A KID LIKE JAKE (Silas Howard, 2018)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Opens Friday, June 1
In 2013, Daniel Pearle’s New School final thesis play, A Kid Like Jake, was staged at Lincoln Center’s small, intimate LCT3 theater. The out writer has now expanded the story into a powerful, moving film, directed by the transgender Silas Howard and starring gay actor Jim Parsons, whose company produced the movie. I only mention this because Howard, who has directed episodes of Transparent as well as the documentary More Than T, about six transgender people, explains in his director statement that “A Kid Like Jake was written and directed by queer artists, and the perspective of the film is really one that looks from a queer and compassionate perspective at the struggles of conventional parents who are raising a gender expansive child.” Those conventional parents are wonderfully played by Parsons as Greg Wheeler, a mild-mannered psychologist, and Claire Danes as Alex Wheeler, a lawyer who put her career on hold to start a family. New zoning dictates that the Park Slope couple must find a new school for their four-year-old son, Jake (Leo James Davis), and although they apply to numerous private schools, they’re afraid they can’t afford the tuition. One of Alex’s friends, teacher and consultant Judy (Octavia Spencer), thinks that they should emphasize Jake’s uniqueness and take advantage of the move toward diversity in education; Jake has a preference for princesses and wearing girls’ clothing, which the parents do not discourage. Greg and Alex have never had a problem with that before, but when Jake starts acting out and the pressure to be accepted to a private school grows, they start fighting with each other in stark, harsh ways, saying things they might never be able to take back.
A Kid Like Jake is a timely, intelligent look at one family’s determination to do what’s right for their child, even as it threatens to tear them apart. There were only three main characters in the stage version: Peter Grosz as Greg, Carla Gugino as Alex, and Caroline Aaron as Judy. (Michelle Beck played several minor roles.) Pearle has expanded the cast to include Ann Dowd as Catherine, Alex’s very concerned mother; Priyanka Chopra as Amal, Alex’s close friend; Amy Landecker as Sandra, one of Greg’s patients; and Davis as Jake, who is never seen in the play. It’s a crafty decision to occasionally show Jake in the film, turning the central controversy into a more tangible situation rather than becoming an issue-driven story. Pearle and Guggenheim Fellow Howard add several subplots that lend further insight to the primary dilemma. Greg is annoyed by his new office neighbor, Dr. Laurel Hendricks (Aneesh Sheth), who practices primal scream therapy; thus, disturbing loud shouting interrupt his sessions with Sandra, but Greg is tentative about confronting Dr. Hendricks. And when Greg and Alex go on a double date with Amal and the boneheaded Darren (Aasif Mandvi), general insensitivity raises its ugly head. Parents always want to believe that their child is special, deserving of only the best; A Kid Like Jake explores that innate desire and how it impacts one family continually thwarted by societal pressures, concepts of supposed normality, and their own biases. A Kid Like Jake opens at IFC on June 1, with Howard and Pearle participating in panel discussions following the 7:10 shows on June 1 and 2, joined by Parsons at the 2:40 show on June 3. Parsons, who is currently starring as Michael in the dazzling Broadway debut of The Boys in the Band, will also give an extended introduction to the 4:50 show on June 3, followed by a Q&A with Howard and Pearle.
