Temperatures have plummeted to a chilly 99 degrees, which must mean it’s fall in Texas. The next few months bring us a new novel by Houston wunderkind Bryan Washington, an exciting exhibit from painter Kehinde Wiley, and festivals of the film and book variety. The ongoing Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes will eventually reduce the content fire hose to closer to a trickle, but for now there are still plenty of films and TV series to look forward to, including a new season of Marvel’s Loki, featuring a stellar performance from Owen Wilson, and Gael García Bernal playing a gender-bending wrestler (and former Texas Monthly subject). No matter your taste or preferred medium of entertainment, there’s no reason to be bored with this roster of happenings around the state; just don’t expect to need a jacket.
The Free People’s Village, by Sim Kern (September 12)
Houston author and environmental reporter Sim Kern’s second novel (and first for adults) starts with a fascinating premise: What might the world look like today if the 2000 election had resulted in an Al Gore presidency, the September 11 attacks had never happened, and instead of the global war on terror, the U.S. had spent the past two decades waging a War on Climate Change? While that might sound like a liberal fantasy, Kern’s a more insightful and incisive writer than that, and The Free People’s Village explores that concept in a fascinating way: instead of the PATRIOT Act and warrantless wiretaps, we get rich people exploiting a system to swap carbon credits and poor people fighting to preserve their homes from the development of electromagnetic hyperways. The book is set in a fascinating, specific world, but it’s less a deep dive into its premise and more a character-driven exploration of a simple fact: no matter who’s in charge and what their intentions are, power tends to gravitate toward the wealthy, and it usually comes at the expense of poor folks, people of color, and those with marginalized identities. —Dan Solomon
Family Meal, by Bryan Washington (October 10)
Washington’s previous books, Lot and Memorial, both make the city of Houston (his hometown) into its own character and are interested in detailed, sometimes visceral, descriptions of food and cooking. Family Meal, his second novel and third book, sounds like it’ll be in much the same vein—this time with an enticing love-slash-ghost story. The book follows Cam, who has just lost the love of his life, Kai—at least his corporeal form. Kai’s ghost visits Cam often. Shrouded in grief, Cam returns to Houston and falls back in with his former best friend, TJ. They must navigate who they’ve become and the circumstances that led to their falling-out. Entertainment Weekly calls the novel “a nuanced love story that sticks to you like the Texas heat.” —Kristen Steenbeeke
The Last Language, by Jennifer duBois (October 17)
Acclaimed writer Jennifer duBois, who teaches at Texas State, deftly applies her own fictional spin to the wheel of culture. Her 2013 novel, Cartwheel, is a thriller based on the Amanda Knox student-abroad murder scandal, and in 2019’s dazzling The Spectators, she examines three decades of American history through the lens of a controversial talk show host. Her next book, The Last Language, follows a linguistics expert as she forms a relationship with a nonspeaking patient using technology. A master of words writing about language and what it means for relationships and humanity? Count me in. —Kathy Blackwell
Texas Book Festival (Austin, November 11–12)
More than three hundred authors from around the world will converge once again on the capital for the two-day Texas Book Festival, a free event packed with family-friendly activities, music, and food. This year’s lineup includes S. A. Cosby, Justin Cronin, Walter Isaacson, Angie Kim, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Ann Patchett, Curtis Sittenfeld, Héctor Tobar, and Abraham Verghese, as well as dozens of notable Texas writers, including 2023 Texas Writer Award recipient Elizabeth Crook. To raise money for libraries across the state, there will also be ticketed events for Stacey Abrams, Michael Cunningham, and Roxane Gay. Because this year’s fest coincides with Veterans Day, look for special programming built around veterans’ stories and issues. —K.B.
