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Welcome to L.A. Weekly's Movie Picks, your look at the hottest films in Los Angeles theaters this week — from indie art-house gems and classics to popcorn-perfect blockbusters and new movies garnering buzz. Check here every week before you make your big-screen plans.

Friday, March 1

Weekend film series The Art of the Benshi is a major event for anyone who cares about Japanese film, culture or history. During the silent-film era, the “benshi” served as live narrators, commenting on the characters, offering context and even performing as the movie played. Predictably, the occupation evaporated as Japan converted to sound in the 1930s, but the art of the benshi has been preserved, and audiences will have a chance to see firsthand what made them unique in world cinema. The UCLA Film & Television Archive has teamed up with the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities to present this spectacularly rare event featuring three of Japan's most accomplished benshi. Come for the films, stay for the live theatrical experience. UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Fri.-Sun., March 1-3, showtimes vary; $10 per program. (310) 206-8013, cinema.ucla.edu.

Credit: Edward Owens

Credit: Edward Owens

Sunday, March 3

L.A. Filmforum continues to serve as a vital pipeline for alternative cinema with Private Imaginings: The Films of Edward Owens. The evening will feature three films made in 1966 and 1967 by one of the most gifted, albeit unsung, avant-garde filmmakers of his day. Owens, who got his start under the encouragement of Gregory Markopoulos, wasn't even 21 years old when he made three highly personal interrogations of race and sexuality. Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts is a collage based on memory; Remembrance: A Portrait Study is a delicate visual biography of Mildred Owens, the director's mother; and Tomorrow's Promise is a spatio-temporal exploration of its creator's mercurial moods and feelings. All three 16mm films have been restored by the Film-Makers' Cooperative, and at least two likely have never played in Los Angeles. Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Sun., March 3, 7:30 p.m.; $10. (323) 466-3456, lafilmforum.org.

Also opening Friday, March 1: Apollo 11; Chaos Walking; First Man; Furie; Giant Little Ones; Greta; The Hole in the Ground; Level 16; Mapplethorpe; A Madea Family Funeral; Pretty Broken; Saint Judy; Sharkwater Extinction; The Sower; Stray; Styx; Superpower Dogs; This Magnificent Cake!; Virginia Minnesota; We Die Young; The Wedding Guest; Woman at War

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