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Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony This 2002 documentary about the history of South African protest song during the apartheid era earned a prize at Sundance, where good political intentions are always rewarded. You just wish the film focused more on the wonderful songs and less on the already well-chronicled history, which makes Amandla! feel like a PBS special dutifully wading through the decades. The music, of course, is gorgeous and sad; hearing the aching, crystal-clear voice of Vusi Mahlasela will make you want to rush out and buy all his albums. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Keystone Church, 5019 Keystone Place N., www.meaningfulmovies.org. Free. 7 p.m. Fri. Dec. 29.
Bad Santa Working from a story by the Coen brothers, Terry Zwigoff's 2003 affront to anyone who holds the holidays sacred is vile, hateful, and—for most of its 90-odd minutes—utterly soulless. That said, I can't imagine chortling so heartily, and guiltily, at a blacker black comedy this year. Santa simply follows Billy Bob Thornton's misanthropic human wrecking ball through affluent Phoenix suburbia and asks us simply to identify with his morbid Christmas dispirit. No problem. (R) ANDREW BONAZELLI Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5.50-$7.50. 11 p.m. Fri. Dec. 29-Sat. Dec. 30.
Bonjour Tristesse With this scandalous 1954 novel, Françoise Sagan became a teen literary sensation in France, a decadent cheerleader to Sartre and de Beauvoir. Four years later, Otto Preminger made a talky CinemaScope melodrama out of the book, with 20-year-old star Jean Seberg and real locations along the French Riviera. Today, apart from that unspoiled coast, where conga lines erupt nightly in colorful fishing villages, it's hard to understand what all the fuss was about. The eagerly inexpressive Seberg is allowed to run wild by her widowed playboy father (David Niven), until he's jolted out of his promiscuous ways by Deborah Kerr, who'd persuade any man to embrace virtue and marriage. Naturally Seberg hates her, and the movie relates—in flashback from a black-and-white Paris—how the little minx seeks to spoil her father's happiness. What does she detest about Kerr? "Depth and stability and wholesomeness," complaints that any parent of any teen will find tiresomely familiar. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 206-267-5380. $5-$8. 7 and 9 p.m. Fri. Dec. 29-Thurs. Jan. 4.
It's a Wonderful Life Welcome to Pottersville. Young George Bailey is beaten until he's bleeding from the ear. Later, played by Jimmy Stewart, he shakes his uncle by the lapels, berating the "stupid old fool" like a scene from a film noir. He despairs, "I'm at the end of my rope! I wish I'd never been born!" Long before American Beauty, Frank Capra gave us the original midlife crisis movie, with Stewart in the Kevin Spacey role. Life has passed George by, and he's trapped by career, mortgage, and marriage. Despite Capra's 1946 post-war optimism, and the bountiful promise of the suburbs, you still can't shake off George's dark vision of reality. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. Continues through Dec. 28.
Serenity This 2005 sci-fi Western by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, is a brainy valentine to fans of Firefly, the short-lived Fox show (available on DVD) on which it's based. A gaggle of tough-talking, gun-slinging space cowboys (and -girls) rocket through the 26th-century cosmos, pilfering cash from the sinister Alliance and sometimes swearing in Chinese. Though Serenity is a bit too cerebral for its own good, that same quality lifts it above the vast majority of recent sci-fi flicks. (PG-13) NEAL SCHINDLER Egyptian, 801 E. Pine St., 206-781-5755. $6-$9.25. Midnight. Fri. Dec. 29-Sat. Dec. 30.
Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies This family movie marathon features 31 short cartoons released between 1929 and 1939. (NR) Seattle Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium, 1000 Fourth Ave., 386-4675. Free. 10:30 a.m. Wed. Dec. 27.