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Photo by Tyler Adams/Netflix

While the idea of systemic racism is a generally accepted fact in American society, a more indefinable concept is the cultural biases that people hold. It can be easy to spot someone who wears their racism on their sleeves, but sometimes a prejudice only reveals itself when someone is confronted with a world that is not their own.

This idea is attempted to be played for laughs in the new Netflix comedy You People. Ezra (Jonah Hill) is a 35-year-old stockbroker/aspiring podcaster who has yet to meet the right woman, much to the chagrin of his mother, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). He has a meet-cute with Amira (Lauren London), a graphic designer, when he mistakes her car for an Uber.

While Ezra and Amira bond quickly over a number of shared likes, it’s the ingrained beliefs of their parents that threaten to stand in their way. Shelley and dad Arnold (David Duchovny) are a Jewish couple who either rely on Black stereotypes or go overboard in their attempts to relate to Amira. Meanwhile, Amira’s parents, Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long), want her to stay true to her Black Muslim roots, and do all they can to discourage the relationship.

Directed by Kenya Barris and written by Barris and Hill, the goal of the film – to shed a funny light on how awkward it can be when people of different races spend time in each other’s spaces – is clear, but the execution is sorely lacking.

The first mistake they make is that the film is almost exclusively focused on Ezra; while Amira gets a small introduction prior to meeting Ezra, there’s never a true exploration of who she is or what she wants outside of her relationship with him. Consequently, their bond is never believable; there appears to be little chemistry existing between the two, and any moments that might endear them to the audience are yada-yadaed for the sake of expediency.

The second is the strange way in which the film’s biggest star – Murphy – is withheld until 20-30 minutes into the movie, introduced in a lackadaisical way, and then given precious few opportunities to showcase his comic skills. Barris and Hill can never seem to find a great way to use the legendary comedian, giving him tepid scenarios that don’t come close to eliciting the big laughs for which he is known.

Ultimately, the film feels more like a series of barely-connected situations than a cohesive story. Any incisiveness that might come from putting the two racially- and religiously-disparate families together is lost because the filmmakers constantly jump from scene to scene in search of laughs. You’d think that Barris, who knows the value of establishing characters from sitcoms like Black-ish, would have figured out how to do that by now, but the film flails its way through its nearly two-hour running time.

Hill, as star, co-writer, and co-producer, is obviously the driving force behind the film, and he is given plenty of time to dole out his brand of comedy. London is likable enough, but we never get to know her character well enough to fully judge her performance. The wealth of talent on the supporting side – including Murphy, Louis-Dreyfus, Long, Duchovny, Sam Jay, Rhea Perlman, Molly Gordon, Deon Cole, Andrea Savage, Elliott Gould, and Mike Epps – is mostly wasted.

Finding comedy in race relations has been done many times in movies and on TV, and can be a winner if done properly. The story of You People can never find its footing, opting for a haphazard approach that doesn’t make good use of its greatest assets.

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You People debuts on Netflix on January 27.

Photo by Tyler Adams/Netflix

Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy in You People.

Photo courtesy of A24

CultureMap film critic’s guide to the 10 Best Picture Oscar nominees of 2023

Oscar analysis

The nominations for the 2023 Academy Awards have been announced, with 10 films vying for Best Picture. Everything Everywhere All at Once led the way with 11 total nominations, with The Banshees of Inisherin and All Quiet on the Western Front close behind with 9 nominations each.

Take a look back at what CultureMap’s film critic, Alex Bentley, had to say about each of the nominees (listed below in alphabetical order) when they were originally released. This year's Oscars ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 12.

All Quiet on the Western Front (not reviewed)
The epic anti-war German film, available to stream on Netflix, has been gaining steam on the awards circuit in recent weeks, also earning 14 nominations for the British Academy film awards, the most among films nominated there. With nine nominations at the Oscars, it's a serious contender to win not just International Feature Film, but Best Picture as well, a la Parasite.