THE DOCTOR FROM INDIA (Jeremy Frindel, 2018)
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Special screening June 2 at 4:00 at Symphony Space
After seeing Jeremy Frindel’s The Doctor from India, you’re going to want to know even more about its remarkable subject, Ayurvedic master Dr. Vasant Lad. And you can get that chance this weekend when the doctor, who is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Pune, India, makes several appearances in New York City, participating in Q&As following the 6:45 shows at the Quad on June 1 and 2 and at Symphony Space on June 2 after the 4:00 Thalia Docs screening. The documentary provides an intimate, inside look at the seventy-five-year-old founder of the Ayurvedic Institute, who nearly single-handedly brought the ancient discipline to America and the rest of the world. “When I went first during 1979, no one even knows [the] word Ayurveda,” Dr. Lad says about his initial visit to the United States. “Now Ayurveda is flourishing, flowering, and it is my mission of my guru [Hammer Baba] to spread and propagate Ayurveda in the Western world.” Frindel shows the doctor — who is not licensed in America, where the medical establishment and insurance companies do not recognize Ayurveda as legitimate medical treatment — tending to patients in Pune, both at his main office during the day with students and in a clinic where people line up every night to be diagnosed for free. “The specialty of Ayurveda is the science of the pulse. Disease can be diagnosed by examining the pulse. I will look into your constitution, your prakruti, your vikruti, and let them know of any abnormalities,” he tells a patient. A kind, gentle, spiritual soul who does yoga and meditates, Dr. Lad describes Ayurveda as “the art of living in harmony with nature, in harmony with the surroundings, and that is a beautiful thing.” Frindel also speaks with Vedic scholar Dr. David Frawley, Doctor of Oriental Medicine Claudia Welch, first American Ayurvedic physician Dr. Robert Svoboda, and layman Len Blank, who sponsored Dr. Lad’s first visit to the West. “Dr. Lad is the most significant person in a sense galvanizing the movement of Ayurveda in the entire world but starting in the United States,” says Dr. Deepak Chopra, who has a fascinating connection to Dr. Lad involving the Maharaja Mahesh Yogi.
Author of the million-selling book Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing, Dr. Lad believes that looking, listening, and communicating, along with the knowledge of one’s own sacredness and essence, are essential to the health of the mind and body. “This is unbelievable. People will think this is hodgepodge. This is not hodgepodge. This is a science,” he says after diagnosing a man’s mother by feeling her pulse through the son, the mother not even in the room. “The real cause of almost all disease is prana pada, which means a violation against the natural wisdom of your organism,” Dr. Svoboda adds. A private person, Dr. Lad gives director and editor Frindel (One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das) remarkable access to his life, revealing him to be a sweet, caring man who works tirelessly to spread Ayurvedic practice and treat his patients. He also speaks open and honestly about his family, including a very telling story about his courtship of his wife. He’s almost too humble despite his success. “I’m not doing [it]. It is being done through me. I am just an instrument in the hand of God,” he insists. The film borders on the worshipful and Rachel Grimes’s score can get overly treacly, but it’s hard not to fall in love with Dr. Lad and his unique approach to life, something you can learn even more about during his three appearances in New York City this weekend.
Hudson River Park, Pier 45
Cross at Christopher St.
Saturday, June 2, free, 9:00 am - 10:00 pm
Hudson River Park is celebrating its twentieth anniversary of hosting free summer events with an all-day festival on June 2 with a diverse slate of activities, beginning in the morning with Healthy on the Hudson workouts at 9:00 and 10:45 and an eco walk at 10:00. Other highlights include a science show, magic with Kid Ace, live Sunset on the Hudson music, Sunset Salsa dancing led by Talia Castro-Pozo with Mitch Frohman and the Bronx Horns, and a twentieth-anniversary screening of Frank Coraci’s The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Among this season’s free programs are Hudson RiverFlicks — Big Hit Wednesdays, Hudson RiverFlicks — Family Fridays, Jazz at Pier 84, Sunset on the Hudson, the annual Blues BBQ, the Hudson River Dance Festival, Sunset Salsa, Big City Fishing, Healthy on the Hudson, Hudson RiverKids, Hudson River Nature Walk, and more.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, June 2, free (“David Bowie is” requires advance tickets, $25), 5:00 - 11:00
Gay pride and diversity are the themes of the Brooklyn Museum’s free First Saturday program on June 2. There will be a live performance by the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus; a community talk on zines with Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz and Elvis Bakaitis, moderated by Maya Harder-Montoya; a hands-on art workshop in which participants can make a pride notebook inspired by David Bowie and “Radical Women”’s Virginia Errázuriz; a drink-and-draw event with live models styled by the Phluid Project and Jag & Co. and tunes spun by DJ Illexxandra; a screening of The Revival: Women and the Word (Sekiya Dorsett, 2016), with performances by t’ai freedom ford and Be Steadwell and an introduction by director Dorsett, hosted by SafeWordSociety; a screening of the latest episode of Viceland’s My House, followed by a talkback with cast members Tati 007, Jelani Mizrahi, and Alex Mugler, executive producer Elegance Bratton, showrunner Sean David Johnson, and producers Giselle Bailey and Nneka Onuoraha; Joy, a celebration of queer and trans people of color with music, games, dance-offs, and guest DJs Nappy Nina and Rimarkable, hosted by bklyn boihood; pop-up poetry with Wo Chan and Charles Theonia; pop-up gallery talks on “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985” by teen apprentices; and the community talk “NYC Trans Oral History Project” with Jeanne Vaccaro, activist Bianey Garcia-D la O, poet El Roy Red, and podcast producer Cassie Wagler. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “William Trost Richards: Experiments in Watercolor,” “David Levine: Some of the People, All of the Time,” “Infinite Blue,” “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985,” “Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu,” “Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more. However, please note that advance tickets are required to see “David Bowie is,” at the regular admission price.
