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As the holidays roll in, hear the refrain: ‘Roll film!’

As the holidays roll in, hear the refrain: “Roll film!”

“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,’’ Finnish director Jalmari Helander’s darkly comic 2010 movie, opens the Alt-Xmas series at the Brattle Theatre. “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,’’ Finnish director Jalmari Helander’s darkly comic 2010 movie, opens the Alt-Xmas series at the Brattle Theatre.
By Scene Here Loren King
Globe Correspondent / November 20, 2011

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The malls would like us to believe that it’s never too early to start thinking about the holidays. That’s debatable. We believe (strongly) that it’s never too early to think about holiday diversions. And what’s better than the longstanding tradition of escaping shopping madness or family drama by going to the movies?

With escape and escapism in mind, the Brattle Theatre is offering an Alt-Xmas series, which begins Dec. 16-17 with director Jalmari Helander’s 2010 film, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.’’ Billed as “a darkly comic gem that reimagines one of the most classic of all childhood fantasies,’’ the film is set in northern Finland and is about an archeological dig that has unearthed the real Santa Claus (OK, maybe a classic fantasy in . . . Finland), and he is hardly a jolly old soul. On the lighter side, the series on Dec. 18 presents “Christmas Vacation’’ (1989) starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, and 25,000 Christmas tree lights. Closing out the eclectic program are “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’’ on Dec. 19 and “City of Lost Children’’ on Dec. 20. Traditionalists need not worry: The Brattle has paired its “Alt-Xmas’’ films with Frank Capra’s familiar holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life’’ (1946), running Dec. 16-20 on the same program with the alternative films. Our advice: Watch closely: Capra’s film just might be the darkest of all. For show times and more information, go to www.brattlefilm.org.

Shorts are sweet

To truly get away from holiday overload, a visit to New Bedford on Thanksgiving weekend offers a unique one-day film event. On Saturday, Nov. 26, the fifth annual Short Short Story Film Festival will make its New Bedford debut at Gallery X (169 William St.). The festival, which showcases films that manage to tell their stories in under five minutes, will feature screenings throughout the day and evening, along with a reception. The event has traveled throughout the Northeast since its 2007 debut in Providence. With nearly 40 films split into two programs, the collection mixes live action and animated films from 23 countries including Germany, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Laos. Tickets are $10, which includes both programs and reception. Audiences at each screening will select their favorite three films, which are then combined with votes from the other screenings to determine overall winners. For more information, go to www.mergingarts.org.

All about Alice

For the fourth consecutive Thanksgiving Day, a screening of “Alice’s Restaurant,’’ Arthur Penn’s 1969 film based on Arlo Guthrie’s song about a truckload of post-Thanksgiving dinner trash, benefits Cape Ann’s food bank, The Open Door. The screening takes place Thursday at 6:30 p.m. (tickets $12.50, $10 for members) in conjunction with the 2d annual Cape Ann Film Festival, running through Nov. 27 at the Cape Ann Community Cinema, 21 Main St., Gloucester. The festival closes with an appearance by “Take Shelter’’ producer Sarah Green on Nov. 27 at 5 p.m. She will introduce the critically acclaimed new film starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain and take audience questions. For more information, go to www.capeannfilmfest.com.

Shall we dance?

Dancing Lines, a collection of short animated films inspired by the Dance/Draw exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, screens on Nov. 27 at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., and Dec. 11 at 4:30 p.m. in the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater at the ICA. Organized by Branka Bogdanov, ICA director of film and video, the program examines the intersection of dance and animation, exploring drawing and dance within films from renowned animators Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren, Len Lye, Kathy Rose, Lisze Bechtold, Jules Engel, and Vivek Patel, as well as a selection of works by New England filmmakers Karen Aqua, David Ehrlich, Gina Kamentsky, Michael Langan, Amy Kravitz, Steven Subotnick, and Chip Moore. Tickets for the screening are $10 general admission, $8 for members and students, and are on sale at 617-478-3103 or www.icaboston.org.

Divine inspiration

James Egan, a professor at the University of Southern California Graduate School of Creative Arts and editor of the new book, “John Waters: Interviews,’’ from the University of Mississippi Press, will join film critic and occasional Globe correspondent Gerald Peary today from 5-6 p.m. at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge for a discussion of Waters’s films. Peary conducted two of the book’s interviews with the director (“Pink Flamingos,’’ “Hairspray’’), including one about Waters’s long and productive relationship with Provincetown. The book is part of the university press’s “Conversations With Filmmakers’’ series.

Black and white in color

Filmmaker Alex Ross Perry will be on hand Dec. 2 for the Boston release of his 2011 black-and-white, 16mm comedy, “The Color Wheel,’’ at Emerson College’s Paramount Center (559 Washington St., Boston). Perry also stars in the dramedy about a brother and sister who endure a road trip that highlights their awkward relationship. Perry will take questions after the 6:30 p.m. screening and will introduce the 8:45 p.m. screening. “The Color Wheel’’ is described as a “portrait of squabbling, self-loathing, obnoxious, yet ultimately sympathetic siblings on a journey to some kind of forgiveness.’’ Sounds like the perfect holiday film. It screens again on Dec. 3 at 8:45 p.m. in the Bright Family Screening Room. Tickets are $10, $7.50 for members, and are available in advance at www.artsemerson.org, or by calling 617-824-8400.

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.

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