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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

With more rain on the horizon and thousands of comic-book fans descending on the city for this weekend's Wondercon at Moscone Center South, it might be an ideal time to curl up with a good book or escape to your local indie theater for a cinematic escape. Here's a sampling of the best movies currently in rotation.

1. 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.

2. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: April 6-7
Why: Werner Herzog's story of a troubled layabout (Revolutionary Road's Michael Shannon) who suffers a psychotic break is everything you'd expect from a collaboration between the famously eccentric German auteur and his like-minded producer, David Lynch: dark, disturbing and deeply humorous. My Son, My Son is, by Herzog's admission, one of his most disciplined outings to date, unusually concise for a director who tends to indulge even his most confounding impulses. Here, he keeps those impulses in check, for the most part, but the resulting drama remains surreal and defiantly uncompromising.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: An acclaimed mystery thriller (and, in Europe, already a box-office smash), Niels Arden Oplev's adaptation of Stieg Larsson's bestseller about a disgraced journalist and a troubled computer hacker investigating the disappearance of an industrialist's niece is a tightly constructed showcase for its captivating young star, Noomi Rapace.

6. 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.

7. The Art of the Steal
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Don Argott (Rock School) asks us to consider the battle raging over the treasures of the Barnes Foundation, and it's an invitation well worth accepting. Founded in 1922 by millionaire art enthusiast Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the Foundation boasts a collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art worth roughly $25 billion. The only problem? Barnes left control of it to a small college, on the condition that the paintings never be exploited for commercial gain. Now, the city of Philadelphia, for one, wants to make them a tourist attraction. Art of the Steal is a powerful meditation on public vs. private rights, and, thanks to Argott, fascinating entertainment.