Wed

12/13

Thu

12/14

Fri

12/15

Sat

12/16

Sun

12/17

Mon

12/18

Tue

12/19

Today

Wed

12/13

Film

Kansas City Confidential

Photo: Photofest

Many years ago, not long after Kevin Spacey won his second Academy Award, a friend of mine described the now-disgraced American Beauty star as “a poor man’s John Payne.” The topsy-turvy quality of that zinger now rendered flat by circumstances and revelations, it’s perhaps time to reclaim Payne, who, not unlike hoofer-crooner-turned-tough Dick Powell, hacked his way through fluff and doodles during the ’30s and ’40s before he ripened into the handsomest leading man who could convincingly swing a lead pipe. He starred in three pictures for director Phil Karlson, out of which the blistering, whiskey-sour heist film Kansas City Confidential (1952) was arguably the finest. Payne specialized in conveying exasperated authority, making it easy on viewers to square his honest looks and his dimple with bad choices (and worse confederates); Karlson specialized in the sting of violence, the dread of imminent force, and in depicting a world of dissolving codes. Kansas City Confidential is lean, entertaining, and often dazzling, like a chemical fire.

Jaime NChristley

Music

Blush

The brand-new indie pop group Blush are a sort of Brooklyn DIY scene Justice League, drawing musicians from local favorite groups including Darlings, Pill, and Yvette. But this dream team produces something that’s softer, prettier, and catchier than any of those groups’ music. This is classic indie pop: songs about hanging out with your boyfriend, making daisy chains, and dreaming about an ideal life, all sung over jangly guitars and dreamy doo-wop backing vocals. Fans of bands like Camera Obscura and Dum Dum Girls should check this group out immediately.

Sophie Weiner

Music

UnCaged Toy Piano Festival: Automotoy

In 1948, John Cage transmutated a child’s plaything into modernist art with Suite for Toy Piano, composed for his choreographer lover, Merce Cunningham. Since 2007, pianist Phyllis Chen has been celebrating diminutive keyboards with “UnCaged Toy Piano,” a biannual composition competition and festival, which this year focuses on mechanical instruments. Thus this Wednesday’s “Automotoy” program includes Rieteke Hölscher’s Black and White for robot toy piano; Dan Jodocy’s Bellerina for musical suitcase; Dan VanHassel’s Hybrid Entity for robot toy piano and electronics; James Joslin’s Cadaquesan Landscape for piano, two metronomes, and automated music box; and Alexa Dexa’s Categories for robot toy piano and Fisher-Price record player. The program concludes with a rare performance of Cage’s Music for Amplified Toy Pianos, from 1960, an indeterminate work whose score consists of seven superimposed transparent sheets, with sounds emitting from speakers distributed throughout the performance space.

Richard Gehr

Music

Perfume Genius + Lydia Ainsworth

Amid the existential oppression of 2017, the latest album from queer avant-pop star Perfume Genius, No Shape, feels like a glorious escape. The record brims with transcendence, sexuality, and romance on catchy songs that are often as beautiful as they are chaotic. Perfume Genius will perform two of his three shows in the city this week with Lydia Ainsworth, an equally fascinating artist who is twisting pop in strange and ethereal new directions.

Sophie Weiner

Music

Nippon Leagues: Tokyo Nights   Release Party

This recurring night at the intimate Bushwick dance club Jupiter Disco features DJ sets composed of Japanese funk, disco, and boogie. This party celebrates the release of a compilation of these genres, Tokyo Nights, from Cultures of Soul records. Few Americans are familiar with the Japanese incarnation of this kind of music, so this is a perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself. If that’s not enough to entice you, there will also be free Japanese snacks on offer.

Sophie Weiner

Thu

12/14

Art

Deborah Roberts: in-gé-nue

Photo:

“There are several art worlds out there,” says Deborah Roberts. For many years, the Austin, Texas–based artist made a living from her paintings of happy Black families in suburban settings that she sold to an aspirational clientele. “The Black Norman Rockwell, that’s what they called me,” she says. “I did little kids in flower gardens and in church, little brothers and sisters on a swing, this whole romantic idea of Blackness.” Then, in the past decade, she veered off course. Her work grew jagged, surrealistic, using collage to incorporate found images. From depicting idyllic scenes, she shifted to works that wrestled with the portrayal of young Black girls in particular in the media and popular culture. She returned to art school to hone her new direction. Now, in the fullness of middle age, Roberts is suddenly on the national map: “In-gé-nue,” her first solo New York show, is on view at Fort Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District.