The “Academy at Metrograph” series, a yearlong residency for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Lower East Side cinema house, concludes June 1 at 7:00 with Sideways, eclectic director Alexander Payne’s fourth film, following the underseen Citizen Ruth, the excellent Election, and the overrated About Schmidt. Sideways is fabulously entertaining from start to finish, a smart, inventive, very funny dark comedy about friendship and love set in California wine country. Paul Giamatti stars as Miles, a schlumpy wine connoisseur who is having trouble getting over his divorce and the failure of his massive novel to get published. His best friend, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), is getting married, so the two head off on a road trip, with Miles looking forward to sampling fine wine, and Jack anticipating sampling fine women. While Jack finds what he is looking for in Stephanie (Sandra Oh, who was married to Payne at the time), Miles seems hell-bent on not allowing himself to enjoy life, even as a beautiful woman with a deep appreciation of the grape (the excellent Virginia Madsen in what should have been a career-redefining performance) shows an interest in him. You definitely do not have to be a wine drinker to fall in love with this marvelous movie, one of the best of 2004; it was nominated for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Madsen), and Best Supporting Actor (Haden Church), and screenwriters Jim Taylor and Payne won for Best Adapted Screenplay. Taylor will be at Metrograph to talk about the movie, which will be preceded by a screening of Jeff Fowler’s 2004 Oscar-winning short, Gopher Broke, and followed by a wine tasting with vintages provided by Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
THE MUMMY (Terence Fisher, 1959)
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Friday, June 1, 8:20, Saturday, June 2, 6:25, and Saturday, June 9, 1:00
Series runs May 30 - June 19
Perhaps the best part of the Quad series “Hammer’s House of Horror, Part I: The Classic Years (1956–1967)” can be found in its very name: Part I, which means there will be even more to come. The first part begins May 30, consisting of thirty-two favorites from the London-based production company, which specialized in resurrecting monsters and presenting them for the first time in color, including the Mummy. Knighted British actor Christopher Lee might be best known to the younger generations as the evil wizard Saruman in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, but over the course of more than two hundred movies Lee, who passed away last June at the age of ninety-three, also portrayed Fu Manchu, Georges Seurat, Sherlock Holmes, Rasputin, Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Mummy. Lee is the immortal wrapped character in Terence Fisher’s 1959 Hammer favorite, The Mummy, a remake of Karl Freund’s 1932 original starring Boris Karloff. On an archaeological excavation in Egypt, John Banning (Peter Cushing), his father, Stephen Banning (Felix Aylmer), and his uncle, Joseph Whemple (Raymond Huntley), discover the vast tomb of Princess Ananka (Yvonne Furneaux). Warned by an Egyptian zealot, Mehemet Bey (George Pastell), to leave the tomb undisturbed, the older Banning instead reads from the Scroll of Life, unleashing the murderous mummy Kharis (Lee), who had dutifully protected his princess centuries before. Three years later, Bey arrives in England with Kharis, determined to have the mummy wreak vengeance on the three men who dared disrespect Princess Ananka and the god they both served, Karnak.
