The new year is upon us, and with it comes twelve months ready to be filled to the brim with films, be they classic or new, fancy or just famous. We continue to be lucky to be able to host robust and varied cinematic events in our city; after you pop the cork to a new slate, you can sop up your hangover — and steady your eyeballs — with some great film. Here are this month's best bets, presented in chronological order for your calendar.
10. True Romance
January 1 and 2 at midnight at the Esquire Theatre
As Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, The Hateful Eight, shoots through theaters, memories of his previous seven films and their bloody merits dance through our collective heads. Yet one of those great memories is actually not officially in his sequential lineup: 1993’s True Romance, which Tarantino wrote but didn't direct. The film was produced between Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and contains all of his twisty plotting, great characters brimming with dialogue and, of course, violence and F-bombs. It stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette as Clarence and Alabama, who meet-cute, have a one-night stand and fall in love, which causes Clarence to steal cocaine from her pimp to fund their relationship while the blow’s real owners come chasing after their product. Add Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Brad Pitt and even Val Kilmer and Gary Oldman into the blender for a tasty, thick beverage. Late director Tony Scott helmed this nonstop love story and does it well, answering the age old question of what Tarantino’s work looks like in someone else’s capable hands. Tickets are $9 and available at landmarktheaters.com.
9. The Quay Brothers on 35mm
January 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sie FilmCenter
Since the late 1970s, identical twin brothers Stephen and Timothy Quay have been haunting the art of stop-motion animation with their beautifully creepy visionscapes, which feature dolls, animals and plenty of nods to Eastern European literary masters, all funneled through the glimmer of childhood fever dreams. From film festivals to early bumpers for MTV, the Quays' animated explorations have been sneaking into our minds for years. Now, renowned filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception) has curated a collection of four of the brothers' short films, titled The Quay Brothers, that is touring cinematheques around the world, including the Sie FilmCenter, with restored versions of the works, including "In Absentia," "The Comb" and "Street of Crocodiles," along with a new short by Nolan titled "Quay"; it lifts the veil on the wild world behind the strings, dolls and bizarre mechanics, all on 35mm film. “The Quay Brothers don't just make films, they build worlds,” says Matthew Campbell, programmer for the Denver Film Society. “Little eerie, atmospheric worlds that come alive with creaking soundtracks and a puppet's turn of the head, full of macabre wonderment. For animation lovers, or just lovers of the bizarre, this curated retrospective can’t be missed.” Tickets are $1, or $7 for Denver Film Society members; get yours at denverfilm.org.
8. The BBS Story
Mondays In January/February at 7:30 p.m., beginning January 11, with Head at the Alamo Drafthouse
In the late 1960s, the Hollywood machine was drying up. Audiences were abandoning movie theaters in record numbers, and all seemed lost. Enter the crafty minds of Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner, three dreamers who popped into the scene on a bizarre set of circumstances: they had invented the comedy/musical group The Monkees, and the windfall coming in from their success was enough for the trio to start BBS Productions and do what they really were itching to do: provide Hollywood with some fresh meat. That came in the form of Head, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, A Safe Place, The Last Picture Show, The King of Marvin Gardens and Drive, He Said. Starting this week, the Alamo will begin showing these films, all important stitches in the fabric of American filmmaking. “Running the BBS story has always been a dream series of mine.” says Steve Bessette, Creative Manager for the Alamo Drafthouse “Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider and Stephen Blauner are heroes in the New American Cinema era for being able to create some of the most iconic character-driven stories as the studio system was essentially breathing its last breaths.” Tickets, $7, are available at drafthouse.com.
Opens January 15 at the Mayan Theater
Writer-director Charlie Kaufman has had a unique effect on movie-goers with his creations Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, to name but a few. Yet while these films set your mind spinning with their wacky paths and stories, their innate humanity keeps them grounded with honestly touching emotions. Kaufman’s latest — co-directed by Moral Oral’s Duke Johnson — takes us into the most mundane of stop-motion animated worlds as we meet Michael Stone (David Thewlis), an author who specializes in customer service. Stone's sudden inability to connect with people gets checked when he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The joy to the film is captured in the overly realistic ways in which Johnson and Kaufman capture the most plain of details in Michael’s world — a world that is actually our own. A plot point involving the only other voice in the film, played by Tom Noonan, is best left to being revealed when you see the film yourself. Get tickets at landmarktheaters.com.
