It's silly how rarely we visit our neighborhood parks. Often it takes something major, like the promise of freshly grilled meat or the prospect of seeing the dog so happy he slobbers, to make us traverse the sod. But now we've got a new draw: major motion pictures, courtesy of "Film Night in the Park," a monthly series that transforms our grassy fields into alfresco movie houses. The opener is at Dolores Park, where the lawn descends in a perfect theater-style slant, giving audiences prime views of the jumbo screen and the twinkling lights of downtown.
The ideal setting is matched by the film, Some Like It Hot, not only because of its ironic title (you'll wish it were hot, bundled in your Mexican poncho), but also because the 46-year-old movie, featuring Tony Curtis cross-dressed and Marilyn Monroe barely dressed, is somewhat light on plot, a welcome quality if you get distracted by your merlot-swilling neighbors or some critter crawling up your leg. Last October's screening of Harold and Maude drew a crowd of 3,000, so set up early and bring dinner. The credits roll at 8 p.m. in Dolores Park, 19th & Dolores streets, S.F. Admission is free; call 465-3456 or visit www.sfntf.org for a complete schedule.
-- Michael Leaverton
Listening to noir
A film director's use of sound can have a make-or-break impact on the final product. In many productions, sound is as creatively handled as lighting. (My favorite example of this phenomenon is sound engineer Walter Murch's work in the underappreciated surveillance flick The Conversation.) But of all the noises, it's movie music that interests most people, and at the "Film Noir and Jazz Workshop," writer Michael Shepler discusses the interplay of these two genres.
In his three-hour class, Shepler takes the vibrant score of 1958's I Want to Live! (starring Susan Hayward) as his subject. Its soundtrack featured musicians such as Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer, and others from the "West Coast Jazz" movement; their tunes helped viewers understand the main character, who was based on a real woman convicted of and executed for a murder many thought she didn't commit. The discussion follows a screening at 11 a.m. at the Jazzschool, 2087 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Admission is $15; call (510) 845-5373 or visit www.jazzschool.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Get hooked on this addictive read
I thought I'd read every drug-fueled work of fiction, from William S. Burroughs' Junky to Carlos Castaneda's The Teachings of Don Juan. Now comes the new anthology The Cocaine Chronicles, which focuses on the addictive white powder, featuring 17 stories from authors like Jerry Stahl and Laura Lippman. Highlights include a gut-wrenching tale about a kid whose parents steal her lunch money to feed their habits, and "The Crack Cocaine Diet," about suburban gals who think a drug habit will help them lose weight. Editors Gary Phillips and Jervey Tervalon read from these harrowing stories at 6:30 p.m. at Marcus Books, 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. (at 40th Street), Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 652-2344 or visit www.akashicbooks.com.
-- Jane Tunks
There have been many times when I've squirmed in my theater seat, counting the minutes to intermission. But even my short attention span won't be tested at "The Best of PlayGround 9," a staging of seven 10-minute plays (including Mushroom Boy, about a woman's infatuation with her produce guy). Performances start Thursday at 8 p.m. (and continue through May 22) at the Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), S.F. Admission is $13.50-40; call 704-3177 or visit www.playground-sf.org.
-- Jane Tunks