STARZ Denver Film Festival Favorites

After scouring the guide and culling the heard and overheard, here are my STARZ Denver Film Festival favorites…so far. Of course, it’s only day 3 and already my Thesaurus is […]

November 8, 2013 // Tracy Shaffer // No Comments //

Grunge film frameAfter scouring the guide and culling the heard and overheard, here are my STARZ Denver Film Festival favorites…so far. Of course, it’s only day 3 and already my Thesaurus is dog-eared and coffee stained.

For the big movies, there’s nothing more fun than to see the next big thing before it’s been released in a theatre full of film buffs. So I’ve got all of them on my list:
1. Labor Day (see below)
2. Nebraska (Alexander Payne directs Bruce Dern. ‘Nuff said.)
3. August: Osage County (Okay, I’m not a big fan of Julia Roberts but I’m a HUGE fan of Tracy Letts. And who knows, she could surprise me.)
4. At Middleton (Adam Rodgers gets his debut feature film slotted into closing night of the Starz Denver Film Festival. It’s gotta be sumpin’)

Hanna Ranch and American Mustang top my list of beautiful, moving films that reflect my interests and the gorgeous state I call home.
GENE KELLY: THE LEGACY. I was raised on the back lot of M-G-M where the likes of Mr. Kelly would cruise casually into the barber shop or to lunch at the Commissary. This should feel like a home movie.
The Resurrection of a Bastard- Dutch. Thriller. Done.
The Truth About Emmanuel- This one could go either way but my part of Denver Actor Project screens before so I’m there.
The One Who Loves You- Denver actor/director Katharyn Grant’s Indie love story because I hope it’s great and there is a cadre of Denver talent in the cast.

And then there is the element of surprise. I love to pick a day, a time, a venue and then jump in and see the film I know nothing about. It’s like buying a wine you’ve never had and the thrill of reaching beyond what you know is…thrilling. So there will be some of that throughout the week.

What I’ve seen:

Labor Day. Festival opener had me floored from the main title. Based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day hits a place of intimacy and then stays there. One look at the state of single mother, Adele (Kate Winslet), and you can feel her heartbreak in the relatable way that says “that’s about two houses down from me”. When a bleeding stranger presses himself upon her son seeking refuge, she allows it. Or does she? I talked to many of the movie-goers at the opening night party who felt (quite adamantly) that a mother never would have done that. I saw it differently. I saw a woman whose stunned state of sorrow had stripped her of her strength. Earlier in the afternoon, I sat down with Joyce Maynard and we discussed this very thing. “The loneliness of Adele, her deep sadness, that part comes from me. The rest, of course, is fiction.” I could relate. Especially when the bleeding stranger is Josh Brolin. Labor Day is a love story. It should be no surprise that they will fall in love, what is surprising is how lovely it is to watch them do so. Look for my full review on Huffington Post

Gloria– Chilean film, takes place in Santiago, award-winning actress and a story of a woman who defies society’s definition of age… or so the promo says. I did enjoy this film though it’s filled with a lot of mundane tasks so you’re thinking, “Okay, she’s vacuuming her car. Uh-huh, she’s singing on the way to work…”. Having seen a number of ‘coming of a certain age’ stories, I don’t know what to think anymore. Is it all about regret? The one who got away? Getting your ‘groove’ back? Seems like there’s not much else we see or write about when it comes to the middle-aged, divorcee and as one, that depresses the hell outta me. Gloria differs in that she takes the ball in her own hands, frequenting a dance club filled with age-appropriate men. (Must be unique to Santiago;-) Finding one she particularly likes, she ventures into a sexual, and then loving, relationship with a man who cannot relinquish his past. Particularly the dependent ex and his grown and spoiled daughters. Gee… this sounds like a match.com story. Gloria shows the wisdom of maturity as she deals with a lover who is less so, leaving me to believe she’d rather be alone with a hairless cat and a joint than in love with a man who’s a child. Good point. Still kind of depressing.
Dallas Buyers Club. This was a surprise screening for Reel Social Club members, none of whom knew what film it would be until the doors opened. I was ready to pack up and head for the Late Night Lounge when the announcement came. I’d heard of the film months ago but wasn’t really paying attention. Saying goodbyes and grabbing a ticket, I missed the main title. I had no idea who Matthew McConaughey was for the first 20 minutes of the movie. That’s how good he was (and how much weight he’d lost). He and Jared Leto absolutely KILL it in a semi-biographical film about Ron Woodruff, a homophobic Texan who contracts the HIV virus and takes it down like a bull rider. Due to the historical nature of the story, [Woodruff was the one who took on the FDA and AZT, traveling to Mexico and Japan to bring in Interferon and Peptide T which paved the way for the lifesaving “cocktail”] there are some overly expositional bits but the film is not to be missed for the MM and JL performances.

Whether you buy a single ticket or a VIP package, the STARZ Denver Film Festival experience it worth the price of admission.


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