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2007CriticsEntertainment

Best Argument for Expansion
End of an Ear

Austin's current condo crop circle may be hard to stomach, but End of an Ear's recent expansion is true cosmic bliss for music geeks. The 2-year-old South First outpost tore down the wall this summer, moving into the space left by neighbor Vanilla Girl and allowing extremely knowledgeable and helpful owners Blake Carlisle and Dan Plunkett to add even more used CDs, cheap vinyl, and DVDs. In an era of big-box stores pumping out overpriced pop pap, End of an Ear's a true Austin establishment (don't you dare ask for the new Fall Out Boy). Plus, you can find that rare Turkish-psych record you've always wanted.

End of an Ear, 4304 Clawson, 512/462-6008, www.endofanear.com

Best Argument for Expansion II
DJ Dojo

Yo. If, like us, you've long harbored a burning desire to force perfect strangers to dance like Balki on an Ecstasy-and-Red Bull bender but only knew of "wheels of steel" as an old Saxon song, your time has arrived, along with your "wheels" (aka turntables); your new, improved vinyl collection; and – d'oh! – your talent! Sensei-wit-da-mojobatics DJ Manny and DJ Bigface (Look! His face! It's big!) not only sell the gear to keep you rollin' in style and substance, they'll also drop so much turntable science on your heretofore lame, un-beat-matchable pseudo-bootie that in no time at all you'll be saying, "Paul Oaken who?" Okay, okay, so everyone younger than 30 says that these days. Still and yo: Get the mad skills, get the mad honeys, and get on with it already. Sasha and Dick-something-or-other await. Word to your MILF.

DJ Dojo, 411 W. Monroe, 512/447-3656, www.iscratchvinyl.com

Best Bigfoot Hunters
Museum of the Weird

Everyone's weird in Austin. But there's weird, and then there's weeeird. So when Steve Busti said he was opening his P.T. Barnum-style cabinet of curiosities, complete with cyclopean pig, shrunken heads, and the mysterious egress, he was setting the warped bar of the weird pretty high. But if you can’t tell a feejee mermaid from a devil fish, you don’t know weird yet.

Museum of the Weird, 412 E. Sixth, 512/476-5493, www.museumoftheweird.com

Best Creative Use of Three Small Trampolines
Little Stolen Moments

The song-and-dance power trio that is Lindsey Taylor, Nicole Whiteside, and Stanley Roy Williamson do for minitramps what OK Go did for treadmills but funnier, and that's only part of the stunning kinesis they present in bars, back yards, stages, and parties all over the funkier parts of Austin. The gangly lead man's got a ukulele and a voice like a backwoods angel, and he and the two lithe foxes with him dance in sync like Kraftwerk as retrained by Paula Abdul.

Best Exercise for Your Brain
Pub Quiz at Mother Egan's

It's worth going just to hear the clever team names (MoPac Shakur!), but if you want a chance at winning, brush up on your table of elements, phobias, and pretty much everything to do with Ireland. This pub quiz features seven rounds of 10 questions, including one theme round. Mayor Will Wynn even drops by on occasion to read questions. And even though beloved original host Mick no longer guides the night, he promises to stop by for some guest reading, too. Tuesdays, 7:30pm.

Mother Egan's Irish Pub, 715 W. Sixth, 512/478-7747, www.motheregansirishpub.com

Best Happy-Hour Prices
Deep Eddy Cabaret

Beyond the song-selection in the jukebox, things haven't changed much inside Deep Eddy Cabaret since it became a bar in 1951. This lends itself to the eclectic charm of the cabaret's patrons: Patrons, from Tarrytown socialites to Deep Eddy lifeguards to borderline alcoholic yeggs, drink side-by-side here nightly, bonded by booze. How could you not with these pint prices? On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, 7-8pm, everything in the bar is half off. That's right, everything: from liquor to pitchers. This means those already insanely cheap $2.70 pints of domestic are now a mere $1.35, cheaper then the gas in the cab that will have to take your belligerent butt home at 8:15pm.

Deep Eddy Cabaret, 2315 Lake Austin Blvd., 512/472-0961, www.deepeddybar.com

Best Independent AIDS Fundraiser
Red Hot XVI

Sixteen years and still growing strong, Oilcan Harry's legendary bartender Steve Higginbotham produces this hot summer event in memory of his former partner. Raising $18,000 this year alone, Red Hot has hit the $250,000 mark and donates its proceeds to Project Transitions. A hot auction and a cool cocktail do the trick every time.

Oilcan Harry's, 211 W. Fourth, 512/320-8823, www.oilcanharrys.com

Project Transitions, PO Box 4826, Austin, TX 78765, Austin,, 512/454-8646, www.projecttransitions.org

Best Monday Blues
T.C.'s Lounge

Eastside blues dive T.C.'s Lounge is an Austin gem. They know how to start the week off right. Monday nights, the bar is packed – blues onstage and a tiny dance floor packed with a variety of faces, from hipster college kids to older folks from the neighborhood. The more the merrier, but it gets hot. The building's age shows; there is no central air-conditioning, with only window units to keep the crowd cool. It's been open for almost three decades, owned by T.C. Perkins since 1979. All the dancing might make you hungry. Not to worry; every Monday T.C.'s offers a different dish to dine on: barbecue, chicken and dumplings, and even the occasional Manwich.