6. The Abominable Dr. Phibes Feast w/ Victoria Price
January 21 at 7 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse
Late, great actor Vincent Price held many a viewer under a bloodcurdling spell for the length of his spooky career, but light touches in pop culture revealed that the man was actually a big old softie and a loving father. One of those flourishes is a book of collected dishes that he put out fifty years ago with his wife, Mary, called a A Treasury of Great Recipes. Now, his daughter Victoria has updated the book and written a bio of her father to boot and has headed on a tour to our country’s best Alamo Drafthouse locations to screen her father’s ghoulish tale The Abominable Dr. Phibes while you enjoy a feast made from her dad’s recipes. Dig in to a terrifying and tantalizing evening of film, food and warm memories of one of our most-missed thespians. Tickets are $75 and available at drafthouse.com.
5. Lady Snowblood
January 22 at 10 p.m. at the Sie FilmCenter
Tarantino is on the brain everywhere this month it seems, and this new digital restoration of Toshiya Fujita’s 1973 stylish revenge fantasy was quite obviously an inspiration for his epic Kill Bill saga. Starring Japanese beauty Meiko Kaji as a woman who sets out for bloody revenge for her parents' deaths at the hands of a corrupt gang, the film wears the color red on its white sleeve as a badge of honor and was an early reminder in world cinema that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Tickets are $11, or $7 for Denver Film Society members; get yours at denverfilm.org.
4. Out 1, Noli Me Tangere
January 23 at 10 a.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse
Unseen in its complete form in over forty years, French New Wave misfit Jacques Rivette’s (L’Amour Fou, Gang Of Four) Out 1 is hailed as the holy grail of French cinema, and now, thanks to a recent digital restoration, all twelve hours of the magnum opus will be screened at the Alamo. The film, Rivette’s fourth, worked without a script to show two separate theater groups rehearsing avant-garde works while their personal stories, and the stories of strangers outside of their group, intertwine with theirs over the running time. Fans of French film willing to spend half a day viewing a truly lost and epic classic will be handsomely rewarded with bragging rights. Thanks to the Alamo, you can also enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner while you take it all in. Tickets are $50 and available at drafthouse.com.
3. Kill Bill Double Feature Feast
January 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse
So you’ve watched The Hateful Eight and True Romance and Lady Snowblood, but you’ve still got a Tarantino-shaped rash on ya that needs scratching. What else is left to consume to ease your QT fever? How about watching Tarantino’s epic Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 together, the way they were meant to be seen, but with the added attraction of a six-course feast cooked up by local Alamo executive chef and badass Seth Rexroad? From sushi to schnitzel, an edible eyeball, yakitori and an explosive dessert — paired with glasses of sake, tequila, Bud, wine and more — the menu is just as ambitious as Tarantino’s four-hour revenge fable was when it was released thirteen years ago, but from Uma Thurman to samurais, kung-fu to Vivica A. Fox, Darryl Hannah and everything in between, it became a masterpiece of pastiche that was a feast for our eyes, and now, lucky Denver film-goers, it’s a feast for your stomach, too. Tickets are $100 and are available at drafthouse.com.
The Phone Call took home the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film at the 2015 Academy Awards.
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2. Oscar Nominated Short Films
Opens January 29
Live-Action and Animated at a TBA Landmark theater
Documentary at the Sie FilmCenter
Savvy film-goers know that one of the best things about film festivals is the ability to watch short films — tiny nuggets of feature films that sometimes end up more rewarding and successful than their lengthier brethren due to crafty filmmaking — and every year these gems get recognition from the Academy with Oscar nominations that sort the best shorts into three categories: live-action (with real people), animated, and documentary. This year’s nominees won’t be announced until January 14, but thanks to the folks at Shorts International, their annual parade of the nods will start again so that you can watch the best of the bunch and root for your favorite to take Oscar gold. Tickets for the live-action and animated-shorts program will be at landmarktheaters.com; you can get tix for the doc-shorts package at denverfilm.org.
1. Kiki’s Delivery Service
January 29 and 30 at midnight at the Esquire Theatre
Now that he has officially retired, master animator Hayao Miyazaki can sit back and let us revisit all of the beautiful, imaginative strokes that he and his Studio Ghibli shared with millions of children and adults over the past three decades. One of those sweet packages is Kiki’s Delivery Service, the gorgeous tale of a young witch, fresh in her first year of independence, who tries to fit into a small community by establishing an air-courier service, handled by her trusty broomstick, with mixed and wild results. All of the Miyazaki touches are here: a great female heroine, a sassy animal sidekick, and the reminder that staying a kid at heart will help you become a better adult in the long run. Fans of the Kirsten Dunst/ Phil Hartman-voiced version, take note: This is the original Japanese-cast version with English subtitles. Tickets are $9 and available at landmarktheaters.com.