Siddhartha Mitter

Film

Kansas City Confidential

Many years ago, not long after Kevin Spacey won his second Academy Award, a friend of mine described the now-disgraced American Beauty star as “a poor man’s John Payne.” The topsy-turvy quality of that zinger now rendered flat by circumstances and revelations, it’s perhaps time to reclaim Payne, who, not unlike hoofer-crooner-turned-tough Dick Powell, hacked his way through fluff and doodles during the ’30s and ’40s before he ripened into the handsomest leading man who could convincingly swing a lead pipe. He starred in three pictures for director Phil Karlson, out of which the blistering, whiskey-sour heist film Kansas City Confidential (1952) was arguably the finest. Payne specialized in conveying exasperated authority, making it easy on viewers to square his honest looks and his dimple with bad choices (and worse confederates); Karlson specialized in the sting of violence, the dread of imminent force, and in depicting a world of dissolving codes. Kansas City Confidential is lean, entertaining, and often dazzling, like a chemical fire.

Jaime NChristley

Music

Shamir

A lot has happened for the artist Shamir in the two years since his debut album, Ratchet, a dance-pop record that charmed indie audiences. The formerly Las Vegas–based musician was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, did several stints in psychiatric hospitals, broke with his label, and moved in a totally new direction creatively. His last two releases, Revelations and Hope, are incredibly lo-fi rock that sound a bit like Billie Holiday covering Calvin Johnson. Shamir is experimenting, finding a new place to fit into the music scene. As he does, his music is a window into a raw, evolving creative force — one that we should all keep watching.

Sophie Weiner

Fri

12/15

Art

Fictions

Photo: Texas Isaiah's "My Name Is My Name I" (detail) / Courtesy the artist

It began with “Freestyle,” back in 2001. Since then, every few years the Studio Museum in Harlem has held a series of influential exhibitions that are specifically intended to bring a fresh crop of noteworthy Black American artists to the attention of a broad audience. An alliterative conceit binds together what have become known as the “F shows”: “Frequency” in 2005, “Flow” in 2008, “Fore” in 2012. Now, the museum has decided the climate is right to release a new batch of talent from the continual prospecting that is part of its mission. “Fictions,” featuring work by nineteen artists from around the country, and with a strong proportion of installation and work in unorthodox materials, began in September and runs through early January.

Siddhartha Mitter

Music

Andy Stott + Demdike Stare

Some of the electronic scene’s darker corners will be on display this week for two shows at Red Hook’s grandiose Pioneer Works arts space. Demdike Stare are a duo of producers from Manchester, England, whose unsettling soundscapes, inspired by dub and minimal techno, befit their name, a reference to a famous seventeenth-century English witch, Elisabeth Demdike, who was tried and burned. Andy Stott, another Manchester artist, builds textural, oddly rhythmic experimental dance music out of an array of bizarre samples. For fans of left-field U.K. electronic music, this is a night not to miss.

Sophie Weiner

Music

Sweat Equity 3rd Annual Office Christmas Party

This weekend, Brooklyn dance label and party collective Sweat Equity will host one of the most exciting holiday shindigs of the season. Their yearly “office”-themed party features the revered Detroit house spinner DJ Holographic and rising ballroom scene star Vjuan Allure, along with Discwoman’s SHYBOI and KUNQ’s False Witness. The event description recommends costumes including “Resident Advisor Elf” and “Guy Fieri wrapped in Xmas lights.” It’s gonna be lit.

Sophie Weiner

Sat

12/16

Music

Bill Laswell + Laraaji + Ka Baird

Photo:

Bassist-producer Bill Laswell and Laraaji first came together in 1998 for Sacrifice, in which the latter’s ringing electric zither rains notes down upon the former’s Rothko-like sound clouds. Born Edward Larry Gordon, Laraaji teaches laughing meditation and has been performing many flavors of new age music — or, as he would say, music in the Indian tradition of anahata nadam (“the unstruck sound”) — since the ’70s. He recently released two distinctive albums: Sun Gong reflects his ongoing investigation of music’s healing powers, while the more diverse Bring on the Sun includes a spoken-word piece about his backwoods upbringing, along with advice for surviving hyper-tense times such as, you know, now. Laswell and Laraaji are joined at this Ambient Church event by flutist Ka Baird, whose inspirations include bird songs, Tibetan Buddhist bardos, and the hocketing singers of Burundi.

Richard Gehr

Dance

Brooklyn Ballet

Members of this remarkably diverse ballet troupe return to Fort Greene to show us what artistic director Lynn Parkerson calls a “holiday classic, personalized to the places they call home.” The ensemble includes ballerinas of color and their princes, some on loan from Dance Theater of Harlem, and an enormous hip-hop star, Michael Fields, who plays the role of Uncle Drosselmeyer and partners the ladies delicately. Fifty performers revel in scenes ranging from standard Tchaikovsky-based divertissements and pas de deux to belly dancing, Native American hoop dance mixed with hip-hop, and African-based modern dancers; students from the Brooklyn Ballet School also take part. The corps de ballet wears tutus wired with LED lights, and top poppers and lockers, gliders, and flex’n dancers show their stuff.

