2015 Oscars Recap: Hate Watch Edition

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Photo courtesy of ABC
Still pissed about Boyhood.
Nobody likes the Oscars.

Maybe that's too broad an indictment, but if your only sources of feedback on the 87th Academy Awards were social media and blogs, it's easy to get that impression. 36.6 million people watched the ceremony last Sunday (down 18 percent from last year), and apparently every one of them resented the experience.

But even for a TV viewing population as bitchy as ours, the vitriol aimed at this year's ceremony (and its smirking host, Neil Patrick Harris) seemed a little excessive. There were plenty of legitimate reasons to complain: a painfully white group of nominees, another near three-and-a-half hour running time, no streakers; but it's the other stuff I'd like to take a closer look at.

Oh, and in case anyone cares, I went six for nine on my Oscar predictions. Curse you, Big Hero 6!


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Birdman, Boyhood or Budapest? Predicting the 87th Academy Awards

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Photo by Alison Rosa
Norton was nominated solely for his choice of underwear.

Oscar days are here again
That most pompous time of year again
So, let's get 'faced on all our beer again
Oscar days are here again.

The 87th Academy Awards will be handed out this Sunday. In between Neil Patrick Harris rendering the plot of American Sniper through interpretive dance and attempting to exorcise the unquiet spirit of Seth MacFarlane from the Dolby Theater once and for all, some major awards will be distributed.

As I have every year since I can remember, I'll be watching as well. My experience hasn't transitioned to full-on hate watch mode yet, but there has been a noticeable uptick in my drinking during the broadcast over the last decade. And having long ago discarded any illusions about the artistic merit of this (or any other) awards show, I now pay attention mostly for gentlemanly wagering purposes.

To that end, here are my (for entertainment purposes only) picks for the 2015 Oscars. I also put the odds on an Amal Clooney red carpet eyeroll at 13/5.

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Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet Brings Authentic Italian Design to Houston

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Courtesy of Roberta Guidi di Bagno
Sketch of Juliet
For the past year and a half, world-renowned Italian costume and scenic designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno has worked to design the sets and costumes for the first new production for Houston Ballet in 28 years -- Artistic Director Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet.

Guidi di Bagno and Welch met in 1998 while working on his commission of ├śnsket for the Royal Danish Ballet. When it came time to look for a designer, that's who Welch reached out to in his search for authenticity in the classic tale of young lovers doomed by a family feud, a story set in Renaissance-era Verona, Italy,

"After speaking with Stanton, I looked at paintings from the Old Italian Masters of the 1400s," Guidi di Bagno says. "I took inspiration from those real representations of the time period and then I washed a surface away in my mind and added my own interpretation."

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Move, Breathe, Learn at the Sixth Annual Texas Yoga Conference, February 20-22

Categories: Special Events

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Thinkstock

All six of the Texas Yoga Conferences that Jenny Buergermeister has organized have been hosted in a different location, but this year she thinks they've finally found a home at the new ISKON Hare Krishna Houston temple in Oak Forest. "One of the benefits of moving around was to connect and show unity with each location," said Buergermeister. "When we were at the George R. Brown people were like, "Wow! You've really made it now!" but now we want to get traction; to plant a seed, and let it grow."

As always, the Texas Yoga Conference features an impressive lineup of instructors from around the state, and around the country. Yoga enthusiasts will recognize names like Robert Boustany, Dana Damara, and local Forrest Yoga rockstar Catherine Allen--and these are just a few of the dozens of teachers who will lead three days of classes and workshops on February 20-22.


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Making a Case for Kwanzaa

Categories: Special Events

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Soul Christmas on Flickr
Here are the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

There's been a kind of death watch for Kwanzaa, mostly coming from right-wing media circles and just plain ignorant people over the past few years. And those right-wing pundits be damned about the growing inclusivity of the holiday. Yes, white people are more than welcome to celebrate. At least that was the message given at a Kwanzaa celebration in the Third Ward last week.

Estimates from the National Retail Federation say that close to 5 million people in the U.S. celebrate Kwanzaa. That's about 1.6 percent compared with the close to 95 percent who celebrate Christmas, or the 6 percent who celebrate Hanukkah.

