This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

VIDEO OF THE DAY: “CHRISTMAS (BABY PLEASE COME HOME)” BY DARLENE LOVE

Who: Darlene Love
What: A Darlene Love Christmas: Love for the Holidays
Where: B. B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves., 212-997-4144
When: Friday, December 26, Saturday, December 27, and Friday, January 2, $45, 8:00
Why: The great Darlene Love performs holiday classics and more during multiple-show run in Times Square

LET THERE BE LIGHT — THE FILMS OF JOHN HUSTON: THERE WILL BE BLOOD

A desperate man (Daniel Day-Lewis) goes on a dark journey in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic THERE WILL BE BLOOD

A desperate man (Daniel Day-Lewis) goes on a dark journey in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic THERE WILL BE BLOOD

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Saturday, December 27, 5:45
Festival runs December 19 - January 11
212-875-5050
www.filmlinc.com
www.miramax.com

In the fall of 2007, Paul Thomas Anderson talked to Directors Guild of America Quarterly about his latest film, There Will Be Blood, explaining how it was influenced by John Huston’s classic Western The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. “I was trying to find something that was one-hundred percent straightforward, old-fashioned storytelling. I definitely tried to mimic that approach. My natural instincts as a writer may be more scattered, so in an effort to be more traditional I used a book, just like they did. Sierra Madre is as direct as you can get — nothing clever, nothing structurally new or different — and I mean that as a high compliment. It’s harder than anything else to be completely straightforward.” There Will Be Blood has been called a lot of things since its release, but “traditional” and “completely straightforward” are probably not among them. But it does explain why Anderson’s film is one of only a handful of works not directed by Huston in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “Let There Be Light: The Films of John Huston.” In There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis, in remarkable voice (“I drink your milkshake!”), gives a spectacular, Oscar-winning performance as an independent oil man, absolutely embodying Daniel Plainview, a determined, desperate man digging for black gold in turn-of-the-century California. His first strike comes at a heavy price as he loses one of his men in a tragic accident, so he adopts the worker’s infant son, raising H.W. (Dillon Freasier) as his own. The growth of his company leads him to Little Boston, a small town that has oil just seeping out of its pores. But after not allowing Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), the charismatic preacher who runs the local Church of the Third Revelation, to say a prayer over the community’s first derrick, Plainview begins his descent into hell.

Paul Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis in THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) and Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) face off in THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Using Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! as a starting point (and employing echoes of Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons in addition to the obvious reference, George Stevens’s classic 1956 oil flick, Giant), writer-director Anderson (Boogie Nights, The Master) has created a thrilling epic about greed, power, and corruption as well as jealousy, murder, and, above all, family, where oil gushes out of the ground with fire and brimstone. Robert Elswit’s beautiful, Oscar-winning cinematography is so gritty and realistic, audiences will be reaching for their faces to wipe the oil and blood off. The piercing, classically based score, composed by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, builds to a mind-blowing crescendo by the end of the film — a finale that is likely to be much talked about and widely criticized. Filmed in the same location — Marfa, Texas — where Giant was set, There Will Be Blood is an unforgettable journey into the dark heart of one man’s soul. The film is screening December 27 at 5:45 at the Walter Reade Theater; “Let There Be Light: The Films of John Huston,” which continues through January 11, consists of forty films directed by the master, from The African Queen and Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison to The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and The List of Adrian Messenger, from The Red Badge of Courage and Victory to A Walk with Love and Death and The Kremlin Letter, in addition to a few movies Huston either appeared in (Chinatown, Tentacles!) or that demonstrate his lasting influence, as is the case with There Will Be Blood. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre will be shown December 23, 25, and 27.

A VERY JEWISH CHRISTMAS

Marion Grodin headlines a comic Christmas Eve at Gotham Comedy Club

Marion Grodin is part of a comic Christmas Eve at Gotham Comedy Club

Who: Marion Grodin, Jared Freid, Louis Katz, Sam Morril, and Chloé Hilliard
What: A Very Jewish Christmas
Where: Gotham Comedy Club, 208 West 23rd St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves., 212-367-9000
When: Wednesday, December 24, $25 (plus two-beverage minimum), 7:30 & 9:30
Why: Four Jewish comedians and one raised in a Hasidic community bring the laughs on Christmas Eve

THE INVISIBLE HAND

(photo © Joan Marcus)

Imam Saleem (Dariush Kashani) and Bashir (Usman Ally) negotiate with Nick Bright (Justin Kirk) in the latest gripping drama from Ayad Akhtar (photo © Joan Marcus)

