Ninth Annual Dallas Video Festival: Although there's something for almost everyone at the international Dallas Video Festival, make no mistake--the Festival isn't for everyone. Folks who tend to view the wonderful world of video communication as a sedative or a narcotic should beware--there's no outtakes from America's Funniest Home Videos scheduled, and the latest Tool Time girl from Home Improvement must have canceled her festival appearance for a monster-truck pull across town. The Dallas Video Festival is for folks who watch TV with an active, discriminating mind, whether it be while exploring the latest innovations in video art or a particularly volatile cultural issue. For a critical guide to Festival programming, flip to the second feature in this issue of the Observer. Scheduled dates are Thursday and Friday, 7-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-9:30 p.m. Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. Tickets are $8-$10; Festival pass, $25. For more information, call 823-8909.
The City of Lost Children: The Inwood Theatre opens a must-see for movie fans who love to see baroquely depressing visions of the future. The City of Lost Children is an English-subtitled French film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, the comic surrealists who gave us the blackly hilarious Delicatessen. Whereas that film was defiantly goofy in even its most vicious moments, The City of Lost Children uses twisted black humor not so much to make you see the absurdity of terrible things, but to reveal the terrifying core of absurdity. Set in a nameless post-apocalyptic world, the film is nominally about the search by a street-corner strongman (the multilingual Ron Perlman) and a wise little girl (Judith Vittet) for the strongman's kidnapped baby brother. The child has been stolen by an evil inventor who cannot dream whose goal is to find a child who won't be frightened by his terrible visage, and then steal the little one's dreams. It's fast-paced, visually thrilling, and at times frightening in that Brothers Grimm-primal fear way. The City of Lost Children opens today at the Inwood Theatre, Lovers Lane and Inwood. For information, call 352-5085.
Family Day: Last year's Family Day was such a success, the Dallas Theater Center has decided to once again reach out to the community at large and remind everyone that you don't need a pedigree to attend and enjoy live theater (although a fat wallet doesn't hurt). For their second annual Family Day at DTC, everything is free, and although the emphasis is on drumming up new audience members for the Center's high-quality productions, the means to that end are a variety of cool events. Many are geared for children, like short, introductory theater classes running all morning; puppet shows; theatrical demonstrations; puppet- and mask-making; and a free performance of The Ugly Duckling. The big draw for parents is the chance to tour the Kalita Humphreys Theater, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Family Day happens 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard. For more information, call 526-8210.
Texas Abstract: New Paintings in the Nineties: The contemporary art world is currently in the throes of vigorous internal debate over what art means in the ruins of modernism and who among current practitioners might be the ones currently defining it. In other words, it's a semantic disagreement that should concern most of us only insofar as we accept or reject what the art fascists are sending us. A new show opening at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Texas Abstract: New Paintings in the Nineties, is full of award-winning Texas-based painters who all deal in the vocabulary of abstract. That word used to mean drawing yourself or a landscape using ink blots, but as the history of modern art has shown us, artist and art subject have grown increasingly alienated from one another. Texas Abstract continues that trend as the various artists represented take all kinds of stylistic chances that refer to themselves rather than the outside world. The show opens January 6 and runs through March 24 at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Avenue. It's free. For information, call 953-1212.