Sun

12/10

Mon

12/11

Tue

12/12

Wed

12/13

Thu

12/14

Fri

12/15

Sat

12/16

Today

Sun

12/10

Film

More Than Meets the Eye: William Wyler

Photo: Warner Bros. / Photofest

The twenty-five films in the Quad Cinema’s William Wyler retrospective (December 1–14) stretch out like a banquet composed entirely of elaborate main courses. Not for Wyler were the exercises in smuggling larger concerns into small genre films. Wyler put big themes in big movies, often ones adapted from classic literature or hit plays; indeed, the highbrow quality of his taste in material has often been held against him. The Oscars that Wyler films won year-in and year-out, as dependably as a tennis champ returns a serve, seem suspicious to some critics. But where other award-winning white elephants lumber off, never to be seen again save the occasional overnight slot on TCM’s “31 Days of Oscar,” Wyler’s films remain beloved in a way that the likes of Crash will never know.

Farran Smith Nehme

Dance

Peter and the Wolf

Sergei Prokofiev wrote Peter and the Wolf in 1936; the 35-minute piece, intended to introduce children to symphonic instruments, has become one of the most frequently performed works in the classical repertoire, recorded by dozens of orchestras with celebrity narrators ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt to David Bowie, Sting, and Alice Cooper. Isaac Mizrahi took on the project for the Guggenheim’s Works and Process program ten years ago, reviving it periodically; this version, including a first-rate crew of seven dancers and thirteen live musicians, first saw the light in 2013.

—Elizabeth Zimmer

Dance

Juilliard Dance

This blue-chip conservatory dance department, under new artistic director Taryn Kaschock Russell, presents New Dances: Edition 2017, a quartet of works that together engage every one of the gifted students in the program. The first-year class shows Puerto Rican native and La Guardia High School grad Bryan Arias’s The Sky Seen from the Moon; the sophomores perform Albanian Gentian Doda’s This Silence; the juniors bring us Israeli Roy Assaf’s very literal 25 People; and the graduating seniors offer Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano’s A Thousand Thoughts, just days after his new Victoria has its premiere by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

—Elizabeth Zimmer

Dance

Geoff Sobelle

Three years ago, this collaborative physical-theater artist blazed through the Next Wave Festival with The Object Lesson, foraging in an installation full of material pouring out of boxes — “the stuff we cling to and the crap we leave behind.” For his new HOME, choreographed by David Neumann and with illusions by Steve Cuiffo, Geoff Sobelle started the process working with his sister, a professor who studies the literature of houses. At BAM he joins five other performers to “explore and explode the relationship between ‘House’ and ‘Home’.” Probing current housing dilemmas, choreographing themes of gentrification and migration, making visible the transitory nature of dwelling, Sobelle assumes he’ll learn things he didn’t know when he began. So, likely, will we.

—Elizabeth Zimmer

Music

Bill Frisell / Thomas Morgan Duo

Guitar great Bill Frisell’s first ECM album as leader since 1988’s Lookout for Hope is one of the most stunning jazz titles of 2017. Entitled Small Town, it’s a beautiful, nuanced conversation between Frisell’s semi-acoustic Gibson and Thomas Morgan’s double-bass — sourced from a March 2016 performance the pair gave at the Village Vanguard — that ranks up there with the telepathic guitar-bass duo work of Ron Carter and Jim Hall and the classic studio encounter between Joe Pass and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (which yielded the 1979 masterpiece Chops). Given Frisell’s penchant for performing irreverent covers — like such Small Town highlights as the gorgeous reading of the Carter Family country staple “Wildwood Flower” and that note-perfect rendition of John Barry’s theme to James Bond’s Goldfinger which closes out the album — the wonderful pair are sure to have plenty of surprises in store for their weekend residency at the Jazz Standard.

—Ron Hart 

Mon

12/11

Film

The Non-Actor

Photo: October (1928) / AMKINO CORPORATION / PHOTOFEST

The phenomenon of the nonprofessional screen performance is the subject of a new Film Society of Lincoln Center series, “The Non-Actor” (November 24–December 10), an expansive survey of films that exhibit the talents of the untrained performer. Drawing together nearly three dozen films, the program traces a fascinating lineage of amateur performance across history, geography, and genre. From agitprop and docufiction to neorealist art cinema and Warholian experimentation, the series highlights some of the inventive ways filmmakers have enlisted the non-actor to create new hybrids of the real and the imaginary.

Leo Goldsmith

Tue

12/12

Performance

Taylor Mac: 24-Decade History: Holiday Sauce

Photo: Ves Pitts

Holiday Sauce is what recently minted MacArthur drag genius Taylor Mac is calling the first local performance since unspooling A 24-Hour History of Popular Music in all its Gesamtkumstwerk splendor in Brooklyn last fall. Costumed as always by psychedelic couturier Machine Dazzle — will Mac perform as a human Xmas tree? a pagan deity of excess? — and accompanied by an eight-piece band led by longtime music director Matt Ray, this energetic imp of imperfection will take new inspiration from decrepit seasonal sounds. The fake joy and forced merriment of Christmas music should inspire plenty of historical tangents and uncomfortable audience participation. (Mac claims to hate audience participation — except when Mac is the one demanding it.) It should be worth tracking down expensive secondary-market tickets for this sold-out show if only to consume Mac’s commentary on current events.

Richard Gehr

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

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

Thu

12/14

Art

Deborah Roberts: in-gé-nue

Photo: COURTESY THE ARTIST AND FORT GANSEVOORT, NEW YORK

“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

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

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