New York Theatre Workshop
79 East Fourth St. between Second & Third Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through January 4, $75
www.nytw.org
www.ayadakhtar.com

In his essay “Dialogue in the Age of Industrial Storytelling: Finding Nemo, Derrida, Capitalism,” novelist and playwright Ayad Akhtar explains, “Growing capital has become our collective telos, the ultimate purpose of our body spiritual and politic; spiritual, for make no mistake, our capitalist dreams of abundance are no less the result of our desire for immortality than our erstwhile myths of paradise were. Capital must grow. The preservation of this dream of completion, the securing means by which it can be fulfilled, this is our new, our only holy devotion.” Akhtar, who won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Disgraced, now on Broadway in a beautiful and shattering production, explores the concepts of capitalization and holy devotion in the gripping The Invisible Hand, which continues through January 4 at New York Theatre Workshop. The second play he wrote and third to be staged in New York (The Who & the What ran at the Claire Tow this past summer), The Invisible Hand is set in Pakistan, where an American banker, Nick Bright (Justin Kirk), has been mistakenly taken hostage by a radical group led by the calm, determined Imam Saleem (Dariush Kashani) and his violent right-hand sergeant-at-arms, Bashir (Usman Ally). Bright, a family man, is guarded by Dar (Jameal Ali), who tries to treat him like a human being instead of a pawn in a fierce political battle. When the Imam sets the ransom at $10 million, Bright offers to help the group make the money through online stock trading, and as soon as they start amassing cash, their relationships — and their values — begin shifting in dramatic ways.

(photo © Joan Marcus)

Bashir (Usman Ally) learns from Nick (Justin Kirk) that greed is good in THE INVISIBLE HAND (photo © Joan Marcus)

In his previous two plays, Akhtar, who has also written the 2012 novel American Dervish and cowrote and starred in the 2005 indie film The War Within, explored personal identity through the lens of race and religion. But in The Invisible Hand, he turns his attention to the corrupting influence of capitalism, depicting how even the most righteous of individuals can succumb to pure greed. The play’s masterful construction employs reversals of power, empathy, and a brief lesson on puts and calls to investigate a world of questions about human values much larger than a terrorist prison cell. The title comes from a phrase coined in 1759 by Adam Smith, who wrote that the rich “are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.” Indeed, money in The Invisible Hand changes everything among all four characters. Kirk (Other Desert Cities, Love! Valour! Compassion!) is gritty and honest as Nick, making the audience root for the kind of man many blame for the recent economic crisis. Similarly, Ally (Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity) and Kashani (Homebody/Kabul) are able to humanize the most villainous of men on earth, murderous terrorists, while Ali is caught somewhere in the middle, like most people across the globe just trying to get by. Director Ken Rus Schmoll (Red Dog Howls) keeps the tension high and the atmosphere claustrophobic on Riccardo Hernandez’s dank, gray set that mysteriously opens up for the second act. With The Invisible Hand, Akhtar, who was born in New York City and raised in Milwaukee, further establishes himself as an outstanding interpreter of the ills of society in the twenty-first century.

ZERO: COUNTDOWN TO TOMORROW, 1950-60s

Otto Piene, “Venus of Willendorf (Venus von Willendorf),” oil and soot on canvas, 1963 (© Otto Piene; photo courtesy Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

Otto Piene, “Venus of Willendorf (Venus von Willendorf),” oil and soot on canvas, 1963 (© Otto Piene; photo courtesy Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Ave. at 89th St.
Friday - Wednesday through January 7, $18-$22 (pay-what-you-wish Saturday 5:45-7:45)
212-423-3587
www.guggenheim.org

The Guggenheim completes its third revelatory group show in a row with “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s,” coming hot on the heels of “Gutai: Splendid Playground” and “Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe.” Founded in 1957 by German artists Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Zero brought together European artists who sought a fresh, optimistic start following the devastation of WWII. “From the beginning we looked upon the term [ZERO] not as an expression of nihilism — or as a dada-like gag, but as a word indicating a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning as at the countdown when rockets take off — zero is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new.” Joined by Günther Uecker in 1961, the collective created monochromatic paintings, kinetic sculptures, and action works that explored light, nature, and space, often removing the hand of the artist. Subtle, complex brushstrokes of multiple colors were not on the agenda; instead, Lucio Fontana slashed his canvases, Uecker hammered in nails, and Piene, Yves Klein, Bernard Auberlin, Piero Manzoni, and Henk Peeters used fire and soot. Numerous pieces, including Gianni Colombo’s “Pulsating Structure,” Klein’s “Space Excavator,” Daniel Spoerri’s “Auto-Theater,” Piene’s “Light Ballet,” and Jean Tinguely’s “Butterfly (Two Points of Stability),” contain mechanically powered elements that move, and in the Guggenheim show they are active only at timed intervals, adding an expectant quality to the viewer’s experience, which echoes the group’s hopefulness for the future. Meanwhile, Mack’s “Silver Dynamo,” Almir Mavignier’s “Convex-Concave II,” and Jesús Rafael Soto’s vibration works play with viewers’ perception in engaging ways.

