Ho ho ho and welcome to The (Mostly) Indie Film Calendar, a weekly look at what's happening beyond the multiplexes all around North America. If you know of something indie-related happening near you -- a local festival, a series of classic restored films, lectures, workshops, etc. -- send the info to me at Eric.Snider(at)weblogsinc(dot)com and I'll add it to the list.

There's a shload of big flicks opening wide today and on Christmas, but don't overlook the smaller films! Actually, some of them might deserve to be overlooked. But don't overlook the fact that they exist, that's what I meant.
  • If you've spent any time at Cinematical Indie in the last few months, you've seen Persepolis mentioned at least once, and probably many times. It's won awards at several film festivals (including Cannes), it's France's submission for the Oscars, and it has the buzz to overtake Ratatouille for Best Animated Film. And now it's finally opening! It will arrive Christmas Day in New York and L.A., and expand from there. Here's James Rocchi's review from Cannes and Kim Voynar's from Telluride.
  • Flakes is a slacker comedy directed by Michael Lehmann (Heathers ... but also Because I Said So and My Giant) about some Gen-Yers trying to get their cool business idea back from the wealthy jerk who stole it. Aaron Stanford and Zooey Deschanel star. Cinematical's Scott Weinberg didn't have much good to say about it at South By Southwest. Now playing at IFC Center in New York City.
  • Steep is a documentary about extreme skiing, including its history and its perils. It looks pretty gnarly, unless the kids are no longer saying that. You'll find it in New York, L.A., and a couple places in Montana.
  • From India comes Taare Zameen Par (Stars on Earth), an inspiring drama about a dyslexic and unfocused little boy who finds himself after a special teacher intervenes. Playing in New York.
After the jump, special events in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, L.A, New York, Portland, and Seattle....
span style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold">Austin: There are plenty of reasons why many people (including myself) consider the Alamo Drafthouse to be the best movie theater in the country, and this week's "High for the Holidays" series is one of them. There are screenings of The Wizard of Ozwith Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" playing with it. There's a sing-along screening of Reefer Madness: The Musical. How about showings of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, preceded by mini-burger-eating contests? Or perhaps you'd prefer Beerfest complete with Beerlympics? Or maybe Friday with all the swear words replaced with absurd substitutes, accompanied by a cigarette-rolling contest? Whatever your tastes, the Alamo can help you endure Christmas week in an altered state of mind. (Illegal substances not included.)

Boston: You can take a break from Christmas shopping this weekend with a double feature of Italian comedies at Harvard Square's Brattle Theatre. They're showing Pietro Germi's Divorce Italian Style (1961) and Seduced & Abandoned (1964) today, Saturday, and Sunday, both with new 35mm prints.

Chicago: If you have not yet successfully gotten into the holiday spirit, the Music Box Theatre will see to it with its 24th annual Christmas show. There are screenings of It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas today, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, with 20 minutes of Christmas caroling before each show -- led by Santa himself! Or at least a remarkable facsimile of him! You can catch the films singly or as a double feature. Hey, anything beats caroling outside in the freezing snow.

Denver: Deck the Halls is a wretched movie, and I don't think you should see it -- but if you must, the Denver Film Society at the Starz FilmCenter is showing it at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, and it's free for kids 5-12. Also, enjoy this overwrought description of the flick, taken from the society's website: "Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito are hilarious as two neighbors trying to put the 'win' in 'winter' in one of the year's funniest comedies! Determined to unseat Steve Finch's (Broderick) reign as the town's holiday season king, Buddy Hall (DeVito) plasters his house with so many decorative lights that it'll be visible from space! When their wives (Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth) bond, and their kids follow suit, the two men only escalate their rivalry -- and their decorating. It's anybody's guess whether the holidays will wind up jolly or jostled in this wild and woolly laugh-fest that the whole family will love!"

Los Angeles: American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre has put together a nice assortment of Christmas films for its "Movies with Holiday Spirit" series. Tonight it's a double feature of A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, two favorites you've undoubtedly seen but probably not often on the big screen. Saturday has a family matinee of Albert Finney's Scrooge (1970), followed by an R-rated double feature of Die Hard and Bad Santa. The series concludes Sunday night with an obscure, little-seen film called It's a Wonderful Life.

New York City: Not very Christmas-y but probably fascinating nonetheless is a documentary called Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust that will open at IFC Center on Christmas Day. Director Daniel Anker looks at how the movies have dealt with the Nazis and the Holocaust over the decades, with narration by Gene Hackman and interviews with folks like Sidney Lumet and Steven Spielberg.

Portland: Two ongoing series will draw to a close in the coming days at the Northwest Film Center, so this is your last chance to see some excellent foreign films that you probably haven't seen before. "A Man Vanishes: The Legacy of Shohei Imamura" will have its last three screenings -- The Eel (1997), Dr. Akagi (1998), and Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (2001) -- today, Saturday, and Sunday. Next week, the "Czech Modernism" series ends with Virginity (1937) on Wednesday, Faithless Marijka (1934) on Thursday, and The Distant Journey (1950) on Dec. 30. See 'em and be a real Czech mate! (Don't kill me. It's the holidays.)

Seattle: Don't miss a chance to see a newly restored 35mm print of From Here to Eternity on the big screen, courtesy of Northwest Film Forum. It's showing twice nightly (except Christmas), now through next Thursday. It won eight Oscars and has an iconic shot of Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster doin' it on the beach. Oh yeahhh.

Is there something cool going on in your city? Send me a link! Eric.Snider(at)weblogsinc(dot)com (and please put "Cinematical" in the subject line!).