DIFF closes with awards ceremony

The 11th annual Dallas International Film Festival concluded its 11 days of screenings, red carpets and events by presenting awards for excellence among the movies that screened.

The Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature went to The Relationtrip, about two loners who decide to take a platonic road trip together. The Grand Jury Prize for Documentary went to Quest, a portrait of an African-American family.

Two Special Jury Prizes were also presented: To Heartstone, pictured, for directing in the narrative category; and to Spettacolo for artistry in the documentary category. Heartstone revolves around two young boys, one of who is pursuing a girl while the other confronts his attraction for his best friend. Spettacolo is about a small Italian village that turns the lives of its town into a play.

The Texas Competition presented its Grand Jury Prize to Mr. Roosevelt, with a Special Jury Prize for Directing to Mustang Island.

In the shorts category, the Grand Jury Prize went to What Happened to Her with the Animated Prize going to Mr. Madila. Special Jury Prizes also went to Hairat and to Arin MacLaine for a performance in Spring. The Silver Heart Award went to City of Ghosts.

These followed the Audience Awards, which were presented Friday night at a banquet I attended. (I sat at the table with Chris Gabriel, co-director of The Relationtrip.) Narrative Feature went to the Texas-filmed Bomb City, about a hate crime; and Documentary Feature went to Dealt. The Short Film Award went to No Other Way to Say It.

At the same dinner, recognition was handed out; The Dallas Shining Star Award to Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall); the L.M. Kit Carson Maverick Filmmaker Award to Richardson’s David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express); and a posthumous presentation of the Dallas Star Award to the late Fort Worth native Bill Paxton.

Congrats to all the recipients.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

You up for a poké?

Rice bowls have gone Hawaiian, and Oak Lawn’s Poké Bop is on-trend

PokeBop at Marple

A rice bowl at the new Oak Lawn eatery Poké Bop serves as a refreshing and filling meal, above; opposite, the clever sushi ‘donut.’ (Photos by Kevin Marple)


We are in the midst of what can only be described as the Chipotle-ization of American cuisine. In our gluten-fearful, low-fat-sodium-sugar mindset, “fast food” are dirty words. But we’re also in the realm of the share economy of meta-hippies, where flip-flops are seen as appropriate footwear outside of a beach resort and conspicuous consumption feels Trumpian and wrong. That excludes a lot of fine-dining, too.

So, Chipotle: The apotheosis of the fast-casual concept. It’s more than a cafeteria of unrelated items splayed out like workers in a dance hall, waiting to be picked unless something better comes along, and better than the salad bar innovation that, by name alone, identifies as an insular side dish for all but die-hard vegans. Nope, the better fast-casual places offer organic (or at least generally good-for-you) options that you cobble together as you see fit. And nowadays, that includes — nay, mandates — a specialized theme. Burritos. Halal gyros. And now, poké.

Poké has been a staple of the Hawaiian diet for generations, enjoyed for its cleanness and simplicity — traditionally, raw ahi tuna on a bed of rice with a selection of available vegetables stirred in and served in a bowl. It’s like the Polynesian version of a sandwich or a street taco.

But it’s also becomes one of the trendiest foodie faves in Dallas in the past year or so. The structure is chipotleasy: A base, a protein, accessories, sauces. Wrap it in seaweed for grab-and-go convenience. Or leave it in a bowl and imagine yourself on the islands. TJ’s Seafood on Oak Lawn has it as an option; Poké Bar in the West Village weighs in as well. Add to the list the latest gayborhood entry: Poké Bop.

The brightly inviting storefront, next to the Starbucks at Lemmon and Knight, hits all the right buttons. Affordably priced (about $12 for a bowl or roll), it makes poking around the menu user-friendly… or a challenge. Your choice.

The menu board offers more than half a dozen pre-fab recipes: Proteins and toppings designed in-house to highlight the ingredients in their best light. For my first bite, I chose the Satoshi — a fairly traditional combination of spice ahi with sesame (oil and seeds), cucumber, sweet onion, masago (tiny orange fish eggs) and kaiware radish. The medley, from chef/owner Tommy Hwang, really does meld together harmoniously.

