Oddballs & Events

This week's specialty screenings and venues.

Send listings two weeks in advance to film@seattleweekly.com

The Blue Butterfly If you, too, were glad to see William Hurt make small but artfully crafted contributions to Syriana and A History of Violence this year, here's a festival orphan from 2004 in which he stars as a famous entomologist who takes a dying 10-year-old boy to Costa Rica to find the gorgeous titular insect. You can probably expect some tears in the rain forest, but director Léa Pool (Set Me Free) has a way with young actors. And one never has to worry about Hurt making a character too soft or accessible. The cinematography's reportedly amazing, with lots of insect close-ups like Microcosmos; and the kid's mother also goes along to tempt Hurt's lonely lepidopterist. (PG) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $8-$10. 7 and 9:15 p.m. Wed. Dec. 28-Fri. Dec. 30.

Barbarella/Danger: Diabolik The NWFF celebrates the psychedelic spirit of 1968 with two dizzy artifacts from that era. (Appropriately, there'll also be an ultra-mod fashion contest Fri. Dec. 30 for those fond of vintage leopard-print mini skirts and white vinyl go-go boots.) Jane Fonda stars as the comic-book heroine in Barbarella, directed by her then-husband, Roger Vadim. It's campy and awful, best remembered for the costumes, shagadelic set designs, and Fonda's zero-gravity striptease. The laughs, when they come, are unintentional. Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik is no less colorful, and also stars the handsome, wooden John Philip Law (the blind angel in Barbarella), here playing a super thief and political espionage artist whose origins, again, lie in some dreadful European comic. Ennio Morricone supplies the score, and Terry-Thomas adds some genuine comedic acting as a government bureaucrat, but both these films only fumble toward the kind of James Bond parody that Roger Moore effortlessly achieved in the '70s. (NR) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 206-267-5380. $5-$8. Fri. Dec. 30 and Sun. Jan. 1-Thurs. Jan. 5.

The General From 1927, the classic Civil War comedy has our railroad engineer hero seek to retrieve his beloved locomotive from Union troops. That Buster Keaton is playing a Confederate agent behind enemy lines matters not a bit; the film has gags, not politics, on its mind, and the physical execution of these dangerous stunts is dazzling. Perhaps the most audacious one, which has to be seen to be believed, involves Keaton, a train, and a mortar. One can never forget that with no CGI or stunt doubles, any one (of many) perfectly timed gags could've been the death of Keaton if he'd miscalculated by an inch. The shorter Cops (1922) is a breakneck two-reel chase movie that actually begins with a political incident: True to the radical violence of the day, Keaton is mistaken for a bomb-throwing anarchist, which puts the entire city police force on his tail. With the kids on school break, this is an excellent family double-feature. (NR) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. Fri. Dec. 30-Thurs. Jan. 5.

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 about family, community, and the bountiful promise of the suburbs, you still can't shake off George's dark vision of reality. (NR) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. Continues through Thurs. Dec. 29.

Marx Brothers Double-Feature You can't go wrong with Monkey Business and Duck Soup, the latter being perhaps the most lighthearted war movie ever made. Groucho plays the war-crazed but cowardly leader of Freedonia, who directs an invasion for his own personal gain. Chico and Harpo are enemy spies who try to halt the plan, and everyone pivots around the great and stately Margaret Dumont, Groucho's benefactor. Made two years earlier in 1931, the lesser Monkey Business is a fairly straightforward stowaway comedy, with maritime romance, kidnapping, and impersonations of Maurice Chevalier. Screened on video; admission includes discussion and snack. (NR) Movie Legends, 2319 N. 45th St., 206-632-2092. $5. 1 p.m. Sun. Jan. 1.

Team America: World Police This gleefully gory, vulgar 2004 flick—co-written by South Park cranks Trey Parker and Matt Stone and starring "an all-marionette cast"—has some unexpectedly tender moments. Like the scene where WMD-amassing North Korean dictator Kim Jong II (voiced by Parker) bursts into song, dutifully transposing his Ls and Rs, as he bemoans how "ronery" his life can be. Or the bit where the Team America leader asks a recruit to prove his patriotism with a little impromptu fellatio. But, no surprise in an election year, Parker and Stone also open up a bipartisan can of whoop-ass. Sure, the jingoistic Team America may destroy half of Paris while pursuing some stereotypical Arab terrorists (their zeal would make Dubya proud), but the movie also sends up bleeding-heart Hollywood liberals. It accomplishes what even the brilliantly bombastic Michael Moore—who has a memorable, unauthorized "cameo"—never will: an even-handed portrayal of dunderheadedness on both sides of the political aisle. (R) NEAL SCHINDLER Egyptian, 801 E. Pine St., 206-781-5755. $6-$9. Midnight. Fri. Dec. 30.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill This documentary celebrates two endangered species: the 45-odd escapee parrots who flock in the trees below San Francisco's Coit Tower, and the still more flighty denizens of nearby North Beach, the last redoubt of bohemianism in a town so frighteningly gentrified it makes Seattle look affordable. Fifty-something Seattle-born Mark Bittner tends his feral flock more tenderly than the Birdman of Alcatraz. All his parrots have names and distinct behaviors; we're watching a real community in action. Director Judy Irving also gives us a similar sense of the North Beach human community. Both she and Bittner will attend this screening for a Q&A; the event coincides with the doc's DVD release. (NR) TIM APPELO Seattle Art Museum, 100 University St., 206-654-3121. $6-$8. (Advance tickets also from Scarecrow Video, 5030 Roosevelt Way N.E., 206-524-8554.) 7:30 p.m. Wed. Dec. 28.

 
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