January 10, 2018

By Kam Williams

Darkest Hour and Dunkirk cover the same period of time, which was Winston Churchill’s (Gary Oldman) first month as prime minister of Great Britain. When he was sworn in on May 10, 1940, the country was at war with Germany which had already conquered most of Europe and was just starting to invade Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.

Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) had unsuccessfully tried a diplomatic policy of appeasement which had only emboldened Hitler. As a result, soon after entering office, Winston found himself facing a daunting task after the Nazis’ blitzkrieg had broken through the Maginot Line.  more

January 3, 2018

“TAKE FLIGHT”: This acrylic painting by Michael Schweigart is part of “Visionaries,” an exhibit also featuring the work of Claudia Fouse Fountaine, Alan Klawans, and Carol McClure Sanzalone. The exhibit will be at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville from February 8 to March 4. An artists’ reception will be on February 11 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville presents “Visionaries,” an exhibit featuring works of Claudia Fouse Fountaine, Alan Klawans, Carol McClure Sanzalone, and Michael Schweigart from February 8 to March 4. Highlighting images of nature and the environment, the exhibit will showcase a variety of media and creative techniques unique to each artist as they express their creative visions. more

“3 LINE ASCENDING #5”: This turned wood piece is part of “David Ellsworth: A Passion for Wood,” an exhibition running January 14 through April 22 at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, January 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.

In a career spanning four decades, David Ellsworth has become one of the premier designers of turned wooden vessels, deeply influencing contemporary craft and numerous artists.

This month, the Hunterdon Art Museum (HAM) will spotlight his work in “David Ellsworth: A Passion for Wood,” an exhibition which focuses on the woodturner’s technical and aesthetic development through the years, noted Ingrid Renard, who is curating the exhibition with Hildreth York. more

By Nancy Plum

The holiday season means many things in Princeton — a brightly-decorated tree in Palmer Square, busy post office lines, and in musical terms, the annual performance of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Presented by McCarter Theatre, this performance in Richardson Auditorium has always given audiences a respite from breakneck December activities, and this year was no exception. Last Monday night, 21 instrumentalists joined together in a variety of combinations to perform Bach’s six concertos which are considered the epitome of the Baroque form. Each concerto featured a different blend of soloists, and the members of the Chamber Music Society demonstrated both solid ensemble and refined solo playing.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

At the dawn of a new year in American popular culture it’s time to remember the losses of 2017 and pay tribute to the gains of 1917. Major deaths in the world of rock were legends Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, along with Tom Petty, Greg Allman, John Wetton, among others, and in the grey area between rock and jazz, Allan Holdsworth and Larry Coryell. Jazz losses included pianist Horace Parlan, bop vocalist Jon Hendricks of the premiere word-jazz group, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, and Buddy Greco who began his jazz, pop, and country career at 16 playing piano, singing, arranging, and touring the world with the Benny Goodman band. The jazz world also lost columnist and social critic Nat Hentoff, who wrote for Down Beat and the Village Voice, and was listening to Billie Holiday when he died. more

By Kam Williams

In 1998, 19-year-old Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) met a mysterious, middle-aged man named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in a San Francisco acting class. Wiseau not only lied about his age but claimed to be from New Orleans, despite a thick, Eastern European accent.

However, Tommy was wealthy enough to underwrite a Hollywood production that starred himself. And Greg was willing to overlook the eccentric millionaire’s inexperience when he was offered a co-starring role. more

December 27, 2017

By Stuart Mitchner

Some years before Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) became as cherished a Christmas tradition as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, film-buff friends of mine smirked when I dared to suggest that it was a great movie. Admittedly, it beggared belief that anyone could be as noble as James Stewart’s good banker George Bailey or as evil as Lionel Barrymore’s bad banker Mr. Potter. What really made the cynics sneer was that the whole enterprise depended on a tipsy angel named Clarence (Henry Travers), who offers homilies like “Each man’s life touches so many other lives” as he gives a suicidal George Bailey a tour of Pottersville, the mean-spirited, lawless nightmare his town Bedford Falls would have become had he never existed. more

“PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER”: Henriette Wyeth’s 1937 painting of her father, artist N.C. Wyeth, is featured in “Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective,” running from January 21 through May 16 at the Michener Museum of Art in Doylestown, Pa. The exhibit also features the work of Henriette’s husband, artist Peter Hurd.

In January, the Michener Art Museum will present “Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective,” an exhibition that explores the work, marriage, and careers of two remarkable artists who contributed to the canon and dialogue of 20th century American art.  more

Ulysses Grantz Dietz

Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville will host curator and author Ulysses Grantz Dietz on January 18 as he delivers a presentation titled “It Was All Modern: Art, Craft, and the Rhetoric of the Marketplace.”

