LIMITED RUN

The 39 Steps
Seattle Art Museum's director-based film series is screening at MOHAI while SAM is closed. Up first: Alfred Hitchchock's mid-thirties film about counterespionage. Museum of History and Industry, Thurs January 12 at 7:30 pm.

recommended Carmen
The Cecile B. DeMille series at Silent Movie Sundays continues with this 1915 film about the gypsy seductress, with opera singer Geraldine Farrar in the lead role. Paramount, Sun Jan 15 at 4 pm.

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recommended Dogtown and Z-Boys
A testament to the resilience of youth in the face of urban entropy, Dogtown and Z-Boys tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes who brought skateboarding from its moribund state of flatland lameness, employing a low slung, powerful surf style that mimicked state-of-the-art waveriding. School playgrounds, hills, and empty pools became media for a new art that would ultimately send shockwaves to kids around the world. A documentary with cool, edgy editing and a rollicking soundtrack, the film traces these progenitors of modern youth culture, from the origins of "Dogtown" to the aftermath of an epiphany unwittingly granted upon youths the world over by a group of kids who just wanted to have fun. Narrated by Sean Penn. (KRIS ADAMS) Sunset Tavern, Wed Jan 18 at 7 pm.

Ecological Design: Inventing the Future
A documentary on 20th century ecological design, featuring names like R. Buckminster Fuller, William McDonough, and Hunter and Amory Lovins. Ballard RE Store, Wed Jan 18 at 7 pm.

recommended Fargo
Frances McDormand stars in the Coen Brothers' 1996 black comedy about the wild accents of Minnesota. Central Cinema, Thurs-Fri 7, 9:30 pm, Sat-Sun 4:30, 7, 9:30 pm. Late shows 21+.

The Gate 2: Trespassers
A 1992 Canadian film about a character's ill-advised experiments with the portal to hell in his friend's backyard. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm. Through Jan 21.

recommended Global Lens Film Series
Deep breath time: The hour of SIFF is almost upon us. (For those with weak constitutions, a gasp or two is permitted.) Luckily, training wheels of sorts exist in the form of the SIFF-run Global Lens series, a brief program that nevertheless highlights the larger festival's knack for diversity. For those looking to shake off the last vestiges of post-holiday event movie bloat, this is an ideal place to start.
Of the eight films (and one shorts program) scheduled, at least two carry a strong feminist bent. Of the duo, the Iranian film Border Café, a winning cross between food porn and empowerment piece, is more immediately accessible. Writer-director Kambuzia Partovi lays out his scenario with admirable brevity: A grieving widow, reluctant to remarry, reopens her husband's road-side café, quickly attracting the attention of hungry truckers by the score. All the while, her spurned brother-in-law lurks scheming in the wings. Fairly standard stuff, at least on the surface, but the heroine's evolving interaction with the skeptical community (and her horde of squabbling kids) gives things a unpredictable, pleasingly naturalistic vibe.Several degrees darker is China's Stolen Life, a ripped-from-the-headlines tone poem that quickly develops into a first-rate, hard-to-shake downer. Shot on high-definition video, the narrative follows a galactically sullen Beijing teen who gets a miracle opportunity to ditch her woeful home life and escape to university. Immediately after arriving on campus, she meets a charming, slightly shifty delivery boy who labors to bring her out of her shell. In short order, she finds herself pregnant, living in a filthy basement hovel, and frying snails to survive. Then things get worse. Bummer fuel, to be sure, but director Li Shaohong keeps things engaging with some phenomenal sound design and a genuinely startling eye for her material. (There may be a better cinematic depiction of depression than the main character's habit of watching a fuzzy TV from behind a mosquito net, but I'm hard pressed to recall it.) Unfortunately, the weak link is in the screenplay, which based on true events or not, takes some fairly melodramatic turns in the final act. Still, any potential hokum is ultimately rendered moot by the lead performance of Zhou Xun, who handles the transition from disaffected Ghostworlder to down-and-out Urchin to potential Avenging Angel with remarkable aplomb. She's a survivor, through and through. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
All films screen at the Varsity. Almost Brothers (a Brazilian film spanning 50 years in the lives of two men), Sun at 4:30 pm, Thurs at 7 pm; Border Café, Fri 9 pm, Sat 7 pm, Sun 2 pm, Mon 4:30 pm, Tues 7 pm; Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures (about a German expatriate living in Brazil during WWII), Sun 7 pm, Mon 9 pm; In the Battlefields (a coming-of-age film set in war-torn Beirut), Mon 2 pm, Tues 9 pm; Max and Mona (a South African picaresque), Sat 2 pm, Thurs 9 pm; A Night of Truth (a film about the attempted resolution of a civil war in an unnamed African country), Sat 11:30 am, Wed 7 pm; Stolen Life, Fri 7 pm, Sat 4:30 pm, Sun 9 pm, Mon 7 pm, Wed 9 pm; Thirst, Fri 4:30 pm, Sat 9 pm, Mon 11:30 am. Short film package, Fri 2:30 pm, Sun 11:30 am. For more information, see seattlefilm.org.

Harold and Maude
A morbid young man named Harold (Bud Cort) falls in love with an older woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon), all over again for the first time. Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.

recommended I Am Cuba
Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, and financed by the Soviet Union, I Am Cuba is an epic that contains neither hard individuals nor personal experiences, but only subjects of a world-historical movement, a mass advancement, a triumphant (and bloody) march from a state of raw economic exploitation by multinational corporations and the American tourist industry to a new state of socialized production, education, transportation, and health. The subjects in the movie are wired to the spirit of the times. The melancholy prostitute, the severe soul singer, the serious student, the mountain peasant, the sugarcane farmer, his beautiful children, even his horse—from within each the whole idea of freedom is emerging. And the greatness of the revolution is matched by the greatness of the film's form. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Northwest Film Forum, Sat-Sun noon, Mon noon, 3:30 pm.

recommended Machuca
As Salvador Allende's Marxist Chilean government hurtles toward political and social collapse in 1973 (the year Allende was assassinated by a CIA-aided military coup), a wealthy young student at a Santiago parochial school, Gonzalo Infante, befriends Pedro Machuca, a newcomer from the nearby slums. Machuca's squalid, impoverished existence awakens Gonzalo to the economic inequalities in his country, but soon the friends are torn apart by the larger civil unrest sweeping through Chile. The story, which ends, inevitably, in tragedy (Allende's assassination touched off an era of violent totalitarian rule under the nationalist military leader Augusto Pinochet) is touching, informative (I now know exactly 100 percent more about Chile's nationalist revolution than I did before watching this movie), and sweet without falling into sentimentality. (ERICA C. BARNETT) Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 :15 pm, Sat-Sun 2:30, 4:45, 7, 9:15 pm.

recommended Pootie Tang
Writer/director Louis C.K. has delivered a rare treasure: a brilliant, hilarious comedy whose sole intention is to be as ridiculous and silly as possible. Pootie Tang (Lance Crouther) is a hero to all—one-third John Shaft, one-third Michael Jackson, one-third Mr. T—a holy black dude born cool, strutting around with his shirt open, dodging bullets with casual ease, and making public service announcements telling kids not to eat fast food, drink whiskey, smoke cigarettes, or drop out of school. Here's the thing, though: Pootie doesn't speak English, nor any other recognizable tongue. He talks in gibberish syllables ("wa da tah," "tippi tai on my cappatown") that everyone understands. It pulls the film—which, to be fair, starts struggling around the 45-minute mark—into the realm of pure absurdism every time Pootie opens his mouth. (SEAN NELSON) Sunset Tavern, Tues Jan 17 at 7 pm.

Sneak
The Sneak festival of film previews continues its season. Metro, Sun Jan 15 at 10:30 am.

Sound and Film Extravaganza
Live soundtracks by Angelina Baldoz and Bonus performed to experimental films by Devon Damonte and Eric Ostrowski, among others. Gallery 1412, Fri Jan 13 at 8 pm.

recommended We Go Way Back
This narrative feature, by 2004 Stranger One to Watch Lynn Shelton, stars Amber Hubert, Maggie Brown, and local stage favorite R. Hamilton Wright and features songs by Laura Veirs, The Decemberists, Harvey Danger, and more. Northwest Film Forum, Sat noon, 2 pm.