Avatar: The Way of Water
There’s no denying that everything in the long-awaited Avatar looks spectacular, from the Na’vi to the different animals of the world to the abundant water. But writer/director James Cameron has also employed the high frame rate of 48 frames-per-second, giving everything a hyper-real look that, at least for this critic, does not make for a great viewing experience. Also, for a film that’s 3 hours and 12 minutes long, you’d think there would be plenty of time to devote to all aspects of the story, but somehow that isn’t the case. Though it's nominated for Best Picture, its best chances of winning lie in the three other technical nominations.

The Banshees of Inisherin
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this film reunited him with his In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for one of the funniest movies of the year, and also one of the saddest. The film is spectacular in its ordinary nature, with the story centering around Gleeson's character ending his longtime friendship with Farrell's character for seemingly no reason. All four main actors - Farrell (Best Actor), Gleeson (Best Supporting Actor), Barry Keoghan (Best Supporting Actor), and Kerry Condon (Best Supporting Actress) - earned nominations, and McDonagh was nominated for both directing and writing, making this film one of the favorites.

Elvis
One of those love-it-or-hate-it type movies, the latest from writer/director Baz Luhrmann didn't hit the sweet spot for this critic, mostly because its focus was more on Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), and not Elvis (Austin Butler) himself. That meant much more time for Hanks to deliver one of the worst performances of the year. Butler earned his Best Actor nomination, as there are times when he is absolutely electric. But there's a reason that six of its eight nominations are in technical categories - the story doesn't live up to Butler's performance.

Everything Everywhere All at Once
On the other end of the spectrum from Elvis is Everything Everywhere All at Once, a film that knew how to use its flashiness in much better ways. Featuring a breathtaking lead performance by Michelle Yeoh (who earned her first-ever nomination), the return of '80s kid star Ke Huy Quan (favored to win for Best Supporting Actor), and polar opposite performances by Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu (both nominated for Best Supporting Actress), the film was as wild and weird as it was emotional. With a couple of surprise nominations, including Best Musical Score and Best Song, it seems destined for a lot of wins.

The Fabelmans
The most personal movie ever from writer/director Steven Spielberg (nominated in both categories), The Fabelmans is a lightly-fictionalized chronicle of Spielberg's childhood, where he caught the bug of filmmaking and endured his parents' disintegrating marriage. With seven overall nominations, including Best Actress for Michelle Williams, a surprise Best Supporting Actor nomination for Judd Hirsch (who's in the film for less than 10 minutes), and another nomination for Best Score for the iconic John Williams (who now has 52 - !! - lifetime nominations), it would be unwise to discount this film's chances at taking home the top prize.

Tár
If ever a film was defined by its lead actor, it's Tár, featuring a towering - and now, Oscar-nominated - performance by Cate Blanchett as world-renowned - but fictional - conductor Lydia Tár. The first film in 16 years from writer/director Todd Field (nominated in both categories), it is notable for how much time it devotes to setting up Tár as a character. Though the story is set in the rarefied world of classical music, it has a grounded nature that keeps it balanced. The film is nominated for seven total Oscars, but its best chance at a win lies with Blanchett, who's the heavy favorite.

Top Gun: Maverick
My personal No. 1 movie of the year, the long-gestating sequel to 1984's Top Gun delivered everything you could want out of a summer blockbuster and more. Even though it it essentially offers up the greatest hits from the original in a slightly repackaged manner, it does so in a spectacular manner. Even though you'd expect its five nominations aside from Best Picture (which gives star Tom Cruise, who also served as a producer, his first Oscar nomination in 24 years) to be technical ones, it was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, an indication that its story was equal to its visuals.

Triangle of Sadness (not reviewed)
A black comedy that takes aim at the obliviousness of wealthy people, Triangle of Sadness is only nominated in three categories, but they're three big ones - Best Picture, Best Director (Ruben Östlund), and Best Original Screenplay (Östlund). Unlike some of the other films in this category, it was not among the best-reviewed movies of the year, but it's clear that Östlund has his supporters in the writer and director wings of the Academy, so one or two wins are not out of the realm of possibility.

