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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

The Last Lions opens at the Landmark Embarcadero this weekend.

Exposed on Film, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's ongoing film series presented in conjunction with Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera Since 1870, returns to the Castro this weekend with Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool, a cinema verité-style exploration of social tension in America during the 1960s, and David Lynch's macabre fantasy Lost Highway. Elsewhere:

1. The Found Footage Festival

Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: March 4-5
Why: Conceived as "a celebration of odd and hilarious videos" by founders Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, who began collecting obscure footage in 1991 after discovering a McDonald's instructional tape for prospective janitors, Found Footage previously featured commercials gone wrong and laughable public-service messages. This year's edition promises many more must-see missteps, including cats on motorcycles and drunks mooning Hare Krishnas.

2. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: His life winding to a close, Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar) retreats to his family's farm, where he discovers the ghosts of his wife and son, incarnations of his past lives and even the mystical cave where his spirit was born. Thai writer-director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 2010 Palme d'Or winner is a beautifully shot, profoundly affecting meditation on life, death and the possibility of reincarnation. Associate producer Danny Glover will present Friday's first evening screening at the Kabuki.

3. The Last Lions
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: National Geographic documentarians Dereck and Beverly Joubert follow a lioness named Ma di Tau ("Mother of Lions") through the wetlands of Botswana's Okavango Delta, where an epic battle to survive unfolds as a proud mother struggles to defend her cubs from a roaming herd of fierce buffalo; a river infested by hungry crocodiles; and fellow lions on the prowl for fresh meat to conquer. The photography in Last Lions is stunning, but more than that, the drama the Jouberts capture, training their cameras on Ma di Tau through a series of fleeting victories and heartbreaking setbacks, is endlessly compelling.

4. Oscar-Nominated Shorts
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why:
Enjoy a rare (and brief) opportunity to see all five Academy Award nominees in the category of Best Live Action and Animated Shorts. This year's live program includes The Confession (UK), the story of a quiet 9-year-old boy who is worried about making his first confession; The Crush (Ireland), the story of an schoolboy, in love with his Second Class teacher; and the American God of Love, in which a lounge-singing darts champion receives a package of passion-inducing darts.

5. Inside Job
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why:
Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight) returns with the infuriating, painstakingly researched Oscar winner Inside Job, in which the Berkeley graduate uncovers the causes of the 2008 economic collapse. Narrated by Matt Damon, Job traces the rise of a corrupt industry and exposes the troubling relationships that have compromised politics, regulation and academia, ultimately leaving millions on the unemployment line.

6. I Love You Phillip Morris
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: March 8-9
Why:
As he has since graduating TV's In Living Color, Jim Carrey owns the screen in Phillip Morris, and he is a gifted dramatic actor. As Steven, an enigmatic con man reminiscent of Matt Damon’s bogus corporate whistleblower in The Informant!, his manic eccentricities and transparent disingenuousness lend themselves to broad but effective comedy. In Steven’s quieter moments, when the character requires a certain gravitas, it’s hard to separate the leering prankster from his compassionate alter ego, but in a movie so fascinated with his outrageous duplicity, perhaps that's the point.

7. Barney's Version
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Inspired by Mordecai Richler's 1997 comic novel, Richard J. Lewis' feature debut tells the story of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti), a romantic everyman who leads an improbably extraordinary  life. With his father (Dustin Hoffman) by his side through four decades of misadventures and failed marriages, he boozes, strays and frequently prioritizes hockey over spending time with his wife and children. Yet Barney, portrayed in a smartly nuanced, Golden Globe-winning performance by Giamatti, is genuine and disarmingly sweet – a schlub, likable in spite of himself, who usually gets the girl even when neither he nor she really understands why.