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Fans of This Is Spinal Tap will understand why today is Nigel Tufnel Day: 11/11/11 honors the lame-brained rocker who had his amp’s knobs specially made to go to 11, ostensibly giving him more sonic power than the ordinary scrubs whose volume maxed out at 10. The joke still works, even if today’s music fans don’t listen to devices with old-school knobs. Indeed, 27 years after its release, Rob Reiner’s classic mockumentary has managed to avoid the fate of the fictitious band it chronicles. Rather than trundling along on nostalgia, Spinal Tap makes its influence felt with every episode of The Office. And, in a season marked by big, pretentious documentaries about the likes of Pearl Jam and U2, a movie that lampoons music-industry self-regard still seems crucial. Sure, rock may be dead, but Spinal Tap still goes to 11. The film shows at 11 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre. $11. (Michael Schaffer)
It’s a pretty crazy weekend! Terrifying art-noise act Indian Jewelry plays with two locals: The ex-Apes band Heavy Breathing and electro-pop singer Painted Face, who makes anthems worthy of your favorite ’80s fantasy film. Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Red Door. $10.
Post-hardcore kids: J. Robbins plays an acoustic set covering material from his many bands—-Jawbox, Burning Airlines, Channels, Office of Future Plans. Headlining is BELLS>, the instrumental band featuring ex-Jawbox drummer Zach Barocas. Friday at 9 p.m. at Red Palace. $8.
In 2008, the Andy Warhol Museum commissioned the First Couple of Dream Pop, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, to write an original score for a collection of Warhol’s infamous screen tests. Warhol made 500 of them between 1964 and 1966, capturing Factory personalities in hypnotizing 16mm slow-motion close-ups: From Salvador Dalí to Edie Sedgwick to Susan Sontag, they fidget, frown, twitch, and grin—revealing, as Sarah Boxer wrote in the New York Times, profound truths about “the mechanics of discomposure and charisma.” (Or that they are better-looking up close than you and everyone you know.) The originals were silent, finding a kind of music in unbroken gazes and facial tics, so imposing a score onto Warhol’s work could be daunting for any artist. But Dean & Britta (formerly of the hazy pop band Luna) nailed it: Their soundtrack drips with hallucinatory, ’60s-inspired cool. Last year they released the material as The 13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, and tonight they premiere it locally in conjunction with the Smithsonian’s Warhol on the Mall festivities. The duo’s ethereal tunes augment these slow-motion reveries: Dennis Hopper grins, Nico gazes dreamily about the frame, Lou Reed takes the coolest sip of Coke ever captured on film. Will the Warhol Museum further examine the machinations of fame by commissioning Loutallica to soundtrack the next 13 screen tests? In our dreams. Dean & Britta perform at Saturday 4 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art East Building Auditorium. Free. (Lindsay Zoladz)
Great benefit show at Sacred Heart Church in Columbia Heights: Ted Leo headlines a show alongside local proggy post-punkers Medications and earworm-manufacturers The Max Levine Ensemble. The last time Positive Force had a show in this quite-large venue, the headliner was Fugazi. Saturday at 6 p.m. $10 with a can of food. $12 without one.
Charles Laughton walked away from his busy acting career to direct 1955’s bizarre expressionist thriller Night of the Hunter. Though Roger Ebert would proclaim it “one of the greatest of all American films” 40 years later, the movie—starring Robert Mitchum as an ex-con who seduces the widow of a man he met in prison and tries to convince her children to tell him where their father has hidden $10,000—flopped upon its initial release. Laughton never helmed another picture, but his terrifying film-noir fable gave us Mitchum’s most chilling role as the sweet-talking demon with “LOVE” and “HATE” tattooed on his knuckles, while Stanley Cortez’s black-and-white cinematography became the James Brown drum sample of horror cinema: ubiquitous and yet somehow always appropriate. Playwright and director Derek Goldman has drawn on both Hunter’s screenplay and published accounts from its principal creators for A Child Shall Lead Them: Making the Night of the Hunter, a co-production between the University of Maryland and Georgetown University that fictionalizes the film’s production and reception. The play runs Nov. 12 to Nov. 19 at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Stadium Drive and Route 193, College Park. $22. (301) 405-ARTS. (Chris Klimek)
Tricia Olszewski says you should see Lars von Trier’s sci-fi drama Melancholia. Ben Freed says you should see Werner Herzog’s death-penalty documentary Into the Abyss. (He’s got an interview with Herzog, too.) Reel Fest DC is ongoing.