The Mummy is a horror hoot, one of the scary-fun monster movies that were trademarks of Hammer productions. Writer Jimmy Sangster (Blood of the Vampire, The Horror of Frankenstein) and director Fisher (The Phantom of the Opera, The Earth Dies Screaming) get right to the point, avoiding grand statements and instead gleefully satisfying pop culture’s fascination with ancient ritual and religion while being sure to embrace all the genre tropes, including a local drunk (Gerald Lawson), a disbelieving lawman (Eddie Byrne), and a beautiful woman (Furneaux) who might just hold the secret that will save everyone. Veteran Hammer cinematographer Jack Asher keeps the look of the film lovingly murky in the present and pastel-colored in the past, while Franz Reizenstein’s score ebbs and flows right on time. It’s always a treat to see Cushing and Lee side-by-side; they made twenty-two films together, from Hamlet and Moulin Rouge to The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Gorgon, and Night of the Big Heat, the last five all directed by Fisher, and The Mummy is one of their best. While the erudite Cushing struggles to make sure he limps with the same bad leg from scene to scene, the tall, magnetic Lee acts up a storm with just his piercing eyes, which shine a glow that goes much deeper than just a zombielike killer’s. Sure, it gets silly at some points and clichéd at others, but hey, it’s a Hammer horror film. The Mummy is screening on June 1, 2, and 9; “Hammer’s House of Horror” continues at the Quad through June 19 with such other Hammer hits (and non-hits) as The Abominable Snowman, The Brides of Dracula, Frankenstein Created Woman, One Million Years B.C., The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Quatermass Experiment, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, The Stranglers of Bombay, The Nanny, Ten Seconds to Hell, and Die! Die! My Darling.
There once was a time when television was considered vastly inferior to the movies, although that is hard to believe now. Actors and directors eschewed the boob tube, even though so many great actors and directors actually got their start there, in series and live dramas. But we’re now in the midst of another golden age of the small screen, with hundreds of cable channels and streaming services, and IFC Center is celebrating the television explosion with the Split Screens Festival, which runs May 30 through June 3. Fifteen programs, including advance screenings and panel discussions, are being presented, involving such shows as The Americans, Westworld, Divorce, Billions, Better Call Saul, Younger, and The Outer Limits and featuring such guests as Jean Smart, Damson Idris, Jeffrey Wright, Debi Mazar, Walter Mosley, David Costabile, Thomas Haden Church, and Vanguard Award winner Sandra Oh. Below are only some of the highlights.
Wednesday, May 30
Farewell, Comrades! The Americans Finale Viewing Party, screening and discussion with Jen Chaney and Alan Sepinwall, moderated by Matt Zoller Seitz, 9:30
Thursday, May 31
Smart TV: The Many Faces of Jean Smart, with Jean Smart, $15, 7:00
Friday, June 1
Money in the Bank: David Costabile on Billions, with David Costabile, $15, 6:00
Acting Machine: Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright, with Jeffrey Wright, $15, 7:30
Saturday, June 2
Do Not Adjust Your Set: Journey to The Outer Limits, including screening of classic Demon with a Glass Hand episode starring Robert Culp, with Stephen Bowie, Reba Wissner, Wallace Stroby, and Daniel Kraus, $15, 11:00 am
The Women Behind the Camera: Four Top TV Directors on Showing vs. Telling, with Tricia Brock, Gillian Robespierre, Julie Anne Robinson, and Lauren Wolkstein, $15, 2:45
Sunday, June 3
Damn Fine Coffee: Twin Peaks Fan Theories, with Jeremiah Beaver, J. C. Hotchkiss, Matthew C., Andreas Halskov, Samantha McLaren, Donald McCarthy, and Connor Ratliff, $15, 11:00 am
Dead Girls: A TV Obsession, with Alice Bolin, Megan Abbott, and Sarah Weinman, $15, 5:00