Film & TV
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (theaters, September 8)
Based and filmed in El Paso, Aristotle and Dante revolves around a friendship between two Mexican American teenagers who try to navigate big feelings and even bigger growing pains in 1987. The film, produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda, was adapted from the YA novel written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and hosts a cast full of Texans: Eva Longoria from Corpus Christi, Max Pelayo from Austin, and Kevin Alejandro from San Antonio. It’s nice to see a film based in Texas actually being filmed here, rather than in a similar barren, mountainous landscape in Europe or New Mexico. Plus, in Texas, where being “different” isn’t always celebrated (and sometimes has a law against it) issues of self-identity, ethnicity, and sexuality beg to be on the big screen. —Lauren Castro
Dumb Money (theaters, September 15)
One of the more fascinating film and TV genres to emerge over the past few years has been “recent events in history, re-created in exacting detail.” We’ve seen it a few times this year—Air, Flamin’ Hot, and Tetris among them—and Dumb Money is another in that tradition. This time, the subject is the 2021 emergence of GameStop as a meme stock among social media users, which boosted the Grapevine-based company at a time when hedge funds had shorted the stock, essentially betting on it to fail. (Here’s a reminder of how it unfolded at the time.) A bunch of Redditors buying stock for the lulz isn’t exactly cinematic, but Dumb Money, which tells that story with a cast that includes Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Seth Rogen, and Shailene Woodley, under the direction of I, Tonya helmer Craig Gillespie, looks like the most interesting way to tell that story. Were the “stonk” wars of 2021 a revolution of the little guy against the financial behemoths or a get-rich-quick pyramid scheme that let a few folks at the top of a few particular social media platforms profit at the expense of newcomers? The answer may well be both, and Dumb Money’s revisiting of that history seems like a great opportunity to explore the answer to that question in depth. —D.S.
Cassandro (Amazon Prime, September 21)
Because I am a die-hard Gael García Bernal fan, and because I grew up watching a whole lot of what we then called WWF on Sunday mornings, the Cassandro trailer made me squeal and scream to my entire family, “This is the greatest thing ever!” Bernal plays the El Paso–born luchador turned exótico, Cassandro, opposite Bad Bunny, who plays his love interest, and watching Bernal stretch his skills into new territory even in the trailer is like seeing Simone Biles perform: he’s inventive, confident, thrilling, and surprising. Not that I have high expectations for this film, or anything. —Katy Vine
Love Is Blind (Netflix, September 22)
After filming season three in Dallas, Love Is Blind, a reality show that takes blind dating to the next level, is returning to Texas. This round of couples ready to fall in love sight unseen is living in Houston, so Houstonians, expect to see some familiar bars, restaurants, and parks—and perhaps even some contestants you know through a friend of a friend. If you’ve never seen LIB before, here’s the gist: singles meet through walls and date around; those who end up getting engaged then meet in person for the first time (awkward kissing ensues) and go on a romantic trip. Then it’s back to real life: the couples move in together, meet each other’s families and friends, and navigate dilemmas such as how many mandarin oranges is too many to eat before dinner. Finally, the last couples standing walk down the aisle. —K.S.
Loki (Disney+, October 5)
The first season of Loki isn’t just the most-watched Marvel series on Disney+, it’s also the most watchable one. The series’ star, Tom Hiddleston, only deserves part of the credit for that, though—the rest goes to the note-perfect utilization of Owen Wilson as (eventually disillusioned) Time Variance Authority agent Mobius M. Mobius. If you’re not a Marvel person, that might read like gibberish. The character is basically a middle manager responsible for policing the multiversal shenanigans that have come to define superhero blockbusters these days. Wilson took what might have been the dullest role to ever appear in a superhero story and turned much of the first season into a two-hander buddy comedy between Mobius and the titular god of mischief.
Wilson will return for season two, and fellow Texan Sasha Lane, who played another TVA agent in the first season, may be back as well (at the very least, she teased the possibility a few times when promoting season one). Another Texan is also involved: Jonathan Majors, in what will be his first role since his March arrest on domestic violence charges. Subsequent to that arrest, additional allegations of abusive behavior have been reported, both in the press and to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Given that principal production on the series was largely completed in 2022 and that Disney spent a reported $141 million on the series, it’s not a surprise that Marvel chose to press forward with Majors, whose character previously appeared at the end of Loki’s first season and served as the villain in February’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Nonetheless, how—or if—his presence on the show is addressed will be something else to keep an eye on. —D.S.
