What’s Screening: February 20-26

IndieFest continues through Sunday (I was wrong to say it went only to the 20th). Most of the screenings now are at the Shattuck.

And Cinequest opens Wednesday and runs through March 8.

And don’t forget that Sunday, you can watch the Oscars on the big screen at the Balboa, Castro, Cerrito, Lark, Parkway, Rafael, or Roxie (did I miss any). Check theaters for times, prices, and the need to buy advance tickets.

Mid-Winter Comedy Film Festival, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, laurelhardy Friday through Sunday. Seven programs of mostly short, mostly silent comedies to cheer you up in the dead of winter. Hosted and curated by film collector and historian Richard M. Roberts. Phillip C. Carli and Frederick Hodges will take turns accompanying the silents on piano.

Balboa Birthday Bash, Balboa, Sunday, 12:45. A lantern slide show, Mary Pickford in My Best Girl, accompanied by Frederick Hodges on piano, selected shorts, and a Live Vaudeville Show featuring chanteuse Linda Kosut and Magician James Hamilton. And all done before the Oscars begin.

Up the Yangtze, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 8:30. China’s Three Gorges Dam, still under construction, may be the largest hydroelectric project ever attempted, and Chang’s film takes an unusual but effective approach to examining the project’s repercussions. He focuses his camera on two teenagers working a cruise ship that takes western tourists along the river, as well as one of those teenagers’ parents”“a peasant couple forced to relocate as the waters rise. This is not about a construction project, but about the millions of people who have been or will be moved because of the dam. Read my full review. Part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

Milk, Castro, Friday, then Monday through Thursday. Yep, I’m always a sucker for a historical epic, especially one set in a time and place that I can remember. Sprawling without ever being boring, and inspiring without getting preachy. I’ve always known that Sean Penn was a great actor; it’s nice to know that he can do “happy” as well as less pleasant emotions. James Franco is also very good as the main man in his life. And for obvious reasons, the Castro is the appropriate venue.

Let the Right One In, Red Vic, Friday and Saturday. Better than Horror of Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, and The Lost Boys, and maybe better than Nosferatu, this is one of the great vampire movies. What better place for a vampire than a Swedish winter? The nights are very long, snow covers everything, and people drink heavily and seem depressed to begin with. It’s like Bergman, only with undead bloodsuckers. Let the Right One In is also a coming-of-age story, about first love between a boy about to turn 13 and a girl who has been 12 “for a very long time.”

Slumdog Millionaire, Roxie, opens Friday. Am I the only person in the universe who didn’t love this mess? Sure, there are some good scenes and funny moments, but the whole story is so ridiculously contrived I couldn’t suspend disbelief. Not only did this poor kid learn the exact pieces of trivia he would need through his mean street experiences, but he learned them in the order he would later be asked them. I can swallow a lot, but not that.