Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week


The Independent Film Festival enters its second weekend, bringing with it Harmony and Me, this year's closing-night comedy about a slacker caught in the throes of a post-breakup malaise and seemingly incapable of snapping his way out of it. Also coming to the Roxie this Sunday afternoon: Double Take, Belgian filmmaker Johan Grimonprez's experimental rumination on Cold War paranoia featuring none other than the late Alfred Hitchcock. Elsewhere:

1. An Animated World
Where:Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Feb. 14, 15
Why: The animated portion of this year's Indiefest features 15 short-length concoctions highlighted by Backwards, Brooklyn cartoonist Aaron Hughes' told-in-reverse love story, and Fuzzy Insides, a series of four stop-motion vignettes about the secret after-hours passions of suburbanites.

2. Easier with Practice
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Feb. 13, 15
Why: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at CineVegas 2009, Kyle Patrick Alvarez's absorbing drama convincingly illustrates how a chance encounter of the most intimate variety, even over the phone, can lead to fascination and something like love. The relationship that develops between young novelist Davy (Brian Geraghty, of The Hurt Locker) and his sultry mystery caller is fraught with complications and secrecy, but thanks to Alvarez, who based his screenplay on an autobiographical GQ article by Davy Rothbart, their story never hits a false note. The film understands and respects its characters, even when their better judgment escapes them.

3. The Last Station
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Michael Hoffman's bittersweet story of Leo and Sofya Tolstoy, whose tempestuous marriage of nearly 50 years unraveled shortly before the author's death, is worth it for the performances alone. Christopher Plummer plays Leo as a troubled patriarch, bemused by his celebrity and wary of his wife's mercurial ravings; Helen Mirren, as Sofya, is his greatest love and most strident critic. Both earned Oscar nominations, and deservedly so, in Hoffman's exhilirating adaptation of Jay Parini's historically based novel.

4. The Art of the Steal
Where:Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Feb. 14, 18
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 currently boasts a collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art worth roughly $25 billion. The only problem? Barnes, whose collection was scorned by the cultural elite of his day, left control of it to a small African-American 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 thoughtful meditation on public vs. private rights, and, thanks to Argott, fascinating entertainment.

5. Saint John of Las Vegas
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: A compulsive gambler, played by Steve Buscemi, escapes from his misfortunes in Las Vegas only to return a short time later as an insurance-fraud investigator. Along the way, he encounters a wheelchair-bound stripper (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a nude militant (Tim Blake Nelson) and a sideshow curiosity (John Cho) known as the Flame Lord. Hilarity ensues only in fits and starts, but the movie is worth a look just for its cast, which also boasts the considerable talents of Peter Dinklage and Sarah Silverman.

6. Annie Hall
Where:Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Feb. 12-14
Why: Winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Annie Hall may be Woody Allen’s most universally acclaimed film, an amusing but, at the time of its 1977 release, uncharacteristically serious-minded departure from screwball comedies like Sleeper and Bananas. Allen has since written many tales of bittersweet, doomed-to-failure romance, but few as deeply personal or affecting.

7. Crazy Heart
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Best known as The Dude to Lebowski lovers worldwide, Jeff Bridges delivers one of his most memorable performances as Bad Blake, the hard-living country singer stumbling toward a shot at redemption in writer-director Scott Cooper's promising feature debut. Maggie Gyllenhaal co-stars as a journalist and single mother who gently encourages him to clean up his act.

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