The Weekly Wire: The Week’s Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 12/9Holiday Events: Ticket to the North PoleThe kids are on holiday break and dying of boredom. Or you need a respite from the shopping madness downtown. Either way, Winterfest is only a short monorail ride away. Many of its attractions are free, and the rest are cheap—like the children's carousel (by Fisher Pavilion) at a buck a ride. Inside the pavilion, you can rent skates (free to $5) and churn the ice to froth, assisted by sliding metal balance rails if you need them. Over at the Center House, the free winter train chugs through a Christmas village. Parents can expect to shoot dozens of photos of their kids at each stop, and Seattle Center's free wi-fi means they can upload them directly to blogs and Flickr accounts. Other attractions and family activities include choral music, ice sculpting, free holiday movies, magic, comedy, rope-jumping, swing dancing, and the Microsoft Orchestra (!). Please refrain from making any Vista jokes when they perform. (Through Dec. 31) Seattle Center, 684-7200, Free. 10 a.m.–10 p.m. T. BONDFRIDAY 12/11Stage: She Gives, and She Gives, and She Gives . . .After 20 years, the alter ego of drag artiste Grady West still keeps topping herself, every show more WTF than her last. The Dina Martina Christmas Show returns with a new assault of song, dance, reminiscence, joyous fashion fails, stage banter that sounds as though it was devised by random-word-generating software, and a shopping bag full of holiday treasures (sit on the aisle if you want to be gifted!). Music director Chris Jeffries assists in Dina's repurposing of '70s and '80 hits as carols; in shows past, she's treated delirious audiences to the Pet Shop Boys' "North Pole Girls" and Rick Springfield's "(I Wish That I Was) Jesus' Girl." In just over a month, the indefatigable entertaineress is doing 26 shows (including, new this year, Sunday "mimosa matinees" at 2 p.m.), performing daily through Dec. 31 with only two days off. Which will all sell out, so don't hesitate to buy your tickets ASAP. Re-bar, 1114 Howell St., 800-838-3006, $20 (21 and over). 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERTFilm: The Banker StumblesTimes are tough in Frank Capra's 1946 It's a Wonderful Life. Banks are failing. People are losing their homes. Veterans are returning from a bloody war abroad. Families are falling apart. And all these stresses converge during the holidays, when there may not even be enough money in the household to buy any presents. Sound familiar? In the GI's 39th annual screening of this seasonal classic, beleaguered banker James Stewart could be any small businessman struggling to remain solvent amid our current financial crisis. If Wonderful Life is arguably the best Christmas movie ever made, that's because it's certainly one of the most depressing Christmas movies ever made. Our suicidal hero is given a future vision—courtesy of an angel (Henry Travers)—of bankruptcy, death, poverty, and evil, unfettered capitalism (hello, Lionel Barrymore). Even his wife (Donna Reed) ends up a spinster in the alternative universe of Pottersville. Before the inevitable tear-swelling plot reversal, the movie is 100 percent grim. Yet amazingly, 63 years later, it preserves the power to inspire hope for better days ahead. (Through Dec. 31.) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, $5–$7. 6 and 8:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLERSATURDAY 12/12Sports: Touch of GrayBefore Seattle U.'s upstart Redhawks claimed KeyArena as their home this year, the Sonics' former arena remained largely hoop-starved through the winter months, sated only by Gonzaga's annual Battle in Seattle. While last year's overtime duel against UConn was an instant classic, the talent-packed Zags' failure to close out the highly touted Huskies proved ominous for their remaining season. This year, Gonzaga's personnel mix is more reminiscent of its underdog glory days, with supporting roles more clearly defined and former Bainbridge High star Steven Gray an undisputed centerpiece. Visiting for the first time will be Davidson College, a North Carolina school that, like Gonzaga, has emerged as something of a mid-major powerhouse. KeyArena, 305 Harrison St., 745-3000, $22–$270. 