Off Limits

The JonBenét Ramsey movie Perfect Murder, Perfect Town may have been mostly filmed in Utah, and the John Denver movie airing this Sunday, Take Me Home: The John Denver Story, may have been shot in Vancouver, but that doesn't mean that everybody thinks Colorado is a bad location for moviemaking. Picture of Priority, the first full-length feature made by an independent Golden-based company called Priority Pictures, was shot in 1998 and 1999 at Lakewood High School and in Denver's western suburbs.

The movie, which stars Litefoot, an American Indian rapper and actor (he was in The Indian in the Cupboard -- remember that one?), was previewed last Saturday at United Artists's Denver West Village 12; admission was $5 for adults but free for all students. A flier advertising the sneak peek reads: "In remembrance of Columbine and students everywhere."

But the film doesn't appear to be in sync with all of the hopeful, healing messages that families of Columbine victims demanded the media portray on the one-year anniversary of the massacre. The back of the flier gives this description of the movie: "Teenage rage! Teenage suicide! Teenage massacre! WHY?!!!! Picture of Priority is a timely portrayal of what's happening in today's schools; the joys, the fears, the unknown...Even choices of life and death...A young Native American, Angel White-Cloud, returns to the high school where his mother worked to seek answers to why she killed herself. What he finds is the understanding of what youths are struggling with; love, hate, anger and prejudice. The powerful ending reveals a solution of how to help not only Angel, but all others to a second chance at life."

Westword couldn't reach anyone from Priority Pictures by phone, and executive producer and Lakewood High grad Michael "Mick" Mapelli didn't return our calls, either, but he writes on the company's Web site: "It's always been my dream to bring film projects to Colorado." Director Charles McCaughan adds, "There hasn't been a good teenage movie since 'The Breakfast Club,' until now."

Lakewood High principal Ron Castagna disagrees, giving the movie a definitive thumbs down. "How can I be kind here?" he asks. "I know it's a tough business, and to go out there and be an instant success is difficult, but certainly if Mick wants to be successful, he needs to listen to the critics, because not everyone comes out of the chute with a winner."

Some of those critics include a number of Lakewood High students, who panned the picture. "I talked to students who went to see it, and their reactions were not positive," Castagna says. "The [Jefferson County School] district approved it, but I should have probably spent more time analyzing the screenplay, because it has some bizarre scenes in there. It's so stereotypical that it almost becomes pathetic in its portrayal. It's overdone. I certainly didn't think it was a movie I would spend a lot of money to go see."

As for the Columbine connection? "It's a crock," he says. "Columbine is a stretch, and a desperate act to find someone to follow up on it."

Green Jello
Consumer activist and occasional presidential candidate Ralph Nader is again seeking the nation's highest office as a member of the Green Party, but before he gets the nomination, he will have to face competition from, among others, former Boulderite Jello Biafra, the ex-lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, current owner of the Alternative Tentacles record label and frequent speaker on college campuses who has railed against former and current presidents alike in spoken-word performances and poetry.

Biafra now lives in San Francisco (where he once ran for mayor as a prank), but he grew up in Boulder during the 1960s and visits Colorado frequently, so Nader may find himself in Biafra country on Wednesday when he arrives at the State Capitol for a stump speech. And since the Green Party, which is on the ballot in thirteen states, will hold its national nominating convention in Denver on June 24-25, Biafra may have his share of supporters there, too.

Nader's not worried, says spokesman Steve Conn. "This is why the Green Party is great. There are a lot of people interested in this office."

In fact, Biafra himself has no plans to upset Nader's campaign. On his Vote Jello in 2000 Web site, , he writes, "Am I running? Am I campaigning? Yes and no. I am 'running' in the sense that I granted the New York State Green Party's request to add my name to the ballot for their primary election...I figured it would do no harm, especially if it inspired more people disillusioned with our corporate government by kleptocracy to plunge into the election process, and get hip to the alternatives to our broken down two-party system. But I am not waging a full-on barnstorming campaign...I do not want to come across as someone on an ego trip trying to derail Ralph Nader. Let's be realistic: he will likely be the Green Party nominee, and probably should be."

Eggers may not have meant any harm, but, oh, how he caused it when he pulled a no-show at a scheduled Tattered Cover book signing in LoDo on Friday night. A terse note attached to a copy of the hip 29-year-old's best-selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, read: "Cancelled: Bad weather in New York."

The note slapped about fifty wide-eyed fans in the face. One woman dressed in goth garb shrieked, "No, no," and clawed the glass window. She looked to her friend for consolation, knuckled a tear away from her cheek and muttered, "As if my life weren't shitty enough already."

Shortly thereafter, a baseball-capped college boy bounced along the sidewalk, arms full of Eggers's publishings: McSweeney's (Issue No. 4), a few Might magazines (Eggers was co-editor of this San Francisco-based satirical rag) and the compilation Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp and Other Essays. After reading the note, he tossed it all to the ground and declared, "And I drove all the way from Boulder for this?" (Note to baseball-capped college boy: In the future, please bring only one item to signings. Thanks.)

Some determined fans, convinced the note was an Eggersian prank to deter his fast-growing legion of young followers at readings -- he's been known to pull fun stunts such as commissioning buses to take everyone out for drinks and awarding book contracts on the spot -- searched inside the bookstore for him. But they were greeted by Tattered Cover staffers using funeral-home whispers. "Yes, it's true," they nodded. "He won't be here tonight."

Bookstore officials say it might be a couple of months before Eggers returns, but they point out that he wrote an apology to his Denver fans, which he published on his Web site,

Besides, people, let's put things into perspective. Eggers still means no harm.

If you have a tip, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail [email protected].

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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