Women Talking
Although it was one of my top 10 movies of the year, Women Talking is perhaps the least likely film among the 10 nominated to be in this category, as it only has one other nomination, Best Adapted Screenplay for writer/director Sarah Polley. Set almost entirely in a barn loft on a Mennonite compound as a group of women decide how to fight back against abusive men, it is a true ensemble film, with no actor truly standing out among the others. Still, with award-winning actors like Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, and Claire Foy leading the way, it deserves to be recognized among the year's best.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Anna Kendrick stretches her dramatic chops in Alice, Darling

Movie Review

From the outside, it can be hard to understand how someone would choose to stay in a toxic relationship. When dealt with in movies, the situation is typically highly dramatized, often with a man getting his comeuppance in a thriller-type story. The new film Alice, Darling takes a different approach while still keeping the drama high.

Right from the first frame, Alice (Anna Kendrick) has a nervous energy about her, wrapping her hair tightly around her finger and constantly checking her text messages while out for drinks with her friends Sophie (Wunmi Mosaku) and Tess (Kaniehtiio Horn). The source of her tension is soon revealed to be her boyfriend Simon (Charlie Carrick), a gallery artist who seems to have a hold on her that’s less like love and more like possession.

She agrees to go on a weeklong trip with her friends, but she’s so afraid of Charlie’s reaction that she lies to him, saying she’s going on a work trip instead. But getting away from him seems to cause even more stress than being with him, with the idea of possibly displeasing Simon on her mind almost every minute of the day.

Directed by Mary Nighy, making her feature film debut, and written by Alanna Francis and story editor Mark Van de Ven, the film does an excellent job of imparting the pressure that Alice feels she is under. Although the scenes featuring Alice and Charlie together are limited, they sprinkle dialogue of Charlie manipulating Alice in subtle and overt ways throughout the film, showing the power he has over her.

Alice’s frazzled state of mind also reveals itself in her treatment of her friends, who she’s known virtually her entire life. She’s standoffish in general with both, and especially testy with Tess, but she’s even afraid to tell them exactly what’s going on. Despite being on vacation at a lake, Alice never lets herself let loose, always worried about what Simon would think.

If there’s a qualm to be had with the film, it’s that it seems to be setting up a thriller-type story that never comes. Instead, the drama stays mostly interior as Alice struggles with her overbearing thoughts. Consequently, it’s tough to get a full read on how deep the troubles with Simon actually go as the film only hints at the details of their relationship.

Kendrick has not had many great showcases in recent years, so this film gives her the chance to stretch her dramatic chops a bit. She does well, even if the role is a bit hard to read. Mosaku and Horn are not as well-known, but both put in effective performances, especially Mosaku. Carrick feels generic in a role that’s only designed to show the character’s bad traits.

Alice, Darling takes a different route toward exploring the abuser/victim dynamic, with that relationship taking a backseat to the one Alice has with her friends. It still contains plenty of dramatic moments; they just aren’t the ones that might be expected from this type of film.

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Alice, Darling opens in select AMC theaters on January 20.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Anna Kendrick in Alice, Darling

Photo courtesy of Screen Gems

Teen's tech savvy makes 'Missing' a tense and enjoyable mystery

Movie Review

Making a movie where none of the characters is (seemingly) filmed using a traditional movie camera might seem like a bad idea, but in the hands of the producers behind Unfriended and 2018’s Searching, it can be a masterclass in how to tell a riveting story. The latest to use this technique to great success is the new film Missing.

Just as with the previous films, the story of Missing is told entirely through a computer screen, detailing the lives of June (Storm Reid) and her mom, Grace (Nia Long). Grace is about to go on a trip to Colombia with her boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung), putting a little extra stress on her somewhat-strained relationship with June.

But when Grace and Kevin don’t show up on their return flight, June does the best she can to find out what happened to them using her phone and computer. Her search, encompassing a litany of websites and apps, includes multiple other people, including her mom’s lawyer, Heather (Amy Landecker); Javi (Joaquim de Almeida), a gig worker in Colombia; and her best friend, Veena (Megan Suri).

Written and directed by Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick, the film is amazingly kinetic considering everything is being filtered through one type of screen or another. Much more so than in Searching, which had a 40-something father looking for his daughter, the internet savvy of June plays a huge part in the entertainment factor of the film. Even when June is at her most frazzled, her ingrained ability to navigate to the most useful site or app is a blast to watch.

