By day, Maria Cole heads up the expansion of the Denver Art Museum for Davis Partnership Architects. By night, she heads up Architectural Laboratory - Denver, a non-profit group that brings together architects and artists to discuss theories of design, free from the constructs and constraints of day-to-day reality. But Cole doesn't limit the discussion to stuffed-shirt academics or think-tank snobs; instead, Architectural Laboratory offers a public lecture series so the community can come together to riff on such topics as "The Code of a Great City" or "Decoding Diplomatic Architecture." (Can you tell the lab took a cue from the Da Vinci Code for this year's theme?) That's a progressive twist on the concept of community-building.

The Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver's effort to build a new home began last year, when Mark Falcone and Ellen Bruss donated a tract of land at 15th and Delgany streets. A

series of presentations by six architectural firms from around the world -- all vying to build a new structure on the site -- drew standing-room-only crowds. The MCA's selection panel eventually chose African-born, London-based architect David Adjaye of Adjaye/Associates. Last summer, Adjaye unveiled a model of the proposed building: a glowing lighted box of glass and translucent white plastic. If all goes according to plan, the MCA is bound to be one of Denver's greatest 21st-century buildings.

You never know what progressive cause you'll find on www.denverevolution.org. Sometimes it's a notice for a biodiesel meeting; sometimes it's a radical-film night. Tony Shawcross and the rest of the [denverevolution] collective ensure that the good people of Denver are never without something to do -- and that the city's underground activists and change agents have an audience for their efforts. Also interested in film, [denverevolution] began developing their digital skills and opened a free film-editing studio for members of the public to create their own documentaries. Last year, Shawcross took the revolution one step further, moving the group's production arm, Deproduction, to the P.S.1 charter school, where they're building a film-production studio for students. The revolution just may be televised after all.

The multiplexes keep multiplying, but they're all showing the same Adam Sandler and Lindsay Lohan atrocities. True cineastes know that Denver's central library can be counted on for filmfests that mix the traditional and the edgy, the classic and the avant-garde. Past offerings have included the films of Billy Wilder, horror flicks, gay cinema, notable adaptations of great novels and a selection of top-drawer items from the "golden year of film," 1939. They're all free, often hosted by online film critic Walter Chaw -- and there's even popcorn for sale.

Michael Moore has proven that it's possible for left-leaning documentaries to find a home in the multiplexes. But for most makers of progressive films, widespread distribution -- or any distribution -- is as distant as the expression on George Bush's face. Fortunately, since 2003, ArgusFest's Jason Bosch has presented free screenings of documentaries that focus on human rights, social justice, environmentalism, globalization and the media. Each week, the ever-increasing slate rotates between local lefty bastions the Mercury Cafe, Oh My Goddess Coffee House and Boulder's Penny Lane Coffeehouse. Bosch is also working to expand into cities like Austin and San Francisco. The lively discussions that follow each film are a great model of how citizens can watch globally and talk locally.

The LGBT community is an active producer of independent film. But not many titles make it to the major theaters. Fortunately Denver has a viable outlet for queer cinema. Now in its sixth year, the Cinema Q festival (formerly Seeing Queerly: The Denver International GLBT Film Festival) creates a local outlet for cutting-edge celluloid dyke dramas, queer comedies, sexy shorts and everything in between. Presented over a three-day weekend, Cinema Q screens local entries as well as films from around the globe. In addition to opening- and closing-night parties, symposiums and discussions are scheduled between film blocks. Come wine, dine and shmooze with directors and actors while discussing the flicks that changed your life.

When Denver-based movie director Alexandre O. Philippe came across a copy of Hamlet that had, according to its cover, been restored to the "original" Klingon text, it opened a door to a strange world called the Klingon Language Institute, whose members study and speak the made-for-TV tongue that linguist Mark Okrand created for the iconic series Star Trek. Like Gene Roddenberry's wrinkled warrior geniuses, the KLI faithful are ruled by codes and wonders, and Philippe's profoundly weird, highly engaging documentary does them every justice.

A native Denverite and devoted alumnus of East High School, actor Don Cheadle has impressed movie audiences in everything from Devil in a Blue Dress to Ocean's Twelve. But when he starred as the quiet manager of a four-star hotel in Hotel Rwanda, last year's troubling drama about genocide and conscience, he earned a Best Actor nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and new respect for all of his work. In the film, Cheadle's Paul Rusesabagina sets up a haven within the hotel's walls for Hutu and Tutsi fugitives, which keeps them safe -- at least temporarily -- from massacre. His compelling performance is the centerpiece of a heart-wrenching film.

Landmark's Mayan Theatre continues to expand its commitment to good eats and drinks. Longtime patrons can still snatch up old faves like the big, fat bagel dogs, Odwalla juices (try the Mango Tango) and Alternative Baking cookies (Explosive Espresso Chip suits us fine). But if you've never sprinkled your popcorn with soy sauce or Spike multi-seasoning, get right on it. The new Dazbog coffee flavors ("Russian-born, Denver-roasted") are top-notch, and a Lindt classic white-chocolate bar suits a screening of Sideways as well as any Pinot.

UA Denver Pavilions 15
Generally speaking, a 'plex is a 'plex. But the fifteen-screen Denver Pavilions in downtown Denver offers a couple of advantages over its suburban counterparts: free underground parking (with validation) in a roomy adjacent structure, and the proximity of good food and drink in many establishments on Denver's 16th Street Mall. Otherwise, the Pavilions' stadium seating is as padded-rocking-chair comfortable as at any other multiplex, the concessions are acceptable, and standards for sound and film projection are uniformly high. Whether you're in for three hours of The Aviator or the quick yuks of Be Cool, the Pavilions gives them to you in butt-soothing, eye-pleasing comfort.

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