October 5, 2016

movie-revOn April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded when methane gas, under high pressure, blew out of the drill pipe and caught fire. Eleven members of the crew perished in the ensuing inferno that engulfed the platform.

The accident caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with over 200 million gallons of crude oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico by the time the well was capped 86 days later. Next, authorities turned their attention to the question of who was to blame for the disaster.

There was no shortage of potential villains to sort through because the drilling unit had been built in South Korea — was owned by Transocean Limited, a Swiss company, operated under the flag of the Marshall Islands — was leased to British Petroleum (BP) but maintained by Halliburton, an American field service corporation — and serviced by Schlumberger, a Dutch company. Ultimately, the bulk of the blame would be attributed to BP, and the company was found guilty of gross negligence and ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages to thousands of aggrieved parties.

Directed by Peter Berg (Battleship), Deepwater Horizon revisits the infamous incident primarily from the perspective of the rig’s chief electronics technician, Mike Williams. The picture reunites Berg with Mark Wahlberg with whom he previously collaborated on Lone Survivor.

Wahlberg plays Williams, a working-class man of unquestioned integrity. As the film unfolds, we find him bidding adieu to his family as he was leaving for a 21-day tour on the oil platform. If Mike had heeded warning signs like his wife’s (Kate Hudson) premonitions and his daughter Sydney’s (Stella Allen) science project with a Coke can geyser, he might have decided to call in sick.

The same could be said of his colleague Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), a mechanic who couldn’t get her car started that same morning. Even the helicopter ferrying them to work experienced an ominous bird strike en route to the platform. And upon landing, they were greeted by a friend who had a macabre skull-and-crossbones insignia on his hard hat.

Don Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Bob Kaluza (Brad Leland) are the BP bureaucrats who bullied their employees to increase production at all costs from the minute they arrived on the platform. These villains were willing to put profits before any safety concerns, so it’s not surprising when the platform’s unstable drill pipe failed disastrously.

During the pyrotechnic calamity that ensued, Mike’s actions were heroic and later his testimony in court identified the culprits who were responsible. The movie is a harrowing tale of survival that ends with justice being served.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for intense action sequences, disturbing images. and brief profanity. Running time: 107 minutes. Distributor: Lionsgate Films.

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EXONERATED: This father-and-son photo of Kerry Max Cook, who spent 22 years on Texas death row before his innocence was finally revealed, is among the images by Diane Bladecki in a show opening Friday at the Arts Council of Princeton. Mr. Cook, who went to prison at 17 and was freed at 50, ended up using Ms. Bladecki’s photograph on the cover of a book about his journey. (Photo by Diane Bladecki)

At a performance in New York of the play The Exonerated about wrongfully committed prisoners, Diane Bladecki noticed that the photographs lining the lobby made their subjects look exactly like what they were not: criminals. more

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CELEBRATING MUSICAL COMMUNITY: Hinds Plaza hosted the second annual edition of the Unruly Sounds Festival Sunday. Excelsis Percussion, seen here, was among the groups performing. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

Despite a chilly drizzle Sunday afternoon, the audience sat in rapt attention as the genre-defying group Bonjour played in Princeton’s Hinds Plaza. A pair of double bassists flanked Florent Ghys’s “low string” band as it wound its way through a selection of pieces corresponding to days of the week. Their instruments’ bowed tones were sweet and thick as honey, tempered by the clarity of an electric guitar and a cello, and propelled by the drive of their set’s intermittent drum parts. At times, the musicians broke into wordless song.  more

On October 23 from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., the Code for Princeton will present the Data and Art Hackathon at the West Windsor Arts Council.

The day-long event will include the development of civically beneficial projects as well as free workshops on how to make circuits on paper and 3D printing demonstrations. Keynote speaker Steven Fragale, researching artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Digital Media Lab, will speak at 5 p.m. on the intersection of technology and art. At the end of the day a panel of community representatives will review the projects and offer feedback. more

book-rev1By the time the Friends of the Princeton Public Library Book Sale begins a week from Friday, the second presidential debate will be history. Most post-debate book-sale browsers looking for something to focus their frazzled minds on will find what they’re looking for, if not their heart’s desire. The book of my dreams won’t be there because it hasn’t been published yet and for all I know may never be put between covers, even though J.D. Salinger devoted the last 50 years of his life to writing it.

Pearl Diving

Among the 2016 sale’s stellar offerings is Léonard Rosenthal’s The Kingdom of the Pearl with Persian-miniature-immaculate plates by Edmund Dulac that have to be seen to be believed. Its only defect is a gouge on one edge of the front cover where a bibliophile in a frenzy of desire appears to have taken a bite out of it. Except for that minor, perfectly hygienic blemish, the volume is in a condition comparable to that of copies going for $750 online.

