Home Movies: Colorado Connections at the Academy Awards

John David Washington played Ron Stallworth, a detective in Colorado springs, in BlacKkKlansman.
John David Washington played Ron Stallworth, a detective in Colorado springs, in BlacKkKlansman.
Courtesy of Focus Features
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When the envelopes are opened on Sunday, February 24, at the Academy Awards, Colorado has the chance to come up a winner...or close enough.

Although this state's film industry has gone through rough times, with few incentives compared to those offered by neighboring New Mexico and Utah, several of this year's Oscar nominations have Colorado connections.

Christopher Priest, who broke the color barrier at Marvel Comics in 1978 when he became the company’s first African-American editor and writer, helped create many of Black Panther’s most arresting and interesting concepts, visuals and storylines. His work on the title in the late ’90s is credited with being the genesis for 2018’s Black Panther.

The movie's success took even its creators by surprise, Priest told us last year. "Director Ryan Coogler, screenwriter Joe Robert Cole, executive producer Nate Moore, Atlantic magazine columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates, fellow comics writer Don McGregor and I were all sitting in a Los Angeles green room looking at each other with shell-shocked expressions. Nobody thought the film would do as well as it did — myself least of all.

"In fact," he recalled, "during the early development phase, I expressed my concern to Nate: 'How will you get white audiences to come see this film?' I was worried a film about a relatively obscure secondary Marvel hero would be a tough sell to a mainstream crowd. Nate laughed and said, 'People will come to this movie. You’ll see.' And I did. And that’s why Nate has a huge office with air conditioning and I practically work out of my car."

Home Movies: Colorado Connections at the Academy Awards
Marvel Comics

Priest has lived in Denver for decades. "I grew up in the city [Queens] and hoped, my whole childhood and young adult life, to escape from it," he told us. "I came out here on vacation to visit one of my co-workers — my letterer, Willie Schubert. I saw those mountains and fell in love. It’s a really simple story, actually."

Black Panther is nominated for Best Picture.

So is BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee’s film based on a crazy true story (or, as an opening title puts it, “some fo’ real, fo’ real shit”) that follows the efforts of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective on the Colorado Springs police force, to infiltrate the KKK in the ’70s. The movie is based on Stallworth’s 2014 memoir, Black Klansman.

Free Solo, which follows Alex Honnold through some amazing climbs, is up for Best Documentary. Honnold's climbing mentor, Tommy Caldwell, who lives in Estes Park, figures prominently in the film.

And then there’s Amy Adams, who was raised in Castle Rock, trained with the David Taylor Dance Company and got a big break at what was then called Boulder’s Dinner Theatre before graduating from Douglas County High School. Adams is up for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lynne Cheney in Vice ; it’s her sixth nomination.

And the winner is...

What Colorado connections did we miss? Post a comment or email editorial@westword.com.

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