November 30, 2016

movie-revIt’s late November in Grundy, Virginia, a small town whose economy depends heavily on Peyton Automotive, a family business inherited by Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) from his late grandfather. Unfortunately, the company has fallen on hard times and Matthew is considering cancelling the annual Christmas pageant that the company has sponsored since the 70s.

In addition, Matthew is being pressured by his financial advisor, Albert Bagley (Kevin Sizemore) to either lay off or lower the salaries of his 115 employees. Needless to say, the prospect of cutbacks doesn’t sit well with union rep Bob Alexander (James C. Burns) who decides to call for a strike.

Matthew testifies before Grundy’s City Council that he can no longer afford to stage the holiday festival because the funds in the trust set up for the event have been exhausted. However, his grandfather specifically stipulated in his will that Peyton Automotive must continue the tradition.

Nonetheless, Matthew asserts that the business has been losing money for several years and that, given the situation, he has no choice but to shut it down. However, the mayor (Lance E. Nichols) warns him that if, “You keep going in this direction, you will get crucified.”

Sure enough, Matthew becomes the victim of escalating violence. First his car is egged, has a tire slashed, and then is set on fire. Then, he’s beaten to within an inch of his life and left for dead by a gang of union goons.

Fortunately, a most unlikely hero comes to his rescue in the form of a precocious homeless child named CJ Joseph (Issac Ryan Brown). CJ and his mother Sharon (Danielle Nicolet) nurse Matthew back to health and also give him a lesson about what really matters most in life.

In spite of their homelessness and poverty, the Josephs fervently believe that better days are coming. “I wish I had that kind of faith,” Matthew admits. When he recovers, a grateful Matthew informs Sharon and CJ that “You took care of me, now I’ll take care of you.”

That is the point of departure of Believe, a morality play that is the directorial debut of Billy Dickson. Although the picture is aimed at the Christian demographic, it’s storyline — including a love triangle and intriguing plot twists — will appeal to the general public.

Very Good (***). Rated PG for violence, mature themes, and mild epithets. Running time: 118 minutes. Distributor: Power of 3.


Oscar Wilde died in Paris on this day, November 30, in the first year of the 20th century. He was 46.

“They could attack him, but they could not take their eyes off him. Derision was a form of tribute and, if it went on long enough, could not fail to be so interpreted. He could, moreover, appeal over the head of the journalists, to the people. This he did.”  more


“INFINITE INSPIRATION”: This digital print by Pamela Turczyn will be included in the upcoming art show, “MANDALA, locating self” at the Art Times Two gallery at Princeton Brain and Spine.

MANDALA, locating self will be on display from December 2016 through March 2017 at Art Times Two, the gallery at Princeton Brain and Spine. The gallery is within the offices at 731 Alexander Road, Suite 200. There will be a reception on Sunday, December 4 from 2-4 p.m. open to the public. After the opening, visits to the gallery are made by appointment, evenings and weekend days. For more information, call (609) 203-4622. more


Master potter Caryn Newman will open her studio to the public on December 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the annual sale of her new work. Newman makes functional pottery in stoneware and porcelain in vibrant colors. Ms. Newman’s work was featured in the juried Ellarslie Open Show this year. Her studio is at 7 Willowood Drive, Ewing. Call (609) 203-7141 for more information.

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ANNUAL FESTIVAL FEATURES A DIVERSE PROGRAM OF NEW WORKS: Two Princeton students are rehearsing for a new work by choreographer Olivier Tarpaga that will be performed at the Princeton Dance Festival at McCarter Theatre Center. Festival performances are scheduled for December 2 at 8 p.m., December 3 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and December 4 at 1 p.m. (Photo Credit: Elena Anamos)

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at Princeton University presents the annual Princeton Dance Festival, in which 40 Princeton dance students will perform repertory works by Zvi Gotheiner, John Jasperse, and Mark Morris, along with new works by Kimberly Bartosik, Francesca Harper, and Olivier Tarpaga. Four performances will take place December 2 at 8 p.m., December 3 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and December 4 at 1 p.m. at the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. more


