Holiday Gift Guide — last-minute suggestions!

Christmas is almost here, and that means you are screwed. What to get for those people on your list who really deserve something great… but you have no ideas what to get them?

Fear not, dear last-minute shoppers! That’s what we’re here for — with clothes, shoes, food, drink and gadgets to chose from!

CLOTHING

Dress to impress. You know the cliche that every woman needs a gay man to dress her? Well, it’s a cliche for a reason: The gays have a good eye for fashion. But if you don’t, no need to panic. Two companies owned by gay men have done all the hard work, and you benefit.

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-9-59-17-amBlade + Blue, the baby of San Francisco-based Peter Pappas, produces limited-quantity clothing in hipster-chic styles: Flannels, plaids, skinny ties (like the charcoal chambray tie, $59, pictured, paired smartly with a pattern shirt), exudes a vintage look with modern tailoring. Shipping is free with $100 purchase, and you can get a 15 percent discount with the code SAVE15.

garnet-2-full-resolution-1Also out of California, Shaun Rosenstein and Krijn Mossel with King & Stone have come up with some sexy-fun styles for men’s shoes that are sure to appeal to the footwear fanatic in your life. Several styles come out each season, in amazing colors, like the eye-catching garnet-and-olive colored comfort-fitting Adamair ($125) style, pictured, with rubber soul. Like them all? Sign you sweetie up for the subscription service and never have him worry about shopping for shoes again.

Uncommonly involvedCommon Ground designs shoes, but really, they are trying to make the world a better place. The footwear company is as devoted to social justice as to foot comfort, with these comfortably, slip-ons that promote gender equality and marriage ($70). Or maybe you screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-12-52-42-pmfeel strongly about immigration or gun violence? They have a pair for those causes, too. You can really start a conversation with these shoes … and look cool doing so.

FOOD AND KITCHEN

fn-hot_hot_salsaSalsa!… And we don’t mean the dance. This is Texas — we like our chiles, our spices, our heat. Remember those TV ads about salsa from “New York City”? Well, F.N. Hot Salsa — supposedly named for “forgetful Ned,” but we know what it means — is a Texas-based purveyor of salsa with some heat. Of course, you can get it in a mild format, but why would you? And while you’re at it, why not check out their habanero jelly, which turns a cracker into a firecracker? We love this stuff, and your Texas honey will to.

Available at Central Market. $4.99.

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-12-44-45-pmSomething’s brewing. If you’re gift-ee is more about liquid heat than spice on the tongue, the folks at Krups have killer products for the caffeine addict. The sleek EC314 Coffee Maker can brew a perfect pot of java… or a perfect cup. Fully programmable, and with Krups’ legendary quality, the machine gussies up any kitchen countertop. And throw in the F203 spice and coffee grinder to let them create the ideal grind of beans for their taste.

Available online at locally at Bed Bath & Beyond, JCPenney and other retailers.

All tea, no shade. Our friends at The Cultured Cup do a great job of combining excellent food items (teas, coffees, sweets) with quality products and kitchen goods (storage tins, kettles, infusers) for the “epicurious” person on your list. From a Breville milk frother to their “French Collection” assortment of teas inspired by French wines and perfumes, you’re sure to find the perfect gift.

Happy holidays!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Sparkle, Neely, sparkle!

beesWith the holidays here, cocktails are omnipresent at office parties, house parties and celebrations. And champagne (or other bubble-filled) drinks seem to be the most festive. Check out some of these ideas.

Bee’s Knees Royale

1 oz. Drambuie

1 oz. Hendrick’s gin

1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz. honey

2 oz. champagne

roseMaking it: Combine first four ingredients and shake well. Strain into a flute or coupe. Top with bubbly. Optional: Garnish with a spritzed orange peel.

Sparking Rose

1.5 oz. Milagro silver tequila

1/4 oz. simple syrup

1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice

3/4 oz. watermelon juice

2 oz. sparkling rose

Making it: Combine first four ingredients in a shaker and add ice. Shake, strain and pour into a flute. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: WaterTower appoints new artistic director

Joanie Schultz, new AD at WTT. Photo by Joe Mazza

As Joanie Schultz was driving through the showy streets of Chicago in mid-December, she realized that this could well be her last time for a while to brave the bracing cold of a Midwestern winter. Instead, she would have to contend with a different extreme: Texas summer heat.

“It’ll be different… It’ll be good, though,” she says optimistically.

