"Juno." "Lars and the Real Girl." Two PG-13 comedies that deal with fairly risky, possibly offensive material. And they do so quite skillfully, with unexpected smarts and real poignancy.

The first movie follows a pregnant high school student (Ellen Page) who decides to give her child to an adoptive couple who have been unable to conceive (played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman).

The second film is about a socially awkward 20-something (Ryan Gosling) who carries on a "romance" with an imaginary girlfriend — a so-called "sex doll" that he ordered online.

Both were well-reviewed, and their stars (Page and Gosling) received good notices for their terrific performances.

The big difference between the two films is in how they are doing at the box office.

"Juno" was released Christmas Day and has already made $52 million. This past weekend, it was actually the No. 2 movie in the country.

That's largely due to the efforts of Fox Searchlight Pictures' marketing team, which used similar promotional techniques for its previous independent-cinema hits (especially 2004's "Napoleon Dynamite" and 2006's "Little Miss Sunshine").

Sadly, the same is not true for "Lars and the Real Girl." The film was released by struggling Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which clearly didn't know what to do with it. At this point, "Lars" hasn't even hit the $6-million mark and has largely disappeared from theaters.

However, it may be rereleased if the film gets some awards-season love. It certainly deserves to. Gosling's performance, Nancy Oliver's smart script and Patricia Clarkson's sympathetic supporting turn as a country doctor were all good stuff.

"Juno" is already getting awards talk, which may be enough to push The Little Movie That Could to the blockbuster $100 million threshold or even past it.

THE VALLEY'S QUIETEST THEATER?

The Organ Loft's 2008 Winter "season" is under way. The local, silent-movie show house, located at 3310 S. Edison (approximately 150 East), already screened the 1926 Buster Keaton comedy "Battling Butler" last week.

But the Organ Loft will have other screenings, including the 1921 Swedish fantasy "The Stroke of Midnight" (Jan. 24 and 25); "Two Tars," one of the most popular Laurel & Hardy shorts (Feb. 7 and 8); "The Mark of Zorro," the Douglas Fairbanks version that has become a local favorite (Feb. 21 and 22); and D.W. Griffith's 1919 drama "True Heart Susie" (March 6 and 7).

The Organ Loft specializes in silent films and most presentations feature live organ accompaniment by Blaine Gale. Also, short films accompany some of the feature presentations.

Show time for all Organ Loft programs is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; for group reservations, phone 485-9265.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com