One of the most fun parts of the film is that it invites the audience to try to figure out the mystery before June does. June uses a notes app to keep track of information throughout the film, leaving her screen looking like a digital version of a detective’s bulletin board. Just like in any mystery, there are plenty of red herrings, but if you pay close enough attention, you can anticipate what’s going to happen before it actually transpires.

Of course, viewers have to suspend their disbelief more than a bit to get into the story, which features some legitimately great twists and turns. The biggest hurdle to get over is the idea that June’s computer would be recording her even when she’s not using a video app. This is a slight cheat so that the filmmakers can keep June’s face on screen at almost all times, but the film doesn’t work without her reactions, so it’s best to just go with it.

As with Searching, the film’s use of actual sites and apps gives it legitimacy. Instead of using names that sound real but aren’t, the filmmakers actually use Facetime, Instagram, Ring, Google Translate, and more. One of the cleverer inclusions is Netflix, with June watching a fake show called Unfiction that allows the filmmakers to reference the events of Searching without actually showing scenes from it.

Although the film doesn’t necessarily require it, each member of the main cast turns in a good acting performance. Reid, known from A Wrinkle in Time and Euphoria, is an ideal lead, giving just the right levels of emotion to the different aspects of her role. Long, Leung, and Landecker have smaller roles, but they each make the most of their time. De Almeida steals the film in his brief appearances, which is tough to do as he is almost always looking into a phone camera.

Due to the innovative ways in which the filmmakers use computer technology, Missing is as effective as a mystery as any traditional film. As long as they continue to put as much effort into the storytelling as they do the visuals of the film, it’s easy to see the method working for multiple more movies.

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Missing opens in theaters on January 20.

Photo courtesy of Screen Gems

Storm Reid in Missing.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and eOne

San Antonio actress stars in SXSW opening film, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Critical Success

The adaptability of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D or dnd, colloquially) has brought it well into the 21st century and even into its diametric opposite: a scripted, finite creative work. This isn’t the first time the tabletop role playing game has been adapted into a feature film format, but it’s certainly the highest profile with an ensemble cast including Chris Pine and Hugh Grant. It’s only fitting that its release should open the festival where strange things go on to become the gold standard, South by Southwest.

The festival announced on January 11 that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has clinched the prestigious spot previously occupied by the wacky but heartfelt 2022 standout Everything Everywhere All At Once (now making rounds on social media again thanks to wins and moving speeches at the Golden Globes). This highly anticipated world premiere has what the A24 film did not before its meteoric success: a staunch fan base nearly 50 years in the making.

For the suddenly-decreasing population of uninitiated onlookers — thanks to TV shows like Stranger Things, Freaks and Geeks, and Community, and actual-play streams like Critical Role and Dimension 20 Dungeons & Dragons is essentially structured make-believe. A staggering collection of official rulebooks applies a dice-based system of logic and possibilities that players navigate verbally. Say one player is a Legolas-like elf ranger; she may decide to jump over a chasm, rolling a 20-sided die to dictate how successful she is as the narrative pushes on.

“A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people,” describes a press release. “The movie brings the rich world and playful spirit of the legendary roleplaying game to the big screen in a hilarious and action-packed adventure.”

Because these hyper-dramatic fantasy games tend to be played by friends in marathon sessions at home, the resulting narratives often take on a campy, scrappy tone that a trailer for the new film immediately reflects. It is borderline nonsensical that a group of underprepared, randomly assembled heroes would need to save the day via a buckshot plot (it’s unclear so far what actually happens in this film besides watching fun tropes play out), and that describes the overwhelming majority of real D&D campaigns.

The rest of the cast is not quite as mainstream as Pine and Grant, but they’re getting close. The appropriately motley crew includes San Antonian Michelle Rodriguez, who played a supporting role with Pine in the Fast & Furious franchise; Bridgerton heartthrob Regé-Jean Page; Jurassic World park technician Justice Smith; It protagonist Sophia Lillis; Guilt star Daisy Head; and athletic Avatar actress Chloe Coleman, only 14 years old.

Conspicuously missing from the official list of directors (Game Nights Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley) is actor and Dungeons & Dragons writer Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike), known for his especially committed devotion to the tabletop game. Manganiello is the highest-profile Hollywood D&D player aside from Stephen Colbert, who has only recently dipped his toes back into a childhood obsession. Reports in October excitedly anchored the film to Manganiello as a co-director with Kyle Newman, but the initial script seems to have been scrapped.

Beyond the effects of cast, crew, and plot, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves represents something oddly universal to players, yet almost completely unique in film: What would happen if anyone in the theater wrote the script?

More information about SXSW’s film programming is available at sxsw.com.

How to join the cast of 'Yellowstone' spinoff '1883: The Bass Reeves Story' filming in North Texas

Hollywood, Texas

Texan fans of the hit TV shows Yellowstone and 1883 will have the chance to act in the shows’ newest spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, at the end of January — if they're willing to travel, that is.

The new series' talent agency, Legacy Casting, announced on Facebook that they're seeking people, ages 16-50, to cast as Union and Confederate soldiers for scenes being shot in North Texas.

Casting director Andrei Constantinescu says they are also seeking Native American, specifically Black Seminole, men and women.

“But really, in the world of extras, we’re looking for all body types, ages, etc.,” Constantinescu says.

The agency is hoping to cast hundreds of non-speaking background actors and extras for some of the show’s scenes. For Civil War scenes, several hundred actors will be needed, they say, while some town scenes may require only a few hundred. Exact DFW shooting locations have not yet been revealed.

The new six-part series will be a sequel to 1883, about the titular character, a former slave who became one of the first Black U.S. deputy marshals west of the Mississippi River in 1875. Reeves, who will be played by British actor David Oyelowo, is said to have killed 14 outlaws and apprehended more than 3,000 criminals during his time as a marshal.

Taylor Sheridan, the creator of Yellowstone and 1883, will be the executive producer of Bass Reeves and is expected to direct two episodes. Sheridan is an honorary Fort Worthian who attended Pascal High School and lives on a ranch in Weatherford. This is not his first project in North Texas, of course. 1883 was filmed around Granbury and Fort Worth, partially in the Stockyards, in 2021 — much to local spectators' delight.

Those interested in being cast should create a profile with MyCastingFile, where Legacy Casting posts all its casting calls. For non-speaking background extras, there are no auditions. Those cast in Bass Reeves will be selected primarily based on the photos or videos applicants use in their MyCastingFile profiles, Constantinescu says.

Filming in Fort Worth is set to begin in late January. The agency plans to have wardrobe fittings until then. Pay will fluctuate at around $100-$150 per day, depending on the role, Constantinescu says. The base rate is $96 per 10 hours. Most background actors will only work one day, but those cast in a major scene may be required to be on set for multiple days.

While the pay may not look that appealing to some, Constantinescu says the job will be “a lot of fun” and a possible career advancement opportunity.

“If you’re interested in film, if you love to know what it’s like behind the scenes, this is a great experience for you,” he says. “Or if you want to make a career out of film and don’t really know where to get started, this is an awesome place to start because you can watch the process and start kind of making connections, as well.”

There are no COVID-19 vaccine requirements to be cast in the show. However, all cast and crew will be tested for the virus several times per week, Constantinescu says. Background actors will also be required to take a COVID-19 test before going to costume fittings.

For questions about casting, email extras@legacycasting.com.

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Sneak peek inside San Antonio chef Steve McHugh's new Austin restaurant

Officially cured

Bucking the recent (and growing) trend of Austinites moving to San Antonio, chef Steve McHugh just debuted his first concept in Austin. The eagerly-awaited Luminaire opened February 1 at the new Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin, along with a second concept, Las Bis.

Located at 721 Congress Avenue, details of the new hotel and its restaurants were released in fall 2022, sparking excitement from anyone already familiar with McHugh's work at Cured and Landrace. For the initial announcement, CultureMap connected with the six-time James Beard finalist to hear what to expect at the new outpost, while an updated announcement this week revealed that McHugh has enlisted chef Greg Driver as executive chef at the new concepts.

“We’re thrilled to finally lift the curtain and bring in guests to dine with us,” says Chef Steve McHugh in a release. “Chef Driver and I work really well together, and I have no doubt that Luminaire and Las Bis will shine under his leadership.”

