After the frenzy of a holiday season, life always seems to settle into a long winter snooze. It's no different at the movies. Many of the Thanksgiving and Christmas releases, most aimed at Oscar consideration, are still playing in local theaters. But new motion pictures that begin arriving this month may be less than exceptional.
So what better time to showcase worthy older fare or recent productions way off the beaten path of commercial viability? Several upcoming events will offer Vermonters a cinematic alternative to hibernation:
HIRSCHFIELD FILM/VIDEO SERIES
(3 and 8 p.m., Saturdays; Dana Auditorium, Middlebury College; 443-6433).
January 10 -- Divine Intervention, director Elia Suleiman's minimalist tragicomic take on the clash between Palestinians and Israelis.
January 17 -- The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat), a peek at the Arctic's Inuit culture through a saga of murder, betrayal, revenge and magic.
January 24 -- All the Real Girls, about a guy with a roving eye who might finally find lasting love in his rural Southern hometown.
February 14 -- Rabbit Proof Fence, Phillip Noyce's retelling of a true Australian story about three Aboriginal girls who escape from a racist detention camp in the 1930s.
February 21 -- Talk to Her, a campy but tender romantic tangle with gender-bending twists from Spain's Pedro Almodovar.
March 6 -- Adaptation, a cautionary tale about screenwriting with Nicolas Cage as double-trouble twins.
March 13 -- Secretary, featuring James Spader and Maggie Gyllen-hall in a boss-employee relationship that would have thrilled the Marquis de Sade, not to mention Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.
WORLD CINEMA SERIES
(4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays; Savoy Theater, Montpelier; 229-0509).
January 10 & 11 -- Harvest, a controversial 1939 French classic about a peasant wheat farmer and his apprentice whose passion for each other rivals only their love of the land.
January 17 & 18 -- The Son, which centers on a Belgian carpentry instructor who discovers a sorrowful personal link with a new student at his vocational training school.
January 24 & 25 -- City of God, about the systemic violence that robs kids in the Rio de Janeiro slums of their childhood.
January 31 & February 1 -- Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, a Royal Winnipeg Ballet interpretation of Bram Stoker's vampire novel.
February 7 & 8 -- The Big Animal, a fable about the resentments that arise in a small Polish town when a middle-aged couple adopts an abandoned circus camel.
February 14 & 15 -- In This World, a fictional film with a documentary feel that focuses on the perilous journey of two Afghan refugees seeking a better life in Europe.
February 21 & 22 -- Ten, in which noted Iranian director Abbas Kiorastami traces the myriad experiences of a divorcee driving across the city of Tehran.
February 28 & 29 -- Tibet, Cry of the Snow Lion, a documentary on the history and culture of the Himalayan nation, with Martin Sheen narrating and Susan Saran-don, Tim Robbins and Ed Harris providing voiceover translations.
ESTROGEN FEST (various times, February 28 to March 2; FlynnSpace, Burlington; 660-4848). Some of the shorts, documentaries and features:
February 28 -- Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness, about the issue of choice in the struggle for reproductive rights; Mannke Manjeere, which follows a battered wife in India who becomes a taxi driver; The Grrly Show, a look at the girl zine scene with a postmodern feminist kick; The Day I Became a Woman, about three disenfranchised Iranians struggling for freedom.
March 1 -- Women Who Made the Movies, a chronicle of early female filmmakers such as Ida Lupino and Leni Riefenstahl; What a Girl Wants, with 11 youngsters from different backgrounds expressing their views on the media and its impact on their lives; History Lessons, a witty examination of gay pride through archival photographs and footage; Fire, Deepa Mahta's drama about a traditional New Delhi family in flux.
March 2 -- The Vagina Conspiracy, a narrative comedy about the stereotypes of body image, sexuality and gender roles; The Bus Barns Project, which observes Burlington resident Hannah Dennison's site-specific dance-theater performance exploring various aspects of a local real estate development; And the Fence Came Tumbling Down, about the 20-year effort by women trying to close a U.S. military base housing cruise missiles; Senorita Extraviada, an expose about the hundreds of women raped and killed in Juarez, Mexico.
If watching images on a big screen has more appeal than skiing down a slope, perhaps you share the wry outlook of author Walker Percy. "The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie," he wrote in 1961. "Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives."