Best Underground-Band Documentary 2004 | The Tornado Dream | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Garage rocker-turned-director Davis G. Coombe spent six years chronicling the explicit and unpredictable behavior of the Czars, Orbit Service and Rainbow Sugar, then boiled it down into a 99-minute exposé of Denver's underground music scene, warts and all. Intimate, candid and stylish, The Tornado Dream not only graced the 2003 Starz Denver International Film Festival, but it gave local-music fans a glimpse of band life beyond the stage.
Home to the Denver International Film Festival for ten days each October, the eight-house Starz FilmCenter features top-drawer art films and lively revivals through the remainder of the year, along with Saturday-morning programs for children, film-and-discussion nights, themed series and frequent showcases for Colorado filmmakers. In February, Starz hosted the eighth Denver Jazz on Film Festival, in March the Denver Jewish Film Festival. Coming Soon: The sixth Latino World Cinema series (April 1-4) and the fifth Pan-African Film Festival (April 26-May 2). Another program of note this year: "The Psychiatrist and the Critic," in which representatives from those two fields discuss with audience members the messages in All That Jazz, Ponette and the 1956 version of Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.
A perennial winner in the movie-food category, the venerable Mayan Theatre serves up the kind of quirky, whole-earth stuff that goes just fine with such indie cinema as 21 Grams or the latest slice-and-dice action from Hong Kong. The Alternative Baking Company's vegan cookies -- Peanut Butter Persuasion is our top choice -- are sure winners, and the politically correct Ben & Jerry's ice cream bars (Heath Toffee Crunch, anyone?) are just right, especially if you're voting for Kerry this year. Those still happy to wallow in high-sodium comfort food will want the Vienna Bagel Dog, heavy on the mustard and relish. The juices are still Odwalla, and the gourmet chocolates are straight from neutral Switzerland. But save room for an after-movie snack at either of the Mayan's neighbors, the Hornet or Seor Burrito.
Seen one multiplex, pretty much seen 'em all. But the Colorado Center Stadium 9, operated by United Artists Theatres, has a couple of minimal advantages: plenty of indoor and outdoor parking, close proximity to pre- or post-movie refreshment (i.e., Dave & Buster's) and, if you're in the mood for a little sensory overload, an IMAX house with a five-story screen, a deafening sound system and an all-encompassing atmosphere. Otherwise, the auditoriums are spotless, the extra-wide stadium seats very comfortable and the cup-holders commodious enough for the biggest $5 soft drink. State-of-the art sound and sure-handed projection enhance the experience. The cinematic fare is standard, but the comfort is exceptional -- even if you're steeped in the gore of The Passion of the Christ.
Since 1941 (the year Citizen Kane was released), the University of Colorado's International Film Series has been a major cultural resource. The inventive CU programmers continue apace in their efforts to bring in exotic and important work. Recently, IFS's "Cult Cinema" series featured screenings of Alferd Packer: The Musical, The American Astronaut and Waking Life; a seven-film tribute to the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder included The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, The Merchant of Four Seasons and Effi Briest, among others. A few upcoming IFS films: To Be and to Have, a lovely French tribute to the teaching profession; Crumb, the too-little-seen biopic about underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, and That Obscure Object of Desire, the surreal classic by Luis Buuel.
Francis Ford Coppola's daughter, Sofia (the Oscar-winning writer/director of Lost in Translation), gets most of the attention these days, but the man who created the Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation was as thoughtful, congenial and engaging as any Denver International Film Festival honoree in recent memory when he appeared briefly at DIFF in October. The bearded bear who helped transform American movies in the 1970s was courtly and unstintingly informative with reporters, confessing to one, "There's no place for me anymore in the film industry." He gave himself wholeheartedly to festival-goers as he discussed everything from the wine business to the re-release of his strange Las Vegas musical, One From the Heart (1982). For newly elected Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, Coppola was a pure thrill: "My best day in office so far," Hick cracked at the buffet table.
Sometimes a movie is just not worth $8.50. Sometimes it's not even worth the $3.50 to pay-per-view it. But sometimes, the guilty pleasure of, say, a Legally Blonde 2, is worth fifty cents. Every Tuesday the Tiffany Plaza 6 drops its already cheap $1.50 rate to a mere half-dollar -- all day. Sure, some of the movies have already gone to video, but what's the point of watching a larger-than-life Reese on the small screen -- and paying more?
That the metro area's Spanish-speaking Hispanic population continues to grow didn't escape local entrepreneur, state school-board member, politico and all-around rich guy Jared Polis. Seeing an untapped market, the man with the means opened Cinema Latino in the Aurora Plaza mall's former dollar theater. The eight-screen movie house features new Hollywood releases that are dubbed or subtitled in Spanish, and movie-goers munch on Mexican and Central American-style treats such as palomitas con salsa (popcorn with hot sauce). Polis hopes to eventually spread his vision to thirty or forty other cities. Que bueno!

Best Feature Shot (Partially) in Colorado


The early sequences of Gavin O'Connor's deft, exciting re-creation of a great moment in American sports history -- the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team's 1980 victory over the seemingly invincible Soviets -- are set at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and in the rickety old Broadmoor Arena, where the blood feud between the University of Denver and Colorado College is so often renewed. In the film, we revisit the Springs as the driven U.S. coach Herb Brooks (authentically played by Kurt Russell) selects his team of lovable underdogs and tells the Olympic powers-that-be that their antique ideas about hockey (and losing) stink on ice. The film then moves on to Minnesota, Norway and Lake Placid, but Colorado gets first crack at the implacable Brooks.
Last fall, the Cinderella Twin, one of the city's last two drive-in theaters, was supposed to bite the dust to make way for new development. But the plans were put on hold, so there's at least one more season in the sun. The double-screen drive-in is already open on weekend evenings, and it plans to have a full schedule beginning later this spring. How appropriate that one of its first offerings of the year is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

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