Best Month of Film 2011 | April with Dallas International Film Festival & USA Film Festival | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Dallas International Film Festival, March 31 to April 10 this year, offered more than 200 films to choose from. USA Film Festival, April 27 to May 1, supplied film lovers with nearly two dozen more. For one month, that may seem like a lot of celluloid (or whatever filmmakers are using these days) ground to cover and a lot of time spent in dark theaters' seats with strangers, but take into account that not only do most attendees love approximately three-fourths of the movies they see (based on our own unscientific surveying between films), both festivals also provide a good number of celebrity asses in the seats. From directors to screenwriters to stars, both festivals bring in the famous, the soon-to-be and the should-be for Q&As, panels, chi-chi red carpets and more. Better still: If you questioned going to the movies solo, you won't anymore with all the "I'll watch your seat if you watch mine" buddies you make spending up to 12 hours per day landing in the same screenings. April should really be called Dallas Film Lovers' Month.
On the one hand, we feel for Mark Abuzzahab, the new guy in charge over at KKXT-FM 91.7 KXT. We really do. He's taking over a station that, only a few months ago, was being slaughtered in the Twittersphere, nitpicked for every song choice its DJs would make. Clever social media types took to Twitter in particular to voice their bitches — and they were unified in doing so through their use of the hashtag "#kxtfail," which allowed fellow complainers to catch up on what everyone else was bitching about. Their complaints were probably a tad unfair: The region placed far-too-high hopes on KXT's shoulders when it launched back in November 2009; everyone crossed their fingers and blindly expected it to champion the local music scene and for the station and scene to become the envy of the rest of the country. That was never gonna happen — not in the station's first few years, at least. But here's the silver lining: Clearly, there's a large population of devoted KXT listeners out there. And that's where we think that Abuzzahab actually has it made: The dude's inheriting a passionate listenership that knows exactly what it wants. Kind of sounds like a dream job, actually.
Over the years Allison Smith has offered various themes in her self-published zines, from iPhone (Can You Hear Me Now?) and Lomo (An Issue With Lomos) to her love for the Lone Star State (Things I Like About Texas). Her April 2011 release, "40 Days," featured shots created via the Hipstamatic app and it didn't disappoint, giving up both ethereal colors and vivid scenes. If you were a superfan and ordered within the designated number, you got a free signed print. That shit's legit and it doesn't come cheap in the real world, folks. While many artists have become complacent between exhibitions and dependent on blogs and digital galleries (she has those too), Smith is keeping the small art book going in Dallas, snapshot by Superficial Snapshots.
Local animator Deanna Molinaro writes and illustrates storybooks that would traumatize most children but that, in truth, aren't any scarier than Grimm's fairy tales. With a few exceptions (she's marked innocuous, all-ages books "OK for children"), the stories explore that sort of nightmarish what-if world that smart kids tend to imagine early on. Molinaro says she writes the books "for fun, and without a single thought of the audience for them or what's right, wrong, appropriate." The often-wide-eyed hand-drawn characters are both lovable and haunting, and her black humor is reminiscent of the great Charles Addams. Her most recent release, this year's A Boy and His Sheep, is the story of a spoiled boy who is so cruel to his doting mother that she finally — well, we don't want to ruin the specifics for you, but let's just say it doesn't work out for everyone. Molinaro sells her books on her website (along with signed prints) but also offers them for viewing entirely online. "It's always surprising to find out anyone likes them," Molinaro says. "I guess as long as I continue to have crippling self-doubt they will all be free online to read." With seven strong offerings in print, she really shouldn't doubt anymore.
Luckily for the artistically challenged, there's a whole crop of art studios that tout their abilities to turn finger-painters into pseudo-Van Goghs. And they encourage you to bring your own booze to swig while you make your own "Starry Nights." Some of the teachers at these classes have made us wish we just went straight to happy hour, but not the talented staff at G'Nosh, home of our favorite teacher, Margo. Margo doesn't roll her eyes when you decide to go another direction with that skyline painting and add the unfinished Museum Tower. No, she doesn't judge. She encourages creativity and fun, which is what a painting class that involves booze and cheese plates is all about.
