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Picks by Richard von Busack

Angela's Ashes
Opens Jan. 14.

Surprisingly good adaptation of Frank McCourt's chronicle of dirt-poverty, rain and small white coffins from Alan Parker, the last person you'd expect to be able to do the book justice. Occasionally, Parker (Evita, The Wall, Midnight Express and worse) goes for cheap laughs, mostly in the ham-handed scenes of Irish schools and welfare offices. Still, he can't cheapen the performances by Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle as the desperately poor parents. Carlyle's never been better on screen, subtly showing the wrath, the connivance and shame of a kind but inept father.

Girl, Interrupted
Opens Jan. 14.

As the supermarket tabloid The Star noted, Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie are skinnier than the character who is supposed to be an anorexia sufferer in this underwhelming drama. It is the story of Susanna (Ryder) and her year in her-gatory: an expensive mental hospital in the Boston suburbs in 1968. Director James Mangold finesses some of the problems that come from adapting Susanna Kaysen's book: a spoiled heroine who unaccountably drifts into the loony bin (by casting Whoopi Goldberg, oozing with wholesomeness, as a nurse who lectures Susanna on her laziness) and the question of whether the madhouse wasn't really just some sort of peculiar finishing school for bluebloods (no, he insists, therapy is important, it can really help you deal with those negative feelings). Jolie overemotes like Billy Zane fishing for an Oscar. And she's unpleasant to look at, for a change; it is as if her face was bleached along with her hair.

San Francisco Indie Fest
Plays Jan. 6-14 at the Victoria Theater.

Opening this year's selection is former SF Metropolitan cover-man Matt Leutwyler with his new film, This Space Between Us, about a Bay Area filmmaker who burns his bridges in L.A. and comes home to San Francisco. Also scheduled: Gypsy Boys, Brian Shep's tour of gay night life; and Dumbarton Bridge, Charles Koppleman's naturalistic story of the conflict among a loner, his half-Vietnamese daughter and his live-in girlfriend, set among the salt ponds on the south end of San Francisco Bay. Plus: the feature debut by Don "Ralph from TV's Happy Days" Most, the film Last Best Sunday, in which an upper-class white girl finds a moment's happiness with a Mexican immigrant.

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From the January 3, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

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