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Academy Award Shorts Not previewed (indeed, seldom seen by anyone outside festivals and the AMPAS), all ten of the Academy-selected finalists are presented in two programs: live-action and animated. Among the latter category, screened at Bumbershoot last year, Shane Acker's computer-animated UCLA student sci-fi film 9 is so good that it got him a deal with Tim Burton. It's like a tabletop post-apocalyptic fable, as a little google-eyed yarn-puppet creature tries to recapture the souls of his buddies from a spider that also seems to have been assembled from the jumbled contents of an old drawer. (NR) Varsity, 4329 University Way N.E., 206-781-5755. $6-$9. Fri. March 3-Thurs. March 9.
African Film Festival Among the second weekend's highlights are Niiwam, a Senegalese adaptation of the novel by writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, directed by one of his former assistants. The story follows a couple with a sick child from the country to the uncaring city. In Dôlé, from Gabon, a boy with a sick mother turns to crime. See Web site for full schedule and details. (NR) UW Ethnic Cultural Center, 3940 Brooklyn Ave. N.E., 206-325-6500, http://depts.washington.edu/ecct/aff/. $4-$8. 7 p.m. Fri. March 3, 3 p.m. Sat. March 4-Sun. March 5.
American Beauty In the 1999 Oscar winner, Kevin Spacey is trapped in a loveless marriage to Annette Bening, toiling at a job he's ashamed of, trying to pinpoint just when his teenage daughter began to loathe him. His comatose spirit stirs, however, upon seeing her nubile blond cheerleader classmate. It's a stereotypical midlife crisis, but we root for the oddly revitalized Spacey. Director Sam Mendes shows these characters' most revealing, private moments—masturbation, domestic violence, voyeurism—not for the easy satisfaction of watching their perfect suburban shell crack, but to see how they glue their own version of it back together. Spacey's goofy search for transcendence proves how beauty ultimately lies in the eye of the beholder. (R) Jackie McCarthy Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $5. 6:45 and 9:30 p.m. Wed. March 1-Sat. March 4.
Fateless The Seattle Jewish Film Festival runs Sun. March 11-Sun. March 19. Its special lunch and launch screening this week offers Hungary's first big-budget, post-Cold-War effort to grapple with the Holocaust. Its chief innovations are a) being in Hungarian, and b) having subtitles so terribly placed and colored that the young protagonist's voice-over musings are almost entirely illegible. The film may or may not return later this month; trust me, you've already seen it a dozen times before, only not in Hungarian. But the food from Il Fornaio should be excellent, and you can always go shopping afterward (NR) Pacific Place, 600 Pine St., 800-838-3006. $15. 11:30 a.m. (lunch), 2 p.m. (screening). Sun. March 5.
Lecture: Seattle on Film Though he writes for the Everett Herald, critic Robert Horton shows and discusses clips from The Parallax View, Trouble in Mind, and other cinematic treatments of our city. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., 206-622-9250. Free. 7:30 p.m. Fri. March 3.
Independent Exposure Twelve shorts by a dozen international directors are screened. Subjects include smoking as an act of political resistance, hideous physical deformities (all in animation), and crazy German music videos. (NR) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $5. 7 and 9 p.m. Wed. March 8.
In Search of the Sasquatch We're guessing it's a mockumentary about the Northwest's favorite mythical beast. (NR) Jewel Box Theater (Rendezvous), 2320 Second Ave., 206-441-5823. $5. 6 p.m. Thurs. March 2.
Oscar Party Dress up, take a date, diss the dresses and ditzy acceptance speeches, and cheer for Jon Stewart unleashed on network TV. Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $42 (includes prix fixe dinner) and $21 (champagne and appetizers). 4 p.m. Sun. March 5.
Rural Route Film Fest Along with Spring Night, Summer Night (below), this program of a dozen shorts celebrates the flyover states—along with a few entries from abroad—ignored by the MSM. It's not all crystal meth and hayseeds. Chickens in the City documents urban poultry in San Francisco. Pretty Ladies, Fast Horses looks at daring stunt riders in Alberta. My Scarlet Letter dramatizes an evening with a bunch of bored teen girl misfits in a town even lacking a convenience store parking lot for hanging out. Those who recall Monteith McCollum's Hybrid from SIFF '01, a kind of David Lynchian profile of his family and its staple crop (corn), may enjoy his similarly arty eco-paean Lawn, which decries pesticides and marvels at mulch. Nothing overstays its welcome (besides the Aussie import Shifting Ground), and there's no way you can't enjoy the three-minute The Endangered P-Money Bird, a kind of goofy stop-motion modern dance piece set amid a Richard Stella installation. (NR) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. 3 and 7 p.m. Sat. March 4-Sun. March 5.
