Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Napoleon Bonaparte is a historical figure who has a mythic feel thanks to the many retellings of his life, and because he has a complex named after him that gets brought up any time a short person comes to power. Still, if a full retelling of Napoleon’s personal life and time as the leader of France exists on film, it’s been a long time since anyone attempted it.

Director Ridley Scott has taken on that challenge with Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the late 18th/early 19th century military commander. It follows him through most of his adult life, from his rise amid the French Revolution, to establishing himself as a brilliant military tactician, to attaining the position of Emperor following a coup d’etat, each of which was due in large part to the many battles in which he fought and won across Europe.

The film pays equal attention to his relationship with Josephine de Beauharnais (Vanessa Kirby), although calling it a romance would be inaccurate. The film portrays his interest in her as far outweighing hers in him, with Napoleon constantly trying to check in on Josephine from afar while she continues her pre-marriage ways of jumping into bed with whomever she pleases.

Scott, working from a script by David Scarpa, has made an epic-sized movie that is strangely uninteresting. Perhaps it’s a result of trying to cover so many aspects of Napoleon’s life, but little of the film is comprehensible for anyone who doesn’t have a strong knowledge of his biography. The intricacies of the French political system and the various warring countries in Europe at the time all blend together in the film, with the only thing that’s clear is that Napoleon managed to find a way to involve himself in all of it.

What does make an impact are the efforts he would personally go to in order to ensure that he had a tactical advantage over his opponents. There are several examples of him scouting an enemy’s position to formulate a plan, and then see that plan go exactly like he predicted, which makes his influence and rise to power all the more understandable.

That is juxtaposed with his ineptitude with Josephine. It’s here that his feelings of inadequacy truly start to show, as he desperately tries to prove himself to a mostly disinterested Josephine. But Scott and Scarpa never find a great way to evolve the interactions between the couple, and so most of the time spent with them is tedious to the point of boredom.

Phoenix has put in some great performances over the years, but this is not one of them. He’s not actively bad in the role, but he just doesn’t seem to be a great fit for it. Kirby, initially given a god-awful wig to wear, has some nice moments, but nothing compared to her parts in Mission: Impossible or Pieces of a Woman. All of the supporting characters are just that, with no one standing out save for maybe Rupert Everett in a few scenes as Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.

History buffs may relish the chance to have Napoleon’s many exploits given a big screen extravaganza, but they may be the only ones who are able to track his progress to power in Scott’s version of events. The film is epic in scale, but it’s also lackluster in its execution.


Napoleon is now playing in theaters.

Joaquin Phoenix in Napoleon

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Joaquin Phoenix in Napoleon.

Photo courtesy of Hope Stone Dance and the Moody Center for the Arts

Hope Stone Dance and the Moody Center for the Arts present horse latitudes

Hope Stone Dance presents its final performance, horse latitudes, a work that explores how and whether we can collectively heal over time. horse latitudes is a 30-minute film choreographed and directed by Jane Weiner, Artistic Director of Hope Stone Dance, and created with Director of Photography Ben Doyle of BEND Productions, composer Ran Bagno, editor Ari Feldman, and the nine company dancers featured in the film.

The term “horse latitudes” are the regions 30 degrees north and south of the Equator, high pressure areas of calm winds. The legend around the phrase comes from ships sailing to the New World that would stall for weeks where crews, unable to sail, would throw horses they were transporting overboard to conserve water.

Photo courtesy of Candlelight

Fever presents Candlelight: The Best of Bollywood on Strings

Candlelight concerts bring the magic of a live, multi-sensory musical experience to locations like never seen before in Houston. This event will feature the music of Bollywood films as performed by DIVISI’s Amp’d String Quartet.

Photo courtesy of Candlelight

Fever presents Candlelight: The Best of Hans Zimmer

Candlelight concerts bring the magic of a live, multi-sensory musical experience to locations like never seen before in Houston. This event will feature the music of Hans Zimmer as performed by the Listeso String Quartet.