Schultz is making the move from the bustle of the City of Big Shoulders to the environs of Big D; this morning, she was named the new artistic director of Addison’s WaterTower Theatre. The appointment was announced by board president Paul Shultz. “Joanie is a phenomenal choice to lead WaterTower Theatre’s artistic vision in a new era,” he says.

It’s a huge leap of faith for her… but also for WaterTower, which was ably led for 17 of its 20 years by Terry Martin, until he resigned last spring. Schultz is moving to an area where she has few ties; WTT is giving Schultz her first slot as an artistic director leading a theater company. And both couldn’t be more excited at discovering each other.

“She’s never been an artistic director before per se, but she was one [of the candidates] who had done copious amounts of research on WaterTower,” according to Stan Graner, an actor and WTT board member who also served on the search committee. “She had a clear vision for what she wants to accomplish, but what kept catching my eye was how collaborative she was — remarkably intelligent without ego, someone trying to be intuitive and true and as an artist. That really spoke to me.”

Schultz did a lot of research, she says, because before learning of the opening, she was completely unfamiliar with WTT.

“The theater really surprised me when I looked into it, because I’d never heard of it before. I found that sort of shocking [once I learned] what WaterTower could do [with its facilities] and had been doing — the play choices, the diversity, the language talking about ‘the magic in the theater.’ There was a lot of possibility and alignments with what I already [am doing].”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Aspen Gay Ski Week’s 40th anniversary approaches; lift tickets available

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-10-37-00-amLast year, I wrote a piece about the diminishing number of gay-specific Ski Weeks being sponsored out there. Of course, with global climate change, it’s like Colorado will be ocean-front property in our lifetimes, but no matter — the granddaddy of all gay ski weeks is fast approaching (it’s so established, it’s URL is simply GaySkiWeek.com.)

Aspen Gay Ski Week will celebrate its 40th anniversary Jan. 15–22, and lift passes are available for one, two up to seven days (oddly, a four-day ticket is the best deal). It’s just a month off, so start making plans soon!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

It’s a trap! Fangasm prequel ‘Rogue One’ doesn’t have the Force

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story..Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones)..Ph: Film Frame ILM/Lucasfilm..©2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.The adage “you always hurt the ones you love” applies as much to movies as paramours. Devoted Star Wars fanatics, especially those who grew up with the series starting a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (i.e., the 1970s), have long complained about two notable flaws in the original: First, Luke kisses Leia, which is gross, because they are siblings; and second, the mistake in the design of the Death Star that allows the rebels to blow it up seems pretty glaring. Nevertheless, Adm. Akbar asserts that many rebels died getting these plans to the Alliance.

Believe it or not, Rogue One is entirely about the backstory of that design defect… and the rebels who passed it along to Princess Leia before Darth Vader commandeered her ship.

We are deep in fanboy territory, people.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story..Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones)..Ph: Film Frame ILM/Lucasfilm..©2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.Indeed, Rogue One feels almost more like fan fiction than a true part of the series (the fact the words “Star Wars” do not appear, officially, in the opening titles signals that they consider it a cousin-by-marriage more than the favorite son) — an explanation of a minor plot point that no one except die-hard devotees would have even noticed, not to say cared about. (It also casts Adm. Akbar as a bit of a liar, since in Episode IV he says they discovered the flaw once they got the plans, when clearly it was spoonfed to them. Not that I care or nuthin’.)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story..Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) ..Ph: Jonathan Olley..©Lucasfilm LFL 2016.George Lucas has said he based Star Wars on The Hidden Fortress, but Rogue One more closely resembles another Kurosawa film: Seven Samurai. Set between the events of Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) and the original (A New Hope), the plot involves assembling a crew of outcasts to do the dirty work of saving the universe. It employs a mostly-new cast of characters who, for the most part, had never been mentioned in the series previously — among them a kind of female Han Solo (Felicity Jones) and a guerrilla leader, who seems to be included solely to give Forest Whitaker a strange cameo. These new folks, and tons of new locales, muddies the story considerably. Meanwhile, we get glimpses of several over canonical characters, most notably a digitally-recreated Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin. The problem is, he (and at least one other) look as waxy and artificial as museum statues — a noble effort to flesh out some characters, but hardly effective.

On the other hand, Rogue One does benefit some from the historic shorthand build around the Star Wars mythos, as well as the backing of the studio which clearly wants to capitalize on owning the property, but doesn’t want to trash it… at least not too quickly. There’s a slickness and a familiarity to the score, the sets, the style. We know what the Force is, so explaining it doesn’t take up any time.

