Top Five Things to Do This Weekend: Hayes Carll, Django, Seeking Asian Female and More
Think of Hayes Carll's Burlesque Circus and Sideshow Freakout, our pick for Friday, as a pre-pre-New Year's Eve party. Singer-songwriter Carll, a rising country star from The Woodlands, will be joined onstage by Craig Kinsey, as well as a line of classy yet tawdry females for your ogling pleasure. The girls will bump, grind, shake, shimmy and otherwise make pleasant gyrations to Carll's solid honky-tonk backing. Partygoers are encouraged to attend in costumes and compete for prizes for the freakiest, sexiest or classiest look (yeah, that's the one we're going for, classiest). It promises to be a raucous night of pulse-pounding music from a couple of our best local singer-songwriters.
The fun starts at 8 p.m. on December 28 at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. For information, visit the House of Blues website or call 832‑667‑7733. $22.50 to $35.
Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino's latest release, Django Unchained, might do for spaghetti westerns what his Kill Bill series did for samurai movies -- that is, revive interest in them among a new generation of movie viewers. His hyper-violent western starring Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio was inspired in part by Italian director Sergio Corbucci's 1966 Django, which is showing on Friday and Saturday at River Oaks Theatre. Considered one of the great originals of the genre, Django remains one of the most influential and driving westerns ever made. Corbucci raised the bar forever on the level of acceptable violence in movies by upping the body count and featuring maiming and mutilations. At the time of its release, Django was actually banned in several countries (including Sweden) and heavily censored in others. A brutal antihero on a noble quest who has become the law unto himself, Django is out to murder the man who killed his wife but is drawn into battles with Mexican bandits and a high-stakes robbery along the way. Franco Nero plays the title character as an honorable man in an honorless world. A bit of movie trivia: Nero has a cameo in Tarantino's Django Unchained (look for him in one of the bar scenes).
Catch the original Django at 11:55 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Landmark River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray. For information, visit the theater's website or call 713‑866-8881. $10.
Chinese-American director Debbie Lum broke the first rule of documentary filmmaking; she became an actor in her own film, Seeking Asian Female, screening on Saturday and Sunday at 14 Pews. Lum's feature debut tackles the incendiary topic of yellow fever -- that is, some white men's obsession with marrying Asian women. Lum spent five years chasing her subjects, Steven Bolstad, a man anxious to have an Asian wife, and Jianhua "Sandy" Bolstad, the woman he eventually married. Steven, in his sixties, was twice divorced and working as a garage attendant in San Francisco when he began to search for a wife online. He found Sandy. In her thirties, she had grown up on a tea farm in China and was working as an executive secretary in a large city when she met Steven over the Internet.
Lum documents his search, the pair's online courtship, her arrival in America and their bumpy start as husband and wife. Actually, it was a very bumpy start. Bolstad was expecting a submissive, compliant wife; he got an opinionated, self-reliant, stubborn woman who quickly began to complain about his messy ways, cramped apartment and apparent continued communication with his former "girlfriends" (some of the hundreds of women he wrote to during his search). At one point, Sandy warns a smiling but oblivious Steven, "If you deceive me one time, I'll cut off [one of your fingers]. If you deceive me two times, I'll cut off a toe. A third time, I'll dig out your eye." Unable to understand anything she's saying, Steven says, laughing, "I wish I knew what that was...it sounds funny." As she filmed, Lum found her role changing from neutral observer to translator, friend and eventually marriage counselor. Along the way, Steven, Sandy and Lum had their preconceptions about each other challenged and eventually destroyed. The film made its world premiere at SXSW earlier this year.
See this different kind of love story at 7 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. 14 Pews, 800 Aurora. For information, visit the 14 Pews website or call 281-888-9677. Free to $11.
Though probably best known for his role as Pops in the 1990s show The Wayans Brothers, John Witherspoon has been performing often hilariously profane standup since the 1970s. (One of the young comics he befriended in those days, the now famous David Letterman, is godfather to Witherspoon's kids.) Witherspoon, performing in Houston on Sunday embraces newer technology, like his low-budget Internet series Cooking for Poor People, which he hosts from a run-down, tiny kitchen. "If drinking a glass of wine gives you good health, what about ten?" he ponders -- while drinking -- in an episode where he makes chicken feet and rice. "This is a good, cheap-ass dinner," he proclaims. Why isn't this man on the Food Network?
Witherspoon's Houston stint includes performances at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Monday. Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, visit the Improv's website or call 713-333-8800. $25 to $70.
We've had The Santaland Diaries in this column before, but the show closes on Sunday and, according to the Alley Theatre, won't be back next year so we suggest you catch it while you can. Popular humorist David Sedaris once worked as a Christmas elf at Macy's in Manhattan, and the world of comedy has not been the same since. His insightful eye saw the seasonal Santa handle the demanding customers from an insider's perspective and yielded The Santaland Diaries. In a one-man tour de force, veteran Alley performer Todd Waite returns to his role as Crumpet the Elf — he must be the tallest elf in Christendom — to regale us again with the trials and tribulations of employment as one of Santa's helpers. Waite is a master of the fixed stare of consternation and the double take of disbelief at the horrors beneath the white cotton snow. This is a comedy for mature audiences. The play was adapted by Joe Mantello from the original comedic essay by Sedaris and is directed here by David Cromer, who keeps the pace dynamic and the humor flowing.
6 and 9 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Through December 30. The Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, visit the theater's website or call 713-220-5700. $29 to $39.
Jef with One F, Bob Ruggiero and Jim J. Tommaney contributed to this post.
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