The Exorcist: Believer (theaters, October 6)
Director David Gordon Green, who hails from Richardson, just north of Dallas, continues in his role as Hollywood’s horror necromancer with this reboot of the Exorcist franchise. Green appears to be running a similar playbook to the one he used when he rebooted the Halloween franchise in 2018. Believer is a direct sequel to 1973’s The Exorcist, ignoring all the mostly zany installments in between, and just like how Green brought back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode for Halloween, Ellen Burstyn reprises her role as Chris MacNeil, the mother of the child who was possessed in the 1973 film, who now returns to help two young girls who face the same evil. —Josh Alvarez
The Burial (theaters, October 6; Amazon Prime, October 13)
It may be surprising, but Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones, both Texas natives, have never starred in a movie together. But the wait may have been worth it, because their roles in Amazon Prime’s forthcoming The Burial seem custom-made for them. Foxx plays a gregarious, smooth-talking lawyer, and Jones is a warm, if stolid, Mississippi funeral home director who enlists Foxx in his fight against the unfair, corrupt business practices of a much larger competitor. Think Men in Black, except the culprits are greedy businessmen and prejudiced lawyers, and it’s all based on actual events. —J.A.
Austin Film Festival (October 26–November 2)
Now in its thirtieth year, the Austin Film Festival has set itself apart from other such events around the country by focusing not on the stars or the directors but on the writers. The creative minds behind the most celebrated movies and television shows come to Austin every fall to share their insights, tips, and more. With the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, this year’s fest feels even more poignant. Attendees will include Emmy winner Damon Lindelof, the cocreator of Lost and showrunner for The Leftovers and Watchmen; Joanna Calo, showrunner of The Bear (yes, chef!); and Celine Song, writer-director of one this year’s most beautiful films, Past Lives. Screenings, which run for the full week, will range from the psychological thriller Saltburn to Alexander Payne’s newest comedy, The Holdovers. I’m looking forward to the world premiere of the Austin-shot I’ll Be There, written by Cindy McCreery, interim chair of the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas, and directed by Andrew Shea. —K.B.
Demi Lovato, Revamped (September 15)
Demi Lovato may be “Cool for the Summer,” but who says she can’t also be cool in the fall? Her new album, Revamped, features, as the title suggests, a bunch of her older songs, now rock-ified. Her vocals are more isolated and clear, allowing listeners to still enjoy the deep rock background while also hearing the Texas-raised singer’s chops. On songs such as 2017’s “Sorry Not Sorry,” now with added instrumentals from guitarist Slash, it’s hard not to head-bang with the beat. —L.C.
“¡Viva Terlingua! The Big Bang of Texas Music” (through spring 2025)
A recently opened exhibition at the Wittliff Collections, housed at Texas State University, in San Marcos, takes a deep dive into the seminal Jerry Jeff Walker album from 1973. Included alongside items from Walker’s personal archives are unreleased songs and never-before-heard chatter, outtakes, and rehearsals, plus four songs from the rowdy live-recording session at the Luckenbach dance hall that added a nitro boost to the emerging outlaw-country movement. —J.A.
Black Pumas, Chronicles of a Diamond (October 27)
Black Pumas, led by singer-songwriter Eric Burton and Austin guitarist-producer Adrian Quesada, follow up their Grammy-nominated 2019 self-titled debut with another mind-expanding, psychedelic soul record. Look out for live shows in Austin, Dallas, and Houston December 4–9. —J.A.
