We feel a special affinity for Chakaia Booker’s new installation “The Sentinels,” five works that line Broadway’s Garment District Plazas just north of Macy’s. When we were growing up, our family ran a tire and auto repair business on Utica Ave. in Brooklyn, so the smell and touch of vulcanized rubber is in our veins. The project, sponsored by the Garment District Alliance and the New York City Department of Transportation, consists of five pieces that the Newark-born, New York City-based Booker, working with fabricator Alston Van Putten Jr., fashioned by first employing design software to come up with a scale model, then using stainless-steel tubing, recycled rubber tires, and power tools to put it all together. Situated along the pedestrian plazas on Broadway, the pieces evoke industrialism, labor, and environmentalism while honoring the African American experience; it also serves as a reminder that the area was formerly open to cars, but the only rubber currently allowed on that part of the street is Booker’s art.
The five works — “Shapeshifter,” “Gridlock,” “Take Out,” “One Way,” and the brand-new “LBD Duty Free,” created for this installation — offer a welcoming presence that invites passersby to investigate their intricate details (though no touching is allowed), as Booker and Van Putten Jr. were able to turn the tires into all kinds of twisting shapes that recall sewing and patchwork quilts as well as a kind of unique playground (but no climbing allowed). Particularly effective is 2008’s “Take Out,” which recalls a wonderfully framed painting looking up or down bustling Broadway as well as a mirror that makes it feel like you’re looking at yourself. “Placing these sculptures in the Garment District suggests a cross pollination, and cultivation of current, past, and future behavior,” Booker explained in a statement. “I hope this installation helps create a sense of community progression, symbolizing how this neighborhood has grown into the vibrant, creative, and artistic center it is today.” The black and gray color palette is also quite a contrast to the artist herself, who wears colorful head wraps and dresses. When we were at the Domino Sugar Factory last month seeing Kara Walker’s spectacular Creative Time project “A Subtlety,” we suddenly found ourselves standing next to Booker, whose dazzling outfit provided a stark contrast to Walker’s central white “mammy” sculpture. (You can see a photo of Booker at the show here.) Booker, whose “Manipulating Fractions” was part of the recent “Fact of the Matter” off-site Socrates Sculpture Park exhibition at the 1285 Avenue of the Americas Art Gallery, will be at the actual Socrates park in Queens from July 28 to August 1 leading the children’s outdoor art workshop “Build a Meal,” in which participants will sculpt a balanced meal using clay and other materials; preregistration is highly advised at 718-956-1819.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? (JIGOKU DE NAZE WARUI) (Sion Sono, 2013)
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Thursday, July 10, 8:30
Festival runs July 10-20
It might take a while for the two seemingly disparate narratives to come together in Sion Sono’s totally awesome Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, but when they do, watch out, because it all leads to one gloriously insane finale. As teenagers, the nerdy Fuck Bombers — director Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa), camera operators Miki (Yuki Ishii) and Tanigawa (Haruki Mika), and future action star and Bruce Lee wannabe Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) — are determined to make a movie. Ten years later, they are still waiting to make their masterpiece. Meanwhile, Shizue (Tomochika), the wife of yakuza boss Taizo Muto (Jun Kunimura) and ambitious stage mother of toothpaste-commercial darling Michiko (Nanoka Hara), has been in prison for ten years for brutally killing three men while defending her home against an assassination attempt by the Ikegami yakuza clan, which only Ikegami (Shinichi Tsutsumi) himself survived. Ten years later, Shizue is scheduled to get out of prison in ten days, and Muto is scrambling to keep his promise to his wife that Michiko (now played by Fumi Nikaido) would be the star of a movie by the time Shizue was released. However, Michiko, who has become a bitter, dangerous young woman, is on the run, taking with her geeky innocent bystander Koji (Gen Hoshino) as her inept pretend boyfriend. When the plot lines intersect, the fun really begins, with blood and body parts battling it out for the biggest laughs.