Tuesday, May 12, 2009


This city is full of odd folk. And yes, every city is full of odd folk, but I swear to God, San Francisco, California has more nuts per square mile than other spot in America that doesn't have padded walls and wooden baton wielding nurses. Over the course of the last month or so I've encountered a few and I thought, hell, why not introduce you folk at least to small bit of my city. The excessively weird bit:

1. Yesterday, I'm walking home from Duc Loi, the super-cheap Asian grocery store nestled directly behind my house, and as I'm walking I step past a churning pile of pigeons gorging themselves on feed. This isn't a rare sight, especially in The Mission, so I keep walking. I take the corner though and feel a breeze whip over my head, look up and the entire pile 'o' pigeons is dive bombing over my head, intent on another pile of unknown edibles. I'm a little baffled, so I look around to see why this flock of pigeons are migrating down the street and what do I see? A sketchy woman peering across a car, her hand full of bird food, tempting the pigeons down the street. Now I don't know if she was looking for a tasty dinner of stringy pigeon meat or just wanted to bring home some friends, but yeesh, if this didn't push me in to the house a little quicker than usual.

2. Weeks ago, I stumble, boozy and exhausted on to the 14 to the Ferry Building where I work. I'm surrounded by geriatric Asian women and angered that for whatever reason this bus stops every single street. No joke, once a block, like clockwork. Somewhere between 10th and 5th, a twenty-something woman gets on the bus, disheveled and wearing what might be the fakest wig I've ever seen. But she isn't wearing it as a joke, or as a costume, she's wearing this nappy weave as if it's her real hair. She just sort of stares at me hungover and staring at her hair and gets off at the next stop. Pretty much made my morning.

3. Three days ago. It's ten 'o' clock or so and I'm walking to the video store to drop off a finished Criterion film and pick up whatever's next (sadly I think it's Hamlet (82)). I'm talking to my brother on the phone and not paying attention when I look up to see a man wearing only a white leather tiger striped vest, white leather pants, a pair of white sunglasses, and white leather boots, holding a white guitar case and singing at the top of his lungs. As I walk past he pulls out a pair of drum sticks waves them in the air and yells something completely unintelligible. I walk faster. On my return trip, he's gone. Lord knows where.

That's just three I pulled off the top of my head. God I love living in a city.

Everyone in the whole world who loves a good movie should see The French Connection. I know, I'm supposed to be writing about Criterion movies, but Alex and I abandoned Ozu last night in favor of William Friedkin's beloved modern classic and I couldn't have been happier. You've seen clips from this film. You've seen Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) standing the street, staring up at the train line, a look of such rabid determination flashing across his face you're almost fearful of what he'll do next. You've seen the shooting on the stares. You've seen all this because this is a famous, famous film from the 1970s.

And I can't believe it took me this long to watch it.

I'm almost happy it took me this long, because watching it as a pseudo-adult I think I saw the greater issues at hand in the film. On the surface, this is a crime film, a story of two police officers and their obsessive quest to find out why a Frenchie, a low-rent Italian hood, and a whole host of hoods are collaborating in the seediest era of New York City. At it's heart though this is the story of Popeye Doyle, a man obsessed with solving a crime, solving a crime by any means necessary. There's illegal shakedowns, shoot-outs in broad daylight, stunning car chases (and I mean this, this is one of the great car scenes you'll ever see in a movie, riveting and frightening all at the same time), and of course Gene Hackman just chewing the scenery like a seasoned pro. What's great about this movie is it doesn't pander to a stupid action-flick audience. We know almost nothing about Popeye Doyle and his partner Cloudy Russo (Rod Schneider), just that they love to drink, seemingly have no families, and for some unknown reason NEED to solve this case. And that's all we get, two obsessed detectives burying the hurt of their lives beneath a need to solve crime.

It's a beautiful, tragic film, and it deserved all the awards it won. I sat their last night, mouth agape at how good this film was 'till the very last frame. The ending, bleak and disturbing, brings this film home exactly the way I wanted. Afterwards, inspired, Alex and I looked up what the real French Connection was and have already put the John Frankenheimer sequel on the Netflix queue.

You haven't seen this film yet? Get the hell off the computer! Get out there, rent this film!

Wednesday: Good Morning (84)

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