Friends of River Oaks Theatre presents a depraved triple-feature of iconic John Waters films, representing three decades of his career: Serial Mom, Polyester, and Pink Flamingos. The event will be hosted by drag artist Sauvignon Blanca, who will be performing and leading interactive activities between films.
gaming the system
The stock market feels like one of those aspects of American life that only a select few truly understand. The rest of us acknowledge it as something that exists and affects our lives in some way, but how and why any particular stock is traded and becomes more (or less) valuable can be a complete mystery.
Dumb Money tackles one of the most interesting recent stories to come out of the stock market, the surprising inflation of Gamestop stock in late 2020/early 2021. The film bounces around to a variety of characters, but centers mostly on Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a YouTuber who went by the name of Roaring Kitty. Gill, an amateur stock trader, took an early position about liking the lightly-regarded Gamestop stock, regularly posting videos and on the Reddit thread WallStreetBets about how his significant investment in the stock was doing.
Concurrently, hedge fund managers like Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) were actively trying to short, or bet against, the stock. That began a battle by Gill and other similarly minded individual investors to fight back against what they saw as unfair trading practices by the big firms, resulting in Gamestop’s stock rising astronomically in a relatively short period of time.
Directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) and written by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, the film is notable for what it is not, a deep dive into the inner workings of the stock market. Instead of getting into the nitty gritty details, the filmmakers treat it as the ultimate David vs. Goliath story, with Gill and other everyday people like a nurse, Jenny (America Ferrera), Gamestop worker Marcus (Anthony Ramos), and college student Harmony (Talia Ryder) going up against billionaires like Plotkin, Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), and Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan).
It doesn’t hurt that Gill is an eccentric character who wears cat-emblazoned shirts and a headband, and that the Reddit community he inspires communicates primarily in memes, upping the entertainment factor of their side immensely. The story is also a suspense in a way; as the variety of individuals drive the stock ever higher, their net worth – on paper – also grows exponentially, and the longer each of them holds on without selling ups the potential that they could be burned.
Because the real-life event happened during the thick of the pandemic when it was still up in the air as to the full impact of COVID-19, the story takes on a little more significance. Characters mask up regularly, conversations take place on the phone or over Zoom, and a general feeling of unease permeates the film. That may or may not have influenced how certain people approached the situation, but in the context of the film, it definitely seems to play a part.
The back-and-forth between the haves and have-nots takes up so much time in the film that it barely has time for such well-known actors as Shailene Woodley, Dane Dehaan, Olivia Thirlby, and Pete Davidson, among others. Each of them plays a supporting character to one of the main people, and all of them deliver that little something extra in what could have been throwaway roles.
Dano is a chameleonic actor who’s gone between drama and comedy with ease throughout his career. This role is a mixture of both, and he has an effortlessness about him that makes everything he says instantly believable. Rogen is great casting as Plotkin, amiably playing the buffoon of the story. After her big role in Barbie, Ferrera once again shows that she deserves as many showcases as Hollywood can give her.
Storytellers can rarely go wrong in showing people with little power taking on those with great wealth, and the fact that the story shown in Dumb Money is (mostly) true makes it that much better. You may not understand the stock market any more than you already did at the end, but you’ll be so entertained that it won’t matter.
Dumb Money opens in theaters on September 22.
Holocaust Museum Houston will present a screening of the film Zero Gravity, followed by a special presentation from the University of Houston’s SACNAS Chapter.
Zero Gravity follows a diverse group of middle-school students from San Jose, California, who compete in a nationwide tournament to code satellites aboard the International Space Station. Seen through the wondrous eyes of three young students and their first-time coach, they each take an intimate and personal journey to space as their team grows from amateur coders to representing California in the ISS Finals Tournament – the culmination of a summer-long adventure that sees their incredible accomplishment performed by astronauts in orbit.
This event will feature a special presentation by the University of Houston’s SACNAS Chapter. SACNAS, or the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, is an inclusive national organization dedicated to fostering the success of diverse scientists, from college students to professionals, in attaining research opportunities, advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). SACNAS works to support the most underrepresented in STEM.
The LGBTQ community and the sports world have long had an uneasy relationship, especially in the United States. There are exceedingly few out male athletes around the world compared to the number of players total, and even though the world has progressed in significant ways, that statistic doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.
Although some don’t view professional wrestling as a sport, the culture around it is certainly testosterone-heavy, an idea that’s challenged in the new film, Cassandro. Saúl (Gael Garcia Bernal) lives in El Paso, but regularly crosses the border into Juarez, Mexico to participate in lucha libre matches. On the small side, he’s regularly cast as the runt, who never stands a chance at winning.
Openly gay, Saúl decides to change his wrestling persona to be an “exótico,” allowing him to express himself in a flamboyant manner. With the new wrestling name of Cassandro, Saúl starts to gain the notice of promoters and fans. At the same time, he wrestles with personal issues, including the strained life of his single mother, Yocasta (Perla De La Rosa) and an affair he’s having with a fellow luchador, Gerardo (Raúl Castillo).
Written and directed by Roger Ross Williams and co-written by David Teague, the film has a solidly-told story featuring a mixture of good performances, even if it feels like there’s something missing. The movie has all the hallmarks of an underdog story, and while it hits some of expected signposts along the way, it also strangely seems to hold back in certain aspects.
If you’re not already familiar with the lucha libre culture, the film doesn’t make it easy to get a handle on it. As in all pro wrestling, the matches aren’t “real,” but how and when the wrestlers decide how to perform and who will “win” feels confusing in the context of the film. It’s clear that the confidence Saúl shows as Cassandro makes him more appealing, but the intricacies of lucha libre could have been expounded on a bit more.
This becomes even more evident when fans are shown yelling gay slurs at him and other exóticos. There seems to be a contradictory performativeness to the antagonism, as those same fans soon start supporting him. Oddly, any other explicit homophobia is kept hidden, which - given the time period (the 1980s and ‘90s) and the machismo prevalent in Mexican culture - seems like the filmmakers made a conscious choice to not go down that road.
That and other decisions leave the film a bit flat emotionally. Saúl/Cassandro goes through a lot of upheaval in the film, and while the majority of it is engaging, there isn't a point where the story fully captures your heart. As with other areas, if the filmmakers had pushed just 10 percent harder, it would’ve turned the film from good to great.
Bernal turns in a fantastic performance, despite the fact that, even though he looks younger than he is, he’s a little old to be playing this particular character. Still, he has a charm and athleticism that makes him believable throughout. Good in supporting roles are Castillo (playing a similar role he did in The Inspection) and Roberta Colindrez as Saúl’s trainer. Keep an eye out for Bad Bunny in a small but interesting role.
There’s a lot to like about Cassandro, the story that’s being told, and the performances it contains. But by choosing not to explore certain parts of the story as much as they could have, the filmmakers left a lot of emotionality out of it.
Cassandro is now playing in select theaters. It debuts on Prime Video on September 22.
Friends of River Oaks Theatre will host a special screening consisting of new short films made by inspired artists, followed by Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking science fiction epic, Metropolis, accompanied by an original live score by Omar Vincent Al-Bochi. The version of Metropolis shown will be the 1984 Moroder cut.
Metropolis entered the public domain in 2023, making footage available for artists and filmmakers everywhere to express themselves using the film as a jumping off point. An open call was made for artists to create and submit short films inspired by and using elements from Metropolis, which will be screened at this event. There will be an audience award given to the top film choice on the night of the event.
The Astrodome Conservancey will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the legendary Battle of the Sexes tennis match held on September 20, 1973 in the landmark Astrodome.
Guests are invited to don their best tennis whites or hippest 1973 attire for a screening of the 2017 film, Battle of the Sexes, followed by a conversation with Houston’s own Zina Garrison, moderated by Gina Gaston.
There will also be a special “Aces for the Astrodome” cocktail reception before the film.
CultureMap Emails are Awesome
Popular ear piercing barStuds made a name for itself by offering a customized piercing experience for those who aged out of places like Claire's but wanted an alternative to a tattoo parlor for piercings. With 19 locations nationwide, Studs offers a wide assortment of earrings that range from classic shapes, to huggies, flatbacks, and dangling charms.
Studs has once again added to their earring selection with their latest collaboration with Shake Shack. They created an adorably beefy earring to add to any burger lover's Earscape.
