Best Reunion of a Band That Never Broke Up

Mr. Pacman

At no point did Mr. Pacman actually toss in the towel, but the bit-pop group certainly disappeared for a long while. Then suddenly last year, Mr. Pacman emerged again, this time as a solo act, with a controller and a keytar. Although the band's raw, ridiculous energy and costumes were all intact, one man now had the reins — and as a result, the reinvented Mr. Pacman was something completely new and different and special, even if it featured a lot of the same songs that Denver has come to know and love. And the moon boots, of course.

Gildar Gallery

It's easy to dis a gallery run by the young and penniless. They're young and penniless. They don't know what they're doing. They're taking a gamble on unproven artists. But Illiterate is proof that all you really need to survive the gallery jungle is an unwavering commitment to promoting those very artists who might not otherwise find a niche. And that's just what Illiterate director Adam Gildar, with help from Joe Wall, Sander Lindeke and a bunch of friends, does at this gallery: He's created a welcoming place where young artists can stretch their wings, make a splash and, with luck, even make a sale. By offering studio residencies that culminate in exhibits, the folks at Illiterate support their ideals with real movement and wonderful shows. Illiterate won a Westword MasterMind award this year, and with good reason.

Denver Botanic Gardens

For one of the most important exhibits ever presented in Denver, Moore in the Gardens, curated by Anita Feldman, a substantial group of monumental pieces by Henry Moore, the greatest modernist sculptor England has ever produced, were brought together. The large works, which looked sort of like three-dimensional versions of Picasso's surrealist paintings, were artfully scattered around the beautiful grounds of the Denver Botanic Gardens. During the Blossoms of Light holiday display, it was possible to view them at night and covered with snow — a stunning sight. But even better was the view in the spring, when the gardens bloomed not just with flowers, but with art, too.

A suave, handsome Hitchcock hero in The 39 Steps; the harassed playwright-carpenter Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream; Adam, a self-effacing academic, in Mariela in the Desert; a brilliant and famous London playwright watching his life spiral out of control in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing: Sam Gregory is nothing if not versatile, as he showed in the Denver Center Theatre Company's most recent season. Understated, often sardonic, he's one of those skilled actors who knows when to focus attention on himself and when to cede it to others, and who will fit himself into a role rather than twist every role to fit his own persona.

Alicia Dunfee graces the stage of Boulder's Dinner Theatre often, most recently imbuing the title role in Hello, Dolly! with charm, wit and style, and bringing a signature mix of showmanship and wistfulness to all of her performances. But Dunfee, who's been a steady presence at BTD for fifteen years, does more than act, dance and sing. She directs, and she's also largely responsible for one of the most important elements of a musical: choreography. If you notice the way the big numbers show off the stronger dancers while skillfully deploying the less fleet of foot, you're seeing Dunfee's work. And when everyone's hoofing it up like crazy and you can't stop grinning because both you and the cast are having such a great time, you have Dunfee to thank.

With its white pillars, square of green and blue patch of water, as well as foliage-shadowed trellises to the side, John Iacovelli's exquisite set for the Denver Center Theatre Company's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream played on the contrast between hyper-civilized Athens and the wild woodlands beyond, in which all kinds of sexy and supernatural things could happen.

First-rate Shakespeare is very rare in Colorado, and that's why we were so excited by the Denver Center Theatre Company's glowing, intelligent production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Visually beautiful, smartly directed and with strength in every corner of the cast from top to bottom, it both brought new insights to this much-performed play and emphasized old pleasures.

Best Short Film Shot in Denver Involving a Bleeding Clown

Jamin Winans

You never find out why the clown suffering a gunshot wound when Jamin Winans's spectacular Uncle Jack opens in medias res is, you know, dressed as a clown, but that's part of what makes this short film so great: Things are not really explained. Rather, they're hinted at through the titular uncle telling his niece a bedtime story via Bluetooth while being chased by gun-wielding debt collectors, eventually into a very recognizable Flossy McGrew's (how could it not be?), where he concludes that the prince "was addicted to gambling, he drank too much, ran a failed carpet-cleaning business and lived happily ever after in a far-off land." Written, directed, shot and scored by Winans — the auteur who gave the same treatment to the Denver-shot, virally pirated Ink last year — it's an absurd, hilarious, surreal and touching story whose beautiful cinematography uses its four-minute run time to make a handful of downtown locales look about as good as they ever have.

Once upon a time, the coffee shop was a place for anyone with a guitar and a decent voice to take a stab at performing. Starbucks all but eliminated this concept in the '90s, though, replacing it with purchasable music-that-fits-a-lifestyle compilations. So in 2010, who better to play at a Starbucks (at 934 16th Street) than nervesandgel, resident noise creator and supreme in-your-face performer? Imagine walking into Starbucks, ready to throw down your hard-earned five bucks on a venti caramel soy latte and instead being hit by a wall of sound and a man on the floor screaming about cats. It totally happened, and we were so glad it awkwardly did.

The town's best new singer-songwriter doesn't really play shows — but even so, James Cooley, who releases under the Mesita moniker, is one of the most compelling local songwriters in recent memory. With a breathtaking falsetto croon that recalls Bon Iver, he plays a gorgeous brand of folk that will, well, take your breath away. Even more impressive, he performs every instrument on his recordings, which he engineers and produces himself. And what makes the best even better? It won't cost you a dime to get your hands on his entire discography. You can download it all for free on his website, www.mesitamusic.com, and that includes his brand-new album, Here's to Nowhere.

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