The program includes selections from Inception, The Lion King, Dunkirk, The Dark Knight, Gladiator, and more.

Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Jealousy, intrigue, and weirdness make Saltburn an eat-the-rich hoot

Movie Review

Writer/director Emerald Fennell made her feature film debut with the provocatively great 2020 film, Promising Young Woman, which saw its protagonist single-handedly – and, perhaps, foolishly – taking on male sexual predators. Her follow-up, Saltburn, has another protagonist with a one-track mind, this time a young man obsessing about joining upper-crust English society.

Barry Keoghan in Saltburn

Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Barry Keoghan in Saltburn.

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is a student at Oxford University who longs to be part of the popular crowd, especially the group led by Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who has everyone he meets fawning over him. Through a few chance meetings, Oliver does manage to endear himself to Felix, who invites him to spend the summer with him and his family at their estate called Saltburn.

There, Oliver is able to participate in the seemingly carefree revelry enjoyed by Felix and his family, including mother Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), father Sir James (Richard E. Grant), and sister Venetia (Allison Oliver). With hangers-on like fellow school friend Farleigh (Archie Madekwe) and Elspeth's friend Pamela (Carey Mulligan) along for the ride, Oliver discovers exactly how the filthy rich live, slowly but surely insinuating himself into each of their lives.

Films set on ornate British estates tend to be stuffy period pieces, so Fennell’s story is initially a breath of fresh air, telling a more modern version that’s full of life. Colors pop from every shot, especially the film’s many party scenes (and their aftermath). The sequences are the definition of excess, but deliciously so, as Fennell also fills them with hilarious dialogue that highlights the privilege of rich people who’ve never known a day of need in their whole life.

The strength of Oliver’s desire to join their ranks shifts constantly in the film, at first subtly and then in huge jumps. Fennell appears to have taken inspiration from The Talented Mr. Ripley, both in the haves vs. the have-nots aspect of the story, and in the fluctuating sexuality of Oliver. If it helps him get closer to his goal, Oliver has no trouble playing both sides of the fence, as it were, and in increasingly bizarre ways.

Just as she did in Promising Young Woman, Fennell makes certain storytelling choices that may not sit well with all viewers. The third act has more than a few of these, especially the culmination of the story, and while those decisions don’t always work, the fact that she went for them at all is deserving of some credit. Too many filmmakers try to play it safe, and it's much better to have someone try and fail than not try at all.

Keoghan has an innocent look to him that belies the intensity he can bring, which makes him ideal for a role like this. He’s up for whatever Fennell throws at him, which is quite a lot, and he succeeds even if the scenes don’t always work. Elordi plays a spoiled-but-empathetic rich kid well, and Grant, Pike, Oliver, and Madekwe give equally interesting performances. Mulligan has a short but funny role in which she plays against type.

While not as good as Promising Young Woman, Saltburn demonstrates that Fennell is still a filmmaker to watch. Her ideas are off-kilter enough to give her a distinctive voice, and she deserves to be given many more opportunities to bring her perspective to the big screen.


Saltburn is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Jason McDonald/Netflix

Houston Chamber Choir presents Maestro

Houston Chamber Choir will present a special screening of the Bradley Cooper biographical drama Maestro, about Leonard Bernstein, with a guest appearance by Jamie Bernstein, Leonard’s daughter.

The event begins with a brief talk by Ms. Bernstein at 6:45 pm, followed by the 7 pm movie screening. By purchasing a ticket, guests will be entitled to a drink ticket for a specialty cocktail, one entrée, unlimited popcorn and soft drinks, and a box of candy. Following the movie, audience members are invited to a Q&A session with Ms. Bernstein from 9:15-10 pm.

The film chronicles the complicated lifelong relationship between music legend Leonard Bernstein (Cooper) and wife, Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan). The film is in limited release in theaters; it will debut on Netflix on December 20.

This is a fundraising event for Houston Chamber Choir.

