Photos: Starz Denver Film Festival opening night and a corn-porny Labor Day

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Photo by Michael Roberts
This year marks the 36th opening night for the Denver Film Festival, and like the previous 35, last night's kickoff event took place against a backdrop of glitter, glamour and anticipation. And if director Jason Reitman's Labor Day, which unspooled at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House before many of the local arts community's best, brightest and most bedazzled, was more corn-porn hokum than masterpiece, its sweaty silliness didn't dim the excitement over one of Denver's most beloved cultural institutions.

See also: Starz Denver Film Festival November 7 must-see: Resurrection of a Bastard

The red carpet leading to the entrance of the Ellie was crowded with photographers, videographers, Denver Film Society supporters and just plain folks interested to see if they'd recognize any of those cast in the spotlight -- which doesn't always happen, frankly.

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Photo by Michael Roberts
For Labor Day, though, the fest -- sponsored again this year by Starz -- drew a couple of major players: author Joyce Maynard, who wrote the book on which the film is based, and rising teen star Gattlin Griffith, who is billed beneath on-screen mom Kate Winslet and father figure Josh Brolin, for obvious reasons, but is actually the centerpiece of the film (although the narration is handled by Tobey Maguire, who briefly appears as Griffith's character, Henry, all grown up).

First, though, the crowd inside the opera house was greeted by festival director Britta Erickson, who outlined the vast array of films to be screened -- 270 of them -- as well as highlights such as a focus on Norwegian cinema, awards for foreign and student films, more than thirty productions from Colorado and appearances by the likes of Harry Dean Stanton, who'd have been second-billed to Carl Reiner if the latter's participation in an upcoming tribute wasn't going to take place via Skype.

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Joyce Maynard in a photo from Telluride featured on her website.
Erickson was followed to the podium by a spokesman for opening night presenter Key Bank, who introduced the annual on-screen nod to sponsors -- this one the most nondescript and unmemorable in recent memory. But things livened up with the appearance of Maynard, who, unlike many writers, clearly loves being in front of a crowd. Still best known in some quarters as reclusive author J.D.Salinger's paramour when he was in his fifties and she was eighteen (a relationship she recounted in the book At Home in the World), she wore a tiny, cougarirffic dress and the haircut of a Vampire Diaries cast member despite being just days from her sixtieth birthday -- something that earned precisely the reaction that she no doubt intended when she announced it.

Maynard talked about the Labor Day five years ago when the fictional thirteen-year-old Henry began speaking to her from the year 1987, as well as the journey to seeing his story made into a major Hollywood feature -- and she predicted that audience would fall in love with young Griffith by the time the tale wrapped.

No doubt many in the audience did so, even though Griffith's main requirements in the film are looking soulfully at Winslet and Brolin and trying not to masturbate during the numerous sequences in which he's seen in bed listening to to the pair boink elsewhere in the house. Time and again, he clutches his arms at the level of his chest, as if terrified by what might happen if his hand wound up south of the border.

If that description sounds creepy, it should, since there's a weird, incestuous subtext to a lot of the goings-on.

Continue for more about Labor Day and the opening night of the Starz Denver Film Festival.


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Ellie Caulkins Opera House

Denver Performing Arts Complex, Denver, CO

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