The Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., hosts a panel discussion of the 85th annual Academy Awards nominations today at noon. The panel will feature Janet Davies, ABC-7 Chicago entertainment reporter; Alison Cuddy, Chicago Public Radio arts and culture reporter; Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune film critic; Ben Kenisberg, Time Out Chicago film editor; and Steve Prokopy, Gapers Block film writer and critic for Ain't It Cool News. Betsy Steinberg, the managing director at the Illinois Film Office, moderates. Free.
The Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago offer Chicagoans the chance to join in the celebration by learning to speak Italian through their new official language school, ItalCultura, 500 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1405. A free open house tonight from 5:30 to 8pm includes the opportunity for attendees to take an Italian language skills evaluation test; mix and mingle with others interested in Italian language and culture; enjoy Italian delicacies, wine and music; meet the staff and professional teachers for a trial class; and register for the upcoming class series.
Gardening blogger Amanda Thomsen reads from and signs her new book, Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You, tonight at the Barnes & Noble DePaul Center, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., at 6pm. Free.
The 16th annual Fillet of Solo Festival runs Jan. 3-20 at the Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., and the Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 N. Glenwood Ave. Tonight's performances are You're Being Ridiculous at 7pm and GayCo at 8:30pm at Lifeline, and the kates at 7pm and Eric Warner at 8:30pm at Heartland Studio. Tickets for each show are $10, or buy a festival pass for $30.
The 12th annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, aka Sketchfest, runs Jan. 3-13 at Stage773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Four stages feature three shows apiece at 8, 9 and 10pm tonight; see the full schedule for details. Tickets to each show are $14, or purchase a day pass for $35.