While Hollywood still seems hell-bent on producing epic, star-studded monster movies for your local cineplex — yawn — some of the best new works on film are being kicked to the curb, albeit the Sundance curb, for alternative distribution. Even smaller cinema, aptly named microcinema, is making its way down the red carpet as the next best, if not biggest, thing to emerge from the independent genre. Describing Microcinema International‘s Independent Exposure Tour as a series of movies would be a rash understatement. The compilation of sixteen works known as the Comedy Edition 2004 comprises mockumentaries, videos, and film shorts that explore and explode the possibilities in moving images that, without movie mogul dictation and an endless budget, rely more on raw talent and an immanent urge to connect. The result is hilarity and honesty that sometimes confuses the two. Comedy 2004 reveals works from around the world, including a couple of kick-butt pieces from right here in the Bay Area. Don’t miss Party Stories by SF resident Jon Wolanske, an account of a gathering gone terribly awry acted out by local troupe Killing My Lobster. Dance Machine, by local filmmakers John Evans and Ward Benson, is another one that promises to be a big hit — the story of a man and his dreams of becoming the ultimate dancer. The shortest piece in the series, I Don’t Read Anything, clocks in at a whopping nineteen seconds, making it seem like more of an installation than a film. But we get the impression that that’s okay. With microcinema, the emphasis is on quality, not length. And besides, with the fleeting attention span of our MTV-raised brains, this may just be the perfect way to keep us watching.
This land was made for who and who? Ramblin’ Man, Ed Cray‘s definitive Woody Guthrie biography, is based on more than ten thousand pages of documents to which no single writer has ever before had access. Ask Cray about that ribbon of highway at Cody’s Southside (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). … There’s more to Beijing than just roasted duck, a big square, and a wall. Let Kay Jones and Anthony Pan, coauthors of Culture Shock! Beijing at Your Door, guide you through the Middle Kingdom’s capital at Easy Going (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). … Having just lost his dad to suicide, the protagonist of Philip Galanes‘ new novel Father’s Day finds solace in a phone-sex chat line. But then he meets a guy who might just be Mr. Right. Laugh and cry with Galanes at Orinda Books (Thu., 3 p.m.). … Budding bards, take heart. Today through July 21, entries are accepted for Word Art, the San Ramon Public Library‘s first annual poetry contest for teens. Winning poems will be displayed and winners get gift certificates at cool stores. For details, call 925-973-2850. … You can never be too young to argue with your peers about plot devices. The Reading Adventures Book Club, for kids aged five to seven and their grownups, has its first meeting today in the Danville Public Library‘s Mt. Diablo Room. Reading assignment: Cynthia Rylant’s Henry and Mudge (Fri., 3:30 p.m.). … Hone your own denouements at a creative-writing workshop taught at the Oakland Public Library‘s Lakeview Branch by Erika Mailman, Montclarion columnist and editor of the anthology Years of Tales: A Collection by Oakland Senior Writers. The workshop is free, but advance registration is recommended; call 510-238-7244 (Sat., 2 p.m.). … Lady Liberty isn’t just a statue, says Ann Forfreedom, author of Great Goddess! A World Encyclopedia of Powerful Goddesses. She’s helming an Independence Day slide show based on images of America’s torch-raising deity at ChangeMakers for Women. For details, call 925-947-1671 (Sun., 7 p.m.). — Anneli Rufus
The Hard Spectrum
It’s another grab bag of the hard stuff at Berkeley’s 924 Gilman, aka “The Alternative Music Foundation,” this Friday. New York’s Off Minor headlines at the all-ages, booze-free punk joint, with dynamic, emotive hardcore. The band spun off from the late Saetia, whose members also went on to play with Errortype:11 and Precision Auto. Harder sounds will be supplied by the apocalyptic Strong Intention , who are based in Jessup, MD, but draw influence from NY-style hardcore. Amanda Woodward takes care of the folky, female end of the spectrum — oh, wait. Never mind. This band is a bunch of dudes from France, also doing emotive hardcore, but with dubby and other atmospheric elements. A little more on the straight-up rock side are DC’s Navie s, and rounding out the bill is our very own Judgment Day . The whole thing starts at 8 p.m., and costs $5. Info: 924Gilman.org, 510-525-9926. — Stefanie Kalem
Red, White, ‘n’ Bluegrass
String along at the Metro
Not everyone is proud to be an American these days, but if you still want to hear some American music this Independence Day, why not try some that’s as much of a melting pot as we are? The members of Asheville, NC’s Snake Oil Medicine Show have the jazz chops to play whatever they want, and what they play is the bluegrass music of the hills near their home. But guitarist and bassist George Pond, fiddler and singer Caroline Pond, banjo player Any Pond, and percussionist Billy Seawell don’t just leave it at that — they bring reggae, funk, zydeco, and more into their hyper mix. They’ve also been accompanied for the past six years by painter Phil Cheney, who creates colorful, original art as they play. The band is joined by Humboldt County’s Slewfoot String Band for two sets of music at the Oakland Metro (201 Broadway, at 2nd St.), one before the fireworks at nearby Jack London Square, and one afterward. The party starts at 6 p.m. and costs $8; both bands are kid-friendly, so all ages are invited. 510-763-1146, OaklandMetro.org. — Stefanie Kalem