcasts sought refuge, a city where community meant everything. 

It’s taken me all the 37 years of my life to learn to silence preconceived notions around my identity. I embrace the power I hold, I am the legacy of my family’s courage and the “borders“ I am transcending for future generations are; toxic machismo, classism, homophobia, and racism. Growing up between two cultures meant that code switching was a means of survival and that has translated into how I navigate hetero/queer, genders/nonbinary, architect/artist, trauma/healing.

After two decades of living all over California, absorbing and immersing myself in the queer circles, latinx communities, and creative networks I finally find myself in San Francisco. My journey has taught me to unapologetically claim all the complicated layers of my existence. I have become uncompromising, and authentically me because I found my throne, it was in the mirror all along.

Through March 30
Opening reception Fri/17, 6pm-8pm
The Laundry, SF. 
More info here

Police Commission votes against using cops to address homelessness

SAN FRANCISCO — Police commissioners unanimously voted to pass a resolution Wednesday to address homelessness through healthcare professionals and social workers rather than police.

The resolution calls on the mayor and Board of Supervisors to convene a stakeholder group to develop alternatives to the current police-led response to homelessness. The stakeholder group would include the Department of Homelessness, the Police Department, community organizations and homeless people.

When somebody calls the city to complain about homelessness people or encampments, SFPD is the primary agency dispatched in response. From 2016 to 2019, the number of police officers devoted to responding to homelessness has more than tripled.

“A police response can be inhumane. Police officers don’t have access to housing and treatment. At best, they can move people along,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, at the meeting.

That, in turn, can exacerbate a whole myriad of issues that, making it even more difficult to exit homelessness: mental health, trauma, losing contact with social workers who have housing lined up with them, losing their belongings and documentation.

Citing the 2015 US Interagency Council on Homelessness, the resolution recommends that the linking of homeless people with an appropriate level of housing is the only lasting solution.

In January 2018, the city created the Healthy Streets Operation Center to address the public’s homelessness-related issues through the coordination of multiple city agencies. But if its main goal was to stem 311 calls regarding homelessness, the majority which are regarding tent encampments, it may have done just the opposite: from January to October of last year, there was a 31 percent increase in tents.

That is, in large part, because homeless San Franciscans literally have no where to go. Robert Ponce, 37, has experienced multiple encounters with the police, sometimes even a few in the same day: “A lot of times SFPD tells us to get out of the neighborhood and go somewhere else.”

But when shelters remain full, with a waitlist of more than 1000 people, and there are over 5,000 unsheltered homeless individuals on the city’s streets, the answer isn’t clear to anybody as to what that “somewhere else” actually is.

For Ponce, it’s “down the block, around the corner.”

On the same day, faith groups, healthcare workers, and homeless advocates launched a campaign demanding an end to homeless sweeps and the police response to homelessness. The campaign, Solutions Not Sweeps, additionally calls on the city to eliminate the confiscation and destruction of people’s personal belongings and the towing of vehicles that people are using as their homes.

Says Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, who has endorsed the campaign: “Sweeping people off the streets and thus forcibly removing them from their homes, whether they live in tents on sidewalks or in their cars, is cruel and inhumane treatment.”

Depending on the location, homeless sweeps can occur multiple times a week, often early in the morning, forcibly removing homeless people from sidewalks and underpasses. DPW workers have also thrown away homeless residents’ life sustaining belongings, including medication, sleeping bags, and personal documentation needed to access housing and healthcare. The end goal, advocates say, is to ensure that homeless people and their things are out of public view — not to seriously help people exit homelessness.

In prior months leading up to the campaign, several city officials and organizations have denounced sweeps, including the San Francisco Democratic Party and Supervisors Dean Preston and Sandra Lee Fewer.

Many have called on the city to make investments in shelter and housing as an alternative to the sweeps, which are both costly and ineffective. More than that, there is the cost of sustained human suffering.

“If you want people to move, then you should move them into some place. All you did was move me onto the sidewalk corner for all the world to see that I am homeless and I am suffering,” says 36 year old homeless mother Victoria Collier.

Demands to end homeless sweeps are echoed by homeless advocates across the nation. According to a 2019 report by the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty, nearly three in four cities ban camping in public. These bans occur despite a severe lack of shelter and housing for homeless residents.

However, homeless advocates garnered a big win with the US Supreme Court decision not to review — and therefore uphold — theMartin v. Boise 9th Circuit ruling.The ruling maintains that it is cruel and unusual punishment for cities to arrest or fine homeless people for sleeping outside if no shelter is available.

Recently, a Denver judge cited that same ruling to pronounce the city’s urban camping ban unconstitutional. The Denver has already appealed the ruling.

In San Francisco, homeless czar Jeff Kositsky has said that the 9th Circuit ruling is a “non-issue” because the city already complies by offering shelter to homeless people before an encampment sweep, but according to Collier, “They offered me nothing. Not even a plastic bag to put my stuff in.”

In addition to cities’ non-compliance with the 9th Circuit ruling, advocates say the ruling doesn’t go far enough in its protections of homeless people. Police still have a whole host of other laws to evict homeless people from the public, and cities can comply simply by offering shelter beds that last less than a day.

Homeless San Franciscans have yet to file their own case in court.

All Ears: 17 music releases to look forward to in 2020

Tokimonsta's new album drops February 20

Between embargoes and secret release dates that see artists dropping projects when a Twitter trend is to their benefit, it’s a little perplexing assembling a strong list of music projects that accelerate the concept of “sound forward.” Hence, there is some GOOD music coming that I can’t talk about. Embargo is a dirty, dirty word.

But this list, 17 for 2020, proves great projects are on the books too.

Alland Byallo, Dilatant (January 17th)
Alland Byallo, the California-born-and-raised DJ-producer, returns in 2020 with his second release in the past five months. Dilatant is a “drummy but musical broken beat deep house kinda thing, with a deadly Rhodes solo from wildly talented Jazz pianist Matt Paull” according to the producer.

You’d be wise to give it a listen. Byallo, a founding member of [KONTROL], the seminal 2000s monthly party at the EndUp which introduced San Francisco to the minimal techno sounds flowing from Berlin, was a strong influence not just on this event, but for eventually attracting MutekSF. Get on that Dilatant, ahead of the curve. More info here.


Afrikan Sciences, 02022020 (February 2)
Damn. Listening to an Afrikan Sciences advance promo is the equivalent of living in the future, high on your ancestors’ memory pills decoding that talking drum. Shout out to Watchmen. Listen, I incessantly write about Eric Porter because he’s the truth. Those arrangements, NOBODY is making electronic music like that now. Period. So I will keep on.

For over a decade he’s re-contextualized the genres of house, techno and breakbeat with fluid arrangements that slip in and out of just one classification. The Brooklyn-based, electronic music producer uses minor chord dissonance, oblique disruptions, and tempo rigidity, to communicate how outliers move about in this world. Cinematic, Experimental and Dancefloor are the colors he often paints in.

02022020, which will be self-released on his Student Body Presents label, is no exception. Porter remains steadfast. Not all House music needs to snap to an uninterrupted 4/4 beat. Want proof? Cop this release on Bandcamp Feb 2 and then go see him perform Feb 8th with Sassacyprigo at dweller: Make Techno Black Again, Bossa Nova Civic Club in Brooklyn, New York. More info here.


Khruangbin & Leon Bridges Texas Sun (February 7)
Flush in the apex of their live show, playing “August 10,ʻ from 2018’s Con Todo El Mundo, (which kept them on tour for 130 dates), Khruangbin’s experimentation can’t help but veer into the salacious classic “Night Nurse” by Gregory Isaacs—ransforming the 1982 rub-a-dub call for personal attention into another quick-witted sound pastiche by the trio. To quote Denzel Washington in full Malcolm X voice: “This is what they do.”

Given the opportunity, guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson will flex that crate-digging nerd card and show out.

On tour, Khruangbin and singer-songwriter Leon Bridges crossed paths during a run of shows stretching from Los Angeles and New York. Although their musical styles together may differ, there remained a connection. Subtleties that mesh. Did I mention both hail from Texas? Khruangbin from Houston. Bridges from Fort Worth. It’s in the DNA. When a Khruangbin session produced a song that seemed like it could compliment Bridges’ voice, the band sent it over. Bridges returned the track with his vocals the very next day. Entering a studio together, with only B-side hopes in mind, the session guided itself, indicating the project had legs for a bigger outcome.

