Here we go: it's a huge weekend for year-end Oscar-bait and questions abound. Will audiences flock to see the "forbidden" love of Brokeback Mountain? (And was anybody else as disturbed at Focus Features' obvious attempts to downplay the male love story as much as possible and feature the relationships with the respective wives in every trailer?) Will fans who made worshipped the bestselling novel approve of Chicago director Rob Marshall's retelling of Memoirs of a Geisha, and will the controversy over casting -- Chinese women in Japanese roles -- have any affect on the box office? And then there's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Can it overcome the inevitable comparisons to The Lord of the Rings? (No.) Is it any good? (It's OK.) Will people be turned off by the heavy (and occasionally heavy-handed) allusions to Christian imagery? (Possibly, but we were moved more by Aslan's humiliation and sacrifice than Jesus' in Mel Gibson's biblical slasher film)

2005_12_mg08_rearwindow.jpgThree Gothamist Picks: Three extraordinary series get going this weekend, and we're going to give first billing to the one which involves singing "Happy Birthday." Anthology Film Archives in the East Village celebrates its 35th year with a super-special weekend sponsored by Altoids. The celebration titled "Altoids In the Tin: Celebrating Anthology Film Archives' 35th Anniversary" kicks-off with a cocktail reception tomorrow at 6:30 PM, and the first 75 guests to arrive will "receive a free first-time, one-year membership to Anthology Film Archives," courtesy of those curiously strong mint-makers. (We assume "first-time, one-year membership" means if you're already an AFA member, you don't get squat so you can saunter in whenever you like.) The reception will be followed at 8 PM with an evening of screenings selected and hosted by noted director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich who will introduce Jean Renoir's classic World War II drama The Rules of the Game and the hilarious Romeo & Juliet-inspired short from silent comedy genius Buster Keaton, Neighbors. Oh, did we mention that the entire weekend is free? Tickets will be available at the AFA box office starting at 4:30 PM on Friday. The rest of the weekend includes screenings Saturday of Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazard paired with experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger's short Rabbit's Moon (selected and hosted by musician Patti Smith), followed on Sunday with Killer Films producer Christine Vachon showing the Jack Kerouac-scripted Pull My Daisy and Flaming Creatures from maverick indie film hero Jack Smith. These six features and shorts actually do a great job of representing the kind of breadth of programming one has been able to expect from Anthology for the past 35 years, and here's hoping the keep it going for many more.

Meanwhile, across town in the West Village, Film Forum kicks-off another of its wonderful "Essential ..." series. This one is five weeks and 36 examples of "Essential Hitchcock" starting Friday with a four-day run of Rear Window. Check out the rest of the schedule at Film Forum's website. You can be sure we'll be returning to this series repeatedly over the coming weeks as so many of these films truly are essential viewing.

And as if that's not enough, head a few blocks up up Sixth Ave where after spending many a weekend showing the work of French New Wave master Francois Truffaut the IFC Center now turns its "Weekend Classics" series over to possibly the most prolific filmmaker of the 1970s: German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The "Weekend Classics" series screens Fridays-Sundays at Noon, and while that may seem too early to see a movie or when you'd prefer to be sitting down for Bloodys and Mimosas over brunch to cure that previous night's hangover, we highly recommend you check-out as many of these screenings as you can. Fassbinder was a truly unique and brave filmmaker. The series begins this weekend with his own meta take on filmmaking, Beware of a Holy Whore.

Midnight Movie Smackdown: If we had to pick a weekend to skip midnight movies, this could be it. Granted, Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz (at the IFC Center, screening Friday and Saturday at 12:15 AM) is one of the all-time great concert films, but we just can't get overexcited about it, especially when its just as easy to watch and enjoy on DVD. Meanwhile over at the Landmark Sunshine, this week's selection is the star-studded but really disappointing "comedy" whodunnit Clue which was neither surprising nor funny.

More openings and screenings of note after the jump:

Other new releases opening Friday

Repertory programming of note