- - Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pick of the Pack

Film festival: Reel Abilities Disabilities Film Festival

Once upon a time, the differently abled were ostracized. Then they were pitied and patronized. Now, many people who are born without (or lose) a sense or a limb are models for living life to the fullest. Take Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius, the South African double amputee known as “blade runner.” A hundred years ago, the idea of Mr. Pistorius running or participating in any other physical sport would have elicited laughs. Today, Mr. Pistorius can sprint so quickly on his artificial limbs that his two-legged competitors say he has an unfair advantage. The Reel Abilities Disabilities Film Festival is chock-full of similarly inspiring stories. The short documentary “Crooked Beauty” follows Jacks Ashley McNamara’s journey from asylum patient to mental-illness advocate. “Praying With Lior” tells the story of a young Jewish “spiritual genius” - who also has Down syndrome. “Warrior Champions” follows a group of wounded Iraq veterans who go from bed rest at Walter Reed to competing in the 2008 Paralympic Games.

Through Feb. 9 at various theaters in the D.C. area.

Web: greaterdc.reelabilities.org

Concert: Rise Against

Like scores of punk rockers who came before them, the members of Chicago’s Rise Against, founded in 1999, have dreadful personal politics. All of the band members are vegetarians and abstain from alcohol. In 2008, they raised money for Barack Obama, and in 2009 they released a statement that read in part, “Few things are more exciting than watching Bush finally release America as his eight-year hostage.” Also like scores of punk rockers who came before them, Rise Against somehow manages to make really listenable music despite their dreadful personal politics: solid riffs, dark melodies and fast-paced choruses that even stoney-faced squares find it hard not to dance to. The trick to enjoying the band’s music - especially if you’re not a card-carrying member of PETA - is not to think too hard about the lyrics.

Feb. 5 at George Mason University’s Patriot Center, 4500 Patriot Circle, Fairfax

Phone: 703/993-3000

Web: www.patriotcenter.com

Exhibit: ‘Alberto Schommer: Portraits and Scenarios’

As one of the countries whose dire fiscal straits are threatening the entire eurozone, Spain has had a hard time proving its worth to creditors these past few years. One of the country’s prize exports, however, needs no shoring up. For half a century, Spanish photographer Alberto Schommer has proved his worth over and over, with stark portraits of artists and statesmen that stand toe-to-toe with the work of American pioneers Annie Leibovitz, Joe Rosenthal and Margaret Bourke-White. The cosmopolitan vibe of Mr. Schommer’s work - he is equally adroit at capturing the likes of Andy Warhol and rural Spain - stems from his dual tutelage under American photographer Irving Penn and Spain’s artistic community.

Through July 6 at the Embassy of Spain, 2375 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Phone: 202/728-2334

Web: www.spainculture.us

Author reading: Paul M. Barrett

The release of “Pulp Fiction” in 1994 signaled the end of an era for gun culture in the United States. In the movie, Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson, wields a six-shot .357 magnum while doling out street justice to deadbeat thugs. Up until that point, the revolver was America’s gun, ubiquitous in the Wild West, police departments and movies about both. Yet by ‘94, Winnfield’s gun of choice already was something of a relic. In 1982, an Austrian curtain-rod manufacturer named Gaston Glock invented a lightweight semiautomatic handgun that could fire 17 shots without reloading. By the 1990s, American police departments across the country would adopt the gun en masse, largely to keep pace with street gangs and thugs who already had made the switch from revolver to semiautomatic. The Glock is now “America’s gun,” writes Paul M. Barrett, who will be on hand to discuss his new book, “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun.”

Feb. 4 at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW

Phone: 202/364-1919

Web: www.politics-prose.com

Comedy: Demetri Martin

The Rise of the Nerds has left no industry untouched, especially comedy. Gone are the party animals, sex fiends, macho men and out-and-out drug addicts. In their place are geeky deadpan artists. Demetri Martin is the kind of comic who would have been eaten alive in the heyday of Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams. Take the name of Mr. Martin’s first Comedy Central show: “Important Things With Demetri Martin.” It’s both self-deprecating and sterile (much like the modern American beta male, of which there is no shortage in comedy). If bombast and expletives are your thing, Mr. Martin is not. If, however, the idea of watching a shy guy air his nerdy laundry is your idea of a good time, Mr. Martin is the Harry Potter of the stand-up circuit.

Feb. 3 at the Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets NW

Phone: 202/783-4000

Web: www.warnertheater.org

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