If you like a simple tale well-told, Todd Solondz's Palindromes is a movie that will send you screaming into the night. The story follows Aviva, a 13-year-old girl who has become inconveniently pregnant and must decide whether to bear the child or have an abortion. But Aviva is portrayed in the film by a variety of different actors, not all kids and not all female. And the plot is constantly morphing before your eyes, dream-like (even the method by which Aviva became pregnant isn't consistent), as Solondz introduces you to various characters on either side of the abortion debate, leads you to admire or despise them, and then later flips the whole thing to reveal that the bad guys have surprising good points and the good guys have closets crowded with skeletons.
In interviews, Solondz cringes through every syllable, as if he's terrified that at any moment the journalist sitting across from him is going to leap up and beat him senseless. He's the last person on Earth you'd expect to be the creator of such heartlessly funny films as Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, but on the other hand, I suppose growing up looking like a cartoonist's caricature of a 97-pound weakling will do things to a man. Palindromes is by far his most assaultive picture yet, but Solondz is bravely consenting to appear at UC Irvine next Thursday to confront an outraged and perplexed audience. Go easy on him; it can't be easy living in his skull. UCI Film and Video Center, Humanities Instruction Bldg., Room 100, Campus & W. Peltason drs., Irvine, (949) 824-7418; www.humanities.uci.edu/fvc. Thurs., March 2, 7 p.m. $3-$5.
Grief Becomes Me. The Aquarium of the Pacific presents Christine Fugate's short film about poet Donna Hilbert's grieving process following the death of her husband. Fugate and Hilbert take part in a panel discussion after. Aquarium of the Pacific, Honda Theater, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, (562) 437-3474. Thurs., Feb. 23, 7 p.m. Call for ticket information.
Full Metal Jacket. Stanley Kubrick's potent Vietnam War drama, featuring Matthew Modine (remember him?) as our hero; a young, chubbed-up, slack-jawed Vincent D'Onofrio as a chubby, slack-jawed man-child; and R. Lee Ermey as an awesomely sadistic drill sergeant. Edwards Rancho Santa Margarita, 30632 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-3358. Tues., 8 p.m. $6; Edwards South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 540-1970. Wed., 8 p.m. $6.
The Lady Eve. Preston Sturges' classic romantic comedy stars Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck, two actors best known for dramatic roles who here proved themselves to be more-than-able goofballs when the occasion demanded. Fonda is a shy, wealthy young man who is just returning from a year's expedition up the Amazon studying snakes when he encounters a clan of jolly con artists (including the fetching Ms. Stanwyck) who rightly peg him as a once-in-a-lifetime mark. Local film authority Dr. H. Arthur Taussig hosts the screening as well as the discussion afterward. Orange Coast College, Fine Arts Building, Room 119, 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-0202. Fri., 6:30 p.m. $5-6.
Pacific Jewish Film Festival. The Jewish Community Center continues their week of Semitic cinema from around the globe, including the 2004 Israeli picture Ushpizin, about an orthodox couple, desperate to have a child, who take the arrival of two convicts as a sign from God. Jewish Community Center, Myers Theater, 1 Federation Way, Irvine, (949) 435-3400. For screening dates and times, visit www.jccoc.org. $10-$12.
Topper. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett star as a married couple so jaunty that even dying in a car crash doesn't dampen their mood for long. They could sit around and mope about being denied entrance to heaven, but instead they embark on a campaign to brighten the life of a humble banker (Roland Young, perhaps the cinema's greatest milquetoast), hardly realizing that their idea of fun is poor Topper's idea of torture. The film's chemistry worked to such perfection that it inspired two sequels, a '92 remake, a TV movie and a TV series, all of which failed to match the charm of the original (although the first two sequels certainly offer delights of their own). Think of it as Beetlejuice as written by Noel Coward, and you won't be so far off the mark. Long Beach School for Adults Auditorium, 3701 E. Willow St., Long Beach, (562) 997-8000, ext. 7198. Fri., 7 p.m. $1 materials fee.
Mail your press releases (and a videotape, if available) to Special Screenings,OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701-7417. Or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. All materials must be received at least two weeks before the screening.