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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

It's last call for The Most Dangerous Man in America, a richly deserving Oscar nominee for Best Documentary at this year's Oscars, and opening weekend for The Greatest, Steve Carell and Tina Fey's underwhelming Date Night, and When You're Strange, Tom DiCillo's enlightening new chronicle of The Doors and their depressing, addiction-fueled demise. Here is what's playing at an indie theater near you.

1. The Greatest
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Shana Feste's feature-length directorial debut, featuring stirring performances from Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon as parents devastated by the death of their teenage son, is earnest, crushing and occasionally confounding. Feste's talent is easy to recognize, but her storytelling makes odd leaps in logic at critical moments. Yet as a roughly imperfect sketch of the aftermath of tragedy, it remains undeniably heartfelt, and sometimes arresting.

2. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: April 11-13
Why: By leaking the contents of the top-secret Pentagon Papers to the media and forever altering America's perception of the Vietnam War, former Marine and military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, now 78, helped bring on the downfall of the Nixon administration. His story is told here concisely and powerfully by Bay Area documentarians Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, who fondly recall a time when mainstream journalists were less hesitant to challenge White House propaganda.

3. The Secret of Kells
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: A surprise but deserving nominee for Best Animated Feature, The Secret of Kells features 75 minutes of wondrously rendered landscapes and richly detailed hand-drawn animation, cruder but no less gorgeous than its 3-D competition at last month's Oscars. The story, a mix of Celtic history and folklore about a medieval manuscript long considered sacred by the Irish, is engaging for moviegoers all ages, but the magic here is most evident in the film's dazzling artistry.

4. Waking Sleeping Beauty
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Bruised egos were frequent, rising talents (including a young Tim Burton and John Lasseter) came and went, but Walt Disney’s entertainment juggernaut, which took a hit to its reputation as Hollywood’s foremost producer of classic cartoons during the early '80s, enjoyed a surprising rebirth from 1984 to '94, the magical decade chronicled in Don Hahn's fascinating new documentary, Waking Sleeping Beauty. Tensions ran high throughout, but Hahn seems more inclined to recall the good old days than to focus on increasingly strident office politics.

5. Sweetgrass
Where:
Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: All Week
Why: An unsentimental tribute to the American West and its visual majesty, producer Ilisa Barbash's documentary tracks modern-day cowboys during an arduous journey across Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains, as they brave the elements, run their horses ragged, and wrangle thousands of ornery (but otherwise adorable) sheep.

6. A Single Man
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: An official selection of the Toronto, Tokyo and London film festivals, former fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut, about a homosexual English professor contemplating suicide after the death of his lover, has given Colin Firth (BBC's Pride and Prejudice) two things he has long deserved: a richly conceived starring role worthy of his talents, and his first Oscar nomination.

7. Greenberg
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: Roger Greenberg is a man most people would wish they’d never met, yet Ben Stiller plays him brilliantly. He is manipulative and repulsive but oddly fascinating – far removed from the sympathetic goofs he so often plays in comedies like Meet the Parents and Night at the Smithsonian, yet clearly not far from his comfort zone. He seems to enjoy breaking with his good-guy image and testing the limits of his creepiness.