Texas Sun adds one more layer to the Khruangbin deep stock. “C-Side,” a laidback track comprised of plinking guitar lines, simmering polyrhythms, and comfy tones on vibes, sees the group return to “cooler than you” mystique. More info here.


Steve Spacek, Houses (February 7)
Steve Spacek, AKA Steve White, has a new record coming in early February. Houses will land via Black Focus Records on February 7th. Containing 13 tracks with Detroit influences, White produced the entire LP using an iPhone and iPad. Steve White is a UK producer and one-third of the electronic music band Spacek. In the past, he has collaborated with the likes of J Dilla, Raphael Saadiq, and Common. He released his last album, Natural Sci-Fi, in 2018. More info here.


Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven, We’re New Again—A Re-imagining by Makaya McCraven (February 7)

Makaya McCraven, a vital new voice in modern jazz, reinterprets  I’m New Here, the thirteenth—and last —studio album from iconic musician, poet, and author Gil Scott-Heron. The release will follow in the footsteps of Jamie xx’s highly acclaimed 2011 remix album We’re New Here and will be McCraven’s first release of 2020, after the huge global acclaim heaped upon his 2018 album Universal Beings. McCraven, described by New York Times as a “Chicago-based drummer, producer, and beatmaker, [who] has quietly become one of the best arguments for jazz’s vitality.” More info here.


Yazmin Lacey, Not Today Mate (TBA)
There is an immediate ice-water through the veins sensation every time the Nottingham-based singer Yazmin Lacey unfurls her raspy, burnt-caramel-sweet voice. 2018’s discovery When The Sun Dips 90 Degrees EP,  packed lyrical phrasing, part Badu attitudinal, but all candid and quotable. That unruffled UK “sort it” swag traveled around the globe. Her latest single “Not Today Mate” continues further down the Soulquarian mellow-direct presentation. As always, no cheap or flashy vocal acrobatics here, just grown folk measured pace.

Lacey dishes up her much-adored silky vocals over an evergreen instrumental produced by Jake Milliner, giving us a potent taste of what to expect from her forthcoming EP, due imminently via Own Your Own Records. This Brownswood Future Bubblers graduate remains a shining avatar for the UK’s Jazz movement: a young, Black woman creating her own reality. More info here.


David Walters, Soleil Kreyol (February 7)
Creole is a culture that crosses oceans, connects continents and allows; Africa, America, Europe and the Caribbean to converse in the universal language of music, dance, and carnival. Scattered around the globe, these different Creole cultures once found a crossing point where they were first represented: New York. It was this inspiration that pushed David Walters to make such a late-night cool début of an album. Walters was mentioned by Gilles Peterson as an artist to look out for in 2020 on BBC Radio. More info here.


Moses Boyd, Dark Matter (February 14)
Rewind to 2018. Alive In The East, a 10-track, 45-minute free-jazz kinetic sermon from saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd deal their future-funk to a boisterous audience who incessantly provides hoots, churls, and hollers. Recorded in June 2017 at the influential Total Refreshment Centre, north-east London, it’s the UK jazz renaissance happening in real-time.

Fast-forward to 2020, Moses Boyd is finally releasing his début solo album and we are quite stoked about it. Adding the title of composer, songwriter, and arranger to his skill set over the years, he’s won a MOBO and Jazz FM award, toured with Sampha and Kelsey Lu, drummed on Sons of Kemet’s Mercury-nominated album Your Queen Is A Reptile and recorded with DJ Lag on “MY POWER” for Beyoncé’s official soundtrack for The Lion King: The Gift.

A dude been busy, really busy, getting official.

Dark Matter, out Feb 14 on his Exodus imprint, will feature guests Joe Armon-Jones and Nubya Garcia Among others. “Shades Of You” the first single, featuring British vocalist Poppy Ajudha points to a new direction for the artist on this project. Boyd says: “I still love jazz, but this is something different. There’s been no pressure or expectation of anything. There was no immediate need to do anything, so I was really free. A very liberating experience. It’s a very produced record. Many different sounds, setups, places, and music taken from different places and sessions but I feel like finally, it sounds like I’m a producer that also plays jazz.” More info here.


Agrio, La Murga EP (February 14)
Agrio is a duo from Madrid, Spain consisting of guitar & drums. They write instrumental songs with powerful riffs, beats, and melodies. While not easy to pin down, the twisted and scuzzy runs, psyche rock meets prog journeys from the upcoming La Murga EP will blow your wig back. No seriously, it will. Situated between grunge and post-rock, these three cuts rip. Slated for release February 14th on  San Francisco’s Broken Clover Record imprint, label boss Mickey Darius assures us the upstart, started in 2018 “is in the business of birthing freaky records, wearing hearts on sleeves, turning it all the way up & fighting the good fight. Staying left of center always.” More info here.


Sunny Jain, Wild Wild East (February 21)
Sourcing musical inspiration from the scores of Bollywood classics to Spaghetti Westerns, Indian folk to jazz improvisation, and South Asian languages to English prose to express the immigrant experience as one navigates the terrain of what it means to be “American.” Sunny Jain, a Brooklyn-based musician, and composer, the son of immigrants from India, draws upon his family history of migration for vision, employing rhythmic shifts, dissolving soundscapes, and the interplay of structure and experimentation to represent the heartbreak and triumph within the South Asian diaspora.

Wild Wild East explores the American myth of westward expansion using various sounds and traditions. It’s a rich sonic text. More info here.


Caribou, Suddenly (February 28)
When Dan Snaith put his first track in five years as Caribou on YouTube last December, an avid fan commented: “not bad for a guy with a math Ph.D.”.

You canʻt make this shit up people.

The new album, Suddenly, out on Merge Records February 28, full of warmth and Technicolor, bears and swerves left just for kicks. Songs drop out and morph into something else entirely just as they’re hitting their stride, while samples, chopped up, burst out of nowhere. “Home” a welcome comeback, leaving fans yearning for more, sees the Canadian polymath return with collage type jittery arrangements. More info here.


Best Coast, Always Tomorrow (late February)
Los Angeles rock duo Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno of Best Coast teased their long-awaited return in 2020 with their new track, “For the First Time” last November. The song comes with their signature surf-rock essence and a feeling of ’80s nostalgia. They are still “completing work” on the new album, and will kick off a tour in support during late February. More info here.


Lyra Pramuk, Fountain (March 20)
Displaying how the limits of the human voice can be restructured, avant-pop artist Lyra Pramuk joins Icelandic label Bedroom Community with her début album, Fountain. Described as futuristic-folk music, the seven tracks on the album were manufactured entirely with Pramuk’s own voice being redesigned by electronic production methods.

Pramuk is known for her vocal collaborations with Holly Herndon and Colin Self. The title of her début album is derived from her family name which means “well spring” or “fountain” in Czech. ‘Fountain’ was mixed by her twin brother, Ben. “Tendril,” with its broad sweeping harmonics, indicates this is a game-changing special project, not to miss. More info here.


Tokimonsta, Oasis Nocturno (March 20)
Jennifer Lee, who records, performs and produces under the moniker of TOKiMONSTA, is a classically trained pianist from Los Angeles, who started working on beat production while in college when she participated in workshops by LeimertPark’s Project Blowed and Low-End Theory. Along the way, she became the first female producer to have records released on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint.

Fast-forward to 2020, she’s a Grammy-nominated artist, producer, creative visionary and Young Art Records label boss.

Her new album, Oasis Nocturno, the second act to her last album Lune Rouge, finds TOKiMONSTA making broad and refined production choices. “Fried For The Night” featuring Dreamville’s EarthGang is a beat-driven track featuring a blissed-out melody accompanied by a surreal Technicolor landscape in the video. More info here.


Thundercat, It Is What It Is (April 3)
It Is What It Is follows Thundercat‘s game-changing third album Drunk from 2017, that completed his transition from virtuoso bassist to bona fide star and cemented his reputation as a unique voice that transcends genre. “This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that,” stated the charming musician and Tokyo enthusiast “It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don’t necessarily understand… some things just aren’t meant to be understood.”

