Things To Do

Best Bets: Animated Shorts, Blaxploitation, and a Holiday Voyage

Apollo Chamber Players will take listeners on a Holiday Voyage this weekend.
Apollo Chamber Players will take listeners on a Holiday Voyage this weekend. Photo by Lynn Lane
From a Christmas market in the 17th century to a Blaxploitation film of the 1970s, this week’s best bets features a good mix of holiday fun at the Houston Symphony and Discovery Green, alongside just a little counterprogramming from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and DiverseWorks. Keep reading for the full list of this week’s best bets.

If you’re in the mood for a “wacky, satirical spectacle of chaos,” then make your way over to Discovery Green on Thursday, December 15, at 7 p.m. for a free screening of “ET’s late-spawning evil twin,” otherwise known as the 1984 film Gremlins. The film, about a teenager gifted an adorable mogwai that unfortunately spawns some “horrifying Mr. Hyde-type things called ‘gremlins’," will be shown as part of Bank of America’s Screen on the Green series. Back in 1984, Roger Ebert said that at “the level of Serious Film Criticism, it's a meditation on the myths in our movies: Christmas, families, monsters, retail stores, movies, boogeymen,” and at “the level of Pop Movie-going, it's a sophisticated, witty B movie, in which the monsters are devouring not only the defenseless town, but decades of defenseless clichés.”
On Thursday, December 15, at 7 p.m., the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will screen “the Big Bang of Black movies,” Shaft. The 1971 film, directed by Gordon Parks, finds private eye John Shaft (played by Richard Roundtree) caught between two rival gangs after he’s hired to save the daughter of a mob boss. Flash Gordon Parks will introduce the movie and join Peter Lucas for a post-screening discussion about Shaft’s soundtrack, an album that “stayed on the charts for more than a year” and won Isaac Hayes four Grammys and an Oscar for Best Original Song, making Hayes the first Black composer to win the award. Tickets to the one-night-only 35mm screening can be purchased here for $7 to $9. Shaft will be presented in conjunction with the MFAH’s exhibition “Gordon Parks: Stokely Carmichael and Black Power,” which will be on view through January 16, 2023.

This holiday season, Mercury Chamber Orchestra is not only transporting listeners to a 17th century Christmas market for their Neighborhood Series, they’re inviting them to join a little family affair as Mercury’s Artistic Director Antoine Plante welcomes both his father, Gilles Plante, and mother, Diane Plouffe-Plante for the program titled At the Christmas Market. Also on the program are four soloists from Mercury’s new vocal ensemble, The Mercury Singers. You can experience the concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 15, at The MATCH; 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 17, at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church; or at 6:30 or 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 17, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Tickets to a live concert can be purchased for $10 to $40. You can also buy virtual access to the program, which will premiere online on December 17, here for $20.

You can always count on the Houston Symphony for a dose of holiday cheer in the form of Very Merry Pops. This year, the Symphony, led by former Principal POPS Conductor Michael Krajewski, again welcomes the Houston Symphony Chorus and award-winning guest vocalist N’Kenge at 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 15, and Saturday, December 17, and at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 18, at Jones Hall for the annual program of holiday hits and standards. In addition to classics like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” along with brand new works added to the program, Krajewski recently told the Houston Press that what he’s “really looking forward to is that I have found a lot of new arrangements that are creative, unique sounding, and put a new twist on traditional carols and songs.” You can purchase in-hall tickets here for $32 to $160, or you can access Saturday’s livestream performance here for $20.
The 22nd Annual Animation Show of Shows returns after a two-year-long pandemic-forced break and brings with it 10 short films from around the world set to be screened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on Saturday, December 17, at 2 p.m. The ten selected films program include “decades-long mask enthusiastPatrick Smith’s Beyond Noh, a rhythmic sequence of masks, from ancient and cartoonish to the too-familiar N95; Maja Gehrig’s Average Happiness, seven-minutes of pie charts and scatter plots somehow unrestrained during a PowerPoint presentation; and a 4K restoration of Frederic Back's Academy Award-winner for Best Animated Short Film, 1987’s The Man Who Planted Trees. If you can’t make it Saturday, screenings are also scheduled for Sunday, December 18, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, December 22, at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $7 to $9.

Take a musical journey with the Apollo Chamber Players on Saturday, December 17, at 7 p.m. when they present their fifth annual Holiday Voyage at the First Congregational Church of Houston. The program includes “A Sephardic Chanukah” by Isabelle Ganz; “Mary Had a Baby, Yes, Lord” by John L. Cornelius; Apollo Chamber Players-commissioned works by Brian Raphael Nabors (Kwanzaa Suite for string quartet and tenor) and Adolphus Hailstork (Deep River: Rhapsody for String Quartet; and Jovino Santos Neto’s Suite Brasileira de Natal (Brazilian Christmas Suite), a collection of musical vignettes that Santos Neto added to in 2020 at the request of the Apollo Chamber Players. Admission to the concert is free, but donations are encouraged with all proceeds going to Healthcare for the Homeless-Houston.

Gulfton, located in southwest Houston, is an enclave to immigrants from Mexico and Latin America and at 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 17, and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 18, you can learn more about your neighbors during Little Central America, 1984. The performance piece, by writer-performers Elia Arce and Rubén Martínez, will explore the formation of “Little Central Americas” that developed across the United States by people displaced by civil war in Central America, specifically in Guatemala and El Salvador. Before the performance, which will be presented by DiverseWorks and Circuit Network at a Houston’s sanctuary, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, you can learn more about the establishment of Houston’s “Little Central America” here. Tickets are pay-what-you-wish, with a suggested price of $25, and can be reserved here.
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Natalie de la Garza is a contributing writer who adores all things pop culture and longs to know everything there is to know about the Houston arts and culture scene.