Here’s to the useful magic of film honors
Having arrived in a variety of fine coaches on Monday night, Dec. 3, the film crowd — movie mavens and moviemakers — was met by staffers with lit wands, who guided them down a path inside the perimeter of the Palace of Fine Arts’ majestic columns. It was a grand entrance to SFFilm’s Awards Night gala, and surely an event celebrating an egalitarian art form that more than any other germinates and reflects worldwide imaginations deserves no less.
Early on, the San Francisco International Film Festival was held at the Palace; the place has memories for stalwarts of what used to be called the San Francisco Film Society. Among the board members present were several with connections long and deep enough — Fred Levin, for example, whose father founded the festival — to remember.
That said, SFFilm has grown and expanded, particularly as a seedbed for educational programs for schoolkids and provider of training and inspiration for young filmmakers. This annual event is intended to raise money for those programs. During a fund-a-need section of the evening, more than $250,000 was raised in a few minutes. I mention this first in an account of the evening, because it’s really the core of the event.
Yes, as Ruthe Stein has written, there are awards that celebrate extraordinary talent: the Irving M. Levin Award for film direction went to Steve McQueen; the Kanbar Award for storytelling went to Boots Riley; the Peter J. Owens Award for acting went to Amy Adams.
Riley, of course, is from Oakland, and he expressed his particular gratitude for SFFilm’s help in his career building. “This is something that brings it all home,” he said. McQueen and Adams were visitors, here for their awards and grateful for the honors. But the gratitude is a two-way street.
It’s the honorees who deserve thanks for luring enthusiastic supporters and untying purse strings, making it possible for SFFilm to fulfill its goals. Everyone wants to bask in the glow of celebrity radiance, as every American, no matter how blase, loves sinking into a plush seat in a darkened theater to be told a story. Serving as symbols of professional magic making, stars and filmmakers by their very presence rev the money-raising engine.
“Everyone relaxes when they get here,” said SFFilm’s Noah Cowan, chatting before the ceremony and describing the film pros arriving in Northern California, definitely a less-pressured atmosphere than Hollywood. But relaxed though they may be, those stars are here serving a Film Society purpose. A gala like Monday’s capitalizes on America’s cultural passion, using the celebrity filmmakers and stars to make educational programs possible.
The crowd at dinner was well-off, sophisticated ... but also movie-mad and starstruck. “We are making art,” said McQueen, accepting his award. “Art has a life of its own. We are only here to provide a platform.”
At the checkout counter at Harvest Market in Novato, Mark Aronoff noticed two workers standing side by side wearing badges with their first names, “Bob” and “Dylan.” He made some joke about the musician and Nobel Prize winner, but Dylan, the younger of the two, said he hadn’t heard of anyone named “Bob Dylan” (which just proves that the times they are a-changing).
PUBLIC EAVESDROPPING “It’s happening. I turn 33 next month, and my sister was 30 last week. We’re getting old.” Woman to woman, overheard at Western Addition Branch Library by Bertie Brouhard
Coyuchi, a maker of politically correct organic linens — described by Forbes as giving “luxury linens the ‘farm to label’ treatment” — is holding a Day Dream to Day Job Panel on Thursday, Dec. 6, an invitation to which has arrived here. “Please come by and join local entrepreneurs ... who will be sharing their experiences, passion and struggles of turning their daydream into their nine-to-five hustle.”
For many, it may be more appealing to turn their nine-to-five hustles into daydreams. Meanwhile, Ken Howard noticed a Marin IndependentJournal ad for Spirit Rock meditation center promoting an all-day retreat, on Sunday, Dec. 2, during which “you will create a vision for a money life that brings equanimity and purpose. Through guided meditation, writing and group exercises, you will receive tools and develop strategies for creating healthy money karma. The leader of this group is Spencer Sherman, who “believes everyone can feel ease with money regardless of how much we have.”
This is either an “only in Marin” item, if you think that “regardless of how much we have” describes a glut of money; or a “let them eat cake” item, if you think that “regardless of how much we have” describes poverty.