Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Film Curator Marian Luntz has a gig that's the envy of movie fans everywhere. She travels to film festivals around the world, watches hundreds of movies — classics, blockbusters, new releases, unknown gems — and then determines the museum's schedule of year-round programming. From the annual Latin Wave, a showcase of the best in new work from Latin American directors, to special one-time-only screenings such as the recent revival of A Hard Day's Night celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark Beatles film, Luntz programs it all. (With lots of help, we're sure she'd tell you.) To be as successful as she is, Luntz has to have the rare combination of an artistic eye; an encyclopedic knowledge of film movements, genres, directors and actors past and present; and a sensitivity to cultural sensibilities. Oh, and she has to keep abreast of the latest political situations around the globe (a revolution abroad or a coup in some war-torn country could seriously screw with the possibility of bringing a director or actor to Houston for an appearance).

Jeff Balke

McGonigel's Mucky Duck is the kind of venue you dream about seeing your favorite band or singer in. Every seat is a good one, everything sounds wonderful and if you need something to eat or drink, you don't have to get out of your seat. It attracts good crowds who actually care about music and aren't just spending money to have a fancy soundtrack play behind their private conversations. Imagine everything you like about concerts with none of the bad. McGonigel's is like going to a show at a friend's house if your friend were rich and invited excellent bands over to play.

We've spent many nights knocking stripes and solids at this longtime Montrose pool hall, partly out of our love for billiards, but also because of the friendly staff and excellent specials. That's the kind of atmosphere Slick Willie's offers — before you know it, two hours have gone by, and you can't even remember who won the last game. With its 22 eight-foot tables and two nine-footers, a generous happy hour, plenty of pub grub, and $5 all-day-play every Wednesday, you're guaranteed to have a great time no matter when you go.

The magic of cinema is really discovered only on the big screen. While Landmark River Oaks is not the only place in town showing older films, the theater's midnight series is one of the best weekly events in the city, a celebration of cult classics that everyone should experience in the picture show at least once. From the campy chaos of Rocky Horror to the modern madness of The Room, these are the types of films best experienced late at night with a crowd. Skip the obnoxious lines at the local bars and see a bit of cinema history. You won't regret the late-night drive home.

This is the second time David A. Brown has won the nod for Best Photographer; the first was in 2010. His most recent show, "New Works by David A. Brown: trying to find my way...," at the Jung Center of Houston, featured large-scale photographs of reflected images — that is, a multitude of images, all simultaneously seen in the same space (for example, Brown shot through store windows and captured the scene outside on the street reflected over the inside of the store). Brown is working on a new series, and while we've seen only bits and pieces of his latest work — a "chopped and screwed" technique that incorporates the passage of time — we're excited about what he's got coming up.

If the geeks from The Big Bang Theory ever open their own bar (coming in Season 12!), Neil's Bahr would have already beaten them to it. This nerdgasm of an EaDo lounge, cattycornered to Warehouse Live and Little Woodrow's, offers vintage gaming platforms hooked up to heavy-ass console TVs, at least one flat-screen forever tuned to The Simpsons, various Lego sculptures, and more comic books than you can shake Deathstroke's staff at, both in the racks next to the upright arcade games and stashed in various coffee-table nooks. Seriously, if Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj didn't have their bathroom routines and girlfriends to attend to — and were real people, we guess — they'd probably sleep here.

Suzanne E. Sellers's trompe l'oeil at 1621 Milam has a sentimental place in our hearts. The building it covers was home to the Houston Press offices for some 15 years. The trompe l'oeil adorns two of the building's four walls, showing faux storefronts, windows and doors. Sellers completed the mural, which at 12,000 square feet is thought to be the largest in the city, in 1994. Two more of her murals once adorned downtown buildings, one a market scene on the side of Treebeards restaurant and another, called Muted Hues of Houston, on the side of the Houston Club Building. The market scene was lost during building repairs, and Muted Hues is currently covered by construction equipment, with a parking structure being built in front of it. Only the 1621 Milam mural remains intact and completely visible.

Ah, George — don't ever change your ways. Don't ever change your laid-back, neighborhood pub atmosphere, with your friendly bartenders, pool, darts and cozy patio. For eight years, you've been a smile at the end of a hard day. Your prices are just right, even when it's not happy hour. You lack pretense and artifice. You're not a place to be seen. You're a place to see friends. And with your HD flat-screens, you're also a place to see the game. You'll be seeing us again soon, we promise.

Best Band to Get Together in the Past Year


New bands show up on the scene just about every week, but not too many make the kind of splash that BLSHS has. In less than 12 months, Chris Gore, Rick Carruth and Michelle Miers have become one of Houston's most popular local acts, winning new fans by the score with each passing gig. Some of that might be because similar acts like Chvrches are suddenly in vogue in the indie world again, but BLSHS is no knockoff. Gore and Carruth put their heads together to swirl elements of trance and trap music into classic synth-pop that fans of Soft Cell or Heaven 17 would easily recognize, while Miers simply has one of the most enchanting voices in town. Their success has been almost instantaneous: Shortly after making their Free Press Summer Fest debut (where they outdrew several more established acts), BLSHS was nominated for several Houston Press Music Awards including Best New Act, Song of the Year ("If I Fall") and Local Recording of the Year for the Abstract Desires EP.

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, which recently welcomed brand-new presenting sponsor Huntsman, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in style this year. It's been one of the nation's top-grossing concert venues for many years, but in June the Pavilion was featured in Billboard magazine, which saluted the 16,000-capacity amphitheater as a cornerstone of the burgeoning Montgomery County township. And after drawing more than half a million people through the turnstiles in 2013, this year the Pavilion looks ready to break more records and invite more accolades. Just get a load of its stellar silver-anniversary season: Arcade Fire, Jimmy Buffett, Journey and the Steve Miller Band, John Legend, Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, Lionel Richie, Mötley Crüe, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band, Drake and Lil Wayne, Arctic Monkeys, and much more including a record-breaking, show-stopping, first-time appearance by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

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