The Weeping Meadow
The first installment in Theo Angelopoulos's projected trilogy about 20th-century Greece is long, slow, and so preoccupied with decorously inching tracking shots that it barely manages to communicate the plot. But for what it's worth: A clan of aristocratic Greek expatriates flee Odessa during the Russian Revolution to settle near Thessaloniki. On the way out they pick up an orphan girl named Eleni (Alexandra Aidini), who grows up to form a para-incestuous bond with her cute, accordion-playing adoptive brother Alexis. She gets pregnant at a tender young age, her twin boys are sent away, and she is forced into a marriage with Alexis's father. Then Alexis and she run away to live in a theater. From here on out Eleni's face is frozen in a state of permanent anguish, and it's all rather uncomfortable. But if you can sit through almost three hours of solemn dramatics, you'll be rewarded with a number of transfixing images, including a funeral barge trailed by a phalanx of black-draped rowboats and a bare tree ornamented by slaughtered sheep. (ANNIE WAGNER) Northwest Film Forum, Weekdays 7 pm, Sat-Sun 3:30, 7 pm.

White Heat
A 1949 film noir by Raoul Walsh, with James Cagney as a psychopath gangster. Movie Legends, Sun Jan 15 at 1 pm.

recommended Zizek!
There are two important scenes in Astra Taylor's Zizek!, a 71-minute documentary about the world-famous Slovene philosopher Slavoj Zizek: After delivering a lecture at a Boston university, a young man stares at Zizek who, as always, is philosophizing to whoever is there. Suddenly the young man embraces the Zizek, giving the bear of a man a bear hug (like so many other critics—A.O. Scott, Micheal Atkinson, to name two—I can't resist comparing Zizek to a big post-Soviet bear). Zizek is clearly disgusted by the public show of affection and leaves the hall in fear that there might be others who want to embrace him out of sheer love for his inexhaustibility—his constant thinking, theorizing, concept-production. What makes the scene significant is that, essentially, this is what the director is doing to Zizek throughout the documentary. Her camera is hugging him, loving him, enjoying the pure force of his being, and the massive amounts of energy his thinking expends. Watching this documentary will teach you almost nothing about the substance of Zizek's ideas. It will, however, make you fall in love with his manic mannerisms, his speech impediment, his feverish humor, his indefatigability, his obsession with his cell phone (immediately after a lecture in Buenos Aires, Zizek checks his cell phone for messages; there are none, so he puts the phone down and begins fielding questions). Only death will stop him. The other significant scene shows Zizek philosophizing in his bed. He is about to go to sleep, he is naked, the blankets are pulled up to his waist; his chest, like his face, is hairy. He is talking about the practice of philosophy, about what it does, what its goals are, and why those goals are important. Finally philosophy is at home. This is where it should always be, in bed, just about to sleep, dream, and drift. At the podium, or in the classroom, philosophy is wandering; it is even more lost (or homeless) when it is outside in the sun, or in a cab, or in a restaurant about to eat Argentinean beef. Only in bed—a cheap ordinary bed—does Zizek, and his ancient profession, make any fucking sense. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Northwest Film Forum, Fri 8 pm, Sat-Thurs 7:15, 9 pm.

NOW PLAYING

Breakfast on Pluto
Sure, it's a movie about a tranny sex worker whose father is a priest and whose foster mother is heartless and abusive. But the tone is all Mary Poppins. (ANNIE WAGNER)

recommended Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain achieves an elegant hybrid between the "masculine" genre of the Western and the "feminine" genre of melodrama. (ANNIE WAGNER)

recommended Capote
Despite its limited scope—it addresses only the years that Truman Capote was writing his groundbreaking In Cold Blood, about a Kansas robbery turned quadruple murder—you want to call the film, after the fashion of ambitious biographies, "A Life." Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Truman Capote, and his is an enveloping performance, in which every flighty affectation seems an invention of the man rather than the impersonator. His pursed lips and bons mots and the ravishing twirls of his overcoat become more and more infrequent until all that's left is alcohol and a horrible will to power. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Casanova
Casanova treats 18th-century Venice as a place where spit-takes graced every meal, mandatory pie-fights broke out on the hour, and even the filthiest urchin possessed bullwhip comedic timing. In its sheer desire to entertain, the film takes whimsy to levels normally outlawed by the Geneva Convention. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Cheaper by the Dozen 2
Not funny enough for kids, or anything enough for grown-ups, this movie is forlornly pointless—but fans of Eugene Levy's leg hair won't leave disappointed. (LINDY WEST)

