El Ganzo Boasts "Unique Love Between a Black Gay Man & White Straight Woman"

As noted above, the invite for Steve Balderson's latest feature, El Ganzo, swore that something special was going to occur between a gay man of color and a white female within its running time. Here was an intriguing come-on, one hard to cold-shoulder, so I didn't. Happily, the film is a well-acted, beautifully shot, two-hander about a couple of gentle souls, thrown together by fate, who wind up the better for the confrontation. Read more »

Girl Trouble: When Women Watch Movies

The Intervention's appealing ensemble. (Courtesy Paramount)

It's no secret that women are still mostly used as beards in studio bromances or scenery in tentpole actioners. But even smaller character-driven films can’t always be counted on to provide satisfaction for those of us yearning to recognize some aspect of ourselves on screen. Faced with intimate stories that fail to bring female characters into focus or ambitious tales that mirror but don’t alleviate the special joys of being a girl (worldwide), female audiences are mostly left to get enlightenment or escape by dreaming ourselves into male characters and stories. Read more »

Vinyl of the Week: Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement

Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement (Atlantic, 1969)

I don't profess to have the deepest critical knowledge of jazz, especially with managing editor Steve Holtje being our resident expert, but I definitely have a deep appreciation. Regardless, Swiss Movement by Les McCann and Eddie Harris remains of one of my favorite live jazz albums. I just picked up a super-clean used copy of it at one of my favorite vinyl shops in Akron, Ohio. Read more »

Slanty Eyed Mama Brings Scathing Wit and Stealth Poignance to New York Fringe Festival

Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show
20th New York International Fringe Festival 
DROM, NYC
August 21 & 22, 2016

"Welcome to the dress rehearsal/tech rehearsal/first performance of Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show!" says Kate Rigg of her bracingly funny performance platter of song, stand-up and tragicomic sketches. What follows is raw in the best senses of the word. Even the rough patches -- waiting for "the white people" to wrestle with skittish technology; a wardrobe malfunction that provokes a sweet, awkward encounter with an angelic staffer at the show’s East Village venue, then gets hilariously incorporated into a skit -- show off Rigg's quicksilver wit and willingness to take her captivated audiences anywhere. Read more »

Stephen Frears Hits All the Right Notes with Florence Foster Jenkins

Totally relaxed in his Ritz-Carleton suite on Central Park South, his arms spread wide on a rather tasteful couch, Stephen Frears held court not at all like the monarch in his biggest success, The Queen, (2006). His press conference for his latest effort, Florence Foster Jenkins, will take place one hour later with about 40 journalists in attendance. His stars -- Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg -- would then be asked 95% of the questions. Not surprising. Directors, for the most, part do not drive traffic to web sites, sadly, even ones as near legendary as Frears. Read more »

Quote of the Week: Simone Biles

 

"I'm not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I'm the first Simone Biles."

Simone Biles (born March 14, 1997), American gymnast and multiple 2016 Olympic Gold medalist.

 

The Childhood of a Leader: From Jean-Paul Sartre to Robert Pattinson

If actor-turned-director Brady Corbet’s post-World-War-I saga, The Childhood of a Leader, did little more than send American readers to Jean-Paul Sartre’s lesser known short story of the same name, one would be thanking the cinematic gods for its appearance. Read more »

Laughing At Death

In the Event of My Death
Written by Lindsay Joy
Directed by Padraic Lillis
Presented by Stable Cable Lab Co. at IRT Theater, NYC
August 6-August 21, 2016

In the opening minutes of Lindsay Joy's In the Event of My Death, directed in its current world premiere by Padraic Lillis, Peter (John Racioppo) and his friend Amber (Lisa Jill Anderson) clean the trash from the living room of his house, which once belonged to his parents, in preparation for a post-funeral gathering to commemorate Freddy, another friend, who has committed suicide. Unfortunately for them, the past, and its hold on the present, will not be so easy to tidy away; in fact, from then on, events will get far messier. In Peter's suburban Pennsylvania residence, as a small group of Freddy's friends and relatives struggle with death in the Facebook age, death at its most unexpected, and death as a deliberate choice, as well as the knowledge that "it gets better" didn't happen for Freddy, their coming together leads them into a much wider emotional archaeology, seemingly a current strong suit of Stable Cable Lab Co. Read more »

Song of the Week: The Cactus Blossoms - "Stoplight Kisses"

Sure, Minneapolis-based brothers Jack Torrey and Page Bunkum's vocals and Americana roots-rock tunes remind one of The Everly Brothers and/or Louvin Brothers, but their band The Cactus Blossoms still swings with a timeless vibe and carries that retro torch forward in a very convincing manner. Moreover, they opened for country legend Dwight Yoakam on Sunday night for Lincoln Center's Out of Doors Americanafest Weekend and the crowd was blown away. This infectious single -- "Stoplight Kisses" -- is from their excellent new album, You’re Dreaming, and was produced by the equally beguiling roots-rocker J.D. McPherson. Buy it on vinyl; support the arts, people.

