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.

Sie FilmCenter
The best thing to happen for Denver-area film buffs in decades, the Starz FilmCenter at the Tivoli presents a year-round selection of art-house fare, independent features and revival screenings that rivals the best offerings in cinema-rich cities like New York and San Francisco. Recent programs have included a series of five contemporary French comedies, a three-film series honoring the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu and new features from Denmark, Bhutan, India, Iran, Argentina and Italy, among other nations. The FilmCenter's education arm is expanding; meanwhile, its signature event remains the Denver International Film Festival, which screens for ten days each October and offers more than 200 films.

Best Program at the 2004 Denver International Film Festival

An Evening With Morgan Freeman

In the course of a long and illustrious movie career, the star of Driving Miss Daisy, Glory and The Shawshank Redemption has intrigued audiences with his versatility and his gift for nuance. So when Morgan Freeman visited the Denver International Film Festival last October, ticket-holders were in for a rare evening of artistic assessment and warm personal reminiscence from a craftsman who said, "I was born to act; I was born to pretend." Soon after his appearance at the Buell Theatre, Freeman was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting-actor performance as a weary old boxer in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby. When he finally won his long-overdue Oscar, Denver festival-goers must have been especially pleased.

John Sayles's elaborate political fable Silver City was less than boffo at the box office, and its cautions about the corruption of the electoral process didn't fly with a weary public amid the bloodiest, most divisive election-year brawl America had experienced since 1968. But this dark comedy about the nitwit machinations of a fictional Colorado gubernatorial candidate gave Sayles plenty of opportunity to train his cameras on Denver. The City and County Building, the Oxford Hotel, Union Station, early morning at a bar on the seedy end of Larimer Street, even the interior of the Westword office on Broadway all have cameos. Want to catch another glimpse of our dusty cowtown? Get thee to the video store, pardner.

The Colorado Convention Center has bigger fins than a '57 DeSoto and is lit up like a laundromat at night. So it can be hard to notice the fabulous rusted-steel sculpture sitting out front, "Indeterminate Line," by international art star Bernar Venet, that's situated on the lawn along Speer Boulevard at the Stout Street tunnel. It's a large, elegant twenty-ton scribble depicting an oval that's been rendered organic and geometric at the same time. Venet, who was born in France, has lived for decades in New York, and his work has been installed throughout Europe and the United States. We're lucky to have "Indeterminate Line," one of the best outdoor sculptures in the city.

Last August, Mayor John Hickenlooper got everyone's attention with the announcement that the City of Denver had agreed to receive the paintings and drawings in the estate of abstract-expressionist master Clyfford Still. The multimillion-dollar gift from the estate's trustees was made in exchange for a promise that the city would build a museum to display the collection. So far, no architect has been selected to design the building, nor has a site been picked out. But fundraising is well apace, and Dean Sobel, former head of the Aspen Art Museum, has been hired as director. Sounds like a wish is rapidly becoming a promise.

The beleaguered and financially strapped Museo de las Américas has been rudderless since founder José Aguayo stepped down a few years ago. But hope for a turnaround spiked late last year, when Patty Ortiz was brought on as director. Ortiz spent five dedicated years at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, but no one could blame her for seizing the chance to guide the Museo. So far, her best idea has been to integrate pieces by Hispanic artists from Colorado into visiting shows. For example, Ortiz supplemented the current exhibition about Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros with a small sampling of works by local muralists. Such an inclusive approach signals great things for the newly energized Museo.

With all the creepy stuff on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, including mummies, Quest for Immortality was guaranteed to bring in the crowds. And it did. Tens of thousands marched through the blockbuster collection of ancient Egyptian tomb art during its several-month-long run. The show, sponsored by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., was filled with magnificent objects that were to die for. The ancient Egyptians created these articles as part of an elaborate scheme to attain eternal life. It looks like it worked, because thousands of years later, their artifacts made up one of the best shows in Denver.

Last summer, Dianne Vanderlip, head of the Modern and Contemporary department at the Denver Art Museum, put together scene Colorado / sin Colorado, an exhibition devoted to the work of some of the state's top artists. Drawn from the DAM's permanent collection, the show focused on mid-career talents as opposed to emerging ones. Vanderlip displayed no aesthetic agenda in her selections, which incorporated a wide variety of styles: Offerings ranged from representational imagery by Matt O'Neill to minimalism by David Yust. Scene Colorado also had the bittersweet distinction of being the DAM's last contemporary exhibit until the museum's new building is finished next year.

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It started as a museum devoted to the work of a single artist, Vance Kirkland, but the Kirkland Museum has expanded its collecting scope greatly over the years, and now has an exhaustive collection of decorative art on display. Kirkland director Hugh Grant has also avidly sought out artworks by other Colorado artists, making the Kirkland the only institution in the state to focus on locals. The museum currently houses examples by nearly 200 artists who worked in Colorado, including recently acquired pieces by Chuck Parson, Edward Marecak and Mel Strawn. The fact that most area museums all but ignore homegrown talent makes the Kirkland even more vital.

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