Activism propels many independent documentary films into being, simply on the strength of pure, politicized momentum. The flow starts at the top, with, for example, Michael Moore's spew, and filters down into the world of film schools and dens of underground rabble-rousers, at which point the subject matter diversifies. At the Visualized Film Festival, a locally produced, juried phenomenon now in its fourth year, viewers will have a chance to catch up on an eclectic selection of documentaries, covering everything from factory lines to the realities of struggling Third World inhabitants. Screenings are tonight from 7 to 11 p.m. and Saturday from 3 to 11 p.m. at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street; 5 to 10 p.m. tomorrow in North Classroom Building 1130 on the Auraria campus; and 1 to 7 p.m. at Breakdown Books, 1409 Ogden Street. Admission is a suggested donation of $1 per film, if you can afford it. For a complete schedule, log on to www.visualized.org.
Friday, November 12
A blast of multimedia energy is coming your way at the Zen Cabaret, billed as "contemplative burlesque" and featuring hybrid artist Nina Rolle, whose deft voices, affinity for clowning, expertise in Japanese Butoh and accordion chops all figure prominently in the work. Working with Rolle in the performances, which continue through Sunday at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, is an ensemble cast of actors, a puppeteer and three graduates of the Jacques Lecoq School of physical theater in France; for showtimes and tickets, $10 to $14, call 303-443-2122 or visit www.bmoca.org.
Saturday, November 13
Deep in the heart of Five Points, in a rescued Victorian frame house, retired teacher Grace Stiles is singlehandedly making certain that the stories of many lesser-known African-American historical figures are preserved and passed on to youngsters. The Stiles African American Heritage Center, 2607 Glenarm Place, is jam-packed with pictures and artifacts. Stiles, a 2004 Colorado Preservation, Inc. State Honor Award-winner, does what she can to keep people interested by offering lectures, Chautauqua-style re-enactments, tours and more. And today, it's the second annual Stiles Center Quilt Exhibition and Sale: Quilting and the Quest for Freedom II -- Civil Rights, Community and Family, featuring handmade quilts by Dawn Boyd, Rosie Smith, Jackie Hollis and members of the Wa Shonaji Quilt Guild, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the center. Weather permitting, there'll be live jazz in the courtyard; for details, call 303-294-0597.
The Marx Brothers: Deep thinkers? Perhaps more than you'd imagine. As members of the Denver Psychoanalytic Society point out, the smart-ass vaudevillian siblings were expert satirists, skewering politics and societal foibles, and never more so than in Duck Soup, in which the brothers ruled the roost in the fictional nation of Freedonia. The society has invited Colorado Public Radio film critic Howie Movshovitz and Dr. John Kelly of the Denver Institute of Psychoanalysts to lead a discussion after the consummate comedy is screened tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Starz FilmCenter, 900 Auraria Parkway. Although the event benefits the brainy headshrinker group's community-outreach programs, we believe good humor will outweigh all of the incessant psychobabble. Go ahead, and have a good time: Admission ranges from $10 to $20 (pop for $50 and attend an additional 6:30 p.m. patron reception). For reservations, call 303-315-7776.
Sunday, November 14
It's both silly and the height of elegance when the annual Brown Palace Champagne Cascade welcomes the holiday season today in the posh, historic hostelry's grand-atrium lobby. The Brown tradition starts at noon when CSO maestra Marin Alsop waves her baton. At her signal, master swordsman (and MoŽt & Chandon ambassador) Bernard Ganter will expertly pop the cork of a champagne bottle with his saber to set off a 6,000-glass cascade, with Alsop assuming the pouring duties. Funny? Yep. Anachronistic? Totally. Free entertainment? Absolutely. The Brown is at 321 17th Street; call 303-297-3111 or go to www.brownpalace.com.
Monday, November 15
It goes without saying that an MIT professor has a head on his shoulders, but no one really expects such an animal to write novels. But physicist Alan Lightman not only does so, he does it exceedingly well, variously garnering good notices, award nominations and best-selling status for both his fiction and his essays. Lightman, whose 1993 best-seller Einstein's Dreams dazzled readers with its lyrical style, appears tonight at the Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, to discuss and read from his latest fictional effort, Reunion, about a middle-aged professor and failed poet who re-examines his life. Lightman reads at 7:30 p.m.; call 303-447-2074 for information.
Tuesday, November 16
The pages will begin turning again tonight when the fourth season of the Buntport Theater Company's cult favorite, Magnets on the Fridge, gets under way. The hilarious participatory serial sitcom, featuring plots based on tomes chosen by the play's resident book club (actually pulled out of a hatful of audience suggestions), opens tonight at 8 p.m. and continues every other Tuesday and Wednesday through May 4 at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street. Admission is $5 to $7; call 720-946-1388 or log on to www.buntport.com.
Wednesday, November 17
Detroit saxophonist James Carter first hit the jazz mainstream as a teenage Young Lion, touring with Wynton Marsalis before leaving the pride and setting off on his own. Now he's pulling a "Marsalis" himself, at least in terms of being an educator, when he visits CU-Boulder to work with up-and-coming musicians. Hear him roar: This afternoon, Carter will lead a jazz clinic with students (it's open to the public for observation) at 1:45 p.m. in Imig Music Building C199; later he'll perform with the CU Jazz Ensemble, at 7:30 p.m. at Macky Auditorium, perhaps drawing the repertoire from his recent Billie Holiday tribute CD, Gardenias for Lady Day. Admission to both clinic and concert is free; for details, call 303-492-8008 or go to www.colorado.edu/music.