There was an international flair to the fifth annual "Writers Respond to Readers" event at the Tattered Cover, where aspiring scribes and readaholics rubbed bookmarks with known authors in a small group setting. Esmeralda Santiago, Francesca Marciano, Lynn Freed and Simon Winchester made up the eclectic writerly circle this year, suggesting that the event is crossing borders, both geographic and literary, as it grows. Authors even go so far as to give sage advice on getting from the page to the publisher.


The Old Firehouse Art Center in Longmont really knows how to throw an artwalk. The community celebration, held along the town's main drag, includes a slew of art openings, live music, artist and vendor booths, dancing, and art workshops for kids. There's the inevitable street food, of course -- hot dogs, lemonade, kettle corn and more. But what really makes Artwalk Longmont a special event are the extras: Last year, for instance, brought Geese Galore, the town's amped up version of CowParade. They kicked off the program using nineteen oversized, artist-decorated, fiberglass fowl rather than the traditional bovine beauties. And while no festival is complete without a little brawling in the streets, the Artwalk's was just a bit more civilized, with the Longmont Theater Company staging exciting Shakespearean swordfights for everyone's entertainment. Touché!
It's time to cut the cards -- aces high and seven-card stud. And just $10 will get you in the game every Friday night at Breckenridge Brewery. You can spin the wheel, but you don't have to worry about losing the rent or your pink slip: Once you're in, it's all Monopoly money. The door charge is given to local charities, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado and the Denver Ronald McDonald House. And even if you blow all of your funny money, there's still free food and live music. Such a way to soothe your soul.


With good screen size and projection, state-of-the-art sound and the latest in stadium-style

seating, the Colorado Center rates just fine in our theater-comfort category. But what sets it apart from the many other stadium-theater venues is the consistent helpfulness of the staff, good access to theaters and -- as the real estate people like to say -- location, location, location. Situated at the crossroads of two arterials, I-25 and Colorado Boulevard, it's easy to reach from almost anywhere in the metro area, and the indoor/outdoor parking is both ample and convenient. Catch Daredevil or Chicago wherever you like, but the Colorado Center makes the experience a breeze.

Landmark Mayan Theatre
While taking in the latest indie romance or taut French thriller at the Mayan, why not take something good into your body, too? The concession stand is well stocked with upscale delectables, including the Alternative Baking Company's new vegan cookies, in Peanut Butter Persuasion or Phenomenal Pumpkin Spice. The ice cream bars are from Ben & Jerry's (try the Heath Toffee Crunch), the coffees now come from Vail Mountain Coffee Roasters, and the juices are Odwalla. The bestseller? Superfood, an apple-based nutrient drink chock-full of spirulina and open-cell chlorella. Choose chocolate from Switzerland (Rod Lindfils) or Germany (Ritter Sport), and if all else fails, fall back on the time-honored Vienna Bagel Dog, slathered in mustard and relish, or that exotica called popcorn.


Madstone Theaters at Tamarac Square
The arrival of the New York-based Madstone chain on Denver's art-film scene is most welcome -- especially in the affluent, educated southeast quadrant of town, where the theaters are located. At the slickly redecorated complex that was once the Tamarac 6 multiplex, Madstone unspools an intriguing mix of first-run imports and the latest homegrown films for thinking audiences. Best of all, there's a rich array of revival fare, ranging from such Hollywood classics as Dr. Strangelove and On the Waterfront to independent features like Blood Simple and Stranger Than Paradise. Directors' retrospectives feature double bills, children's classics run on weekends, and Madstone's popular "Shock Therapy" programs curdle the blood 'round midnight.


Documentarian Donna Dewey is the only Denver-based filmmaker to win an Academy Award, and last year she put her heart and soul into producing a moving non-fiction film called Chiefs, which chronicles two seasons of play by a high school basketball team on Wyoming's impoverished Wind River Indian Reservation. Dewey and Wyoming-born director Daniel Junge capture the sweet hopes of these boys from the rez, as well as their troubles and traumas, in unblinking fashion. Among the new wave of films about contemporary Native American life, this take on the hoop dreams of kids may be the truest and most emotional.


Best Movie in the Denver International Film Festival

Rabbit-Proof Fence

In 2002, Australian director Phillip Noyce returned to top form with two films -- a dark adaptation of Graham Greene's disturbing Vietnam novel, The Quiet American, and the movie that set last October's Denver Film Festival abuzz, Rabbit-Proof Fence. It's the heroic story of three half-caste Aborigine girls who run away from a Dickensian government orphanage in the 1930s, crossing 1,500 miles of the Outback to reach home. Beautiful and moving, it won the festival's audience-appreciation award and -- even better -- can be seen right now in theatrical release.
In About Schmidt, Alexander Payne's black comedy about a retired insurance man's reassessment of his bleak life, Jack Nicholson's Warren Schmidt sets out from sleepy Omaha in his huge motor home and takes I-80 to Denver, where he hopes to prevent his daughter's wedding to a dopey waterbed salesman. Payne shot very little of the film here -- a few establishing shots and casual exteriors -- but in the course of things, Nicholson takes some very specific Denver street directions ("...then turn left on Speer"). Thanks to the magic of movies, Nicholson also winds up in a Denver hot tub that's not really in Denver -- with pushy Kathy Bates.


Last year, hard times killed the Denver Jazz on Film Festival at age four. But from the ashes rose the Denver Jazz on Film Series, a slightly shorter, but no less syncopated, bow to a great American art form as interpreted by moviemakers around the world. Thanks go to the new Starz FilmCenter on the Auraria campus (also home to the Denver International Film Festival), which screened twelve jazz-related films over Valentine's Day weekend, including a vivid documentary about the late saxophonist Dexter Gordon, Bertrand Tavernier's classic Round Midnight and cinematic glimpses of jazz greats Chico Hamilton, Thelonious Monk and Stephane Grappelli. Happily, the out chorus is still on hold: Denver Jazz on Film will return to Starz next winter.


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