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2011CriticsEntertainment

Best Austin Movie Blog
Slackerwood's Austin Film News Mega-Feed

This irresistibly monickered aggregate website keeps its finger on the pulse of the Austin film scene. The Austin-based megafeed compiles posts from numerous local film blogs, and therefore little that goes on around town passes unnoticed. Additionally, Slackerwood’s in-house writers contribute movie reviews and extensive coverage of Austin’s bustling film-festival scene.

Slackerwood Austin Film News, www.slackerwood.com

Best Barest, Bravest Show Run
Live Nude Improv

Curiosity may have been what brought the first audiences to the Hideout to see Live Nude Improv, but word of mouth and stunningly raw improvised shows are what turned it into an entirely sold-out run. And yes, there was nudity – that was the point, or at least one of them. Director Andy Crouch credits the Rude Mechs' mounting of the breakthrough stage nudie Dionysus in 69, which had its run in 2009, as influence. Performing with a very thin veil between audience and actor allowed Live Nude an interactivity rarely seen in this format – vulnerable and honest, the perfect mix of art and improv.

The Hideout Theatre & Coffeehouse, 617 Congress, 512/443-3688, www.hideouttheatre.com

Best Chamber Ensemble, Then and Now
Miró Quartet

In the eight years that it's been the string quartet in residence at the University of Texas' Butler School of Music, the Miró Quartet has proven itself an extraordinary addition to Austin's arts scene. The musicmaking and ensemble work among Daniel Ching, Joshua Gindele, John Largess, and Sandy Yamamoto has been stunning in its sophistication, intricacy, and intimacy, and they've been good enough to share it in concerts across the community as well as at the UT and with their student charges, such as the award-winning Aeolus Quartet. An era for the group may have ended with Yamamoto's retirement from Miró in May, but recent concerts with her successor, William Fedkenheuer, on second violin, have shown that the Miró's astonishing virtuosity and musical unity endures. In chamber music, these four are No. 1 – for the past, the present, and, no doubt, the future.

Best Dive Bar Without a Sign
Bernadette's

photo by Sandy Carson

Off a busy boulevard, down an unassuming driveway, through a dark parking lot, there is an unmarked door. But don't expect secret knocks or a vintage veneer: The proprietress, simply known as E, will look at you funny. In fact, it's quite amazing that you found your way in. There is no indication from the street; there is no sign, save for the one inside that instructs "Only 2 Sluts Per Stall." The patrons are as likely to arrive on bikes as they are in cars, and the unusual and gender-indeterminate reign. Everyone is welcome. Get radical, down, and dirty in the darkened booths, or just settle in for a friendly after-work beer. Previously Airport Club & Grill, this place is 100% pure Austin dive heaven.

Bernadette's, 2039 Airport, www.bernadettesbar.com

Best Fag/Fag Hag Bag
Celluloid Handbag

Hey, homo! Have you heard about Celluloid Handbag? It's glittery, glitzy kitsch carried by none other than Austin's own drag dynamo Rebecca Havemeyer. Once a month, Havemeyer drags all the ’mos down to the ’mo, aka the Alamo Drafthouse, for a carefully curated series of cinema adored by the LGBTQIA. Sometimes it's films made by (Female Trouble) and sometimes it's seemingly made for (those handsome beaus in Flash Gordon). And sometimes, it's just a film the queers can all get behind (if ya know what we mean) – the recently sold-out Clue. One thing is certain: Havemeyer will delight with song, dance, video, and her gammy leg before the night is through.

Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, 320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020, drafthouse.com/austin/theater/ritz

Best Guy To Beat the Drum for Percussion
Thomas Burritt

For most of us, "I don't want to work; I just want to bang on the drum all day" is merely a dream from a Todd Rundgren song. But for Thomas Burritt, banging on the drum all day is his work. And his joy, too, from the sound of it. Whether he's leading his Butler School of Music students through a piece like Steve Reich's classic "Drumming," rocking the marimba at the Round Top Festival Institute's Percussion Galore! concerts, jamming with the Golden Hornet Project, providing a backbeat for the choral wonder of Conspirare, or hosting a webisode of his Percussion Axiom TV series, Burritt conveys an infectious enthusiasm for all things you can beat with a stick or a mallet. And while he always masterfully serves the music he's playing, no matter what rhythm he's tapping out when he bangs on the drum (or marimbas or vibraphone or glockenspiel or cymbals), you can't help but hear the beat of his heart.

Best Local Video Game You Can Actually Tell Is Local
'The Gunstringer'

Few video games give players a sense of where they were developed. Not so with The Gunstringer, Twisted Pixel's release that uses the Kinect motion-sensing controller to put players in control of an undead marionette on a revenge mission. The local developers filmed the intro to the game at the Paramount Theatre, filled with volunteer extras. Live-action downloadable content was filmed at Star Hill Ranch west of town and stars a radically coiffed Wiley Wiggins as Future Buddy. It's like recognizing people and places in Friday Night Lights but also being able to shoot things you don't like.