OPTIONAL-PokeBop-Poke-DonutStill, I tend to veer more towards the experimental, so on each of my visits, I have ventured into DIY territory. Their poké-rito — a hybrid sushi roll/burrito — requires the sticky green tea rice to adhere well to the nori (seaweed), but from there on, it’s your call. I combined shrimp and bay scallops, then went to town creating my own flavor profile: the bright, crisp edamame; masago again; avocado; a spicy Korean chili bibim sauce; some pickled ginger. Credit my discretion or the server’s execution, but that was a damn good wrap.

I changed gears on another visit, going for a bowl of brown rice mixed with tuna and salmon this time, then ratcheted up a wheel of sweet-to-spicy with mango, pineapple, jalapeno and a top of housemade ponzu in a to-go bowl. The dish travels well, but requires a bit of restraint to not consume it on-site (though there’s ample seating). Protein and carbs are a good way to boost your energy at lunch, especially as refreshing as fresh fish and rice can be.

There’s also a house specialty which they call a donut, though it looks more like a bagel to me: A ring of shrimp-stuffed riced layered in petals of salmon, tuna cucumber, roe and seeds. It’s gorgeous, slightly better looking than it tastes, but what the hell? If you can say you had a donut and got a taste of deconstructed sushi at the same time, you’re at the peak of food trendiness.         

4103 Lemmon Ave. Open daily 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Ilovepokebop.com.


Tasting notes


Just as Poké Bop offers walk-up do-it-yourself service for poké, down in Deep Ellum, Amsterdam Falalfelshop is doing the same for the signature food of the Middle East. The fast-casual restaurant, which opened last summer along Commerce Street, offers a European twist on a street food specialty: A sandwich made of fried chickpeas and spices, served in a pita or a bowl and topped with your choice of flavors, from cucumber to tahini to garlic cream. There’s also a side of Dutch-style fries (don’t call them French!) as well as a shawarma or combo for the adventurous. And most items are vegan or vegetarian-friendly.

The Knife at the Highland brings back its Summer Sunday Cinema Series, with foodie-themed film screenings monthly. For $35 (includes gratuity), audiences will enjoy a complimentary drink and gourmet bites by chef John Tesar. ($10 of the price is donated to the Dallas Film Society.) The sunset showings lineup will be: April 23: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; May 21: The Trip; June. 25: Spinning Plates; Sept. 17: Ratatatouille; Oct. 22: The Lunchbox; and Nov. 12: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

DFW Thai Restaurant Week is back with 23 North Texas eateries participating, including Asian Mint, Bangkok, Pak Pao, Thai Soon and Royal Thai. It begins on Thai New Year (April 13) and runs for a week. For more information on what each restaurant will be serving on its menu as that week’s special, visit DFWThaiRestaurantWeek.com.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 07, 2017.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Weinstein Co. to challenge MPAA rating on trans film

The upcoming film 3 Generations, starring Elle Fanning, Susan Sarandon and Naomi Watts, portrays the experiences of a transgender youth. The Weinstein Company, which secured distribution rights, submitted it to the Motion Picture Association of America to obtain a rating. To TWC’s surprise, the MPAA returned an R rating — meaning no one under 17 can see if without a parent.

Today, TWC announced it will appear the ruling. It had tapped David Boies — the Hollywood lawyer known for his work on the Bush v. Gore suit, as well as overturning Prop 8 in California — to advice on their dissent.

The R rating was based on “language and some sexual references.” The film is slated to receive a limited release next month.

The Weinsteins have a history of success with such appeals; they were able to known down the rating for their film Bully from R to PG-13, so that more teens could see it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kibble and Cocktails returns for foodies favoring Fidos

dogDFW Rescue Me, which helps rescue at-risk dogs, is the beneficiary for the return food event Kibble & Cocktails on Tuesday, April 4, presented by Barking Hound Village (which will open its second location on April 20). The fundraiser and mixer takes place at Trinity Groves, and features bites and booze from restaurants based there, as well as Uchi, 18th & Vine and Stoli cocktails, among others. Tickets are available here; the event takes place 7–10 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

TITAS announces 2017–18 season

Herve Koubi’s muscular dancers return in 2018

At the opening night performance of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, TITAS executive director Charles Santos announced the 2017–18 lineup — which, once again, is all dance. All performances will take place at either the Winspear Opera House or the City Performance Hall. Tickets will be available at ATTPAC.org.

