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Friedrich Nietzsche first noted that, when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you—but Stanley Kubrick built a legacy around the observation. The master director’s clinical cinema turns an unblinking eye on damaged individuals who have mulled over private obsessions for far too long. Even in the overlooked Barry Lyndon and the zany black comedy of Lolita and Dr. Strangelove: Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Kubrick maps the psyches of protagonists who wander through their lives with eyes wide shut. Paths of Glory, which shows this week as part of this American Film Institute retrospective, is a case in point: Kirk Douglas, improbably cast as a French World War I general battling a moral crisis, stalks the trenches with such vacant fury that he disappears into his part. Douglas’ maniacal glare would later be seen in the eyes of Malcolm McDowell as he contemplated a bit of the old ultraviolence in A Clockwork Orange; nine years after that, it was found again on Jack Nicholson’s face as he chased down Shelley Duvall in The Shining; seven years later, the same look was worn by Vincent D’Onofrio during his performance as the doomed Private “Gomer” Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. Whether stranded in the farthest reaches of outer space or within the complex psychodrama of modern marriage, Kubrick’s characters must decide whether and how to continue in the face of existential absurdity or personal madness—and their decisions, if disturbing, make for films of which Nietzsche would undoubtedly approve. The series runs to Thursday, March 1, at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; see City List for a complete schedule. $9.25. (301) 495-6700. (Justin Moyer)

Thursday, Feb. 1

In May 1999, art critic Robert Hughes was severely injured in a car wreck in western Australia, and his pugnacity during the ensuing trial led many in the media to tar Hughes as an elitist. To hear him tell it in his recent memoir, Things I Didn’t Know, the accident did more damage to his respect for his native country than it did to his body. Chronicling his life until 1970­—when he moved to America to become Time’s art critic—­Hughes uses the book to take aim at Australian provincialism, the shallow culture of ’60s swinging London (which drew his first wife into a severe drug addiction), and bad art. (He dismisses much of Jasper Johns’ work as a “leaden and overvalued bore.”) But in the book’s more generous passages, Hughes captures the rapturous feeling of being a young critic free to travel to the world’s great museums, where he’s constantly seduced by masterpieces. Hughes speaks at 6:30 p.m. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW. $40. (202) 639-1700. (Mark Athitakis)

Friday, Feb. 2

Years before Daft Punk was playing at LCD Soundsystem’s house, the latter’s James Murphy was playing with John MacLean in Six Finger Satellite. Fans enjoying these halcyon days of disco revival owe it to that group—an early adopter of robot synths, throwback MC stylings, and house beats—which burned out quickly but nevertheless contributed a heavy production element to dance-punk. MacLean has since been perfecting a musical formula that’s equal parts Devo and Sugarhill Gang under the name the Juan MacLean. His wink-wink, nudge-nudge affinity for American Apparel shortpants might draw comparisons to acts such as Le Tigre and !!!—but don’t let the Casio preset drum fills and hollaback choruses fool you: The Juan MacLean is no frilly Beck, he’s a straight-up house DJ. The Juan MacLean performs with DJ Will Eastman and Edie Sedgwick at 9 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $12. (202) 667-7960. (Kriston Capps)

