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Last night's salute to actor/director Tim Robbins, who visited the Temple Buell Theater to receive the Denver Film Festival's John Cassavetes Award, followed the Inside the Actors Studio model. The parade of clips that opened the program focused on generally loooooong sequences from the weighty likes of The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River and Catch a Fire, his current release, with only the occasional nod to comic scenes from Bull Durham and The Player. The subsequent conversation between Rocky Mountain News movie critic Robert Denerstein and Robbins, looking all elbows and knees as he sat in a chair clearly too small for him, went in the same direction. That was largely the fault of Denerstein, who specialized in insight-free questions along the lines of, "Is there a place for politics in art?" Robbins filibustered on that topic, albeit in a persuasive way -- but he also livened up the proceedings with amusing anecdotes. For instance, he revealed how difficult it was for him to master the hula hoop for The Hudsucker Proxy, and noted that he discovered the master directors of the 1970s by sneaking into R-rated movies at age thirteen in the hopes of seeing naked breasts.

Moments like these would have been further enhanced if the festival folks had offered a more fully rounded exploration of Robbins' career, complete with peeks at early TV work from series such as Hill Street Blues and Hardcastle and McCormick; his terrific cameos in High Fidelity, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and others; and missteps like Cadillac Man, Mission to Mars and the legendary Howard the Duck. As we all know, it's more fun, and more enlightening, to see a sampling of all the photos in the album, and not just the ones in which the subject looks perfect. -- Michael Roberts


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