San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
‘Sex/Life’ is the kind of show we love to hate
If you laughed uncontrollably at the 15:20 mark of episode seven of Netflix’s “Sex/ Life,” you’re not alone. The sequence from the streaming platform’s latest attempt at softcore porn, under the guise of a feminist drama, features intense music and “high stakes” that aren’t technically played for laughs, but that are so farfetched you can’t help but giggle. The show’s eight, nearly hourlong, episodes are, in fact, gloriously terrible.
And yet, “Sex/Life” has spent weeks in the top 10 of Netflix’s mostwatched list in the U.S. The show follows the story of Billie Connelly, a suburban mother and wife, who left behind a party life in New York City — and an unsteady, yet steamy, relationship with a music producer — to settle down in Connecticut. Her husband is a good guy, her kids never scream, and her life is seemingly perfect. It stars Sarah Shahi as Billie; Australian heartthrob Adam Demos as Brad, the music producer ex who storms back into Billie’s life; and Mike Vogel as Cooper, her perpetually frustrated husband, who finds Billie’s diary of repressed desires, where — shocker! — the ex is the main subject.
The show is binge candy that is incredibly fun to dis. It’s a hatewatching bonanza.
Oxford Languages defines “hatewatching” as the act of tuning into a TV show for the sake of mocking or criticizing it. Examples include the 1950s films of Ed Wood, Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film “The Room,” the impossibly sappy CW series “Riverdale” and Martin Scorsese’s HBO flop “Vinyl.” More recently, the Netflix film “Falling Inn Love,” also starring Adam Demos, was subjected to a hatewatching frenzy.
“Sex/Life,” however, is arguably one of the first shows of the postvaccine era to be massively hatewatched, and the binge feels almost therapeutic.
“Hatewatching could be seen as an act of active critical viewing — viewers want to actively participate and have a say, rather than simply absorbing,” said Jeffrey Skoller, associate professor at the film and media department at UC Berkeley.
According to Skoller, hatewatching is the people’s answer to the very medium of television.
“The most social aspect of cinema has always been coming out of the theater and expressing an opinion about the film,” Skoller told The Chronicle in a phone conversation. “TV has isolated people, and the social aspect of participating isn’t as strong, so people participate in other ways.” Social media makes active participation exponentially easier too, helping to create “a sense of community; enjoying being together in thinking something is bad.”
With the pandemic changing the ways in which we view community and belonging, from working remotely to leaning on strangers in a time of need, getting together to hatewatch a show like “Sex/Life” couldn’t have come at a better time.
Emerging out of a blur of Zooms and comfy pants, newly alert and bloodthirsty viewers took to Twitter. Many rolled their eyes in judgment at the fact the female protagonist’s diary, bursting with longing for her ex, sat on display in her unsecured laptop. They also mocked the show’s poor acting and cliched, overboiled fashion choices (“wild” formerlife Billie is perpetually in sequins. Presentday Billie is in virginal nap dresses). There’s also critique of the plot and the writing. On Instagram, the show has birthed endless memes. What makes a TV series particularly suited for hatewatching and “Sex/Life” an exemplary artifact of the concept? Melissa Camacho, professor and graduate coordinator at the department of broadcast and electronic communication arts at San Francisco State University, said any TV show or film that banks on sex appeal can run into trouble.
“Sex is always a topic of controversy: the more explicit, the better,” she told The Chronicle.
Camacho lists the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie franchise as another example of hatewatching material, particularly given the high expectations set both by the book series it was based on and the potential steaminess of its sex scenes, which were heavily criticized by the BDSM community.
“Sex/Life” is based on a less “Sex/Life”: All episodes available to stream on Netflix. famous book, “44 Chapters About Men” by B.B. Easton, but it inspired the same high expectations. When promised hot sex scenes by the show’s trailer, viewers were quick to point out that what the show actually offered was repetitive and boring at worst, and a caricature of hotness at best.