The rowdy ‘fonk’ of “Black Qualls” is classic Thundercat, teaming up with Steve Lacy of The Internet and funk icon Steve Arrington. Thundercat knows where he comes from and always pays respect to the artists who inspired his nonconformist artistry.  Discovering Arrington’s output in his late teens, Bruner says he fell in love with his music immediately: “The tone of the bass, the way his stuff feels and moves, it resonated through my whole body.” More info here.


Moses Sumney, græ (May 15)
With his producer hat cocked to the side, Moses Sumney constructed a fusion expanding début on 2017ʻs Aromanticism. Touched with unhappy Radiohead sprinkles, Maxwell-meets-D’Angelo falsettos, and cosmic journeying, led by Thundercat on bass, establishes the fact this young Black iconoclastic is more than a mood.

Sumney is the damn movement.

His new, generous album græ, 20 tracks total, allows his staggering voice to traverse alt-rock dramatics and hopped up free-jazz terrain. Once again he looks to involve all the compositional grand gestures we expect from a “Warm Jets” Eno or an “Inner City Life” Goldie. grae is one to check, fer sure. More info here.


Noname (TBA)
Who freaking knows why Chicago rapper Noname remains secretive and reluctant to engage in discourse about her new project online. Those “tweets from the streets” helped her last two albums, Telefone and Room 25 become bangers among the public at large. Last November she did give information via Twitter on her upcoming follow-up to Room 25 in her special way. “I don’t really talk about my music much on here,” she wrote. “But I’m dropping an album in 2020 if anybody’s interested.”

We are interested. Along with what seems to be her performing at Coachella in April as well. More info here.

Real-estate industry rebels at modest measure to limit corporate rentals

A building on Market Street that was presented as a way to address the housing crisis has instead become a corporate hotel.

The real-estate industry and the San Francisco Planning Department are going crazy over a rather modest proposal by Sup. Aaron Peskin to limit corporate housing rentals.

Peskin’s bill comes in the wake of a furor over 2100 Market, a building that was promoted as a way to address the housing crisis but instead was turned into intermediate-term rentals– in essence, long-term furnished hotel rooms.

A building on Market Street that was presented as a way to address the housing crisis has instead become a corporate hotel.

Creating more rooms for people who want to stay in the city for a few months (at as much as $400 a night) is great for the landlords and developers, but it takes much-needed rental housing off the market.

Still, Peskin told me, he doesn’t want to ban so-called “intermediate length occupancy” units, which are typically rented for more than 30 days but less than a year.

“There are legitimate reasons for this type of use,” he said. There are, for example, musicians or actors who may be in the city for a six-month run at the opera or a stage production. Some people need short-term rentals while their normal residence is being repaired after a fire or flood.

“I am open to this kind of housing,” Peskin said, “but we clearly need reasonable regulations. We need to know what’s housing for people who want to live here and work here.”

Furnished rentals that are available for more than 30 days (but typically not longterm) have been part of San Francisco for years. But they have been relatively limited.

Like so many things in the city, as long as nobody tried to turn this into a speculative gold mine that displaces other crucial needs, most residents and city officials didn’t care. Intermediate-length housing isn’t even addressed in the Plannng Code.

But now that a few developers and speculators are trying to turn buildings approved as rental housing into ILOs, and the speculators are looking at this as a way to make big money, Peskin said the city needs to step in with “rational rules.”

The Peskin measure, which comes before the Planning Commission Thursday/16, is far from radical. It would require conditional use authorization for ILOs, and restrict their use to a “natural person” – that means no more corporate apartments. It would limit any building to 20 percent ILOs and would restrict them to rentals between 30 days and one year.

And only 500 ILOs would be allowed in the city at any one time.

The law would exempt buildings with nine of fewer units.

It also has exemptions for nonprofits using ILO housing “in furtherance of their mission to provide housing.”

And all of these units would be subject to the city’s Rent Ordinance.

That’s drawn the ire of some real-estate folks, who see this as an attack on what’s apparently known as the “global mobility industry.” A group called the Corporate Housing Providers Association (yes, that’s a thing), based in Indianapolis, argues in a letter to City Planning that:

Mobility is essential to the intermediate housing business and its ability to provide a more comfortable and affordable way for organizations in San Francisco to house relocating employees for longer term stays than perhaps traditional hotels.

And the lobbyists are circling City Hall: “This is a piece of legislation where the lobbyist community is extensively interested,” Peskin said. At least five different lobbyists have contacted and met with him to express concerns about the bill.

Among them, according to reports on file with the Ethics Commission: Alex Tourk, who represents the Housing Providers Association (at $15,000 a month), Janan New from the Apartment Association, David Noyola, who represents Trinity Properties, Denise LaPointe, who represents Star City (which does co-housing rentals and wants to clarify their role under the law) and Veronica Bell, who represents Sonder, the company operating the hotel-that-was-supposed-to-be-housing building on Market Street.

The Planning Department is also a bit apoplectic:

When the Planning Code is amended to prohibit a legal use or activity, that use or activity is afforded non- conforming status. Non-conforming status allows the use or activity to continue to operate under specific conditions that prohibit expansion or intensification, among others. This is done because forcing closure or cessation of a legal use or activity is too harsh, and abrupt. The Ordinance would require that existing ILO, a legal and unregulated activity, cease if they are in buildings subject to the Rent Ordinance or in any building with 10 or more Dwelling Units. This abrupt cessation runs counter to the standard treatment of legal uses or activities that are subsequently prohibited.

We don’t know where the Mayor’s Office is on this issue – but it’s unusual for the Planning Department to take as strong a stand as this without approval from Room 200.

The commission, by law, has to review and vote on the measure before it comes to the supes. The commission’s recommendations have no legal authority, and are just advisory.

But it will be interesting to see where the commissioners come down on this – particularly since the current president, Myrna Melgar, plans to step down soon to run for D7 supe. Her vote on this measure could be an issue in that race.

Ficks’ Picks: The best flicks of 2019

48 Hills festival movie critic Jesse Hawthorne Ficks travels the continent for us checking out the biggest film events. He also hosts the invaluable MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS series. Here are his picks for best movies of 2019. (See our Screen Grabs movie critic Dennis Harvey’s favorites here.)

1. One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk (Zacharias Kunuk, Canada/Inuk)
The secret gem of 2019 is a truly transcendental-styled film (following Paul Schrader’s 1972 thesis to a capitol T). Canadian Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk broke onto the scene in 2001 with his earth shattering first feature film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, which is not only the first feature film made entirely in Inuktitut (and made by an Inuk), but was also named as the greatest Canadian film of all time by the 2015 TiFF poll. Great news: Kunuk is back (along with his Igloolik Isuma Production team) and I will genuinely say that One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk is monumental.

It’s based on a true 1961 story of an Inuk hunter who was confronted by the Canadian government and “encouraged” to give up the traditional Inuit lifestyle and assimilate into a conventionally modern settlement. Cinematographer Norman Cohn (the only non-indigenous team member) helps slow this “day in the life” with such patient pacing that a humble alchemy is achieved similar to the cinema of Yasujiro Ozu, Robert Bresson, and Chantal Akerman. While available now on IsumaTV in Canada and on iTunes in the States, I am making a desperate plea to Bay Area film programmers to bring this mini-masterpiece to the big screen.

+ Song X (Pathompon Mont Tesperateep, Thailand) This intimate 20-minute journey exploring “life after death” is a visual poem attempting to “deliver out a message” to the filmmaker’s deceased friend (and band member.) Shooting with deteriorated B&W 16mm and Super 8 film stock, this memorial ritual for the dead feels fully realized in a way that is reminiscent of the haunting visions of Lucrecia Martel and Lav Diaz. As Tesperateep’s camera (shot in Academy ratio 1.33:1) follow these meandering teenagers by quietly floating through forests and combining a stunning sound design (including an unreleased song by the filmmaker’s band The Last Village), I have not stopped thinking about this movie since its US premiere at this year’s SF Cinematheque’s CROSSROADS experimental film festival.

