When Denverite Chris Marino was six years old, he saw something at a swimming pool that changed his life: a combover. Decades later, the obsession resulted in a movie about the world's worst hairstyle. Portions of the film were shot in Denver, but Marino found there just weren't enough locals willing to bare their souls -- or their chrome domes -- so he expanded his quest to other locations from Dallas to New York City. The Donald and his questionable mane were a no-show, but Combover remains the quintessential film about the quintessential cover-up.
Short, sweet and to the point: That's the 5 Minute Film Fest, hosted every quarter by Denver filmmaker Johnny Morehouse. He collects movies from anyone in town who wants to participate, pops the popcorn, pulls out some beer and has everyone down to his studio for a party honoring shorts that don't top five minutes. Don't be late.
Although it's only in its third year, the Shoot Out is one of the area's most-anticipated film fests. While it may not offer a lot of glitz and glamour, this affair is all about taking the power instead of watching passively. On a designated night in October, teams gather at 8:55 p.m. to get their instructions and parameters; 24 hours later, they come back with a finished seven-minute film. No muss, no fuss -- just DIY to the core.
Don Cheadle is usually a lock in this category, but except for The Dog Problem, which has yet to enjoy a wide release, he had no credits in 2006. Meanwhile, Jessica Biel was displaying some major star wattage. We're used to seeing the Boulder hottie in hack-'em-slash-'em thrillers like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or in sappy teen flicks like Summer Catch, but this past year she stretched with a serious dramatic role in The Illusionist. In the process, she showed that she's got talent for inspiring much more than tabloid fodder.
When Colorado is cast in a film, it usually gets a bit part that winds up on the cutting-room floor -- or worse, Italy or Vancouver stands in for the state. But when Colorado filmmaker Monty Miranda -- who filmed all of John Hickenlooper's mayoral commercials in 2003 -- decided to make Skills Like This (with a big assist from Academy Award-winning producer Donna Dewey), he filmed it entirely in the Denver area. Watch for scenes at Union Station, Arvada's 12 Volt Tavern and Pagliacci's, among other locales. And although this was Miranda's first feature, keep an eye on him, too: Skills Like This won the audience prize for best feature at the South by Southwest Film Festival this month.
With eighteen regular screens and one mondo screen, there's always something to see at the Harkins Northfield 18. And you'll see it from the lap of luxury, since the seats are deep and plush. But Harkins boasts plenty of amenities beyond incredibly comfortable seating, including a water sculpture out front and a walk of fame engraved with the names of local celebs.
Sie FilmCenter
Starz FilmCenter has seen better days. It's a bit tatty around the edges, and the seats make airplanes look comfortable. But no other theater can unseat the king when it comes to must-see programming, including critically acclaimed small fests, special nights and the annual blowout of the Starz Denver Film Festival. There's certainly a place for fast cars/fast music/heist/blow-'em-up movies, but when you're feeling a little overstimulated, a trip to Starz will remind you that moviemaking is a true art. In which things occasionally explode.
Aurora Cinema Grill - Colorado
A night at the Cinema Grill is a guilty pleasure. There's nothing too healthy on the menu, whether cinematic (Happy Feet, The Astronaut Farmer, The Number 23) or culinary (pepper poppers, potato skins, burgers, cheese dogs, ice cream smoothies), but a few hours here are undeniably satisfying. Plus, there's beer! And margaritas! Yeah, that's the ticket...
Elvis Cinemas Tiffany Plaza 6
The only thing better than the $1 show is the 50-cent show. On Tuesday nights at Tiffany Park Movies, all screens are just two bits. There's no stadium seating or fancy digital sound, and your shoes stick to the floor, but that's a fair price to pay for saving twenty bucks on admission. Plus, a small staff makes it easy to sneak in lots of snacks and alcohol. Just be careful where you sit.
When it comes to mainstream TV, the techno-savvy rebels at deproduction are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. So when Denver allowed the local nonprofit to take over its three floundering Comcast public-access channels, it turned them into Denver Open Media. Now insomniac Denverites can enjoy late-night showings of The Art of Bellydancing and Words of Peace on Channels 57 and 58, and wannabe Spike Jonzes can take classes and make shows at the new studio at 700 Kalamath Street. But that's just the beginning. DOM head Tony Shawcross promises that people will soon be able to watch and vote on DOM shows online, with the most popular offerings being broadcast on Channel 59. It's like the Nielsen ratings corrupted by YouTube. While the plan has been delayed by glitchy technology and limited funding, DOM urges its fans to stay tuned, because the revolution will be televised.

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