Tu Tu (Houston Ballet, September 21–October 1)
The 2023–24 season at the Houston Ballet includes favorites such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cinderella, but the highlight of the program is Tu Tu (pun intended, one assumes), a triple bill that includes a ballet by Stanton Welch, the company’s artistic director and a former choreographer with the Australian Ballet; a Houston Ballet premiere of Stars and Stripes, which combines George Balanchine’s choreography with the patriotic tunes of John Philip Sousa; and the world premiere of a new work by Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, inspired by twentieth-century Uruguayan poet Delmira Agustini. The evening promises to be a colorful—and international—night at the ballet. —Leah Prinzivalli
The Rocky Horror Show (September 23–October 29, Kalita Humphreys Theater, Dallas)
Spooky season is almost upon us, and with it come the horror films, ghost stories, and genre novels that are just more fun to consume in the cozy coolness of autumn. One classic of the season is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 cult hit that follows two innocents into an eerie, musically alive mansion filled with odd characters and sing-along bangers. At Dallas’s Kalita Humphreys Theater this fall, the tale returns to its roots as a stage musical. As is traditional for Rocky Horror film showings across the country, audience participation is encouraged, and the theater will provide props to really help bring the story—like the muscly Franken-hunk Rocky—to life. —Taylor Prewitt
Intelligence (Houston Grand Opera, October 20–November 3)
Houston Grand Opera’s stellar season considers the shifting nature of truth, opening with Intelligence, an epic world premiere. Created by the powerhouse trio of composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer, and legendary dance maker Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, in her debut outing as an opera director-choreographer, Intelligence explores the remarkable, little-known true story of two women spies during the Civil War. Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton portrays Elizabeth Van Lew, a woman from a prominent Confederate family who ran a pro-Union spy ring. Soprano Janai Brugger makes her highly anticipated HGO debut as the brilliant Mary Jane Bowser, born into slavery in the Van Lew household, taught to read and write, and (in the opera, at least) sent to live in the Confederate White House. Eight dancers from Zollar’s legendary New York company, Urban Bush Women, also are in the stellar cast. Acclaimed conductor Kwamé Ryan, also appearing for the first time with HGO, will be at the podium. —Molly Glentzer
“2023 Texas Artist of the Year: Vincent Valdez” (Art League Houston, September 22–December 2)
San Antonio native Vincent Valdez explores troubling cultural memories with his unflinching works. As Art League Houston’s 2023 Texas Artist of the Year, he’s hanging his recent Siete Dias/Seven Days, a haunting, chapel-like installation of banners depicting some of the more than 150,000 people who have disappeared in Latin America since the 1970s. With another section of the show, Valdez is reviving personal memories, including his own first visit to a museum. He’s also collaborated with collector Joe Diaz to curate a selection of works by other great Texas artists who have inspired him. —M.G.
“Groundswell: Women of Land Art” (Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, September 23–January 7)
Who knew that a significant number of female creators were part of the “land art” movement in the sixties and seventies, which saw artists such as Robert Smithson (Spiral Jetty, in the Great Salt Lake, Amarillo Ramp, in our Panhandle) embedding immense conceptual pieces into the American landscape? Not many of us, because, as this exhibition argues, women didn’t get nearly as much attention as their male contemporaries before the movement faded. The show details the themes and approaches of twelve of these women, and the Nasher commissioned a site-specific work by one of them, Mary Miss, that follows the path of a buried stream and begins on the museum’s grounds; register for a guided neighborhood walk to experience it. —Marilyn Bailey
“Afro-Atlantic Histories” (Dallas Museum of Art, October 22–February 11)
This internationally touring exhibit, an examination of the Atlantic slave trade and its legacies through several centuries’ worth of art, adds up to a monumental look at deep, cross-border commonalities among the Black diaspora. It was a highlight of the 2021–22 season at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Texans get another chance to catch it at this final U.S. stop, which includes some related literary events: as part of the DMA’s Arts & Letters Live series (advance tickets here), Jesmyn Ward discusses her forthcoming novel Let Us Descend, described as a reimagining of American slavery, on October 29, and Zadie Smith appears November 15 with her new historical novel, The Fraud. —M.B.
“Bonnard’s Worlds” (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, November 5–January 28)
Five years ago the Kimbell, which buys only major, singular works by each artist in its European collection, acquired its first painting by Pierre Bonnard, a friend of Matisse and fellow exemplar of twentieth-century French colorism. That was Landscape at Le Cannet (1928), a nine-foot-wide vision of the scene around Bonnard’s home in the South of France, rendered in intense hues. It inspired this exhibition, the museum’s first devoted to Bonnard. The show ranges through his whole career, but this is no dutiful chronology: viewers will be invited into the artist’s sensory experiences, with seventy paintings—interiors as well as landscapes—organized by “measures of intimacy.” —M.B.
“Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence” (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, November 19–June 19)
Engaging a modern audience with complex and emotional ideas through the well-explored form of painting is no easy feat. But Kehinde Wiley pulls it off with breathtaking results, whether the portrait subject is President Barack Obama or LL Cool J. November 19, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will open a show of his work titled “Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence,” described as a “new, monumental body of work created against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.” The first tour stop after an opening in San Francisco, this show is a notable get. —K.V.