Press Picks

The Keeper Joe Brewster, a native of south-central L.A., hatched the plot for this, his feature-film debut, while working as a psychiatrist at the Brooklyn House of Detention. Giancarlo Esposito (Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues) stars as a corrections officer at a similar New York facility who's torn between his career, his cultural heritage, his commitment to his marriage (Texas-born Regina Taylor portrays his wife) and his concern for a young Haitian immigrant imprisoned on a rape charge (Isaach De Bankole). The 1996 film has its Houston premiere with screenings at 7:30 tonight and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. More info: 639-7515. $5; $4 for students.

february 21
Liz Lerman Dance Exchange The Exchange, founded in Washington, D.C., in 1976, has become a staple on the movement circuit. Lerman's works, she says, are "about people dancing, not dancers dancing"; similarly, the subjects the choreographer tackles tend to be grassroots in nature. Aside from her community-outreach projects, Lerman's probably best known for her rare ability to transmute the mundane into the sublime; one of her more appealing pieces deals with shopping for pantyhose. The troupe's current tour features an all-Lerman program: "Fresh Blood" (1996; music by Steve Elson), "Nocturnes" (1996; Willie Nelson), "Flying into the Middle" (1995; Tchaikovsky) and the premiere of "untitled." 8 p.m. The Cullen Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. Tix: Houston Ticket Center (227-ARTS); Ticketmaster (629-3700).

Almodovar Film Festival Held in conjunction with the recent release of Live Flesh, the latest work by the bawdy and bodacious Spanish director, the fest features the Pedro classics Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), Kika (1993) and High Heels (1991). The series continues each Saturday through March 7. Tie Me Up! and Women on the Verge screen this week in separate theaters; each starts at midnight. Landmark River Oaks 3, 2009 West Gray, 524-2175. $6.75.

African-American Music Gala Duke Ellington's "Third Sacred Service" and excerpts from R. Nathaniel Dett's oratorio "The Ordering of Moses" are the program highlights at this annual choral concert. Also planned: various traditional spirituals featuring contemporary arrangements by Roland Carter, Moses Hogan and others. Carter conducts the Houston Ebony Opera Guild. 7 tonight; 4 p.m. Sunday. Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas. Info: 529-7664. $15.

february 22
Christopher Kalil Memorial Lecture, featuring Joel-Peter Witkin Brooklyn-born Witkin is one of the outlaws of contemporary art. The Tod Browning of still photography, Witkin inhabits (some would say litters) his often troubling tableaux with fetishistic aberrations and twisted allusions, hunchbacks and hermaphrodites, creepy corpses and severed heads, French-kissing cadavers and religious blasphemes by the score. All in the name of art and redemption, of course. "I measure history by our capacity to wound -- and hope," he says. Witkin says a lot more in a rare public address titled "Between Travesty and Transfiguration," the inaugural lecture in the Kalil series, dedicated to the memory of the late, Witkin-inspired Sam Houston State University photography student who was killed in 1996 by a driver under the influence of drugs. 2 p.m.; a reception follows. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. More info: 639-7500. Free.

Fifth Ward The how-lo-fi-can-you-go feature debut by 30-year-old environmental engineer Greg Carter received warranted kudos when it screened recently as part of the "Local Spin: Independent Houston Filmmakers" series. Proving that production values aren't the whole story, Fifth Ward tells a credible, unpredictable tale of a promising kid (Kory Washington) walking a razor's edge in Houston's notorious 'hood. In conjunction with Black History Month, the movie plays at 5 and 7 p.m. (More showings are slated for the same times March 1.) Rice Media Center, Rice University entrance 8 (off University Boulevard), 527-4853. $5; $4 for students and seniors.

february 24
Buto-Sha Tenkei (Heavenly Chickens) Viewers of the Winter Olympics in Nagano were spoon-fed a steady diet of well-scrubbed images of traditionalist Japan by the family-friendly CBS network. Presenting a polar view of the Land of the Rising Sun, Mutsuko Tanaka and Ebisu Torii's extremist performance troupe (Fowl from Hell would be more appropriate) is making America pay through the nose for Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Occupation with its inaugural tour of the States. An offshoot of Tatsumi Hijikata's postwar ankoku buto ("dance of darkness") -- an avant-garde movement, now commonly referred to as butoh, which simultaneously built bridges to more conventional Japanese art forms and torched the spans down to their timbers -- Buto-Sha Tenkei specializes in performances of a "physically intense style verging on the blood-curdling." The latter's an apt term; to our admittedly challenged senses, Heavenly Chickens calls to mind an image of literate vampires, well-roasted over a nuclear spit, mating vigorously. Yikes. Whee. 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. $20; $17 for students, seniors and DiverseWorks members (tix: 228-0914).

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo And while we're on the subject of dance with a difference, these tutu-clad dudes -- actually from New York, and known as the Trocks to their fans -- are parodists supreme, deconstructing repertory staples and stylistic "conceits" from the Bolshoi to Balanchine, but with great affection. Here, in a nutshell, is the mission statement du Trock: "The fact that men dance all the parts -- heavy bodies delicately balancing on toes as swans, sylphs, water sprites, romantic princesses, angst-ridden Victorian ladies -- enhances rather than mocks the spirit of dance as an art form." The works scheduled to receive the Trock treatment this time around include act two of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Vivaldi Suite, Fokine's adaptation of Saint-Saëns' The Dying Swan and Minkus's Paquita. 8 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-3974. Tix: Houston Ticket Center (227-ARTS); Ticketmaster (629-3700).

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