The Eros & The Fury - Bong Jung Kim

Bong Jung Kim
John Jay President's Gallery, NYC

Bong Jung Kim is a Korean-born artist living in the New York City area. He is a skilled artist who merges discarded high-tech materials with pictures of black, blossom-like shapes that might be flowers, or more erotically, pubic hair or even female genitalia. His series is called “Addiction,” a problem with obsessively observing pornography that he candidly acknowledged in conversation. The electron parts he attaches, usually to the center of the flowers, also indicate addiction -- in this case our helpless dependence on high technology, the cyber world, and the Internet. Interestingly, the honesty with which Kim acknowledges his dependence on sex videos flies in the face of the traditional Korean culture, whose sexual probity is well known. But Kim is living and showing in America, where it is acceptable to express one’s desire openly. His "Addiction" series not only opens up a set of issues that for polite, middle class Korean society is more or less taboo, it also presents the predicament of a man overwhelmed by the open sexualization of culture, in a place where porn has become, more or less, a mainstream part of the American experience. Without judging the desire of the artist, we can contemplate the success of his paintings/assmblages, which are neither explicit nor hidden but take a middle ground, presenting openly the interface between sex and modern culture. Read more »

Prison Time!

Deathwatch
By Jean Genet (trans. by Bernard Frechtman)
Presented by the HOT BLOODed Theatre Co.
St. Mary Magdalen Church, NYC
July 26-August 6, 2016

Seminal existentialist writer and activist Jean Genet's 1949 play Deathwatch (his first) is intimate in its scale, consisting almost entirely of three men in one room, so it is appropriate that HOT BLOODed Theatre Co. has located their current production in a very intimate space on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The result of an actor-centered process that forgoes a director, this production, their first in NYC, is a lithe, lean hour of theater that bodes well for future productions and successfully implicates the audience in its own voyeurism. Read more »

Vinyl of the Week: Summer Albums, Part 2

My summer has been filled with deep loss. My younger brother David succumbed to major injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on June 1st. Along with the comfort and love from my family and friends, music was a necessary daily elixir. Many nights I would listen to vinyl in my mother's home, albums I'd left there years ago, or a handful of new/used pieces I picked up at one of my favorite Akron, OH vinyl shops.The ritual of cleaning each piece, placing it on the turntable, dropping the needle, studying the album art, reading the liner notes... it was a much-needed distraction. Here are three new pieces that have aided me in my latest life's journey. Read more »

Jason Bourne Gets Even More Fast and Furious

Lickety-split is how everything goes in the latest Jason Bourne adventure starring Matt Damon and directed by Paul Greengrass, an old hand at shaping this series (The Bourne Supremacy (2004)); The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)). Read more »

Sandy Pearlman R.I.P.

On Monday, July 26, famed rock producer, manager, and lyricist Sandy Pearlman died at the age of 72. His Wikipedia page says he "was the recipient of 17 gold and platinum records." He managed that despite not actually producing many bands, or even albums -- but he left a big imprint on every one he worked on.

Born in Rockaway (Queens), NY in 1943, he got a college degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island in 1966.

A year later, still in the Stony Brook area, he recruited a band so he could have a series of science-fiction poems he'd written (the Imaginos saga, about a group secretly controlling world history) set to music and performed. He named the band Soft White Underbelly after Winston Churchill's epithet for Italy, but changed its name to Oaxaca after Soft White Underbelly got a negative review at a big concert. After another name change, to the Stalk-Forrest Group, the band recorded two albums for Elektra, but only one single was released, and that only as a promo. Read more »

Blood & Tears

Sweat and Tears
Created by Jess Goldschmidt and James Rutherford
Presented by M-34 At JACK, NYC
July 22-July 31, 2016

Sweat and Tears is a new piece of physical theater that draws in part of the past experience of creators Jess Goldschmidt and James Rutherford in karate and dance, respectively.  These physical pursuits, which can also be viewed as ways of disciplining bodies, inform the play’s presentation of what Rutherford calls in a Theater in the Now interview "extreme acts of gendered labor."  The production grew out of what were originally two separate pieces, one by Rutherford that centered around men fighting and one by Goldschmidt constructed around women crying, both of which, Rutherford says, "pulled from a broad swath of performance styles and cultural practices connected to public displays of physical suffering."  In bringing these elements together, the non-narrative Sweat and Tears weaves at intervals into its physical displays both original text and text excerpted from poet Matthew Pinnock, Cormac McCarthy’s hyper-violent novel Blood Meridian, and Tibetan Buddhist writer Tsangnyön Heruka’s biographical Life of Milarepa, asking audiences to interrogate how we perform gendered emotional labor.  Read more »

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