This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, January 5, 2005
"Get your geek on," urges the Web site promoting Ultimate Film Fanatic, the Independent Film Channel game show, and that motto should give you some idea of what to expect from the "Ultimate Film Fanatic Challenge." Apparently unaware that not everyone thinks watching movies is dorky, the IFC presents this quiz night, modeled on its small-screen program. Alternating rounds include debates, trivia, and, best of all, the "Obsession War," in which participants show off their collections of movie memorabilia to find out who's the biggest nerd. Said misfits are in line to win cash prizes, though, making them instantly sexier. The knowing-it-all starts at 7 p.m. (and continues through Jan. 13) at Moby Dick, 4049 18th St. (at Hartford), S.F. Admission is free; call 861-1199.

Thursday, January 6, 2005
Love triangles are hardly a new dramatic wrinkle, but Christopher Durang tweaks matters by turning the conflict at the center of his comedic play Beyond Therapy into something of a rectangle (and maybe even a pentagon). Prudence and Bruce are would-be paramours who meet after she answers his personal ad, but when she arrives at his apartment for a home-cooked meal, complications appear in the form of Bruce's live-in gay lover, Bob. Making things even more fraught, Prudence and Bob are both seeing inept therapists (Prudence's considers sex with his patients an important part of his treatment, and Bob's can barely remember his name), who are themselves acquainted in the form of carrying on anonymous sexual trysts. Twisted, quip-heavy, and loaded with absurdity, Beyond Therapy previews tonight at 8 (and runs through Jan. 29) at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Tickets are $20; call 433-1226 or visit www.sheltontheater.com.

Friday, January 7, 2005
For liberals, Ann Coulter is the quotable Camille Paglia for the third millennium. Did Coulter really say that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was the subject of a witch hunt? Does she really believe lefties are a treasonous cult? Did she seriously call Katie Couric "the affable Eva Braun of morning TV"? Yerba Buena Center for the Arts investigates the whys and wherefores of this fascinating and often infuriating figure with a screening of the flattering biodoc Is It True What They Say About Ann?, a portrait of the pundit guaranteed to inflame Gonzalez voters. Paired with a screening of the 1972 action flick The Mechanic (starring Charles Bronson as a man with a gun and a grudge), it's an evening of one-liners and harsh retribution called "Two Hard-Asses: Ann Coulter vs. Charles Bronson." Duck and cover at 7:30 p.m. in the YBCA Screening Room, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $5-8; call 978-2787 or visit www.ybca.org.

Saturday, January 8, 2005
If you're lucky, you've got at least one serious music-aficionado friend. This person may annoy you with bullying suggestions, boastful stereo-component tours, and harsh disdain for your Kenny Chesney records, but there's an upside. The true, obsessive music fan knows who the top artists in every genre are, has tour information before anyone else, and may drag you off your sofa to hear live music, which, as promised, is always "totally amazing, man!" Be prepared: This friend is about to call you, insisting you see the Gourds. One of the favorite bands of Austin, Texas, this countrified rock act is an unpretentious underground phenomenon whose music sounds like it's on its way from the front porch to the honky-tonk. Its most famous tune is a twanged-out revision of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice." Jimbo Trout & the Fish People open at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $15; call 885-0750 or visit www.musichallsf.com.

Sunday, January 9, 2005
You know those kids who crouch on city sidewalks, creating startlingly lovely paintings of outer space with a couple of cans of spray paint and some stencils? Well, the work of Mars-1 is like a really high-rent version of what those kids produce. Inspired by street-corner graffiti artists as well as by Japanimation and the intricate vistas of influential comic book artist Moebius, the painted, penciled, and inked images that emerge from the hands of the San Francisco artist (real name Mario Martinez) can be appreciated as either abstract landscapes or hallucinogenic microcosms awash in minute details. Here you'll find swirling designs reminiscent of the fashions of Emilio Pucci, pyramids and blocky staircases rising in the background, and colors that shade into each other like those of a brilliant sunset. A solo exhibition of Mars-1's work, "Quantum Reality," runs through Jan. 30 at the Low Gallery, 487 14th St. (at Guerrero), S.F. Admission is free; call 552-4057 or visit www.lowgallery.com.

Monday, January 10, 2005
Did Jonathan Franzen spike a burgeoning mass-market career by rebuffing Oprah's offer to make his novel The Corrections a reading-club book of the month? Or did he ensure himself a reputation as a discriminating wordsmith among uppity literati? Either way, he has certainly wrung a lot more press out of the dust-up (if not more sales) than he would have had his book been featured on Winfrey's TV show. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- the controversy, The Corrections went on to become a National Book Award winning best seller. The author discusses his novels and his work with such high-toned magazines as Harper's and The New Yorker -- and no doubt hopes to avoid the subject of Oprah altogether -- when he appears tonight to begin the 25th anniversary celebration of The Threepenny Review literary mag in a talk with founding editor Wendy Lesser at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $18.50; call 392-4400 or visit www.cityarts.net.

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