Yesterday my favorite culture critic, Chris Vognar, got laid off by his employer of 23 years, The Dallas Morning News. He’s a casualty of another round of cutbacks at the paper, which has been bleeding out for my entire adult life.
I can’t overstate the loss for local readers and for all film/book/music lovers who followed him. He is a sensitive dude with a thoughtful way of explaining his taste, his contextual knowledge of film and books is deep and wide and Voggie* is just one of the best contemporary writers that I know, period. He’s concerned with truth and how art can get us closer to it. I loved seeing things anew after reading one of his interpretations. I rely on his annual “best” lists and his film festival coverage because I trust him implicitly.
While I’m thinking about Voggie I might as well keep riffing because this is my blog and no one will stop me. Our friendship goes way back, to when I was 16 years-old, a junior in high school. He’s a fair number of years older than me, so he was already a film critic at the DMN at the time. My 11th grade English teacher was BEYOND excited to learn CHRIS VOGNAR talked me through some ideas in Ellison’s The Invisible Man during our African American lit unit. Many years later I was at his apartment and tickled to discover he keeps the Norton Anthology of English Literature (which you might recall, weighs about four tons) on his john for light bathroom reading.
When I lived in Waco for my first job out of college, we went to a lot of movie screenings together as I frequently fled to Dallas to hang out. Usually these films were good, though I have never let go of the time he dragged me to a snooooozefest indie Korean flick about a Buddhist monk called Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring or something like that. Or was it Summer Autumn Winter Spring Summer? Groan.
We subsequently spent a lot of magical SXSW nights together while he covered the fest each year. At one SXSW, we both instantly bonded with fellow Dallasite, Scoot McNairy, which I will forever remember as “that time I became briefly obsessed with Scoot McNairy.”
He introduced me to Lakewood Landing, probably the best bar in Dallas, and Cosmo’s, the setting of dreamy memories of my youth. Later he battled an alcohol addiction and came out the other side, so we don’t go drinking together anymore. But we do still hang out and talk about culture a lot — so much so that we almost got kicked out of a listening party in Dallas last month because we were gabbing when we were supposed to be listening intently to music.
Bottom line, the man is a marvel. Vognar’s way with words, wit and the output of his brilliant mind are now for hire — so challenge him to do stuff, people!
BTW if you’re looking for films to watch, here are his picks for best films from the first decade of this century. I wish I could find his original review of one of his favorites and mine, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, because it was beautifully written and displayed what he gets about love and what he gets about art.
*Don’t try to call him that, btw. It’s my nickname for him and someone who isn’t me tried to use it once and he snapped at her, true story.