In the world of cinema, February finds us climbing excitedly out of the wasteland that is January and into this month's embrace of new films that are sure to hook audiences. In addition, there are plenty of special screenings of Academy Award-nominated films in anticipation of the ceremony this month, as well as some special surprises and tributes.
Here are the ten best film events in Denver this February, listed in chronological order.
1. Scream Screen: The Psychosexual Films of David Cronenberg
Fridays in February at 9:30 p.m.
Theresa Mercado’s Scream Screen returns and adds an extra chill to frosty February with a four-film salute to the master of bloodcurdling body horror, David Cronenberg. For decades, the Canadian auteur has mixed his nightmarish visions with themes of sex and sickness and turned out frothy films like Shivers (aka They Came From Within), The Brood, Videodrome and Dead Ringers, which will be dissected and examined this month at the Sie. Adding to the terror on the screen, each movie will be preceded by some of Denver’s best moody music via such bands as Voight, Pythian Whispers, Videodrome (with members of Strafgod, Rotten Blue Menace and MOB) and DBUK. Expect four nights of skin-crawling creeps for your eyes and ears! Get tickets at denverfilm.org.
2. I Am Not Your Negro
Starts Friday, February 3
Landmark’s Esquire Theatre and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Oscars, director Raoul Peck’s sizzling film gives voice to late writer and activist James Baldwin and his unfinished work Remember This House. The book would have examined the impact of the assassination of three of Baldwin’s closest friends and civil-rights icons, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.; Peck supplements Baldwin's thirty completed pages with archival footage and recent civil unrest during the Black Lives Matter movement to illustrate the underlying message of the writer's teachings. Bringing Baldwin's words to life is the voice of Samuel L. Jackson, who shows that when it comes to decades of battles for civil rights, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Get tickets at landmarktheaters.com and drafthouse.com.
3. OJ: Made in America
Saturday, February 4, at noon
Also nominated for Best Documentary Feature is Ezra Edelman’s epic eight-hour examination of the meteoric rise and devastating downfall of NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson. During the “trial of the century,” which found the star accused of murdering his wife, Nicole, and friend Ron Goldman, Simpson became a lightning rod for more controversy as the focus of race relations in Los Angeles and America at large. This is your chance to catch the doc on the big screen; the Sie will present it in one shot with two intermissions. Get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
4. Denver Jewish Film Festival
Elaine Wolf Theater at the Jewish Community Center
Raise a glass: The Denver Jewish Film Festival is turning 21 this year, and it's celebrating with a theme of “unsung heroes” in its film selections. Opening-night feature For the Love of Spock examines the life and interstellar career of Jewish star Leonard Nimoy; On the Map looks at the unlikely 1977 championship victory of an Israeli basketball team; and Persona Non Grata and One Step to Freedom introduce viewers to two men whose actions saved many lives during the Holocaust. These are but a small sample of the 31 features and shorts that make up of the face of this very grown-up film festival. See the whole schedule and get tickets at maccjcc.org.
Keep reading for more of February's film events.
5. Warm Bodies With Author Isaac Marion in Person
Friday, February 10, at 7 p.m.
Part of the Alamo Drafthouse’s new partnership with the Tattered Cover Bookstore, which unites movies, books and special guests into one entertaining dish, is a screening of the hit 2013 zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy) Warm Bodies with Isaac Marion, the author of the novel that inspired the film. Along with introducing the film to Drafthouse audiences, Marion is in town to push The Burning World, his followup to Bodies, which tells the story of “recovering” zombie R as he begins a new life in an apocalyptic world on the delicate verge of renewal…or destruction. Tickets to the screening include an autographed copy of the new novel. Reserve your seat at drafthouse.com.
6. 2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films
Opens Friday, February 10
Live-Action and Animated at Landmark's Mayan Theatre, and Documentary at Sie FilmCenter
For over a decade, Shorts International has made it easy to catch every year’s Academy Award-nominated short films by wrangling the rights to the films and breaking them down into three bite-sized pieces for easier enjoyment. Three different shows — Live-Action, Animated and Documentary, with selections from countries around the world, including the U.S., Britain, Canada, Hungary, Spain, France and Switzerland — will give you an edge in your Oscar poll this year. Get your tickets for Live and Animated at landmarktheatres.com and Documentary at denverfilmorg.
7. John Wick Chapter 2
Opens Friday, February 10
The first John Wick (2014) found star Keanu Reeves reuniting with the stuntman duo of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who gave him his iconic moves in The Matrix Trilogy. For the first Wick, Stahelski and Leitch sat in the writer/director seats and gave us one of the most deliciously violent, sleek and humorous action fables to ever hit the big screen. Reeves's John Wick became a sly hero for the ages, and now he’s back in this sequel, which, judging from the trailer, finds Wick the target of a worldwide assassination order worth a hefty honeypot. Will he make it out alive? We’ll see. Will he decimate hordes of hitmen in a ballet of bullets and blood? You bet he will. Get tickets and find showtimes at fandango.com.
8. A Cure for Wellness
Opens Friday, February 17
From director Gore Verbinski (The Ring) comes the new year’s first big, dark visual feast. Cure stars new sleepy-eyed Hollywood idol Dane DeHaan as a young executive tasked with returning his company’s CEO from a beautiful yet mysterious “wellness center” in the Swiss Alps. But when a car accident leaves the young man with a broken leg and concussion, he finds himself checked into the center and suddenly suspicious that the sprawling health campus has more up its sleeve than just natural remedies and cleanses. Verbinski has dreamed up a grim fantasia that seems to mix images from classic medical manuals with wild science fiction — slugs, leeches and hyperbolic chambers included.
Find showtimes and tickets at fandango.com.
9. Denver Film Society Oscar Panel
Wednesday, February 22, at 6 p.m.
Last year’s Academy Awards race was marred by the shameful realization that over 90 percent of its nominees were not people of color, which led to a #oscarsowhite call to arms for change. Change occurred; the Academy gutted a wide swath of older, less-diverse members in lieu of fresh, younger and less white faces. Thankfully, Hollywood followed suit by producing diverse entertainment that has received an unprecedented number of nominations for people of color this year. But when it comes down to the actual Oscars telecast (on Sunday, February 26), will these films and the people who fought so hard to make them get the gold? On February 22, the Denver Film Society is bringing together its own diverse group of panelists, including writer and film critic Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post arts and entertainment reporter John Wenzel and yours truly (documentary filmmaker and Westword contributor), to discuss who will win, who should win and what we hope to see at the show this year. Hosted by DFS resident moderator and film critic Robert Denerstein, the discussion will hopefully offer some clarity on your Oscar ballot (like whether you should be team La La Land or team Moonlight). Learn more about the free panel at denverfilm.org, which also has information on the free Oscar viewing party at the Sie.
10. Get Out
Opens Friday, February 24
Comedy and horror are two wildly different genres, but they share a similarity in that their goal is to cause a visceral reaction from viewers. Still, to some it was odd that Jordan Peele — of comedy superteam Key & Peele — had directed a heavily tense horror film. That film, Get Out, looks to be a unique twist on race relations in America and a chilling standout of the terror genre. The film follows a young black man on a trip to visit his white girlfriend’s family in a comfy Caucasian suburbia where the scant black residents seem to be under a Stepford-like spell that could trap our hero if he’s not careful. Positive buzz from this year’s Sundance indicates that we'll be talking about this dark film for years to come. Find showtimes and tickets at fandango.com.
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