On the surface, Darren Aronofsky's bleak masterpiece Requiem for a Dream, the screwball musical nun-comedy of Sister Act and a spaghetti Western from Thailand don't have much in common. In the eyes of Denver Film Society programming director Keith Garcia, they all share one important trait: They're good movies that haven't gotten the attention they deserve, and he's aiming to change that with The Watching Hour's summer program, which starts this weekend.
"We're bringing the best in what I like to call neo-cult films to Denver," Garcia says. "They're the films you've heard about, or maybe you remember reading something about, and it's high time you watched it."
Take Aronofsky's Requiem, for example: Everyone's heard of it, but plenty of people have never actually seen it, in part because of the film's intensity and difficult subject matter.
"It came to my attention that there's an entire generation behind me that hasn't seen this movie," explains Garcia. "When it first came out and I saw it, I remember people saying, 'Well, I will never watch that movie again. It was a great movie but I can never sit through it again.' And in that time [since] there's been this whole rash of people who have no idea what it is, other than the most intense, anti-drug PSA you will ever watch."
That will hopefully change this Friday, when the Watching Hour features Requiem in all its gut-wrenching, big-screen glory. The following week, the series will pull back from the abyss a bit with a lighter take on cult film with the one-two punch of Sister Act and Sister Act 2, which Garcia promises are better than you'd think. "On paper, they sound like the worst things ever to come out of Hollywood, but in execution are actually fun and deserve to be seen," he insists.
The rest of May brings a pair of films that offer two different takes on teenage life, Welcome to the Dollhouse ("the ultimate feel-bad movie," according to Garcia) and The Last American Virgin, a long-lost classic in the teen sex-comedy genre.
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If those cult films aren't culty enough for you, just wait until the first weekend in June, when the Watching Hour will embrace the weird world of Trent Harris with a triple feature of his works. It kicks off with The Beaver Trilogy, which features a bizarre series of monologues featuring Crispin Glover and Sean Penn in drag, among other weirdness. That's followed the same night by Plan 10 from Outer Space, a sci-fi satire of Mormonism; Rubin and Ed, an oddball comedy about the search for a spot to bury a frozen cat, will show the following night. As a bonus for cult-film aficionados, Harris himself will be in town to talk about his unique approach to filmmaking.
The following weekends offer Spike Lee's least-known film, Girl 6, and the aforementioned Thai Western, Tears of the Black Tiger. It's an eclectic lineup, but that's kind of the point. These aren't your father's cult movies, played on the midnight circuit for so long they've become mainstream in their own way. This is the next generation of underground film, the good stuff that manages to remain obscure even in a time when nearly every film ever made is available for instant streaming.
"I want to remind viewers what they're missing when they don't come out to the Watching Hour, which is a carefully crafted playlist of films that deserve their attention even for just one night, if not forever," Garcia says. "Everyone else in town wants you to keep watching the same old ham-bone stuff. I want you to fill in the gaps of your cinematic lexicon."
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