Sunday, February 28, 2016

AMC Best Picture Showcase 2016 - Day 2

One week later and it was time for the second day of AMC's Best Picture Showcase. If you haven't already done so, read about the first day here.

My journey to The City had an interesting beginning. Recently, BART has rolled out some prototype cars to accommodate more passengers. During peak commute hours, BART trains have been overcrowded. These Test Cars have fewer seats so that one can squeeze in more standing room passengers. When I saw that one of the cars in my train to The City was a test car, I knew that I had to give it a shot.

BART Test Car
BART Test Car

Most BART cars have 2x2 seating; the test car has 2x1. With fewer seats, the aisle is over twice as wide as before. This allows the car to hold a significant number of extra passengers and should ease feelings of claustrophobia. I think it's worth the loss of seats.

Once in The City, I took a slightly different walking route to the theater. During my walk, I came across a construction wall mural.

Construction Wall Mural
Construction Wall on 600 Block of O'Farrell

From checking Google Street View, the wall went up sometime in 2013. The mural was added between October 2013 and February 2014. I'm surprised it's been up this long.

Once at the theater, I was given my lanyard for the second day's films, picked up some popcorn and soda, and settled into my seat.

Me and My Pass - Day Two
All set for more movies


This was a nice film about a young woman's transformation from being Irish to becoming American. It's something I would watch on a rainy day at home. Is it one of the best pictures of the year? Absolutely not. This is the film that the #OscarsSoWhite folks should be pointing at as an example.


I found myself thoroughly engaged in the story even though I knew how it would end. It was a great showcase of how investigative reporters are given an assignment and then work their butts off to see it through. What further impressed me was how close the filmmakers stuck with the story. Unlike some of the other nominees based upon real events, this had no contrived dramatic situations. I wouldn't be surprised if this wins Best Picture.

 The Martian

I was looking forward to seeing "The Martian." I'm sure folks are surprised that I had not already seen it, since science fiction is my favorite genre. Reading everyone's reactions to it gave me high expectations. I was very pleased that it delivered. I enjoyed it completely. While I would be very surprised if it won Best Picture, it was my favorite of all of the nominees.

As with the first day, we had a longer break before the last film of the day. As I had written in the post for the first day, I decided to have dinner at the brick-and-morter location for The Chairman.

The Chairman
Interior of The Chairman (at 670 Larkin)

I've been to their food truck a few times. The restaurant has the same offerings: pork buns, rice/veggie/noodle bowls, and other appetizers. I had a Chairman Rice bowl with Coca-Cola Braised Pork. The bowl included the selected meat along with pickled vegetables and sauce on top of the Chairman Rice (a mixture of black beans and wild rice.) It was filling and hit the spot.

I got back to the theater in time for trivia. This time I chose to play, and I won! I was asked, "In what countries was 'The Revenant' filmed?" I correctly answered "The U.S., Canada, and Argentina." After trivia, it was time for the last film.

I won!
My prize (actually there are two passes)

The Revenant

This was another film I was looking forward to watching. Unfortunately for me, it did not live up to all of the hype its received. I enjoyed the movie, but once it got going, I had a strong feeling about how the film would end and it took quite a while to get there. Make no mistake, I think this film will deservedly rack up a lot of awards, it just wasn't as good as it was hyped.

All in all, I enjoyed all of the Best Picture nominees. I got to watch 8 good films for a total of $65. I had $5 of concession credit each day which went towards soda and popcorn.  I won two free passes. If I have the opportunity to do this next year, I will.

One bonus... While walking back to BART, I was rewarded with a view of a lovely neon sign.

Nite Cap Neon
Nite Cap neon (Corner of O'Farrell and Hyde)

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

AMC Best Picture Showcase 2016 - Day 1

This year marks the 10th year that the AMC movie theater chain has presented a "marathon" showing of the films nominated for Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Feature Presentation. Called the Best Picture Showcase, the event has all eight of this year's nominees shown over the two Saturdays before the Academy Awards (There are also seven locations showing all eight in one day.)