—Elizabeth Zimmer

Music

Tyondai Braxton + Like a Villian

At this year-end party for BOMB magazine, the multi-instrumentalist and composer Tyondai Braxton, formerly a member of the math-rock group Battles, will play a solo set drawn from his work on the recent project HiveHive was an eight-movement suite Braxton performed at the Guggenheim in 2013 — it’s composed of drones, percussion, drum machines, and orchestral flourishes. He’ll play alongside Like a Villain, a vocalist who performs long-form improvised sets contrasting beautiful ethereal sounds and harsh, aggressive tones. She’ll be performing pieces of a new work entitled Ölümlü, which she’s described as “Broadway noise.”

Sophie Weiner

Music

Black Marble + YOU.

Black Marble is the solo poject of Los Angeles–based musician Chris Stewart. Heavily inspired by Eighties new wave, his music abounds with vintage synths and drum machines. Last year’s It’s Immaterial was a lo-fi triumph, laced with delicate melodies played on keyboard and guitar, danceable beats, and gothy vocals. He’ll play with ominous Detroit dark wave project YOU.

Sophie Weiner

Sun

12/17

Film

Zabriskie Point

Photo:

Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970) looks at an America in the throes of upheaval. Today, it feels like a monumental film, one that expertly captures the surreal chaos of America in the 1960s with scenes of revolutionary meetings, police crackdowns, Death Valley orgies, and that sublime, unforgettable climax — in which the eye-popping detonation of an elegant mountain home is replayed and replayed and eventually replaced by the slow-motion explosion of all sorts of material goods, from refrigerators to clothing racks to TVs to books. There’s something primordial about Zabriskie Point and its resistance to narrative and dialogue and character, suggesting the death of a civilization but also perhaps the beginnings of one — year zero in movie form. Antonioni sees both the terror and grandeur of this destruction and rebirth. And, as always, he presents it to us in a way that indulges its infinite beauties and meanings.

Bilge Ebiri

Music

4th Annual Dave Harrington & Friends Holiday Spectacular

One of the city’s more experimentally inclined guitarists hosts an old-fashioned Xmas review with the fourth annual “Dave Harrington & Friends Holiday Spectacular.” Probably still best known as half of Darkside (with Brown buddy Nicolas Jaar), Harrington, who blends guitar and electronics, adds refreshingly futuristic hues to the local improv-rock scene. The Spectacular, however, reflects his more orderly (i.e., rehearsed) Last Waltz side. This year’s assortment of pals includes Nick Murphy (the artist formerly known as Chet Faker), post–Windham Hill guitarist Kaki King, Moroccan gnawa musician Maalem Hassan Ben Jaafar, Antibalas trombonist Jordan McLean, stealth guitar hero Scott Metzger, the great Sexmob drummer Kenny Wollesen, and many others, who’ll play holiday, religious, or, simply, “meaningful” tunes with Harrington and an eight-piece house band. Bring on the nog!

Richard Gehr

Mon

12/18

Art

Kelly Akashi: Long Exposure

Photo: Kelly Akashi, "Feel Me" (detail) / KYLE KNODELL

There is an eerie loveliness, a troubled elegance, to the work of Los Angeles–based artist Kelly Akashi. Insides and outsides are defined, then confused; materials behave as themselves, then pose as something else; objects look familiar, but perform strangely. In other words, she’s a sculptor in the classic California tradition that celebrates eccentricity as a kind of instinctive intelligence. (Akashi completed her MFA at the University of Southern California in 2014; her BFA at Otis College of Art and Design in 2006.) An exhibition at SculptureCenter, her first solo institutional show, is formally tight, conceptually brainy, and materially astute — not to mention appealingly weird.

Jennifer Krasinski

Music

Lil Uzi Vert + Playboi Carti

Philadelphia-based rapper Lil Uzi Vert skyrocketed to fame off his hit “XO TOUR Llif3,” which featured the nihilistic chorus “Push me to the edge/All my friends are dead.” In the two years of his short career, Uzi has become a reference point for a new generation of Soundcloud kids, who are drawn to his dark subject matter and unique delivery. This is the first of his two nights at Terminal 5 with similarly hot young rapper Playboi Carti. The next Lil Uzi Vert will almost certainly be in the audience.

Sophie Weiner

Tue

12/19

Film

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania

Photo: Kino Lorber / Photofest

Jonas Mekas needs about as much introduction in these pages as George Martin needs to be explained during a radio block of the Beatles. His association with just about every major figure of American and European avant-garde cinema during the 20th century — the dual professional-social character of his polyvalent network with these titans — makes him a walking superbrain of a cinema that was, even in the early ’60s, still an infant form. If that isn’t enough, Mekas’s own films are as good as anyone’s, and unlike everyone’s. His landmark Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971) mixes thoughts and images of Mekas’s birthplace with present-day observations collected in New York and Vienna. The film’s style — a home-movie deluge of jittery impatience, imitating the sensation of one’s mind grabbing at memories as they drift away — coupled with his diaristic musings, gives the feeling of a movie being reinvented every few frames. (Fans of The Tree of Life will have a running start.) Quicksilvery and undemonstrative, Reminiscences comes across like a series of idle sketches, but it’s an engrossing, enthralling trip.

Jaime NChristley