For this semi-retired browser, Dulac’s Pearl evokes the Golden Age of the Book Quest in Princeton when rare finds would turn up at garage and estate sales or on the shelves of Micawber Books or in the bank vault that housed Witherspoon Books and Art. It was around this time of year circa 1981 that I found an unflawed Pearl in the Dickensian clutter of a secondhand/antique store in East Millstone.  more

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CURTAIN UP: Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and the Department of Music will mark the launch of a new Program in Music Theater with a day-long symposium on Princeton’s music theater past, present and future on Saturday, October 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. The event is free and open to the public, however advance reservations are encouraged at arts.princeton.edu/curtainup. (Photo Credit: Frank Wojciechowski)

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and the Department of Music will mark the launch of a new Program in Music Theater with a day-long symposium on Princeton’s music theater past, present and future on Saturday, October 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. The event is free and open to the public, however advance reservations are encouraged at arts.princeton.edu/curtainupmore

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 “LAKE AGNES”: Robert Zurfluh, a member of the Cranbury Digital Camera Club, took this photo of Lake Agnes, which is located in Colorado.  The Club will have their photography on display at the Gourgaud Gallery from October 2 until October 28.

Photos from Cranbury digital Camera Club (CdCC) photographers are on display at the Gourgaud Gallery. The gallery is located at Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street (the old schoolhouse) in Cranbury from October 2 to October 28. more

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“BEE KEEPER’S HOUSE”: Joseph Barrett’s exhibition “Alluvial Years” is on display at the Silverman Gallery in New Hope until October 30. Pictured here is his 22 x 22 inch oil on canvas. 

Now until October 30, artist Joseph Barrett has his work on display at the Silverman Gallery in Bucks County. His exhibition, “Alluvial Years,” is a compilation of his most recent works alongside paintings done over the last 25 years. The exhibition title refers to the subjects he has painted along the Delaware Valley.   more

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The Midtown Men (4 cast members from the original show Jersey Boys) will perform at the State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick on Thursday, October 6 at 8 p.m. The group promises to thrill crowds with renditions of the songs that defined the 60s. The Midtown Men include Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer. To purchase tickets, visit www.statetheatrenj.org or call (732) 246-7469.

September 29, 2016

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Studio Japan of Kingston will hold their Annual Open House, October 8-23 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Featuring traditional Japanese furnishings, TANSU cabinetry, pottery, and decorative folk arts, anyone interested in Japanese culture is encouraged to attend. The museum itself is a Sukiya tea culture inspired building reconstructed from a historic post and beam barn. Established in 1982, Studio Japan serves as the museum and conservation workshop of Ty and Kiyoko Heineken, the authors of TANSU: Traditional Japanese Cabinetry. Studio Japan is located at 110 Main Street (4505 Rte. 27 North) in Kingston, NJ.

The event is free to attend. To learn more visit www.tansucabinetry.com or call (609) 683-0938. Questions can be directed to ty@tansucabinetry.com.

September 28, 2016

movie-rev-9-28-16Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa in 1954, Seven Samurai was a groundbreaking film that had a profound influence on the evolution of cinema for many years. Superficially, that seminal work was merely a martial arts epic set in 16th century Japan. Yet, over the years, it has spawned a series of knockoffs that reprise the picture’s narrative about a team of selfless heroes who were recruited to achieve some lofty goal.

In 1960, Seven Samurai was remade as The Magnificent Seven, a Western that co-starred Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, and James Coburn. Today, that classic has been remade by Antoine Fuqua in a film that reunites the director with Denzel Washington after their successful collaborations on The Equalizer (2014) and Training Day (2001). The latter film won an Academy Award.

This version of The Magnificent Seven has a few variations on the original theme. For example, the picture’s bad guy is now an avaricious white man who is intent on seizing a mining town’s gold — instead of a Mexican bandito who has been staging a series of border raids. And the good guys enlisted to take care of the greedy villains are a politically correct rainbow coalition comprised of heroes who come from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Otherwise, the essence of the original plot remains intact. As the film unfolds, we find that the people in the frontier settlement of Rose Creek are living in fear of Bartholomew Bogue and his gang of marauders. Bogue is your stereotypical, bloodthirsty villain, played to perfection by Peter Sarsgaard.

It is made clear just how low the diabolical Bogue will stoop to achieve his evil ends when he murders an innocent woman and burns the church to the ground. The frightened local people are at their wit’s end, and are glad to welcome the arrival in town of the bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington).