Twisted Pixel Games, 4009 Banister #100, www.twistedpixelgames.com

Best Marching Merrymakers
Minor Mishap Marching Band

photo by Sandy Carson

Nothing compares to the gesamtkunstwerk of a Minor Mishap show, with members parading around like anarchist, psychotic bumblebees on Adderall, blowing music outta variously sized sound holes, standing atop bars, stages, and one another. The vibe is so, so very celebratory, even the crustiest curmudgeon would crack a grin. Make no mistake, this is the best of music nerd-dom. It's what all those high school kids in polyester, double-breasted shame cocoons standing out in the Texas sun and doing their darndest to play terrible translations of BeeGees and ABBA tunes mercilessly foisted upon them wishes they were doing instead. Led by the sweet and frenetic performative conducting of Datri Bean, the band boasts a roster of randy and rowdy goodness: old and young, straight and queer. From QueerBomb to Honk!TX (a national street-band fest) to the recent release of its first CD, this circus of a band ain't going anywhere besides up! Those cool, disaffected indie-rock alterna-youth can suck it, hard. Happy is back.

Best Mobile Samba
Acadêmicos da Ópera

photo by Jana Birchum

This year, we are going to reinvent ourselves as Brazilians. We're going to learn to samba and to drum, and we'll dance and stomp and march in a frenzy of feathers and sequins with more than 100 other revelers. We will wear elaborate headdresses and beautiful costumes and participate in the joy and pageantry of Carnaval. And thanks to Acadêmicos da Ópera samba school, we don't even have to leave Texas. Yeah, this is gonna be a good year.

Acadêmicos da Ópera, www.austinsambaschool.org

Best Movie Deal
Violet Crown Cinema

photo by Bret Brookshire

In its first year on the Austin scene, the Violet Crown Cinema has shaken up the model for local filmgoing. The fourplex's exclusive dedication to arthouse film programming is just the beginning of what sets it apart. Each auditorium seats only 50 people, but tickets can be purchased online in advance, and there's no surcharge for the convenience. Then, with seat selection guaranteed, patrons can linger in the cafe or comfy lounges until showtime. Plus, four hours of free parking in the attached parking garage Downtown comes with every ticket.

Violet Crown Cinema, 434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Best New Live Music Scene Game-Changer
ACL Live at the Moody Theater

A closely guarded (some might say dirty little) secret here in the live music capital is the cutthroat nature of local concert promotions. Behind the scenes, bookers competing for talent have been known to fight in the streets. Yet even they stop to testify about the Moody Theater’s inaugural championship season. Beginning Valentine’s Day, the second of Willie Nelson’s two live christenings, the $40 million new home of Austin City Limits transcended its status as headquarters of American television’s longest-running music series to become a concert venue locals flock to en masse. Austin boasts 2,000-plus-seaters from here to Cedar Park, but between world-class PBS tapings and a steady stream of monster acts, the Moody Theater has staggered the competition. The TV series started with Lone Star space cowboy Steve Miller and continued through the fiery likes of Arcade Fire and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears with the Relatives, while the theatre side has jetted from West Africa with Youssou N’Dour to Marin County with Santana. And let’s not forget President Barack Obama. Bootsy Collins funked up the joint, Devo stomped it, and come Nov. 15, Aretha Franklin crowns it. Game-changer.

ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd., 512/225-7999, www.acl-live.com

Best Philanthro-Punk Charity Event
Hargrave Arcade

Trey Baker's brain works in mysterious ways. His monthly house parties combine 20 screens' worth of vintage video games with live music, movie screenings, vegan pasta, and more. What's more, Baker donates all of the money from the door and raffles to charity, not even reimbursing himself for any of the costs associated with such an anarchic soiree. His old-guard Austin swagger even got his abode and mug featured in the Slacker remake. Just look for the near-comatose dude watching several TVs while the Octopus Project plays in his backyard.

Hargrave Arcade, 1185 1/2 Hargrave, 512/949-7364, www.hargravearcade.org

Best Reason To Learn the Charleston
Vintage Vivant

photo by John Leach

The last Great Depression has this one licked for fashion. So for those of you with steak-house tastes on a soup-kitchen budget, once a month the retro-chic molls and brunos of Vintage Vivant, lead by mostest hostesses Angeliska (Gadjo Disko) and Amelia (Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School), break out the Dutch caps and fedoras to turn Swan Dive into Austin's finest gin mill. The bluenoses can pipe down – even if you're a cement mixer on the dance floor, this is the finest way to hoof away this trip to the poor house.

Swan Dive, 615 Red River, www.swandiveaustin.com

Best Rebirth of a Legend
The Sahara Lounge

Austin, don't panic. TC's, the blues bar you knew and loved, may be gone, but you can still swing by the old place and savor a slow beer and some good music at its new incarnation, the Sahara Lounge. Ibrahim Aminou saw it in a dream, and now he and the rest of his family of musicians own one of Austin's most magical corners. Except for some West African flare and a sweet new outdoor area, the bar is the same as ever. The calendar is packed with local bands (welcome back, Monday night blues) and DJs, plus a barbecue trailer is parked out front. It's still the epitome of a classic Texas juke joint, holding its own on the edge of town.

The Sahara Lounge, 1413 Webberville Rd., 512/927-0700, www.saharalounge.com

Best Video-Game Collective Name
Juegos Rancheros

Oh yeah, the group itself is pretty cool, too. Founded by poster boys of the local indie gaming scene Brandon Boyer, Adam Saltsman, and Wiley Wiggins, the group has monthly open meetings at the HighBall bringing game developers from Austin and elsewhere around the globe to share their visions and expertise. Don't expect a tech-laden wonkfest though; Juegos welcomes and accommodates anyone and everyone who wants to see (and often play) the cutting edge of interactive arts. The schmoozing is top-notch, but, more importantly, the gabbing and flesh-pressing is getting results such as the under-construction Texatron indie video-gaming cabinet. Expect that chunk of solid awesome to be staring back at Austin very soon.

Juegos Rancheros, www.juegosrancheros.com

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