Chicken Little
Really this movie is about the cutest chicken ever and an effing hilarious goldfish who doesn't even talk but does some of the funniest shit. (MEGAN SELING)

recommended The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
If you weren't told as a small child, you probably know by now that the Narnia tales are Christian allegory. When Lucy stumbles into a mothball-filled wardrobe during a game of hide-and-seek, she enters Narnia, a land where it's always winter but never Christmas. Tilda Swinton is fantastic as the evil witch who's put Narnia in a state of deep freeze. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is decent entertainment—epic and scary and icily pretty. If only it were safe enough to send your freethinking children to. (ANNIE WAGNER)

recommended The Constant Gardener
Heavily reworked by director Fernando Meirelles, the stripped-down screenplay retains John le Carré's basic thrust: following the disappearance of his activist wife, a middle-rung foreign ambassador goes proactive on a global scale, uncovering all sorts of corporate malfeasance before eventually zeroing in on illegal drug testing in the slums of Kenya. As in the best adaptations, there's a sense that The Constant Gardener is hijacking the source material in order to feed the filmmaker's personal obsessions. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

The Family Stone
In its attempt to be all things to all viewers, the holiday-themed smorgasbord The Family Stone hits every conceivable chord, no matter how much of a stretch. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Fun with Dick and Jane
With its occasional Bush-bash and sappy, tacked-on moral, Dick and Jane aims for topical satire, but does so awkwardly, at the expense of those whom it's trying to defend. (LINDY WEST)

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recommended Good Night, and Good Luck.
Documenting the Red Scare clash between Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and Joseph McCarthy, George Clooney's second trip behind the lens is a largely terrific picture: a scathing social document submerged within a deeply pleasurable entertainment. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Grandma's Boy
Bong. Pot. Fart. If any of the preceding words made you laugh, get to the theater immediately. The latest from Adam Sandler's production company (does Rob Schneider make a cameo? Guess) is dumb at best and goddamned stupid the rest of the time, but there's something to be said for a comedy that's willing to go for the grossout, particularly these days. And then there's Linda Cardinelli, as a video game tester who not only wears business suits and glasses, but also likes to drink heavily and kick ass at Xbox. Move over, Lara Croft, you've been dethroned from the geek altar. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The fourth Harry Potter: In which Harry takes off his shirt, learns the value of altruism, and discovers that Lord Voldemort has no nose. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Hostel
For sick freaks already initiated into ultra-violent Japanese and Korean films, Hostel's relentless gore and torture may not come as a shock. For everybody else, including many horror fans, the film may be too much. A trio of moronic, partying backpackers are lured to a hostel in Slovakia, which is said to be stocked with nubile women. (What must the poor Slovaks think of their portrayal in this film?) Before the trio meets its fate, there's a smidgen of humor that recalls director Eli Roth's far-superior debut splatter flick, Cabin Fever. But these are fleeting moments, and soon the hoses of blood are turned on full blast. (ADAM BREGMAN)

Jarhead
Jarhead follows a third-generation marine (Jake Gyllenhaal) on his downward slide toward would-be killing machine. Once he arrives in the desert, boredom quickly sets in, as he and his fellow roughnecks find themselves wandering around looking for something to shoot at. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

recommended King Kong
As genuinely touching as the final New York scenes are, the true heart of the film lies in the insanely sustained second act, in which Kong, his gal, and her supposed rescuers come into contact with an army of dinosaurs, angry villagers, and seemingly every creepy thing ever to walk the earth. Throughout, Peter Jackson manages to simultaneously convey the sense of a filmmaker at the absolute top of his technical game, and a kid deliriously hopped up on Pop Rocks, going nuts with his favorite action figures. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

The Matador
Sporting a gold chain, a sleazy moustache, and an unfortunate haircut, Pierce Brosnan is amusingly weird as professional assassin Julian Noble. But all the eccentricities in the world can't save this preposterous pseudo-comedy. (ADAM BREGMAN)

Memoirs of a Geisha
The film is a confused mess—part chick flick drowning in silk brocade, part crass appeal to male voyeurism, and all woefully insubstantial. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Munich
Steven Spielberg has discovered a damning parable about America's post-9/11 strategy. He just hasn't turned it into a good movie. (JOSH FEIT)

