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Making Dallas Even Better

Can Dallas’ Two Most Notable Film Festivals Survive a Scheduling Overlap?

In a world where Dallas has two film festivals.

A world where a second festival, backed by the American Film Institute, burst on the scene 10 years ago with a slate of B-list celebrities and new films from Sundance and SXSW. A world of bitter feelings, backroom character attacks, and donor base pillaging.

Now comes what is perhaps the most awkward programming clusterf*ck since the heavens unleashed an icy hell on Jerry Jones’ Super Bowl.

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What Brian Wilson Thinks of Don Henley’s Music

A Los Angeles Times article today about the remarkable 2015 that actor John Cusack has had on-screen ends with Cusack recounting a story he heard during his preparation to play troubled Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson in the movie Love & Mercy. It involves Dallas’ own Don Henley, famed Eagles founding member and noted Highland Park Whole Foods regular:

Cusack says most of what he gleaned from the rock legend came from “just being around him,” seeing “how he was around people, how he navigated the world.

“Brian, you don’t know if he’s kind of in his own world because he can’t get out of it or he’s tired of everyone needing the ‘Brian Wilson moment’ and it’s easier just to stay in his own world. So he’s a bit of Cheshire cat that way.

“He just doesn’t lie. Don Henley came and said, ‘Could you please sign this record, it meant so much to me?’ ‘OK, OK. “Dear Don, thanks for all the great music” ‘ and he crossed out ‘great’ and wrote, ‘good,'” says Cusack, laughing. “Don Henley, like, framed it.

(H/T Tom Junod)

The Convention Center That Ate Dallas

A couple of weeks ago, after reading that the taxpayer-funded Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau apparently wanted to lend us the letter “D” from their “DALLAS” logo to replace the City of Dallas’ existing letter “D” logo, I got to thinking once again about the outsized influence the DCVB wields over municipal affairs.

Late last year, after Philip Jones, the DCVB’s president, tossed out a plan to have taxpayers pay for a $300 million addition to the convention center, I took a look into the finances and found that it lost $37 million per year before debt service and $54 million after interest expense — amounts that were virtually identical to its losses prior to the opening of the half-billion-dollar city-owned Omni Convention Center Hotel in 2010 (one of the primary justifications for building the hotel was that it would drive more business to the convention center and stop its losses). Some of the most interesting observations, however, came from reader comments to my post. Former city council member and the executive director of the Dallas Arts District, Veletta Lill, made the following observations:

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Shopping for Dallas Investors for a Texas-Set Western

With its fast-growing population of wealthy people, Dallas has been a magnet for filmmakers looking for investment cash for awhile. Movies financed by North Texans include the 2008 Ben Stein documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Rob Allyn’s “Java Heat” starring Mickey Rourke, and several from Gary Cogill’s (now-shuttered) Lascaux Films, a company that was basically bankrolled by local doctors.

The latest moviemaker to come knocking seeking Dallas dough is Chris Ekstein, an award-winning cinematographer from Venice, Calif., who’s shopping a Western project set in Texas called “The Last Duane.” Inspired by the writings of author Zane (“Riders of the Purple Sage”) Grey, the flick’s a straight-up oater about a gunfighter and outlaw who eventually sees the light and “gives himself over to service in the Texas Rangers.”

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Steve Martin Cast in Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Deadline is reporting that one of my personal heroes — seriously, if you’ve not read his memoir, Born Standing Up, you’re missing out — actor/comedian/banjo player/novelist Steve Martin has been cast in director Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Dallas author Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (one of the greatest novels of the 21st century.)

Unknown Joe Alwyn has already been cast as Iraq War soldier Billy Lynn. Thinking over the potential suitable parts for him in the book, Martin has got to be playing the owner of the Dallas Cowboys — the fictionalized Jerry Jones — right?  I suppose he could be the agent who’s trying to sell Lynn’s Army squad’s story to Hollywood, but I like that first possibility way more.

Deadline also says Garrett Hedlund is also in line for a role. Shooting is to begin in April. In Atlanta, Since Texas Stadium, where 90 percent or more of the story takes place, doesn’t exist here anymore, I guess that’s understandable. Even if Billy Lynn is maybe the best Dallas novel ever.