Studs and Shake Shack created a limited-edition Burger huggie earring and Earscape set. Photo by Studs
Retailing for $32, the limited edition Shake Shack burger huggie comes as a 14K gold-plated hoop with a loaded hamburger charm. Shoppers can opt for the $64 pair, but Studs is also currently offering a discount on the Shake Shack x Studs set. For $78, earring enthusiasts can get the two Shake Shack burger huggies, the 14K-gold Smiley Stud and the 14K-gold Micro CZ Stud.
What's even better than cute earrings? Free Shake Shack! On Thursday, September 28th customers can enjoy free bites from Shake Shack while they shop the new Shake Shack Charm Huggie collection at Stud's Rice Village location.
For $78, earring enthusiasts can get the two Shake Shack burger huggies, the 14K-gold Smiley Stud and the 14K-gold Micro CZ Stud.Photo by Studs
Shake Shack is known for their always made-to-order fare including ShackBurger, crinkle-cut fries, hand-spun shakes and their new Veggie Burger and non-dairy offerings.
Interested shoppers can RSVP here.
Studs Rice Village, 2567 Amherst St.; (832) 981-2869. RSVP here.
This Barbie Sells Merch
Hot on the heels — or wheels — of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck comes another timely pink rolling shop for two Saturdays in October.
The Barbie Truck will stop in Friendswood and The Woodlands on its 2023 "Dreamhouse Living Tour," which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Barbie's ever more popular property, and will give visitors a chance to spice up their own homes.
Although this is all about the house, there are only a few homewares: things like coasters, glass tumblers, a glass mug, a throw blanket, and an "accessories cup." Visiting Barbies have more opportunities to take home wearable and on-the-go items like graphic tees, hoodies, and denim; a baseball cap; embroidered patches; and keychains.
It's a Barbie world in Houston.Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour
Most people who have been awake and on social media in the past year have learned that Barbie's Dreamhouse has a more empowering history than many girls realized while orchestrating drama between the dolls.
A release announcing the arrival of the truck reminds fans (and detractors) that when the Dreamhouse came out, only a tenth of a percent of young women were independent homeowners, and states that someone buys a Dreamhouse every minute.
This year's Barbie truck tour should be in very high demand following the success of the 2023 movie.
The Barbie Truck will be in Friendswood on Saturday, October 21st, from 10 am to 7 pm at Baybrook Mall at the lawn near Gloria's. Arrive early in case of long lines.
The truck will then cruise to The Woodlands on Saturday, October 28th at The Woodlands Mall near Shake Shack from 10 am to 7 pm.
These Barbies will hit five other Texas cities on the tour:
- September 30 – San Antonio
- October 7 — Austin
- October 14 — Laredo
- November 4 — Plano (Dallas)
- November 11 — Fort Worth
The Texas Medical Center may be based in Houston, but the organization has again grown its global impact.
Since 2016, TMC’s BioBridgeshave worked with 88 startup companies. Those include strategic alliances with four other countries. Australia, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland are all among TMC’s BioBridges partners. As of today, add the Netherlands to that list.
On September 27, TMC president and CEO, William F. McKeon, and Carmen van Vilsteren, chair of Health~Holland, Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (LSH), signed an agreement in Rotterdam. The TMC Netherlands BioBridge Memorandum of Understanding codifies the innovative goals of the partnership. Essentially, the BioBridge program provides a means for entrepreneurs, researchers, clinicians and industry partners from other countries to access the US market, as well as TMC experts.
“The TMC Netherlands BioBridge represents an unparalleled opportunity for collaboration and growth,” Ashley McPhail, chief external affairs & administration officer at Texas Medical Center said in a press release. “The Netherlands has solidified its position as a global leader in the field of life sciences and health, with a thriving ecosystem of research institutions, innovative companies, and highly skilled professionals. This strategic partnership will bring positive benefits to patients, clinicians and industry partners on a global scale.”
This lifeline for international healthcare companies makes expansion into the United States far smoother. The Global Innovators Launch Pad allows for startup founders to take part in a 10-week residency at the TMC Innovation Factory that will teach them about foundational infrastructure, clinical evidence and funding in the US.
Continue reading this story on our sister site InnovationMap.