Scene from DIFFA: A Santa so hot he melts snow!

A scene from the DIFFA wreath auction: Santa with Mrs. Claus and one of his reindeer (by the color of the nose, I’m guessing Rudolph, although I don’t recall a verse saying what a hot rack Rudolph had… I’m referring to the antlers, of course). Now, I know it’s not politically correct, but as someone with a salt-and-pepper beard myself, I gotta say: I prefer this clean-shaven, abs-defined Santa over the more, ahem, jolly round elf with a bowl full of jelly. Looks to me like he had a bowl full of protein powder.

Anyway, I’d hop on his sleigh anytime, and would welcome the chance to slide down Santa’s chimney. Sigh.

Look for more DIFFA pix in Friday’s edition of Dallas Voice, and online.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Triangles: ‘The Descendants’ and ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

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Alexander Payne is both the most aptly-named director and the least accurate: His movies are all about people enduring a fair share of pain, but his default reaction is to find humor in that. It’s a great skill, of course, but one that he beats like a drum. So when his newest, The Descendants, works its story around a husband and father (George Clooney) faced with the twin tragedies of a wife in a coma and discovering she has been cheating on him … well, sometimes pain just needs to be pain. (Payne also loves the “road trip” plot, here and in Sideways and About Schmidt; I wonder if he would even know how to make a movie set in a boardroom.)

But if The Descendants traffics in familiar territory, at least Payne knows how to paint portraits of people that ring true. Certainly Clooney — proudly showing his age as a salt-and-pepper middle-aged dad juggling his own parental ineptitude and obligations as the family patriarch — brings the proper balance of heft and comic sensibility to the role of an emotionally detached man grappling, for the first time, with the realities of connecting with other people. Come to think of it, that describes just about every other movie Alexander Payne has made. He might not show much variety, but at least he knows his limitations.

The romantic triangle in The Descendants is between two men and a dead woman; in Breaking Dawn, Part 1 — the latest in the Twilight saga — it’s between a dead man (well, actually vampire Robert Pattinson) and another man (well, werewolf Taylor Lautner) and a woman (well, actually Kristen Stewart, who I think may be part mannequin). In this, the fourth film in the series, I think I may have finally figured out what I’ve missed all this time that every teenaged girl seemed to understand intuitively: The supernatural element is extraneous to the slow-moving romance between Bella and Edward (and the puppy-dog longing of Jacob). It’s kind of the point that nothing much happens over its two hours — if it did, it might shake you from your swoon.

A new director, Bill Condon, imposed a horror-film sensibility on all the treacle, giving us both the longest wedding sequence since The Godfather and the most harrowing childbirth since Rosemary’s Baby.  If you can stomach author Stephanie Meyers’ didactically anti-abortion subtext — and can accept how Lautner keeps his shirt on most of the time — Breaking Dawn is actually the best entry in the series to date. Go figure.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Drawing Dallas

Cosmopolitan designer Douglas Allen is always a stranger, yet always at home

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: Douglas Allen, 48

Spotted at: Carlisle and Knight, walking his beagle, Belle

Occupation: Designer

Dallas is the landing pad for this world-traveling designer, who splits his time between the Big D, San Francisco, Chicago and London. This grey-topped quadragenarian certainly doesn’t blend in with his heavy black frames set against thick salt-and-pepper hair.

Born in Alabama, at 14 Douglas moved with his family to Saudi Arabia — the first leg of a life-long journey that has led him across the globe and back, and continues today. He speaks Arabic, French, Italian and a bit of Swedish. His trek continues next month, when he leaves for Cartagena, Colombia, where he’s designing a home interior. As soon as it gets hot, he’s off to London.

Definitely a character, for three months in London he only wore pajamas. “I threw a proper English summer jacket over them when I went out. I got some interesting looks.”

Grey hares: Inspired by Bugs Bunny, Douglas’ musical instrument of choice is a ukulele. He began playing on a whim. His favorite tunes include “Aba Daba Honeymoon” (a turn-of-the-century musical composed by Arthur Fields) and Hawaiian medleys.

Social currency: Douglas doesn’t take much of an interest in money, fancy clothes or the trappings of excess. He uses what he calls “social currency,” a value that is unquantifiable. With roots everywhere and friends scattered all over the far-flung corners of the world, Douglas says, “I’m always a stranger, yet always home.”

His philosophy: “There is only one person, one power, one life, and each of us is a finger puppet on a big hand. Don’t freak out over the journey or circumstance of your finger puppet identity because in reality you are the big hand. Accept 100 percent where you are. Don’t resist. Accept and let go. That is the only way forward and out.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens