Susan Sontag wasn't only a critic of American culture -- she was also a longtime Japanese film groupie. Now, in tribute to Sontag, who died in December of last year, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will screen a film series she compiled, "Critic's Choice: Susan Sontag on Japanese Film." The series opens with a film by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, the iconic director who directly influenced American filmmakers like Sam Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino. Don't miss Kurosawa's 1963 black-and-white flick High and Low (Friday, March 4), a kidnap thriller with a film-noir-meets-James Bond feel. Other highlights include 1939's The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (March 25), a poignant love story set inside the world of traditional Kabuki theater, and 1961's Pigs and Battleships (March 11), a black comedy that deals with the American military presence in Japan after World War II. The series opens Friday, March 4, and continues weekends through April 8. Brown Auditorium Theater, 1001 Bissonnet. For tickets, information and showtimes, call 713-639-7771 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6. –- Greg Barr
A Little Heavy Reading
The bookish can flock to the Maltese Falcon marathon
Attending a marathon reading isn't for the easily bored, which is why they're tailor-made for geeks. Fans of crime fiction will swoon in ecstasy this Sunday as volunteer readers take turns reciting ten to 12 minutes of Dashiell Hammett's 1930 murder mystery The Maltese Falcon, about a detective, his lying client and a falcon statue. To make it interesting, organizers have enlisted local personalities like KTRK news anchor Melanie Lawson and defense attorney Rusty Hardin to interpret the hard-boiled text, and the book's final chapter will be rendered "live" by actors from Main Street Theater. Apparently, The Maltese Falcon takes about five hours to read out loud, but don't feel chained to your chair. Go pee, get some refreshments, come and go at your leisure. The event celebrates the 30th anniversary of Brazos Bookstore, the 25th anniversary of Murder By The Book and the 75th anniversary of The Maltese Falcon. 5 p.m. Sunday, March 6. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit www.brazosbookstore.com. Free. –- Troy Schulze
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Here's the Beef
We're not three minutes into our journey to the state's greatest mecca of meat, and already my spirits -- and clothes -- are damp. My friends and I have trudged through biting wind and a mile of parking lot for the final day of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's annual World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest at Reliant Park. We're stuck under a tent with a sad little plate of coleslaw, beans and a sandwich of the school-cafeteria variety. Thanks a lot, rodeo. Where the hell's the beef?
But when a jolly man named Moses (clearly a sign from above) agrees to take us to the Promised Land -- via a golf cart -- there's salvation. Soon we're visiting nearly every tent in the cookoff. The contest is like Mardi Gras: The general public is invited, but you've got to know people to get into the private parties. We hang with a guy from Crawford who gets a little Secret Service-ish when we ask him about his sauce. We share a laugh with Garry from Sealy who, to our delight, would win the recycling contest with his grill made from a Maytag washing machine. And we chow down on ribs and smoked chicken with the Goody Girls, last year's overall winners, at one of the most exclusive parties of the day. In the end, the Confederated Cookers take first place (evidently, the South will rise again) in Best Chicken, while the Kountry KooKers (see a pattern here?) make off with Best Brisket.
But I've fallen in love with the Holy Cow Cookers, whose tent features a full bar, a soundstage and a specialty coffee bar. Their pit area even has remote-control doors, a full kitchen, a shower, bunk beds and a plasma TV. Now this is a cookoff. Smelling like 180 pounds of smoked pork and watching satellite TV, I'm in hog heaven. –- Steven Devadanam
Note to Trekkies: William Shatner will not sign autographs this weekend at Sippora. But here's guessing he would like the art: Gallery owner Amy Meyers says Sippora's new exhibit, "Beam Me Up Scottie," is an attempt to "explore visions of other worlds, strange new futures and other sides of reality." We know going to Sippora isn't as cool as boarding the Starship Enterprise, but the show's trippy, cartoonish imagery, courtesy of colorful tableaux and fanciful sculpture, should be transporting enough. Preview the work of ten artists, including Harvey Bott, Amy Ferrari, Solomon Kane and Nicola Parente, at 6 p.m. Friday, March 4. Exhibit runs through March 26. 234 West Gray. For information, call 713-520-1085 or visit www.sippora.com. Free. -– Julia Ramey
Oh, sure, those stunning stallions at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo get to prance around as the stars in their own shows. But what about the glorious pig, that divine animal who gives us bacon, sausage and pork rinds? Celebrate the swine at the pig races, which begin every 45 minutes on the rodeo grounds. Five pigs with monikers like "Shaquille O' Squeal" or "Britney Spareribs" don racing vests and "sprint" a 150-foot track. The winning pig gets a cookie. You, we're guessing, will get hungry. 9:30 a.m. daily through March 20. Reliant Park, One Reliant Park. For tickets and information, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.rodeohouston.com. Free with general admission, which starts at $16. -– Steven Devadanam