Do you remember what it’s like to pay attention to movies that are coming out in the here and now? I know it’s a stretch after what seems like about six months’ worth of Oscar season. (Just kidding, it’s only about three and a half. Sigh.) But now that the long nightmare is finally over, it’s time to sing “Auld Lang Syne” and enjoy the best of what’s playing locally. And let me tell you, the floodgates are open, first and foremost not one but two foreign film festivals — the Italian Film Festival and the Nordic Lights Film Festival (which my fellow blogger Jonathon Sharp previewed here). Also, Sound Unseen’s March screening of As the Palaces Burn is all but sold out, but a few tickets remain. The start of a new month also means the start of a new series of weekend films at the Trylon; this month features the non-samurai films of Seven Samurai director Akira Kurosawa, one of which (High and Low) is regarded by many as his secret masterpiece. And, I’ll write more about it later this week, but Stranger By The Lake (a scandalous success from last year’s Cannes fest) is finally opening at the Lagoon. If that’s not enough, check out these other best bets around town:


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Monday, March 3: Animal Crackers & Girls About Town (Heights Theater)

The Heights’ ribald series of Pre-Code frivolity comes to a close with none other than the Marx Brothers, who took their nudge-nudge buffoonery to new heights with 1930’s Animal Crackers. It’s paired with  vintage George Cukor: the 1931 prostitution hijinks of Girls About Town, which like so many Cukor films that followed it, is positively giddy about women even as it keeps a watchful eye on the, er, appeal of men.


Monday, March 3 & Tuesday, March 4: Vic + Flo Saw A Bear (Trylon Microcinema)

If you thought the story on Sapphic cinema circa 2013 began and ended with Blue is the Warmest Color, you ain’t seen the half of it. I’ll have more to say about it in an expanded review tomorrow, but for now, know that Denis Côté Vic + Flo is a wholly unpredictable journey through genres and moods and very much worth your time.


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Wednesday, March 5: Army of Darkness (Theaters at Mall of America)
This month’s “Horror for the Holidays” selection at the Mall of America is positively diabolical. What else is there to say about an “Ash” Wednesday screening of Bruce Campbell’s indefatigable Ash battling Deadites in medieval times? That’s what I call counterprogramming! (And as far as sadly timely programming, on Thursday, March 6 MOA’s John Landis series screens Animal House, which was written by the late Harold Ramis.)


Wednesday, March 5 & Thursday, March 6: The Z-Fest Film Festival (Riverview Theater)

I haven’t seen a frame of the amateur films being unreeled at the latest installment of Z-Fest at Riverview, but I know one thing: You won’t be bored. Unless one of the competing teams makes a boring movie. Then you will most definitely be bored. Until the next movie starts and you’re not bored anymore. Either way, a better bet than catching Movie 43.


Friday, March 7 & Saturday, March 8: Touki Bouki & Chronicle of a Summer (Walker Art Center)

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These are just two of the films being presented as part of the Walker Art Center’s “A Riff on the Rif: In the Spirit of the Cinematheque Tangier.” The former, which was among the films restored as part of the Martin Scorsese-backed World Cinema Foundation, is the first feature film by Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambety, one of the most famous African filmmakers this side of Ousmane Sembene. The latter is often credited with inventing the concept of cinema verité and, just slightly less directly, the French New Wave. An ingeniously investigative and introspective look at how people choose to represent themselves in front of a camera, Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer seeks to capture the changing political climate of early ’60s Paris.

Eric Henderson