4 p.m. MIKE SEELYFilm: Return of the Fat ManEvery film geek got excited with the recent announcement that Jeff Bridges will star in the Coen brothers' remake of True Grit. That 1969 Western earned John Wayne an Oscar for playing the gruff, fat, one-eyed lawman Rooster Cogburn (Bridges' role in the remake, which films next spring and is set for 2011 release). Paired with Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, True Grit concludes NWFF's "69" film series, and the picture is an artifact of its era. Wayne is a violent reactionary who rails against defense attorneys and tends to shoot fugitives before claiming the bounty. But he's also a comic reactionary, something like Falstaff, a lonely old drunk with a criminal past. He and Glen Campbell's upright, immaculately coiffed Texas Ranger pursue the man who killed the father of stubborn teen heroine Kim Darby. She pays for Wayne's drinks, and he pretends he's not taking orders. She bosses him around, and he feigns anger. But they both know he's glad for the company. ("She reminds me of me," he says.) It's one of the loosest, most enjoyable performances of Wayne's long career, like The Searchers played for laughs. The all-star villains include Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, and Strother Martin. (Through Sun.) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, $6–$9. 6 and 8:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLERVisual Arts/Video: Pocket-Sized CinemaMeasuring only about 7½ by 4 inches, videocassette boxes were not—unlike their LP forebears—large enough for collectable, frameable artwork. Yet that's a limitation that editor Jacques Boyreau seeks to overturn with his Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box (Fantagraphics, $19.99). He argues that the obsolete format, now scorned even at yard sales and Goodwill, carries its own '80s aesthetic—personal, portable, and knowingly cheap. Back during the great VHS gold rush, B-movies were presold and financed with a handshake. Old movies were repackaged and new ones shot in a week to replicate Hollywood hits. Slumming stars who needed new swimming pools rubbed shoulders with wannabes who never made the big screen. The box art had to be effectively lurid and eye-grabbing to get plucked off the shelf at the corner video store. Surely you haven't forgotten Stunt Rock, Delirium, or Alien Massacre, have you? This third-anniversary bookstore party will also feature several comic-book artists (including locals Peter Bagge and Jim Woodring), plus music from Can You Imagine?, led by famed Seattle record producer Steve Fisk. Boyreau also holds a panel discussion, with film clips, Sunday at 4 p.m. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 1201 S. Vale St., 658-0110, Free. 6–9 p.m. BRIAN MILLERComedy: Who's Your (TV) Daddy?The shock of hearing Bob Saget say "fuck" has worn off. The Full House star's transition from sitcom dad to filthy comic was once the Gen-Y equivalent of a soft-core second act for Ward Cleaver. But now, after directing Norm McDonald's raunchy Dirty Work and appearing in The Aristocrats, Saget dropping the f-bomb feels as ho-hum as watching him host America's Funniest Home Videos. Been there, done that. But today, what Mary-Kate and Ashley's fake dad lacks in shock value, he makes up for in creativity. As his recent HBO special proved, Sagat's clock-punching days in prime time gave him an expert sense of where the line between decency and outrage lies—and when to cross it. He may no longer be the milquetoast father you grew up with, but the comedian who's taken his place is a whole lot fucking funnier. The Moore, 1932 Second Ave., 877-787-4849, $25–$35. 9 p.m. CALEB HANNANTUESDAY 12/15Books: A Is for AfghanistanGreg Mortenson admires Al Qaeda. Or at least he gives the terrorists credit, following the catastrophic 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, for arriving first to distribute aid, win hearts and minds, and set up food tents where they preach against the Pakistani government and American crusaders. A Montana mountain climber turned schoolhouse builder in rural Pakistan, Mortenson's first book, Three Cups of Tea, became a surprise 2006 bestseller, which won admirers on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., was used to train military intelligence officers, and earned him blurbs from both The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman for his follow-up. Stones Into Schools (Viking, $26.95) recounts his further activities with the Central Asia Institute, earthquake relief efforts, and expansion into northeast Afghanistan—where he works closely with sympathetic U.S. Army officers. (Indeed, he praises the troops there for being more attuned to local sensitivities than most politicians back home.) Mortenson's goal is to fund more schools; the CAI has built more than 130 to date, thanks also to American donors who typically pack his speaking engagements. He argues persuasively that secular education—especially for girls—is the best means of combating militancy, illiteracy, poverty, and overpopulation in the troubled "Afpak" region. Also, it may bring our troops home that much sooner. Seattle Pacific University (Royal Brougham Pavilion), 3414 Third Ave. W., Free. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

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