So, is Kwanzaa a growing holiday that we need to recognize?

Put the word into the Twitter search field and you'll see plenty of support for the holiday. If you take social media's word for it, Kwanzaa celebrations are probably growing.


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[Video] Touring the Lights of Houston With the Rusty Riders

Categories: Special Events

One of the benefits of the Houston Christmas season that often goes overlooked is the fact that going outside is still pretty pleasant without having to put on inordinate layers of clothing. True, we may all dream of a white Christmas, but Houston doesn't exactly deal with cold weather or rainy driving well and an actual white Christmas just sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Plus, milder weather means that we can still ride our bikes in December without worrying about serious injury from the elements; this is good because things are dangerous enough as it is with the other vehicles on the road. Try riding your bike to work in, for example, Green Bay; sure you might not get run over, but you're way more likely to lose a digit to frostbite.

If you're the type that enjoys biking and Christmas lights, this can be a magical time of year. Why waste gas and argue over whether or not to listen to Christmas mix you keep forgetting to update when you can hit the streets on your bike, see some cool lights and get a bit of exercise.

And if you're riding with the Rusty Riders, that may also include making some new friends.

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Holiday Day Camps for Kids in Houston

Categories: Special Events

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Courtesy of the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Cool Critters Winter Camp at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center becomes a giant, outdoor classroom for the Cool Critters Winter Camp. Kids seven to 12 years old have half-day and full-day camp options. Activities include nature hikes and tours, animal encounters, plant identification, classroom instruction, arts, crafts and games.

Cool Critters Winter Camp runs 9 a.m. to noon and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on December 29, 30 and 31. Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, 4501 Woodway Drive. For information, call 713-681-8433 or visit houstonarboretum.org. $115 to $205.

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Santa on the Cheap: Where to Find Holiday Entertainment in Houston You Can Afford

Categories: Special Events

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Thinkstock/kirill4mula

It's beginning to cost a lot like Christmas

Add up gifts for your family and friends, wrapping paper, bows, a turkey dinner, cupcakes for your kids' classmates, stocking stuffers for co-workers, a Christmas tree, Christmas tree ornaments and tinsel, lights for the house, throw in an inflatable Santa for the front yard, and suddenly the reason for the season seems to be a not-so-covert plan to part you from all of your money.

And that's not counting the tickets to holiday shows and movies that are everywhere. We can't help you with the gifts or inflatable Santa, but we can help you find some low cost entertainment.


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Be Better Dressed Than the Turkey This Thanksgiving: Ten Outfits for Dinner

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Photos courtesy of Frances Brundage
If cartoon children are better dressed for Thanksgiving than you are, go shopping.
Unless you are glamping in Big Bend for Thanksgiving, you will probably need something fancy to wear to dinner next Thursday. Dudes have it kind of easy--a flick of the button and the pants are loose, and ready to accommodate another heaping helping of turkey and stuffing.

For the ladies, lookin' glam and dressing for a daylong feast can be more of a challenge--and some of us are just not sweatpants-at-Thanksgiving kind of gals. You can dress for dinner--and go in for a second plate--with one of these ten adorable Thanksgiving looks.


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Houston Cinema Arts Festival Brings in Julie Taymor and James Ivory

Categories: Special Events

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Photo courtesy of Julie Taymor
A scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream
The sixth annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival will start this year's festivities with a screening of Julie Taymor's A Midsummer Night's Dream complete with The Lion King (Broadway version) creator herself.

Another highpoint will be director James Ivory (known for A Room With a View, Howard's End and The Remains of the Day) here to present this most recent film City of Your Final Destination (2009) as well as Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990) and The Remains of the Day (1993).He'll also be receiving the Levantine Awards from Levantine Films, previously awarded to Isabella Rossellini, Ethan Hawke, Robert Redford and Richard Linklater.

Academy Award contenders Wild and The Imitation Game will be shown during the November 12-16 festival that is being done once again to celebrate artists in the visual, performing and literary arts.

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