About this time every year, I play a complex yet important game of hopscotch.
While it doesn't involve sidewalk chalk lines or throwing a pebble, there are plenty of contortions and the occasional loss of balance or missed square. I am talking, metaphorically, about my quest to see all of the Oscar-nominated pictures and performances.
Given my limited time and my limited budget and my limited capacity for sitting in a dark room surrounded by the smell of stale popcorn, the game before the nominations are announced is all about gauging which prestige pieces will pay off and which I can skip.
This year, I laid back longer than usual because few pre-winter release films had much Oscar buzz, aside maybe from the wonderful "WALL-E" (which, sniff, got snubbed, sniff, for best picture, sob).
But once the honorees are read, my work is cut out for me. This year, I had seen only one of the honored best pictures ("Slumdog Millionaire").
And so this is where the really complicated hopping begins. As any movie buff can attest, seeing all the good stuff is sometimes hard in Modesto.
All too often when it comes to award-worthy material, they come either: a) late b) briefly or c) not at all.
This year is one of the happy exceptions.
All but one of the major feature film category nominations has played in the Central Valley (the holdout being "Frozen River," with surprise best-actress nominee Melissa Leo).
But that doesn't mean it's still not a Herculean feat of time management and advanced scheduling to catch all the films.
Movies like "The Changeling" came and went with little fanfare in the fall. Luckily, it hits rental store shelves Feb. 17, just in time to squeeze it in before the Oscars telecast Feb. 22.
You had to be on the ball to see best-actress nominee Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married." The film was in Turlock for one week only and now gone from all of the area cineplexes.
But the movies that are no longer in theaters are, for the most part, not the problem. It's the films now playing that make the hopscotching really begin.
Fortunately for us, all the nominated best pictures "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Reader," "Milk" and "Frost/Nixon" still are playing at a theater pretty near you.
Less fortunate is the crisscrossing you'll have to do to catch them. No theater has all the films playing.
Popular favorites like "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Slumdog Millionaire" are screening from Modesto to Merced, Sonora to Manteca.
But smaller films like "Doubt" and "Milk" are only in Manteca.
You see where I'm going with this now.
While, thankfully, the days are gone when only a couple of the Oscar-nominated movies made it to Modesto, the logistics of making it to all of them remains a patient game of hopscotch.
Though, I suppose, seeing movies all over the place is a lot better than seeing no movies at all. Let's go to the hop, shall we?
Elsewhere around the Scene:
Tango lovers are invited to see Bay Area-based dance specialists Christopher Nassopoulos and Caroline Peattie on Saturday.
The duo will perform at Modesto Tango's Argentine Tango Party (milonga) at Jacob's Fine Dining in Modesto. The couple will give an introductory lesson at 7:30 p.m., with social dancing starting at 8:30 and a performance at 10:30.
Tickets are $5 for the milonga, $10 with lessons. For more information, call 522-1571, or to make reservations at Jacob's, call 529-2829. ...
Laugh along with former "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" star Mark Curry as he performs as part of the Black Oak Casino's new Comedy Showcase on Thursday.
There's no cover, and the show is at 8 p.m. in the Willow Creek Lounge. ...
And finally, the State Theatre has a slew of new shows booked, so get out your pen and mark your calendar (or, since this is 2009, type it into your cell phone).
First, Feb. 12, see the start of the Architectural Film Festival. The four-part film series will start with "Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision," about the creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Tickets are $9.
Feb. 13, enjoy the romantic sounds of jazz and R&B duo Tuck & Patti. Tickets are $20-$28.
On Valentine's Day, join Ernie Bucio's Musical Review by Decade, the start of the theater's yearlong 75th-anniversary celebration. Tickets are $16.
Feb. 19, swing out to the retro rock of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Tickets are $25-$39.
The following month, enjoy New Orleans-style jazz by Marcia Ball and Tom Rigney on March 12 and hear country roots favorite Robert Earl Keen on March 25. For more, visit thestate.org or call 527-4697.
Bee entertainment writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at 578-2284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog SceneIt at thehive.modbee.com/sceneit.