I've attended three previous presentations (one in Orange, one in Emeryville and one in San Francisco.) This year (like last) the closest location was at the AMC 1000 Van Ness. While not the best location (I would have preferred The Metreon since it's closer to BART and has more dining options) it still works.

To get to the theater, I was able to hop on BART and then walk. It was a beautiful morning and the walk from Powell Street station allowed me to see some things I had not noticed before.

Daldas Grocery
Mural at Daldas Grocery

Putnam Subaru Service Mural
Mural at Putnam Service Subaru

Golden Bear Ornamentation
Golden Bear Ornamentation at 755 O'Farrell
Upon arrival at the theater, I was directed to a special check-in desk where attendees exchanged their tickets for the Day One lanyard. With the lanyard, I had in-and-out privileges. They also had a commemorative program guide and poster. My next stop was the concession stand. As an AMC Stubs member, I was given $5 in concession credit (for use only on that day) which I cashed in for a large soda (free refills all day) and popcorn (again, free refills all day.) Since the theater has Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, soda refills were easy to obtain.

With snack and soda in hand, I snagged a seat in theater number 4.  Prior to the first film, the theater manager introduced himself and reviewed how the day would proceed. Breaks between each of the first three films would last between 20 and 25 minutes -- enough time to stretch your legs, use the restroom, refill your soda and get a snack. The last break would be just over an hour, which would allow you to get something more substantial to eat. He also reminded everyone to tag social media posts with #amcbps and that trivia (with prizes) would take place before the last feature of the day.

Me and My Pass
Me and my Lanyard

With that it was time to watch the films...

Bridge of Spies

I enjoyed Stephen Spielberg's historically inspired film. While I knew that Francis Gary Powers was exchanged for a Soviet spy, I was not familiar with the story of how that spy was captured, his trial, the story of Frederic Pryor and what was involved in getting the exchange to take place. The film kept me engaged and made me draw parallels with events of today such as the rights of accused non-US nationals and the desire of some to build a wall to "protect" the USA. The film is worth watching at home. Be aware that like all historical dramas, not everything on screen is factual.


I knew very little about Lenny Abrahamson's film going in. The subject matter -- how a mother and daughter deal with being held captive in a shed and how they are affected after escaping -- is by no means pleasant. That said, the film hit me with the gamut of emotions. There were a couple of times that I was wondering where the story would go, but during those times I thought about the characters that I was watching and that in their story, they wouldn't know where they were going. This is a film worth seeing, but just be prepared.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Of the four films for the day, this was the one I was looking forward to seeing on the big screen. George Miller delivered with two hours of adrenaline-filled fun. There were times where I was wondering, "OK, when's the action going to slow down?" There were some points where that did happen, but for most of the film, the gas pedal was pressed to the floor. Interesting side note, after the film a few attendees brought up #OscarsSoWhite and mentioned how this film was literally the "most white" of the Best Picture nominees.

Before the last film of the day, I took advantage of the break to get some real food. Green Apple Market on the corner of Polk and Post won the day with a hot chicken sandwich for $6.99. It hit the spot. (This coming Saturday I may opt to go to The Chairman since I like their truck.)

Moon by the Monarch
The Moon over Geary

Green Apple Market
Green Apple Market

I got back in time for the trivia contest. I liked how the contest was run; the manager asked the audience, "Who wants to play?" He then selected someone and asked a question that was related to one of the day's films, and if the person got it right, he or she had a choice of prizes ranging from a movie pass, a tee shirt, and some other random items. If the person got it wrong, he gave other audience members the opportunity to answer it correctly. I didn't play. Maybe if they have better prizes next time.

Trivia Time
Trivia Time

That led us to the last film of the day.

The Big Short

The day started with a historical drama and ended with a historical drama. I was already somewhat familiar with the cause of the 2008 financial crisis and some who foresaw it. This covered what most would consider to be a boring subject in a pretty entertaining way. Yes, it plays a bit loose with some of the details, but even that gets acknowledged. I enjoyed it!

With the first four films done, I won't make any predictions. I'm looking forward to Saturday and the remaining four films: Spotlight, Brooklyn, The Martian, and The Revenant.