Museum fatigue needn’t afflict you at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts’ stunning new Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. Avoid that zombie stare by taking frequent breaks at Cafe Leonelli, the casual, cafeteria-style restaurant on the first floor. The tall, white room is a delight—with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, indoor and outdoor seating, and a ceiling covered in filament light bulbs that might remind you of an Alexander Calder sculpture. The cafe opens at eight every morning, so you can start with coffee and a light breakfast, like Greek yogurt or coffee cake with almond streusel. Then you can come back for lunch, which might be a porchetta sandwich. A very early dinner is possible too (the cafe closes at 5 p.m.)—maybe roasted salmon tricked out with olives and capers. 

Oh, and the exhibits? They are fantastic, as is the Kinder building itself; Texas Monthly contributor Michael Hardy wrote all about it. My favorite work of art was a languid painting by Matisse of three women listening while a fourth woman sings; it was once a fireplace mural, and the colors are as luscious as those of a French patisserie. On May 18, the museum’s second and more serious restaurant—Le Jardinier—is scheduled to open for dinner (Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.). I’ll be back to check it out.
Patricia Sharpe, executive editor 

Listen to a Podcast About the Chicks 

For those who aren’t already avid listeners, the You’re Wrong About podcast takes as its conceit a dissection of bygone cultural moments, peeling back layers of contemporaneous reporting to reveal the fuller truths of past events. The hit show has delved deep into such subjects as the O. J. Simpson trial, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and Y2K. In the latest episode, hosts Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall home in on the band formerly known as the Dixie Chicks (now the Chicks) and their 2003 comments on George W. Bush and the Iraq War—you know the ones. In addition to a thorough telling of the band’s origin story and its Texas-based transformation from traditional bluegrass group to pop-country behemoth, Hobbes and Marshall make a compelling case for labeling the Chicks backlash the first online instance of “cancel culture” as we recognize the term today. If that bums you out, the podcast also features several clips of the Chicks’ early music, priming you to press play on “Wide Open Spaces” once the episode ends.
Taylor Prewitt, social media editor 

Watch a New Texas Star in Godzilla vs. Kong

Most modern monster movies are infamous for being all action and no heart, putting their human characters’ development on the back burner—but it’s easy to slip into the mindlessness of the spectacle and forgive these films’ many, many other shortcomings. After all, not many watch a Godzilla movie for the plot, much less for its human characters.

I expected the latest addition to Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse, Godzilla vs. Kong, to fulfill that stereotype, but instead I found that the humans—well, one of them, at least—captured almost as much of my attention as the gargantuan creatures. The film has two storylines, one of which follows Godzilla and father-and-daughter protagonists the Russells (Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown), who were the (largely uninteresting) stars of 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. But the other plotline, which follows Kong and the people surrounding him, is ten times more compelling, in no small part due to Texas School for the Deaf student and Hollywood newcomer Kaylee Hottle.

In her film debut, nine-year-old Hottle plays Jia, the last surviving member of the Iwi, who were the natives of Skull Island introduced in Kong’s 2017 film. Now she’s been adopted by one of the scientists monitoring Kong in a research facility. Jia has a unique connection to Kong since he rescued her from the storm that killed the rest of the Iwi, and they are able to communicate through sign language.

Hottle’s Jia provides just the right amount of emotional depth that the previous installments sorely needed, while not taking away from the film’s dramatic main event. Her exchanges with Kong are dynamic and captivating—which is even more remarkable when you consider that the actress was only interacting with a laser point on a green screen. Hottle’s portrayal of their deep bond, as they travel from Skull Island to Kong’s birthplace in Hollow Earth, gives the film a pulse, grounding an outlandish premise and bringing it back to Earth. Even if apocalyptic monster battles aren’t your cup of tea, Godzilla vs. Kong is worth watching in order to witness Hottle’s promising debut. —Morgan Pryor, editorial intern