Unlike the genre of camp, which assumes a degree of irony and selfawareness, hatewatched shows normally take themselves seriously, which only adds to the fun. “Sex/Life” hits all the wrong notes.
“I think viewers these days are more sophisticated than the media that’s been given to them,” Skoller said. “They understand that certain narrative elements are cliche, and there’s a pleasure in picking up on that.” Camacho adds that while media professionals like herself can give a detailed explanation about why a show doesn’t work, everyday viewers, too, have become adept in finding narratives that “don’t make sense” or spotting directorial decisions that are lazy and annoying.
And to wrap things in a timely bow, there’s, of course, another highly controversial factor: privilege. “There would have been a completely different reaction to the show if this had not been a privileged woman living in Greenwich, Conn.,” Camacho added. “This woman has a very privileged life, and she’s not satisfied! It’s exactly the type of thing that gets people wound up.”
Wound up, yet pressing “Play the next episode” with glee.
Perhaps nothing drove home the truly global nature of the COVID19 pandemic like the delay of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
In the history of the games, only five Olympics have ever been canceled, and none in peacetime. Even a year later, stands will be empty due to the ongoing chance of infection. However, we still have the chance to see athletes push the limits of human ability.
The Olympics are also fodder for some of the greatest sports movies ever. Though the best ones are generally made about the Winter Games (“I, Tonya” and “Cool Runnings,” among others), there are some truly great flicks — along with terrible but noteworthy ones — that evoke the glory of the summer competition.
Here are some of these films, and how they capture the athletic spirit:
“Ludwig/Walkenhorst — Der Weg zu Gold” (“The Path to Gold”) (2016): One of the joys of contributing to a column like this is that you get to put your niche interests front and center, and in my case that involves Olympic beach volleyball. As one of the few partner sports in the games, the dynamic between teammates is amazing to watch and always displays their incredible sense of cooperation. In 2016, the German team consisting of Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst won glory and gold after a career full of terrible mishaps, which included Ludwig recovering from a stroke. Director Guido Weihermüller followed the pair as they prepared to dominate the Rio Games, and the resulting documentary gives an intimate look at how the two women overcame incredible odds.
Watch it: Available to rent on Vimeo.
“Race” (2016): Jesse Owens was one of the most famous athletes in the world, breaking track and field world records like other people break lunch dates. His performance at the 1936 Olympics, held in Hitler’s Germany, was seen as an incredible victory against the myth of Aryan supremacy. Director Stephen Hopkins’ biopic of the runner, starring Stephan James, is a rather typical depiction of an extraordinary man. The film beautifully captures Owens’ struggles to provide for his family, as he trained for competitions that quite literally held the soul of equality at stake. Hopkins divides his film between presenting a grand view of the games under the regime of a racist fascist dictator and exploring the heart of a champion struggling to do the right thing under intense pressure.
It’s an inspiring story, as most Olympic films are, but it is also one of the best ways to digest an essential sports moment in history.
Watch it: Rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video.
“Animalympics” (1980): Technically, this entry is a cheat, since the movie is split between winter and summer games, but it’s such an underrated animated treasure that it deserves to be included. This is a version of the Olympics starring anthropomorphic animals, featuring an allstar cast of comedians like Gilda Radner, Billy Crystal and Harry Shearer. Some of the jokes were already dated by the time I watched the movie as a child, but you don’t have to know who Mark Spitz or Yoko Ono is to find the action funny.
It’s a bizarre film that includes a wraparound love story between marathoners, a spirit quest to ShangriLa in the middle of a ski jump and a sequence at a disco presenting a remarkably accurate depiction of what happens at an Olympic Village during the games. It also has an absolute banger of a soundtrack, featuring original songs by Graham Gouldman (of English rock band 10cc) that I can still sing word for word three decades later.
Watch it: Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
“Tokyo Olympiad” (1966): Also available as part of the Criterion Collection, this magnificent documentary by Kon Ichikawa might be the definitive track and field film. Set during the 1964 games in Tokyo, it primarily focuses on the more human side of the Olympics in a very abstract way. Although there are some individual competitors triumphing, such as Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila, that is not really what Ichikawa was filming. “Tokyo Olympiad” is more like a modern surf film in that it follows the poetry of motion, even when the person who is being filmed isn’t the victor. The movie is about small moments on the biggest stage, and the looks of concentration on the athletes’ faces as they work marvels with their bodies. This makes the movie a little short on drama but incredibly long on beauty.
Ichikawa may be the only person who has truly captured what the supposed meaning of the Olympics is: that the spirit of human athletics is a binding force no matter who loses. It’s a lesson that needs repeating sometimes.
Watch it: Streaming on HBO Max.
“Peaceful Warrior” (2006): This is a terrible film that deserves to be included because it may be the most bizarre sports movie ever made. Dan (Scott Mechlowicz) is a gifted gymnast at Cal who has everything going for him, until a motorcycle accident shatters his leg. At first despondent, Dan finds new strength under the tutelage of a mysterious Zen mechanic (Nick Nolte, who vacillates between guru and possible antagonistic space alien) who trains him to find peace in his mind during physical exertion through bizarre tests. Eventually, Dan takes the philosophic advice to heart and triumphs at the Olympic tryouts.
Based on the novel by former Olympian Dan Millman, the film is more about spirituality than competition. The message is that accomplishment happens in the now, not in the future. Dan’s acceptance of a more connected state of mind is what puts him back on the road to his dreams.
Living as we all have through collective trauma this past year, “Peaceful Warrior” is actually a pretty good movie to remind ourselves that productivity is also a mental journey. We’re all preparing for some sort of competition again after being hurt, and this film — hamfisted as it is — offers some hope in that regard.
Watch it: Available for rent on YouTube.
The Chronicle’s guide to notable new music.
Woods, “More Strange” (Woodsist): One of the six albums that stood out to us as the best of 2020, Woods’ “Strange to Explain” is getting a deluxe release with five new songs on the “More Strange’' expanded version. All of the new music comes from the original sessions recorded at Stinson Beach’s idyllic Panoramic House Studio and offers more gorgeous material from the folkrock band. “Nickels and Dimes” stands out through Jeremy Earl’s blissful and uncanny highpitched vocals asking, “Can you hear my voice?” Earl explained in a statement that the song has taken on new meaning for him and the band as the dust begins to settle on the pandemic: “It gets hard to tell if you are being heard with all of the digital noise out there. With no shows for almost two years, it’s even more difficult. I miss seeing people’s reactions to our music. I miss talking to people after our shows. So this song hits especially hard for me right now. Is anybody out there?” Gavin Turek, “Madame Gold” (Madame Gold Records): The spirited Los Angeles vocalist known for her collaborations with producer Tokimonsta — including a scintillating Outside Lands Festival appearance on the Panhandle Stage in 2016 — is finally releasing her debut LP. Out on her Madame Gold label, Turek’s album sees her tapping into the title’s alter ego in “a story of a woman in flux, vulnerable and full of fear who found the courage to get back up and fight, ultimately saving herself.” Songs like “Illusions” and “Slide” see Turek taking a breezy R&B approach to shimmering pop songs. The former, she says, is inspired by Curtis Mayfield and in the video she’s reminiscent of the James Bond Golden Girl. Except that Turek — er, Madame Gold — comes out triumphant in the end.
