- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Furniture as we once knew it is no longer furniture. As the Renwick Gallery’s exhibit Right at Home: American Studio Furniture shows, artists now view these once purely functional pieces as challenging, three-dimensional forms ripe for imaginative interpretation. One of these artists is furniture designer and maker Sam Maloof, whose signature rocking chairs are both functional and sculptural. Another artist included in the exhibit is Paul Freundt, who works in surface-textured metal and envisions himself as a sculptor. At the Renwick, 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 17. Free. 202/275-1500.

—Joanna Shaw-Eagle

The Saddest Music in the World should delight the public already alerted to the farcical brainstorms of Canadian humorist Guy Maddin. Moving beyond evocation of the late silent period, he settles into the early talkies with this screwball blend of fatalistic melodrama and musicality. In a studio-simulated Winnipeg of the Great Depression, an embittered, legless brewery heiress played by Isabella Rossellini offers a grand prize of $25,000 for the saddest music played during a kind of balladic Winter Olympics. The guidelines are less than scrupulous. Indeed, the fix would appear to be in for Mark McKinney as the failed Broadway opportunist who intends to rekindle his love affair with the sponsor. He has a dad and a long-lost brother who are also rivals for the big prize. Exclusively at Landmark’s E Street Cinema. 555 11th Street NW. 202/452-7672.

Word Wars, a new documentary feature that might serve as a swell inspiration for another Christopher Guest-Eugene Levy comedy, follows a quartet of contestants for Scrabble supremacy, beginning with a Las Vegas tournament in December 2001 and concluding with the national championships in San Diego nine months later. The proximity proves entertaining, revealing and farsighted, since the subjects are serious challengers for the title. The play is enhanced by graphics that flip numerous words into useful anagrams; they also keep a useful tally of every word formed and point scored in the championship match. Exclusively at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. 301/465-6700.

— Gary Arnold

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