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How Tommy Wiseau Made His Bad Movie History Mark

Two new films tie for the week’s most prominent opening honors. James Franco channels bad movie auteur Tommy Wiseau in telling how midnight movie staple The Room came about. Angelina Jolie executive produced an animated tale set in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

For those seeking film diet fare crunchier than laughing at Tommy Wiseau, some under-the-radar offerings are worth checking out. The new edition of a crème-de-la-crème animated shorts program features everything from a Kobe Bryant basketball love letter to Alan Watts showing the interconnectedness of everything. A dazzling award-winning documentary about a famed card mechanic may seem like fiction because its central subject is blind. And how much does Hong Sang-soo’s new film draw from his own controversial extramarital affair?

The 19th Annual Animation Show of Shows

Curator Ron Diamond returns with his annual program of the cream of contemporary animated short films. This year’s program of 16 films includes the Annecy Grand Prix-winner “The Burden” (a portrait of a group of night-shift employees), the restored “Hangman” (a town is terrorized by a hangman’s methodical execution of its residents), and “Everything” (Alan Watts’ work offers a springboard to look at the interconnectedness of the universe). Pixar director Pete Docter and experimental animator Steven Woloshen also contribute gems.

Now at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas

American Yogi

Bay Area filmmaker and psychotherapist Steven Newmark found inspiration in Ram Dass’ book Be Here Now, a portrait of Indian guru Maharaji. When he travels to India, the director encounters students and devotees of Maharaji. More importantly, his film offers an entertaining and accessible introduction to the wisdom of Hinduism.

Now at the Smith Rafael Film Center

The Breadwinner

Angelina Jolie executive produced this animated adaptation of Deborah Ellis’ novel. In 2001 Afghanistan, Parvana lives with her family in Kabul. Her father provides for the family as a marketplace letter writer. But after the Taliban arrest the ex-schoolteacher, the girl must support her family by disguising herself as a boy to get work. While saving up money, Parvana hopes to find her father and obtain his release.

Now at the Clay Theatre, the Shattuck Cinemas, and the Smith Rafael Film Center

Dealt

Despite being completely blind, Richard Turner is renowned as one of the world’s greatest card mechanics. Turner’s pride prevents him from acknowledging his physical condition, despite his wife’s frequent assistance. Can a compromise between gratitude and a personal code of honor be struck? Winner of the SXSW Audience Award for Documentary Feature.

Now at the Roxie Theatre

The Disaster Artist

James Franco directs and stars as spectacularly untalented filmmaker Tommy Wiseau. Aspiring actor Greg Sestero becomes friends with fellow acting class student Tommy Wiseau. A weird Middle European accent and a hulking physique make Wiseau unlikely to be a star actor. When Sestero also fails to land film roles, Wiseau decides to create a star vehicle for both of them. But the Tennessee Williams-like melodrama don’t make Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero Best Oscar nominees. Instead, Wiseau’s The Room gains cult notoriety as one of the worst films ever made.

Now at the AMC Metreon 16

Los Nadie (The Nobodies)

This Venice Critics’ Week Audience Award winner offers a group portrait of a quintet of lower- and middle-class millennials living in Medellin, Colombia. These tattooed and pierced youths range from a drug addict’s son to a rebellious wannabe rock singer. Medellin street hustling provides just one means for these five youths to survive despite society’s indifference.

Now at the Roxie Theatre

On The Beach At Night Alone

Actress Young-hee (Kim Min-hee) is visiting Hamburg to recover from the end of her relationship with a married filmmaker. Yet time and distance does little to heal her broken heart. Back in South Korea, closure still feels elusive to Young-hee. Heavy drinking and lashing out at friends don’t do the trick. Any resemblance in this film to Hong and Kim’s real-life extramarital affair might be closer than you think.

Now at the 4-Star Theatre

The Swindlers

Financier Jang Doo-chil disappears with a Ponzi scheme’s loot, leaving con man Hwang Ji-sung to uselessly vow revenge. Corrupt prosecutor Park Hee-su learns Jang has re-surfaced and is laundering millions through Korean casinos. So he assembles Hwang and other con artists to take down Jang. But in any con artist caper, double crosses are part of the territory.

Now at the AMC Van Ness 14

Thelma

Thelma has left her conservative Christian home to attend college. There, she cuts loose by drinking heavily and starting an affair with fellow student Anja. But Thelma’s new life gets undercut by her weird seizures and her manifesting supernatural abilities. Director Joachim von Trier (Louder Than Bombs) takes a dip into genre territory with this film.

Now at the Opera Plaza Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

About the Author

I’m a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film…but don’t tell anyone.

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