Renowned saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa and Director of Jazz at Princeton University will perform at Richardson Auditorium on Saturday, December 3 and Taplin Auditrorium in Fine Hall at Princeton University on Wednesday, December 7. Mahanthappa’s music hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music, a form that reflects his own experiences as a second-generation Indian American. In 2015, Mahanthappa was named a United States Artists Fellow. Previous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and a Doris Duke Performing Arts Award. In 2016, he was appointed the director of jazz and the associate director of the Program in Musical Performance at Princeton University. To purchase tickets for the December 3 performance, visit The December 7 performance is free. (Photo Credit: Jimmy Katz)


Darcy James Argue

Princeton University’s department of music is pleased to announce that bandleader and composer Darcy James Argue has joined the department as conductor of the Princeton University Creative Large Jazz Ensemble. The GRAMMY and JUNO-nominated artist, Guggenheim Fellow, and Doris Duke Artist will make his debut leading the Creative Large Ensemble on Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 8 p.m. at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall in a program including everything from classics — Duke Ellington, Benny Carter, Mary Lou Williams — to more recent works and arrangements by today’s leading artists. The concert will also feature saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, the new Director of Jazz at Princeton University.  more

November 23, 2016

movie-rev-11-23-16We are introduced to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he disembarks from a steamship from England that has just arrived in the New York harbor in 1926. The young wizard has to resort to some sleight-of-hand illusions in order to slip through customs, because his suitcase is filled to bursting with a unique type of contraband.

It turns out that Newt is hiding a menagerie of mythical creatures with unusual names like obscurials, bowtruckles, and dougals. Thanks to the unreliable latch on his tattered leather satchel, it doesn’t take long for a mischievous niffler to escape. The odd-looking creature soon manages to break into a nearby bank vault where it proceeds to indulge its insatiable appetite for gold by stuffing coins into its pouch.

Newt, however, must get the money back to the vault before its disappearance arouses the suspicions of Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). She’s the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a group of no-majs, (aka muggles — meaning ordinary human beings), that is dedicated to the extermination of wizards and witches.

Unfortunately, Newt whips out his wand in order to recapture the naughty niffler in the presence of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an affable Everyman who is applying for a loan to open his own bakery. Unfortunately, since Jacob has just observed the use of magic, wizardry protocol requires that the Everyman’s memory must be wiped clean on the spot.

However, Jacob manages to flee before being “obliviated,” and he inadvertently takes Newt’s bag of creatures with him. As luck would have it, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) — a comely witch who is a member of the Magical Congress of the United States of America — comes to Newt’s rescue.

Thus unfolds Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a visually captivating adaptation of the J.K. Rowling bestseller of the same name. Even though the book was alluded to in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, you don’t need to be familiar with the Harry Potter books or films in order to appreciate this delightful fantasy, that apparently will have five episodes.

Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) delivers a fresh and endearing vulnerability as the picture’s bashful protagonist. And he is ably assisted by a stellar supporting cast composed of A-list actors and an array of endearing computer-generated creatures.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for fantasy action and violence. Running time: 132 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.


ARTS ADVOCATE: Taneshia Nash Laird is the new executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, replacing Jeff Nathanson who is stepping down after 11 years. Ms. Nash Laird was executive director of the Trenton Downtown Association and co-founded MIST Harlem, a cultural and entertainment center.

The Arts Council of Princeton announced Tuesday that, after a national search, the organization has selected Taneshia Nash Laird as its new executive director. A regionally and nationally recognized leader in arts and economic development, Ms. Nash Laird will serve as the ACP’s third executive director since the organization’s founding in 1967. more


More than 120 children in the Trenton Children’s Chorus (TCC) prepare to delight audience members during the month of December. TCC is an award-winning nonprofit organization providing Trenton area youth with exceptional choral music training and performance opportunities. TCC has performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama, the United Nations, the South African Embassy, the World Café Live, the Washington Monument, and throughout New Jersey. For additional information, visit


In the foreword to his best-selling autobiography Born to Run (Simon & Schuster $32.50), Bruce Springsteen pictures himself on a hypothetical stage “face to face with eighty thousand (or eighty) screaming rock’n’roll fans” waiting for him to do his “magic trick,” which is “to provide proof of life to that ever elusive, never completely believable ‘us.’” The writing of his life, then, will be his big show, his spectacle, and at 508 pages, the intention is clear: he’s going to give us our money’s worth.  more

“Art demands of us that we do not stand still.” So commented Ludwig van Beethoven on his own late string quartets. No one can argue that the world is far from standing still, and the cycle of Beethoven string quartets presented this year by the Takács String Quartet at Princeton University may represent more than just music. Beethoven composed his repertory of 16 string quartets during some of the most tumultuous decades in world history, and the Takács performance of all the composer’s quartets over six concerts both shows promise for consistency in high-quality music and demonstrates the evolution of the string quartet as a musical form.  more

November 16, 2016

MCDINFE EC060Dan Brown is the author of four bestselling mysteries that feature Harvard Professor Robert Langdon as the protagonist. The popular novels have sold over 100 million copies, and the fifth one is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2017.

Screen versions of the first two Robert Langdon books, The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), earned over a billion dollars at the box office. So, it’s no surprise that an adaptation of another novel has been made.

Inferno reunites director Ron Howard with Tom Hanks. Hanks reprises his lead role as the genius who has an uncanny knack for deciphering ancient symbols and religious iconography. Howard chose a stellar support cast that includes Ben Foster, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan, and Omar Sy.

Inferno is easily the most successful of the three movies, because it eliminates Langdon’s use of inscrutable jargon. In this film, the intellectual badinage has been minimized, thereby leaving room for a series of visually captivating action sequences.

Another plus is the easy to follow plotline. The point of departure is in a hospital in Florence, Italy where Langdon is suffering from amnesia. He is lucky to be alive because the bullet that brought on the amnesia only grazed his scalp.

However, an assassin (Ana Ularu) soon arrives to finish the job. Fortunately, Langdon’s doctor, Sienna Brooks (Jones), not only helps him escape the assassin, but she also abandons her medical practice in order to help her traumatized patient escape from his enemies.

Of course the hit woman was part of a much larger conspiracy. She was following the orders of Bertrand Zobrist (Foster), an evil billionaire who is about to unleash a diabolical solution to the world’s overpopulation problem. The madman plans to release a lethal virus that is designed to kill half the people on the planet in less than a week.

That sets off Langdon and Sienna’s dizzying race against time to foil the diabolical Zobrist’s scheme. That, in a nutshell is the essence of Inferno, except for a humdinger of a twist that is unfair to spoil.

This movie is easily the most accessible, engaging, and entertaining cinematic adaptation of a Dan Brown thriller to date.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for action, violence, profanity, disturbing images, mature themes, and brief sensuality. In English, French, and Italian with subtitles. Running time: 126 minutes. Distributor: Sony Pictures.


“What will become of us?” — PJ Harvey

In PJ Harvey’s The Hope Six Demolition Project, the music lifts you up even as the words bring you down. To paraphrase Michelle Obama, when the lyrics “go low, the music goes high.”

During the weeks leading up to the election, I was listening day in day out to Hope Six without fully registering the words. In the election aftermath, Harvey’s dark vision of devastated war zones and the mean streets of Washington D.C. makes timely sense. more


“SUNFLOWER GLASS”: Karen and Geoff Caldwell of Sunflower Glass Studio, located outside of Stockton, are working on many new ideas with their fused and stained glass for the Covered Bridge Artisans Studio Tour and Sale. Karen continues to develop her fused dimensional botanical panels, adding many species of fish into her work. Her newest art form is creating Birch Tree groves in fused glass. Geoff is exploring his hand-painting images that go into their collaboration of the ‘Patchwork’ Series windows. He also delights in making stained and beveled glass border treatments that compliment and finish Karen’s fused glass.

The Covered Bridge Artisans Annual Studio is a self-guided event located in Southern Hunterdon County, New Jersey. The 22nd annual holiday studio tour will take place in six professional artists’ studios in the Lambertville, Stockton, and Sergeantsville areas with 11 guest artists at the Cultural Arts Center in Sergeantsville. The event will take place November 25, 26, and 27, 2016. It will run from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.–4 p.m. on Sunday.  more


“OLD BARN”: Carl Geisler’s photograph, “Old Barn” will be in the juried exhibit, “Farms, Barns and Bridges” at the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center from November 18 through December 16.