MOMIX. The company known for its elaborate costumes and and colorfully modern dance returns for its umpteenth encore, featuring Moses Pendleton’s evening-length work Open Cactus. Winspear Opera House, Aug. 31, 8 p.m.

Ballet Hispanico. This company fuses contemporary and classic techniques of Latin dancing with passion and theatricality. City Performance Hall, Sept. 15–16. 8 p.m.

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. This troupe from Israel is one of the top touring dance companies in the world. City Performance Hall, Oct. 27–28. 8 p.m.

Malpaso Dance Company. With the borders now more open, this Cuban-based company makes its Dallas debut with a bold repertoire cultivated in its brief (five years) existence. City Performance Hall, Nov. 10–11. 8 p.m.

La Compagnie Herve Koubi. This French troupe, which made its Dallas debut a year ago as part of the 2015–16 season, and will kick off performances in 2018, this time at the Winspear. Jan. 20. 8 p.m.

Lucky Plush will make its Texas debut with this quirky, superhero-inspired production. City Performance Hall, March 9–10. 8 p.m.

L.A. Dance Project. Another Texas debut from this new Los Angeles-based company. March 30–31. 8 p.m.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The return of this powerful modern ballet company, which pulls from many traditions. Winspear Opera House, June 9. 8 p.m.

Parsons Dance Company. The New York company is known for its athletic and colorful ensemble. Winspear Opera House, June 30. 8 p.m.

In addition, the annual Command Performance Gala will take place at the Winspear Opera House, May 5. 7 p.m.


—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Things to do this weekend

Alvin-Ailey-American-Dance-Theater's-Jamar-Roberts-and-Glenn-Allen-Sims.-Photo-by-Andrew-EcclesThere’s a lot going on tonight, tomorrow and Sunday so rather than make you look for it, I figured I’d put it all in one place.

There are some musicals in town just for another week or so — both of which I have reviewed here: Uptown Players’ It Shoulda Been You and Dallas Summer Musicals’ national tour of Kinky Boots.

For dance, there’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Winspear tonight and Saturday (both matinee and evening). I’ll be there tonight — say hi if you see me,

Trees has a performance by bounce pioneer Big Freedia, with former Dallasite Dezi 5 — he recently relocated to New York City — opening.

Saturday afternoon, Prep Warriors DFW are hosting a Q&A with medical professionals regarding the use of Truvada, also called the PrEP pill, at Sue Ellen’s from noon to 2 p.m.

And Saturday and Sunday, the Dallas Travel & Adventure Show plays… I already wrote about it here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Come learn about LGBT travel Sunday at Dallas Market Hall

The LGBT community loves to travel, but there’s more to life than Olivia Cruises and time-shares in P’town … as wonderful as those are. In fact, there’s a lot more. Wanna know what the hot spots are, how to get discounts, when to book, where to stay and other tricks of the trade? Well, that’s what the Seventh Annual Dallas Travel & Adventure Show is for.

On April 1 and 2 at Dallas Market Hall, purveyors and experts — including NPR stalwart Rick Steves, and yours truly — will be showing their wares and sharing their knowledge about travel. In fact, I’ll be participating in a panel presentation Sunday morning specifically discussing gay travel.

Doors open 10 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday, with one- and two-day admission tickets available here… although, if you contact me directly in my Twitter (@CriticalMassTX) or Instagram (@Cineastex), I’ll be happy to see about getting you a discount.

See y’all soon!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Funeral arrangements set for Rene Moreno

MorenoRene Moreno, the acclaimed local director who died of cardiac arrest earlier this week at age 57, will be interred at Restland Funeral Home in Dallas, on Greenville Avenue near the intersection with LBJ. The service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday. A memorial will be set for some time in April. Family requests that in lieu of flowers, mourners make a donation to the charity of their choice.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

ATTPAC hosts a Broadway Bar Crawl on Greenville Avenue Thursday

We don’t really need a reason to go on a bar crawl, but hey, what better reason than to sing a showtune.

Earlier this week, the AT&T Performing Arts Center released its lineup for the 2017–18 season (I wrote about it here). To commemorate the shows in its season, host Rob McCollum will lead guests on a walking tour that includes The Libertine Bar, Truck Yard, Blind Butcher and HG SPLY Co. There will be free cocktails, bites and sign-ups for raffles and prizes. We said it was free, right? Just remember to RSVP here.