Previously the interim executive chef at Austin's Westwood Country Club, Driver will carry out McHugh's vision at the restaurants. Both new concepts and the hotel itself will no doubt be a welcome addition to downtown Austin, padding out the list of pre- and post-theatre dining options for entertainment at the city's historic Paramount and State theatres next door.

Luminaire occupies the entire ground floor of the hotel, including an expansive patio stretching both sides of the corner along Congress Avenue and 8th Street. Much like its San Antonio counterparts, the full-service restaurant will feature the seasonal, local Texas fare and charcuterie well-known (and well-loved) by McHugh devotees. Along with specially curated meat boards (hello, 24-month jamon), the menu will also showcase a heavy Spanish influence, featuring a variety of delicious breakfast empanadas, chicken a la plancha, the Angus beef Luminaire burger, and more.

The all-day restaurant will be an ideal pre-curtain-time destination, while the upstairs Las Bis will take over for post-show nightcaps. Located on the eighth floor of the hotel, the terrace bar and lounge shares space with the hotel’s lobby and will feature craft cocktails, natural and biodynamic wines. Snacks will include an assortment of playfully plated conservas, both domestic and imported, which McHugh shared the story behind in our previous coverage.

“Our team put many thoughtful hours into the menu creation for Luminaire and Las Bis, blending familiar flavors with plenty of discovery,” says McHugh in this week's latest release. “And for those without much experience in cured meats and conservas, we made sure to include plenty of must-try items to introduce folks the right way.”

In addition to the two new concepts, McHugh’s team and executive chef Driver will provide room service for guests, as well as catering for the hotel’s four meeting and event spaces. Starting February 1, Luminaire will be open Monday through Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm, while Las Bis will open Sunday through Thursday, 4 pm to midnight, and noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Photo by Mary Whitten

A sneak peak at Luminaire.

Historic San Antonio venue chugs ahead with new owners and all-day music festival

JUST THE TICKET

Music will soon be back in the air at one of San Antonio's most historic venues. Ambassador Theatre Group, the company behind the Majestic and Empire Theatres, has taken over The Espee in St. Paul's Square and is celebrating with an all-day music festival.

The move is the latest chapter for the Spanish Mission Revival complex, built in 1902 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2019, a development group redubbed the site The Espee as a nod to the former train route's abbreviation, "The SP." 2021 saw the depot transformed into the swanky 1902 Nightclub.

Ambassador has gussied up the venue with enhanced sound and lighting, renovated artist accommodations, a tour production office, satellite bar areas, landscaping, and refreshed restrooms. The improvements gel with St. Paul Square's vision of bringing more entertainment and nightlife to the district without compromising its history or architecture.

Guests can check out the revamped space during All Aboard on March 4, a daylong party featuring The Head and The Heart, Danielle Ponder, Grupo Fantasma, UPSAHL, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Mike and The Moonpies, and DJ sets from Bartees Strange. Doors open at 2:30 pm, with performances starting at 3 pm.

Tickets are on sale now and partially benefit local nonprofit San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), which champions investments that improve the quality of life for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and businesses in the area.

The show is only the first experience the revived venue is set to deliver. "Vicious" hitmaker Sabrina Carpenter is set to bring her Emails I Can't Send Tour to the Espee on March 25. The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum will hold its Fiesta Family Blues festival on April 28. More programming will be announced throughout the year.

"The Espee is the perfect addition to San Antonio's growing entertainment landscape – from venues and musical performances to community gatherings and everything in between," said Emily Smith, Ambassador general manager, via a release. "This unique, beautiful, and historic space will bring even more creative experiences to San Antonio for the entire community to enjoy."



6 San Antonio exhibits to warm your heart and soul this February

State of the Arts

All you need is art this month in Alamo City with fresh and fearless exhibits: Some will tickle your fancy; others, your psyche. Explore JooYoung Choi’s imaginary world at The Contemporary, or immerse yourself in the history of the Mexican-American War of 1848 with representations from various artists at the Centro Cultural Aztlan. Guy Blair brings San Antonio’s unhoused population into careful focus with painted portraits at the Semmes Gallery, while the San Antonio Museum of Art transports viewers into “Roman Landscapes” providing birds-eye perspectives and fantastical views. There's something for everyone this February.