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is a riotous send-up of yakuza crime thrillers and a loving and downright silly homage to DIY filmmaking. Digging back into his past to adapt a screenplay he wrote back in the 1990s, Sono (Love Exposure, Cold Fish) lets it all fly, holding nothing back in this sweetly violent, reality-bending, severely twisted romantic comedy that actually has quite a big heart. And at the center of it all is Nikaido (Sono’s Himizu), splendidly portraying a sexy, black-clad ingénue/femme fatale who is capable of just about anything. Winner of the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is screening July 10 at Japan Society’s Japan Cuts: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema, in conjunction with the fourteenth annual New York Asian Film Festival. Nikaido, who is receiving the NYAFF’s Screen International Rising Star Award, will be on hand to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A; the screening will be followed by the “Let’s Play in Hell” opening-night party with live music by New York-based Japanese punk band Gelatine.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, July 5, free, 5:00 - 11:00 ($10 discounted admission to “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”)
The Brooklyn Museum is throwing a summer party for its July free First Saturdays program, centered by a twenty-fifth-anniversary screening of Spike Lee’s Bed-Stuy classic, Do the Right Thing. In addition, there will be music from Matuto, Blitz the Ambassador, DJ Uhuru, and Nina Sky, a female comedy showcase hosted by Erica Watson, a talk and fashion show led by Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair author Michael July, a sidewalk chalk drawing project organized by the City Kids, a hula hoop demonstration with Hula Nation, an art workshop in which participants will learn figure drawing with a live model, and an interactive talk with “Brooklyn in 3000 Stills” creators Paul Trillo and Landon Van Soest. In addition, you can check out the current quartet of exhibitions, all of which deal with activism through art: “Ai Weiwei: According to What?,” “Swoon: Submerged Motherlands,” “Chicago in L.A.: Judy Chicago’s Early Works, 1963–74,” and “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties.”
The powerful, wide-ranging “Witness,” which has just been extended through July 13 (the other three exhibits continue into August or September), is a traveling show being held in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. More than one hundred paintings, sculptures, photographs, and installations are on view, divided into eight thematic categories: “Integrate Educate,” “American Nightmare,” “Presenting Evidence,” “Politicizing Pop,” “Black Is Beautiful,” “Sisterhood,” “Global Liberation,” and “Beloved Community.” In Bruce Davidson’s “USA. Montgomery, Alabama. 1961,” a black Freedom Rider sits by a window on a bus being escorted by the National Guard. David Hammons’s “The Door (Admissions Office)” is not exactly a welcoming sight. Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood (Negro in the Suburbs)” depicts three white children and two black children stopped on a sidewalk, curiously looking at each other. Melvin Edwards’s “Chaino” evokes slavery and lynchings. A trio of cartoonish KKK members drive into town in Philip Guston’s “City Limits.” There are also works by Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Jack Whitten, Faith Ringgold, Ben Shahn, Betye Saar, Gordon Parks, Jim Dine, Yoko Ono, Barkley Hendricks, Robert Indiana, Richard Avedon, and others that examine the civil rights movement from multiple angles, displaying America’s continuing shame.
Year after year, the New York Asian Film Festival screens the wildest, craziest, most wide-ranging collection of cinematic adventures from China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Hong Kong, delighting fans with premieres from favorite directors, welcome dips into the past, celebrations of cult classics, and intriguing works from up-and-coming artists. The thirteenth annual NYAFF is no exception, consisting of forty-four films from across the spectrum, along with special tributes to Sandra Ng (Queen of Comedy Star Asia Award), Sol Kyung-gu (Star Asia Award), Park Joong-hoon (Celebrity Award), Fumi Nikaido (Screen International Rising Star Award), Lee Jung-jae (Korean Actor in Focus), and Jimmy Wong Yu (Lifetime Achievement Award). Also making appearances will be Alan Mak & Felix Chong, Moon So-ri, Anna Broinowski, Zishuo Ding, Fei Xing, Lee Sujin, Shin Yeon-shick, and Umin Boya. Looking for a sexy comedy? In 3D? Try Lee Kung-lok’s Naked Ambition. Want a peek into the filmmaking side of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il? There’s Anna Broinowski’s Aim High in Creation! In the mood for some Shaw Brothers? Then check out Roy Ward Baker and Change Cheh’s The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. You can’t leave out Zombies, so Sabu has that covered with Miss Zombie.