The tour starts at 6 p.m. at the Libertine and ends around 8:30 p.m. Come on out!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Appreciation: Rene Moreno, 1959–2017

MorenoThere’s a secret in the restaurant business that a lot of chefs can flambe cherries jubilee or bananas foster tableside, and many can toss around their knives like a magician in a side show, but when you wanna hire someone to run your kitchen, you ask him to cook an egg. Flamboyance is great and showmanship is wonderful, but mastering simplicity is the true sign of talent.  Can’t cook a measly egg? You’re all sizzle, no steak.

The same holds for a number of disciplines, not the least among them the craft of theater. I’ve seen directors crash chandeliers and fly helicopters and I’ve thought “Wow.”  But until you’ve seen a director who can break your heart and make you smile simultaneously while showing you an awkward Irish couple navigate their feelings for each other,  or gasp at the humor and humanity of an octogenarian and his prickly relationship with a young gay man, you don’t know what great directing means.

Rene Moreno directed Outside Mullingar and Visiting Mr. Green and dozen of other plays during his illustrious career. And damn, that man could cook an egg.

I first encountered Moreno as an actor. It was nearly 25 years ago I saw him in a minor role in Dallas Theater Center’s production of A Christmas Carol, and  he stood out — not because he used a wheelchair, but because he grabbed your attention. He made an impact as an actor — in the Dallas-filmed movie Late Bloomers, on Broadway in the original run of Amadeus (before the accident that paralyzed his legs), even in a late-career return to the stage as the title villain in Richard III — but his true calling was really behind the scenes. It probably wasn’t long after that Christmas Carol that he ventured into directing full-time, starting in 1996 with Miss Julie. He took to it like a duck to water. What was that mystical conjuring that allowed him to extract such painfully beautiful performances out of any cast of actors he blessed with his touch? He could turn a seemingly mild comedy-drama like Good People into something profound; in my review, I noted it was “directed, as always, with deft understanding for the subtleties of humanity by Rene Moreno.” That was it, all the time. He knew the human psyche so intimately, he was able to coax out breathtaking work — not just from actors, but designers, too. His prowess at storytelling was legendary. He could tackle massive American dramas like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and August: Osage County with brilliance, spin back to adapting a Restoration comedy like The Lucky Chance to swingin’ Mod London with light-footed farce, turn to a chamber comedy-drama like The Trip to Bountiful and manage to helm a Strindberg to rarefied heights. He wove the most exquisite tapestry of life, one where you never saw the seams.

So when word broke late Tuesday that Moreno, who had undergone recent surgeries, has succumbed to a heart attack in the hospital, it didn’t just feel like the Dallas theater community had lost as artist; it felt like the soul of all North Texas had been somehow vanquished.

In a region flush with amazing theater professionals, from actors to directors to producers, musicians and designers, I don’t think anyone would disagree that Rene Moreno was nonpareil — not merely the best of the best, but virtually peerless. He had the incredible ability to elevate everyone in a show he was in charge of. (He won more Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum Awards than I can count.)

“WaterTower Theatre Board and Staff offer their deepest condolences to the friends and family of René Moreno,” Gregory Patterson, managing director at WTT, messaged me. “Rene was a longtime colleague of WaterTower’s and he will be greatly missed by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with the DFW theatre community as we mourn the loss of this great artist.”

“It’s an extraordinary loss,” Susan Sargeant, founder of WingSpan Theatre Co., told me. “My heart aches.” (Moreno’s final directorial effort, WingSpan’s staged reading of Rose, will proceed as planned this weekend at the Bath House Cultural Center.)

But it wasn’t just that he was a director, but a consumer of theater. I last saw Moreno — whom I count as a personal friend (our birthdays were just days apart — both Geminis, which Rene found humorous) — watch a show a few weeks ago. We chatted that he was undergoing several surgeries; he seemed upbeat but a bit sanguine as well at the prospect. Still, the heart attack at age 57 that took his life following, reportedly, a recent back surgery, came as a shock. The outpouring of grief on social media was immense, with condolences conveyed to his longtime partner, Charles McMullen.

Perhaps it was his comparative youth, or the suddenness, or the realization of the loss of his good humor, that surprised people most. But speaking personally, it feels deeper than mere loss. Rene Moreno was an authentic genius of his craft whose work transformed all who saw it. The cost feels incalculable.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones