David Lowery is an acclaimed Dallas-based filmmaker, whose films include A Ghost Story, Pete's Dragon, The Old Man and the Gun and Ain't Them Bodies Saints.
I sat down 20 minutes ago, having been invited to reflect upon the year that was for the Observer, and began to compile a list of favorite films of the year. (Did anyone else see Diane with Mary Kay Place? Incredible movie!), I soon expanded it to include music (I can’t stop listening to the new FKA Twigs record) and literature (it’s been very hard to shake Patrick Redden Keefe’s Say Nothing). But such basic accounting suddenly seems rote, particularly when afforded the opportunity to write for a civic institution I started reading in middle school and still turn to now; very often, the Observer is something of a lifeline for me, an umbilicus in newsprint. I spent the better half of this past year away from Dallas, and on many a time on a late night in my hotel room you might find me perusing Observer’s website, reading food reviews or Jim Schutze’s column to get a sense of what was going on back home. Come January, it’ll be more of the same for me — another year, another movie that will be shot somewhere that’s not Texas — and so, rather than a typical best-of-the-year list, I thought I might catalog a few things from 2019 that will make me homesick in 2020. I’ll set aside home itself, as well as the cats who reside therein; the remaining list will be short but sweet.
Satantango at the Texas Theatre
In November 2007, I flew from Dallas to Chicago with the sole intent of seeing Bela Tarr’s rarely screened 7-hour magnum opus Satantango on the big screen. 479 minutes of rain, wind and Hungarian miserable-ism later, I’d had one of the defining cinematic experiences of my young life; ever since then I’ve been dreaming of the day that this magnificent film, which I gently ask that you not refer to as an endurance test, might grace the screens of North Texas. Over a decade later, thanks to the ongoing efforts of Barak Epstein at the Texas Theatre and a new restoration from Arbelos Films, that day arrived. On a sunny Saturday morning in early November, I and a few dozen other souls settled into the historic cinema on Jefferson Boulevard to submit ourselves to the movie Susan Sontag once said she would happily watch once a year for the rest of her life (and probably would have, had it actually been available). Over seven hours later, we shuffled out again, quickly sought reassurance on the internet that no animals were harmed in the making of the film, and then ambled off in a cowed, quiet daze, reawakened to the magisterial possibilities of cinema, of sound and images, of time itself. We are lucky, culturally, that movies like this exist, and all the more so that there are places like the Texas Theatre that will bring them here to Dallas.
All this new plant-based cuisine
The last time I willingly ate an animal was at the Granada Theater during my senior year in high school, which makes this my 20th year of being vegetarian and 17th as a vegan. For the first time in those two decades, there are now so many plant-based restaurants in Dallas that I haven’t had a chance to try them all yet. Earlier this year I fell in love with Nunos, a brand-new all-vegan Tex-Mex joint at Coit and Spring Valley that has now divided the affection I previously reserved for El Palote in Pleasant Grove and Tiki Loco in Deep Ellum. The street tacos at Nunos are available with a massive list of meat substitutes all designed to replicate things I have no frame of reference for, as well as cactus-based nopalitos en masa (my favorite) and creamy hongos y chipotle. No matter the filling, they are all perfectly proportioned, balanced with just the right amount of pickled onion and lime, and so highly addictive that I often forsake the rest of the considerable menu in their favor.
To an out-of-towner, Dallas might not seem like an ideal city for runners, if for no other reason that in the summer one must rise at 4 a.m. in order to get a long run in before the temperatures hit the high 80s. But this past Sunday, as I ran the Dallas Marathon for the fifth time, I reflected upon the fact that it’s actually the best city for running. The weather may be trying, but there are simply so many great places to run (try sprinting down the Trinity levees during a blood-red winter sunset), so many fun races throughout the year (November never truly begins until the DRC Half-Marathon). And then there’s the marathon itself, which was once a bucket list item for me and now has become something of an annual tradition. I’ve run races all over the world, but there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about this one that has a little to do with it being so familiar, a little more to do with the fact that it begins and ends at one of the key locations from one of the greatest movies ever made (Robocop), and a lot to do with the way the course so elegantly winds its way through 26.2 miles of reasons why I like this city so much, and why I’m always excited to come home to it.