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Movie Tickets: What to See Beyond the Multiplex

The genius of Leslie Nielsen, the trials of a lonely magician, and the tragedy of lost love in Washington movie theaters

Another week, another awards ceremony, and another seemingly unprepared speech from Natalie Portman. I hope that if she actually wins an Academy Award, she’ll have had enough practice to get it right. Otherwise, there were no big surprises at Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, beyond Betty White winning for a show that’s famous for starring the woman from the Jenny Craig ads (fun fact—Will and Grace star Sean Hayes is the producer behind Hot in Cleveland).

But from the small screen to the big screen, this week in Washington film includes a classic spoof, a movie about a gay Peruvian fisherman, and a film that we thought was a drama about a magician starring Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton but that is actually a French animated feature (also about a magician). Who knew?

Tuesday, February 1
It’s 31 years since Airplane! was released, but you can catch a digitally remastered version of the classic spoof at area AMC Theaters Tuesday. The movie marked the beginning of a career resurgence for Leslie Nielsen, who died in November. He later reunited with the Airplane! production team to make Police Squad and the Naked Gun series. Tickets ($11) and cinema information are available on AMC’s Web site.

Wednesday, February 2

The Avalon Theatre’s Panorama of Greek Cinema series includes Hard Goodbyes: My Father, Penny Panayotopoulou’s critically acclaimed 2002 film about a young boy coming to terms with the death of a parent. Panayotopolou won a Best Directorial Debut award at the Greek State Cinema Awards, while the film’s star, Giorgos Karayannis, beat out Matt Damon, Robin Williams, and Gerard Depardieu to win the Locarno International Film Festival’s Best Actor award for his performance. Buy tickets ($11) from Avalon’s Web site.

Also on Wednesday, Arlington Independent Media presents Chocolate City at Artisphere, its first in a new series of films made by Washington residents. The 2007 documentary follows DC residents who were displaced when the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg housing project in Southeast DC was bulldozed to make way for mixed-income housing (conveniently located near then-unbuilt Nationals Park). Filmmaker Ellie Walton will answer questions after the screening. Tickets ($6) are available at the door; see for more details.

Thursday, February 3

It’s your last chance to catch Undertow at Landmark E Street. The 2010 Sundance World Cinema Audience Award winner was described by the London Guardian as “extraordinary . . . part Brokeback Mountain, part Ghost.” A fisherman in Peru lives with his pregnant wife but is haunted by his affair with a gay painter, who drowns in a tragic accident. It was written and directed by Javier Fuentes-León; get tickets ($11) at Landmark’s Web site.

Friday, February 4

The Illusionist opens at Landmark’s E Street and Bethesda locations today. The French animated feature film, nominated for an Academy Award this year and written by French comedian and director Jacques Tati before his death in 1982, tells the story of a lonely magician who finds a new life for himself in Scotland. Buy tickets ($10) at Landmark’s Web site.

Saturday, February 5

Also opening on Friday at E Street is The Housemaid, a Korean thriller about a girl who takes a job as a maid and nanny for a wealthy Seoul family and subsequently finds herself manipulated by her powerful employers. The movie was called “a lurid cocktail of titillation and betrayal” by the New York Times’ A. O. Scott. Tickets ($10) are available here.

Sunday, February 6

The National Gallery of Art’s “Neorealismo” film series continues with La Terra Trema, Luchino Visconti’s 1948 drama exploring the lives of Sicilian fishermen. The movie was poorly received when it opened at the Venice Film Festival in 1948 but has since been recognized as a masterpiece of realism, right down to the local non-actors who appear in it. 4:30; free.

Monday, February 7

The Goethe-Institut is screening films by selected directors from its Film Neu series throughout the month. Today, Percy Adlon is featured with a presentation of his 1987 film, Bagdad Cafe. A German couple on vacation in the Mojave Desert have a screaming fight, prompting the woman to leave their car and stumble across an eccentric truck stop. A spinoff TV series starring Whoopi Goldberg was made in 1990 but lasted only 15 episodes. Tickets ($7) are available here.

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