July 12, 2010
Visit Denver Through Cinema: Films Set In Colorado
Not all of us headed to Denver this year. That doesn't mean, however, we can't share in the experience of being there without actually being there. I'm not talking about live streaming or archived sessions on the AALL Web site. I'm referring to a mini-fest of movies set in or around Denver through the comfort of the home theater. Try these suggestions:
Battlefield Earth is set in Denver in the year 3000. The book it's based upon is written by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Starring John Travolta in one of his most unfortunate roles, the story portrays what's left of the human race fighting off alien overlords who have conquered the planet. Travolta plays Terl, the evil security chief and lead antagonist. The human race wins the conflict as seems to be the case in movies such as this. Movie viewers do not. The Washington Post critic Rita Kempley lead off her review of the film this way: "A million monkeys with a million crayons would be hard-pressed in a million years to create anything as cretinous as 'Battlefield Earth.'" Bad, yes, but fun in the right mood.
Red Dawn is another movie that takes place in an alternative reality. The Soviet Union, remember them, invades with the help of allies. The city of Calumet, Colorado, is the scene where high school students fight a guerrilla war against the invaders. The course of the film shows how high school students helped win World War III. The stars are Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen among others. It was directed by John Milius who also wrote Apocalypse Now. Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times had this quote: "An outsider the kids encounter tells them what's happening in Denver, for instance: 'They live on rats and sawdust bread and, sometimes, on each other.'" The film had decent reviews for such an obvious propaganda piece.
A bloody crime story takes place in Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead. The story follows the revenge killings orchestrated by a mobster after a hit he ordered goes bad. There is lots of blood and gore as the circumstances unwind. The film stars Andy Garcia, Christopher Walken (more cowbell), Treat Williams, and Christopher Lloyd. Directed by Gary Fleder, with the New York Times saying: "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" (the title is borrowed from a Warren Zevon song that has hip insouciance the film can only dream of) is such a prime example of its genre that it verges on parody. But nobody's kidding. And Mr. Fleder's very real talents are submerged in self-congratulatory, derivative material that's about nothing but hollow posturing and the world of other films."
The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a Broadway and film classic describing the adventures of Molly Brown, a tomboy determined to find wealth and acceptance. She and her husband come into accidental wealth via a goldmine and move to Denver, where the social elites reject them. The couple moves to Europe where she is accepted by royalty and returns to Colorado with new friends. The next attempt to impress goes awry when her husband's friends from the mountains crash the party. One more trip to Europe and a return on the Titanic, which Molly not only survives, but helps rescue others turns her into a hero. The film stars Debbie Reynolds, Harve Presnell, and Ed Begley. This is definitely before the days of depressing reality films.
Speaking of musicals, how can I leave off another favorite also set in Colorado, Cannibal: The Musical. This is an early film created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brains behind South Park. The film tells the story of Alfred Packer, whose misadventures through the Colorado wilderness ultimately find him charged with cannibalism. He and his group of men get stuck in winter, and, you know, stuff happens. Packer is saved from the gallows at the last minute by a reprieve from the Governor. As it turns out, Packer couldn't be convicted of a state crime because Colorado wasn't a state at the time. All this told through the magic of song. While we're on the subject, the South Park Movie: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut shares locales between Colorado and hell. It also comes with songs, one of which, Blame Canada, was nominated for an Oscar.
For more films set in Colorado and Denver, see the page on Wikipedia called Films Set in Colorado. You'll find references to other classics such as The Shining, Harvey, and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Try searching in the Internet Movie Database (imdb) for the word "Denver." One of the results in the title list is Troop 'H,' Denver Col.which dates from July, 1898. Denver plays a role in a lot of TV and film westerns among others, and Colorado generally makes it into any number of films. Remember, once the convention ends, the memories of Denver can be relived via the magic of DVD. [MG]