Comedy Works Downtown

Celebrated worldwide as the platonic ideal of a comedy club, the downtown outpost of the Comedy Works became a perennial Westword favorite simply by being better at what it does than anyone else. Beneath the well-lit hubbub of Larimer Square, the club unites its crowds in the boozy dark, cultivating the ideal environment for standup. Classic standup albums like Dave Attell's Skanks for the Memories have taken advantage of the venue's laugh-swaddling acoustics and hot crowds to capture the unique atmosphere of live shows, and the place has a reputation as one of Dave Chappelle's favorite spots for surprise drop-in appearances. Perhaps the Comedy Works' biggest gift to Denver, however, is nourishing the careers of local comics, from their first New Talent Nights to their television debuts.

Not even the geographical separation of co-hosts Christie Buchele and Haley Driscoll can put Empty Girlfriend in the corner. Resurrected thanks to the wonders of Skype, this fearless exploration of the intimate histories of local comedians, musicians and veterinarians is a fascinating document of how creatives seek and express love. Because of the highly personal nature of its subject matter, Empty Girlfriend is less joke-driven than traditional comedy podcasts — and while some episodes feature unflinching tales of heartbreak and despair, Buchele and Driscoll's quick riffs and occasional forays into sketch comedy keep things amusing and sometimes downright hilarious. So listen up if you dare: After all, any podcast with a recurring segment called "Obscure Sexual Fantasies" really ought to pique your interest.

emptygirlfriend.com
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

There's no better guide to downbeat and noirish cinema than James Ellroy, the demon dog of American crime fiction (L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia). Since he relocated to Denver last summer, he and Alamo general manager Walter Chaw have been curating a dynamite monthly series, called In a Lonely Place, that blends the familiar and the obscure, from a quiet Kurosawa police procedural to a frantic 007 romp, from the much-revered Vertigo to the seldom-seen Man-Trap. Regardless of how hard-boiled you like your movies, Ellroy's rants and ruminations as he introduces each offering are worth the price of admission.

Filmmaker/carnival barker/world traveler/dapper fellow Davey B. Gravey (aka David Weaver) has spent the past few years delighting small audiences with his mobile Tiny Cinema, a trailer with four seats and a projector that plays short, silent 8mm films while Gravey plays a live score on a guitar. Not one to let the decline of Super 8mm filmmaking keep him from shooting a brand-new original feature, Moonglow, he premiered it for the teeny masses this year at Leon Gallery.

graveystinycinema.com
Sie FilmCenter

In the Sie's case, we're talking about multiple series. For instance, catching current performances of the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain or the Royal Shakespeare Company without having to leave Denver is such a great idea that fans of National Theatre Live and Live From Stratford-upon-Avon are finding that they have to move quickly to snap up tickets to the upcoming "live" shows. Recent broadcasts have included Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet and Frankenstein and Rosalie Craig in As You Like It, presented in such grand scope that you feel as though you're in the rich folks' box. And, yes, a series of operas by leading companies will be broadcast to Sie patrons this spring, too. Too often, Hollywood lets you down, but the Sie? Never.

Sie FilmCenter

Last year's Best Bloodthirsty Host, Theresa Mercado, entered her reign without a horror series to call her own and a question mark as to when she would be able to once again affect the nightmares of Denver movie fans. To that end, Mercado met with the minds at the Denver Film Society and birthed Scream Screen, a quarterly film series that takes a stab at the deep cuts that make horror hurt more, including (to date) salutes to the giallo cuts of filmmaker Dario Argento, the blood-red side of French horror, and the subset of films known as "When Animals Attack." Mercado has stepped up her hosting duties, as well, with amazing full costumes and interactive bloody good fun with the audience.

Sie FilmCenter

With the arrival of the Denver Film Society's CineLatino Film Festival, Denver's celebration of one of its largest subsets exploded in new and creative ways. By its second edition, the fest had hit a solid stride and showed an impressive array of diverse programming — touching down in Mexico, Spain, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil and beyond. The experience was so great that the fest's co-founder, JoAnna Cintrón, was chosen as the 2015 Coors Light Leader of the Year. Along with the award, Cintrón and the Film Society received $25,000 to help take the festival to even greater heights. ¡Qué bueno!

Sie FilmCenter

For 38 years, the Denver Film Festival has been the strongest brick in the wall of Colorado film fests, and for very good reason. The Denver Film Society has always been intensely proactive in seeking out the very best movies from around the world, and pulls in over 250 of them for audiences to pick and choose from over a span of twelve days. In addition, almost equal numbers of filmmakers and actors come here to celebrate those works along with viewers, creating a world-class experience right here in the Queen City. Here's looking forward to the 39th edition and beyond.

Readers' choice: Denver Film Festival
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

When the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema put down stakes in Colorado, it took a while for locals to warm to the theater chain's food-at-the-movies concept and intense no-talking policies. With acceptance came an awareness that the Alamo has an even more intense love for movies, operating under the notion that programming from more than a century's worth of classics is just as important as showing new popcorn pictures. New creative manager Steve Bessette spent the past year successfully planting his feet into some big programming shoes, and executive chef Seth Rexroad was given carte blanche to expand his special movie feasts, which pair great films with original menus. Clearly, it's time to get with the (Alamo) program.

Readers' choice: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

The food-at-the-movies concept has been around since the birth of the concession stand, back in the '50s, but the idea of eating a whole meal at the movies is still a relatively young one. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain has long been the leader of the pack in figuring out how to serve food to audiences while maintaining a great film-going experience — from a staff well versed in the art of ninja service to menus that cover a range of culinary tastes. And you won't soon forget the Alamo after trying one of its special-menu craft dinners or movie-influenced feasts.

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