Sci-Fi Double Feature The title tells you the plot of 1953's Invaders From Mars, witnessed from the perspective of a rightfully suspicious young boy. And the 1958 marquee display for I Married a Monster From Outer Space also perfectly advertises its story. Any woman who's felt pre-nuptial reservations about her fiancé can surely relate to this one. Neither should be too scary for kids. Screened on video; admission includes discussion and snack. (NR) Movie Legends, 2319 N. 45th St., 206-632-2092. $5. 1 p.m. Sun. March 5.
Shaolin Soccer Here's Stephen Chow's fun, ridiculous 2001 flick in its original subtitled version. (It was recut and dubbed here two years ago because, well, marketing a kung fu action-comedy about soccer can be tricky.) The film concerns a former soccer prodigy, Fung, crippled by a band of enraged fans after a missed penalty kick at the China SuperCup tournament. A few decades later, he's a manservant to a former teammate, who currently coaches China's top squad, Team Evil. With the help of Sing (Chow), a young man trained in the Shaolin school of kung fu, Fung assembles a team of soccer-playing martial artists and blazes a trail back to the SuperCup to sink Team Evil. Chow's comic-bookish ode to oddball underdogs raises athletics to the level of mysticism, shoveling on special effects and charm in equal measure. (PG-13) NEAL SCHINDLER Egyptian, 801 E. Pine St., 206-781-5755. $6-$9. Midnight. Fri. March 3-Sat. March 4.
Spring Night, Summer Night Released in 1968 as Miss Jessica Is Pregnant, this small-town story embraces most every stereotype about incest and hillbillies. In southern Ohio, Jessica and her half-brother find themselves in a mess. Carl bolts town, leaving her to run the household, while her mother hits the bottle and her father goes on a rampage to find the miscreant who impregnated his daughter. The movie takes a soap-opera turn when Carl returns and declares his love; the impending question is whether the two are actually blood-related. Too bad DNA tests didn't exist yet, so there's basically no helping these two yokels. The story and characters move as slowly as the sweeping shots of the Appalachian countryside, and you can't help but wonder if towns like these have progressed much in 38 years. Spring provides a small dose of American neorealism, a cautionary tale you won't need unless ya fancy sleepin' with yer kin. (R) KELLIE HWANG Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. Fri. March 3-Thurs. March 9.
Stage Fright Not one of Hitchcock's greatest efforts, this 1950 backstage thriller is more memorable for Marlene Dietrich as a diva (who sings "The Laziest Gal in Town") than for its familiar plot: A guy (Richard Todd) wrongly suspected of murder tries to clear his name. Jane Wyman helps with his investigation, and deceptions, in a London theater world setting where no one's identity is to be entirely trusted. There's actually quite a bit of comedy, as Hitch collapses the truth-versus-lying theme right back into the camera, which of course turns out to be as unreliable as any of the actors. (NR) Museum of History and Industry, 2700 24th Ave. E., 206-654-3121. $7. 7:30 p.m. Thurs. March 2. ALSO NOTE: Patricia Hitchcock will introduce two of her father's classics at MoHaI next week (though the second is sold out, some door tickets may remain day of show): North by Northwest. (NR) Tickets from SAM, MoHaI, or Scarecrow Video (206-524-8554). $8-$10. 7:30 p.m. Wed. March 8. Strangers on a Train. 7:30 p.m. Thurs. March 9.
The Time Machine A smart and cheerful former SW contributor (now with the P-I), Sean Axmaker will introduce this 1960 adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi fale, directed by George Pal. Rod Taylor is the Victorian inventor who takes his pimped-out sleigh to the future, where Yvette Mimieux is the babe who draws him into defending her timid race (the Eloi) against the cannibalistic Morlocks. The film won an Oscar for its effects; there's also some Wellsian pseudoscience, perhaps bordering on racialism, in his futuristic schema of which civilizations are fit to survive. (NR) Science Fiction Museum (EMP's JBL Theater), 325 Fifth Ave. N., 206-367-5483. $5-$6. 4 p.m. Sun. March 5.
Without Warning Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Neville Brand, Ralph Meeker, David Caruso, and apparently the guy who wore the alien suit in Predator all star in this bit of sci-fi schlock from 1980. Here's the twist—again the Predator guy (this time in a different suit) is an alien killing off humankind. (R) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. 11 p.m. Fri. March 3-Sat. March 4.