David Crosby, “For Free” (BMG): While he was waging a losing battle with Phoebe Bridgers on Twitter over her guitarsmashing “Saturday Night Live” performance in February, David Crosby was putting the finishing touches on an album of new material. Released a month before Crosby turns 80, “For Free” has an illustrious list of featured guests and is produced by his son James Raymond. “We’re such good friends and we work so well together and we’ll each go to any length to create the highestquality songs we can,” Crosby said in a statement. Cowritten by Raymond and Michael McDonald, album opener “River Rise” pairs the timeless voices of Crosby and McDonald in an inspiring number. The title track is a Joni Mitchell cover sung as a duet with Grammy Awardwinning roots music singer Sarah Jarosz, and “Rodriguez for a Night” sees Crosby joined by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan for a romanticized look at drugstore cowboys and outlaws.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Darkside, “Spiral” (Matador): Following a sevenyear hiatus, the highcaliber downtempo rock duo of multiinstrumentalist Dave Harrington and vocalist/electronic producer Nicolas Jaar is back with the greatly anticipated followup to the cult classic debut, “Psychic.” Darkside takes a similarly psychedelic approach on “Spiral,” with the spooky bells of “Lawmaker” laying a palette for Jaar’s calculated singing, and the thumping layers of the existential “Liberty Bell” towering as the album’s highlight. But the moments of Harrington’s dizzying and inspired guitar playing are what shine the brightest, begging for repeat plays all the way to the mindblowing album closer, “Only Young.”
SONGS OF THE MOMENT (BAY AREA EDITION)
Tycho and Ben Gibbard, “Only Love” (Mom + Pop/ Ninja Tune): The latest collaborative track between Bay Area electronic fusion mainstay Tycho and Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard started as an instrumental. But when he heard the finished product, Tycho’s Scott Hansen felt something was missing. He sent a rough demo to his friend Gibbard, who applied his iconic vocals to the track and it clicked. When writing the song’s lyrics, Gibbard — who is no stranger to electronic collaborations as the frontman of the indie supergroup the Postal Service — was inspired by the words of Montana environmentalist and goat rancher Alexis Bonogofsky that he read in the book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” by Naomi Klein: “(The) connection to this place and the love people have for it, that’s what Arch Coal doesn’t get. They underestimate that. They don’t understand it so they disregard it. And that’s what in the end will save that place. It’s not the hatred for the coal companies or anger, but love will save this place.” While the quote speaks to protecting public lands in southeastern Montana from a mining company, it can easily apply to an ethos that can “save” the two cities where Hansen and Gibbard cut their teeth: San Francisco and Seattle, respectively.
Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” performed by Diet Cig (Blackened Recordings): As Metallica readies the release of the 30th anniversary remastered version of the 16timesplatinum “Black Album,” on Sept. 10, the band will also release “The Metallica Blacklist,” an album of 53 artists covering their favorite Metallica songs. While there are appearances on it from names like Miley Cyrus, Jason Isbell, My Morning Jacket and Kamasi Washington, it’s the recently released version of “The Unforgiven” by electrifying New York indie rock duo Diet Cig that caught my ears. The sounds made by singerguitarist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman are known to be incredibly explosive, and this version of the classic is as bombastic as it is bursting with Luciano’s powerful feminine energy. It’s a testament to how many artists have been inspired by the “Black Album” and Metallica, and it makes “The Metallica Blacklist,” an intriguing project to say the least.
The Golden Gate Bridge is synonymous with San Francisco. It is so local, we carry its image on tote bags and hang prints of it in our homes. But the bridge is also an international symbol of immigration connecting San Francisco to the world.
With the familiar landmark as its subtitle, “Hung Liu: Golden Gate” opens Saturday, July 17, at the de Young Museum, featuring eight works by contemporary Chineseborn American artist Hung Liu. The show asks us to think about migration, history, honor and memory. What does it mean to cross a bridge? Whose history do we remember? For Liu, the answer is in her art: “The surface will be a memorial site.”
In eight works hung in the gathering space of the Wilsey Court, Liu grounds these bigger questions in her own journey. Born in 1948 in Maoist China, Liu immigrated to California in 1984 to study at UC San Diego. Having taught at Mills College for several decades, she still resides in Oakland while exhibiting widely.
Because the show is hung in a public space, access to the exhibition is free. Curator Janna Keegan and Liu came up with the theme of migration shortly after they settled on using the space. Located at the crossroads of galleries, the museum shop and the cafe, the Wilsey Court invites contemplation of migration.