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Provocative, awe-inspiring Kehinde Wiley MFAH showcase remains this season's must-see exhibit

the new masters

Houston art lovers who haven’t yet attended the Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston are missing out on a showcase of jaw-dropping art.

The recently opened exhibit is an awe-inspiring collection of paintings and sculptures from the Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based artist of color, best known for creating a majestically leafy portrait of former President Barack Obama. Locals will remember that the MFAH was one of the rare museums to showcase the works — starting with a free opening weekend that became a city celebration.

While “An Archaeology of Solace” premiered earlier this year at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the MFAH is actually the first stop on its tour. Located in the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the exhibit is an overwhelming experience of Black power.

And it’s a power shift. While Wiley’s large-scale paintings and sculptures call to mind the heroes, martyrs, and saints of Western European historical art, they are unmistakably Black and brown subjects who suffer under “the specter of police violence and state control over the bodies of young Black and Brown people all over the world,” Wiley notes in an artist statement.

Thus, the rooms are all Black, as the gigantic oil-on-canvas paintings (a couple are practically the size of billboards) of laid-out Black bodies – usually rocking streetwear gear – are brightly spotlighted. Many of these works were inspired by historical pieces, mainly German artist Hans Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb.

Kehinde Wiley, Young Tarentine I (Babacar Man\u00e9), 2022Wiley's Young Tarentine I (Babacar Mané), 2022. Image via Museum of Fine Arts Houston / © 2022 Kehinde Wiley

The bronze sculptures are equally grand and striking. The most impressive one is the titular statue, a reworking of his 2019 sculpture Rumors of War. While the Rumors sculpture depicts an upright Black rider on a general’s horse, this sculpture features a fallen figure atop a horse.

Kehinde Wiley \u200bThe titular, An Archaeology of Silence (2021) harks to the 2019 sculpture Rumors of War. Image via Museum of Fine Arts Houston / © 2022 Kehinde Wiley

Both sculptures are based on a monument to Confederate army General James Ewell Brown Stuart, which was removed and placed into storage in the wake of the 2020 George Floyd murder.

This entire exhibit was inspired by the worldwide outrage that transpired after Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Wiley himself explains the inspiration for the exhibit via the audio guide given to visitors:

The birth of the show starts as the world shuts down. As we see George Floyd slain in the streets of America, I get to work. I start thinking not only about this explosive moment that triggers the whole world into thinking about Black bodies in a different way, But I start thinking about imaging of bodies slain historically.

Fans of the artist can look forward to Kehinde Wiley merch upstairs in the gift shop. An obligatory exhibition catalog is for sale, as well as hoodies, umbrellas, bookbags, playing cards, coloring books, and more. Proceeds will go to the Black Rock Coalition, a New York-based artists’ collective.


“Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Solace” will be on display at the Audrey Jones Beck Building of the MFAH (5601 Main St.). For exhibition schedule, tickets, and more, visit the MFAH online.

Kehinde Wiley, The Death of Hyacinth (Ndey Buri Mboup), 2022, oil on canvas

Image via Museum of Fine Arts Houston / © 2022 Kehinde Wiley / courtesy of Galerie Templon

Wiley's The Death of Hyacinth (Ndey Buri Mboup), 2022.

Romantic River Oaks mansion boasting coveted neighborhood rarity lists for $11.5M

Where rustic and elegant meet

It's hard to come up with a more iconic River Oaks street than Chevy Chase Drive. It winds from Kirby to Willowick, meandering through the very heart of River Oaks, passing by beautifully maintained homes and the quiet Sleepy Hollow Park.

And on this iconic street, just a block or two away from that quiet park is 3244 Chevy Chase, a romantic, impeccably designed manor home that's listed at $11.5 million, represented by Ruthie Porterfield of Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty.

The manse was designed Elby Martin, AIA, in the tradition of Addison Mizner, known for his Mediterranean Revival and Spanish style, and built in 2006. It is formerly owned by Paul Gerrit Van Wagenen, noted oilman, attorney, missionary, soldier, and family man, who passed away earlier this year.

