Alejandro González Iñárritu
OK, one last time for the cheap seats. If you haven't seen this year's crop of Oscar heavyweights by now, the chances are good you never will. But if you want to shore up your rooting interests this Sunday night, or just to impress your friends at their awards party by reeling off useful facts about the nominees, get to an indie theater tonight.
1. Oscar-Nominated Shorts
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201; Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
With the city's 13th Independent Film Festival set to kick off next week, now is the time to catch up on all the major players in this year's Oscar sweepstakes, including Best Actor favorite Colin Firth (The King's Speech, playing at the Embarcadero) and Best Actress favorite Natalie Portman, whose tour-de-force performance in Black Swan is currently the featured attraction at the Balboa.
1. The Illusionist
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
As much as death looms as the inescapable reality in all our lives, few would care to learn of their imminent passing, much less confront its approach at the movies. Yet for Mexico’s Alejandro González Iñárritu, best known for the Oscar-nominated dramas Amores Perros (2001) and Babel (2007), it was that commonly evaded consciousness of mortality that inspired his latest offering, Biutiful.
Despite casting No Country for Old Men star Javier Bardem as the doomed centerpiece of his morbid but ultimately uplifting film, which opens Friday, Iñárritu is a realist, keenly aware that death is a tough sell when considered as something more than an abstract concept.
The 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival kicks off Thursday with two opening-night films: The King’s Speech, winner of the Audience Award at last month’s Toronto Film Festival, starring A Single Man Oscar nominee Colin Firth as King George VI, who conquers his humiliating stutter with the help of Geoffrey Rush’s unconventional speech therapist; and Conviction, Tony Goldwyn’s chronicle of a high-school dropout (Hilary Swank) who earns a law degree to free her brother (Sam Rockwell) from prison.