One
In April, 2002, a middle-aged, Midwestern father suddenly woke with an idea to make a documentary, interviewing dozens of people, famous and otherwise, about the meaning of life. Neither he nor his friends were filmmakers, but they made One, a tour of the world's spiritual clichés: be here now, accept Jesus Christ, every man for himself, meditate, serve Allah, enjoy yourself, etc. The evangelical Christians, Muslims, and atheists come off like scowling dunderheads compared to Trappist monk Father Thomas Keating, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and even the no-name street interviewees, who allow for ambiguity when answering the Big Questions. In one funny segment, a middle-aged hippie woman with fairy wings, tinted sunglasses, and tobacco-stained teeth rambles through a stoned metaphor about how we're all puzzle pieces, cut with high-level spiritual leaders saying pretty much the same thing. (BRENDAN KILEY)

recommended Pride & Prejudice
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy aren't so much in love as they are erotically enthralled. Their famous clash of wits isn't the cause of their affection; it's sublimation at its most sublime. In other words, forget stuffy: This Pride & Prejudice is totally hot. (ANNIE WAGNER)

The Producers
Over the closing credits, Matthew Broderick sings "There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway," which features the couplet: "Movies drag/Their endings sag." There's your self-written capsule review. (PAUL CONSTANT)

Rent
Rent feels like a movie about American artists dying at the end of the millennium as imagined and shot by the director of Home Alone, which is exactly what it is. Plus, the music sounds awful. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)

The Ringer
Motivated by dire financial need, an average Joe feigns mental retardation and attempts to fix the Special Olympics. Johnny Knoxville already behaves like a developmentally disabled athlete—and pairing him with the Farrelly Brothers seems like a sound choice. Unfortunately, any shred of entertainment begins and ends with that promising foundation and even fans of Knoxville's fearless self-flagellation will be sorely disappointed. (HANNAH LEVIN)

Rumor Has It...
Sarah (Jennifer Aniston) thinks she's the product of the sexual union that inspired The Graduate. Sarah's deceased mother had had a premarital tryst in Cabo San Lucas with a dude named Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner, washed up), who had previously been sleeping with Sarah's grandmother (Shirley MacLaine, wasted) in Pasadena. Sarah finds out the author of The Graduate went to school with her mom, delays a flight back to New York to track down Beau Burroughs, and well... like mother, like daughter. The third act of the movie is all about narrowly escaping having sex with one's father. If the plot doesn't convince you that you'd be in for an hour and a half of blown-up daytime TV, the drab lighting, flat jokes, and lame attempt at skewering Pasadena's upper classes should do it. Rumor Has It... is incredibly dull. (ANNIE WAGNER)

recommended The Squid and the Whale
Writer/director Noah Baumbach's semi-autobiographical tale of a disintegrating Park Slope family unit in the '80s is one of those rare films in which everything feels right, from period detail, to sympathetic yet unsentimental characterizations, to the way that family conversations can shift from funny to sad to terrifying. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Syriana
Syriana wades deep into the muck of the worldwide oil industry. The usual suspects will no doubt squawk about anti-Bush bias and the Blame America First syndrome, but anyone willing to look past the pundit noise will find a beautifully constructed and patient thriller. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Tristan and Isolde
See www.thestranger.com for review.

recommended Walk the Line
Joaquin Phoenix is a damn fine Man in Black. Cash's strongest emotional elements are developed through his courtship of June Carter. Theirs is a fiery interplay, and watching their tenderness grow through time and tribulation makes for a powerful story, even if its main subject feels larger than any one film could ever encapsulate. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

recommended Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Wallace and Gromit have invented the Bunny Vac 6000, a large vacuum that humanely sucks up the cutest frickin' bunnies in the whole wide world, and safely releases them to another location. Hooray! But you know how bunnies like to, ahem, breed, so of course the rabbit population keeps rising and rising despite Wallace's efforts. The humor is just as funny as the classic Looney Tunes (which were funny!) but even smarter because it's not actually American-made. (MEGAN SELING)

Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek makes your brain (and gag reflex) do backflips. I found myself admiring the skill both behind and before the camera, while simultaneously searching for a blowtorch so I could destroy the negative. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Sponsored
Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.