Hungry for a neo-spaghetti Eastern? Ning Hao is serving up No Man’s Land. How about the very first openhanded martial arts film? Jimmy Wang Yu’s 1970 The Chinese Boxer puts you in the middle of the action. You’ll also find new films by such familiar names as Kim Ki-duk, Hideo Nakata, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa and featuring such stars as Andy Lau, Chow Yun-fat, Simon Yam, Hitoshi Matsumoto, and Tadanobu Asano. The opening-night selection is Mak and Chong’s Overheard 3, the international premiere of the conclusion of the gangster trilogy. The centerpiece choice is Boya’s three-hour Kano, about a pioneer Taiwanese baseball team. In conjunction with the NYAFF, the always awesome Japan Cuts follows immediately, running July 10-24 at Japan Society, comprising more than two dozen contemporary films from Japan, only a few of which were also part of the NYAFF.
THE PLEASURES OF BEING / OUT OF STEP: NOTES ON THE LIFE OF NAT HENTOFF (David L. Lewis, 2014)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Opens Wednesday, June 25
The seven-decade legacy of one of America’s most important and influential journalists is celebrated in David L. Lewis’s illuminating documentary, The Pleasures of Being / Out of Step: Notes on the Life of Nat Hentoff. The too-short, sometimes scattershot eighty-five-minute film reveals Hentoff to be much more than just a columnist and a critic; Lewis, in his debut feature film, shows Hentoff, who turned eighty-nine earlier this month, to be a fascinating character who speaks his mind, a fierce defender of the First Amendment, a crucial participant in the spread of jazz in the mid-twentieth century (including as a record producer), and an outspoken libertarian who is adamantly antiabortion. “When he came to a room, nobody said, ‘Oh, here’s the critic,’” saxophonist and composer Phil Woods explains. “They said, ‘Here’s a friend of the music.’ It’s a whole different thing. He was part of the family.” Lewis speaks extensively with the Boston-born Hentoff, a bent-over man with thick, silvery-gray hair, beard, and mustache who types with two fingers in his extremely messy and crowded home office, as well as Hentoff’s wife, Margot; cultural critic Stanley Crouch; former Village Voice editor Karen Durbin; First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams; recently deceased poet and activist Amiri Baraka; jazz historians Dan Morgenstern and John Gennari; and even Voice editor Tony Ortega, who fired Hentoff in 2009. Hentoff discusses his childhood, his start in journalism, his personal and professional relationships with such figures as Bob Dylan, Charles Mingus, and Malcolm X, and his steadfast defense of civil liberties.
The film is narrated by Andre Braugher, who reads passages from some of Hentoff’s seminal liner notes, and also includes stunning, rarely seen archival footage of Lenny Bruce, Hentoff on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line and with Andrew Young on Look Up and Live, an all-star rendition led by Billie Holiday of “Fine and Mellow” from the television program The Sound of Jazz, and other great clips. “You never know what impact you have, if any,” Hentoff says late in the film. “So I write to write, and hope that some of it has some effect.” Hentoff needn’t worry; he’s had plenty of effect, and continues to do so now, in his weekly column for the independent news site WorldNetDaily. The Pleasures of Being / Out of Step opens June 25 at the IFC Center, with Lewis participating in Q&As following the 8:00 screening on June 25 and the 8:15 show on June 27.
Tickets go on sale Monday, June 23, at midnight
Festival runs October 16-19, $20-$300
Tickets go on sale to the general public for the feeding frenzy that is the New York City Wine & Food Festival on Monday, June 23, at midnight, and you better not wait if you want to get in to the coolest culinary events, which sell out extremely quickly. (In fact, the American Express presale has resulted in six sold-out programs already.) For four days, dozens of chefs and food celebrities will be serving special meals and mingling with gourmands at seminars, classes, late-night parties, intimate dinners, walk-around tastings, and demonstrations. Below are ten highlights from the more than one hundred events, which range in price from $20 to $300.
