Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. 2 Hollywood celebrities dined at one of Austin’s best restaurants this week. While most Austinites cozied up at home this week, these famous spouses ate at an award-winning restaurant before a screening of their new film.

2. Austin's flagship Kendra Scott store transforms into mini-Museum of Ice Cream for Valentine's Day. Here's one sweet collaboration you won't want to miss — and it launches this weekend!

3. Texas scores top ranking among best states for dating, says new report. This Valentine’s Day is for the unattached, and it turns out Texas is a pretty great place to be single.

4. This Tesla rental service got me from Austin to Houston, despite my best efforts. A Tesla is a smooth ride, and the UFODrive self-service process ensures a smooth trip — if you pay attention.

5. Here are the top 5 things to do in Austin this weekend. Festive (fictional) funerals, demon barbers, live podcasts, and more reasons to venture out as the weather warms up this weekend.

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Cassandro wrestles with lucha libre and homophobia in real-life story

Movie Review

The LGBTQ community and the sports world have long had an uneasy relationship, especially in the United States. There are exceedingly few out male athletes around the world compared to the number of players total, and even though the world has progressed in significant ways, that statistic doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.

Although some don’t view professional wrestling as a sport, the culture around it is certainly testosterone-heavy, an idea that’s challenged in the new film, Cassandro. Saúl (Gael Garcia Bernal) lives in El Paso, but regularly crosses the border into Juarez, Mexico to participate in lucha libre matches. On the small side, he’s regularly cast as the runt, who never stands a chance at winning.

Openly gay, Saúl decides to change his wrestling persona to be an “exótico,” allowing him to express himself in a flamboyant manner. With the new wrestling name of Cassandro, Saúl starts to gain the notice of promoters and fans. At the same time, he wrestles with personal issues, including the strained life of his single mother, Yocasta (Perla De La Rosa) and an affair he’s having with a fellow luchador, Gerardo (Raúl Castillo).

Written and directed by Roger Ross Williams and co-written by David Teague, the film has a solidly-told story featuring a mixture of good performances, even if it feels like there’s something missing. The movie has all the hallmarks of an underdog story, and while it hits some of expected signposts along the way, it also strangely seems to hold back in certain aspects.

If you’re not already familiar with the lucha libre culture, the film doesn’t make it easy to get a handle on it. As in all pro wrestling, the matches aren’t “real,” but how and when the wrestlers decide how to perform and who will “win” feels confusing in the context of the film. It’s clear that the confidence Saúl shows as Cassandro makes him more appealing, but the intricacies of lucha libre could have been expounded on a bit more.

This becomes even more evident when fans are shown yelling gay slurs at him and other exóticos. There seems to be a contradictory performativeness to the antagonism, as those same fans soon start supporting him. Oddly, any other explicit homophobia is kept hidden, which - given the time period (the 1980s and ‘90s) and the machismo prevalent in Mexican culture - seems like the filmmakers made a conscious choice to not go down that road.

That and other decisions leave the film a bit flat emotionally. Saúl/Cassandro goes through a lot of upheaval in the film, and while the majority of it is engaging, there isn't a point where the story fully captures your heart. As with other areas, if the filmmakers had pushed just 10 percent harder, it would’ve turned the film from good to great.

Bernal turns in a fantastic performance, despite the fact that, even though he looks younger than he is, he’s a little old to be playing this particular character. Still, he has a charm and athleticism that makes him believable throughout. Good in supporting roles are Castillo (playing a similar role he did in The Inspection) and Roberta Colindrez as Saúl’s trainer. Keep an eye out for Bad Bunny in a small but interesting role.

There’s a lot to like about Cassandro, the story that’s being told, and the performances it contains. But by choosing not to explore certain parts of the story as much as they could have, the filmmakers left a lot of emotion out of it.


Cassandro is now playing in select theaters. It debuts on Prime Video on September 22.

Gael Garcia Bernal in Cassandro

Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Gael Garcia Bernal in Cassandro.

Inventive Hill Country winery cracks open new tasting room in Fredericksburg


One of the most prominent names in Hill Country wines is uncorking a new tasting room in Fredericksburg. On September 22, Grape Creek Vineyard’s owners, Brian and Jennifer Heath, will cut the ribbon to their latest property, Invention Vineyards, at 4222 S. State Hwy. 16.

Heath Family Brands has used the name for some time, first as a vintage from the Grape Creek portfolio. A 2022 purchase of Slate Mill Wine Collective cleared the way for Invention to be born as its own estate label.

Under longtime winemaker Jason Eglert, Invention crafts mostly Texas blends. The line also includes several single-varietal wines, focusing on Old World grapes like Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, and Viognier.

The property echoes that approach. The tasting room is on the former 35-acre site of Pioneer Flour Mills founder Carl Hilmar Guenther’s original mill. The entrepreneur did business in Fredericksburg for eight years before volatile weather conditions prompted a move to San Antonio.

A handful of Guenther’s original stone buildings still stand near the entry to Invention, but new construction houses the brand’s tasting room and state-of-the-art production facility. Nodding to the original structures, the rustic-industrial facility utilizes weathered brick and a corrugated roof.

