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


The Big Sick

Actor and stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gardner (Zoe Kazan) explore love and romance in The Big Sick

THE BIG SICK (Michael Showalter, 2017)
Pier 63 Lawn, Hudson River Park
Cross at West 22nd or 24th St.
Wednesday, July 18, 8:30
Series runs through August 15

Michael Showalter’s surprise summer hit, The Big Sick, is a heart-wrenchingly bittersweet romantic comedy loosely based on the real life of Pakistani American actor and comic Kumail Nanjiani. It would do a disservice to call the film, which was produced by Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel, a mere romcom, as it is so much more, taking on religion, assimilation, responsibility, culture, and personal identity with intelligence and wit. Kumail plays an Uber driver and stand-up comedian gigging at a Chicago club with fellow comics CJ (Bo Burnham), Mary (Aidy Bryant), and his doofy roommate, Chris (Kurt Braunohler). Kumail spends a lot of time at his parents’ suburban home, the heart of his family, where his mother, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff) and father, Azmat (Anupam Kher), continually invite single young Pakistani women to “drop by” to meet him, determined to arrange a proper marriage for their son. However, Kumail has started sort-of seeing a blond American woman, Emily Gardner (Zoe Kazan), after she playfully heckles him at a gig. As their relationship gets more serious, Kumail still hasn’t told his parents or his brother, Naveed (Adeel Akhtar), jeopardizing their future, but when Emily is struck by a sudden illness, Kumail reevaluates who he is and what he desires out of life. Emily’s illness also forces him to get to know her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano), who at first want nothing to do with him.

The Big Sick

Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) wait for news on their daughter in Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick

Written by Nanjiani (The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, Silicon Valley) and freelance journalist and author Emily V. Gordon (SuperYou: Release Your Inner Superhero, The Carmichael Show) — the original screenplay garnered an Oscar nomination — The Big Sick is as gripping as it is funny. The characters are well defined, and the plot is filled with both delightful and shocking twists and turns that will have you on the edge of your seat, tears at the ready, particularly if you don’t know what ultimately happened to Kumail and Emily in actuality. Nanjiani is adorably understated playing a version of himself, while Emmy nominee Kazan (Ruby Sparks, Olive Kitteridge) is charming and quirky as Emily; the two have an instant chemistry that makes the stop-and-go beginning of their relationship thoroughly involving. Emmy winner Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond, Men of a Certain Age) and Oscar and Emmy winner Hunter (The Piano, Saving Grace) are terrific as Emily’s parents, who have some issues of their own to resolve aside from Kumail and Emily. (As a side note, the scene where Beth gets into a fight with a heckler was inspired by a real incident in which Hunter heckled a tennis player at the US Open.) Bryant (Saturday Night Live, Danger & Eggs) and musician and stand-up comic Burnham provide solid, um, comic relief, while Shroff and Kher excel as Kumail’s parents, who insist that Kumail follow tradition, regardless of what he wants for himself. One of the best films of the year, The Big Sick is screening July 18 in Hudson River Park’s annual free series “Hudson River Flicks: Big Hit Wednesdays,” which consists of popular 2017 films; it continues through August 22 with such other hits as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Wonder Woman, Lady Bird, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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Giant slide is a highlight of Summer Streets program on Saturday mornings in August (photo by twi-ny/ees)

Giant slide is a highlight of Summer Streets program on first three Saturday mornings in August (photo by twi-ny/ees)

Park Ave. & 72nd St. to Foley Square
Saturday, August 12 & 19, free, 7:00 am – 1:00 pm

Now in its eighth year, Summer Streets will continue for the next two Saturday mornings, as Park Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic from 72nd St. to Foley Square and the Brooklyn Bridge from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm, encouraging people to walk, run, jog, blade, skate, slide, and bike down the famous thoroughfare, getting exercise and enjoying the great outdoors without car exhaust, speeding taxis, and slow-moving buses. There are five rest stops along the route (Uptown at 52nd St., Midtown at 25th, Astor Pl. at Lafayette St., SoHo at Spring & Lafayette, and Foley Square at Duane & Centre), where people can relax and enjoy food and drink, live performances, fitness classes, site-specific art installations, dog walks, bicycle workshops, and other activities, all of which are free. Below are some of the highlights.

