--Jimmy Fowler

What follows are brief reviews of some highlights from the Dallas Video Festival, arranged chronologically. The festival runs from Thursday, March 5, through Sunday, March 8. All events take place at the Kalita Humphreys theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard; for ticket prices and other information, call (214) 651-8600. This list is not comprehensive; consult the festival's official program for descriptions of events not listed. The capsule reviews were written by Dallas Observer staff writers Jimmy Fowler, Christina Rees, and Scott Kelton Jones.

HDTV
Part one--Thursday, March 5; 7 p.m. in the Electronic Theater
Part two--Saturday, March 7; at 5:15 p.m. in the Electronic Theater

Television is old. It hasn't had a major upgrade since the 1950s, when something called color was introduced.

Sure, things have been tweaked over the years. The idiot box sitting in your living room looks a far cry better than that old cathode-ray tube of yesteryear. And now you might very well have a cable or a satellite dish bringing you hundreds of channels in wonderful digital stereophonic sound. But these are minor enhancements. Nips and tucks, really. We aren't talking about the difference between Michael Jackson on Off the Wall and the Wacko Jacko of today. You can still recognize television.

And for a society that is so in love with gadgetry that our computers and cell phones and cars are outdated within a year of purchase, it's amazing that the one gadget we love the most, television, has remained so static.

Well, television's big upgrade--its major makeover--is in the works. It's called HDTV, or High Definition Television. HDTV brings a widescreen picture, the more theatrical 16:9 ratio than today's 4:3 format. But that's just for starters. New high-end television sets are already adopting this wider look in anticipation of consumers wanting their TVs to be more like going to the movies. More striking, though, is HDTV's greater range of colors and up to six times the resolution of today's television. Although that may not seem like a big deal when reading about it in print, it is impressive to see on screen. It's as if someone wiped away a year's worth of dust from your old set. Things on HDTV look almost hyper-real to the unaccustomed eye, like they are in relief, and you get the impression that if you touched the picture, it would flake off on your fingertips.

So, if this major transformation is such a big to-do, why are you not getting the hard sell? Why is a large-breasted woman in a skimpy bikini not lounging over one in an advertisement subconsciously telling you that if you own a HDTV set, you'll score some action? And why is it that when HDTV is showcased these days--as it was at this year's State Fair--it's pitched like the bearded lady or Giles, the albino monkey-boy?

Well, the sets won't be on the market until the turn of the century, and HDTV won't make a major incursion into most homes until well after that. But electronic companies and network affiliates have started name-dropping HDTV in their promotional material. In fact, HDTV work from KXAS-Channel 5 and WFAA-Channel 8, as well as other projects from Dallas-based HD Vision, will be given the showcase treatment by the Dallas Video Festival this year. The subject matter of these HDTV programs ranges from nature documentaries to Broadway shows, but it really doesn't matter. They could feature a Dallas Mavericks game in HD, and it would make for riveting television.

While seeing HDTV won't change your life today, it's nice to see what's in store for society's old friend--and what may score you some action a few years from now. (Scott Kelton Jones)

Deke Weaver's Girlfriend and Fred Curchack's A Surprise Party
Girlfriend: Thursday, March 5; 7 p.m. in Bart's Bistro
Friday, March 6; 7 p.m. in Bart's Bistro
Surprise Party: Friday, March 6; 9 p.m. in the Electronic Theater

The Dallas Video Festival honors its new theatrical location at the Dallas Theater Center's Kalita Humphreys with live shows by two internationally lauded performance artists. One is Dallas' own Fred Curchack, whose multimedia presentation A Surprise Party remains hush-hush until it's thrown for audiences Friday night. We can vouch that Curchack, whose obsessions run from Shakespeare to Hollywood, is, at his best, a theatrical wizard, using some of the most elementary light, movement, and vocal techniques to create alternative worlds. We got a video preview glimpse of Deke Weaver's Girlfriend, and from that recommend its combination of death-related mythology from North, Central, and South America and first-person vignettes about lonely people trying to connect in the same apartment building. (Jimmy Fowler)

Puss in Books
Thursday, March 5; 7 p.m. in the Video Box
A documentary about cats who live in libraries--a trend that started years ago as a rodent deterrent and has since taken on a non-utilitarian "mascot" patina--might sustain the interest of die-hard cat lovers for its first 10 minutes, but after that the effort seems a bit stretched. Across the country, at least 30 public libraries have adopted full-time cats as token warm fuzzies, saddling them with names like "Dewey" and "Decimal." The felines live in luxury among the bookshelves and sitting areas; patrons coddle them, and librarians praise the homey vibe they bring to the potentially stuffy institutions. We've all suffered a pet owner's too-long exultation of his or her pet or been guilty of the same ourselves, but these city employees have us all beat on long-winded analyses of kitty charm. (Christina Rees)

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