Best Survivor in Theater
Courtesy Four Day Weekend

The pandemic ate up a sizable part of 2021 and continued to land bruise after bruise on local theater and comedy. Some didn't make it. Others did what they could to have some kind of show they could provide for their core audience from the comfort of their quarantine zones. Four Day Weekend comedy theater group, which opened its Lowest Greenville location just two years before the start of the coronavirus outbreak, had to do just that but they came up with some truly unique ways to keep the footlights alight while the doors remained closed. The group turned its Dallas location into a makeshift, three-camera TV studio and found ways to use Zoom's interactive streaming features to perform their signature style of live improv over the Internet. They even took on corporate clients for private shows so their revenue stream didn't completely dry up before audiences venture back to the theater. The theater chain's resilience and resourcefulness will surely stand as an example of how any dramatic or comic theater company can maintain its business model during a global crisis.

Josh and Amanda Smith, the founders of the Banjos to Beats concert production group, have turned Facebook's power to connect communities into something positive and informative with their popular DFW Corona Connection group. The Smiths started with the basics like daily updates on infection totals and locations for vaccinations, but they built a popular, stylish forum that allows for deep discussions. The pair do an excellent job of keeping the group on topic even when politics intrudes into the conversation.

Revelers Hall
Courtesy Revelers Hall

Dallas' hottest jazz club is Revelers Hall, where one can hear anything from trad jazz to prewar blues, Latin or Balkan music seven nights a week. Legends such as saxophonist Shelley Carrol, who's played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Pink Floyd and Sheryl Crow, perform there on the reg. On weekend afternoons, the Revelers Hall Band, the venue's eponymous house band, performs New Orleans-style jazz for matinee crowds eager to dance and sing along. Revelers is a serious jazz venue dedicated to serious jazz highlighting the cream of the local jazz music scene. Naturally, the venue is also dedicated to serving seriously strong drinks.

Best Film Festival
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Film festivals are starting to make a comeback now that it's kinda OK to go outside again and see a movie in an actual theater. The Oak Cliff Film Festival run by the founders and operators of the Texas Theatre found a way to grow its annual celebration of cinema even under the weight of a pandemic. The 2021 edition of the Oak Clif Film Festival made a comeback from its digital version the previous year with an impressive roster of films that made their premiere in Texas. Some of the starring screenings included the Summer of Soul documentary directed by The Roots' Questlove, which recapped the musical and cultural influence of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival; Mogul Mowgli starring Academy Award nominee Riz Ahmed in his first performance since the inspiring Sound of Metal; and the hilarious and touching Swan Song that included a live appearance with legendary actor Udo Kier.

Gilley's Dallas

The For God & Country Patriot Roundup, a privately funded QAnon convention, was a treat for Facebook meme believers, conspiracy spreaders and anti-vaxxing virus carriers. The event attracted a veritable "What The Hell?" of speakers, among them Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who went on to say during his set that America needed its own Myanmar-style coup. The only bright spot in this gathering of gullibles was when Gilley's Dallas dropped them as a venue before the con was scheduled to start. They left the organizers scrambling to relocate the majority of their events in one location. It was not only a delightful moment of failure for the saner of us to enjoy, but the schadenfreude didn't require the event turning into a Sturgis-grade superspreader event (we hope).

Best Customers
Patrick Michels

One of the biggest losses of 2021 actually didn't have anything to do with the viral shutdown but it still stung just as hard. The Knox Street staple Wild About Harry's announced that it would close up shop because the building's owners wanted to put something in its place that would make the neighborhood look like every other gentrified restaurant district in the country. The 25-year-old establishment has served the tastiest custard treat in the city. Harry's final weekend let customers come in and empty the freezers and pantries during the July 4th weekend and the response was magnificent. People stood for hours in lines that lasted as long as the weekend itself to get one last taste of its signature iced treat.

One of the most beloved independent films in recent memory came from the unique perspective of a 23-year-old Dallas filmmaker. Cooper Raiff had hastily put together a 55-minute experimental project called Madeline & Cooper inspired by his own romantic relationship, which he sent to independent film titan Jay Duplass. So impressed with the young director's ambition, Duplass helped Raiff produce his directorial debut Shithouse, a coming-of-age dramedy that Raiff also starred in. Shithouse tells the story of Alex, an insecure college freshman who struggles to adjust after moving from his home in Dallas to California; he struggles to connect with friends and frequently calls home to his mother and younger sister. Alex gradually grows out of his shell after a magical night introduces romance into his lonely life. Earning comparisons to indie classics like Kicking and Screaming and Before Sunrise, Shithouse took home the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at the SXSW Film Festival.

Best Movie
Eric Zachanowich

Dallas director David Lowery can't be pinned to just one genre. After a romantic crime thriller (Ain't Them Bodies Saints), a meditative art film (A Ghost Story), a Disney live-action fairy tale (Pete's Dragon) and an old-fashioned caper (The Old Man and the Gun), Lowery delivered his best film to date with the epic R-rated Arthurian adventure The Green Knight. Dev Patel led the re-imaging as King Arthur's naive nephew Gawain, who embarks on a quest to find the titular Green Knight who threatens Camelot. The gorgeous medieval world is recreated in immaculate detail as Gawain grows into maturity over the course of his mission, facing giants, witches, seductive temptresses and bloodthirsty thieves. While it was shot in Ireland, Lowery teased that at least four shots were captured in his favorite city Dallas.

Best Actor
David Lee/Netflix

Virtually no one in Hollywood had a bigger year than Dallas actor Jonathan Majors. Majors kicked off his breakthrough with a performance in Spike Lee's acclaimed war epic Da 5 Bloods as the loving son of a Vietnam veteran who has turned to hatred. Majors followed that up with a lead role in the acclaimed science fiction horror series Lovecraft Country. While HBO pulled the plug on the series, he earned nominations at the Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Recently popping up as the enigmatic villain Kang the Conqueror in the season finale of the Disney+ series Loki, Majors will return to the Marvel universe in 2023's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania. He'll also show up later this year in the all-black action western The Harder They Fall alongside Regina King, Delroy Lindo and Idris Elba.

Best Actress
Gordon Correll

Breakout star Sasha Lane introduced herself to audiences back in 2017 in the award-winning indie drama American Honey, but she had a banner year thanks to several key high profile television projects. Lane showed up in a memorable guest role in an episode of Steven Spielberg's rebooted anthology series Amazing Stories as a troubled teenager who discovers inter-dimensional beings in her hometown. She later played one of the leads in the subversive comic book adaptation Utopia on Amazon Prime. Capping off her standout year with an entry into the Marvel Universe, Lane joined fellow Dallas actors Owen Wilson and Jonathan Majors in Loki. She's set to headline the adaptation of the bestselling Irish romance novel Conversations With Friends next year.

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