The Houston Palestine Film Festival focuses on cinema that fights against what organizers call "reductively politicized depictions." Festival organizers, including the two founders, Houston-based Palestinian-Americans Iman Saqr and Hadeel Assali, present a slate of complicated, often surprising films about their motherland. Dramas, comedies and documentaries are all part of the annual screenings, which are often accompanied by visiting actors and directors. But HPFF is more than just a once-a-year event. The festival recently partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to bring films with a Middle Eastern flavor to Houston year round. This summer, filmgoers saw Laila's Birthday, accompanied by a podcast interview with the director, and Amreeka, with director Cherien Davis in attendance.

Domy Books

Movie Nights at Domy Books are a varied affair. Films are screened as many as five nights a week and include classics (The Third Man), anime (Akira), horror (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) and even industrial shorts (The Steel Reef). There are even foreign-language gems (Lemonade Joe) and pop-culture standards (Space Is the Place). The strength of the series is its variety. Curated by a group of film buffs, arty types and well-meaning hipsters, each installment is unexpected and fresh. Selections range from the sophisticated, if somewhat snarky, to the outlandishly inane, to the riotously funny. Whatever your taste, Domy Books Movie Nights offers something you won't find anywhere else.

Montrose Mining Company

In the shadow of massive, irreverent South Beach and its sparkling, Christmas light-coated palm trees sits the unassuming entrance to the Montrose Mining Company. Inside, there are studly table-dancing cowboys to rival any club in the city, along with pool tables and a long, inviting bar. The chilled out, spacious patio out back makes this a prime spot for dates and conversation, as do the very reasonable drink prices and specials. The Mining Company caters to a mixed crowd — from older men in flannel shirts to hipsters and young professionals — that grooves to a decidedly more mature (but still fun-as-hell) beat than its more adolescent cousin across the street.

Oishii Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar

"Happy Hour," in this case, is a misnomer. It should be "Freakin' Ecstatic Hour." From 3-7 p.m. on weekdays and 3-6 p.m. on Saturdays, domestic beer is a mere $1.25, and imports (Asahi Dry, Kirin, Kirin Lite) are only 50 cents more. Or if you prefer alcohol of the rice variety, you can get a large hot sake for $3. Red and white wines are $4 — same with the awesome apps, which are buy one get one free. This includes edamame, tempura, sushi, fried pork dumplings, onion rings and French fries, among others. So what the hell are you doing still reading? Get over to Oishii and stuff your face while giving your wallet a healthy break.

Sheffield's Ice House

We've all been to West Alabama Icehouse and Jimmie's, and fine icehouses they are. But here we're suggesting one that harks back to the days of the fatally hard-drinking Eagle Pennell's cult 1983 movie Last Night at the Alamo. Sheffield's Ice House was founded in 1942 and has been standing guard on the same Telephone Road corner in the Golfcrest subdivision ever since. Inside, you'll find the usual icehouse staples — a jukebox stocked with plenty of country, blues and Southern and classic rock, a table piled high with potluck ribs and potato salad and such, and beer, lots and lots of ice cold beer.

Red Cat Jazz Cafe

Even if you don't know Miles Davis from Buddy Miles or John Coltrane from John Legend (or jazz fusion from fusion cooking, for that matter), there's something about being in a jazz club that automatically makes you feel more, well, sophisticated. The Red Cat Jazz Café, though, offers uptown sophistication with a down-home Southern twist and spacious brick-wall acoustics that ensure you never miss a (blue) note. Several of the Red Cat's resident artists — elder-statesman vocalist Ardis Turner and New Orleans native/Patti LaBelle duet partner Mary Griffin — play jazz that, like Houston itself, has been heavily infiltrated by blues, R&B and soul. And don't forget to eat — the Red Cat's Louisiana-flavored menu (pricey, but worth it) and full bar will fill your belly as satisfyingly as the music fills your ears.

Little Bigs

Owner Bryan Caswell is a fervent proponent of local music, and when he acquired a jukebox for his slider shack off Montrose, he set out to de-Journey the machine by adding in some of our city's best indie acts. From the spry indie-pop of Wild Moccasins to the wail of The Tontons, the jukebox is quickly amassing quite the 713-centric lineup. Caswell, who also helms the swanky Reef in Midtown, hasn't forgotten H-Town's roots, as you can still pump the machine with jingle and hear Townes Van Zandt and Lightnin' Hopkins while you lay to waste a basket of tiny burgers.

Like her protagonist Jessica in Houston, We Have a Problema, author Gwendolyn Zepeda grew up in Houston and works in insurance. But while Zepeda admits to being a little superstitious from time to time, Jessica has made superstition an art form. She often consults the plastic Virgin Mary that hangs from her rearview mirror and relies on a fortune-teller to advise her on everything from who to date to what job to take. That's actually not working out so well for her, though. Her love life consists of meaningless hookups with a man who ignores her in between booty calls, and her career has completely stalled. You don't have to be a fortune teller to see that she needs a good kick in the pants, and as Zepeda's plot unfolds, Jessica gets more than a few. Along with multilayered characters facing realistic problems, We Have a Problema features an accurate depiction of Houston. Anyone familiar with the Montrose area will recognize the neighborhood joints and landmarks.

Moviemaker Shawn Welling stumbled upon a fascinating group of "swamp men" during a bike ride on Bolivar Peninsula. Hunting for a public restroom, he stopped into Norbert's Bait Camp & Bar. (It was like stepping into the bar scene in Star Wars, he would later say.) Inside Norbert's, Welling met a group of men with varied pasts, some shadier than others, each more eccentric than the next (Back-up Bert, for example, drives all over the peninsula in reverse because it's the only gear that still works on his pickup). The next time he visited Norbert's, Welling brought a film crew with him and started the documentary about the bar's regular customers, The Messenger, 360 Days of Bolivar. He would save these lost, discarded men, Welling thought. He didn't know that the men were thinking the same thing about him. (Welling completed only 360 days of filming; the project was interrupted by a little storm called Hurricane Ike.)

We're not sure where Breakfast on Tour gets its travel budget, but we're a little jealous. The Houston-based music blog chronicles the cross-country travels of writers Eggs, Toast and Bacon, who don't miss too many music festivals — or much else. Recently, Breakfast readers have feasted on extensive reports, with lotsa photos and video, from Tennessee's Bonnaroo and Michigan's Rothbury festivals, but the site also contains much linkage and YouTubeage from whatever Eggs and Co. (somehow) managed to miss. Best of all, although Breakfast on Tour brings the world to Houston music fans, by not shying away from covering local events like the Buxton 7-inch release it also helps bring Houston music to the world.

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