Starz Denver Film Festival: Artistic director Brit Withey's must-see picks for November 12-14

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Again this year, Starz Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey is offering his must-see picks for each day of the fest -- flicks that movie lovers might otherwise miss amid the flood of silver-screen goodies. Below, he describes his choices for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 12-14: Fanny, Annie, & Danny, Norman Mailer: The American and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Fanny, Annie, & Danny Directed by Chris Brown Friday, November 12, 9:45 p.m. Starz FilmCenter

"Fanny, Annie, & Danny is an American independent -- a dark comedy that definitely has an edge to it, which is one of the things I liked most about it," Withey says. "It's about three siblings all coming home to their parents' house for Christmas.

"Fanny is developmentally disabled -- she's an adult who lives in a home -- and the other two are relatively normal adults, but with 'normal' in quotes. They have their own issues, and they all stem very obviously from their mother, who is perhaps the most horrifying mother I've ever seen in a movie."

This is a bold statement considering that last year, the Starz Denver Film Festival spotlighted Precious, in which Oscar-winner Mo'Nique portrayed a jaw-droppingly monstrous maternal figure, and Withey laughs when the comparison is made.

"I'm sure in a physical altercation, the woman in Fanny, Annie, & Danny [played by Colette Keen] couldn't hold up," he concedes. "But she has a way of demeaning people so badly that it's just awful -- but it's also sort of funny. It's quite something to see." As a bonus, director Chris Brown and actress Jill Pixley (Fanny) will be on hand for the screening.

Norman Mailer: The American Directed by Joseph Mantegna Saturday, November 13, 2 p.m. Denver FilmCenter/Colfax

"I thought I knew a lot about Norman Mailer," Withey allows. "I'd read a few of his books -- but I didn't really know exactly how big of an ass he was. It's astounding. It's like watching a train wreck on the screen -- and it's also sort of hilarious. There are horrifying scenes, repeated over and over, of him confronting someone or another with this sort of unbearable misogyny or just spouting off in a way that makes you realize what a gigantic ego he had.

"There's fantastic footage and so many weird scenes -- like him boxing Muhammad Ali. And there's a scene from a film he was in with Rip Torn. The movie was apparently going on too long, and they didn't have an ending -- and Rip torn said, 'I know how to end this,' and he went over and hit Mailer on the head with a hammer -- but he didn't clue Mailer into what his next step was. And Mailer just went ballistic and bit his ear off. It's nuts -- an amazing documentary.

"It made me love/loathe the man so much. I had so much fun watching it -- and the director [Joseph Mantegna] will be there as well."

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul Sunday, November 15, 7:15 p.m. Starz FilmCenter

"This is one of the more challenging films in the festival this year, at least on the surface," Withey maintains. "But it's also one of the most rewarding. It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. The movie tells the story of a man, Uncle Boonmee, who's returning to his family home in Thailand. He's dying of kidney failure, and he's returning to be with his remaining family members, who live there. And while he's there, he's joined by the spirits of some of his dead family -- his first wife and his son, who's died, but we don't know why. There's very much a sense of magical realism.

"It's a very slow, methodical, but beautiful film -- a beautiful piece about life that's unlike anything else in the festival. That's one reason we scheduled at as the last film on the last day. It wraps up everything in a very beautiful way."

Page down to see trailers for Fanny, Annie, & Danny, Norman Mailer: The American and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives:

Fanny, Annie, & Danny:

Norman Mailer: The American:

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives:

More from our Television & Film archive: "Starz Denver Film Festival: James Franco, Aron Ralston make 127 Hours go by just like that."

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