“The Book as Art” examines storytellers, food and the body, motherhood, muses, and dreamers—the message is so froofy, it would make Hallmark Cards executives blush. Blame the thematic layout of the exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts—but not the works themselves, some of which involve books in compelling ways. Dinner With Mr. Dewey, for example, revisits a Judy Chicago–esque dinner table with Cathy de Monchaux’s fetishistic appetite. The artist, M. L. Van Nice, sculpts books into devoured platters: sliced as a chocolate-cream pie, splayed and nibbled as a corn cob, even pulped as a potato mash—with the entire table presented in warm fleshtones. Van Nice’s love of books is erotic, but Thanatos appears in the exhibition as well as Eros, sometimes hand in hand: There’s Meret Oppenheim’s Caroline, letterpressed pages accompanied by colored etchings and embossings that stand as a sober tribute to Karoline Von Günderode, the romantic poet who committed suicide after she was refused by folklorist Friedrich Creuzer. Claire Van Vliet’s pulp-painting on handmade paper, Dido and Aeneas, is a paean to Virgil’s tale of doomed love but also to Henry Purcell’s opera of the same name. Several of the works’ connection to books is roundabout at best. A text etching (Merci, Mercy) by perennial favorite Louise Bourgeois is one such piece; a lovingly rendered photograph of hands, hennaed over with Farsi script and clutching a microphone (On Guard), by the stellar Iranian expat Shirin Neshat, is another. Passion—artistic and personal—is the subtext that justifies their inclusion. The Book as Art: Twenty Years of Artists’ Books From the National Museum of Women in the Arts is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, to Sunday, Feb. 4, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW. $8. (202) 783-5000. (Kriston Capps)

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Though it doesn’t deal with third-wave feminism, Bikini Kill, or the Spice Girls, “Shojo Manga! Girl Power!: Girls’ Comics From Japan” does spotlight a slightly feminist, once Japanese-only phenomenon: shojo manga (girls’ comics) written and illustrated almost exclusively by females. Osamu Tezuka is credited with creating the first shojo manga; his long-running serial, Princess Knight, told the tale of a cross-dressing young girl and her swashbuckling adventures. However, it wasn’t until the ’70s that a group of women artists known as the “Year 24 group” came to prominence and transformed the “girls’ comic” from an anomaly into a genre to be reckoned with. Marketed to schoolgirls and housewives, shojo manga is every bit as dynamic (and profitable)—if far less violent—than the comics marketed to Japanese boys and subway-riding salarymen. The prints and original artwork on display span the full range of shojo manga’s diverse subject matter, from the weepy romance of Suzue Miuchi’s Glass Mask to the epic fantasies of the artist collective CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth to the gangs and drug dealers of Akimi Yoshida’s gritty urban tale Banana Fish. Styles vary, but many of the comics are instantly recognizable by the willowy girls with enormous doe eyes, and impossibly thin, androgynous boys with fringed-out hair that would make any emo kid start cutting himself with envy. The exhibition is on view from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, to Friday, March 16, at the Japanese Information and Culture Center, 1155 21st St. NW. Free. (202) 238-6949. (Jason Powell)

Saturday, Feb. 3

Performance poet Sekou Sundiata grew up fascinated by geography—in particular, the United States’ annexation of Alaska and Hawaii, and what lands might have been claimed next. His latest theatrical production, “The 51st (Dream) State,” contemplates the notion that America’s next acquisition is not a piece of land but a post-9/11 state of mind. Sundiata’s vision is often cryptic or unclear, but the process of creating it makes up for any lack of straightforward coherence. Accompanied by projected images and a musical score by jazz trumpeter Graham Haynes, the Harlem-born activist recites Last Poets–influenced monologues that raise questions concerning the pursuit of happiness, America’s moral stature and role as a superpower, and freedom as a breakfast food. Wash it all down with a cool glass of imperialism when Sundiata performs at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, and Saturday, Feb. 3, at the University of Maryland’s Smith Performing Arts Center, Kay Theatre, University Blvd. & Stadium Drive, College Park. $30. (301) 405-2787. (Steve Kiviat)

Sunday, Feb. 4

Continuing the practice of employing alliterative adjectives to describe a night of Latin dance, the Washington Ballet calls its latest performance, “¡Noche Latina!,” “sizzling and sultry.” Perhaps “spicy and steamy” was too cliché? Either way, the rumba and bachata are probably better served by descriptors that don’t make them sound like the daily special on a menu at Chili’s. The Washington Ballet’s program, a “Latino travelogue celebrating the pulsating culture of Latin America,” will highlight music and dance including Argentinean tango, Brazilian samba and bossa nova, Mexican banda, and Cuban salsa; individual pieces include Paul Taylor’s Piazzola Caldera, Septime Webre’s Juanita y Alicia, and Nacho Duato’s Na Floresta. Prepare yourself for a pleasurable afternoon of passionate and pulsating performances beginning at 2:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $19–$115. (202) 467-4600; see City List for a complete schedule. (Sarah Godfrey)

