IN THE '50s, hula hoops were hot. In the '60s, it was skateboards and slot cars; in the '70s, video games. And now it looks like kids of the '80s are mad with BMX fever. Hoping to cash in on the freestyle bicycling craze, Talia Shire (Sly Stallone's girlfriend and wife in the Rocky films) and her producer husband Jack Schwartzman will release RAD in Washington on Friday. "RAD," Californian for "radical" -- which in the old days would have been groovy, neat or cool -- is Hollywood's latest attempt to attract America's six-to-18- year-old audience.

The PG-rated movie was shot under budget and ahead of schedule in Calgary, Alberta, last August and September and includes eight songs sure to get playtime on teen-oriented radio stations. Schwartzman and Shire are hoping that "RAD" will provide them an easy ride into the family-entertainment movie category once dominated by Disney.

Last week Bill Allen, the 23-year-old Dallas native who stars as BMX wizard Cru Jones in the movie, and three cycling champions bopped around Washington and Baltimore promoting the film at a Bullets game and area teen clubs. There was just one problem.

While the crew's spiffy California van and trailored bike-stunt ramp were parked in the New Carrollton Sheraton parking lot 10 days ago, thieves broke in and stole two Harro, 20- inch BMX bikes valued at $800 apiece. With that, the traveling show moved to Washington's posh Madison Hotel, safe and sound from the hard-ridin' bustle of the 'burbs.

The Embassy of Japan winds up its free "Animation Festival from Japan" on Saturday at the American Film Institute. At 11:30, see Night on the Galactic Railway, a sophisticated 105-minute animated movie directed by Gisaburo Sugii. Originally the film was intended for children, but adults who've seen it say it's far more than just kiddie fare. It's in English; reservations are a must. Call 785- 4601.

VCR owners who haven't seen all the films nominated for 1986 Academy Awards can save some money this weekend at The Video Place. Through Monday, the local video rental chain is offering any of the nominated flicks that are already available on video for only 99 cents for the first day. The 11-store chain is also including past "Best Picture" winners in the special. Call 478-0810.

Aida Bortnik, the screenwriter for Argentina's The Official Story, awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film this week, talks about the film on Tuesday at 6:30 at American University's Wechsler Theater. It's sponsored by the local chapter of Women in Film and Video and costs $3 for members, $4 for non- members. Call 939-6423.

Jack Lemmon, who's now appearing at the National Theater in "A Long Day's Journey Into Night" will introduce his 1959 hit Some Like It Hot on Monday evening at the American Film Institute. The film screens at 8:30 and is part of the ongoing salute to director Billy Wilder. The 121-minute comedy is star- packed with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, George Raft, Pat O'Brien and Joe E. Brown.

Also on tap at the AFI is the continuing Canada's Best series with The Moontrap (1963) screening at 6:30 Monday and The Orders (1974) slated for 8:45 Wednesday. Both are in French with English subtitles. Cost for all AFI films is $3 for members; $3.50 member's guests; and $4 non-members. Call 785- 4601 for information; 785-4600 for a recorded schedule of AFI screenings.

The Hirshhorn Museum will host the Washington premiere of Philip Glass: A Composer's Notes next week. The 89-minute portrait if the avant-garde composer was made while he created his three-act opera "Akhnaten," which premiered last November in New York. The screening is free in the museum's auditorium at 8 p.m. on Thursday and on April 4. Call 357-2700.

The Hirshhorn will also begin its free six- part film series, "The New Architecture," on Thursday at noon in the auditorium with Arata Isozaki, Michael Blackwood's portrait of Japan's most influential architect. The screening will be repeated April 5 at 1. Other architects to be examined during the series are Richard Meier, Aldo Rossi and Ralph Erskine. Again, call 357-2700.

COURSES -- "On Camera: Acting for Video and Film" is a six-week workshop for adults who want to sharpen their on-screen skills. The Round House Theater program will be taught by theater and film director Steve Yeager and begins Monday. Besides $125, you'll need some theater experience and Yeager's okay. Call 468-4172 for details.

The Round House doesn't stop there. Coral Leigh, a New York-based talent manager who represents children, will conduct "StageMom Workshops" for young actors' parents hoping to be the next Mrs. Shields. This way you won't have to read the National Enquirer for the "do's and don'ts of the business." The workshops will be held April 5; a $3 donation benefits the Sarah Cooper HIB Fund. Call 468-4234 to reserve a spot.

If you always wanted to write a screenplay but didn't know where in the world to begin, maybe the Writer's Center in Glen Echo can help. "The Basics of Screenwriting" is a workshop for playwrights, novelists and poets who want to turn ideas into scripts for film and television. The first of eight sessions begins April 24, but don't delay; classes are limited to 14 and fill up quickly. Cost is $97 for members; $102, non-members. There are additional classes for stage and screen writers called "Just Dialogue" and "Advanced Playwriting." Call 654-8664 for details.

SHORT TAKES -- Woody Guthrie: Hard Travelin' winds up the March screenings for the National Archives' "American Lives" series on Friday at noon. The free 75-minute movie was made last year and uses a good deal of historical footage, much of it from the National Archives.

Producer-director Gerry Krell and writer- cinematographer Meyer Odze will present their on-film salute to Giuseppe Verdi, Homage to Verdi, on Friday at 7:30 at American University's Wechsler Theater. It's free. Call 885-2041.

Northern Virginia Community College concludes its French film series Sunday at 7:30 at the Reston Community Center with Francois Truffaut's 1980 The Last Metro starring Catherine Deneuve. It's free, but tickets are a must. Reserve them at 476-1111.

The National Geographic Society's free film series offers Signatures of the Soul, a look at the ancient art of tattooing; Fireworks Maker; and Las Fallas Festival on Tuesday at noon in the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Auditorium, 1600 M Street NW. Call 857-7133.