The film trots along, but it’s hard to imagine it attracting many new devotees. This is the Inside Baseball of scifi, a side show to entertain the masses while the headliners relax backstage.

Two-and-a-half stars. Opens Thursday, in wide release Friday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay film ‘Moonlight’ tops DFW Film Critics picks

MoonlightThe 20-plus members of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association (an organization for which I serve as vice president) tapped Moonlight —  the acclaimed indie film about being a gay black man in contemporary society — as their top film of 2016.

Moonlight was named best picture, best director Barry Jenkins and best supporting actor Mahershala Ali. The film also took the Russell Smith Award, named after the late gay film critic, which recognizes the best in low-budget or cutting-edge films.

It was followed in the voting for best picture with Manchester by the Sea, which won for best actor Casey Affleck and best screenplay; the musical La La Land (which opens in Dallas Friday), which also won for cinematography and score; the Texas-set Hell or High Water; Arrival; Jackie, about the former first lady in the wake of the presidential assassination in Dallas, which also won best actress for Natalie Portman; Loving; 20th Century Women; Hacksaw Ridge; and Silence.

Viola Davis took best supporting actress for her role in Fences, which comes out Christmas Day. Best documentary went to Tower, about the 50-year-old sniper attack in Austin; and Zootopia took best animated feature.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Don’t have tickets to ‘Book of Mormon’ yet? It’s never too late

Book of Mormon RYAN BONDY (ELDER PRICE) CODY JAMISON STRAND (ELDER CUNNINGHAM) CANDACE QUARRELS (NABULUNGI)The Book of Mormon is one of the certifiable smashes in contemporary Broadway history — the Hamilton of 2011. It arrived in Dallas for two sold-out runs in 2014 and 2015, and the 2016 engagement — which runs only Dec. 20–31 — is wildly popular as well. In fact, you may have assumed you couldn’t get tickets … or couldn’t afford to.

But in keeping with tradition, every performance will include a ticket lottery, in which a limited number of seats will be released for $25 each. You just show up 90 minutes before curtain, write your name on the card provided (don’t try to duplicate — they will get you!) and whether you want one or two tickets. An hour beforehand, they’ll do a drawing; if you’re selected, you get to see the show right then and there. Gee, that could be enough to make you believe in miracles.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jonathan Palant named an Innovator of the Year

Jonathan PalantWe’ve written a lot in the past about Jonathan Palant — former artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale and lately founder of the choral groups Dallas Street Choir and Credo. Those groups, especially the Dallas Street Choir, bring music to the masses in the most ecumenical of ways, as in employing many homeless people in the process of creating song.

Now, a national organization has recognized his efforts as well. The group Musical America Worldwide has named Palant one of its 2016 Innovators of the Year — a list that also includes Jonathan Friend (artistic administrator of New York’s Metropolitan Opera), Robert Spano (conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), Stephen Wadsworth (director of opera at The Jiulliard School) and also Jonathan’s older brother Bill, managing director of Etude Arts.

“I am thrilled to be listed among so many artists whose musical imagination and impact I admire,” Jonathan Palant said in response.

Next up for who DSC and Credo will be a tour to perform in New York City’s Carnegie Hall and Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral, in June. (The honorary chairs for the NYC concert include Whoopie Goldberg, Jake Heggie, Stephen Schwartz, Frederica von Stade, Audra McDonald and Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings.)

Congrats to Palant and his singers.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: New trailer for next summer’s likely blockbuster

SOFIA BOUTELLA in a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: "The Mummy."  From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, "The Mummy" brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.Remakes! Uggh. How many times can we see an origin story, or a retread of a familiar, legend, before we say “Enough!”

Well, at least one more.

A friend told me the other night he has just seen a trailer that wowed him. I knew the film was coming out, but hadn’t seen the trailer, so I tracked it down … and not only does it do what a trailer should (make you want to see the film), it also shows you how to update, change and reimagine an old saw — in this case, The Mummy — for a contemporary audience. Here is the trailer, then, for Tom Cruise’s next big hit. Enjoy.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Pumpkin Spice Lebowski

pumpkin-spice-lebowskiWe know, we know — everyone does pumpkin spice. But that’s coffee drinks — what about some adult beverages? Try out this seasonal one.

2 oz. Reyka vodka

1 oz. coffee liqueur (Tia Maria, Kahlua, etc.)

1 oz. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Making it: Combine heavy cream and spice into a shaker and shake. Add ice, vodka and liqueur and shake more. Strain into a rocks glass; garnish with cocoa puff.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones