Mon

12/11

Tue

12/12

Wed

12/13

Thu

12/14

Fri

12/15

Sat

12/16

Sun

12/17

Today

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

Sun

12/17

Film

Zabriskie Point

Photo: Photofest

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