May 11, 2016

The Princeton Festival, a multi-genre performing arts festival that runs from June 4 to June 26, features an opera by Benjamin Britten, a musical by Stephen Sondheim, two different kinds of jazz concerts, an organ recital, two Baroque orchestra concerts (1 with chorus), a contemporary ballet dance performance, and an oratorio accompanying a silent film.  more

The Second Annual Nassau Film Festival returns to Princeton’s Garden Theatre (160 Nassau Street) on Sunday, May 15, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This event is free of charge and open to the public.

Lew Goldstein, who co-founded the festival with Dan Bauer, got the idea to start the festival after noticing a gap in the Princeton film scene. “I felt there was a void for individuals who focused on short documentaries and short films. These are all remarkable films that deserve to be seen,” he says. more

May 5, 2016

movie revMost of the pre-release controversy surrounding this movie is the debate about the way Zoe Saldana darkens her skin, dons an afro wig, and wears a prosthetic nose to portray Nina Simone (1933-2003). Apparently, some consider the casting of Saldana as the dark-skinned title character to be not quite politically correct, since she is of Dominican and Puerto Rican extraction and thus, by implication, not black enough to play an African-American.

The beleaguered actress was criticized so much by the press that she’s even publicly admitted that “I didn’t think I was right for the part.” However, I suspect anyone who sees the film would find Zoe’s Africanized features to be less of a distraction than her singing.

Although she certainly manages to hold her own, Nina’s fans will undoubtedly be disappointed by the absence of the haunting strains of her distinctive voice rather than by Zoe performing in blackface. It’s frustrating to have to settle for second rate renditions of such Simone classics as “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” “Feeling Good,” “Black Is the Colour,” “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” “I Put a Spell on You,” and “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead).”

Fortunately, Zoe does a better job in the acting part of the role, convincingly capturing Nina’s mercurial personality, from her imperious air, the violent mood swings, the substance abuse, and the bouts of depression and self-doubt. The movie is the writing and directing debut of Cynthia Mort who reportedly distanced herself from her own production, and at one point even sued over the final cut because she had lost creative control over the editing.

The story unfolds in North Carolina in 1946 with an adolescent Nina showing promise as a classical pianist. From there she moves to New York in 1965 where we learn that the once-promising prodigy is now playing jazz in nightclubs after dropping out of Juilliard.

The narrative then shifts to Los Angeles in 1995, where we find her on the downside of her career. She’s just been committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed as an alcoholic, paranoid, and bipolar.

Fortunately, Nina was assigned an empathetic nurse, Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo), who took a special interest in her welfare. Not only did he help her leave the facility but he quit his job and accompanied her to France to become her personal assistant.

Their relationship, which would last until the end of Nina’s life, is the focus of this warts-and-all biopic. Clifton spends time cleaning up the verbally abusive, chain-smoking, substance-abusing, star’s act, and he tries to find her gigs.

Aside from the singing, Zoe Saldana delivers a decent Nina Simone impersonation.

Very Good (***). Unrated. Running time: 90 minutes. Distributor: RLJ Entertainment.

May 4, 2016

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Photography by Erica Cardenas

The Arts Council of Princeton’s signature art and wine spring fundraiser Pinot to Picasso was held on Friday, April 29 in the Technology Center of Princeton on Carter Road. The theme of the evening was electronics and robotics and this was reflected in both the atmosphere and the live art demonstrations. A definite highlight was the Tombola, an Italian style lottery where everyone wins. more

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Labyrinth Books will present a reading by award-winning novelist and Hopewell resident Patrice Nganang from his new novel Mount Pleasant (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) on Tuesday, May 17 at 6 p.m. more

Family Art

FAMILY ART MAKING DAY: Family Art Making Day by Artworks will be held this Saturday, May 7, at two locations from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. The event is free and children can make art to hang at Art All Night on June 18-19. 

Family Art Making Day will take place this Saturday, May 7, at two locations from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Spruce Street Community Center at 1040 Spruce Street in Lawrenceville and the New Jersey State Museum at 205 West State Street in Trenton.  more

art rev

Time for some free association: if someone says Andy Warhol, what’s the first thing you think of? For me, the word is face, not Warhol’s bland, pallid, never-quite-there visage, anything but that. I’m thinking of the faces he blew up, daubed, and decorated, like Blue Marilyn at the Princeton University Art Museum and the screenprints of Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, and Alexander the Great, plus the Polaroid portraits of, among others, Pia Zadora, Sylvester Stallone, and Princess Caroline of Monaco on view through July 31 at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum in New Brunswick in “More than Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Warhol’s Prints and Photographs.” more

Art Morven in May 5-4-16

MORVEN IN MAY JURIED EXHIBIT/SALE: This is a graphic quilt handmade by Allegra Brelford of Northern Magnolia Creative Quilting. It is part of a series she calls “The Rising,” which explores themes like 9/11 in New York, early spring, and cracks in the concrete. The artist, based out of New York, is one of the 36 fine craft artists from around the country exhibiting at this year’s Morven in May craft show on May 7-8. (Photo Courtesy of www.northernmagnoliaquilts.com) more

Clowning

INTERVIEWS WITH CLOWNS: Senior Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn in rehearsal for “I.M. LOST!” the one-person, interactive play she wrote and will perform on May 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. and May 7 at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Marie Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street. “I.M. LOST!” is an interactive solo show based on interviews with different types of people who clown: birthday clowns, hospital clowns, actor clowns, clown teachers, even an astrophysics professor who enjoys going to clown classes. (Photo by Nadia Diamond) more

May 2, 2016

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Photo Credit: Willy Somma

On Sunday, May 15 at 4 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) presents its Passion and Affection concert performed in honor of Arnold H. Snider, III and featuring Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Hiraeth, a multi-media work co-commissioned by the PSO with the North Carolina Symphony. more

April 28, 2016

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The Arts Council of Princeton’s signature art and wine spring fundraiser, Pinot to Picasso, will take place at the Technology Center of Princeton on Friday, April 29 from 6 to 10 p.m. Guests will peruse the Tombola Gallery with 90 works of art and participate in art-making throughout the event. There will also be gourmet tastings provided by local restaurants, along with world-class wines and brews. Tickets are available at www.artscouncilofprinceton.org. For more information, call (609) 924-8777. 

April 27, 2016

movie rev 4-27-16Don Cheadle has wanted to make a movie about Miles Davis (1926-1991) for over a decade. The result is a warts-and-all biopic chronicling some of the highs and lows of the legendary trumpeter’s career.

Cheadle not only produces, directs, and co-writes the movie, but he also plays the title character in a haunting performance that convincingly portrays the spirit of Miles — from his gravelly voice to his mercurial temperament.

Even though the impersonation is spot on, the surreal screenplay leaves a lot to be desired. The script eschews a conventional chronological approach to storytelling in favor of a free form structure that shows a series of vignettes that focus on his messy private life more than the man’s music.

The picture’s point of departure is 1975, when we find Miles in the midst of a self-imposed five year break from the music business. He spends his days barricaded in his New York apartment consuming drugs in order to mask the pain from a chronic hip condition.

Things change when Dave Braden, a pushy Rolling Stone reporter (Ewan McGregor), forces his way into Davis’s solitude in search of a scoop about a rumored comeback. Braden circumvents Davis’s dislike of journalists by serving as his chauffeur and procuring cocaine on his behalf. Of course, Braden has a hidden agenda, namely, gaining possession of the master tape of Miles’ next album — if it exists.

As this is going on, Davis reminisces about his past, which leads to intermittent flashbacks — mostly about his tempestuous relationship with his first wife, Frances (Emayatzy Corinealdi). Unfortunately, Miles’s impressive body of work is given short shrift. except for the handful of classics on the soundtrack.

Very Good (***). Rated R for drug use, nudity, sexuality, brief violence, and profanity. Running time: 100 minutes. Studio: Crescendo Productions. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics.

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GETTING READY: This year’s co-chairs of “Morven in May: A Celebration of Art, Craft and Garden,” from left: Austin and Ann Starkey, and Lisa and Peter Ham, are busy putting the finishing touches on this annual Princeton rite of spring. The festivities kick off Friday evening, May 6, with a preview party which includes a first look at the fine craft work of this year’s 36 visiting artists and heirloom plant sale. Morven in May then opens to the public Saturday and Sunday, May 7 & 8. For more information call (609) 924-8144 x 113 or visit www.morven.org

Book RevAs Big Ben rang the first hour of January 1, 2014, the skies over London were overwhelmed by a fireworks display of such scope and magnitude, I was sure the occasion had to be something greater than the beginning of another year. At a loss for superlatives worthy of the spectacle, I remembered a night when I stood outside the newly reborn Globe Theatre between acts of As You Like It gazing at the floodlit dome of St. Paul, my head swimming with Shakespeare. Of course, that was it. The only word for all that glory at the midnight hour, in that place, was Shakespeare.

At the time I didn’t know that the year 2014 brought with it the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, a connection also ironically unremarked by the organizers of a New Year’s show that had been touted as “multi-sensory,” an orgy of orange-flavored smoke, strawberry mist, peach snow, and 40,000 grams of edible banana confetti. Whatever it was, celebratory serendipity or a happy coincidence, the timely grandeur of the display made Shakespearean sense.  more

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Eddie S. Glaude Jr. will discuss and sign copies of his book “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul” on Tuesday, May 3, at 7 p.m. at Princeton Public Library. Mr. Glaude is the chair of the Center for African-American Studies and the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. This program is presented with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this programming do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Anthony Acciavatti will be at Labyrinth Books on Thursday, April 28, at 6 p.m. for a discussion of his new book, Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River, which was awarded the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize for 2016. more

Art PDS Alumni Exhibi 4-27-16.

PDS ALUMNI EXHIBITON: The Princeton Day School’s “50th Anniversary Alumni Art Exhibition” is on view until May 14. The exhibit includes a wide variety of media by 37 talented alumni including founding partner of Studio Hillier, J. Robert Hillier PCD ’52, FAIA. His River Road House model, pictured above, will be among the works exhibited.

In continuation of Princeton Day School’s 50th Anniversary celebration, the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery proudly presents the 50th Anniversary Alumni Art Exhibition, on view from now through May 14.  more

Art Gen Next 4-27-16

“TICK TOCK, DRIP DROP”: This lithography with chine collé and hand coloring by Eileen Foti is included in the West Windsor Arts Council’s “Generation Next” exhibit. From May 2 until June 9, the gallery will feature six established artists who selected one emerging artist to exhibit with them.

West Windsor Arts Council (WWAC) presents its annual “Generation Next” exhibit featuring original artwork by up-and-coming artists with a twist. This year WWAC invited six “established” artists to exhibit their work and choose one “up-and-coming” artist to exhibit with them. The works are on display May 2 – July 9, 2016 with an opening reception May 15, 4-6 p.m. more

Each year, the Stuart B. Mindlin Memorial Concerts at Princeton University have brought together the University Orchestra with other ensembles and guest soloists. This year, conductor Michael Pratt and the orchestra chose to go it alone, presenting two major symphonic works which not only showed off the ensemble’s collective sound, but also gave many of the student musicians the chance to play elegant solos.  more

Theater Tharp 4-27-16

Twyla Tharp

McCarter Theatre Center is pleased to announce its full schedule of 2016-17 dance, music, and signature presented series. An eclectic mix of the world’s greatest musicians, dance companies, and performing artists are on tap, including several returning favorites and McCarter debuts.  more

April 22, 2016

Gala

On Saturday, April 9, over 200 guests at the Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s (PSO) sold-out gala Gershwin in Paris were treated to the sights and sounds of jazz-age Paris. Held at the grand venue Jasna Polana, patrons sipped cocktails and ate canapés prior to being called to dinner by an impressive brass fanfare by PSO musicians. Music Director Rossen Milanov welcomed everyone and conducted George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” as flappers from the American Repertory Ballet performed a jazz challenge dance choreographed by Mary Pat Robertson. Pictured: Gala Co-Chairs Nora Decker and Beth Beers with spouses Keil Decker of BlackRock and David Beers of Goldman Sachs (Photo Credit: T. Kevin Birch)

April 20, 2016

movie rev 4-20-16CIA Agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) was in London on assignment to deliver a ransom to a computer hacker called the “The Dutchman” (Michael Pitt) when he was assassinated by a terrorist (Jordi Molla) and his vicious gun moll (Antje Traue). This should have been a big loss for the CIA because the veteran spy’s talents and abilities were a valuable asset for the agency.

Luckily, government scientist Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) has been working on transferring memories from one brain to another. Although he’s been successful in several attempts with animals, he thinks it will be at least five years until the procedure will be ready for trials in humans.

However, because of the emergency created by Pope’s death, Franks is ordered to immediately implant Pope’s mind into that of Jericho (Kevin Costner), a death-row inmate who is a perfect candidate to be used as a guinea pig. Lo and behold, the psychopathic murderer awakens from the experimental surgery eager to track down The Dutchman as well as the criminals who killed Pope.

That is the point of departure of Criminal, a science fiction splatterfest directed by Ariel Vromen (The Iceman). As an interesting aside, the movie is Ryan Reynolds’s third movie that involves a brain swap, his latest one being last fall’s Self/less. There, however, he played the recipient rather than the donor.

There isn’t much point in reciting the storyline, since it makes even less sense than the picture’s farfetched premise. Still, this high body count action thriller may appeal to people who enjoy watching folks being blown away in a spectacular fashion.

The film fritters away the talents of an impressive cast which includes Reynolds, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, and Kevin Costner. There are also a fair amount of beautiful women, such as Antje Traue, Alice Eve, Natalie Burn, and Gal Gadot (who plays Pope’s widow, Jill). As you might expect, Jill and her daughter, Emma (Lara Decaro), are in for the surprise of their lives when their husband and father returns reincarnated as a redeemed convict who needs a loving family.

Good (**). Rated R for pervasive profanity and graphic violence. Running time: 113 minutes. Distributor: Summit Entertainment.

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The move to an earlier date worked out nicely for Communiversity 2016, with blue skies, sunshine, and a busy midway overlooked by the facades and variously shaped rooftops of buildings of Nassau Street. In this week’s Town Talk people who were at the fair talk about their favorite things. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

Rootedness

Assistant Professor of French at Princeton University Christy Wampole will be reading from her new book Rootedness: The Ramifications of a Metaphor (Univ. of Chicago Press) at Labyrinth Books on Tuesday, April 26 at 6 p.m. She will be joined in a discussion of the book by her Princeton colleague, critic and theorist Eduardo Cadava. more

book rev

You can’t write a sentence in English without Shakespeare being in there somewhere. — C.K. Williams

The Writers House is located on Locust Walk, which runs through the heart of the Penn campus, like McCosh Walk at Princeton. For just over two decades the 165-year-old cottage has been a venue for readings, seminars, lectures, and events like the April 11 memorial celebration of the life and work of poet C.K. Williams (1936-2015), who died last September. more