Best Mini-Film Festival 2015 | Voices: Women + Film Festival | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

For the past half-decade, Tammy Brislin has overseen nearly every aspect of this growing women's film festival, which each year brings bigger movies, more star power and plenty of discussion to the table as a great way to honor National Women's Month. Female empowerment is on the rise in the film world, and with a fest like Voices, our eyes will be privy to every new vision as it rolls in.

As cozy as the hamlet of Estes Park but as huge and foreboding as the hotel it is named after, the Stanley Film Festival is the right festival at the right place and time. This is the only horror film festival you'll ever attend where the creepiness of the top-notch programming doesn't stay only on the screen. The setting itself, in the Stanley Hotel — the inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining — makes you feel like you could be bumped off at any moment walking in the dark. Big, important horror films and high-caliber guests from the genre made last year bloody good, and this year promises to be a cut above.

Readers' choice: Starz Denver Film Festival

David B. Weaver thinks small. His project-in-a-trailer, Davey B. Gravey's Tiny Cinema, seats four at a time for 8mm screenings and rolls to wherever the action is — from the Boulder Outdoor Cinema to the Starz Denver Film Festival — to entertain guests with silent films and live ukulele accompaniment by Weaver, who dresses in vaudevillian garb. Now the Tiny Cinema is on the road across America, with a new sense of purpose: Aside from visiting festivals like SXSW, Weaver is heading to West Virginia to shoot a new (but old-school) Super 8 film — something about an alien on a farm and the girl who finds him. We can't wait to see where the road takes Davey B. Gravey next.

A little-known secret about the Esquire, the beloved arthouse at Sixth and Downing, is that it has always housed one of Denver’s largest movie screens, which makes it the perfect place — with the help of the theater’s specialty film series — to catch up on some of the great Cinemascope classics of yore or just any larger-than-life movie that will make you say, “They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.” From Lawrence of Arabia to Gone With the Wind and dozens in between, you can catch a matinee or evening show at a sweet discount price, to boot.

Musical wunderkind Paul Buscarello has a way with improvising fresh, unique scores for some of cinema’s silent classics, and he’s reinvigorated such gems as The Phantom Carriage and Pandora’s Box with a young sound that polishes the dust right off the screen. His talents aren’t tied to a specific venue in town, but woe be to the place that doesn’t explore a monthly series with this young master.

John Golter brings great local shorts and feature films to light at Glob — a DIY superspace and performance venue — once a month. This fresh series has heralded some quiet geniuses, serving as a great place for amateur filmmakers to work through their burgeoning visions with the help of an audience of eager viewers ready to offer up advice or admiration.

Best Colorado Film That Doesn't Overdo Colorado

The Frame

For some reason, many Colorado filmmakers tend to render their work dull by framing our city's landmarks and scenic vistas in ways that distract from the narrative at hand and feel more like tourism promos. But Jamin Winan's latest film, The Frame, along with his previous Colorado productions, actually transforms our streets, neighborhoods and views — from factories and refineries to downtown architecture — into imaginative and fantastical worlds, all without trying to cram a Colfax sign into every shot.

Director Heather Dalton put seven years of loving care into the film Neal Cassady: The Denver Years, an in-depth look at the manic Beat icon's early days as a boy on Denver's skid row and his less-publicized life as a family man. The film, which premiered last year at the Sie FilmCenter, is packed with extensive interviews with key figures in Cassady's life, including ex-wife Carolyn Cassady and children John Allen and Jami. The Denver Years adds a new layer of lore to the canon of Beat history and a glimpse into the real Neal Cassady (aka On the Road's Dean Moriarty), who hid behind his own charisma.

What happens when a Hugo Award-winning writer and a Denver Comic Con co-founder join programming forces? Out-of-this-world bliss. Jason Heller and Frank Romero, respectively, are the overlords of a monthly sci-fi series at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema that blasts past the usual fare and dives far into the fringes of the genre with films like Videodrome, Krull, Dark Star and Heavy Metal — offerings that deserve a stamp in any true fan's passport. Heller and Romero introduce each film with a deep discussion, taking you into the far recesses of cinema's time-and-space continuum.

Horror films certainly get their due in Denver, but no one screens or curates them as lovingly as Theresa Mercado. Dressed in full costume and usually toting handmade collectibles for her guests to take home, Mercado brings excitement to every spooky screening, no matter where it is. Although currently looking for a new home for her Cruel Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter series after the recent closing of Globeville bar Crash 45, she's busy organizing pop-up horror screenings elsewhere in town.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of