Best of Dallas®

Best Of 2009

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Staycation

Don't book a hotel or buy airfare. Why waste money? Come spring, Dallas becomes another place entirely. For more than a week, you can escape, in your own city, into chilly theaters with tickets and badges as your boarding passes to a fantasy land, a nightmare, a place for romance, a realistic place in someone else's life—you call the shots. Thanks to Leiner Temerlin (founder, chairman emeritus) and Michael Cain (CEO, artistic director), for three years we Dallas film fanatics got to know the AFI Dallas International Film Festival and the joy of navigating a massive film schedule (attempting from one to seven screenings in a day), meeting high-profile celebrities (and likewise geeking out on character actors) and asking filmmakers direct questions about their creative process. It's been exhausting and exhilarating. Henceforth, Dallas will celebrate film with the Dallas International Film Festival as AFI Dallas is no longer, but this is exciting. As Cain told the Dallas Observer after the news broke in June, "This allows us to reinvest in Dallas...Each year we brought fewer and fewer people from out of state to work the festival, and we programmed 95 percent of the festival on our own. AFI gave us an amazing base of knowledge to lift ourselves up, [but] we're confident we can continue on our own."

Best Art Gallery
Hal Samples Gallery

It's not really fair to call this space an art gallery. It is and it isn't. The artwork showcased on the first floor of the gallery in Deep Ellum is from unknown artists presenting their first solo shows. "I'm a Peter Pan kind of guy," owner and photographer Hal Samples says. "Throw some pixie dust and have some people perpetuate dreams." Samples himself was homeless eight years ago, so he's keen on empowering people. "I found that there were artists that were looking to be seen, but they didn't have the opportunity. I wanted to give them a place to incubate." And so the gallery was born more than a year ago and features artists who have caught Samples' attention throughout his travel in the area. So what kind of art will you find here? "Art that makes me want to meet the person," Samples says.

2814 Main St., Dallas, 75226
MAP
214-334-4481
Best Bird Nerds (Tie)

For local nature buffs who don't make it out to the lake each day, J. R. Compton's Amateur Birder's Journal is the next best thing, filled with daily photos of myriad birds at White Rock Lake and their strange, wonderful behavior. From ducks to purple martins to hawks and even the occasional coyote, Compton covers it all—when he's not attending to his duties as editor and publisher of DallasArtsRevue.com, that is. Fellow bird blogger David J. Ringer, on the other hand, is merely based in Duncanville, but his work for an international nonprofit takes him to locations as far-flung as Kenya, where he documents the local wildlife (avian and otherwise) for his Search and Serendipity blog. If you're like us and rarely leave Texas, paging through Ringer's exotic photos will leave you planning ways to finance your own globe-hopping adventure.

Best Blog

When The Dallas Morning News told longtime Texas Rangers scribe Evan Grant that he'd be moving into a group of several Dallas Cowboys beat writers resulting from the paper's agreement to share sports coverage with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he decided it was time to ply his craft someplace else. He found an unlikely partner in D Magazine publisher Wick Allison, who admits he knows nothing about sports, but was sold on Grant's sales pitch to create a comprehensive Rangers blog with assistance from former News assistant sports editor Jeff Miller and baseball blogger and lawyer Mike Hindman. Despite the tough economy, Allison secured three key sponsors. Grant later added popular radio host and sports guru Bob Sturm, and the rest is blogging history.

Best Breakup

OK, we'll forgive you if you spent about a week thinking Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's All-American romance with local pop princess Jessica Simpson was adorably appropriate. After all, why wouldn't America's hot-and-ditzy princess want in on a little career Romomentum? But after the infamous pink jersey loss and the disappointments that followed, was there anyone in town besides bloggers hard-up for material who really wanted to see the couple last? Honestly, we're glad to see Romo's taken to an Entourage-like, Afflicton-attired existence. Sure, he's douche-y and less likable now, but when it comes to Cowboys football, we don't mind a little bros philosophy.

Best Case of Self-Representation

They say a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, but that hasn't stopped Dallas attorney Gary Vodicka from waging thermonuclear war against Southern Methodist University over the last four years, alleging the school committed fraud as it went about amassing units in his condo complex, the University Gardens, only to tear them down to make room for the Bush Library. Vodicka became a genuine pain in the docket to SMU, humiliating the school, wearing down a whole team of its lawyers in a case that spans 25 thickly stuffed court jackets. Although he turned down a settlement offer of $1 million for his demolished condo unit, he finally settled the case in July for an undisclosed amount. Vodicka also managed to convince State District Judge Martin Hoffman to allow him to depose former President George W. Bush himself. The ruling didn't stand on appeal, but the fact that Vodicka got as far as he did was as amazing as it was unprecedented.

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Best Staycation: Dallas International Film Festival, née AFI Dallas

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