When Major Theatre cofounder Bryce Gonzalez' brother, who lives in California, fell ill with AIDS last month and needed a caretaker, Gonzalez made the trip west. That left the East Dallas theater operating with a one-man staff--cofounder Rob Clements--who, of course, couldn't run the projector, sell popcorn, and tear tickets all by himself. There was no practical choice but to shut down the Major for a while.

Now that Gonzalez' parents have assumed caretaker duties, the duo is back in Dallas. And after a bit of soul-searching, they've arrived at a hard decision: because of low grosses, the Major Theatre will exist only on an occasional basis--and not necessarily to show movies. "We're gonna be open for special events," Clements says. "Live music, fund raisers, sometimes movies."

The Major will reopen May 26 with a return engagement of its all-time top grossing film, Spike and Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation, an anthology of perverse underground cartoons. It would be nice to think they'll do so incredibly well that they'll have no choice but to reopen full-time, but I'm not counting on it. This city's arthouse moviegoers are a peculiar breed: they profess to crave adventurous fare, but if finding that fare is an adventure in itself--even a minor one that involves driving to a funky old theater in East Dallas--they can't be bothered.

Geez, did somebody put adrenaline pills in the water cooler over at the Dallas Morning News' normally staid arts desk? The two reviews that ran in the Wednesday, May 3, "Today" section--by Jane Sumner and Philip Wuntch, respectively--were a couple of the most impassioned pieces of writing I've seen from either critic in some time.

Wuntch's look at Panther opened with, "Those who loathe the '60s, who wish the decade could be legally repealed, who speak of it either in whispers or enraged shouts, will recoil from the new film Panther. Practically everybody else will cheer." The politically charged tone continued throughout, ending with what was, for Wuntch, an unusually combative and personal note: "Panther will not be embraced by those who list Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan among their favorite chief executives or those who think [J. Edgar] Hoover was a terrific fellow maligned by the media."

And Sumner's look at Gregory Nava's multigenerational immigrant epic Mi Familia (My Family) contained some phrases that verged on the poetic. She writes of cinematography "suffuse[d] the sun-washed light of memory," a production design of "soul-satisfying hues and jumbled shapes," of two reluctant lovers who "melt together like warm chocolate," and of a narrative that serves as "a fever chart of new Americans, survivors in tough times." Whatever got these two veterans this excited about words ought to be bottled up and shipped off to every daily newspaper in America.

--Matt Zoller Seitz (

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