You can find Sober in the club — or at a bar spinning to the post-brunch crowd, or in a retail spot entertaining the shoppers, or at a corporate event educating the cubicle-dwelling masses — but you'll never, ever find him with a bottle of bub. Will Rhoten's DJ name isn't a gimmick; the dude straight-up doesn't drink, which may or may not be at least part of the reason that he's the best spinner in town. It helps that he's never even buzzed — it means he's never sloppy. He's professional to a T, and, better yet, the guy has taste. He can spin whatever — classic hip-hop, indie electronica, R&B and funk, you name it — and he often does. Trick is, when he switches things up, he does so smartly: He knows more than just how to build a vibe, but also how to keep it, and, more important maybe, how to alter it slightly without killing it. There's a reason his free-to-attend Beauty Bar residency, Big Bang!, which hosts nationally touring guest DJ appearances and live performances from even the likes of Spank Rock, is so popular — and it's not just those names-in-bold. At one point a key member of the super-popular area DJ collective The Party, Sober, now solo, still knows where it's at. Oh, and he's an illustrator and clothing designer, too.
They say one bad apple can ruin the bunch, but let's hope that's not the case with Los Angeles promotion company Insomniac Events' Electric Daisy Carnival, which back in June returned to the city-owned Fair Park complex for the second year in a row. The electronic music festival, which since coming to Dallas has brought in the celebrated likes of Moby, Diplo, Benny Benassi, Kaskade and Rusko to play for tens of thousands, is a true sensory overload. In addition to the music, there's visual art, decked-out masses and an open-arms vibe from the crowds. It's a great time, even if some of the negative effects of rave culture are present too; at this year's event, dozens were hospitalized after overheating, and a 19-year-old Argyle resident died after his friends saw him take ecstasy. Thing is, you really don't need any drugs to enjoy EDC's offerings — you just need the wherewithal to grasp that Dallas could use this kind of all-are-welcome entertainment. Maybe some earplugs. And some good sense, too — which, we hope, the city showcases next year when the time comes for the festival to return, realizing that, in EDC's case, the good really does outweigh the bad.
In December 2010 what was once the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park officially reopened as The Children's Aquarium at Fair Park, and the changes made were certainly for the better. The venue now features interactive exhibits at eye level for the target demographic. Some of the rays in Stingray Bay are touchable for certain tots, but even babies can sit alongside the feature and bond with the graceful creatures through the glass. Other exhibit zones are organized by type of water or the area in which creatures are found (freshwater, intertidal, near shore, etc.). For kiddos who have seen or can visualize a beach, the set-up is easy to navigate and accessible. And, ultimately, that's the biggest draw of the aquarium: While some of the creatures might be considered intimidating or scary (octopus, piranha, eel), the surrounding displays and structure of the museum are anything but.
You've seen chickens before, but have you ever seen a white crested black Polish chicken? Think in terms of the Muppet Big Bird, shrunk down to chicken size but twice as strange. Maybe three times. Another chicken that might set you back apace if you haven't seen one before is the mottled houdan. We can't really describe it, but you can see these and a wonderful variety of regular old chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks and game birds just by walking through the Fur & Feather Building on the weekend of the big Pan Am Poultry Show at the Texas State Fair. Fur & Feather is where the contestants all bed down between appearances. It's open to the public. Be prepared for random loud outbursts of gobbling.
A previous Best of Dallas winner, the Galaxy Drive-In is an incredibly fun and affordable night out, starting with the well-worn miniature golf course and ending with the kindly attendants who can jump-start your car in a jiffy if your battery drains in the course of a double feature. But your trip to Ennis just isn't complete if you don't grab a hot dog, burger, funnel cake or bag of cotton candy. Not because you're hungry, necessarily, but because the place would turn into a desolate wasteland without that extra revenue, just as all too many drive-in theaters have before it. That's what the public service announcements playing before screenings suggest, at least, complete with footage of sun-bleached, wind-damaged screens and sad music. There are much cheerier vintage theater commercials advertising concessions as well, but nonetheless, the theater has pulled off an unlikely emotional coup. Usually we feel guilty when we do snack, not when we don't.

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