The presentation looks at a range of modern objects, from the 1890s to the 21st century, and explores different meanings of “modern.” more

By Kam Williams

Twenty years ago, Frances McDormand won an Academy Award for Fargo, a delightful whodunit set in a tiny Minnesota town inhabited by colorful local characters. In that Coen Brothers’ black comedy, McDormand played a dedicated police chief who was tireless in her efforts to solve a murder case, even though she was pregnant.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a similar dark mystery set in the Midwest, that’s also full of folksy characters. McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, the mother of her teenage daughter (Kathryn Newton) whose beaten and raped corpse was found lying in a ditch along a lonely stretch of road. more

December 20, 2017

“SAVE THIS I”: This painting by Charles Bryan is part of “Past Looking Forward,” an exhibition featuring the work of Bryan and Diana Weymar at the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School. The exhibition runs from January 8 through February 1, with an artist’s reception on January 12 from 12:30 to 1 p.m.

The Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School will present “Past Looking Forward,” featuring the work of artists Charles Bryan and Diana Weymar, from January 8 through February 1. There will be an artists’ reception on Friday, January 12 from 12:30 to 1 p.m. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public. more

“CLOSE ENCOUNTER”: This watercolor painting by Beatrice Bork is part of “Naturally Inspired,” an exhibit also featuring the work of Bill Jersey, Maxine Shore, and Joe Kazimierczyk. The exhibit will be at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville from January 4 through February 4, with an opening reception on January 7  from 1-4 p.m.

Fine artists Bill Jersey, Maxine Shore, Beatrice Bork, and Joe Kazimierczyk explore the great outdoors through their unique interpretations in “Naturally Inspired,” an exhibit at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville running January 4 through February 4. All are invited to attend the opening reception on Sunday, January 7 from 1 to 4 p.m. more

“RED BERRIES:” Linda Gilbert’s acrylic painting will be featured in the Gourgaud Gallery’s ninth annual “Open Call Exhibit,” running January 7 through January 26. A reception with refreshments will be held on Sunday, January 7 from 1 to 3 p.m.

The Gourgaud Gallery will present its ninth annual “Open Call Exhibit” from Sunday, January 7 through Friday, January 26. The theme is trees and plants. An opening reception with refreshments will be held on Sunday, January 7 from 1 to 3 p.m.  more

“All good things come to those who wait,” so goes the saying. The audience for New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Friday night concert at Richardson Auditorium had to wait a bit for the orchestra to arrive through the snow, but following the late start, orchestra, chorus, and soloists presented a well-informed performance of George Frideric Handel’s perennial Christmas holiday favorite, Messiah. NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang took a unique and creative journey through a work which is enjoyable in any form, but so much more fun with an imaginative approach to performance practice. more

By Stuart Mitchner

When Doug Jones beat Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election last week, viewers who had lived and died, thrilled and chilled, yawned and dreamed through all 18 episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return felt a transcendental connection to the happy outcome. If we were smiling it was not only because a principled man defeated a scoundrel, it was knowing that a miracle was in the stars even before the allegations against Moore saturated the news. Given the power of the narratives and counter narratives circulating on television and the internet, we knew the impossible was possible.  more

By Kam Williams

Saoirse Ronan is only 23 and has already been nominated for an Academy Award twice: for Brooklyn (2015) and Atonement (2005). Now, she’s certain to land another nomination for her memorable performance as the title character in Lady Bird.

It’s hard to say whether three times will prove to be the charm for her, since this has been a banner year for actresses, with powerful performances turned in by competitors like Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, and Meryl Streep. Win or lose, Ronan deserves all of her accolades for her performance in a very demanding role as a tormented teen constantly in crisis.  more

December 13, 2017

By Stuart Mitchner

In the unlikely event that the New York Times Book Review or anyone else ever asks me what books are on my night stand, the tome that’s been there for years waiting for me to write about it is Carl Van Vechten’s The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat (Knopf 1920), which has been called “the best single treatise on the cat” and “a treasure house of literary gossip.” Like so many of my books, this one, the 1936 edition, has passed through the secondhand bookstores of Manhattan and therefore embodies three of my favorite things — cats, used bookstores, and New York City. more

“FEATHER & FLIGHT”: This photograph of a great horned owl mother and baby by Wayne
Domkowski is part of the “Feather & Flight: Juried Exhibit” at the D&R Greenway Land Trust Johnson Education Center in Princeton. The exhibit, which features more than 80 works of art celebrating birds, runs through February 9.

D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center galleries take flight with more than 80 works of art in “Feather & Flight: Juried Exhibit,” on view through February 9.

