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Swingers

People generally think of the “buddy movie” as a vehicle for two wisecracking men to work together to solve a crime, pull off a heist, or do something similarly brave and/or dangerous. Mike (screenwriter Jon Favreau) and Trent (force-of-nature Vince Vaughn), the heroes of director Doug Liman’s 1996 debut Swingers, might not fit the dashing Butch-and-Sundance model, but they’re certainly faced with a Herculean task: trying to find love and an acting career in Los Angeles. Part of the Aero’s “Buddy Films: The Art of Playing Off Each Other” series, Swingers is a self-deprecating, modest gem that ran counter to the self-congratulatory, overhyped American “independent” scene of the ’90s to which it awkwardly belonged. (Tellingly, there’s a mocking Reservoir Dogs joke in it.) Though set in Hollywood, Swingers focuses on the mundane lives of its wannabes rather than their aspirations, demonstrating a terrific understanding of how 20-something guys relate to one another. Perhaps “relate” isn’t the right word: More accurately, Mike and his pals play video games, talk smack, debase each other’s masculinity, vie for dominance, and then all go grab a drink at their favorite club. But Favreau’s hilarious script also shows a rarely seen gentler side of male bonding. A scene between a heartbroken Favreau, still pining for the ex-girlfriend he left back on the East Coast, and Ron Livingston, who’s trying to convince him not to give up on acting and move back home, is the closest thing to a male tear-jerking moment since Kevin Costner asked his dad for a catch at the end of Field of Dreams. Looking at Swingers now, you’re reminded that while women and the Industry rarely left these buddies’ thoughts, Favreau and Liman were actually making a love story about friendship. Just don’t tell Trent — emotions make him uncomfortable. (American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre; Sat., Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m., screening with Favreau’s 2001 Made. www.americancinematheque.com.)

Money, baby (Miramax Films)