Although it's a bit of a sideshow to the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver's diverse Colorado Biennial showcase, the Colorado Film Biennial: 10 by 10 has also turned out to be its own three-ring circus. The ten finalists, chosen from nearly fifty entries in three categories, including narrative, avant-garde and documentary genres, have produced work that similarly leaps out of the box and is -- according to the competition's judges -- completely surprising in terms of overall production and creative qualities. "We have ten very good films," says judge and local critic Tom Delapa, who also curates film series at the MCA and the Denver Art Museum. "What's great about them is that they really do offer a nice cross-section of filmmaking styles, giving a sense of all the different possibilities in independent film."
The final lineup, which screens today and tomorrow, July 28, at 1 p.m. at Starz FilmCenter, does represent a divine creative toss-up. From Blink, Damian Griffin's Pixar-style animated story about the goings-on of a middle-class worm family residing inside an apple, to Ronnie Cramer's outrageously weird and funny documentary Highway Amazon, about a traveling lady wrestler who takes on men in hotel rooms, it's an unexpectedly lively program. But more important, the biennial offers strong evidence that there's plenty of life in the Colorado filmmaking community.
Denver International Film Festival director Ron Henderson, who also served on the judging committee, has seen hundreds upon hundreds of films, many of them just plain bad, during his long DIFF tenure. But he expresses surprise at how watchable the biennial finalist films turned out to be. "I'm pleased to know these are Colorado films. They indicate that we have some real talent in the state," he says. The top finisher, to be announced tonight during a reception at the MCA following the screening, will win an automatic berth in this fall's DIFF schedule.
In the meantime, this is your first -- maybe only -- chance to see them all in one screening. "This will give people in Denver a chance to support local, non-Hollywood filmmaking styles," Delapa says. "We've already seen all those big, bloated and superficial summer Hollywood blockbusters; now here's a group of little movies by local filmmakers that display a great deal of imagination and resourcefulness." And, he notes enticingly, "there are no movies with Bruce Willis. Or Demi Moore, for that matter."
Starz FilmCenter is at 900 Auraria Parkway, on the Auraria campus; the Museum of Contemporary Art is at 1275 19th Street, in Sakura Square. For information or tickets, $10 to $15, call 303-298-7554. -- Susan Froyd
Black Reel gets smoking
Rock Island and Denver Underground Film Festival's Red Reel is in the black -- the Black Reel, that is. Tonight's warmup for Friday's Whip It VIII, the club's annual latex-wrapped romp with fetish culture, will dive deeper than its crimson comrade into film for alternative-lifestyle voyeurs and classic-movie buffs. "Red Reel has really developed a following of people who have a love for interesting and unique film," says Rock Island's David Clamage, adding that the films in both series "are well out of the center of mainstream life. They give people a chance to see inside the [filmmaker's] creative mind."
The night presents a cult-classic trio: the silent Père Lachaise cemetery feature The Dead, a collection of weird bits from the retro world titled B Movie Madness, and the original naughty pinup herself in Betty Page: Bondage Queen.
Focusing its lens on gothic art films of the underground, the Black Reel triple feature sheds light on rare footage not usually available to the general public. "Black Reel is an opportunity to appeal to Red Reel and Whip It audiences with film you wouldn't necessarily find at your neighborhood Blockbuster," explains Clamage.
Get back to the Island, 1614 15th Street, grab a cocktail and a smoke, and become eyewitness to a sexy collection of cinema obscura as it plays out on the club's super-sized projection wall, beginning at 9 p.m. Admission to this 21-and-over event is $5; go to www.rockislandclub.com or call 303-572-ROCK for details. -- Kity Ironton
The Book of Bad Love
When relationships come screeching to a halt, things can get messy. Those looking for help can take solace in Meredith Broussard's new guide to angst-ridden romance, titled The Dictionary of Failed Relationships: 26 Stories of Love Gone Wrong. A compilation of short stories by women writers about botched romantic entanglements, The Dictionary of Failed Relationships covers everything from cheating bastards to blind dates from hell.
A stands for Ambivalence.
C is for Call Hell, defined as "the state of severe anxiety following a date or sexual interlude, when the woman wonders desperately if the man will call."
P represents Pain, and R signifies Regret, a road we've all been down before.
Broussard will be at the Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, tonight at 7:30 p.m. for a reading and book signing; she'll be joined by local authors Pam Houston (Nightmare) and Erika Krouse (Zero). For more information, call 303-447-2074. -- Julie Dunn
Alexie continues to whoop it up
Ironically, Sherman Alexie is one of those easy-to-stereotype authors: The admittedly angry young Indian from the Spokane rez in Wellpinit, Washington, is always getting himself in trouble, making irrefutable statements left and right (and left again), and poking unending fun at the critical community that, well, idolizes him. The more troublesome Alexie becomes in the public eye, the more they love, extol and fawn over him and his creative outpourings -- his bull's-eye storytelling, his poetic, dramatic and visual sensibilities, his literary credibility, his Indian-ness. Trouble is, they're all so right...and so wrong. But count this critic in: Somehow, Alexie both faces and transcends all of it, always managing to come up fresh. He never treads water; like the basketball player he is, he's always moving. His latest story collection, Ten Little Indians, is classic Alexie, full of that visceral, sad Indian acerbity and humor he's known for. He'll be making the rounds to promote the book, beginning today with a noon book luncheon at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place ($18, call 303-571-5260), and a 7:30 p.m. reading at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 East First Avenue (303-322-7727), and continuing tomorrow with a 2 p.m. signing at the Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street in Boulder (303-447-2074). Let the spirit move you. -- Susan Froyd