Unfolding across more than 13,000 square feet, 3244 Chevy Chase sits on more than half an acre. Inviting, yet secluded, rustic, but elegant, it offers everything a modern homebuyer needs.

Notably, it boasts a rarity in River Oaks, according to Porterfield. A large, downstairs primary bedroom, nearly unheard of in most River Oaks properties, with two primary bathrooms and closets.

A barrel-ceiling foyer welcomes guests. Gorgeous wood detailing is found throughout, with carved doors and exposed beam ceilings. Windows flood the home with light, and exceptional views of the courtyard and grounds abound. There's a cozy gathering space off the kitchen with built-in shelves sure to are a conversation piece, as is the iron chandelier.

Cedar lines the closet in the primary suite, which also boasts two opulent full bathrooms. The kitchen is a gathering space, and offers home cooks Wolf, Thermador, and SubZero appliances.

3244 Chevy Chase Drive

Patrick Bertolino for Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty

3244 Chevy Chase Drive

Outside, find sprawling loggias, a summer kitchen, indoor pool with spa, and a side yard with a stone fountain. There's also a flex area that is perfect for anything its owners might imagine, from play spaces to a putting green.

3244 Chevy Chase is unmatched in its ability to be both a space for entertaining and a cozy, lived-in home. All the bedrooms are en-suite. There are ample gathering spaces, from formal living room to the den and the media room. Ideal for a growing family and cornerstone estate, this is a place ready for new memories to be made and new traditions to begin.

Cozy neighborhood restaurant from Common Bond team opens doors on Heights' 11th Street

take me back

The Heights is home is to a new restaurant with an eclectic menu and a welcoming atmosphere. 1891 American Eatery & Bar is now open for dinner daily.

1891 American Eatery food spread

Photo by Andrew Hemingway

Entree options include steaks, salads, and a fried poblano pepper.

Located in the former Berryhill space at at 702 E. 11th St., 1891 comes from Garza Management, the restaurant group behind El Bolillo and Common Bond. Named for the year the Heights was founded, its operating partners include Common Bond director of operations Brad Serey and executive chef Jason Gould. Diners may recognize Gould from his time with legendary Montrose restaurant Gravitas, a modern bistro that operated in the aughts in the space that’s currently home to Bludorn. His resume also includes a lengthy stint with Tex-Mex favorite Cyclone Anaya’s.

“The building itself has been a mainstay in the neighborhood and we wanted to breathe life into it with an everyday, neighborhood bar and restaurant for the Heights community to enjoy,” Gould said in a statement. “We wanted to create something that was the essence of the Heights and that is community. This restaurant welcomes everyone from families with children, to couples on date night, or friends out on the town, and that is what we wanted to accomplish.”

Gould worked with chef de cuisine Gerardo Mendoza to develop 1891’s all-day menu, which caters to a wide range of tastes. Diners will find shareable bar snacks such as crab fritters, Korean BBQ fried cauliflower, a daily crudo, and hot honey pork ribs. An extensive selection of sandwiches and smash burgers include a BLT, grilled cheese, the “Classic Cheeseburger,” and a mushroom burger topped with a grilled portobello, goat cheese, provolone, and red onion jam. Entree options include salads as well as center of plate items like pastrami braised short ribs, confit duck legs, and a flat iron steak with a twice baked potato and green beans.

The family friendly atmosphere includes a kids menu that features choices such as popcorn chicken, popcorn shrimp, a pepperoni pizzette, and a petite steak and fries. Children of all ages will want to save room for desserts such as bananas foster croissant bread pudding, key lime cheesecake bar, and molten chocolate cake.

In keeping with the “& Bar” aspect of the restaurant’s name, the beverage options include eight beer taps. Cocktail choices start with margarita and mimosa flights as well as seasonal takes on classics like the Old Fashioned and Moscow Mule. A tidy list of wines by-the-glass and bottle rounds out the options.

Currently, the restaurant is open for lunch during the week and dinner night, staying open until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Weekend brunch service will begin in mid-December.