Two weeks ago, in these very same digital pages, I claimed that Matthew McConaughey had shown more leadership during Texas’s devastating winter storms than Senator Ted Cruz, simply by clearing the low bar of not scuttling off to Mexico. Now, I don’t know for a fact that Matthew McConaughey reads this column, or that he’s even aware of its disturbingly obsessive chronicling of weekly McCona-nutiae. However, it now seems like he may have caught wind of the sentiments expressed, and—rather than sending me hate mail, like a normal person—he may be taking it to heart. McConaughey now says that running for Texas governor is a “true consideration,” and no longer just an idle fantasy to fill magazine interviews.
The Austin actor took his latest tentative step into genuine statesmanship during an appearance on Crime Stoppers of Houston’s The Balanced Voice podcast, where host Rania Mankarious brought up the political aspirations he’s been casually floating since last fall. “I’m looking into now again, what is my leadership role?” McConaughey replied. “Because I do think I have some things to teach and share, and what is my role? What’s my category in my next chapter of life that I’m going into?”
Granted, this sounds like more of the midlife, existential wandering McConaughey has performed a lot over this past year, after the pause afforded by the pandemic forced him into a near-permanent state of self-reflection—whether it’s writing a bestselling memoir, revisiting romantic comedies past, or even just reminiscing about how good he looked in cutoffs. But this notion of “leadership” didn’t come out of nowhere. As we’ve seen, McConaughey has also become a social media sage for uncertain times, helping the state keep a level, if hazy, head through multiple crises. It’s a mentor role that feels like a natural outgrowth of his vaguely defined gig as the University of Texas’ “minister of culture.” It’s little wonder that when Austin needed a hero, a voice of authority that could get its residents to take COVID-19 seriously, the mayor sent up the Matt-Signal. McConaughey has been edging toward taking a more literal, rather than spiritual, leadership gig for a while now, and his being governor has never made more sense than after this wildly disorienting year.
Will he actually do it? Eh, probably not. While it may be a “true consideration,” McConaughey has been talking this up for a while now in only the broadest possible terms, commenting in an interview last year: “Politics seems to be a broken business to me right now. And when politics redefines its purpose, I could be a hell of a lot more interested.” It seems far less likely that politics will experience some radical, fundamental shift than that Matthew McConaughey will get some really juicy movie role between now and 2022—which is definitely good news for Greg Abbott. Equally unlikely is that McConaughey would trade his decades of movie-star fame and bipartisan goodwill for the harsh realities of governing Texas, or the decidedly uncool duties of, say, overseeing executions. Still, perhaps the constant threat that Matthew McConaughey could come and easily steal their jobs will keep the rest of Texas’s much less beloved, far less charming politicians on the ball in the meantime.
Megan Thee Stallion, Post Malone, Miranda Lambert, and More to Perform at the Grammys
If there’s anyone who could challenge McConaughey’s bid for pandemic MVP, it’s surely Megan Thee Stallion. The Houston rapper has enjoyed a historic run of record-breaking singles, magazine covers, luxury ad campaigns, and overall cultural saturation, and now she’ll cap it off with a just-confirmed performance at this year’s Grammy Awards, airing live this Sunday, March 14. Beyond just generally embodying the past year in music, Megan is already a nominee in several categories—including Best New Artist and Record of the Year, alongside her “Savage” collaborator (and fellow Houstonian) Beyoncé—so it makes sense that she’d be invited to perform on a lineup that includes fellow Texan artists Post Malone, Miranda Lambert, and Maren Morris. As with so many other recent awards shows, the Grammys will understandably look a bit different this time, with Megan and other artists gathering in small, socially distanced groups at Los Angeles’ Staples Center while the awards are presented virtually by the staffers of various independent music venues across the country. To fill the inevitable awkward silences, there will also be a series of short films exploring some of the nominated songs and artists—including Austin’s Black Pumas, who are slated to perform as well. The Grammys will air live beginning at 8 p.m. (EST) on CBS, with streaming via Paramount+.
And the Oscar (Nomination Job) Goes to . . . Nick Jonas
The latest film role from Dallas-born pop star Nick Jonas, who appears in the new YA thriller Chaos Walking, has been beset by some truly dismal reviews. Still, that won’t stop Nick Jonas from getting an Oscar nomination, then delivering it to someone else. Jonas and his wife, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, have been chosen to announce the ninety-third annual Academy Award nominees in the small hours of Monday, March 15, with the Academy capping off a truly unusual year for film with this somewhat unexpected choice of presenters. Perhaps the Academy is counting on the power couple to bring some millennial and Gen Z eyes to the ceremony, which will draw nominations from a dramatically reduced slate of contenders led by less-flashy semi-downers like Nomadland and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Or maybe no one else was willing to get up at 5 a.m.? Either way, Nick Jonas will be there, saying movie names!