Farms, Barns and Bridges, a juried art exhibit, is on view at D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center, 1 Preservation Place, Princeton, through December 16. There will be an opening reception, Friday, November 18, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sales of original paintings benefit D&R Greenway’s mission of preserving land and inspiring a conservation ethic. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Please call ahead to confirm availability at (609) 924-4646, or visit

November 14, 2016
Arts Council of Princeton’s Executive Director Jeff Nathanson with artist Paul Henry Ramirez

Photography by Erica Cardenas

Dining by Design, the Arts Council of Princeton’s signature annual fall gala, was held at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township on Saturday, November 12. This year’s theme, Eye Candy, was inspired by the art exhibit Rattle by Paul Henry Ramirez on view in Grounds for Sculpture’s West Gallery. The evening featured cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, live modern dance, Party Boards, a multi-course dinner catered by STARR Events, and an exciting live auction. The choreography and direction of the dancers was the work of Dawn Cargiulo Berman, director of The Pennington Studio for Dance and the Creative Arts. Berman engaged dancers from the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company and Pilobolus Dance Theater to be a part of the evening. The event proved to be a major success, raising funds for the Arts Council of Princeton’s many community programs including their scholarship fund, which benefits local students.


November 9, 2016

movie-rev-11-9-16Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) and Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) committed a crime when they were young and fell in love in 1958. That’s because she was black and he was white, and they were living in Virginia, one of many southern states that had anti-miscegnation laws that forbade cohabitation, marriage, procreation, and sexual relations across racial lines.

Nevertheless, Richard was in love and he asked Mildred to marry him. When Mildred said yes, he purchased a vacant plot of land where he promised to build their dream home. However, in order to become married, they had to go to Washington, D.C., where they could obtain a marriage license.

When they returned to their hometown of Central Point, they were promptly arrested in a nighttime raid by policemen who were tipped off about the couple’s recent wedding. They were charged with violating section 20-58 of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, a felony that was punishable with up to five years in prison.

The Lovings were convicted, but they fled to the District of Columbia in order to avoid going to jail, especially since Mildred was expecting their first child. It was a tragedy for them to be fugitives and forced to start their family in a strange city, since they already had a place to live, albeit in a state that sanctioned racial intolerance.

Five years later, their plight came to the attention of Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and Phil Hirshkop (Jon Bass) who were attorneys working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The lawyers persuaded Mildred and Richard to become plaintiffs in a suit that challenged the constitutionality of Virginia’s statute that prohibited interracial marriage.

The couple agreed to pursue the case, and the appellate process worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Tell the judge I love my wife,” Richard implored the ACLU legal team as they were preparing their oral argument before the court.

On June 12, 1967, the Court announced its unanimous decision that was written by Chief Justice Earl Warren. It declared that the state of Virginia had violated the Loving family’s rights to equal protection and due process that were guaranteed in the 14th amendment to the constitution.

Directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud), Loving chronicles the life and times of an unassuming couple whose landmark legal case thrust them into the national limelight. The production features excellent performances by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, who generate a quietly convincing screen chemistry while portraying Mildred and Richard as a modest working-class family.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for mature themes and ethnic slurs. Running time: 123 minutes. Studio: Big Beach Films. Distributor: Focus Features.


The portrait of Turgenev was painted in 1872 by Vasily Perov

I’ve been looking at a photograph of the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, who was born on this day, November 9, in 1818. What interests me about the photo, which isn’t clear enough to be reproduced here, is the unorthodox pose. He’s seated with one leg tucked under the other with a book propped on the thigh of the tucked-under leg. There’s a suggestion of amusement in his expression that seems to say, “Hello, whoever you are, let’s agree about the absurdity of humans striking poses and be comfortable together in the moment. We’re all in this together.” more


Library Live at Labyrinth will present biographer Reiner Stach and translator Shelley Frisch in a discussion of Kafka: The Early Years, (Princeton University Press $35) on Thursday, November 10 at 6 p.m.

