In the Texas Monthly Recommends series, Texas Monthly writers, editors, photographers, and producers offer up their favorite recent culture discoveries from the great state of Texas.

If you’re in the mood for a quiet, beautifully shot western, boot up Netflix for The Power of the Dog, written and directed by Jane Campion. In the film, two rich brothers run a ranch in 1920s Montana. One brother, Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), is intentionally rough and grimy, refusing for a second to shed his chaps or his masculine bravado, not even for an occasional bath. His brother, George (Jesse Plemons), on the other hand, is sensitive and reticent, much to Phil’s frustration and eventual heartbreak. When they meet widow Rose Gordon (Kristen Dunst) and her teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), George falls in love with Rose, while Phil mocks Peter for appearing to be what Phil dubs “a sissy.” When George marries Rose and moves her into their ranch home, Phil’s mockery extends to Rose, whom he accuses of being a gold digger. Peter, who has gone off to college, visits the ranch and sees how Phil’s ridicule has pushed his mother into alcoholism. What’s a boy to do? Nearly every main cast member delivers a powerful performance, including Dallas-born Plemons, who embodies a man made small by his domineering brother. The film is a stunningly beautiful and well-acted tale about complicated family dynamics, long-held secrets, and the danger of making assumptions.

 —Doyin Oyeniyi, assistant editor

Listen to a holiday tuba choir

The annual marvel of musical mirth known as TubaChristmas, now in its forty-eighth year, is spreading brassy joy across the state. The series was conceived by noted tubaist and American Classical Music Hall of Famer Harvey Phillips as a tribute to his tuba mentor William Bell, another noted tubaist and member of John Phillip Souza’s band who was born on Christmas Day in 1902. The first TubaChristmas was performed on the ice rink at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City in 1974, and the yearly public concerts have since expanded across the nation—and the globe.  

As much a celebration of the tuba (euphoniums and other bass-y brass instruments are not unwelcome) as of the music of the yuletide, most TubaChristmas concerts feature dozens of local players who often must register for the event the day of the show. (Interested tubaists and euphonium players can visit for more information.)

Of the 22 Texas performances, the remaining ones are:

Saturday, December 18
Denton, University of North Texas Library Mall, noon
The Woodlands (forty-first anniversary), Market Street, noon
Robinson, First Methodist Church of Waco South Campus, 3 p.m.
San Angelo, San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, noon
Wichita Falls, Midwestern State University, 3 p.m.

Monday, December 20
Austin, Texas Capitol (south steps), noon
Corpus Christi, PlainsCapital Bank Building (Shoreline Boulevard location), noon

Thursday, December 23
Fort Worth, TCU Campus (outside Ed Landreth Hall and Auditorium), noon

Friday, December 24
Dallas (forty-third anniversary), Thanks-Giving Square, noon

David Courtney, senior editor

Celebrate a gender-bending Texas aerialist with The Barbette Project

Anyone who has met the vaudeville icon Barbette through stories, letters, or photos has fallen in love with him. The Round Rock native stunned audiences across Europe in the 1920s with a death-defying circus act performed in drag, always ending with a signature move: he pulled off his wig and flexed his muscles to reveal that he was a man. The magic the Texas-born performer possessed is undeniable, and artist Stav Meishar seeks to embody his spirit through her newest work, The Barbette Project. With a team of LGBTQ artists, the multidisciplinary art project explores themes of gender, race, and identity through first-person monologues, video projections, and live art.

Meishar began researching and planning The Barbette Project in late 2019, 46 years after Barbette’s death, while working toward her master’s degree in contemporary circus practices. The performance mirrors the structure of the essay “Le Numéro Barbette” by poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, with each act individually tailored to the artist performing it and inspired by personal experiences and survey responses from the LGBTQ members of the circus community. 

The Barbette Project takes place on Zoom on December 19, Barbette’s birthday. What better way to celebrate his life than through those inspired by him?

Lauren Castro, editorial intern

Watch an engrossing new video by Houston rapper $later 281

Houston rapper Treaveyon Slater, a.k.a. $later 281, just released the music video for his latest song, “ThreeTwoOne.” Impressively, $later shot the entire video while confined to a wheelchair while recovering from an injury. The song pairs a nontraditional loop of ascending piano notes with classic rap staples, such as a subtle bass line and a thumping kick drum. $later is calm in his vocal cadence but raps with purpose, firing off lyrics that include “If you ain’t mobbin’ get a job” and “Why you making threats? You got my phone number.” The contrasts are enough to put the listener on edge.

At the beginning of the video, a man drives a Bentley into the gas station where $later and his friends are hanging out. The man inexplicably leaves the car, engine running, parked next to a gas pump. $later’s friends decide to steal the car and urge him to join them, and $later eventually agrees. The three of them take the car for a joyride around south Houston, at one point ordering Domino’s delivered to the side of the road. Once the song cuts out, there’s a twist ending that you’ll just have to watch to enjoy.

Ben Moskow, editorial intern