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.


Most of the movies that clog area theaters fall into predictable categories: comedies, dramas, action-thrillers, idiocy. But the Denver Pan-African Film Festival, sponsored by Starz FilmCenter, offers cineastes a tasty alternative. Last year's event featured a hefty menu of fifty flicks, ranging from light entertainments to wrenching documentaries, and the 2003 version, scheduled to take place April 21 through 27 at Starz, promises to up the ante.


Once housed at the venerable bookstore's LoDo events space, the long-running Tattered Cover Film Series moved to the Starz FilmCenter this year without amping up the price. Curated by critic Howie Movshovitz, the series uncovers both obscure gems and the occasional classic, such as Casablanca. They even pay for the parking, too: All you have to buy is the popcorn and soy-milk latte.
Wanna know who wins the Worst Parent or Guardian in a Movie award for 2002? What

about Actor Who Should Have Known Better? Or Worst Attempt to Act Smart? Abby Winter and her partner, Laura Peterson, will happily slag off -- even at industry favorites. The roommates use amusing photos of their cats, Gleason and Mr. Thornhill, as their rating system; a hissing, hairball-hacking Gleason is the worst snub they dole out (and they do it often). They've targeted Titanic as the worst movie of all time and were even tepid about O Brother, Where Art Thou? Although the site doesn't have a professional polish, Winter's sardonic wit and Peterson's childish graphics are good for endless hours of entertainment.

Each spring, lindy hop king Frankie Manning returns to Denver, like the swallows to Capistrano, for a weekend of dance, dance and more dance. The octogenarian's history as a dancer dates back to the heyday of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, where he helped invent the original lindy moves. When swing gave way to bebop, and jazz audiences stopped dancing, Manning took a thirty-year break and went to work at the post office. But he's been back on his feet since the 1980s, dancing across the country and becoming an annual fixture at Karen Lee's dance studio alongside his son and fellow dancer, Chazz Young. Swingers, take note: Reservations for his April 16 through 19 Denver turn are going quickly.


Best Of Denver®

Best Of