The cinematic sampler

The theaters are open, but the festivals are online — 2021 at the movies takes shape

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Stanley Tucci (left) and Colin Firth (right) play husbands navigating the dark tunnel of dementia in 'Supernova.'
Bleecker Street

As far as cinema is concerned, 2021 opened not with a bang but with cautious optimism. For starters, moviegoing has returned with AMC, Cinemark and the Mayan Theatre in Denver leading the charge. So if you’re jonesing for that big-screen experience and are willing to comply with the usual COVID-related procedures, then have at. You can even start with Supernova, the new end-of-marriage story starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as husbands dreading the dark tunnel of dementia.

The story: Tucker (Tucci) is an accomplished novelist, and as his ability to recall words goes, so goes his identity. Writer/director Harry Macqueen beautifully illustrates this descent when Sam (Firth) discovers a notebook containing Tucker’s next novel. As Sam flips through the pages, lucid, legible handwriting with sharp corrections and edits devolve into sloppy penmanship, garbled prose and flat scribbles; then scratches, torn pages and blankness. It’s the loss of the mind writ in the pages of a journal.

The whole of Supernova reflects that moment: spare, quiet and sad. But Tucci and Firth are excellent, and the movie earns its premise. Sound too dismal to venture out into the world? No worries, Supernova will be available via Premium Video on Demand starting Feb. 16.

And On Demand and virtual screenings will continue to be the norm for some time to come. Locally speaking, the Flatirons Food Film Festival (FFFF) holds its eighth annual festival virtually from Jan. 28 through Feb. 5. As in years past, FFFF presents a smattering of features, shorts, narratives and documentaries on how food shapes culture and class.

Among the baker’s dozen of movies playing FFFF is First Cow. If you haven’t seen this stunning period piece yet, Denver-based critic Walter Chaw will introduce the festival screening, and that’s worth the price of admission right there. Craving dessert? Known chocolate enthusiast John Lehndorff will lead a discussion on tasting chocolate before the screening of Setting the Bar: A Craft Chocolate Story. Find the full lineup of titles, along with the extensive dining component of the festival.

FFFF isn’t the only festival happening this weekend: The Sundance Film Festival will screen virtually through Feb. 3 with hundreds of features and shorts to catch from the comfort of your couch. Among the shorts is Ghost Dogs, the latest from Denver-based animator Joe Cappa.

The short’s origin began in Boulder, with a depressed “or something” Cappa driving up from Denver to walk his dog around CU-Boulder. The Grateful Dead was playing Folsom Field that night, and Cappa hooked up with friend J.W. Hallford, who was assisting with the show, after the concert. Cappa pitched him the idea of a dog haunted by canine specters. Hallford liked what he heard and put up the financing. Cappa gave himself four months to finish the project but left that deadline in the dust. Then the 2020 pandemic hit, and Cappa found an opportunity to eliminate outside distractions and “just focus on animating,” he says. 

Inspired by MTV’s Liquid Television, Ghost Dogs has an enjoyable if unsettling quality: think David Lynch with touches of Stanley Kubrick. Cappa describes the short as something akin to watching a midnight movie — a series of hallucinatory images you’re never really sure if you saw or dreamt while falling asleep.

All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute pro A still from Ghost Dogs by Joe Cappa, an official selection of the Shorts Program at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“It feels a little bit retro,” Cappa says, “but, with all my artwork, I have this kind of creepy, humorous sensibility.”

It makes Ghost Dogs feel simultaneously original and familiar. The short will play Sundance’s Animation Spotlight until Feb. 3.  

ON THE BILL:  Movies return to some local theaters, but check out flatironfoodfilmfestival.com and festival.sundance.org for a week of virtual screenings.