Film: Holiday Despair
For those sick of glad tidings and goodwill during this holiday season, SIFF is offering nothing but gloom, famine, and global destruction in its Apocalypse Film Festival. Twelve features include classics (Dr. Strange-love and Invasion of the Body Snatchers), crowd-pleasers (War Games and Waterworld), and comedies (Delicatessen and Shaun of the Dead). Of special note is Children of Men (Wed., Dec. 19), released so late and with so little studio support in 2006 that it was criminally overlooked by Oscar voters. Alfonso Cuarón's adaptation of the P.D. James novel envisions an infertile, environmentally blighted planet, with Clive Owen as possibly the last decent man on Earth. Britain has become a near–police state, and selfishness reigns supreme. It's Ayn Rand meets Gitmo, with some of the most astonishing long-take action scenes ever put to film. The fest begins tonight with Terry Gilliam's underrated 1995 time-travel dystopia flick, 12 Monkeys (starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt), preceded by the famous French short that inspired it: Chris Marker's 1962 La Jetée. (Through Dec. 20.) SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., 324-9996, siff.net. $5–$10. 7 p.m.
Stage: Whose Child Is This?
Move over, Dewey, Cheatem, & Howe. There's a new(ish) satirical law firm on the block, with a celebrity paternity case fit for Gawker or TMZ. In Wisemen, Mary Christmas has a bouncing baby boy, but her virginal husband Joseph is pretty sure it isn't his. ("The only hump he ever had was on his camel," says one skeptic.) Mary concurs, but instead of copping to copulation with any of the likely suspects—including gangsta E. Bunny, a neighbor, and maybe even Joseph's own shrink—she pins the pecker on God Himself. In response, since Mary insists she's the wronged party, Joseph hires the Wisemen Law Firm to find the child's real father. What ensues in this musical holiday revue is goofball humor, rap, klezmer, puns (some creaky, some smart), and rapid-fire dialogue. Created by David Bestock and composer Eli Rosenblatt, Wisemen has its roots in a 2006 holiday show at the Tractor; they expanded it for last season's debut at ACT; and now they've added some new jokes and songs—even more sacrilegious, we hope. (Runs Thurs.–Sat. through Dec. 22.) ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, acttheatre.org. $20–$25. 8 p.m.
Stage: Canadian Invasion
Long a favorite among KUOW listeners, The Vinyl Cafe has also become a publishing and podcasting phenomenon, thanks to its droll host, Stuart McLean. (We think of him as the Canadian antipode to Garrison Keillor, unless it's the other way around.) In this touring Christmas show, McLean offers new stories featuring Dave and Morley (the husband-and-wife proprietors of a used-record shop, with all parts read by McLean) and holiday tunes from the Vinylettes and Reid Jamieson. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $30–$53. 7:30 p.m.
Returning after a short run at the Varsity last month, Leos Carax's Holy Motors is unclassifiable, expansive, and breathtaking. It stars the simian, sinewy Denis Lavant as Oscar, who inhabits nearly a dozen different personas over the course of a day. Chauffeured through Paris in a white stretch limo, Oscar consults a dossier for the particulars of his next "appointment." These scenarios require him to play, among others, a homeless old woman shaking a tin cup, a performer bending and contorting for a motion-capture sex scene, and a feral leprechaun terrorizing a fashion shoot. (There, he absconds with a model played by Eva Mendes.) Oscar pursues this exhausting work for "the beauty of the act," as he explains to a mysterious exec (Michel Piccoli). "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," the suit responds—to which Oscar asks, "And what if there's no more beholder?" As Oscar's night begins to wind down, he sees Jean (Kylie Minogue, transcendent), a woman he once loved, now engaged in the same kind of shape-shifting work as he. Jean breaks into song: "Who were we/When we were/Who we were/Back then?" The lyrics circle back to an ever-present past; the song's opening lines seem, like Oscar himself, to be in constant flux, always slipping just out of our grasp. If there's no more beholder, how will we know what we were? SIFF Film Center, 305 Harrison St. (Seattle Center), 324-9996, siff.net. $5–$10. Call for showtimes.
Stage: What About Bob?
Charles Dickens' holiday perennial gets the Mad Libs treatment in A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol, with the Unexpected Productions improv crew taking your audience suggestions. During a recent show, this meant that a newly divorced Bob Cratchit labors away at Ebenezer Scrooge's gynecology factory, while Tiny Tim sits at home with a debilitating case of Restless Leg Syndrome. Scrooge meanwhile resides on a houseboat, where he nurses a pretty serious weed habit. Over at ACT, the straight version of A Christmas Carol is now in its 37th year, but this Choose Your Own Adventure–style show is a holiday tradition in its own right, first performed in 1985. It's a practiced and funny rebuttal to the usual Yuletide redemption tale. Two different casts perform on alternating nights. During my visit, Tim Tracey's Scrooge imparted just the right amount of contempt as that moody, tightly wound, walking heart attack of a man. Portraying the three ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, Michael Bils vies for your attention with finely executed comic relief. (Through Dec. 30.) Unexpected Productions Market Theater, 1428 Post Alley, 587-2414, unexpectedproductions.org, $5–$15. 8:30 p.m.
Music: An Early Circus
Black Friday brawls and rum-spiked eggnog aside, the holidays are all about the kids, who, God bless them, truly do believe this is the most wonderful time of the year. To celebrate with some rockin' quality family time, parents can fuel up their young'uns with hot chocolate and take them to Teatro ZinZanni's Big Top Rock. Each morning show starts with circus performers like hand-balancer Christopher Phi and ballerina Ariana Lallone (we predict tutus and ballet slippers will be added to many a girl's Christmas list after seeing her graceful hula-hoop and contortionist act). Afterward, musicians from local kids' music collective Kindiependent will perform. Children are encouraged to dance along—and so are you, if you want to be a fun parent. The first two shows will feature Seattle's favorite children's troubadour Caspar Babypants, who just released a cheery new album, I Found You!, featuring songs about crickets, kangaroos, and the traveling adventures of a ball of lint named Fuzz. (Six shows run through Jan. 6.) Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St., Seattle, 802-0015, dreams.zinzanni.org. $19–$24. 10 a.m.