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Indie films in store

As many movie award ceremonies draw closer, a surplus of indie films will be finding their way into the Tampa Bay area within the next two weeks.

These releases coincide with the upcoming Independent Spirit Awards, an event that dubs itself the anti-prom to the Oscars.

The ceremony is hosted by “The Soup” and “Community” star Joel McHale and airs Feb. 26 at 10 p.m. on IFC.

The Oracle notes five indie films already in theaters or on their way.

“The Illusionist”

Now in theaters

Playing at: Muvico Baywalk

Not to be confused with the 2006 Edward Norton fantasy of the same name, the animated French film “The Illusionist” details a different type of magician.

The story comes from a screenplay by late comedy director Jacques Tati and follows the struggling sleight-of-hand artist Tatischeff as his audience dwindles down to a young woman named Alice.

The gentle movie recently scored a Best Animated Film nomination with the Oscars, which speculators believe edged out Disney’s CGI Rapunzel remake, “Tangled.”

For students seeking an alternative to tired 3D animation laden with pop-culture references, the painterly hand-drawn qualities of “The Illusionist” should be suitably spell-casting.

“Rabbit Hole”

Now in theaters

Playing at: Muvico Baywalk

John Cameron Mitchell made his mark in the indie world with his sexually transgressive features “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus,” but his third film “Rabbit Hole” is a domestic drama in the vein of “In the Bedroom.”

When the 4-year-old son of Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) is killed in a car accident, the married couple quickly finds their lives in disarray.

The film was among the Independent Spirit Awards’ big winners with nominations for Mitchell, Kidman and Eckhart – and David Lindsay-Abaire for a screenplay adapting his Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

Though this might seem like an inherently depressing premise, critics have praised the film for its two lead performances and finding subtle levity throughout the heaviness.


Now in theaters

Playing at: Muvico Starlight, Muvico Baywalk

“Biutiful” offers a similarly dour setup, but it should attract audiences who remember director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu’s kinetic, “Pulp Fiction”-esque drama “Amores Perros.”

Javier Bardem stars as Uxbal, a father of two with terminal cancer trying to redeem himself in a Barcelona plagued with street crime and Chinese sweatshops.

He also has the miraculous ability to speak to the deceased.

After “21 Grams” and “Babel,” this movie sees Irritu returning to his native Spanish language and dovetailing storylines that stretch over two hours.

“Biutiful” could prove rewarding to filmgoers willing to follow its four languages and 148-minute running length – or at least a substitute to Clint Eastwood’s hokey “Hereafter.”

“Barney’s Version”

February 18

Playing at: AMC Woodland Square, Muvico Baywalk

Students seeking the most cinema for their cash should check out “Barney’s Version,” a film that spans the three decades, three marriages and two continents in the tale of Barney Panofsky.

Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) starts in Rome with his first wife, before discovering the love of his life Miriam (Rosamund Pike) during his wedding to another woman.

Based on Mordecai Richler’s acclaimed novel, the movie’s main appeal should be its continuous combination of comedy and tragedy.

Giamatti picked up a Golden Globe for his performance and joked, “I got to smoke and drink and get laid in this movie and I got paid for it.”


February 25

Playing at: Tampa Theatre

“Lost in Translation” writer-director Sofia Coppola follows another fictional Hollywood figure in unfamiliar, exotic territory with her fourth feature “Somewhere.”

Former action star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is aimlessly moving through luxury spots like Chateau Marmont when his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) suddenly re-enters his life.

“Somewhere” offers something of an artistic showcase for Dorff – whose dubious credits include “Blade” and “Alone in the Dark.” The cast also includes “Jackass” star Chris Pontius.

The movie’s frequent use of long-takes has split audiences, but if there was anywhere to witness Harris Savides’ luxurious cinematography, it would be projected onto Tampa Theatre’s screen.