“It’s like people passing through, going to other spaces, galleries,” Liu said. “There’s a staircase, all kinds of things, so what am I going to do? My focus is on migration.” Said Keegan: “Having it be a public open space was something Hung was very excited about. … You can just walk in and see extraordinary art from an extraordinary Bay Area artist.”
Though small, the show feels expansive because of the large scale of the works shown and their placement ringing the court’s secondstory walls. Visible from the ticketing desk, an enormous version of Liu’s classic 1988 painting “Resident Alien” draws you into the space (the original hangs at the San Jose Museum of Art). Printed on 77 panels of UV acrylic and rising 28 feet tall, “Resident Alien II,” Liu’s version of her original green card, dominates the court. Additional works float above you: cutouts of migrant laborers, migrating animals and a Chinese shrimp junk, the kind that Chinese immigrants used in San Francisco Bay.
Like semiremembered history, the migratory animals and people haunt our space.
The term Golden Gate in the show’s title refers to the promises and contradictions of immigration. Liu describes the Chinese character for gate as “like two panels of an open door, open or closed.”
“Even in a country, you have a gate, sometimes a physical one, sometimes symbolically,” she said. “You have a gate to connect to the outside world. For immigrants, you go in through a gate, you enter a different country, a different territory.”
The “Resident Alien II” green card refers to that ambivalence. Under large capital letters reading “RESIDENT ALIEN,” a sexist pejorative, “Cookie, Fortune,” appears in lieu of the artist’s real name. In the painting, Liu changed her birth year from 1948 to 1984, the year she immigrated. “A lot of new immigrants talk about starting a new life,” she said. “I feel like that year on I start[ed] a completely different life here. A new life starts at that moment. I’m critical about the term 'alien’ but also grateful about it. So it’s complicated.”
Liu sees her own history as connected to the history of migration at large. For the past several years, Liu has been working with the Oakland Museum of California’s archive of Dorothea Lange’s photographs. “Plowboy,” “Corn Carrier” and “Girl With Sack” derive from Lange’s iconic portraits of migrant workers.
“American farmers, they remind me of Chinese peasants,” Liu said. “They were poor. When I was in the countryside, the children, how dirty their faces, how they didn’t have enough clothes, food. I felt they are not too much different. The race, the skin color, different continent, but somehow still the humanity felt so related.”
By making these people bright and colorful, and hanging them above our heads, Liu makes us see them as individuals. “They are not statistics,” she said, adding, “People should not forget them, to make them, to bring them up to honor them, to remember them.”
The unsettled matter is, of course, the future: How will we greet new immigrants? “The question is the American gate,” she said. “Are we still open to the rest of the world?”
Hung Liu, artist
After rolling through the first half of summer, dipping our toes in the social waters and, for some, even venturing out of town, it feels like the right time to get back in step with local community offerings. Relish the reemergence of live arts and performances, offered both indoors and outside; especially those tailormade to entertain the little ones in the family.
Check out The Chronicle’s guide to some enlightening and downright enjoyable activities for all ages throughout the summer:
Music, dance and theater
Charity Kahn Family Music Hour: Get on your dancing shoes, with favorite JAMband requests at the ready, and join the fun at these regularly scheduled, live and interactive music performances at the Outer Sunset openair market.
11 a.m. Sundays through Aug. 29 plus Sept. 19 and 26. Free. Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile, 37th Avenue between Ortega and Pacheco streets, S.F. jamjamjam.com Kids Rock on the Square: Bring the family out to enjoy free, live kids music and entertainment happening on the Redwood City square, with Andy Z and the Andyland Band on Sunday, July 25, and Lori & RJ on Aug. 15, as well as an inflatable play area and other activities.
