There are two sure signs we are in the final stretch of movie awards season, the finish line of the Academy Award telecast in sight.

One has become a familiar staple nationwide: the opportunities afforded Oscar pool hopefuls to get one last big-screen gander at this year's contenders.

The other is nicely distinctive of our movie-loving state. As studio films start to shape-shift back into predictable ugly ducklings from award-season swans, local festivals angle to keep feeding audiences challenging, resonant and, yes, entertaining fare.

Hot on the heels of the Denver Jewish Film Festival and the Boulder International Film Festival (both closed Sunday) come three more established events. The Colorado Environmental Film Festival, Festivus and the Denver Film Society's Focus on Japanese Cinema run through Sunday.

Here's a highlight reel.

Colorado Environmental Film Festival

Evidence of this 7-year-old festival's expanding reach comes in an anecdote shared by Dave Steinke, a filmmaker who works for the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region. In January, programmers got a call from Irish filmmaker Tony Donoghue.

"He asked us if he could have a late waiver for his film 'Irish Folk Furniture,' " Steinke said. "He just felt like his film was best enjoyed at a grassroots film festival and that he had an affinity for environmental issues." Shortly after the festival gave its nod, the animated short won top prize at Sundance.


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Saturday: Telluride denizens Beth and George Gage's festival-circuit winner "Bidder 70" recounts the legal drama of climate-change activist Tim DeChristopher who, as an act of civil disobedience, bid $1.8 million he didn't have during a 2008 Bureau of Land Management gas-lease auction in Utah. (7 p.m. Saturday at Foss Auditorium.)

Through Sunday at the American Mountaineering Center, 710 10th St., Golden. Pass, $100; single session tickets, $7 via ceff.net or at the Mountaineering Center box office. 303-279-9070.

Festivus Film Festival

This wee festival with attitude continues to grow, while remaining true to its moxie. Case in point: While it's expected (endearing, even) that programmers be enamored of their latest installment, cofounder Johnathan McFarlane offered this instead:

"So, I know festival directors are supposed to say 'This is the best program we've ever had' pretty much every year ... I'm not going to say it. I don't know if it's the best program we've ever had, to be honest. I will say that its the most consistent program we've ever had in terms of quality." Seasoned festivalgoers know that's precisely the mark of a festival on the upswing.

Saturday night : "The Story of Luke." For his debut feature, director Alonso Mayo wrangled a fine cast to tell the ... well, the title says it all. Lou Taylor Pucci, a go-to guy for indie quirk, portrays Luke, a young man with autism on the hunt for a girlfriend and a job. (8 p.m. Saturday at the Oriental Theatre, 4335 W. 44th Ave.)

Through Sunday at the Oriental Theater and the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St. Ticket packages available. Single tickets, $10, via festivusfilmfestival.com. $12 at the door. 888-466-0780.

Focus on Japanese Cinema

This Denver Film Society offering features the fresh, the classic and animé.

The gem this year is a spotlight on three documentaries by Shohei Imamura. The Tokyo-born master (who died in 2006) had two films take Cannes' top prize: 1983's "The Ballad of Narayama" and 1997's "The Eel." But last year was the first time the nonfiction films "A Man Vanishes," "Karayuki-San — The Making of a Prostitute" and "In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers" have had distribution in the U.S.

"I've been familiar with his narrative work," said film society artistic director Brit Withey about the films made in the '60s and '70s. "But I have never seen anything like this from him before."

Through Sunday at the Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave. Fest passes, $40-$50, and single tickets not including receptions, $10-$12, via denverfilm.org or 303-820-3456.

Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567, lkennedy@denverpost.com or twitter.com/bylisakennedy