Foley Square Rest Stop
Beachside Slide (advance preregistration required), Adaptive Obstacle Challenge, MSG/New York Knicks and New York Liberty brand ambassadors, DOT Hand-Cycle Demonstration, Elisa Monte Dance (interactive Boomerang on August 12 and Lost Art on August 19), historical reenactors Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin Franklin, bike rentals and valets

SoHo Rest Stop
Fitness classes, 5K Walk Concert, Honest Tea Activation, Clif Kids Bike Park, interactive “Pulsus” sculpture by Allen Sayegh

Astor Place Rest Stop
Citi Mobile Everest 360, Mini Golf NYC, Food Sessions by Daily tous les jours and Nico Fonseca with guest chef John Mooney (advance registration required), Paws and Play Dog Park and workshops, NYC Water On the Go, “Smellmapping Astor Place” by Kate McLean (RSVP for “Smellwalk” with Miriam Songster here), Village Alliance: “Creativity Cubed: Faces, Places and Traces” (August 12 only)

Midtown Rest Stop
Health and Fitness Zone (with yoga, dance, meditation, more), New York Road Runners, NYC Parks Mobile Fitness Unit, Learn to Ride Classes for Kids and Adults by Bike New York, Recycle-a-Bicycle Workshop, Taste of Summer Sampling Zone, Taste of Summer Performance Stage with cooking demos and live music, interactive “Smell Synth” exhibit with Museum of Food and Drink, NYCDOT Mobility Management Program

Uptown Rest Stop
Adventure Zone (with the Appalachian Mountain Club, Discover Outdoors Foundation, East Coast Greenway Alliance, and Surfrider Foundation), Adaptive Obstacle Course + Bouldering Wall, I Love NY mobile visitors center, Zipline, Loudest Yeller Historical Bicycle Tour, Environmental Zone (with NYBG, Design Trust for Urban Space, Talk Trash City, more), Urban Agriculture Workshops with Parkways, City of New York programming (with DOT/DDC Green Infrastructure, DOT Energy Management, NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, more), DOT Arts & Culture Hub (with Noguchi Museum, Museum of the City of New York, National Museum of the American Indian, El Museo del Barrio, CultureNow, more)


Georges Devereux (Mathieu Amalric) and James Picard (Benicio del Toro) are both looking for answers in Arnaud Desplechin’s JIMMY P.

Georges Devereux (Mathieu Amalric) and James Picard (Benicio del Toro) are both looking for answers in Arnaud Desplechin’s JIMMY P.

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Francesca Beale Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Sunday, March 13, 7:30, and Wednesday, March 16, 4:00
Series runs March 11-17

Based on a true story documented in Georges Devereux’s 1951 book, Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, which features an introduction by Margaret Mead, Palme d’Or nominee Jimmy P. details the fascinating relationship between French-Hungarian ethnologist, anthropologist, and psychoanalyst Devereux (Mathieu Amalric) and Native American Blackfoot James Picard (Benicio del Toro). A WWII veteran living in Montana in 1948, Picard is taken to Topeka Winter Hospital after suffering from debilitating headaches and temporary blindness. When doctors Menninger (Larry Pine), Holt (Joseph Cross), Braatoy (Ricky Wayne), and Jokl (Elya Baskin) can’t find anything physically wrong with Picard — and wonder whether their unfamiliarity with Indians is limiting their understanding of his problems — Menninger calls in his colleague Devereux, a Freudian who is having difficulty getting a full-time position because of some of the unusual methods he employs. An excited Devereux immerses himself in Picard’s case, getting the direct, not-very-talkative Blackfoot to soon start opening up about his personal life, share his dreams, and discuss his military experiences. While the other doctors disagree with one another on what Devereux is doing, he and Jimmy develop a unique friendship, two very different men trying to find their place in life. Director Arnaud Desplechin wrote the screenplay (with Julie Peyr and Kent Jones) specifically for Amalric and del Toro, and it’s a terrific pairing, the former, who has previously starred in Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale, My Sex Life . . . or How I Got Into an Argument, and Kings and Queen, playing Devereux with a childlike, wide-eyed wonder, the latter portraying Jimmy with dark, brooding, penetrating eyes while also exuding an inner peace and poetry. The film slows down and gets off track when it strays from its main storyline, particularly when Devereux is visited by his married girlfriend, Madeleine (Gina McKee), and the reenacted dream sequences and past memories are hit or miss, some boasting a surreal beauty, others unnecessarily confusing, but when Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and del Toro (Traffic) are on-screen together, Jimmy P. is mesmerizing. Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian is screening March 13 & 16 in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “Golden Days: The Films of Arnaud Desplechin,” a weeklong retrospective celebrating the March 18 release of Desplechin’s latest film, My Golden Days. Running March 11-17, the festival features such other films as The Sentinel, La vie des morts (which Desplechin will introduce on March 15), Kings and Queen (which will be followed by a Q&A with the director on March 17), and My Golden Days (with Desplechin on hand for Q&As after screenings on March 15 & 18).


Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) and Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) get involved in some dastardly doings in I SELL THE DEAD

Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) and Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) get involved in some dastardly doings in I SELL THE DEAD

I SELL THE DEAD (Glenn McQuaid, 2009)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at Third St.
Friday, November 6, and Saturday, November 7
Series continues through November 14

Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell the Dead is an old-fashioned fun horror movie, paying homage to the Hammer films of yore. After his grave-robbing partner, Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden), is guillotined, Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) awaits his turn. With five hours to go before his execution, Blake is visited by Father Francis Duffy (Ron Perlman), who wants to know all the details of Grimes and Blake’s business, especially as it relates to harvesting the undead. So with a bottle of whiskey by his side, Blake recounts the pair’s eerie adventures through foggy eighteenth-century England and their battles with the House of Murphy, a rival outfit that also gathers corpses for a living. Writer-director-editor McQuaid imbues the film with a graphic-novel feel, with many scenes ending in colorful freeze-frame panels; although I Sell the Dead is an original story (based on his own short), the director did adapt the script into a comic book before shooting in order to capture the mood and visual style he was after. And cinematographer Rick Lopez, production designer David Bell, and art director Beck Underwood nail that atmosphere, along with Jeff Grace’s ambitious score. The cast also includes Phantasm Tall Man Angus Scrimm as a creepy violin-playing doctor in desperate need of body parts, Brenda Cooney as Blake’s boisterous girlfriend, and Joel Garland as a burly tavern owner after his own piece of the action. The film was shot in Staten Island, Long Island, and Manhattan; if the Fortune of War bar looks familiar, that’s because it’s actually the Scratcher in the East Village. I Sell the Dead is screening November 6 & 7 as part of the IFC Center series “Glass Eye Pix: 30th Anniversary Tribute,” a loving look at the indie company headed by Fessenden, the director of such cult favorites as Habit and Wendigo. The festival concludes November 13 & 14 with Jim Mickle’s Stake Land.


Twenty-fifth annual Sand Sculpting Contest takes place in Coney Island on Saturday (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Twenty-fifth annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest should feature some wild creations on Saturday (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Coney Island
Boardwalk between West Tenth & Twelfth Sts.
Saturday, August 15, free, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

The twenty-fifth annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest will take place on August 15, as amateur and semiprofessional individuals and groups will create masterpieces in the Brooklyn sand, many with a nautical theme. It’s a blast watching the constructions rise from nothing into some extremely elaborate works of temporary art. Last year’s winners included Abraham Cruz’s Lady Liberty, Team Frank Russo’s Castle to the Sky, Gelina & the Sanchez Family’s Primordial Lizard, Bradley Pion’s Giant Turtle, and Gilbert Ortega’s Freedom Tower. The event, which features cash prizes, is hosted by Astella Development Corporation and Brooklyn Community Services, with donations and sponsorship helping those still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. While visiting Coney Island on August 15, you should also check out the Coney Island Museum, the Circus Sideshow, the Coney Island Film Society screening of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the Burlesque at the Beach presentation “Kerryn and Kitten’s Night at the Beach,” and the Scan-a-Rama 3D Portrait Studio Scan-a-Thon, in addition to riding the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel.


First solo Noguchi show in Manhattan since 2004 includes wide range of works (photo courtesy of Pace Gallery)

First solo Noguchi show in Manhattan since 2004 includes wide range of works (photo courtesy of Pace Gallery)

Who: Isamu Noguchi
What: “Isamu Noguchi: Variations”
Where: Pace Gallery, 508-510 West Twenty-Fifth St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves., 212-989-4258
When: Tuesday - Saturday through March 21, free, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Why: Usually you have to go to Long Island City to see an extensive survey of the work of L.A.-born Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi, who built his own museum and garden in Queens in 1985. But for the first time in more than a decade, you can take in a major solo Noguchi show in Manhattan, as “Isamu Noguchi: Variations” continues at two side-by-side Pace galleries in Chelsea through March 21. “Growth can only be new, for awareness is the ever-changing adjustment of the human psyche to chaos,” Noguchi said in his artist statement for the 1946 MoMA exhibition “Fourteen Americans,” continuing, “If I say that growth is the constant transfusion of human meaning into the encroaching void, then how great is our need today when our knowledge of the universe has filled space with energy, driving us toward a greater chaos and new equilibriums. I say it is the sculptor who orders and animates space, gives it meaning.” It is a thrill to see dozens of works, from sculpture (in various materials) and set designs to furniture and paper lanterns in addition to abstract gouaches, laid out in a whole new way in this space, with exciting juxtapositions and calming paths bringing new personal meanings.