TC's Lounge, 1413 Webberville Rd., 512/926-2200, www.myspace.com

Best VHS Throwback
The Movie Store

For those who didn't blink when the superior video-recording format, digital versatile disc, began to sweep the world in the late Nineties, for those who turned a blind eye when video stores began pushing VHS tapes off the shelves to make room for DVDs, the panic may be finally setting in: Your beloved video-home-system format is becoming obsolete. Fortunately, there's the Movie Store, where you can rent three movies on VHS for $3.75 (or two DVDs for $3.75). They have the best selection of VHS tapes in town.

The Movie Store, 4301 Guadalupe Ste. A, 512/453-1237

Best Way to Dance Like Your Grandparents Did
Austin Barn Dancers

Or, perhaps more like your great-grandparents did. The Austin Barn Dancers meet every Wednesday for an evening of contra dancing. Think square dancing but less complicated and more upbeat. Sure, at first glance you may wonder why on earth you came and how on earth you’ll remember the steps, but once you get started, you forget that you don’t know what you’re doing. A live-music ensemble keeps you on beat, and veteran dancers will guide you through the steps. Show up at 7:30pm for a quick lesson before the dances begin.

Austin Barn Dancers, Hancock Recreation Center, 811 E. 41st, 512/453-4225

Biggest Movement
Mumblecore

South by Southwest Film 07 saw Aaron Katz (Quiet City), Ry Russo-Young (Orphans), and Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs) build upon the achievements of friends and collaborators Susan Buice and Arin Crumley (Four-Eyed Monsters), Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation), and the Duplass Brothers (The Puffy Chair). The festival this year, showcasing such stammering delights, was less a formal recognition of the cinema of the indecisive and inarticulate than it was a celebration of the democracy of moviemaking in the 21st century. While conference networking gave way to networking credits, funny, smart, and sexy stayed the course.

South by Southwest, 400 Bowie, 512/467-7979, www.sxsw.com

Bravest Film Festival, Even in Death
Cinematexas

We're missing the point if we pay too much attention to the politics surrounding the demise of Cinematexas. We're wasting time if we sit around wondering who's to blame and what might be gained by sifting through the remains. All that matters now is what they were really about: wannabes shutting up, getting to work, and taking a shot; a big-school-backed shorts festival screening the results alongside those from more established experimenters; and people showing up to watch. If what we saw wasn't always – or often or ever – to our taste, at least we knew we were among folks more concerned with what they were seeing than they were with which talentless industry hanger-on they were being seen with. Don't R.I.P., CT.

Cinematexas, 2909 University, 512/471-6497, www.cinematexas.org

Film Festival With Most Years of Service
Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival

We love nothing more than a festival in uniform and out of step, but we'll also accept in step and out of uniform. The venerable yet irreverent aGLIFF turned 20 this year – making it the senior officer in the daunting Austin festival campaign – and celebrated with its biggest and most inclusive event yet: more than a hundred movies from a score of countries, the program all drawn up by a straight lady, Lisa Kaselak, and her diverse staff. Since visionary Scott Dinger founded it two decades ago, aGLIFF has evolved, reached out, endured, asked, told, and triumphed. Here's to 20 more.

Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, 1107 S. Eighth, 512/275-6227, www.agliff.org

Highest Achievement in Tater-Tot Artistry and Technique
Waterloo Ice House

Since consuming deep-fried foods is now considered tantamount to driving without buckling up, you need to be highly selective about what you choose. Why settle for inferior goodies? We can think of no better way to indulge in a guilty pleasure than the tater tots at Waterloo Ice House. Those familiar little nuggets arrive with the perfect amount of brown, crunchy goodness on the outside and the right texture of hot shredded potato on the inside. It's deep-fryer artistry! Every place else wishes their tots were like this. And one order is enough for the whole table.

Waterloo Ice House, 600 N. Lamar, 512/472-5400, www.waterlooicehouse.com

Waterloo Ice House, 1106 W. 38th, 512/451-5245, www.waterlooicehouse.com

Waterloo Ice House, 8600 Burnet Rd., 512/458-6544, www.waterlooicehouse.com

4 more locations

Most Unchained Chain Theatre
Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills

As the local arthouse venue of the national Regal Cinemas chain, the Arbor @ Great Hills can always be counted on to showcase an outstanding selection of films. The theatre goes the extra distance by hosting such series as the DocuWeek Tour and Reel Talks, as well as providing festival screens for the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, the Austin Film Festival, Austin FilmWorks' end-of-semester presentations; and offering year-round ticket discounts to Austin Film Society members. Plus, Kevin Prewitt, the theatre's manager, is one of the nicest and most accommodating overseers to ever grace a box office, concession stand, or projection booth; visiting his theatre is always a pleasure.

Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills, 9828 Great Hills Trail, 512/231-9742

Most Upstanding Local Video-Game Incubator
Gamecock

The video-game industry couldn't possibly be run by a bunch of humorless suits worried about stock prices, could it? The glut of recent sequels might give you a clue. Gamecock thinks there’s a better way. Founded by Mike Wilson, who’s worked on games since Doom, and funded by anonymous jet-setting billionaires, the company was announced in February as a new kind of publisher, one that focuses on supporting creative, independent developers. Their first two games hit shelves this month. But we have to ask: When a company called Gamecock is publishing a game titled Mushroom Men for a console named Wii, should we wonder if that's a controller in their pocket or if they're damn glad to see us? Just sayin'.

Gamecock, 109 E. 10th, 512/472-2211, www.gamecocklove.com

Critics: Arts & Culture
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