According to Princeton faculty member and author of Lambent Traces: Franz Kafka Stanley Corngold, “Kafka: The Early Years completes a masterful trilogy. One feature puts it at light-years’ distance of superiority to anything previously written about Kafka’s early years: Stach had unique access to Max Brod’s notebooks, part of a celebrated cache of documents bearing on his friendship with Kafka. Far more fully than any other Kafka biographer, Stach gives us what Hegel calls ‘the concrete vitality of the full individual.’” more


BIRTHDAY SURPRISES: (L to R) Matt (Grant Shaud), Jill (June Ballinger), Carol (Leslie Ayvazian), and Dan (Ken Land) leave the city for a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast in the Poconos to celebrate Carol’s 60th birthday, and they find themselves in unexpected, unsettling emotional territory in Passage Theatre’s production of Leslie Ayvazian’s “Out of the City,” playing through November 20 at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton. (Photo by Michael Goldstein)

At least since A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s “out-of-the-city” play set in ancient Athens and the surrounding forest, leaving the structured, rule-bound urban world for a sojourn in the unconstrained world of nature has been a risky proposition, bringing about all sorts of romantic upheavals, shifting relationships, and surprising transformations of identity. more


STRING SECTION: Students at Grace A. Dunn Middle School in Trenton are learning the violin from José Gregorio Sanchez Rodriguez, who is a product of the highly successful El Sistema program in Venezuela. Rodriguez also teaches at Westminster Conservatory in Princeton.

In a cluttered classroom at Trenton’s Grace A. Dunn Middle School, seven girls and one boy stand in a circle, violins in hand. It has been barely a month since they began learning the basics of the instrument. But “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” which they are playing along with their teacher, is sounding pretty good. more

November 2, 2016

movie-rev-11-2-16Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist. Devoutly religious, he followed his faith’s literal interpretation of the Ten Commandments, including the Fifth one’s dictate that “Thou shalt not kill.” So, when he rushed to enlist in the Army right after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, he did so as a conscientious objector.

However, because he was unwilling to touch, let alone carry a weapon, Desmond was teased mercilessly by other members of his platoon. In fact, he was not only beaten by a bully (Luke Bracey), but was also court-martialed for failing to complete the weapons part of basic training.

However, the military tribunal ruled in Desmond’s favor after his World War I veteran father (Hugo Weaving) testified on his behalf. Still, his fellow G.I.s were reluctant to accept a comrade whom they thought was a coward, since they had just been taught by their Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) that a unit was no stronger than its weakest link.

Nevertheless, Desmond was commissioned as a medic with the 307th Infantry with whom he would more than prove his mettle on the island of Okinawa in the bloodiest battle of World War II. He exhibited extraordinary courage during a month spent dodging bullets and bombs in order to attend to the wounded during the siege of Hacksaw Ridge.

Desmond would save the lives of 75 soldiers and his selfless exploits were ultimately appreciated by both his fellow unit members and the Pentagon. The heroic medic eventually became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

All of the above is recounted in riveting fashion in Hacksaw Ridge, a biopic directed by Mel Gibson. Fair warning: the film features graphic battlefield scenes similar to the gory D-Day reenactments seen in Saving Private Ryan (1998).

In addition to the gruesome war scenes, the film has flashbacks that describe Desmond’s formative years, including his romance with Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), the pretty nurse he fell in love with and married shortly before shipping out for the Pacific Theater.

The film closes with archival newsreels and stills of the real-life Desmond and Dorothy. The movie is a moving portrait of a war hero who made a significant contribution to the war effort without ever using a weapon.

Excellent (****). Rated R for graphic violence, gruesome images, and ethnic slurs. Running time: 131 minutes. Distributor: Summit Entertainment.


The portrait of Emily is by her brother Branwell, as restored by Michael Armitage.  It was originally painted around 1833-34 when she would have been 15 or 16. It is on view in The National Portrait Gallery, London.

Imagine a neighborhood dominated by bookish types who costume their children in the garb of their dark favorites every Halloween. Not for them the everyday Draculas, Darth Vaders, Freddy Krugers, and Norman Bateses. No, this is the domain of wee Lady Macbeths and Crookback Richards. more

In its season opener at Richardson Auditorium this past weekend, Princeton Pro Musica returned to its roots in the great choral masses of music history. Pro Musica Artistic Director Ryan James Brandau centered Sunday afternoon’s concert on one of the more dramatic masses of Franz Joseph Haydn, combined with smaller choral works similarly grounded with Classical melodies and clear-cut structures. Dr. Brandau combined the 100-voice Pro Musica with a Classically-sized orchestra and the established Polydora Ensemble, whose members doubled as soloists for the Haydn mass. more