December 18, 2009
It’s a good year for Oscar-watching. The Best Picture category expands to 10 nominees, and the race was wide open to start, as no film has jumped to the top of the pack. (See, by contrast, last year’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”) Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings gives local filmgoers a prime seat for tracking Oscar. This year’s series features “The Hurt Locker,” a contemporary war film that earned top honors from the L.A. and N.Y. critics; “Crazy Heart,” starring Jeff Bridges, who earned a top acting nod from the L.A. scribes; and “Precious,” “A Single Man” and “The Messenger,” all showing up on best-of-2009 lists. Other contenders to be screened: the musical “Nine,” directed by Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) and starring Daniel Day-Lewis; the war-comes-home drama “Brothers,” with a Golden Globe-nominated performance by Tobey Maguire; and “The Lovely Bones,” adapted from the best-selling novel by Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”). The Academy Screenings presents 19 films from Wednesday, Dec. 23 through Jan. 2, all at Harris Hall. And where are contenders “Up in the Air” and “An Education?” They were at Aspen Filmfest in autumn.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters became one of the biggest radio bands to come out of Colorado, when their 1993 breakthrough “Sister Sweetly” yielded “Bittersweet” and “Broken-Hearted Savior.” The world has become a radio- unfriendly place in the years since, and Todd & Co. seem to have responded with a shrug. The group – still built around the original trio of high school buds Todd Park Mohr, Brian Nevin and Rob Squires – tours and puts out albums of guitar rock that is smart, catchy and gritty. If listeners still got their music via radio and CDs, the FM airwaves would be filled with songs from Big Head Todd’s 2007 album “All the Love You Need,” and discs would be flying out the door. As it was, the band gave the album away as a free download. The songs can be heard the way they were really meant to be experienced over a two-night stand, Sunday and Monday, Dec. 20-21, at Belly Up Aspen.
Golden rings, maids a-milking and partridges are all missing from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s 12 Days of Aspen. Then again, the local celebration boasts plenty of gifts you won’t find in the song: cupcake decorating, live reindeer, free sleigh rides and ice skating. And eight dogs skijoring – that is, pups pulling people on skis. The 12 Days of Aspen, running Sunday, Dec. 20 through Dec. 31, will fill Wagner Park and the pedestrian malls with seasonal music, edible treats, Santa. And Aspen being Aspen, it all ends with New Year’s Eve fireworks – two rounds of them – over Aspen Mountain.