Things to do in Sacramento and Beyond

The Bee's guide to events, activities, arts and entertainment

March 30, 2009
'In the Valley of Elah' tonight at Mondavi

In 2007, several films about the war in Iraq hit theaters. Movie-goers, too weary of the real-life war to embrace fictionalized versions, mostly stayed away.

But the best of these films, Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah," (trailer above) scored an Oscar nomination for Tommy Lee Jones' heart-wrenching lead performance as a former military man investigating the disappearance of his soldier son.

"Elah" is plays at 6:30 tonight at the Mondavi Center for the Arts as part of a four-movie Focus on Film series linked to a May 11 Mondavi appearance by Haggis, who also directed "Crash" and wrote the screenplay for "Million Dollar Baby."

The other three films in the series, chosen by Haggis, represent his strongest influences: Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon," (April 13), Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless," (1960), and Sidney Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975).

As for "Elah" ... though movie viewers remain weary of war, the passage of time -- along with exposure to several Iraq-themed documentaries and true-life accounts such as the HBO film "Taking Chance" -- have allowed for greater audience perspective on the war. While "Elah" remains a challenging film -- and some of its anti-war symbolism too obvious -- its central questions about the meaning of family, honor and duty now seem almost timeless.

Tickets are $10 general, $5 for students and children (just FYI, "Elah" is rated R and contains disturbing content). For information on the Focus on Film series and the Haggis event, go to the Mondavi the Mondavi site.

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