July 19, 2010

Plus, Australian crime thriller Animal Kingdom, The Bolshoi Ballet, Talking to Girls About Duran, and more culture to devour this week

Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins, Los Angeles Museum County of Art, July 25 – October 17
Thomas Eakins is one of the most famous American painters of the 19th century. Whether he was best know as a portraitist or as a painter of athletic activities is today being challenged by The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Eakins was from Philadelphia, and trained in Paris. He was one of the first fine artists to explore the world of sports, which characterized modern life in the the late 18th century, with the increase in wealth and leisure time for the middle classes. Spectator sports grew with the growing demand for entertainment. Eakins”€™ paintings examined activities like wrestling, sailing, hunting, boxing, cycling, and horse riding. This is the first exhibition to focus solely on his sporting works.

Taki’s Noughties: The Spectator Columns 2001-9
If you”€™re reading this, you probably already know about Taki. You might also know that he has written for The Spectator since the early 70s. His High Life column is, by now, an institution of its own. His latest book, a collection of Spectator essays edited by Takimag’s own, Charles Glass, is a best of the best from the past decade. The book was published by Quartet in June, and did so well, it is now in its second printing. So don”€™t walk, hustle, by the book, a bottle of whatever makes you happy, and sit down for a hilarious ride through the weird, wide, wonderful world of Taki!

Animal Kingdom
Move over, Tony and Carmela. This small-time crime family makes the entire genre feel blazingly new again. Animal Kingdom, a shockingly intense Australian thriller, follows seventeen-year-old J after he is taken in by his mother’s family after she overdoses on heroin, landing him in a primal, survival-of-the-fittest world marked by theft, murder, and one lethal lady—namely his grandmother, Smurf. The head of the family’s crime business, Smurf (Jackie Weaver) is a bawdy, pint-sized blonde who kisses her three grown sons on the lips, exuding a deadly, trapping embrace. J longs to escape, to be a part of his girlfriend’s wholesome middle-class household—but his presence puts them at risk. He is offered witness protection—but can’t accept for fear of what Smurf would do to him. Lest we forget auteur David Michôd’s excellent writing and direction, note how we captures Melbourne in vivid colors, a startling contrast to the film’s dark violence.

The Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House, London, July 19 – July 31
The Bolshoi Ballet is back in London with Yuri Grigorovich’s epic Spartacus, pairing Ivan Vasiliev and Svetlana Zakharova. No word on whether or not these dancers are really spies, but one thing is certain, if you love ballet, you can”€™t do better than the Bolshoi. Of course, Spartacus is an epic character who lead his gladiators to rise up against ancient Rome, and has become one of the top ballets for contemporary dancers. The Royal Opera House isn”€™t bad either, if you”€™re into that sort of thing. Also on the program are Giselle, Don Quixote and a triple bill of Paquita, Petrushka and Alexei Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons.

Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, London, July 29 – August 8
If you live in London, and are stuck in London for the summer, you simply don”€™t miss the screenings at Somerset House. But even if you”€™re just visiting, what could be better than a picnic on a hot night, in an open air cinema beneath the stars, surrounded by a beautiful 16th century building? Somerset House has become a hub for learning and the visual arts, housing the Courtauld Institute of the Arts and Gallery. A few years back the central courtyard was opened to the public, it had been a car park for civil servants. Now in winter skaters can take a turn on the ice, and in summer one can take a step out of time to see a film. This summer’s lineup includes: Cabaret, Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, and a Vampire Night double bill of Let the Right One In and The Lost Boys.

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran
Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield’s brilliant new coming-of-age memoir is perfect for anyone with a twinge of nostalgia for the 1980s and forgotten synthesized relics such as Haysi Fantayzee’s “Shiny Shiny.” Sheffield is one of the funniest and sweetest narrators around: a prequel to his best-selling debut, 2007’s Love is a Mixtape (the sincere, tearjerking tale of the loss of his first wife), Talking To Girls is a series of vignettes that explores lighter material from Sheffield’s youth—namely anything and everything pubescent boys need to know about how to interact with the opposite sex—including dating etiquette and grandma’s advice (with input from Ray Parker, Jr., of course) about table manners and toilet paper. But it’s the section on Madonna, girls and Irish Catholics where Sheffield’s writing is deeply introspective and thoughtful, not just entertaining.

Rubicon, premieres August 1
Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and now… Rubicon. AMC, whose tagline promises “story matters here,” delivers yet again. If the pilot (which previewed earlier this month and can be viewed online here) is any indication, Rubicon promises a puzzle-like, conspiracy-centric style of storytelling and subtle, tightly-wound character development. The series follows Will Travers, played by The Pacific’s nuanced James Badge Dale, a professional code-cracker with disheveled hair and the stoic gaze of a man who knows too much about something. There’s little to learn by way of plot details in the pilot (incidentally directed by HBO’s brilliant Allen Coulter), but its ambiguity is in the sly interest of bating the audience to come back. Plus, the cast—which also includes Miranda Richardson and Dallas Roberts—is absolutely stellar. Regardless of its opacity, Rubicon is posed to be fresh, harrowing, and very adult—a welcome addition to these glory days of cable television.

Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917, MoMA, New York, through October 11
When The Art Institute of Chicago decided it wanted to conserve Matisse’s Bathers by a River, in preparation for its installation in the Modern Wing, it was decided that an exhibition dedicated to this brief yet critical period in the artist’s life following a year-long trip to Morocco was in order. The show is comprised of over 120 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures from this period and the years immediately preceding it. The work is heavily influenced by the outbreak of the First World War. Matisse had volunteered but was turned down because of his age. The show can now be seen in New York, at one of the city’s best museums, which has also recently undergone a major renovation.

Dance With Camera, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, August 7 – October 17
Dance With Camera, which originated at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, is an exhibition and a screening program that explores a crossover between artists and dancers who make choreography for the camera. Meant to exemplify the ways dance has compelled visual artists to record bodies moving in time and space, it features art works in film, video, and still photography; screenings elaborate the show’s theme with iconic dance films, ranging from Busby Berkeley’s Hollywood musicals to Maya Deren’s avant-garde films.Dance with Camera begins in the 1960s with seminal works by Bruce Conner and Bruce Nauman and moves toward contemporary work, including the modern music video. Can’t make it to Houston? This rare exhibition will be in Scottsdale, Arizona starting January 15, 2011.

Noah Lennox, or Panda Bear as he calls himself in the music world, isn’t afraid to go old-school on you: instead of releasing his newest album, Tomboy, all at once like every other musician would, he’s releasing a new seven-inch vinyl every two weeks featuring two songs from the album. (Purchase the vinyls here.) Of course, the full album will still be available on iTunes come September, but don’t wait till then for more of P-Bear’s ecstatically layered Brian Wilson harmonies. Call it a fitting way to celebrate some of the most soul-stirring songs ever to come out of a white boy from Baltimore—or just call it an excuse to act like 16-year-old record-store rats again. 


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