“Birds are more than beautiful; they are bellwethers of environmental health,” says Curator Diana Moore. “This exhibit celebrates birds, and also highlights conservation’s significant role in supporting crucial travel patterns for the 4,000 species that migrate. Because of New Jersey’s location along the Atlantic flyway, our natural resources are critical to avian survival.” more

The Arts Council of Princeton and McCarter Theatre Center have announced “Cows in Our Town,” a new community-wide public art project created to promote awareness of local artists and McCarter’s upcoming production of Marie Jones’ Stones in His Pockets. Through a series of art installations placed in local businesses “Cows in Our Town” will run December 20 — February 11 and aims to enhance the around-town experience for visitors and Princeton residents alike through the holiday season and into the new year.  more

“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”: Performances are underway for “A Christmas Carol.” Directed by Adam Immerwahr, the play runs through December 31 at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre. Scrooge (Greg Wood, center) joins the company in a celebratory dance. The cast combines professional actors with members of a community ensemble and young ensemble. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is playing at the Matthews Theatre. Adapted by David Thompson and directed by Adam Immerwahr, the show is a warm celebration, both of Christmas and theater. The uniformly talented cast combines professional actors, who are members of Actors’ Equity Association, with nonprofessional performers who comprise a community ensemble (for ages 14 and older) and a young ensemble. more

By Kam Williams

It is August 12, 1945. Japan is reeling and on the verge of surrendering in the wake of atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With Germany having surrendered to the Allies back in the spring, Europe is already in postwar mode, though not exactly at peace, as we are about to learn.

On this bright summer day Samuel Hermann (Ivan Angelus) and his son (Marcell Nagy) disembark from a train that has just arrived in their rural Hungarian hometown. Oddly, their presence doesn’t inspire the locals to celebrate the fact that two of their Jewish neighbors, who were taken away by the Nazis, had miraculously survived the Holocaust and have now returned home.

Instead, the Orthodox Jewish pair are greeted with suspicion, because their property had long since been appropriated by residents in the small town. So, as Samuel and his son load their luggage onto a horse-drawn-carriage, the village notary (Peter Rudolf) directs the driver (Miklos B. Szekely) to go very slowly.  more

December 6, 2017

“GRANITE STREET”: This oil painting by Debbie Pisacreta is featured in “Memories,” an exhibit featuring the work of four artists at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville running December 7 to 31. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, December 10, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Fine artists Alla Podolsky, Joseph Zogorski, Gail Bracegirdle, and Debbie Pisacreta invite the public to view images that capture each artist’s memory of a location, scene, or life moment in “Memories” the 4×4 Winter Group exhibit series at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville running December 7 to 31. more

“AN ACT OF GOD”: Performances are underway for George Street Playhouse’s production of “An Act of God.” Directed by David Saint, the comedy runs through December 23. God (Kathleen Turner, center) takes a phone call — and a selfie — with archangels Michael (Stephen DeRosa, left) and Gabriel (Jim Walton, right). (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Film and stage luminary Kathleen Turner is starring in An Act of God at the George Street Playhouse. David Javerbaum, the former executive producer of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and a writer whose theatrical credits include the musicals Cry-Baby and Suburb, adapted the show from his 2011 book The Last Testament: A Memoir by God. more

By Stuart Mitchner 

Imagine a literary theme park, a Disneyland for readers and their kids where you can ride a raft with Huck and Jim, or climb aboard the Pequod with Ishmael, or fish the Big Two-Hearted River with Hemingway. Since the former Soviet Union is ever more massively imminent as we approach the moment of truth about Russian involvement in last year’s election, let’s say you could also visit a Chekhov pavilion complete with cherry orchard or tour Tolstoy’s estate where little Natashas can enjoy horseback rides and make-believe balls, or better yet you could take your chances in a fun house of existential chills dedicated to the work of Dostoevsky. Given the American public’s undying fascination with the dark side, the Dostoevsky House would draw the biggest crowds.  more

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is considered the preeminent novelist of the Victorian Era because of his touching and timeless tales that described the plight of the poor in that time. He experienced poverty  at an early age when he had to drop out of school to work in a factory in order to support the family, after his bankrupt father (Jonathan Pryce) was sent to debtors’ prison.

Dickens’s challenging childhood may have served as the inspiration for such classics as The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield.

However, his book which may have had the biggest effect on Western culture is A Christmas Carol, since it arguably altered how we now celebrate the holiday.

That is the premise of The Man Who Invented Christmas, Les Standiford’s historical narrative that describes the events in December of 1843 that led Dickens to write A Christmas Carol. The novella has now been adapted into a movie by Bharat Nalluri (MI-5) as a sentimental tale of redemption. more