Monday, Feb. 5

When producer James Yancey (aka Jay Dee, aka J Dilla) passed away last year due to kidney failure, his death was mourned by music fans nationwide and beyond. The life and work of the beatmaker—who ranks alongside Premier and Pete Rock as one of the brightest producers of our time—has since been the focus of countless events. A year after Dilla’s death, the District is still rightfully paying homage to the man who brought us everything from Pharcyde’s “Runnin’ ” to Janet Jackson’s “Got ’Til It’s Gone.” “D.C. Loves Dilla” will pay tribute to the producer in the best possible way: by having tremendous DJs, including Maryland’s DJ Roddy Rod and Detroit’s Wajeed, spin some of the finest compositions created by Dilla during his far too short career. The performances begin at 9 p.m. at Liv, 2001 11th St. NW (above Bohemian Caverns). $5. (202) 299-0800. (SG)

Tuesday, Feb. 6

The French invented cinema and are not about to let anyone forget it. French-Canadian filmmakers, however, tend to be less grandiose. That’s not to say that Quebecois directors are incapable of provocation: The debut feature by Louis Bélanger, Post Mortem, turned its attention on necrophilia. For his second film, however, the director decided to stay close to home—and a modest home at that. Gaz Bar Blues, which opens the Smithsonian’s “Cinema Quebecois” series, is set in and around a small-town gas station, not unlike the one the director’s father ran. The old man, simply known as “Boss,” expects life to continue as it has. But his three sons are getting restless—one is off to photograph the end of the Berlin Wall, and another keeps hitting the road with some band—and his own body is every bit as disloyal. He has Parkinson’s, a metaphor for decline that’s also an essential part of the film’s real-life feel. The film shows at 7 p.m. at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th St. & Independence Ave. SW. $13. (202) 357-3030. (Mark Jenkins)

Wednesday, Feb. 7

Sir Isaac Newton was a drag at parties. To be fair, scientific geniuses who prefer communicating through anagrams probably have their charms—but knowing that much about Big Ideas and mankind’s relative insignificance has got to be a constant bummer. Which is why it’s so impressive that Neil deGrasse Tyson has retained his sense of humor. The American Museum of Natural History’s astrophysicist tackles the myriad ways the cosmos is plotting our demise in Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, a compilation of his “Universe” essays, which appear monthly in Natural History magazine. Tyson examines these weighty issues with the thoroughness you’d expect and the light touch you’ll need during the sleepless nights and anxiety attacks that lie ahead. Sure, the sun is eventually going to burn out, but Tyson is reassuring, noting that “we will surely go extinct for some other reason long before this scenario unfolds.” Had Newton dropped that particular piece of information, maybe he wouldn’t have died a virgin. Tyson discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 2111 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 525-4227. (Shauna Miller)

Thursday, Feb. 8

Like some mythic creature from the medieval bestiary, Child Ballads is rarely seen, difficult to hear, and—when finally experienced—elusive. Fronted by ex–Jonathan Fire Eater singer Stewart Lupton, the band materializes in concert only once or twice a year, then quickly vanishes. After months of delay and anticipation, the band’s debut EP is finally available—but only in the United Kingdom. The music itself is just as mysterious. Still one of D.C.’s most gifted performers, Lupton bursts with tumbling poetry that’s one part Charles Simic and two parts Mick Jagger. “I tried hard to make the world an exotic place,” claims Lupton during the song “Cheekbone Hollows”—and if one were to judge by his lyrics about blooming wallpaper, secret handshakes, and animal bones, he’s succeeded. Child Ballads is a timid and bizarre animal but one that’s certainly worth the time it takes to seek it out. Child Ballads performs with Dust Galaxy, Revival, and Georgie James at 8:30 p.m. at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $12. (202) 265-0930. (Aaron Leitko)