Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week


The San Francisco International LGBT Festival enters its first weekend with a full slate of screenings scheduled at the Castro, Roxie and Victoria theaters. Elsewhere, two of the year's strongest offerings to date – Winter's Bone and The Oath – arrive at the city's Landmark cinemas. As always, here's a list of some of the finest films currently playing at an indie theater near you.

1. Winter's Bone

Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Debra Granik's subtle, suspenseful thriller finds Jennifer Lawrence (The Burning Plain) braving the frigid Ozarks and its vicious criminal underworld as she searches for her father, a methamphetamine cooker gone missing after his latest arrest. If the premise sounds familiar – a gritty slice of small-town Americana embedded in the fabric of a hopelessly grim coming-of-age fable – Granik's understated execution and Lawrence's fierce, mesmerizing performance transcend caricature and cliché.

2. The Oath
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: As a storyteller, Laura Poitras (My Country, My Country) is at once provocative and probing, and the footage she has collected for The Oath – a mix of interviews with Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s outspoken former bodyguard, and updates on his brother-in-law Salim Hamdan’s high-profile trial, which concluded in January 2009 with his release from Guantanamo Bay – is never less than compelling, even as it paints a damning portrait of America's response to 9/11.

3. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835; Bridge Theatre, 3010 Geary Blvd., 415-751-3213
When: All Week
Why: It’s a startling revelation, seeing the famously tough Joan Rivers revealing such vulnerability in Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg's A Piece of Work. Here, the two filmmakers delve into the comedian's personal and professional lives, and all they reveal points to a complicated and bittersweet portrait of a woman clinging to the fame she considers rightfully hers, tormented by insecurities and desperate to stay in the spotlight.

4. Ondine
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: The resurrection of Colin Farrell continues with Neil Jordan's whimsical fantasy about an Irish fisherman who happens on a mythical sea creature (Alicja Bachleda) and takes her in. The rewards are immediate: Her otherworldly beauty and disarming tenderness reawaken his spirit; her gift for song leaves his fishing nets full of fresh catch. Jordan's fairy tale may seem slight, but thanks to cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Paranoid Park), it boasts a rare visual splendor.

5. La Mission
Where:Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: June 24-25
Why: Perhaps best known as Det. Rey Curtis, the clean-cut Law & Order homicide investigator, Benjamin Bratt has lately shown off his darker side – first as a recovering junkie turned unorthodox sobriety counselor on A&E’s now-defunct The Cleaner, and here as Che, a mostly reformed ex-con from San Francisco’s Mission District. La Mission, filmed on location and directed by brother Peter Bratt, chronicles Che’s compelling struggle to overcome his demons, and his frustrating reticence to accept his son’s homosexuality.

6. Please Give
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why: Oliver Platt and the reliably excellent Catherine Keener star as an Upper West Side couple waiting for their foul-tempered old neighbor (Ann Guilbert, of TV's The Nanny) to die – and coming to terms with their own liberal guilt – in the brutally honest and often engrossing new comedy from Lovely and Amazing director Nicole Holofcener.

7. Micmacs
Where:Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835
When: All Week
Why: Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, The City of Lost Children) returns with another wildly original madcap fantasy – also, the opening-night selection at last month's San Francisco International Film Festival – about a luckless homeless man (Dany Boon) who concocts an ambitious plan to take revenge on the weapons manufacturers responsible for ruining his life.

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