11 a.m.1 p.m. Sunday, July 25 and Aug. 15. Free. Courthouse Square, 2200 Broadway, Redwood City. 6507807250. redwoodcity.org
Yerba Buena Garden Festival: Red Panda Acrobats Kids Show With exceptional athletic skills, traditional Chinese music and a fastpaced familyfocused program, the popular local ensemble brings ancient Chinese live acrobatic arts into the 21st century.
11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Friday, July 30. Free. Yerba Buena Gardens Children’s Garden, Mission Street between Third and Fourth streets, S.F. 4155431718. ybg festival.org
Music Is Magical Summer Concert Series: The weekly, free, family and sensoryfriendly concerts are back at Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge Playground. The schedule includes John Henry’s Farm, James Henry House of Samba Kids, Angels on Stage, Soul Providers and others.
67:30 p.m. Fridays through Sept. 3. Free. Magical Bridge Playground, Palo Alto. magicalbridge.org
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: The Musical: Local Bay Area Children’s Theatre ensemble returns to live performances with a show designed for the outdoors, written by bestselling kids author Mo Willems and featuring music by Deborah Wicks La Puma.
10 a.m. and noon Saturdays. Through Aug. 21 at Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd., S.F.; 10 a.m. and noon Sundays, Aug. 829 at Cal Shakes Upper Grove, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda. 5102964433. bactheatre.org
Alphabet Rockers Live:
Founded by Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd, the Grammynominated, intergenerational music group creates familyfriendly hiphop that aims to inspire kids and families to stand up to hate.
6 p.m. Aug. 1. $13$50, reservations required. Frost Amphitheater, 351 Lasuen St., Stanford. 6507242464 live.stanford.edu
Museums, exhibits and outdoor entertainment
Kids Air Fair: The Hiller Aviation Museum’s annual summer celebration of flight will feature local aviation professionals, and their aircraft/ air service vehicles, onsite for showandtell time, as well as kidfriendly activities like balsa glider construction, paintarealplane activities and paper helicopter construction crafts. In addition, the museum will open the doors of many of its aircraft for extended exploration opportunities.
10 a.m.1 p.m. Wednesday, July 28. Included with museum admission. $11$18, under 5 free. Hiller Aviation Museum, 601 Skyway Road, San Carlos. 6506540200. hiller.org
Sonoma County Fair Summer Fun Fest: Fair organizers plan to present a live festival event featuring carnival rides; live music and kids entertainment, including comedic jugglers Scotty & Trink and Godfrey the magician; fair food; a monster truck rally and rodeo. See website for schedule details.
Noon10 p.m. WednesdayThursday and Sunday; Noon11 p.m. FridaySaturday. July 28Aug. 8. $5$25, available online. Sonoma County Event Center and Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. 7075454200.sonomacountyfair.com
Cartoonist Joe Wos at the Schulz Museum: Celebrate Snoopy and bring your pet to the museum for a personalized pet caricature by the MazeToons cartoonist on Wednesday, July 28. Next up, a live cartooning and storytelling performance, followed by a book signing with Wos, is set to take place in the museum courtyard on Thursday, July 29.
Pet caricatures 25 p.m. Wednesday, July 28. $5 suggested donation. Outdoor cartoon storytelling at 3 and 4 p.m. Thursday, July 29. Included with museum admission. Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa. 7075794452. schulzmuseum.org
Beat the Heat Storytime at Ruth Bancroft Garden: The halfhourlong reading will feature the book “Hank’s Big Day: The Story of a Bug” written by Evan Kuhlman and Chuck Groenink.
9:30 a.m. Thursday, July 29. Free. Reservations required. Ruth Bancroft Garden, 1552 Bancroft Road, Walnut Creek. 9259449352. ruthbancroftgarden.org
SFMOMA Mini Mural Festival: In 1940, Art in Action, an exhibition of live art making conceived by architect Timothy L. Pfleuger, was part of the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island. Artists involved included Diego Rivera, who at that event painted the “Pan American Unity” mural, which is cur
rently on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The upcoming festival will feature three local organizations, hosting artists commissioned to paint murals live with music and other activities over the course of three weekends. Weekend one: Acción Latina with DJ Agana and Josué Rojas; Weekend two: NIAD Art Center; Weekend three: SOMA Pilipinas featured artists Franceska Gamez and Malaya Tuyay.
11 a.m.4 p.m. SaturdaySundays, July 31Aug 29. Free. SFMOMA, 151 Third St., S.F. 4153574000. sfmoma.org
MarinMOCA Family Day:
The North Bay contemporary art museum is offering handson art making to children, and their parents, on the first Sunday of each month taught by professional artists in a variety of media, including painting, mixedmedia and clay activities.
11 a.m.4 p.m. Aug. 1. Free, reservations required. Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, 781 Hamilton Pkwy., Novato. 4155060137. marinmoca.org
Virtual Butterfly Walk: Join the botanical garden’s resident caterpillar expert, Sal Levinson, and butterfly guy Sarab Seth for an online, illustrated slideshow of butterflies found locally during the summer season. Learn about butterfly behavior, and then follow along on a virtual tour of the garden, suitable for all ages, in search of butterflies.
11 a.m.noon Aug. 1. Free, $5 donation encouraged. Registration required. Online event. 5106647606. events.berkeley.edu
San Francisco Botanical Garden: Bean Sprouts Family Days: Families are invited to stop by the children’s garden to make mulch castles, weed, plant, harvest and learn. Grab some tools at their welcome station, or bring your own, to work and play in the botanical garden’s “yes space” for kids.
10:302:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 12:302:30 p.m. Wednesdays; noon4 p.m. Saturdays. Free. Garden open 7:30 a.m.6 p.m. daily. Free$10. San Francisco Botanical Garden, 1199 Ninth Ave., S.F. 4156611316. sf botanicalgarden.org
Children’s Creativity Museum and LeRoy King Carousel: Spark imagination and build creative confidence, as families are encouraged to create unique media projects and experiences through core exhibits facilitated by artists and educators; including an animation studio, music making and innovation stations, and an imagination lab for younger visitors.
Two hour sessions from 10 a.m.noon; 12:30 p.m. 2:30 p.m.; 35 p.m. SaturdaySunday. $15, registration required. Carousel open 11:30 a.m.4:30 p.m. SaturdaySunday. $5. 221 Fourth St., S.F. 4158203320. creativity.org
Children’s Fairyland: “The Leprechaun’s Gold” puppet show at 10 and 11 a.m., 2 and 3 p.m. MondaySunday, July 26Aug. 1. Arts and crafts activities from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 28. Storyteller Jacqui June “The Literary Fairy” reads at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. SaturdaySunday, July 31Aug. 1. “Children’s Theatre: Ozma of Oz” will be performed at the Aesop’s Playhouse. 10 and 11 a.m. Saturday, July 31; 2 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1.
Park open 9 a.m.noon and 14 p.m. daily. $13, reservations required. Shows included with park admission. Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. 5104522259. fairyland.org
Exploratorium: Inspiring artists and scientists alike since 1969, the handson museum has reopened, with limitedcapacity ticketing, for inperson visits. “Storytime Science for Kids: Energy and Motion” allows younger visitors to make a toy car with a rubber band motor to learn about kinetic science. Noon and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25 and SaturdaySunday, July 31Aug.1. For those not quite ready to go live, there is “Storytime Science for Kids Online: Fluid MotionWind,” in which Vivian Altmann plans to read Ray Jaramillo’s “Gust, Gust Gust!,” followed by a pinwheel making craft activity. 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 28. Available to stream on the Exploratorium YouTube and Facebook channels. Free.
10 a.m.5 p.m. Wednesday–Saturday; 610 p.m. Thursday (18 and older); Noon5 p.m. Sunday. $20$30. Reservations required. Pier 15, S.F. 4155284444. ex ploratorium.edu
Sunset Cinema at Villa Montalvo: “Ghostbusters” (1984. PG. 105 min.) on Sunday, July 25. Three former parapsychology professors start up a ghost removal service and uncover a growing population of specters in the city in the film classic featuring an epic showdown with a giant StayPuft marshmallow man. Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Rick Moranis.
