April showers are about to give way to May flowers both on the ground and on the big screen, where the first offerings of the summer movie season will soon pop up. In chronological order, here are the best film events in Denver this May. 10. Denver Silent Film Festival
April 28 through May 1 Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Silence is golden — especially when it comes to the original format that ruled the silver screen from the turn of the twentieth century until sound came roaring in like the MGM lion in 1927. Hundreds of films were produced during this golden era that continue to deserve examination, and that is the ongoing mission of the Denver Silent Film Festival at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. DSFF has picked a handful of these cinematic gems — from an epic retelling of Ben-Hur to nearly forgotten comedy classics and melodramas — and aligned them with great music as well as live discussions.
Asked to pick his fave of the fest, DSFF director Howie Movshovitz responds: “I hate to single films out, because [archivist] David Shepard and I put the program together with care and affection for all of the films, but we’re showing two films with Lon Chaney that give a good sense of his depth as an actor — and his weirdness: The Unholy Three and The Phantom of the Opera. Chaney had a lot of nerve as an actor. He seems to absorb himself into a character to an extent that in itself is unsettling. And for a good antidote to Chaney's strangeness, take a look at His Wooden Wedding in the comedy program — Charley Chase can be quite (delightfully) nuts. Here he plays a guy about to be married when the jealous best man slips a note in his pocket with some utterly ridiculous information about the bride that sends Charley into a tizzy. And one more suggestion, although I love every film we've chosen: Lois Weber, the director of The Blot, was the leading woman filmmaker in this country in the late 'teens and early twenties. She looked at the lives of women, set scenes in kitchens, back porches and grocery stores (places where those lives unfold) and took on major social questions.” Find the complete schedule and get tickets at denversilentfilmfest.org. 9. Arthouse Essentials
Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m., May 4 - June 29 Landmark Chez Artiste Theater
Leave it to the theater with the fanciest name in the Landmark group, the Chez Artiste, to build a series focused not on Hollywood classics, but on the foreign greats that first made this "arthouse" chain stand out. The weekly, two-month-long series starts with great French director François Truffaut and his youth-centered The 400 Blows. The international cinematic flight takes off from there to Sweden for Ingmar Bergman’s little-seen The Magician, then to Spain for Victor Erice’s haunting The Spirit of the Beehive and to Italy for Fellini’s heartbreaking La Strada, starring the great Giulietta Masina. Be sure to hold on to your passport for June’s showings of masterworks from Satyajit Ray (The Music Room), Powell & Pressburger (Black Narcissus), Rene Clement (Forbidden Games) and Jean Renoir (The River). Fasten your seat belts for a round-the-world adventure, and get tickets at landmarktheaters.com. 8. RSC Shorts Fest
May 6-7 Sie FilmCenter
Taking its first run at film programming, the Reel Social Club, the Denver Film Society’s young-professionals group, has curated a clutch of bite-sized entertainment for a solid weekend celebrating cinema’s “fun size” short film. Presented by LivWell, one of Denver’s best and biggest dispensaries, the fest has every kind of short lined up — documentary, animated, music video, dramatic, experimental and beyond — as well as a special Liquid Brunch on the last day of the fest. For passes and tickets, go to denverfilm.org. 7. Captain America: Civil War
Opens May 8
Various Denver Theaters
Now that the Marvel universe has expanded in dozens of directions and we’ve gotten a grasp on who’s who and why all the superheroes are pulling on their underoos to do battle all over the galaxy, we can start to look at the biggest hero of this Phase One rollout: Captain America. When Iron Man gives the Cap an ultimatum, it draws a line down the middle of the power group, forcing other members to pick sides. This, of course, promises to create one bombastic spectacle that will kick off the summer movie season with a superpowered “kapow.” Find theaters and tickets at fandango.com. 6. Film on the Rocks
Begins May 12 Red Rocks Amphitheatre
The seventeenth season of movies under the stars in the country’s best outdoor auditorium is starting early with Purple Rain, added the day after rock genius Prince’s passing. Tickets to this epic event sold out in under 24 hours — with an additional group of tickets selling out even faster — but if you weren’t lucky enough to grab your own, there are eight more great film programs, all featuring bands and local comedians. Offerings range from a sing-a-long version of Grease to true classic Citizen Kane, cult favorite The Big Lebowski, Ferris Bueller celebrating a special birthday, family fave The Sandlot, a David Bowie tribute with Labyrinth, the bloody comedy of Deadpool, and new hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A night at FOTR is like going to the most amazing drive-in theater, but without any pesky exhaust or buggy speakers. See the full schedule and get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
Keep reading for five more great film events.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE...
Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Keith Garcia is a filmmaker, writer and secret agent looking for love and the perfect slice of pizza. If he looks familiar, it's probably because he introduced a film you watched in Denver sometime between 1996 and 2014.