Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week


As always, here's a list of some of the finest films currently in rotation at a San Francisco indie theater near you.

1. Sugar
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Isolation and an early-life epiphany await Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto), a Dominican pitching prospect who comes to question the limited scope of his professional ambition during a minor-league stint in rural Iowa. Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (2006’s Half Nelson), Sugar is a moving, unflinchingly honest take on the immigrant experience, infused with an obvious passion for America’s pastime.

2. Gigantic
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week

Why: Paul Dano returns (after his rousing breakthrough in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood) as a twenty-something mattress salesman whose life is turned upside down by a quirky new girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel), an adopted child and a homeless man (Zach Galifianakis) with a curious violent streak. While Matt Aselton and Adam Nagata’s story seems frustratingly inert at times, the characters they create are lovingly fleshed out and enjoyably eccentric.

3. Sin Nombre
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week

Why: Director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s feature debut, an award-winning hit at this year’s Sundance, follows an unlikely pair of traveling companions – one a delicate young Honduran woman (Paulina Gaytan), the other an erstwhile gang member (Edgar Flores) trying to outrun his brutal past – as they head for the U.S. border, hoping to live the American Dream. What they find is another story altogether, but Fukunaga infuses their journey with moments of breathtaking beauty and haunting, unforgettable violence.

4. Valentino: The Last Emperor
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week

Why: The Last Emperor focuses on the final two years of Valentino Garavani’s tenure as head of the haute-couture empire he built over a stressful near half-century with longtime business manager and confidant Giancarlo Giammetti. If Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary seems to capture the spirit of an era’s end, there’s a reason. “You and I are the only ones left,” German designer Karl Lagerfeld tells Valentino on the eve of his 2007 retirement. “The rest is crap.”

5. Paris 36
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week

Why: Unabashedly sentimental yet breezily charming, director Christophe Barratier’s Moulin Rouge-style celebration of pre-World War II song and dance finds the working-class residents of Paris’ Faubourg district making sweet music even as the forces of fascism try to silence them.

6. Sunshine Cleaning
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week

Why: Crime pays in director Christine Jeffs’ offbeat comedy about a single mom (Amy Adams) and her hopelessly irresponsible sister (Emily Blunt) who look to make a quick buck cleaning up murder scenes. The movie itself is perhaps too sunny for its own good – wringing laughs from grim portraits of human desperation is a tricky business – but Adams and Blunt make the most of their partnership with performances that transcend a dubious premise.

7. The Wrestler
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: April 13-14
Why: Darren Aronofsky’s stunning account of a washed-up wrestler’s swan song makes its final area appearance before arriving on DVD a week from Tuesday. For Mickey Rourke’s performance alone, it’s well worth a second, third or even fourth look.

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