BEST FORMER DALLASITE SAYING SCREW YOU TO HOLLYWOOD

Shane Carruth

You gotta hand it to Shane Carruth. The former-Dallasite filmmaker behind Primer and Sundance-buzz-a-thon Upstream Color has stuck to his game: sticking it to Hollywood's movie-making system. Primer was a grainy and raw film about time travel on a $7,000 budget, and his critically acclaimed second film, Upstream Color, has an ending that you may find unsatisfying. He's not afraid to punch. He's not afraid to make a three-hour, rip-roaring sci-fi think piece. He's making smart, thoughtful films with a careful hand. It's a touch that's lacking in Hollywood, and one whose Dallas origins are worth celebrating.

Ohhhhh, how the holidays in Dallas are soooo lovelllllyy. There are Santas on parade, Macy's day sales, tree lightings, ornaments ... and Justin Terveen's shot of Reunion tower looking like the largest phallus in the Milky Way. This past Christmas, Terveen grabbed a shot of two huge Christmas-ornament nards resting gently under the shaft of Reunion Tower. It was shot all over the Internet, and even bothered a few Observer readers. Way to troll, Justin. The shot itself was beautiful, of course.

For a time, Dallas' collective consternation was leveled at a Facebook page with some 60,000 likes called "Oak Cliff Dallas Fights." It showcased fisticuffs predominantly between young Latino men, slugging it out in gas stations, locker rooms and school yards. City Council member Dwaine Caraway said it was bad for Oak Cliff's image, presuming these fights actually took place in Oak Cliff. Eventually, perhaps fearing prosecution, the page's anonymous creator took the site down. But, on a recent search, it appears to have re-emerged. So, if videos of boys who watch too much UFC throwing flailing haymakers are your thing, settle in for an occasionally funny ride. It won't take long. These kids are too bad at fighting to hurt each other much. They're gassed within minutes.

BEST PLACE TO TAKE A LEGO-CRAZED 4-YEAR-OLD

Legoland

It's late Saturday morning. Your child is bouncing off the walls. Every possible diversion in or near the house has been exhausted. It's time for Legoland, which is one of a very few legal ways to guarantee your own sanity. There are Lego games, Lego rides, Lego movie theaters and Lego pits. It's basically an amusement park made entirely from the colorful plastic blocks. No child can resist.

This isn't one of those art festivals you stumble upon with Grandma in some faux-experimental neighborhood. There are no illuminated dolphins or Manet rip-offs. There's real art, shockingly good photographs and other knick-knacks. Every year, Deep Ellum closes Main Street for music, live art and loads of paintings. The art ranges from experimental to wildly local, and it never sucks. Grab your significant other's hand and take the stroll from Hall Street to Good Latimer. And stop for a corny dog.

With the line "Kool-Aid is for closers," Jeff Swearingen and Bren Rapp dramatically changed the status of children's theater in North Texas. Swearingen wrote and directed Daffodil Girls: Based on David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, a two-act play about the ruthless world of scout troop cookie sales. Cast with a dozen talented young local actresses (ages 7 to 14), the show was deeply satirical, boldly funny, with moments of heartbreaking pathos. It was also a game-changer for the tiny, low-budget Fun House Theatre. Not only was the material great (other theaters are now interested in doing the script), the girls onstage gave polished, nuanced performances. Buzz quickly grew for the show, local critics swarmed all over it and Fun House held it over to sold-out houses. What else did Fun House do this year? Only a full-fledged, solid and thoughtful Hamlet with an all-youth cast. Children's theater that takes its actors and audiences seriously makes us all live happily ever after.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The Perot Museum is magical enough in the daytime. Subtract children, add booze, keep the doors open extra late and it gets even better. The Perot's quarterly Social Science event provides a new twist on the science museum experience. The programs — with topics such as the science of relationships and sound — are interesting and well-executed. But the real appeal is that Social Science allows you to be in a really cool museum drunk after dark. It's every nerdy teenager's dream.

We talk often about the content, status and potential growth of emerging art in Dallas, so it was nice to see that lip service transcend into a cohesive, well-curated gallery show during this extensive DMA offering. While DallasSites provided the historical framework for how things have grown into themselves, Available Space gave us the best of what's happening right now. Through Art Foundation's curation project, the fantastically named Boom Town, we toured a cohesive blend of styles, approaches and career-pinning all in the DMA's main gallery. Off in the wings the story unfolded further, with performance art showcases and panels by PerformanceSW, video art through the decades by Bart Weiss' treasured Dallas VideoFest, and hands-on workshops at Oil and Cotton's outpost. Just to complicate matters further, regional hooligan collective HOMECOMING! COMMITTEE built its subversively splendid example of 3-D thought, Post Communique, a show that shattered and rebuilt North Texas' art history for everyone's thoughtful amusement. It was a snapshot, a moment to pause and in-your-face proof of how good our talent pool really is.

Whether it's keeping up with the ever-happening dialog about Dallas arts or starting its own, Green Bandana has stepped in to fill the gaps — especially in those chasms that exist between big institutions and individual artists. GB doesn't stop there: The blog posts — penned by now-solo operator Darryl Ratcliff — share all available information regarding how and where to see great art through a positive, critical lens. We know what you're thinking: "All of that sounds great, but sometimes I want to step away from direct conversation and blow off steam." Yeah, we all do. And Green Bandana does that too. From its mash-up parties that involve anything from projection art, live music, nail sets, sculpture, open bars and bonfires, to its open-mic nights and public art initiatives, like the Dallas Love Project that will post inspirational works along the JFK motorcade route in upcoming months, Green Bandana infiltrates every entryway to our lives and artfully booby-traps them. This unsung organization fuels so many creative programs that a contact buzz is impossible to avoid. Not that you'd want to.

The Conduit Gallery

New galleries are emerging all around us. Through all of that hustle, Nancy Whitenack's Hi Line haven remains the standard for well-selected and collectable Dallas art. She has chosen a stable of talents with unique perspectives who are willing to extend the tangents of where existing work is already pointed. Nobody shown at Conduit is content to simply fill in the grid, and that's a tribute to the caliber of the space and its leadership. There's also a balance there, an energy that teeters between the established, repped works in the main showrooms and the more experimental, budding and often very strange works offered in the Project Room, curated by Conduit's assistant director Danette Dufilho. That equilibrium is what makes Conduit a starting — and often also an ending point — for any gallery night. It's also refreshing proof that an exceptional retail art space can be successful while still taking chances.

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