Centro Cultural Aztlan

“Segundo de Febrero: Chicana/Chicano Reunion” — Now through February 24
February 2 marks the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The landmark treaty ended the Mexican-American War, redistributed the border, and created a new bicultural population. In this exhibition, a group of celebrated artists will explore the impact of broken treaties, new borders, and their effects on Latino, Chicano, and indigenous history and culture.

The Contemporary at Blue Star

“JooYoung Choi: Songs of Resilience from the Tapestry of Faith” — February 3 through May 7
Through painting, video, sculpture, animation, music ,and installation art, multidisciplinary world-builder JooYoung Choi documents the interconnecting narratives of a highly structured, expansive, fictional land she calls the "Cosmic Womb." Her work explores issues of identity, belonging, trauma, and resilience through the sci-fi/fantasy genre. This exhibition introduces the Cosmic Womb multiverse and highlights some of its key characters and narratives. In creating a world that explores loss, healing, and growth based upon a connective web of belief and faith in oneself, Choi expresses human resiliency and the strength that can be found through the power of storytelling.

Centro de Artes

“Soy de Tejas: A Statewide Survey of Latinx Art” — February 9 through July 2
Soy de Tejas presents the works of 40 native Texan and Texas-based contemporary artists who reflect the diverse and beautiful complexity of Latinx identities. The more than 100 artworks forge new connections and explore intersections from a nexus of artists who ambitiously blaze a trail of contemporary artmaking, presenting fresh Latinx perspectives and experiences while amplifying the voices of a segment of Texas' most inspiring established and emerging artists. “The exhibit explores themes ranging from race, class, and gender to migration, mythmaking, displacement, and indigeneity," says curator Rigoberto Luna on the gallery's website. "In contrast, many works center on celebrating joyful customs, culture, and traditions that unite and sustain our communities in the face of a multitude of challenges."

Semmes Gallery - University of the Incarnate Word

“Homeless in San Antonio” — February 17 through March 17
Guy Blair is largely self-taught as an artist in the medium of pastels and watercolor. He always wanted “to do” art but was devoted to his ministry as a priest. For the past 40 years as a Catholic priest, he has ministered to both the deaf and homeless communities. In the past eight years, he has seriously paid attention to his desire to paint. This exhibit is a blending of his service to the homeless as well as his interest in art. “As we walk by homeless people on the streets of San Antonio, most people tend to look through them or judge them as perhaps deserving of the situation they are in,” Blair said in an artist statement. “This attitude allows people to build an emotional barrier, giving them permission not to connect with the homeless as destitute people whose suffering and tears are as real as our own.”

The Carver Cultural Community Center

“Alain Gakwaya"— February 23 through April 14
Alain Gakwaya hails from Rwanda and is a self-described, “activist, artist, and adventurer.” His love for art began in the 3rd grade, when his teacher requested that he draw for his entire class. Specializing in portraiture, Gakwaya paints to tell his story and the stories of his homeland. Though he's now based in San Antonio, he draws inspiration from everyday life in Africa and specifically his home country of Rwanda.

San Antonio Museum of Art

Courtesy of the Carver Cultural Community Center

Alain-Gakwaya's work is coming to the Carver Cultural Community Center this month.

“Roman Landscapes: Visions of Nature and Myth from Rome and Pompeii” — February 24 through May 21
The exhibition features 65 wall paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and cameo glass and silver vessels created in Roman Italy between 100 BC and AD 250. “Roman Landscapes” introduces visitors to the cultural and archaeological contexts of Roman landscapes, beginning with mural paintings and relief sculptures that depict coastal villas and rustic shrines. These works display the imaginary aspects of Roman images of the natural world, connecting the genre’s appearance to the political and social upheaval of the late Republic and early Empire. Fantastical views of Egypt and Greece reflect ancient fascination with these celebrated lands incorporated into the Roman Empire. Mythological paintings then reveal landscape scenes as settings for hazardous encounters between humans and the gods.