During the early 1960s, Group Zero’s influence spread to Japan, the Americas, and other parts of Europe; the exhibition features more than 180 works by some forty artists from Belgium (Walter Leblanc, Paul Van Hoeydonck), Romania (Spoerri), Brazil (Almir Mavignie), the Netherlands (herman de vries, Jan Schoonhoven), Japan (Yayoi Kusama), America (Robert Breer, George Rickey), Switzerland (Dieter Roth), and other nations. Curator Valerie Hillings bookends “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s” with two wonderful rooms, beginning in the High Gallery with an examination of the seminal 1959 Antwerp exhibition “Vision in Motion — Motion in Vision,” which serves as a kind of primer for what visitors can expect as they make their way up the Guggenheim’s Rotunda to the very last room, which contains a re-creation of the 1964 Documenta 3 installation “Light Room: Homage to Fontana,” as light-based kinetic works by Mack, Piene, Ueker, and Fontana turn on and off seemingly randomly, casting shadows on the walls and lighting up the darkness. The exhibition closes on January 7 with the panel discussion “ZEROgraphy: Mapping the ZERO Network, 1957–67” ($12, 6:30), with Antoon Melissen, Johan Pas, and Francesca Pola, moderated by Hillings and followed by a reception and a final viewing.

SAGRADA: THE MYSTERY OF CREATION

SAGRADA

The glory, passion, and mystery of La Sagrada Familia is explored in documentary

SAGRADA: THE MYSTERY OF CREATION (Stefan Haupt, 2012)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Francesca Beale Theater
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
December 19 – January 1
212-875-5050
www.filmlinc.com
www.sagrada-film.ch

Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia is perhaps the most spectacular long-running architectural work-in-progress in the world, and arguably the most beautiful and inspiring. Construction began on the cathedral, which sits in the center of the cosmopolitan city, in March 1882, under diocesan architect Francisco del Paula del Villar, but a young man named Antoni Gaudí took over at the end of 1883 and spent the next forty-three years designing and building the expiatory church, incorporating a unique mix of styles as well as a whole new architectural philosophy. Swiss filmmaker Stefan Haupt (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Facing Death, The Circle) takes viewers behind the scenes of this ongoing project in the dry but elegant documentary Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation. Haupt delves into the history of the grand building and looks into its future as he speaks with chief architect Jordi Bonet, sculptors Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Subirachs, stained-glass artist Joan Vila-Grau, priest Lluís Bonet, religious studies professor Raimon Panikkar, and others about the house of worship, most of them singing the praises of the proud Catalan Gaudí, who also built such dazzling structures in his home region as Casa Batlló, Park Güell, and La Pedrera. “We owe it to him to finish this temple and show the world his genius,” foreman Jaume Torreguitart says. The film features extended sections in which cinematographer Patrick Lindenmaier lovingly shoots the inside and outside of the basilica, lingering over the intricate beauty of the myriad details, from the Nativity and Passion Facades to the spires, nave, apse, transept vaults, and Gaudí’s own crypt. La Sagrada occasionally feels like a clever way to raise money to continue work on the project, as it was made with the full support of the Sagrada Família Foundation, which needs funds to finally finish the ornate structure, and the narration (spoken by Hanspeter Müller-Drossaart) lacks the poetry of the visuals. But even as beautiful as the visuals are, it’s still difficult to capture, in words and pictures, the captivating essence of La Sagrada Familia, which overwhelmed me when I visited it a few years ago. The Film Society of Lincoln Center is screening Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation from December 19 to January 1; as a bonus, they are also showing Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1984 documentary, Antoni Gaudí, December 19-25.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: JUDY GOLD

Who: Judy Gold
What: A Jewdy Gold Christmas
Where: Carolines on Broadway, 1626 Broadway, 212-757-4100
When: Wednesday, December 24, and Thursday, December 25, $31.25, 7:30
Why: Star of The Judy Show — My Life as a Sitcom and 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother spends Christmas in New York City telling jokes about being a tall, gay Jewish comedian

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