Witness the Glory of God’s iPhone at South by Southwest
Next week brings the official launch of South by Southwest, as the Austin festival returns from last year’s cancellation as an entirely virtual affair. Given that this year’s attendees can now experience the entire thing on their smartphones, this makes SXSW an oddly ideal place to premiere the new series iBible, billed as a retelling of classic Bible stories as seen through God’s own divine apps. In the teaser video hosted at Deadline, we see God’s screen as he receives a text message from Eve, gets a Facebook invite to Noah’s Ark, and sees a news alert about Cain murdering Abel—all of this taking place entirely through the medium of computer and phone screens. It’s the rare project that cineastes and Christians would both find blasphemous, but creator Timur Bekmambetov, director of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, has historically shown little regard for propriety. In fact, he’s readying a similarly formatted retelling of Romeo and Juliet, titled R#J, to show at the festival as well.
Alamo Drafthouse Launches Black Film Series
Last week brought the dismaying if inevitable news that the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse declared bankruptcy after a year of COVID-related losses, buoyed by reassurances from founder Tim League that the company will endure anyway. This week, the theater chain doubled down on that vow to do business as usual, announcing a new, curated series of culturally significant Black films that will debut on the Alamo on Demand digital platform. The series, called the Vanguard Collection and created in collaboration with Harlem Film House, will bring Do the Right Thing, Get Out, and Straight Outta Compton, among many others, to Alamo’s screening portal, in the process creating one of the most robust slates of Black films available online. It’s a move that should also bolster Alamo’s continuing expansion into the streaming realm—something that, as we’ve seen, will likely prove necessary to its survival even after theaters fully reopen.
Miranda Lambert Readies New Album The Marfa Tapes
While Longview native Miranda Lambert prepares to perform her hit single “Bluebird” at this weekend’s Grammys, she’s also been teasing a far more stripped-down, far more bird-filled new album. As its title suggests, The Marfa Tapes collects a series of recordings Lambert made out in the artsy West Texas oasis with her frequent collaborators Jack Ingram and Jon Randall—many of the recordings, as she discussed with Sirius XM, capturing the open-air ambience of honking geese and freshly cracked beer cans as the group performed around a campfire or on the tailgate of a Ford Bronco. At one point, Lambert explains, there’s even a cameo from the Border Patrol, who flew by during a rendition of “Tequila Does” on their way to killing that border town buzz. Will you also hear the background sounds of hipsters moaning that Marfa has become too mainstream? Find out when The Marfa Tapes arrives May 7.
Selena Gomez Hints She May Retire From Music
Grand Prairie’s Selena Gomez has been getting back in touch with her own musical roots lately—namely by releasing music, something she’s done only sporadically as her acting and producing careers have picked up steam. But in a new cover story for Vogue (written by native Houstonian Jia Tolentino) Gomez suggests she may soon quit the game altogether, saying, “It’s hard to keep doing music when people don’t necessarily take you seriously.” Although Gomez is quick to explain that she’s not making any concrete plans, she does imply that the next time she makes an album, it could very well be the end, saying, “I want to give it one last try before I maybe retire music.”
That’s definitely a lot of pressure to put on a producer—to say nothing of an audience whose reception, if deemed not enthusiastic enough, could spell the end of Gomez as a singer. But really, given the excitement around her new Spanish-language EP, Revelación (and the breathless, undying support of her dedicated fan base) it’s likely that decision would come down to Gomez simply finding greater satisfaction in any of the dozen other things she’s now famous for.
Post Malone Combines the NFT Craze with Virtual Beer Pong
There have been no such intimations of quitting from Post Malone, of course. The Grapevine rapper remains dedicated to creating both music and multimedia experiences that will make anyone over the age of thirty feel as if they’ve been awakened, cranky and confused, from their cryogenic sleep by a warm Bud Light poured over their heads. To wit: Not long after Malone’s cover of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You” became a viral hit, boosted by his virtual concert for an audience of Pokémon, Malone is back with another bewildering twenty-first-century mashup, this time offering his fans the chance to play virtual beer pong through the purchase of NFTs.
— Posty (@PostMalone) March 6, 2021
In case you don’t spend every waking moment online, NFTs—or “non-fungible tokens”—are the latest trend that no one can properly explain, yet everyone suddenly wants. They are, essentially, digital collectibles backed by cryptocurrency technology, allowing people to “own” everything from photos to tweets to GIFs of LeBron James dunking. Recently, musician and newly minted Austin resident Grimes managed to sell $6 million of her own artwork in NFTs. Meanwhile, someone else paid over $2 million for a pixelated graphic of an ape wearing a hat.
It’s all very strange and revolutionary and totally incomprehensible in equal measure, so it stands to reason that Post Malone is somehow involved, having teamed up with the cryptocurrency group Fyooz to sell his fans NFTs that may allow them to someday engage in a pretend drinking game with him over video chat. If you’re interested, all you have to do is buy a minimum of one thousand Fyooz tokens—at a current price of $13 each in actual money—then wait to see if you’ve been chosen to attend Malone’s virtual experience. And if you’re not interested, and maybe even a little angry, you can just go back to exchanging real-world dollars for tangible goods and safely ignoring all of this.