Best Performance by Colorado in a Film 2010 | Crested Butte, Avatar | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

We know what you're thinking: Avatar didn't take place in Crested Butte, it was set on some far-off mystery planet that exists only in the computers used to animate it! That's true. But as University of Colorado teacher and Crested Butte resident David Rothman points out, there are enough coincidences between the movie's plot and the town's history to make a conspiracy buff's head swim: In both, a uniquely beautiful natural wonderland is threatened by attempts to extract rare, precious resources and saved by a paraplegic in a wheelchair. Oh, and director James Cameron has a home in the Butte. It's enough for us — and a lot more believable as conspiracies go than alien encampments under Denver International Airport.

There are nerds, and then there are all the subsets of nerds: comic-book geeks, music freaks, LARPers and word nerds, of course, which is why the Denver Public Library's Fresh City Life program has devoted the last Wednesday of every month to epic throwdowns of the Scrabble variety. From 5 to 8 p.m. at Novo Coffee, word lovers can try their hands at any number of language-based games provided by Fresh City Life — but if you have your own, bring it along! Prizes — gift certificates from Novo, Mad Greens and Mad Wine Bar — are awarded each month for the top nerds. Start practicing that triple-word-score strategy!

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Perhaps the most successful space in the controversial Frederic C. Hamilton Building is the new Denver Art Museum shop built into the formerly bleak and cavernous lobby. Roth Sheppard Architects, one of the city's most distinguished firms, did an undeniably brilliant job of using all those dramatic glass and canted walls — and then the museum did an equally commendable job of filling the shop with an incredible inventory. It includes not only a big assortment of arty gift items and jewelry, but also a vast selection of books that makes it the best art-book store in the state. The Hamilton's interior is clearly a work in progress, but with the installation of this new gift shop, it's off to a good start.

Over the past several years, Hugh Grant, the founder of Denver's Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, has been enthusiastically collecting art by historic Colorado artists; in the process, he's turned his institution into the principal depository of paintings, sculptures and works on paper by the state's impressive roster of artists. Not only that, but he's become Colorado's most important cheerleader for our prominent place in American art. He recently cemented this high ranking with 100+ Years of Colorado Art, a two-floor show of first-rate pieces that he put together for the Arvada Center.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Back in the '60s, when boomers began to experiment with drugs, particularly LSD, the effect was labeled "psychedelic" — and the altered perception colored the psychedelic posters used to promote concerts. A half-century later, those posters are considered art — and the Denver Art Museum has become a major collector of them, as revealed by The Psychedelic Experience, a super-popular blockbuster last summer. The show was put together by AIGA graphics curator Darrin Alfred, drawing from the first-class collection of material assembled by Boulderite David Tippit, and it appealed to both graphic specialists and old hippies — a veritable poster child for an exhibit that was both accessible and artistically impressive.

The Skin of Our Teeth, Thornton Wilder's play about human history, apocalypse and a whole lot more, is tricky to pull off, with its illogical, non-linear plot and crazy mixing of comedy and profound seriousness. The Aurora Fox production owed its success largely to the performance of John Arp as Antrobus, the prototypical human male at the center of the action. Antrobus rules his household, invents almost everything from the wheel to the alphabet to beer, is sometimes affectionate and sometimes furiously threatening — and Arp did all this with humor, conviction and warmth.

Hannah Duggan gets better every year. We could single her out for the high-heeled, mustachioed nurse she played in The World Is Mine, but we think recognition is really due for her versatile, smart, funny acting in Indiana, Indiana, the Buntport production in which she doubled as a nurturing mother and the touching, slightly mentally unhinged young love interest, Opal.

Over the years, there have been hits and misses at Curious Theatre Company, transformative plays that vibrated in your mind long after you'd seen them and others that slipped instantly into oblivion — or that you wished you could send there. Nonetheless, Curious is the most consistently interesting and risk-taking company in Denver, and that's because founder Chip Walton is that rare being: a highly competent administrator who's as uncompromisingly committed to the art of theater as he is to managerial and financial stability. And he's also a strong supporter of new work by both local and national writers. Other companies suffer identity problems or offer uneven seasons, but Curious, now in its twelfth year, provides theater that's always professional and, every now and then, transcendent.

The measure of a great promoter is simple: Do they bring in killer talent that you otherwise wouldn't see? When it comes to Sub.Mission, the answer is unequivocally yes. Now in its third year, this outfit is largely responsible for the dubstep scene in Denver. Sub.Mission has brought in names like Caspa, Skream and Shackleton, exposing longtime bass heads and new fans alike to some of the world's top practitioners of dubstep's wobbly future breaks and bass madness. Something tells us that both Sub.Mission and the dubstep sound are just getting started.

Dalton Lawrence Rasmussen should be given a key to the city for this detailed and encyclopedic compendium of Colorado underground music of the late '70s. Tracking down the songs and having them remastered took Rasmussen years, but all his effort paid off. The availability of Rocky Mountain Low on vinyl salutes an era when you could listen to these songs only in that format, and the companion booklet, with photographs, fliers and contemporary accounts of the scene, is an invaluable resource for anyone curious about a largely lost history of the counterculture in Denver and beyond.

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