“Coco” (2019. PG. 105 min.) on Friday, July 30. A heartwarming animated classic from Pixar in which a young musician confronts his family’s ancestral ban on music. Featuring the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, and Benjamin Bratt. Arrive early to make colorful paper flowers as a familyfriendly art activity.
7 p.m. Sunday, July 25 and Friday, July 30. Screenings start at 8:30 p.m. $13$30, advance registration required. Montalvo Arts Center Great Lawn, 15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga. 4089615800.montalvoarts.org
Marin Country Mart Movie Nights: Grab a snack and settle down for a weekly film screening, set in an outdoor courtyard. Each week will feature a Pixar short, followed by classic, familyfriendly films including “Despicable Me” (2010. PG. 95 min.) Friday, July 30; “WallE” (2008. G. 103 min.) Aug. 6; “Ratatouille” (2007. G. 118 min.) Aug. 13; “The Incredibles” (2004. PG. 116 min.) Aug. 20; “Finding Nemo” (2003. G. 100 min.) Aug. 27; “Monsters Inc.” (2001. G. 92 min.) Sept. 3.
6 p.m. Fridays. Through Sept. 3. Free. Marin Country Mart,
Starlight Movies in the Park: With preshow games and craft activities for kids starting at 7 p.m., a screening of “Tom and Jerry” (2021. PG. 101 min.) will begin at sundown.
7 p.m. July 31. Free. Alameda Point MultiPurpose Field, 1101 W. Redline Ave., Alameda. 5107477529. alamedaca.gov
Coyote Point Movie Nights: Curiodyssey and Coyote Point Park present outdoor familyfriendly movie screenings on the last Saturday of the month. One hour prior to the films, the natural history/science museum will offer guided science experiments for kids. Upcoming films at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 31: “Raya and the Last Dragon” (2021. PG. 107 min.). 8 p.m. Aug. 28: “The Croods 2: A New Age” (2020. PG. 96 min.). 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25: “Soul” (2020. PG. 107 min.). 7 p.m. Oct. 30: “Cruella.” (2021. PG13. 134 min.)
Film screenings begin approximately 30 minutes after sunset on the last Saturday of the month. Through Oct. Free. Registration required. Coyote Point Park, 1701 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo. 6503427755. curiodyssey.org
(a.k.a. the Fab Mab), the Julian Theater in Potrero Hill, and the Intersection Theater, back when it was in a church in North Beach (a precursor to Intersection for the Arts).
Yet Larson’s noble effort to document a oneofakind theater company often devolves into a clicketyclack, thishappenedthenthishappened rhythm.
Sometimes her details are piquant enough on their own; a show about Darth Vader’s exwife, complete with a space battle using hair dryers as laser guns, needs no chronicler’s embellishment. But her conventional account of a misfit childhood in Southern California can’t captivate the same way, nor can interchangeable pre, post and duringshow benders or flimsily described rotating castmates. Her conclusions tell rather than show — “Our experiment with a large agedi
versified cast was bumpy, messy and joyful all at the same time” — and her prose frequently flushes purple: “a disdain that was growing like pus on an untreated wound.”
Still, pluck and gumption animate Larson’s telling. If you, too, fantasize about an art project that seems far away or impossible, just somehow throwing your zany ideas out there and making them happen, you’ll likely find a primer and an inspiration in “Anarchy in High Heels.” The internecine squabbles over artistic vision and commitment, the Sisyphean struggles for money and space and publicity, the everreceding goalposts of what it means to have made it as an artist are hardly particular to the Nickelettes’ moment. But they certainly met those obstacles with more sparkle and joy than most of us do.
Lily Janiak is The San Francisco Chronicle’s theater critic. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LilyJaniak