2. The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, Australia/Canada/USA)
Following her horror masterpiece debut The Babadook (2014), Jennifer Kent has constructed one of the most confrontational films of 2019. Set in the 1820s in the region of Australia now known as Tasmania, this relentlessly violent Western follows Clare (wildly performed by Aisling Franciosi) as she vengefully tracks down the men who obliterated her family. Kent’s powerful choice to emphasize the outrageously atrocious acts committed by the British colonists (towards women, children and Aboriginal Tasmanians) will undoubtedly jolt audiences beyond belief. Yet, I would argue that Kent’s intentional exacerbation when attempting to disentangle an unabashed or ubiquitous history is quite imperative. Adamant filmmakers making unwavering films are often tough for audiences to swallow at first — see Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993) + Abel Ferarra’s Ms. 45 (1981) — but these are the movies that years from now will resonate the strongest. Important to mention Baykali Ganambarr’s stunning performance as Billy, the Aboriginal tracker who brings love and levity to what may feel like a tale of incessant inhumanity, won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Talent at this past year’s Venice Film Festival.

+ Joker (Todd Philips, USA)
Without a doubt, Joker is the biggest surprise of 2019. Showcasing yet another outrageously unique performance by one of our era’s greatest actors, Joaquin Phoenix, director Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy) has crafted a darker-than-dark anti-hero that is more relatable than many would want to admit. With obvious and direct nods to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1982) as well as Lynne Ramsay’s stunningly overlooked You Were Never Really Here (2017), the film’s deeper influences still have me hypnotized, months after experiencing (and re-experiencing) it. In the post Q&A after its North American Premiere in Toronto, Philips spoke of how “capturing New York in the late 1970s/’80s was a major characteristic of the film’s experience.” He most excitingly referenced Chantal Akerman’s poetic documentary News From Home (1977) as a major reference he had the cast and crew study. Akerman’s 90-minute autobiographical essay film is a series of static shots on 1970s New York street corners combined with the narration of her lonely mother’s letters wishing she would come back home. I would argue that Philips isn’t just creating pivotal costumes (Mark Bridges) and set/production design (Mark Friedberg) from Akerman’s film, but incorporating the maudlin yet empowering melancholy of her films as well.

Trading-in the obvious CGI of usual super hero films for improvised magical moments (the now infamous Bathroom Scene) is something audiences and critics seem to be taking for granted. Unreliable narration permeates throughout, creating multiple interpretations towards Arthur Fleck’s meticulous economic and racially divided descent. As in, anytime Arthur Fleck is watching television, I’m not sure if the sequence that follows is actually happening anywhere other than inside this fractured fool’s psyche. The film has many other Kubrick-esque discrepancies: How many bullets does he shoot in the subway? Why does his movie usher costume disappear from the sink when confronting Thomas Wayne in the bathroom? Hell, is Arthur Fleck actually committing any crimes? I would argue that this is revolutionary mainstream cinema not just for its inspired (borderline irresponsible) philosophy of attempting to understand a society made sociopath, i.e. Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and the Coen Bothers’ No Country For Old Men (2007); it’s also “a call to arms” to tear down a broken modern society, which literally culminates in a full blown riot, i.e. Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) and Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days (1995). Quite simply, Joker is one of the most exciting Hollywood films of the decade and like other crossover movies, has the power to inspire a younger generation in seeking out even more potent and radical cinema.

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, USA)
A genuine masterpiece that both celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the 1960s as well as this current decade of the 2010s. But most surprisingly, this extensively nostalgic, allegorical fairy tale finds its writer/director baring his most personal and heavyhearted feelings of his career. Let’s start with the memorable friendship between an aging stuntman who never “made it”, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and a mediocre, bi-polar, TV actor, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio). Their subtly sweet, masculine moments of crying in public parking garages, watching Action films together at home with a pizza, privately eating mac and cheese late at night (straight out the pan) or yelling at yourself in the mirror for drinking eight whiskey sours (the evening before) is elegantly summed up by Kurt Russell’s narrating Randy character with the line “When you come to the end of the line with a buddy who is more than a brother, and a little less than a wife, getting blind drunk together is really the only way to say farewell.” The princess of this mythological memoir: Sharon Tate, is encapsulated in what I feel is one of the most romantically mesmerizing sequences of watching cinema… in all of cinema. Capturing Margot Robbie who is playing Sharon Tate on a movie screen, as she watches the real Sharon Tate on a movie screen, while we, the audience, are watching Sharon Tate (being played by Margot Robbie watching Sharon Tate) on a movie screen is quite simply, the magic of movies.

But what really brings me back; again and again (and again) to this 161-minute magnum opus are the endless amounts of unreliable narration resulting in multiple interpretations. The results are often a shockingly amount of sincere and even profound points, proving that Tarantino’s esoteric Hollywood homages are more than just well researched. Just after Brad Pitt’s character Cliff traverses up a house and takes off his shirt (simultaneously taking away the breath of every single audience I saw the film with), one of the most debated sequences of the film occurs when Cliff reminisces fighting Bruce Lee. What I find most poignant about the controversial fisticuff is that if this aging stuntman is supposedly having flashback to a Green Hornet‘s episode (cancelled in 1967), where do all the crew members disappear to and why is there a billboard for Richard Fleischer & Kinji Fukasaku’s Tora, Tora, Tora (released in Sept of 1970) in the background? These anachronisms or sleight-of-hand tricks have a purpose. Cliff is consistently imagining himself winning matches throughout the film, especially while being intoxicated, to perhaps overcompensate for his feelings of inadequacy and obsolescence to the industry/era? In fact, the motif of “obselidia” is infused in almost every part of the Tarantino’s production. And just as the end of the 1960s leaves the film’s characters in a phantasmagorical state of uncertainty, I have found my own cinematic solace here, as we transition into an unforeseeable decade.

+ Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodovar, Spain)
Like Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Pedro Almodovar’s career culminating classic is so personal about the importance of cinema, that one watching the film is forced to confront moments of their life that perhaps they had hoped they could just pack away in the basement. Connecting to two of Almodovar’s earliest films Labyrinth of Passion (1982) and Law of Gravity (1987), Antonio Banderas is back to give one of the greatest performances of his unbelievable career. Familial favorites Carmen Maura and Penelope Cruz  help flesh out a wistful-journey that combines the greatest films by Federico Fellini and Theo Angelopoulos and yet somehow this feels like the kind of movie no one else alive could achieve. At the Toronto International Film Festival premiere, Almodovar said, “This may not be the movie you deserve, but it’s the one we made.” This one is for the ages.

4. Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, Portugal)
Winner of the Golden Leopard (Best Film) and Best Actress at this year’s 71st Locarno Film Festival, Pedro Costa’s stunningly formalist approach to documenting real people, framed gorgeously within a purposefully contrived Hollywood mise en scène, had me glued to the screen for all 124 soothing minutes. In fact, this is the most rewarding Pedro Costa experience I have had, evoking a strong desire to go back and re-visit his intimidating career. Director of Photography Leonardo Samos helps transfix the audience on its real life subject Vitalina Varela, an actor from his previous film Horse Money (2014). Reminiscent of Abbas Kiarostami’s journey through his Koker Trilogy, Costa too, seems to be digging into his country’s historical and political struggles utilizing neorealist tactics such as real locations and casting non-actors. I could have watched 2 more hours of this meaningful, eloquent and ultimately devastating portrait.

+ Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov, Republic of Macedonia)
Quite easily my favorite documentary of 2019, it delicately follows a middle-aged woman (named Hatidze) who lives in a deserted Macedonian village and taking care of her aging mother while making honey from cliff dwelling beehives. This immersive vérité undertaking has as many layers to it as the beehives that she cultivates, while the peaceful story doesn’t just slow your blood flow down; it seeps into your entire bloodstream. No narration, no talking heads, no explanations, Honeyland is a sensitively structured allegory within a hidden neo-realistic experience. This is the kind of cinema cinephiles wait years for, patiently. An absolute must see on a big screen.

5. A Rainy Day in New York (Woody Allen, USA)
Being Woody Allen’s first film to not be released theatrically (or otherwise) in the United States in 50+ years, one may need to find creative ways to track down yet another irresistibly romantic romp through the streets of New York’s Upper East Side. Elle Fanning steals the show with an unstoppably hilarious performance as a young journalist who entrances three floundering filmmakers played perfectly by Liev Schreiber, Jude Law, and Diego Luna, all played with beguiling charm. While Timothée Chalamet (whose name Gatsby Welles speaks nicely to the film’s influences) and Selena Gomez achieve genuine romantic sparks in this Vittorio Storaro photographed escapade. But the real surprises of this overlooked gem is Cherry Jones (Emmy Award winner of The Handmaid’s Tale) whose performance as Gatsby’s misunderstood mother could have garnered an Oscar nod had the film been released theatrically, and Conal Fowkes’ score is easily one of the most enjoyable soundtracks of the year!While the film has the occasional clunky camera set-up (seemingly due to Woody wanting to finish early to watch the Knicks game as opposed to shooting another take) these later-era entries are some of the best work of his career (Cafe Society, Irrational Man, Blue Jasmine, Midnight in Paris) and are long over-due for cinematic discussions.

