Pass the Remote: Cinejoy favorites, Agnès Varda films  

Security guard Tom (Connor McGill) gets an unexpected eyeful in the Hitchcockian thriller "Shift," available to stream via Cinejoy. (Courtesy Cinejoy)

Here’s good news for those unable to attend this year’s Silicon Valley’s Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival. Cinejoy, the fest’s streaming arm underway through March 31, is packed with splashy titles. 

This week, we recommend a few Cinejoy flicks, as well as cover Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s exciting Viva Varda series; a one-night-only screening of the acerbic comedy “Lousy Carter” at the Roxie in San Francisco; and a not-to-miss streaming find, “The Fox.” 

From start to finish, screenwriter-director Max Neace’s feature debut “Shift” expresses an intense love for the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Neace’s fun homage to “Rear Window,” “Strangers on a Train,” “Vertigo” and more keeps the action in a storage unit, where a new security guard (Connor McGill) works the night shift and gets an eyeful. The boring job gets enlivened by a talking chair (you read that right) named Grace Kelly. When a blond femme fatale named Mrs. Jones (Allison McAtee) comes calling and gets handsy with the younger men she brings with her, things pick up. The hitch, though, is that when Mrs. Jones leaves the storage unit, the guys don’t. Set in 1998 in the Chicago area, “Shift” gives McGill a chance to show his acting chops while Neace strings the audience along to the satisfying conclusion.  

Want another thrill? The Gaslight”-like “Canvas” from directors Melora Donoghue and Kimberly Stuckwisch gets the heart pounding. Bridget Regan certainly makes a fine villain, as an artistically challenged New York painter who returns home to prey on her much more talented, agoraphobic sister (Joanne Kelly). “Canvas,” no paint-by-numbers dysfunctional family thriller, has numerous good performances.  

To order tickets and details, visit 

The “Viva Varda” series in Berkeley includes the utterly delightful “Faces Places.” (Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)

If you’re an Agnès Varda fan, or want to find out why to become one, clear your calendar for what Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive has in store through May 5. Varga, credited as the grandmother of the French New Wave, made kinetic and eclectic features ranging from narratives to documentaries. This BAMPFA program, an excellent overview copresented with Villa Albertine San Francisco, features some of her most well-known triumphs: 1962’s heavily influential “Cléo from 5 to 7” (7 p.m. March 29), 1985’s wrenching character study “Vagabond” (7 p.m. April 11) and the utterly delightful road trip documentary with the filmmaker and artist JR “Faces Places” (3:30 p.m. May 5).

The series also features two shorts programs (2 p.m. March 31 and 4:30 p.m. April 20). For a complete program and tickets, visit 

David Krumholtz is the very funny protagonist in “Lousy Carter.” (Courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

Fans of Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” wishing for a film with more bite might enjoy indie filmmaker Bob Byington’s latest, “Lousy Carter.” The dark comedy plays one night only (8:50 p.m. March 31) at the Roxie. Though it has a cookie-cutter premise – a grousing literature professor (a hilarious David Krumholtz) learns he has a terminal illness and re-evaluates his life (sort of) – the uncomfortable-making comedy never forsakes its cynicism, even as it makes us laugh at the resigned anti-hero’s self-absorption, melancholy and inappropriateness.

The supporting cast—Martin Starr, Olivia Thirlby, Jocelyn DeBoer, Macon Blair, Luxy Banner and Stephen Root—earn laughs in the brisk comedy that deserves more than one screening. However, it will be on demand starting March 29.  

“The Fox” is a beautiful film about a soldier’s love for a wounded fox. (Courtesy Greenwich Entertainment)

For something less cynical and bitter, here’s an alternative: Rent the beautiful and touching “The Fox” on Amazon or Apple TV. Director and screenwriter Adrian Goiginger based the film on his great-grandfather’s experience as a World War II soldier from Austria who bonds with a wounded fox. The two comfort each other through perilous times, and their affection for each other might well bring you to tears. As Franz, Simon Morzé gives one of the most delicate, sensitive performances you’re likely to see this year. This one’s worth seeking out.  

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