Wednesday, October 15
Le Cirque 40th Anniversary Dinner, hosted by Sirio Maccioni, with courses by David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, Jacques Torres, and Raphael François and wine-pairing discussion with Christophe Salin, Le Cirque, $300, 7:00
Thursday, October 16
Bank of America Dinner Series: Beyond the Butcher Block, hosted by Pat LaFrieda, with Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, Noir, $250 (includes copy of LaFrieda’s Meat: Everything You Need to Know), 7:00
Cooking Channel Presents Chicken Coupe, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, the Loeb Boathouse, Central Park, $200, 7:00
Friday, October 17
Hot Dog Happy Hour, with Mo Rocca, the Standard Biergarten, $150, 5:00
Dominique Ansel’s Wonderland, dessert buffet with Dominique Ansel, Richard Capizzi, Stephen Collucci, Benjamin Grué, Lauren Resler, Ghaya Oliveira, Miroslav Uskokovic, and Zac Young, the Refectory at the High Line Hotel, $125, 10:00 pm
Saturday, October 18
New York Sideline Pass: Jets + Chefs, the Ultimate Tailgate, hosted by Joe Namath and Mario Batali, with food by Mario Batali, Lucas Billheimer, Jean-Paul Bourgeois, Josh Bowen, Emile Castillo, Gabriel Cruz, Ratha Chaupoly, Ben Daitz, Sylvain Delpique, Joe Dobias, Simon Glenn, Will Horowitz, Michael Lomonaco, Lolo Manso, Julian Medina, Danny Mena, Myron Mixon, Tracy Obolsky, Erin O’Shea, Natasha Pogrebinsky, Erik Ramierz, Joel Reiss, Anthony Ricco, Mark Rosati, Adam Schop, and Thiago Silva, and special appearance by the New York Jets Flight Crew, Pier 92, 52nd St. & the West Side Highway, $120-$220, 11:30 am
The Lobster Place Presents Oyster Bash, hosted by Tyler Florence, with Ed Brown, Michael Cressotti, Tyler Florence, Hung Huynh, Jehangir Mehta, Seamus Mullen, Ben Pollinger, Ron Rosselli, and David Seigal, the Standard Biergarten, $150, 12 noon
TimesTalk: Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, and Eric Ripert, moderated by Sam Sifton, the TimesCenter, $35, 2:00
Sunday, October 19
Down-Home Country Brunch, hosted by Trisha Yearwood, with Richard Brown, Darrell Darwood, Lev Gewirtzman, Elizabeth Karmel, Kyle Knall, Damian Laverty-McDowell, Damaris Phillips, and Melba Wilson, New York Hilton Midtown, $150, 12 noon
Dale’s Dim Sum Party, with Justin Bazdarich, Leah Cohen, Daniel Holzman, Yang Huang, Hung Huynh, Chris Jaeckle, Joel Javier, Brian Ray, Ralph Scamardella, Daniel Skurnick, Dale Talde, and Jason Wang, Buddakan, $115, 2:00
CINÉSALON: GOODBYE FIRST LOVE (UN AMOUR DE JEUNESSE) (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2011)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, June 24, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve’s third film is an infuriating yet captivating tale that runs hot and cold. Goodbye First Love begins in Paris in 1999, as fifteen-year-old Camille (Lola Créton) frolics naked with Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), her slightly older boyfriend. While she professes her deep, undying lover for him, he refuses to declare his total dedication to her, instead preparing to leave her and France for a long sojourn through South America. When Camille goes home and starts sobbing, her mother (Valérie Bonneton), who is not a big fan of Sullivan’s, asks why. “I cry because I’m melancholic,” Camille answers, as only a fifteen-year-old character in a French film would. As the years pass, Camille grows into a fine young woman, studying architecture and dating a much older man (Magne-Håvard Brekke), but she can’t forget Sullivan, and when he eventually reenters her life, she has some hard choices to make. Créton (Bluebeard) evokes a young Isabelle Huppert as Camille, while Urzendowsky (The Way Back) is somewhat distant as the distant Sullivan. There is never any real passion between them; Hansen-Løve (All Is Forgiven, The Father of My Children) often skips over the more emotional, pivotal moments, instead concentrating on the after-effects and discussions. While that works at times, at others it feels as if something crucial was left out, and not necessarily with good reason. Still, Créton carries the film with her puppy-dog eyes, lithe body, and a graceful demeanor that will make you forgive her character’s increasingly frustrating decisions. Goodbye First Love is screening June 24 at 4:00 and 7:30 as part of the FIAF CinéSalon series “Cahiers due Cinéma’s Top Picks”; the later screening will be introduced by Richard Peña, and both showings will be followed by a wine reception.