- That event, of course, is Independent Film Festival Boston 2012, which kicks off Wednesday at the Somerville Theatre with Sleepwalk With Me, Mike Birbiglia's adaptation of his "This American Life" segments. The festival will continue through May 2nd at various venues, including all five screens at Somerville on Thursday.
(Don't confuse it with the Boston International Film Festival, which runs through the 22nd at AMC Boston Common. Two completely different things.)
- The Coolidge will be host to the last couple of days of the festival in May, but in the meantime they have two new films in the big rooms. Bully opens a bit late, but they're also opening Damsels in Distress, the long-awaited fourth film by director Whit Stillman. This time around, Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke and Carrie MacLemore are college students running a suicide prevention program with unusual methods.
They will have an IFFBoston preview of sorts on Sunday at 10am, when the Talk Cinema screening is Hirokazu Koreeda's I Wish, with the renowned director tackling the story of a family going through a divorce the leaves the two young sons living in separate households. There are also a pair of special screenings on Wednesday night - Documentary From Place to Place, presented by the Massachusetts Chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America, and thriller Claustropbia, presented with open captions by the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Film Club with director Harlan Schneider attending. And it's apparently too late to get tickets, but all four (!) midnight shows of The Room with writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau and co-star Greg Sestero hosting on Friday and Saturday have been sold out.
- Damsels also opens at the Landmark theaters in Kendall Square and Watertown. In addition, Kendall Square is also getting the quite excellent Monsieur Lazhar, which has an old-fashioned Algerian immigrant taking over a class in a Montreal elementary school after its teacher dies in horrifying fashion. There's also Marley, a documentary on the legendary reggae musician, and The Fairy, a Belgian comedy about a mild-mannered hotel clerk who meets a funky young lady who claims she can grant him three wishes (it's the one-week booking).
- The multiplexes for the most part take a break from action/effects-oriented fare this week. Think Like a Man (playing at Fresh Pond, Fenway, and Boston Common) springs from comedian Steve Harvey's best-selling relationship book, with four friends finding themselves having to raise their game once their girlfriends have started taking Harvey's advice to heart (because not playing games just isn't an option!). The Lucky One (playing at the Capitol, Fresh Pond, Harvard Square, Boston Common, and Fenway) is the latest Nicolas Sparks adaptation, with Zac Efron as a soldier returning stateside seeking the girl in a photograph that served as a lucky charm in Iraq.
Earth Day falls this week, so Disney pulls out its annual nature documentary. Chimpanzee follows a young primate who gets separated from his family group and adopted by an older male. It plays the Capitol, Fenway, and Boston Common. Boston Common also opens Hong Kong's A Simple Life, which was their submission to the Oscars, not making the final cut but picking up other awards along the way. It stars Deannie Yip as a former maid who retires to move into an old folks' home after a stroke, with Andy Lau as the son of the family she worked for who looks out for her.
- Another release likely tied to Earth day is "To The Arctic", an IMAX documentary that opens at both the New England Aquarium (in 3-D) and the Museum of Science (projected on the spherical "OMNIMAX" screen). It follows a family of polar bears about the frozen (but changing) north. Meryl Streep narrates the 40-minute featurette, which plays alongside "Tornado Alley' and "Dolphins" at the Museum of Science and "Born to Be Wild", "Under the Sea", and "Deep Sea 3D" at the Aquarium for those looking for a double feature of amazing large-format photography.
- I'm a bit surprised the Brattle has been closed for much of school vacation week rather than extending the Muppet Madness series that kicks off on Friday back to last Monday. It runs this weekend, with new entry The Muppets playing Friday and Saturday, running as a double feature with a sing-along screening of The Muppet Movie on Friday and Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey on Saturday. Sunday is a triple feature of the original movies made by Jim Henson - The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan - while Monday features his funky fantasies, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
Special events fill the rest of the week. The Balagan screening on Tuesday the 24th, The Castle (Il Castello), seems rather conventional for them, as directors Massimo D'Anolfi and Martina Parenti (attending in person) take their cameras inside the operations of Milan's airport to show the overwhelming challenges and post-9/11 bureaucracy that face the staff. The "Wordless Wednesday" screening is 1930's City Girl, F.W. Murnau's follow-up to Sunshine (originally scheduled, but delayed until next month), which has a farmer meeting and marrying the title character, who may not adapt so well to the country. Thursday night features the short documentary film "A Civil Remedy", about a girl who escaped from sex traffickers, and will be followed by a panel discussion with journalists and filmmakers working on sex trafficking stories.
- ArtsEmerson's "Gotta Dance" program has a big entry this weekend, with Gene Kelly as An American in Paris. That classic Vincente Minnelli musical plays Friday evening (when it is introduced by Minnelli biographer Mark Griffin) and Saturday & Sunday afternoons, in a spiffy restoration 35mm print. Saturday evening features a pair of restored 16mm prints: "Print Generation", in which one minute of footage is presented fifty times, with the film processed differently in each; and "Notes for Jerome", a forty-five minute tribute to Jerome Hill.
- The MFA continues Jewishfilm.2012: The National Center for Jewish Film's Festival, with The Policeman, Never Forget to Lie, How to Re-establish a Vodka Empire, a program of Max Davidson silent comedy shorts from the 1920s, My Australia, Women Unchained, and Punk Jews.
- The Harvard Film Archive begins Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Cinema Novo and Beyond, a program spotlighting one of Brazil's most noted filmmakers. Friday features Barren Lives and Who Is Beta?; Saturday's films are Golden Mouth and Rio, 100 Degrees; then the program takes a week off.
There's a repeat screening of William Kentridge's animated films on Sunday at 5pm, though the director will not be in attendance as he was last week. The husband-and-wife team of Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán will be present for the 7pm show that day, Jean Gentil, which follows an unemployed Haitian accountant deeper into the jungle. Monday evening, they move out of the main screening room for Anthony McCall's installation film Line Describing a Cone, which makes the projection beam of light itself part of the presentation.
- The Bollywood film opening at Fresh Pond this week is Vicky Donor, which features Ayushmann Khurrana as a prolific sperm donor at a New Delhi clinic, which inevitably complicates things when he meets a pretty girl played by Yami Gautam. It mostly runs evenings, with the held-over Houseful 2 continuing to have matinee showings.
- Sing-Along Grease wraps up its run at the Regent Theatre in Arlington on Friday and Sunday, with Friday night's show featuring a "Live Shadow Cast" leading the audience.
My plans? A Simple Life on Friday, I Wish and Damsels in Distress on Sunday, and maybe "To The Arctic" in between. With IFFBoston coming up on Wednesday, I'd probably better catch The Fairy and catch up on some other stuff early. You guys should all get to Monsieur Lazhar before joining me in Somerville on Wednesday and Thursday.
(Taking my nieces to the Brattle's Muppet stuff while my brother and sister-in-law are at a concert and after-party would be cool, but they'll probably be at their grandparents' instead.)