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January means three things for area cinephiles: 1) the studios dump their turkeys into multiplexes; 2) the late-breaking Oscar thoroughbreds open locally (c.f. Million Dollar Baby and Bad Education); and 3) the N.C. Museum of Art winter film series begins.

Once again, knowledgeable and passionate curator Laura Boyes has programmed a wide-ranging slate of proven crowd pleasers and esoteric gems. Fittingly, this weekend's opener meets both standards: Jacques Tati's Playtime (1968), in which the filmmaker's alter ego M. Hulot wanders through a sterile, depopulated Paris. The New York Times' estimable Dave Kehr called this "one of the most visually inventive films of the '60s [and] also one of the funniest."

Elsewhere on this season's schedule, Boyes has planned tributes to Marlon Brando and Fay Wray, secured two newly-struck Hitchcock prints and will cap the season with a screening of Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, a now-celebrated film that played here for a paltry week in two theaters back in 2001. Tati's Playtime shows Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. More info on the winter film series is available at www.ncartmuseum.org/events/films.shtml.

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