They have no idea that Chisolm isn’t being merely altruistic and that he has his own reasons to eliminate Bogue. After Chilsholm is deputized, he proceeds to assemble a crew composed of: a Civil War veteran suffering from shell shock (Ethan Hawke), a hard-drinking bombmaker (Chris Pratt), a gruff mountain man (Vincent D’Onofrio), a Chicano outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Comanche archer (Martin Sensmeier), and a knife-throwing assassin (Byung-hun Lee).

Don’t expect any deeply-developed characters. The movie is about the inexorable march to the big showdown when the heroes even the score — and then some.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for intense violence, smoking, profanity, and suggestive material. Running time: 132 minutes. Distributor: Sony Pictures.

Photo Credit: NARENDRA DANGIYA

Photo Credit: NARENDRA DANGIYA

Acclaimed dancer/choreographer Aparna Ramaswamy brings her solo work They Rose at Dawn to the Berlind Theatre on October 23 at 3 p.m. In this solo work, women are depicted as carriers of ritual. Navigating inner and outer worlds, they invoke a sense 
of reverence, of unfolding mystery, of imagination. more

book-revHerman Melville died 125 years ago today in a three-story brick townhouse at 104 E. 26th Street in Manhattan. The makeshift bomb that shook the same neighborhood a week and a half ago exploded a short walk away at 23rd and Sixth Avenue. Virtually unread and unremembered on September 28, 1891, Melville’s most famous work ends, in effect, with an explosion: “then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.” The actual last words of Moby Dick, however, are less epic than domestic as a ship named Rachel searching for “her missing children” only finds “another orphan.”

The orphan, of course, is Melville, the metaphorical survivor of his most ambitious work, a castaway on the desert island of his obscurity sending the civilized world messages carried like “notes in a bottle” across two centuries and the ocean of the internet.

In Andrew Delbanco’s Melville: His World and Work (2005), the author is seen as “a living presence in the larger culture,” not only “good for thinking about” but one of the “select company” of writers who “continue to be good for thinking with.” Since his literary revival in the mid-20th century, there have been, according to Delbanco, “a steady stream of new Melvilles, all of whom seem somehow to keep up with the preoccupations of the moment: myth-and-symbol Melville, countercultural Melville, anti-war Melville, environmentalist Melville, gay or bisexual Melville, muticultural Melville, global Melville.” more

Visit Grounds for Sculpture (GFS) for the 12th Annual Festival of the Guild for Early Music on Sunday, October 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Performances by regional ensembles include Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Early American music in both vocal and instrumental forms.  more

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Photo Credit: Chris Lee

Violinist Leila Josefowicz will perform at Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s (PSO’s) “Viennese Reflections Edward T. Cone Concert” on Sunday, October 9 at 4 p.m. at Richardson Auditorium. The concert includes the world premiere of a work by Princeton-based composer Julian Grant. The October 9 concert is made possible by the generous support of the Edward T. Cone Foundation. The PSO performed his Symphony last fall. Ticket prices include admission to a pre-concert talk at 3 p.m. To purchase, call (609) 497-0020 or visit www.princetonsymphony.org

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“THE BUILT WORLD”: These works by PDS art faculty will be on display at the Anne Reid Art Gallery. On the right is, “Bonzai” by Chase Rosade and on the left is Chris Maher’s “Antlerback Chair.” The exhibit combines manipulation of natural materials by the two artists, specifically in the presentation of handmade furniture and bonsai. The exhibit called “The Built World” will run from October 17 through November 10.

The Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School presents “The Built World,” featuring the work of PDS Art Faculty members Chris Maher and Chase Rosade.  more

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“CHASING SPARKS 2”: “Jonathan Hertzel: When Sparks Fly” highlights the artist’s recent work in watercolor alongside one of his dynamic bronze sculptures. Pictured here is his 2015 watercolor on Arches paper that is on display at the Michener Art Museum until December 31.

A new exhibition featuring works by painter and sculptor Jonathan Hertzel is open to the public at the James A. Michener Art Museum until December 31, 2016, Jonathan Hertzel: When Sparks Fly showcases the artist’s recent creations in watercolor and is accompanied by one of Hertzel’s more notable metal sculptures, Adam Splittingmore

September 25, 2016

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Sarah Churgin and Katherine Van Dell, appraisers at Rago Auctions and “Antiques Roadshow,” will be at Morven Museum and Garden on September 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to appraise jewelry. “Unused heirlooms are a source of financing for vacations, tuition or even more jewelry,” says Sarah, who directs Rago’s jewelry department. Should you choose to sell, Rago will donate a percentage of that sale to Morven Museum and Garden. Sarah and Katherine are scheduling appointments from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (no appointment is necessary from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.).  more

September 21, 2016

movie-rev-9-21-16Earlier this year, the film Citizenfour won the Academy Award in the Best Documentary category. But because the movie made less than $4 million worldwide, one might reasonably conclude that the details of Edward Snowden’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) release of National Security Agency documents is relatively unknown.

