Dec. 15-21, 2006

The lighter side of Mel Gibson (no, really) in The Road Warrior, plus more long tracking shots from Béla Tarr.

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Oddballs, Events, & Rep

The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends This well-meaning but inept documentary plays like a post-traumatic stress disorder infomercial about vets and their families. Ground Truth—be wary of any movie with "truth" in its title—will merely reinforce your own views on the war, whether pro or con. Dead-end Bush supporters are unlikely to be swayed by the veterans interviewed here, some with horrific and disfiguring injuries, who all speak in the same chorus of disillusionment. Patricia Foulkrod stumbles over the movie's most interesting idea—that the VA is diagnosing pre-existing "personality disorders" rather than PTSD to keep treatment costs down—without interrupting her antiwar rally. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Seattle University, Wyckoff Auditorium, 901 12th Ave., 296-6000. $5-$10. 7:30 p.m. Fri. Dec. 15.

Independent Exposure A touring screening program of indie films, videos, and digital art presented by Microcinema. Screenings, on the second Wednesday of every month, are followed by prize giveaways and audience submissions. Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 328-3230. $5. 7 and 9 p.m. Wed. Dec. 13.

It's a Wonderful Life SEE THE WIRE, FRIDAY. (NR) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. daily, also 3:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Through Dec. 28.

Landmark Poster Sale What to give the cinephile on your list who has everything? Sift through hundreds of posters at Landmark's annual, one-day-only holiday sale. Seven Gables, 911 N.E. 50th St., 781-5755. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. Dec. 16.

Meet John Doe Dated but still powerful, Frank Capra's 1941 indictment of public apathy about the forgotten souls of the Great Depression—and those who exploit them—begins with a journalistic hoax like a page out of one of Jayson Blair's New York Times fabrications. Journalist Barbara Stanwyck invents a suicidal everyman to save her career; that accomplished, she has to find an actual guy (Gary Cooper) to fit her dark template. Their scheme gets out of control, of course, and there are fascist overtones to those powers who try to play the John Doe movement to their own political purposes. Cooper underplays perfectly, and even if Stanwyck overplays her big Christmas Eve speech on the fatal rooftop, you might find a few melted snowflakes in your own eyes. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Keystone Church, 5019 Keystone Place N., Free. 7 p.m. Fri. Dec. 15.

Merry Chucksmas The arbiters of questionable taste behind the Kung-Fu Grindhouse series offer two holiday-themed slasher flicks from the '80s (Jack Frost and Silent Night, Deadly Night) and two Chuck Norris vehicles (The Octagon and Missing in Action). As always, they request that attendees have "an expansive sense of humor" and be 21 and over. (NR) Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave., 784-4880. Free. 6 p.m. Mon. Dec. 18.

The Road Warrior Aka Mad Max 2, George Miller's 1981 sequel was deservedly the biggest success of the trilogy. The movie made a stateside star out of Mel Gibson and described a violent yet funny postapocalyptic wasteland that's since become a cinematic genre unto itself. (It also surely influenced Gibson's future career as a director, as with the violent chase sequences currently on display in Apocalypto.) In a plot culled variously from Westerns like Shane and highlights from the Old Testament, Mel plays the mysterious loner who leads a small, beleaguered tribe to deliverance. And those undercranked chase and action sequences? Bloody brilliant, mate. Our favorite line: "You can run, but you can't hide." (R) BRIAN MILLER Egyptian, 801 E. Pine St., 206-781-5755. $6-$9.25. Midnight. Fri. Dec. 15-Sat. Dec. 16.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians A 1964 D-movie wherein Martians capture Saint Nick because they lack their own such character on the Red Planet, and those kids need presents! (NR) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 328-3230. 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. Thurs. Dec. 14-Sun. Dec. 17.

Santa Smokes This 2002 German production of an unsuccessful actor who can only land one role—guess which—gives Bad Santa a run for his reindeer. (NR) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $3. 11 p.m. Fri. Dec. 15-Sat. Dec. 16.

30 Frames a Second: The WTO in Seattle Since the Charlize Theron–starring The Battle in Seattle is now being filmed, it's a good time to revisit local director Rustin Thompson's 2000 documentary account of those late 1999 clouds of tear gas and marchers in the street. His digital video doc is much better than the usual self-congratulatory, boosterish fare that came out of the protests. Thompson's varied shot selection and skillful editing help make this a sympathetic but ambivalent video diary of tear gas, marches, and platitudes (from delegates and protesters alike). "I found it difficult to be objective," Thompson says candidly in his voice-over, noting the irony that demonstrators shop at the stores and wear the brands of multinational capitalism. He wears his cinematic influences on his sleeve: Medium Cool, Blowup, and Godard are obvious—and acknowledged—points of reference. 30 Frames is "only a subjective truth," he admits, but it's still first-rate reporting. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 328-3230. $5. 3 and 6 p.m. Sat. Dec. 16.

Venus This new drama from Notting Hill director Roger Michell stars Peter O'Toole and Leslie Phillips as two veteran actors assessing their life's work. Tonight's screening is a sneak preview and a benefit for SIFF; the film begins its commercial run in January, perhaps after earning one last Oscar nom for the 74-year-old O'Toole. (R) Harvard Exit, 801 Roy St., 323-8986. $12.50-$20. 7:30 p.m. Thurs. Dec. 14.

Werckmeister Harmonies Three years in the making, Béla Tarr's 2000 Werckmeister opens in a rural tavern frequented by stupefied sods. Just before closing time, young János, the resident holy fool, uses some of the locals to dramatize a cosmological model of a lunar eclipse, with the moon hopping past the earth as the earth staggers around the twinkling sun. This intimation of celestial order is echoed by the film's title—it's named for the 17th-century organist and musical theorist Andreas Werckmeister. The movie is a totally sustained immersion in the magisterially bleak, voluptuously monochromatic, undeniably beautiful universe of muddy villages and cell-like room. It's a work of bravura filmmaking—mainly a series of extremely long, largely mobile takes, edited without the normal pattern of shot-countershot. The final image has the great sensation of the age lying in the center of the debris. Mournful and sardonic, the film ends in the baleful light of a postapocalyptic morning after. The movie invites allegory even as it resists it. (NR) J. HOBERMAN Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 206-267-5380. $5-$8. 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Fri. Dec. 15-Sun. Dec. 17.

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