Wednesday October 26 Hollywood and race: Young African-American filmmakers may have recently carved a brilliant niche in the artistic life of the nation, but you might not know about their predecessors from the cinema's earlier days. "Midnight Ramble," tonight's episode of PBS's The American Experience, delves into the "race movies" that flourished as a reaction to stereotypes perpetuated in mainstream silent classics such as The Birth of a Nation and continued through the onset of World War II. The program, which takes its title from a term used to describe late-night, segregated screenings of films that portrayed blacks as educated and dignified, follows the genre's progression and profiles Oscar Micheaux, the first director to make feature-length works dealing with controversial subjects familiar to urban black culture. Tune in to KRMA-TV Channel 6 at 8 p.m. for a nocturnal trip through an unsung footnote in cinematic history.
Cutting up: Gone are the days of the simple jack-o'-lantern with triangular features and a square grin. These days, pumpkin carving is an art--just witness the Pumpkin Masters Art Exhibit, a collection of 100 punkins on display to the public today through Friday in the Norwest Bank Atrium, 1740 Broadway. Included are prize-winning entries from across the nation, designs by professional artists and celebrity portraits that ape your favorite TV ghouls. Yeesh. What will they think of next? Exhibit hours are from 7 to 7 daily, with carving demos from noon until 1 p.m. Admission is free; call 863-6835.
Thursday October 27 Slippin' and slidin': Drop anything with strings on it into the lap of eclectic musician David Lindley and you can be sure he'll know what to do with it. A studious and loopy sort of consummate musician, Lindley became a respected name siding for Jackson Browne, and his signature guitar wail--intelligent, weeping and somewhat akin to his friend Ry Cooder's rootsy slide drawl--was as integral to Browne's sound as the songs themselves. But that was long ago, and Lindley now tours the globe, jamming with folks from far-flung places. Along with Jordanian percussionist Hani Naser, Lindley will play reggae, the blues and whatever else pops into his head on exotic ouds, bazoukis and Hawaiian guitars tonight at 7 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax. For tickets, $15 ($17 day of show), call 322-2308.
Dead on arrival: What do Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Louisa May Alcott, H.P. Lovecraft and Gaston Leroux have in common aside from an interest in creating fiction steeped in horror and fantasy? They're all dead, every last one of 'em. But for at least three nights, these Victorian Horror Authors will be conjured up and will rattle their chains at the Molly Brown House Museum, 1340 Pennsylvania St. From 7 to 10 p.m. today, tomorrow and Saturday, visitors will tour the mansion and be treated to readings and a talk from each of the literate deceased, after which everyone will retreat to the carriage house, where seaweed-covered servers left off by the Titanic evoke the Molly Brown saga and dish out refreshments. Tickets, $8, must be purchased in advance. For details call 832-4092.
Friday October 28 Shrine convention: The soulful, mysterious and almost whimsical spirit of Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration--far more colorful than that of its American counterpart, Halloween--will kick up its heels to dance with the ancestors tonight at Pirate, a Contemporary Art Oasis, 3659 Navajo St. The gallery's annual El D’a de los Muertos Exhibition incorporates the beautiful, the bony and a touch of the absurd (this year's compendium of shrines, altars, nichos and sarcophagi conjures up ghosts ranging from Richard Nixon to Diane Arbus), then plays it to the hilt with a parade, a pinata party and the kind of reception where people are rumored to behave in an otherworldly fashion. The special events take place tonight from 6:30 to 10; the show stands until October 30. For information call 458-6058.
The writer stuff: Happily, last year's Rocky Mountain Book Festival was a huge success. So it follows that the Colorado Center for the Book should have no qualms about throwing a second one. Promising to be more vast and encompassing than the first one, this event, which runs from 9 to 6 today and tomorrow at Currigan Exhibition Hall, will have confidence on its side--as well as a kaleidoscopic roster of known and unknown authors on hand to flesh out the goings-on. Rita Mae Brown, John Gray, Tim O'Brien, Oscar Hijuelos, Matt Groening, Rex Burns and Ian Ballantine are just a few of the names you'll encounter there, but they aren't the only reason to attend: There will be readings for kids, a book-arts display with craft demonstrations, panel discussions about science fiction, romance novels and what have you, along with tons of books--all kinds--displayed by booksellers and publishers. Admission to the festival is free; for details call 866-6901.
Saturday October 29 Wait for the midnight hour: Although it's not officially Halloween, tonight marks the apex of this year's festivities. In other words, if you can't find someplace to dress up and fit in with the other loonies this evening, chances are you never will. For cultured carousing, you can Dance Till the Cows Come Home during a benefit bash with live performances (7 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Space for Dance, 2590 Walnut, Boulder, $12, 444-1357) or let your hair down at an Erotica Ball (9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Boulder Art Center, 1730 13th St., Boulder, $20 to $30, 443-2122). If you prefer to be scared out of your seat, try an All Hallow's sci-fi screening of Plan 9 From Outer Space, followed by a set of raise-the-dead music by the Zimmermans (8 p.m., The Bug, 3654 Navajo St., $5, 477-5977), or check out The Zombie, a Halloween play (8 p.m., Festival Playhouse, 5665 Old Wadsworth Blvd., $7.50, 422-4090). If you're too small for all that nonsense, there's plenty of fun tailored to wee temperaments--the Children's Museum of Denver once again hosts Trick or Treat Street, a nonscary tour with live pigs, a mariachi band, a carnival tent and other surprises (10 a.m. to 8 p.m., 2121 Crescent Dr., $4 children/$1 adults, 433-7444), while Scream Street, the annual March of Dimes haunted house, has a toned-down companion, The Enchanted Castle, next door, with wizards, storytellers and denizens of the forest (6:30 to 10 p.m., Lakeside Mall, I-70 and Harlan, $1-$6, 964-8800). And finally, you can escape up Clear Creek (think Transylvanian) Canyon to Central City, where the historical society will host a tour of the Haunted Buildings of Gilpin County (7 p.m., Main St. information booth, $2.50-$5, 1-800-542-2999). For details about other Halloween events, see this week's Thrills listings.