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Two Niggling Points About American Sniper

As Liz mentioned in Leading Off this morning, American Sniper did really well at the box office over the weekend. I saw it and didn’t much care for it. (Peter gave it a B+ over on FrontRow.) Several narrative threads run through the thing, but none of them holds the movie together. Is this a movie about a war hero who doesn’t like being called a hero? Is it a movie about two rival snipers? Is it a movie about a guy struggling with PTSD? I don’t know. And if you say, “Tim, it was a biopic about a real person, and real life is complicated and won’t always satisfy your desire for a tidy narrative arc,” then I will ask you why the movie didn’t explore the strange lies that Chris Kyle told once he’d retired from the military (saying that he whupped Jesse Ventura, saying that he shot Katrina looters from atop the Superdome). That’s complicated.

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Keven McAlester Nominated for an Oscar

Once upon a time, there was a thing called The Met. In the mid-’90s, its ramshackle office, filled with secondhand furniture and outdated computers, was perched above a bar called the Green Elephant. The weekly’s music editor was a guy called Keven McAlester. Here’s how he was hired. Real piece of work, that McAlester. We called him Archie because Archibald was his real first name (Keven was his middle) and because he was smarter than all the rest of us and we needed a way to take him down a notch or two. Keven did not own shorts. He wore corduroy pants every day, even in the summer. That didn’t stop him from cutting a swath through the mostly female sales department. The other thing he pursued with great fervor was video games, first Maelstrom, then Snood. Especially Snood. Keven was the undisputed office champion of Snood. I’m not sure how much money I lost to him playing that game when we should have been doing our jobs.

All that is background so that you might possibly understand how amazed and delighted I was this morning when I learned that Keven has been nominated for an Academy Award for a documentary he co-wrote and co-produced. A huge congratulations goes out to him. And so does the photo below, taken when the entire Met staff underwent makeovers for some misguided fashion thing we published.

As you might imagine, Keven’s phone is rather busy right now. Via text, he says, “I’m thrilled and honored, and can’t thank Rory [director and co-producer] and the folks at American Experience enough for the opportunity to work on this.” In an email conversation with a couple other Met alumni, he said he plans to play Snood for the rest of the day.

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American Blogger: The Most Important Film in the History of Cinema, Ever

Chris Wiegand of Dallas is a visionary filmmaker. Don’t take my word for it. Take his word for it. The trailer he posted recently for his new project, American Blogger, describes the deep spiritual apotheosis one is likely to experience upon watching this “beautifully filmed and artistically crafted” film.

Inspired by the blog of his own attractive blonde wife Casey, Chris drove across this great nation of ours, fighting for freedom and meeting with other beautiful female wordsmiths — mavens of fashion, style, and interior design. They’re part of a movement that could, potentially, change our world. Good-looking women will no longer have to put up with being ignored. At long last they have a means for commanding the attention that they deserve but have never received often enough.

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Santorum Flick Short of Opening-Weekend Goal

Last month, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, now CEO of Dallas-based EchoLight Studios, said the outfit was hoping for opening-weekend receipts of $2 million for its first national movie release, titled The Christmas Candle. Two million, Santorum said, would be like “hitting a home run.” Well, preliminary results for the film’s Nov. 22-Nov. 24 opening […]

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Romo Boosts Santorum’s First Big Film Venture

“This was easy,” Tony Romo was saying last night. “I love movies. I love Christmas. I love Jesus.” The Dallas Cowboys quarterback was explaining why he’d shown up at West Plano’s Cinemark Theater, where a new movie called The Christmas Candle was being premiered. The feature flick is the first national release from a Dallas […]

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Clint Eastwood May Direct Movie Version of Chris Kyle’s American Sniper

Twitch first reported and The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Clint Eastwood is in talks to direct the adaptation of the biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, based on Kyle’s book American Sniper. You may remember that Steven Spielberg recently dropped out of the project. It’s not a done deal yet, but the producers should feel fortunate picking […]

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