+ The Last Blackman in San Francisco (Joe Talbot, USA)
While you’ve perhaps read more reviews and think-pieces about this Bay Area sensation (even deciding how you feel about the film before having even watched it), Joe Talbot & Jimmie Fails loving tribute to San Francisco is well worth all the hullabaloo. This spirited, highly stylized, if not lovingly messy quest, exploring the rapid transformation of our unique communities, was in fact, surprisingly, quite heartwrenching. Many of the most powerful scenes in the 120-minute film come from newcomer Jonathan Majors (who is an absolute revelation on every acting level) and Jimmie Fails (who literally plays himself) as they talk sensitively and sincerely to one another. With the Bay Area being the living metaphor for “gentrification in America”, Talbot seems to be attempting a near impossible task of speaking up (and to) all people gentrification is harming. No matter how passionate your feelings are towards this modern day American “land grab”, make sure to actually watch The Last Black Man in San Francisco and then after, we can have a vigorous discussion as to how to push things even further.

6. The Mountain (Rick Alverson, USA)
Rick Alverson’s fifth feature (The Comedy, Entertainment) was so purposefully perplexing, I had to watch it four times this year. Showcasing absolutely hypnotic performances by Jeff Goldblum, Tye Sheridan, and Denis Lavant, The Mountain does more than just polarize its audiences with its disturbing content; the movie bravely creates space for a transcendental discomfort. The careful procedure of unraveling endless unpleasantness (based roughly on Walter Freeman, the man who invented the lobotomy) was explained by the director to be a “counterweight” to the typical narrative that often follows characters who have “unlimited potential and boundless opportunities.” In fact, this “very beige,” deeply melancholy pilgrimage is consciously framed through an Academy aspect ratio (1.37:1) perhaps reinforcing a stifled, suffocating 1950s America. Fans of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed (2018) and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), take note.

+ Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, USA)
For 25 years, Noah Baumbach has been making movies on par with the era’s best American filmmakers but some reason he’s been hovering just left of center. His latest, Marriage Story pits “twogether” Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in two of the most jaw dropping performances of the year. Baumbach’s movies have always been laced with an understanding of film history, but this 130-minute masterpiece may finally be the one that conjures up some major recognition. Channeling the romantic humor of Stanley Donen’s Two For the Road (1967), the structural horror of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage (1973), the guttural sadness of Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and the autobiographical immediacy of Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (1992). Based partially on Baumbach’s own experience of divorce (with Jennifer Jason Leigh), he had no clue that Johansson was going through her own divorce when he cast her. Needless to say, both leading actors give the kind of performances that can define a generation, not to mention the Best Supporting Cast of the year: Alan Alda, Laura Dern and Ray Liotta.

As I have grown up and older, Baumbach’s films have mirrored life in a certain sense. Every audience member has particular artists that they perhaps turn to, seeing somewhat of their own life reflected; Baumbach has been that for me. I’ve often pondered why his seemingly unsympathetic characters seem to rub folks a bit too abrasively. For me, it is exactly these kind of flawed features that make his stories so powerful, so personal. In fact, much like the characters within his movies, one doesn’t always want to admit to one’s self his heightened kind of honesty. Baumbach’s steady and sincere cinema has finally reached a peaking point with Marriage Story. And once you have been obliterated by this greatest work, you have an unbelievably poignant career to work your way back through.

7. Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie, USA)
The Safdie Brothers’ remarkable follow-up to their previous manic adventure Good Time (2017), positions Adam Sandler not only within what could be referred to as an “anxiety-core” genre, but as a front runner for some major acting awards this year. As a fan of Adam Sandler’s early screwball comedies, I have been patiently waiting for contemporary filmmakers to utilize him in a more unique manner, or rather how Paul Thomas Anderson did things in Punch Drunk Love (2002). Noah Baumbach wrote a wonderful character for him in 2017 with The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) and now Josh and Bennie Safdie (along with their acting/writing partner Ronald Bronstein) have done “The Sandman” right again. In fact these maniacs have known how to keep their audiences engaged for over a decade now with their persistently perilous philosophy, paving their own particular preferences into their purposefully more popular productions. 

Playing out like an unofficial remake of Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant (1992), complete with Adam Sandler giving his best Harvey Keitel “hands and knees” performance, this deep dive into New York’s Jewish community, has extraordinary tempo and pacing, perhaps similar to what Sean Baker achieved in Los Angeles with Tangerine (2015). Meta-portrayals by New York City influencer Julia Fox (who is an absolute revelation in the film) as well as musician The Weeknd and retired Minnesota Timberwolves center Kevin Garnett, combined with an exemplary soundtrack by musician Oneohtrix Point Never who is back again this time credited as himself Daniel Lopatin, help create an intensity that never lets you go until the last credit of this 130 minute extravaganza scrolls off screen.

+ Jallikattu (Lijo Jose Pellissery, India)
Within the first 30 seconds of this mesmerizing, unstoppable, tour de force, I knew it would be my favorite film at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. In fact, I loved it so much I watched it twice! Malayalam cinema (aka “Mollywood”) is the fourth biggest film industry in India and is based in the southern state of Kerala. It is supposedly known for remarkable cinematography and realistic story-driven plots. This being my first “Mollywood” experience, I was struck with the film’s hyper-kinetic camerawork and editing tempo. Following a runaway water buffalo as it literally (as well as metaphorically) upends society is the wildest cinematic ride you will take this year! Laced with an absolutely pulsating soundtrack by Prashant Pillai, a second viewing is recommended for anyone who wants to unwrap the jam-packed social and political undercurrents lingering around every corner and yet unnecessary if one wants to just get caught in the primal madness of it all. Comparable to pulse pounding flicks like James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) and John McTiernan’s Predator (1987), this is smart Action cinema at its finest.

8. The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, USA)
BEWARE: there will be much ruined in regards to Robert Eggers’ follow-up to his debut feature The VVitch (2015) if you decide to read spoiler reviews. What I would like to safely say is that this mythological, experimental, Horror film was hauntingly shot (and surprisingly nominated for an Oscar) by Jarin Blaschke in 35mm black and white photography combined with a mid-century 1.19:1 aspect ratio. Simply put, this is one of the most interesting looking films of the year. With Willem Dafoe’s Popeye-esque performance as a seafaring madman combined with Robert Pattinson letting all his marbles hang out (see Cosmopolis, The Rover, The Lost City of Z, Good Time and High Life), I could watch these two actors for hours on end, as they clean the lighthouse, chase seagulls, get drunk, give each other a soliloquy, wrestle, make up, dance together and then start it all over again. On the other hand, I’ve met more than a few folks who could barely sit through ten minutes of this.

+ Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse (Lukas Feigelfeld, Germany/Austria)
Feeling like an unofficial sequel to Robert Egger’s The VVitch (2015), this absolutely terrifying excursion into a remote mountain village towards the end of the medieval period of the 15th-century, delivers the kind of grotesque, bodily fluid-filled, nightmare-inducing imagery that will stick with you for years to come. Filmed in the Austrian and German Alps, and based on pagan folktales, it follows a neglected goat-herder who finds herself brutally mistreated by superstitious townsfolk and whose religious prosecution horrifically help construct her delusional disorder. Brace yourself for a slow-burning, disturbingly abstract journey. This deserves to be seen on a big screen with the sound design/score by “dark ambient” band MMMD swallowing your soul whole.

9. Dragged Across Concrete (S. Craig Zahler, USA)
S. Craig Zahler’s 159-minute decidedly didactic drama is as harsh and violent as its title insinuates and yet its auteur opts for slow-burning drama instead of high-speed thrills. Writer/director Zahler’s previous genre treats Bone Tomahawk (2015) and Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017) now seem like the perfect primers for this politically charged cop thriller. Directly confronting issues of race and class, both Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn seem to trigger many of my peers from even considering watching the film, but I would argue that Zahler knows exactly how to use their polarizing personas perfectly, while also giving them both some of the best characters that they’ve had in years. Meanwhile Tory Kittles (True Detective: Season 1) and Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) hold their own, stealing the show whenever they grace the screen, while Zahler hired the seminal 1960s soul band The O’Jays to concoct one of the year’s best and catchiest soundtracks.

Richard Jewell (Clint Eastwood, USA)
Trying to get my peers to watch a Clint Eastwood is nearly impossible and yet Eastwood continues to prove this decade that at the age of almost 90 he knows how to make small, classic Hollywood films (The MuleThe 15:17 to Paris, Sully). Kathy Bates’ heartwarming portrayal as Richard’s mother will linger with me for many years to come while both Sam Rockwell and Paul Walter Hauser’s remarkably neo-sincere performances are made to combat the cynically challenged.

10. High Life (Claire Denis, France/Germany/UK/Poland/USA) + Transit (Christian Petzold, Germany)

11. Midsommar: Director’s Cut (Ari Aster, Sweden/Hungary/USA) + Doctor Sleep: Director’s Cut (Mike Flanagan, USA) 

12. Gully Boy (Zoya Akhtar, India) + Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, France)

13. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (USA) + Ad Astra (James Gray, USA)

14. Charlie Says (Mary Harron, USA) + Hail Satan? (Penny Lane, USA)

15. Detective Pikachu  (Rob Letterman, USA/Japan) + Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too (Anne Sewitsky, USA)

16. Amazing Grace (Sydney Pollack. USA) + The Cotton Club Encore (Francis Ford Coppola, USA)

17. Toy Story 4 (Josh Cooley, USA) + I Lost My Body (Jérémy Clapin, France)

18. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea) + Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, USA)

19. Apricity (Nathaniel Dorsky, USA)
“The title Apricity refers to the warmth of the sun in winter. It is an homage to the writer Jane (Brakhage) Wodening. In speaking to her I mused, ‘perhaps your age is the winter and you are the warmth of the sun.’” –Nathaniel Dorsky

+ A Leaf is the Sea is the Theater (Jonathan Schwartz, USA)
This follow-up to one of favorite films from last year (The Crack Up) is a breathtaking meditation on endings inspired by Emily Dickinson and is especially fragile to experience being the Bay Area premiere and final film by director Jonathan Schwartz who left the physical world this past year.

+ Vever (For Barbara) 
(Deborah Stratman, USA)
Showcasing 10-minutes of unused 16mm color footage that Barbara Hammer shot on a road trip down in Guatemala in 1975, this gorgeously haunting film feels like a lost ethnographic study by Chick Strand. Add to that the re-contextualization of Teiji Ito’s score for Maya Deren’s seminal experimental film Meshes of the Afternoon (1943/59), and Stratman has beautifully connected a powerful history of experimental female filmmaking.

Jesse Hawthorne Ficks is the Film History Coordinator at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and curates/hosts the MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS series at Bay Area movie theaters. He is also member of the San Francisco Critics Circle and writes film festival reviews for 48hills (SF Bay Guardian.)

The Chron’s bizarre (but predictable) attack on Chesa Boudin

District Attorney Chesa Boudin meets the press before he is sworn in.

To read the San Francisco Chronicle headlines, a rather routine decision by the new district attorney to bring his own staff to leadership positions was a massive scandal, something on the order of Watergate:

SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin hires 4 attorneys after ‘Friday Night Massacre’

The story refers to a “controversial purge,” which in fact amounted to a perfectly predictable series of modest personnel moves. Boudin, who was elected on a promise of profoundly changing the criminal justice system in San Francisco, replaced exactly seven members of a staff of close to 200.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin meets the press before he is sworn in.

He wants his own leadership team. That’s entirely normal for a new elected official who ran on a platform of change. He personally met with each of the seven. They are at-will employees who can be replaced at any time by the elected DA.

Every one of them will have a new job within a week, if they are in the market.

There really is no “controversial purge” here. In fact, hardly anyone in local politics thinks there’s a bit of “controversy” involved, much less a scandalous “massacre.”

KQED had a bit more perspective:

It’s not unusual for a newly elected district attorney to restructure the management team, said Lara Bazelon, a law professor at the University of San Francisco. The attorneys are at-will employees, which means they can be fired without reason.

Bazelon was a member of Boudin’s policy team during his campaign.

“It’s common to fire people who are in management at the top level who are not going to be enthusiastic about the new agenda,” Bazelon explained.

Bazelon gave the example of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, another progressive prosecutor who campaigned on criminal justice reform. Krasner fired 31 members of his staff in 2018, three days after he was sworn in.

So where did the term “Friday Night Massacre” and the idea of “controversy” come from? Exactly one source: Nathan Ballard, who was described as a consultant to the Municipal Attorneys Association.

Nathan Ballard, a political strategist hired by the San Francisco Municipal Attorneys Association, said Boudin’s decision to fire the veteran attorneys was “unfair and it should be reversed.”

“This ‘Friday Night Massacre’ occurred after Boudin had given his word to his staff that there would be no group terminations, even going so far as to specifically name one of the employees who was eventually fired,” Ballard said in a statement. “Regrettably, Boudin’s first act in office was to break that promise.”

Boudin did not promise that there would be no terminations. I saw him meet the press the day of his inauguration, and he said, very clearly, that there were likely to be some personnel changes.

But the Chron editors took Ballard’s claim as a fact, and used his term in a headline.

How much credibility does this single source have? Let’s take a look.

Nathan Ballard is a former consultant for the San Francisco Police Officers Association who was hired to counter efforts at police reform. The head of the Municipal Attorneys Association is Sean Connolly, who is a former lawyer for the POA.

The POA spent more than $700,000 trying to defeat Boudin.

And it turns out that the attorneys union – which represents lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office as well as the DA’s Office – isn’t entirely happy with Ballard’s attack on Boudin.

After the original Chron story, the union released a statement saying that Ballard didn’t at that point speak for it, and reporter Evan Sernoffsky updated his story:

Some members of the leadership in the attorneys union on Monday questioned Ballard’s hiring and told him to stop sending statements regarding Boudin until the executive board can discuss the issue.

He also put out on Twitter the statement from the Municipal Attorneys Association, which demanded that Ballard stop saying he represents that group.

So: A former POA consultant who may or may not have the right to speak for a union, working for a former POA lawyer, is the only source the Chron can find to attack the new DA for doing what any reform-oriented elected official would do.

Here’s John Crew, a longtime police accountability lawyer and activist, on Facebook:

The reality is that after any change election resulting in significant new directions for a top prosecutor’s office — at the federal, state or local level — the new office holder will always bring in their own team to better implement and reflect the new priorities and programs. ALWAYS. That means some of the old guard will be let go to make room for the new team.

So why are members of SF’s law enforcement establishment — the old guard — squealing so loudly (if anonymously) in outrage when newly-installed DA Chesa Boudin predictably does the exact same thing? Because they want to undercut his agenda. Because he represents the most serious local challenge to their vision of how to best achieve greater public safety in their professional lifetimes.

Crew remembers when the POA brought in Ballard:

With much fanfare, the SFPOA hired Nathan Ballard to launch what was widely called a “counterattack” on the drives for reform and on what the Chronicle described then as “other perceived enemies of the (police) union.”

These are the people and organizations who will seemingly stop at NOTHING to prevent San Franciscans from getting the type and degree of criminal justice reform we voted for when we elected Boudin DA. They have their motivations. And, they DEFINITELY have their long track records which, by all rights, should leave journalists at least skeptical of their claims.

This is just the start. The mainstream news media is going to do everything possible, it appears, to undermine the person the voters chose to change the culture of the DA’s Office and to shift the way San Francisco addresses criminal justice.

Oh, and Nathan Ballard, who has worked for Gavin Newsom and was close to Ed Lee, thinks this whole thing — a media attack on the city’s new progressive DA — is a joke. Just in case any reporters were still wondering about his credibility.

Screen Grabs: A very contemporary Les Misérables

'Les Misérables'

This very random week at the movies features two big franchise reboots. Doolittle is from writer-director Stephen Gaghan, previously associated with such very grown-up projects as Syriana and Traffic. It features a whole lot of CGI critters plus Robert Downey Jr., who’s looking awfully seedy for “family entertainment” in the trailer. Bad Boys For Life brings back Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, together for the first time since BBII in 2003. Unlike prior installments, this latest is not directed by Michael Bay but, weirdly, the Belgian duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. That may prove a plus, because as we all know, the answer to the question “Who could be better than Michael Bay?” is “Almost anyone.”

Smaller but weirder film events on (or opening on) this Friday include Crispin Glover at the Castro for SF Sketchfest, in a tribute program including his 2005 directorial oddity What Is It?, a surreal doodle that took nine years to make and whose cast consists largely of people with Down’s Syndrome. (More info here.)

The emphasis is also on the surreal with VHYes (at the Alamo, more info here), a channel-surfing media satire in the mode of The Groove Tube, featuring cameos from director Jack Henry Robbins’ famous parents Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Then there’s (at the Roxie, more info here.) Weathering With You, a new romantic anime fantasy from Makoto Shinkai, whose prior Your Name. was a Miyazaki-scaled hit in the genre. We might also note that the Grand Poobah of screen surrealism, Federico Fellini, is getting an extensive birth-centenary retrospective at the Pacific Film Archive starting this week (Thurs/16-Sun/May 17, more info here).

Strangest of all, perhaps, will be the Alamo’s 40th anniversary 35mm screening of 1980’s Can’t Stop the Music, the disco extravaganza that was billed hopefully as “The Movie Musical Event of the 80s” but arrived just as the whole reactionary “Disco Sucks” backlash was peaking. This expensive pet project for Grease producer Allan Carr hedged its bets by carefully sidestepping any overt gay content in a movie nonetheless starring that gayest musical act ever, The Village People—as well as pre-op Olympian Bruce Jenner, hunky future Police Academy regular Steve Guttenberg, buxom Valerie Perrine, and others whose very presence spelt C-A-M-P.

Inexplicably hiring comedienne Nancy Walker for her first/last feature directorial assignment, the film duly stopped its own music by earning probably less than 10% of its substantial budget. Like a car accident, Can’t Stop the Music is awful, painful, and provokes empathy for its victims, yet somehow you can’t look away. It actually makes the same year’s other disco dog, Olivia Newton-John vehicle Xanadu, look good by comparison. And that movie suuuuucks. Wed/22, Alamo Drafthouse. More info here.

There’s no suckage at all amongst the two new arrivals that get our most enthusiastic recommendation this week, both opening on Friday:

Les Misérables
Many years, one foreign-language features arrives to suck all the air out of the room for any other awards contenders in that category. This year it’s Parasite; last year it was Roma. Excellent movies, certainly, but there were equally worthy ones that got semi-lost in the shuffle as a result. If Parasite hadn’t come along, probably 2019’s foreign awards-magnet would have been Almodovar’s Pain and Glory. But take both of them out of the field, and suddenly this first feature by Mali-born, Paris-based Ladj Ly might be getting the kind of attention it deserves.

It’s a familiar sort of movie—the tough urban crime drama reflecting France’s rising immigrant populations and racial tensions—that we’ve been seeing for a while, at least since 1995’s La Haine. But Les Misérables (which really has nothing to do with Victor Hugo’s titular story) is at least as good as that, or A Prophet, or any other film you might credibly compare it to.

Damien Bonnard plays Ruiz, a greasy-haired, newly divorced cop from the sticks who’s moved to the unfamiliar city to be near the child his ex-wife has custody of. Being somewhat of a humorless square, he gets a caustic welcome from his new patrol partners, who’ve long since developed a workable, not-strictly-by-the-book relationship towards the wary-to-hostile, primarily Muslim emigre neighborhood that is their territory. At first, Ruiz seems like he’ll be more “the problem” than the hero here. Yet as the day escalates into crisis mode—triggered by, among other things, the theft of a lion club from thuggish circus folk, and a drone camera’s witness of some police brutality—he gradually becomes our moral center in an ethical minefield.

Les Miserables is electric yet non-hyperbolic, high on tension without succumbing to suspense cliches, managing to maintain a remarkably balanced perspective despite the myriad points of view represented. Those POVs run a gamut from “good cop” to crookedly bad, from religiously upright to criminally jaded, with a whole lot of reckless, impulsive juveniles adding a significant wild-card element. This dynamic, involving film doesn’t apply a case-pleading preachiness to social ills, because while it knows the difference between right and wrong, it also knows that issues of poverty, power, injustice et al. can make the choice between them anything but simple. Whether you classify it as a 2020 release or one from 2019 (it’s qualified for those awards), this very non-Broadway Les Miz is one of the best films of the year—either year.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project
Surely every hoarder thinks their hoarding is a matter of genuine importance rather than mere neurosis. Marion Stokes turned out to be the rare person for whom that assumption turned out correct. An African-American Philadelphia activist and local current-affairs show host, she was attentive to political currents (and their frequent media misrepresentation) to the point of becoming an early adopter of home videotaping in the mid-70s. Soon she was using multiple VCRs to record multiple TV stations, 24/7—for the next 35 years, until her death at age 83 in 2012.

She and her like-minded second husband (who fortunately was wealthy enough to afford the necessary living spaces) proved hoarders in other ways as well, the 70,000 VHS tapes they accumulated fighting for room alongside a nearly-equal number of books, innumerable newspaper/magazine subscripts, multiples of every Apple product, and numerous other types of things they never, ever threw out. Needless to say, theirs was the kind of mutually obsessive (as well as secretive and paranoid) behavior that leads to social seclusion, as well as the estrangement of children.

Matt Wolf’s documentary isn’t a tragedy of mental illness and cut familial ties, however—or, at least, it’s more than that. We may think something that is broadcast on TV (or put online) is there “forever,” but in fact broadcasters do not preserve everything, or sometimes even anything. Stokes’ seemingly crazy, “useless” collection has wound up being a unique , particularly of local/national news coverage—one that finally made its way to the SF-based Internet Archive for digitalization as a permanent public media research library.

This absorbing feature ends up not just a portrait of an eccentric, somewhat off-putting personality, but an overview of recent history through the selective lens of broadcasters. In an era when media manipulation and “fake news” are pressing concerns, Stokes was prescient in realizing that the truth lay in hard evidence you could point to…or watch. Roxie. More info here

Moms4Housing stand up to eviction

Moms4Housing at their home in Oakland

UPDATE: The Sheriff’s Office forcibly evicted the Moms this morning.

Dominique Walker issued the following statement:
“We’ve heard from people all over the world who are inspired by our nonviolent civil disobedience. People who say that our action has shifted their perspective and helped them understand that housing is a human right. We’ve built a movement of thousands of Oaklanders who showed up at a moments notice to reject police violence and advocate for homes for families. This isn’t over, and it won’t be over until everyone in the Oakland community has a safe and dignified place to live.”

Stay tuned for more updates.

“I would talk (to the judge) about how violent homelessness is with two small children,” said Dominique Walker, co-founder of Moms4Housing and one of the many thousands of houseless mamas struggling to stay alive while houseless across this occupied Turtle Island. She spoke at press conference after a Christmastime eviction attempt of all the mamas from a stolen home they fiercely re-inhabited so their babies would have a roof in November of 2019.

Moms4Housing at their home in Oakland

As Dominque spoke, my mind wandered back to me and Mama trying to stay warm while houseless throughout my childhood, plugging space heaters into bus shelters and almost electrocuting ourselves. I thought aboutvthe death of Iris Canada, a 100 year old black elder evicted from her 40 year residence in the gentrifucked Fill-NoMo-district of San Francisco, and Ms. West, unhoused resident of Where DoWe Go Berkeley, barely alive  in a hospital bed due to a “survival fire” lit to keep her warm.

I thought of one our youth skolaz at Deecolonize Academy barely escaping an adult sexual predator’s attack in a so-called “family shelter” when he and his mama were houseless. I thought of Child Protective Service targeting and stealing the children of a houseless, disabled family we recently supported who made the mistake of revealing their houselessness.

I thought of all of these acts of violence and am sharing them with you, the readers, possibly housed who have never experienced that kind of cold, that kind of fear, that kind of pain, that kind of trauma, and don’t ever associate the word violence with homelessness.

On November 18, 2019 a powerful group of homeless mamas and their children moved into a home in West Oakland held hostage by a real-estate “investor” called Wedgewood. Something this poverty skola, houseless mama calls realeSnakkkes and CorpRape Devil-opers.


We’re a local East Bay company that can buy your house in ANY 

condition, regardless of what you OWE or if you’re in foreclosure…..

The above words come from Wedgewood’s website…But what do they even mean? They are code words for legal theft accorded to land-stealers and wealth-hoarders from the original CONstitution as I call it created by the “stealing Fathers” — more wealth-hoarders, genocidal murderers and occupiers masked as “successful businessmen” (read Rich White Men).

“I would tell them about all the applications, credit checks, and fees I filled out that were always turned down, the agencies who say they are there to help us but aren’t, and a system that is set up for us to fail,” Dominque continued. She was answering a reporter’s question about what she and other mamas would have told the judge if they had been heard at that hearing about the eviction attempt by Wedgewood on December 30th. An attempt that was squashed, giving the mamas ten more days before they received their final removal notice on Friday, Jan 10.

The reality is, businesses like Wedgewood see Mama Earth as a commodity to bought and sold. Period. An important, if not most important aspect of the inhuman system called Capitalism.

Wedgewood is best known in the State of California as preeminent “house-flippers,” meaning they buy working-class people’s homes, slap a coat of paint on them, and re-sell them for three four or five times the amount they “paid” to new owners (I call gentriFUKers) who are usually not from the neighborhoods or even the state.

These homes are so easily taken because the previous owners are desperate to sell. Because when they were owners, they were never supported, rarely educated in these evil business practices, and easily confused by a truly violent business model that counts on people not understanding it. All of the owners are working class, Black, Brown, elder and family, long-term residents of a neighborhood. An intentionally blighted poor-people-of color neighborhood just like Deep East Oakland where Homefulness is located and where we launched the DegentriFUKation zone when we first launched the Unselling of Mama Earth process to try to help as many people still here, stay here.

These homes aren’t forgotten or abandoned, as sometimes is described. These family homes that working class people worked their entire lives to acquire, were foreclosed by predatory, shark-like banksters, with blood-stained paper called mortgages and bank loans and interest rates, taxed sometimes so much that the working-class owners couldn’t afford to pay with their salaries, paper-trailed with “blight” notices or fines or outright seizure, for inane reasons like old paint jobs or messy yards that weren’t in line with the vision of the new neighbors.

Months before the powerful MOMS4HOUSING effort was launched, POOR Magazine/Homefulness houseless mamas and co-founders  held a press conference and eviction tour called, Scamlords be Scamming While Poor Tenants Be struggling, outside of the former home of Homefulness co-founder Aunti Frances Moore.

Vivi T, Princess Beverly and Sharena Thomas, all mamas and long-time Oakland residents gathered to speak on the harassment that scam lords, land-stealers and devil-opers are perpetrating against poor families, elders and children and have been for several years. We also made the connection as we have been since 2014 that eviction is elder and child abuse.

“There are literally thousands of intentionally hoarded and gated parcels of Mama Earth across Oakland and the whole Bay Area that these devil-opers and realESnakes buy and then hoard until property values rise high enough for them to Flip,” said Kimo Umu, one of our homeless and formerly homeless youth skolaz from POOR Magazine’s Deecolonize Academy school as he presented our WeSearch findings.

“All of our homelessness is not seen. A lot of the times us housing insecure families are hiding because it’s dangerous to be homeless,” said Sharena Diamond Thomas, from Peoples Community Medics, POOR Magazine and one of the MOMS4Housing co-founders.

We end up on the street, in tents, on someone’s couch or hidden in our cars, houseless and alone, criminalized for the sole act of being seen and then “swept” like we are trash.

Moms4Housing are SuperSheroes to us houseless and poor mamas at POOR Magazine. Supersheroes, who like my sisSTAR/welfareQUEENs at POOR Magazine; Jewnbug, Queennandi, Audrey Candy Corn, Pearl Ubumgen, Princess Beverly, Vivi-T, Sharena, Aunti Frances, Laure McElroy, Ingrid DeLeon , Teresa Molina, Cheri Honkala, Momi Palabraz,Juju Angeles, Mama Blue,Martrice Candler, Corrina Gould, Loa, my beautiful Mama Dee and so many more mamaz and uncles and daddies and youth and elders, who refuse to give up fighting no matter how many lies they say about us, and how much destruction is already built in the this system to kill us. Who fight to build poor and homeless peoples solutions, art, media and education to homelessness, like Homefulness, 1st They Came for the Homeless, Sogorea Te Land Trust, Where DO We Go Berkeley, Consider the Homeless, The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, the Homeless Union and the #PoorPeoplesArmy.

And just in case inspiration is needed for the politricksters and conscious folks who showed up for Moms4Housing – good people like Bobbi Lopez and Nikki Fortunato Bass — the whole country of Finland has ended houselessness by refusing to live by the scarcity models of there is not enough when there is plenty for all of us.

Supershoeroes who go up against a rigged system I call krapitalism that is built on a racist, classist system of violent exploitation by people who think they “own” mama Earth.

“We are hard-working moms holding down two to three jobs just to support our children,” said Misty Croft. “We are just trying to survive.”

“This isn’t the end, this is the beginning of a movement,” Dominque said at a press conference on Friday, Jan 10th after the final eviction ruling came down. “But we are here and we are not leaving.” she concluded.

Since press time Wedgewood has given a meager scarcity model crum of two months rent to the moms (which of course doesn’t begin to cover the cost of rentals in this insane gentriFUKed housing market. The moms have said they are at “MomsHouse” at 2928 Magnolia st West Oakland. As well, POOR Magazine is holding a DeGentriFUKation Tour of their BlackArthur (MacArthur) Neighborhood on Saturday, Jan 18th at 12 noon launching at Homefulness at 8032 BlackArthur Bl Deep East Huchuin ( Oakland)  as part of the Reclaim the Legacy of MLK weekend – to join or walk with us email poormag@gmail.com or come out and join us. To contact Tiny go to her website www.lisatinygraygarcia.com or on twitter @povertyskola 

Supes poised to create 12 new districts where vacancy tax can be assessed

Two of the new NCDs, in Bayview and Bernal Heights

The Board of Supes is moving to create a dozen new neighborhood commercial districts – a move that will bring more of the city under the vacancy tax on empty storefronts.

The legislation by Sup. Aaron Peskin also will give communities like Bayview and the Outer Richmond better tools to manage development and protect neighborhood-serving businesses.

Two of the new NCDs, in Bayview and Bernal Heights

The legislation will come before the full board Tuesday/14 – and there’s a special meeting Tuesday/21, which would normally be a holiday, to make sure the bill is approved before March 3, the deadline to define NCDs that will fall under the vacancy tax.

District 10 has never had a NCD, and Third Street has the highest number of commercial vacancies of any commercial strip in the city.

“We are really trying to hone in on what makes these existing vibrant retail corridors pulse — and now every district in the city will have one,” Lee Hepner, an aide to Peskin, told me.

NCDs set formal rules for the Planning Department and require special treatment for small businesses in the area. In North Beach, the NCD rules have limited the numbers of restaurants to make sure that other types of neighborhood-serving businesses can survive.

But the big deal here is the vacancy tax.

All over the city, commercial landlords are, in Peskin’s description, “being entirely unreasonable about the amount of rent they should be able to charge.” The law would impose significant fees on the owners of storefronts that sit vacant for long periods of time – providing a financial incentive to lease the places.

If the board approves the measure, and the mayor doesn’t veto, it will be another indication of support for the vacancy tax.

There’s a map of all the NCDs here. Three are in D9, three are in D1, and the rest are in four other districts:

1)      Inner Balboa Street NCD – District 1

2)      Outer Balboa Street NCD – District 1

3)      Bayview NCD – District 10

4)      Cortland Ave NCD – District 9

5)      Geary Boulevard NCD – District 1

6)      Mission Bernal NCD – District 9

7)      San Bruno Ave NCD – District 9

8)      Cole Valley NCD – District 5

9)      Lakeside Village NCD – District 7

10)  Lower Haight Street NCD – District 5

11)  Lower Polk Street NCD – District 6

12)  Inner Taraval NCD – District 7