Film Reviews

Made in Houston

Three years ago, the Museum of Fine Arts put together "First Look," a showcase of films made by Houstonians. Back by popular demand, the series is now called "Local Spin," and is backed by the MFA, the Houston Film Commission and the Southwest Area Media Project. Not surprisingly, the series offers a number of issue-centric pieces (Fifth Ward, American Cowboy) and the obligatory semi-abstract montages (Stop Evil and Shadow and Substance) -- but there are also documentaries (Third Ward Blues and The Strange Demise of Jim Crow), a two-minute public-service spot (The Usher), and even a music video for Truth Decay's "White Bunnies."

The selections include:
Shadow and Substance, directed by Laurie McDonald. McDonald's video interpretation of Eastern and Western aesthetics is set to a soundtrack of Indian ragas, recorded live by Srinivas Koumounduri, David Courtney and Chandrakantha Courtney. (7:30 p.m., Sat., Jan. 17. 18 minutes.)

Third Ward Blues, directed by Heather Korb. Labeled "docutainment" rather than documentary, this film focuses on four Houston bluesmen -- Johnny Clyde Copeland, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Albert Collins and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown -- and their personal and professional relationships. (8:30 p.m., Sat., Jan. 17. 28 minutes.)

Blue Days Lost, directed by Jennifer Payson. Three teenagers play at being grown-up and apathetic, while trying to hide their serious concerns. (7 p.m., Sun., Jan. 18. 97 minutes. Free admission.)

Jesus of Judson, directed by Jacob Vaughan. A 12-year-old girl who has spent her life bounced from one military base to another befriends a misfit 20-year-old and his Army-brat friends. Winner of the Marin County Film Festival and a finalist at Worldfest Houston. (7 p.m., Sun., Jan. 25. 20 minutes.)

Dwelling, directed by Tim Thomson and Chris Hogan. "Environmental artist" Elizabeth Worth, who decorates empty houses as installation pieces, finds herself under scrutiny from academics, auditors and others. (Shows after Jesus of Judson. 20 minutes.)

The Usher, directed by Todd Jones. The Usher was intended to be shown during movie-theater previews, to encourage patrons to throw away their trash. The bit won first prize in the short film competition at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. (Shows after Jesus of Judson and Dwelling. Two minutes.)

American Cowboy, directed by Kyle Henry. In this documentary, rodeo cowboy Gene Mikulenka recovers from a bull-riding accident and begins a three-month journey to the 1996 International Gay Rodeo Association finals -- all while confronting his decision to come out to his family and propose to his boyfriend. (8:30 p.m., Sat., Jan. 31. 52 minutes.)

Fifth Ward, directed by Greg Carter. Featuring a soundtrack that includes Willie D, the Botany Boys and Lil Keke, this coming-of-age drama is set in the Fifth Ward. (7 p.m., Sun., Feb. 1. 105 minutes.)

The Strange Demise of Jim Crow, directed by David Berman. Pulitzer Prize nominee Thomas R. Cole's book No Color Is My Kind: The Life of Eldrewey Stearns and the Integration of Houston inspired this documentary. (7:30 p.m., Sat., Feb. 7. 57 minutes.)

-- Meredith L. Patterson

All at the Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515.