This is perhaps the reasoning of Oscar-winner Oliver Stone (Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July), who turns the story into a cloak-and-dagger drama about the NSA whistleblower’s leak of classified information who then went into hiding from the U.S. government. The movie unfolds in June of 2013 in a Hong Kong hotel room where Snowden met with journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto), Ewen Macaskill (Tom Wilkinson), and Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), the director of Citizenfour.

After four days of interviews, Greenwald published his first story in the British daily newspaper, The Guardian. The Pulitzer Prize-winning series related in stunning detail the extent of the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens, in direct contradiction to a recent denial — given under oath — to Congress by James Clapper the nation’s Director of National Intelligence.

Because the articles identified Snowden as the source of the information, he immediately became the subject of an international manhunt. He somehow managed to evade the dragnet and boarded a commercial airliner bound for Moscow, even though his passport had been revoked and the U.S. had requested his extradition from Hong Kong.

Upon landing in Russia, Snowden was awarded temporary asylum and has remained there ever since. However, this movie has revived interest in his case, and he has recently make a public appeal for clemency.

A presidential pardon is unlikely to be forthcoming, even though President Obama considered the apprehension of the “29 year old-hacker” a very low priority in June 2013. So today, Snowden remains a fugitive from justice charged in absentia with theft, espionage, and conversion of government property.

Through a series of flashbacks, we are informed by the film that Snowden was a high school dropout who suffers from epilepsy. He also has a lasting relationship with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), his girlfriend who followed him from Virginia, to Hawaii, and then to Moscow. The movie portrays Snowden as a patriot who was willing to jeopardize his future in order to blow the whistle on the NSA’s violations of our constitutional rights.

Excellent (***½ stars). Rated R for profanity, sexuality, and nudity. In English and Russian with subtitles. Running time: 138 minutes.

Distributor: Open Road Films.

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Author David O. Stewart

The Pennington School history department will host author David O. Stewart on Wednesday, September 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Wesley Forum, Kenneth Kai Tai Yen Humanities Building. The event is free and open to all members of the community and general public. more

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We were sort of talking a new language. — Slim Gaillard (1916-1991) 

Asked by the editors of TIME to define the last word of his catchy line of word jazz, “the flat foot floosie with the floy-floy,” guitarist, pianist, and Johnny Appleseed of jive Slim Gaillard made the comment about “a new language,” suggesting that the “floy-floy” was just “extra business” — “you got the whole dance right there; you’re swinging. See what I mean?”  more

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“INEVITABLE NO. 3”: This 12”x11” oil on wood by Laura Rutherford Renner will be on display at the Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville starting in October.

The spaces and people that enable us to grow and thrive, the settings that are beset by transformation or neglect, are the focus of the work by Alla Podolsky and Laura Rutherford Renner at the Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville from October 6 to November 6, with an opening reception on Saturday, October 8 from 4 to 7 p.m. The closing will take place on Sunday, November 6 from 3 to 6 p.m. more

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FORBIDDEN PASSION: Father Monroe (Raul Mendez) visits Marcela (Hannia Guillen) and her struggling Cuban-American family, but his pastoral kindness turns into much more, in McCarter Theatre’s production of Nilo Cruz’s world premiere of “Bathing in Moonlight” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through October 9. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Father Monroe (Raul Mendez) welcomes the audience into his church in the opening moments of Bathing in Moonlight, Nilo Cruz’s new play, currently at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. The smiling priest in his 40s, attractive, warm, addressing his “parishioners” individually as friends, makes his way down the aisle to the stage, where Edward Pierce’s striking set and lighting — with a red cross in the middle of a large stained glass window and latticed wooden screen backdrop — emphasizes the church setting. more

 

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RECITAL AND MASTER CLASS AT WESTMINSTER: Pianist Alejandro Cremaschi will present a recital of works by Ginastera and others on Friday, September 23 at 8 p.m. He will lead a master class on Saturday, September 24 at 2 p.m. Admission to both events is free.

Learn more at www.rider.edu/arts.

Westminster Choir College of Rider University welcomes visiting pianist Alejandro Cremaschi, who will present a recital on Friday, September 23 at 8 p.m. and a master class on Saturday, September 24 at 2 p.m. A reception will follow the recital. Admission to both events is free. more

There is always an air of freshness at the start of a new musical season — the night air is crisp with the coming of autumn and audiences are eager with anticipation of what the new season will bring. Princeton Symphony Orchestra began its 2016-17 season a bit early this year with a concert last Thursday night which was definitely a breath of fresh air — and an approach to Antonio Vivaldi which Princeton audiences likely have not heard before. more