June 20, 2010
Sting’s ‘Symphonicity’ Tour
If his (somewhat troubled) reunion with the Police was more nostalgic than it was inventive, Sting’s current tour—with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra—is a liberating reminder of his extraordinary talent as a musician. While on some levels he is simply setting old songs (“King of Pain”) to new arrangements, Sting, along with New York bred-conductor Stephen Mercurio, have found ways to breathe new life into classics like “Russians” by prefacing Vince Mendoza’s stirring arrangement with the clamorous coronation scene from Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” giving the song a terrifically ominous setting. Symphonicity goes on all summer, and a studio recording will be released in July. Don’t miss it; Mercurio, for one, gave up performing with Rome’s Teatro L’Opera to be there.
The Kids are All Right, opens July 9
Lisa Cholodenko is the rare writer/director whose sex scenes are never gratuitous; in her latest film—starring Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo—sex once again complicates when one half of a long-term lesbian couple finds herself powerfully drawn to the previously anonymous sperm donor who fathered her two teenage children. Despite the fact that this is a movie about gay parents, it has no political agenda. Instead of preaching about alternative family, Kids stands apart as a story of middle-aged coupledom, casting an alternately fond and sardonic eye on its comforts, habits, and resentments. The characters are unexpected; the writing is not typical of mainstream Hollywood. Watch out, this could just be Oscar-worthy.
Midsummer Night Swing, Lincoln Center, New York City, June 29 – July 17
The twenty-second season of this al fresco dance party opens with a bang: a battle of the bands between George Gee Orchestra and the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra. Can’t make opening night? Dance your feet off to the tunes of the Time Jumpers (July 1), the New Orleans Moonshiners (July 6), or the Wycliffe Gordon Sextet (July 10). And if you’re looking for something less jazzy, try the electronic tango of the Argentinean band narcotango (June 30), a bhangra night with D.J. Rekha (July 8), and Afrobeat with Femi Kuti and Positive Force (July 12). Where else can you dance in the fresh air with world-class musicians leading you on? Added bonus: each party is preceded by a dance lesson, so there’s no excuse for cold feet.
Los Angeles Film Festival, through June 27
Unlike Cannes or Sundance, the Los Angeles Film Festival hasn’t captivated celebrities, the media, or even the local news. Also unlike Cannes or Sundance, LAFF genuinely nurtures young filmmakers instead of co-opting them, and encourages conversation instead of auctioning off potentially hot properties. This year’s festival will see 200 features, shorts, and music videos from more than 40 countries including the Pat Tillman documentary, The Tillman Story; Focus Feature’s The Kids Are All Right; and RevoluciÃ³n, a collaboration by ten renowned Mexican filmmakers. LAFF also screens short films created by high school students and has a special section devoted to music videos. And don’t forget the Filmmaker Retreat, Ford Amphitheater Outdoor Screenings, and Poolside Chats—this is one Hollywood gathering definitely not to be missed.
Fred Hersch isn’t just one of the most talented jazz pianists out there, he’s also the most resilient. Two years ago he developed AIDS-related dementia, fell into a two-month coma, and lost all of his motor functions. Now, after intensive therapy to retrain himself to play, he’s back with Whirl—and how. While Hersch has traded some of his candor for a more temperate fluidity, the album maintains his unconventional rhythms, disdain for clichÃ©, and ear for fashioning heaven-sent melody. The true gems are the title track, a vibrant homage to ballerina Suzanne Farrell, and “Still Here”—technically a tribute to saxophonist Wayne Shorter but also an almost heartbreakingly tender composition that amounts to a ballad of self-assertion.
Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man
True, there are plenty of addiction memoirs out there already, but what makes Bill Clegg’s specific version stand out is the riveting manner in which he convinces the reader he can, indeed, fall deeper and that somehow, we don’t know how, he will survive this horrific and terrific time. The story goes something like this: Clegg was a successful literary agent who moonlighted as a crackhead, then one day the crack took over, and his boyfriend keeps trying to save him. Predictable, but nonetheless, the author keeps us on our toes—if nothing else, he counts for one Clegg worth caring about.
At last. Now you don”t need a PhD in hacking to share your music with friends. Plus, it’s simple. Just connect two ipods to this device, and presto. Unless, of course, your files are DRM (digital rights management) protected. The only other hitch is that iPhones and the iPod Touch are not compatible, though apparently a firmware update is forthcoming. This puppy was developed in Brooklyn, New York and is currently being shipped to all corners of the world for a meager 100 bucks. Let the sharing begin!
OHWOW Book Club
The black-and-white tiled floor and the turquoise walls were inspired by a classic pre-war NYC water closet. Designed by Rafael de CÃ¡rdenas, the OHWOW is a creative collective spearheaded by Al Moran and Aaron Bondaroff. The OHWOW Book Club is located below street level in a historic brownstone on Waverly Place in Manhatttan. OHWOW’s vision is to create an arena for cultural projects, where people from the art/music/fashion/design/publishing worlds can expand their practices into different media and modes of production. OHWOW is a creative hub where artists can put forth their ideas and find the community with the necessary experience, skills, and resources to realize the project. According to their website, “OHWOW becomes brand becomes identity becomes community.”
Stagecoach (The Criterion Collection)
For the second time in four years, John Ford’s Stagecoach, the 1939 black and white B-western that made John Wayne a star and Monument Valley an icon, has been remastered and reissued in a two-disc DVD package. The eyes of Ford and Wayne lovers should thus light up like those of Doc Boone. The new release by Criterion includes a strange 1968 BBC interview with Ford, interviews on Ford’s colonization of Monument Valley and the death-defying work of stuntman Yakima Canutt, some Ford home movies taken aboard his yacht, and a radio adaptation starring Wayne, and Ford. The main reason for purchasing the Criterion edition is the superb transfer from the best existing prints (the original negative having long disappeared).
Alfred Stieglitz: the Lake George Years, Art Gallery of New South Wales, through September 5
Over 100 photographs by the pioneering American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) focuses on his career from the 1910s to the 1930s, a period during which he explored the people, landscapes and skies around Lake George, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, where he spent the summer. Many of the images are on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, to which his wife, Georgia O”Keeffe (pictured), gave the bulk of his work after his death. Stieglitz is best known for his effort towards making photography an acceptable art form, as well as for the galleries he ran in New York in the early 20th century where he introduced avant-garde European artists to an American audience.