Here it comes — the crisp chill of September, when shorts during the day give way to hoodies and pants at night. The air-conditioning in your local movie house will be turned off, and a warm bucket of popcorn will keep your fingers toasty and buttery. In no time at all, horror movies will arrive like banshees in theaters. Until then, here – in chronological order – are September’s coolest film events.
10. Cinema Contra's Katelus’s Solo Organ
8 p.m., September 4, at Pon Pon
Experimental filmmaker Anthony Buchanan kicks off a new season of his Cinema Contra program, which provides a home for films on the fringe — i.e., non-linear, non-narrative works of art that deserve your attention when you’re looking for something different.
This month Buchanan is bringing in San Francisco-based filmmaker Doug Katelus and his Hammond organ to present Films About Films. The series of shorts presented on 16mm film includes Glitch, Nintendo, Mission District Micro-cinemas, long-gone 16mm film labs, and other nearly obsolete media, all while Katelus drones away on his organ in an experimental live soundtrack. Admission is an $8 suggested donation at the door. Get more information on the screening via Facebook.
9. Film for All Seasons: Political POV
Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. starting September 7 at the Esquire Theatre
You might be over the presidential election (and at this point, who isn't?), but don't miss the Esquire’s four-week series of true cinematic political classics. Things kick off zany with the antics of the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup, which features Groucho as a Trump-like president declaring war on a neighboring country, all in the name of love. That gem is followed by: Charlie Chaplin's satirical take on dictators in The Great Dictator, Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate, and Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in All the President’s Men. Tickets are a steal at $8.50 via landmarktheaters.com.
8. Star Trek at 50
September 8, 13, 20, 27 at 7 p.m. at the Sie FilmCenter
Gene Roddenberry’s science-fiction fantasia first went boldly "where no man had gone before” on September 8, 1966. To celebrate fifty years of this groundbreaking serial, which touches on race, social issues and more using outer space as its soapbox, the Sie is highlighting some of the brightest stars in the Trek universe.
Starting with a free screening of several of the original series episodes, the celebration spreads across September with viewings of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: First Contact and the 2009 reboot Star Trek, all on 35mm film and with MSU film prof (and sci-fi nerd) Vincent Piturro holding a discussion afterward. And For the Love of Spock, a loving documentary about late actor Leonard Nimoy done by his son, Adam, opens September 9. Live long and prosper, and get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
7. The Neon Demon
Re-release opens September 9 at the Sie FilmCenter
Nicolas Winding Refn’s (Drive, Only God Forgives) latest film, The Neon Demon, had a quick showing at theaters this summer that opened up a huge discussion about film release in this day and age. The color-saturated story of a sixteen-year-old model (Elle Fanning) who seems to go from fresh meat to hungry hunter very quickly in L.A.’s fashion grinder was one of the most anticipated films of the summer and hit hundreds of screens around the country, which may have been too many for an indie release. But just a week later, it was gone from 99 percent of theaters, and it vanished completely soon after.
Was this Refn-deemed “horror film” misogynistic? Was it really a feminist exploration in wolf’s clothing? No one had time to watch it again. Thankfully, the Sie has managed to secure a re-release of the film so that fans (including yours truly) can get the chance to finally talk about it. Get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
6. Colorado Anime Film Festival
September 9-11 at the Alamo Drafthouse
While American animation has stuck largely to children's stories, Japan has mastered the art of anime, which is accessible to both children and adults. Enter the Colorado Anime Film Festival, which will showcase a bevy of classic titles that define the genre and a few new titles, like festival opener Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.
Classics being showed include Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso, Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, Yamamoto's Belladonna of Sadness and more.
Tickets are $7. Reserve your seats at drafthouse.com.
5. Breck Film Fest
September 15-18 in Breckendridge
The Breck Film Fest is going HAM in its 36th year and bringing in some unique programming to set it apart from other film festivals. Along with boasting over sixty new titles – and 25 Colorado premieres – the fest kicks off with Ron Howard’s new Beatles doc Eight Days a Week, which explores the early part of the Fab Four’s career, when Beatlemania was in full bloom (it screens in Denver on September 16 at the Sie). BFF is also hosting members of beloved animation company Pixar and letting them program a solid block of all of their animated shorts while they discuss the evolution of the digital animation that they helped ignite.
BFF will also salute women in film by showing docs like Strong Sisters: Elected Women in Colorado, which shines a light on women in politics in our state. See the full schedule and venues and get tickets at breckfilmfest.org.
4. Blair Witch
Opens September 16 in Denver-area theaters
Seventeen years ago, The Blair Witch Project premiered and changed the face of horror films forever. In a world without social media or cell phones, the film built buzz organically. The “documentary” consists of footage created by three college students who set out in the woods around Burkittsville, Maryland, in search of the mythical Blair Witch. The students end up running smack dab into terrifying shenanigans. Audiences didn’t know what to think about the micro-budget film. Had they just watched a snuff film (spoiler: they didn’t)?
The legend of the film has hovered over horror since, with the “found-footage” genre taking off. But none has ever quite captured BWP's glory. Cut to May of this year, when a trailer for a new horror film called The Woods appeared; critics promised that it wold be this year’s “most terrifying film." The Internet went wild, especially after it was revealed that The Woods is a fake name for Blair Witch, a secretly shot sequel to the OG ’99 Witch. Lots of the plot is being kept under wraps, but we do know the film follows the brother of one of the first film's protagonists, who sets out to find his missing sibling in the same woods where he disappeared.
Find theaters, tickets and showtimes at fandango.com.
September 22-25 at the Sie FilmCenter
Denver Film Society’s salute to Latino cinema is here and brings with it fifteen films as diverse as the cultures being saluted in them. Festival opener The Vessel, shot in Puerto Rico, produced by Terrence Malick and starring Martin Sheen, was shot in both English and Spanish, so viewers can choose whichever version they prefer.
Another film of note is "Clever," a local documentary short film by director Alan Dominguez and produced by Daniel Junge. The film is about the life of Gerardo Lopez, a former member of L.A.’s notorious MS13 gang who now lives in Denver as a gang interventionist doing his best to teach lost youth by example using his own life story.
Also in the mix is a three-film salute to popular Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mamá También), including the fest’s closing-night film Desierto, the directorial debut of Juan Cuarón (son of Alfonso). The tense horror film is about a group of Mexicans trying to make their way across the already treacherous U.S.-Mexico border who begin to be picked off, one by one, by a psychotic American vigilante. How’s that for timely use of cinema?
Many of the films' talent will be on hand to make the screenings even more thrilling. Tickets and passes for the festival are available at denverfilm.org.
2. Author: The JT LeRoy Story
Opens September 23 at the Landmark Mayan Theatre
Sit back and listen to the tale of Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy – JT LeRoy, for short – a writer who in the late ’90s began to charm the literary world with his raw autobiographically poetic tales of teenage prostitution, drug addiction and abuse chronicled in Sarah and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. The novels brought LeRoy to Hollywood’s door to ghostwrite and adapt his work. He gave weird, awkward interviews and was splashed all over magazines and hip publications. It was almost a fairy tale until the truth poured out like warm Coca-Cola: LeRoy was actually the creation and pen name of his “manager,” Laura Albert, and the person posing as LeRoy was actually Albert’s sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop, who lived as LeRoy’s avatar for six years as needed.
Sounds made up, too, doesn’t it? But the truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction, and that truth is finally being revealed from the lips of Albert herself in the new doc Author: The JT LeRoy Story. The film takes us from the beginning, when Albert had the far-flung plan to create the world of JT, and into what happened when her plan started to cave in. Get tickets for the film at landmarktheaters.com.
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1. Phantasm: Restored in 4K with Livestream Q&A
7:45 p.m. September 24 at the Alamo Drafthouse
In honor of the inaugural Art House Theater Day, which celebrates the efforts of the staff of the less “corporate” movie houses and cinematheques, the always-cinema-minded Alamo is screening a brand-new 4K restoration of Don Coscarelli’s innovative and still-spooky 1979 film Phantasm, complete with a live-streamed Q&A with the director from Fantastic Fest in Austin.
The classic film was an influential indie at the time, the terrifying tale of a teen, his older brother and an ice cream man, who run afoul of The Tall Man, a creepy mortuary man (played by the late but forever-creepy Angus Scrimm) overseeing Perigord Cemetery with plans of inter-dimensional travel and deadly flying metal orbs. The film takes its time on the chills and took its time building a franchise; part two arrived in 1988, part three in 1994, and the final installment, Phantasm: Ravager, was just completed and will be released later this year. Tickets for the screening, which includes an exclusive enamel pin by Mondo Collectibles, are available at drafthouse.com.