Tim Burton’s <em>Alice in Wonderland</em>

For film geeks, winter is prime party time. In addition to the never-ending stream of awards shows (and pregame red carpet coverage), the blustery months bring out some of the most celebrated film fests, including our very own Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Starting Thursday, February 4, and stretching through Sunday, February 14, the streets of S.B. come alive with glitz, glamour, and a whole lot of amazing reasons to head to the movies. Stars like Sandra Bullock, Colin Firth, James Cameron, and Julianne Moore will be in attendance, and foreign films, documentaries, dramas, comedies, student shorts, and sports flicks will all get prime billing. To get the skinny on all the films as they’re announced, visit sbiff.org.

But even before things kick into Hollywood-style high gear, film houses around town are giving us plenty of reasons to head to the theater. Throughout January, filmmaker Larry Nimmer unveils portions of his behind-the-scenes doc, Michael Jackson: The Untold Story of Neverland, at Red’s Tapas & Wine Bar. The film features never-before-seen footage of the Neverland Ranch police raids from 2005, which Nimmer was hired to capture by Jacko’s defense team. Screenings start at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 17, and Sunday, January 24.

Arts & Lectures kicks off the New Year with another season of fine film programming. This month, the James Gandolfini-driven political satire In the Loop (Jan. 19) and the beautifully animated Coraline (Jan. 27) both play at UCSB’s Campbell Hall.

<em>Where the Wild Things Are</em>

Just down the road, Magic Lantern gives fans another chance to catch Spike Jonze’s dazzling Where the Wild Things Are on the big screen on Friday, January 29. Also this month, SBIFF honoree James Cameron gets a special nod from the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, where his Aliens of the Sea doc will play at select times through January 31.

On Tuesday, February 2, A&L brings Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s masterpiece, A City of Sadness, to Campbell Hall in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary. The Coen brothers’ sadly overlooked A Serious Man gets an encore showing at Isla Vista Theater on Friday, February 5, and the always stunning Banff Mountain Film Festival returns to Campbell Hall on Tuesday, February 23, and Wednesday, February 24. In the world of wide releases, Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated Leo DiCaprio thriller, Shutter Island, hits theaters on February 19, and Garry Marshall’s romantic comedy Valentine’s Day opens on February 12.

Wes Anderson's <em>Fantastic Mr. Fox</em> animates Roald Dahl's children's tale.

The shining star of March’s screening lineup is no doubt 35 Shots of Rum. The French language coming-of-age tale about a metro conductor and his daughter screens at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Wednesday, March 3. Also in March, Magic Lantern reprises the stop-motion glory of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox at I.V. Theater (Mar. 5) and Arts & Lectures gives some love to the Akira Kurosawa classic Rashômon at Campbell Hall (Mar. 9). Meanwhile, the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp team returns with their whacked-out take on Alice in Wonderland, hitting theaters nationwide on Friday, March 5.


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