Though the business has been open during the build-out, the grand opening will be the first opportunity for guests to see the completed compound. Tours will be offered from 11 am to 5:30 pm, with light bites served throughout the day.

Austin art collectives bring work made by 1,000 local hands to Burning Man

Lend a Hand

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but this textile was made by a thousand hands. That's gotta be worth something in a place like Burning Man.

In 2023, the pop-up desert city made more headlines than usual; the event was rained out and every dust-covered person, vehicle, artwork, and metaphysical idea was suddenly sunk into mud. As many revelers extended their stays to avoid a grueling trek out, DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock — who walked miles and then hitchhiked — were consistently cited as proof that escape was possible.

But the members of Art Island had a 56-foot tapestry to worry about. The Austin-based art troupe, known for its high production value parties with dress codes, fire performers, great DJs, and more, rigged up one of the tallest artworks at a festival already famous for oversized art.

Called "1,000 Hands" in reference to the 500 Austinites who helped dye and tie scraps of fabric in a flowing mosaic, the work became an unmissable part of the landscape. All in one main corridor were The Man (the massive effigy that serves as the visual and ideological focal point of the festival), The Temple (the main shared gathering place), and "1,000 Hands," literally lighting the way to the core of Black Rock City. The work became an orienting feature in a metropolis it's impossible to accurately map.

"Because it was so tall, and so vivid, you could see it from pretty much anywhere if you just looked up," says Art Island founder Maria Gotay, who was also one of the leading co-creators of the artwork. "It was by far the most vivid daytime art piece out there. So it really did stand out against the horizon."

1,000 Hands at Burning ManPhoto courtesy of Art Island and Wevolve Labs

"1,000 Hands" was the recipient of a prestigious Burning Man grant that goes to about 75 projects worldwide each year, by Gotay's estimation. Its other main co-creator, Nic DeBruyne of Wevolve Labs, had designed a previous Honorarium grant recipient — a winged kinetic light sculpture — and the two had worked together on a different, self-funded project. Materials lead Morgan Baker and tech lead Janitha Karunaratne rounded out the materials leadership team.

The vision was to create a visual representation of climate change using the work of many community members, effectively asserting that the global issue needs to be dealt with collaboratively, rather than by acts of individual genius. An image of a sunset fits right in at Burning Man, but there was some symbolism in the way the colors changed from cool purples and blues to a hot red at the top. Visitors to the work could also swing on it to invite engagement. The piece's website explains the following:

"Participants can swing from handles at the base of the tapestry, feeling "the world on their shoulders," while witnessing the ripple effect of their actions displayed on a monumental scale. Only when participants swing in synchronicity will the piece move forward and gain speed and traction."

Similarly, the piece came together not when the image did, but when its makers did. Art Island and Wevolve held weekly work sessions in Lloyd The Warehouse, the main workspace for Burning Flipside, the regional burn held annually in Central Texas. Since it was the smaller festival's off-season, the co-creators were able to leave the giant work set up between sessions.

Community members — many of them frequent collaborators or admirers of Art Island — stopped by to help tie pieces of upcycled and new fabric on, and the team leaders organized community time outside of the warehouse to invite in even more Austinites who may not be in touch with the counterculture at all.

"1,000 Hands" made appearances at community spaces like museums, and everyone from burners to children made contributions. Even partiers who never saw the work supported it via ticket sales for a Burning Man-themed party called "In Dust We Trust," at an eclectic East Austin venue.

1,000 Hands on Burning Man playaPhoto by Mark Fromson

"We kind of formed a community while creating the piece with the 500 people that worked on it," says Gotay. "We had these work nights where we saw the same volunteers coming back, and they wanted to get involved in the new direction or the new color we're working with — they were really invested in seeing the piece grow, and we got invested in our friendships with all these folks that we didn't know before."

On The Playa, basically the grounds of Black Rock City, wanderers became part of the collaborative community by interacting with the piece. Sometimes the creative team would stop by to check on the work and find a gathering of strangers. There were weddings and DJ sets, including a performance by Italian DJ Deborah De Luca.

Since the piece was designed to bear hanging people and leave no trace in the desert, it held up well to the elements. It did not touch the ground, so the rain actually cleaned it and no mud was left on the fabric. It even got packed up on schedule. The team needs to make a few repairs, but overall the piece remains intact. It will travel to some upcoming festivals, especially during the upcoming eclipse in October, and then the team hopes that media attention will find it a permanent home.

Although nearly anyone could relate to the climate change angle (given that their current beliefs allow it, anyway), Gotay sees a distinctly Austin spirit in the work.

"I feel like only in Austin would this ever happen so casually," she says. "We just took over Morgan's backyard ... banging out tie dye pretty much all summer. So that's one element. And ... I've just found that Austin is the most open and welcoming community to people in the arts. And there's so many folks here that want to be a part of something."

1,000 Hands Burning Man(Pictured: Co-creator Nic DeBruyne admiring his work.)Photo courtesy of Art Island and Wevolve Labs

More information about "1,000 Hands" is available at 1000handsart.com. Follow the next steps for the project and see more angles on Instagram.