10 culture essentials for January

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Sure, January is a great month to hang out on your couch and go to bed early. It’s also a great month to head out into the city and catch up on all the plays, movies and museum shows you were too busy to take in this fall and holiday season, now with about 50 percent fewer tourists than in December. And if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to infuse more culture in your life, here are 10 books, films, events, shows and podcasts to keep you occupied this month.


DominiqueMorisseau-Headshot www.dominiquemorisseau.comThere was a moment this summer where it seemed like Brooklyn’s creative class might move to Michigan, specifically the Motor City, en masse, following the siren song of low rents and open living spaces. For playwright Dominique Morisseau though, whose new play, Skeleton Crew, opened at the Atlantic Theater Company on Jan. 6, it’s the implosion, not the potential, of her hometown that warrants attention. Her latest play, the final installment of a trilogy that’s already won her an Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama (Detroit ‘67), is set in 2008, in the midst of the recession that drove Detroit’s economy into the ground. It focuses on the staff of the city’s final functioning automotive plant as the industry takes a nosedive. Morisseau, a prolific and praised playwright (and poet), lives part time in Bed-Stuy, and if her first two ruminations on Detroit are any indicator, Skeleton Crew is a can’t miss.

Photo: Dominique Morisseau


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See Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante’s feature debut at Lincoln Center on Jan. 8. Photo: Jayro Bustamante

With awards season looming, it’s hard to open a web page these days without seeing a “For Your Consideration,” film ad. And while I definitely think you should consider seeing much-lauded movies like Carol and Spotlight, this month, it’s also worth taking a trip to Lincoln Center on Jan. 8 to see the the less-hyped, yet critically acclaimed film, Ixcanul (Volcano). The feature debut of Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante took top honors at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015. The plot follows the maturation of a 17-year-old Mayan girl living on a coffee plantation at the foot of an active volcano, who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and alone when her lover leaves to make a life for himself in the United States. If you want insight into the perils of existence for indigenous women in Central America, handled with sensitivity and solid cinematography, go see this film.


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Catch a Neon Indian DJ set at the American Museum of Natural History on Jan. 8. Photo: AMNH

After dancing in the New Year at an underground disco at the Irondale Theater, I’ve quickly become a fan of dance parties in unexpected places. Next on my list is Neon Indian’s DJ set at the American Museum of Natural History on Jan. 8. Alan Palomo has been spinning solid playlists since 2009, and his latest electronic house party promises to be out of this world—his DJ set is taking place in the museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space, which houses the Hayden Planetarium.


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If you can’t fly south this month, you can at least enjoy a Charleston-style feast at Loosie Rouge in South Williamsburg Jan.14–16. Photo: Loosie Rouge

Last month, I had one of those magical culinary experiences at Loosie Rouge in South Williamsburg in which my girlfriends and I ordered everything off the menu, devoured it all and then ended the night sipping spot-on drinks and dancing downstairs in the restaurant’s red-lit bar. Fortunately the experience is one that can easily be replicated, as Loosie Rouge, which is quickly becoming a local favorite for Brooklyn’s fashion and artistic types, reopened on Jan. 6 after a brief winter break. If patience is a virtue you possess, I recommend waiting until Jan. 14, when chef BJ Dennis will be in the kitchen alongside Loosie’s head chef Olivier Palazzo to produce a Southern-style feast based on classic South Carolinian flavors for a three-day pop-up menu.


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Snag one of the last few tickets to Sarah Silverman’s standup show at BAM on Jan. 22. Photo: BAM

When the temperature dips into the single digits toward the end of this month (and let’s face it–it will), there will be few things worth leaving the warmth and wifi of my apartment for, but seeing Sarah Silverman’s stand up show at BAM on Jan. 22 will be one of them. Sarah’s schtick is being presented by the New York Comedy Festival, and hers is the type of comedic genius that just really doesn’t require any arm twisting to want to witness—let’s just all consider ourselves lucky that there are still tickets up for grabs here.


The Past by Tessa HadleyNormally, I’m a big fan of the phrase, “Leave the past behind,” but I will make an exception for Tessa Hadley’s newest novel, The Past, which was published on Jan. 5. Hadley sets her new work in the English countryside where a band of siblings, their spouses, children and at least one ex have all convened for a three-week summer holiday. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time in a remote location with relatives knows that more than a few grievances are bound to be aired, to say nothing of the secrets that may well surface. Even as we look to all the newness of the year ahead, taking some time out to reflect, even only in a fictional sense, might not be a bad idea this month.


I missed the premiere of Making a Murderer in all the holiday madness, but then made up for it by binge watching all 10 episodes over New Year’s weekend. If you’re looking for something to stay inside and keep you occupied for hours on end at some point this month, this original docu series may be it. It’s apparent early on which side of the case the documentary’s makers,’ Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, sympathies lie, but there’s enough ambiguity about the evidence surrounding the series’ central subject, Steven Avery, who was falsely imprisoned for 18 years on a rape charge only to be charged with the murder of a 25-year-old photographer, to make this series quite the conversation starter. Serial fans take note: This might be your new, long-form, who-done-it fix.


Speaking of Serial. After eschewing season one for longer than I’d like to admit, Sarah Koenig’s investigative podcast became a guilty pleasure—no pun intended—of mine last year. For its second installment, Koenig is inspecting the circumstances around the case of Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier who went missing in Afghanistan under unusual circumstances in 2009; spent five years as the captive of the Taliban; and is now facing charges that could carry a sentence of life in prison for his choice to willingly leave his post. While season two of Serial somewhat lacks the suspense that made its inaugural installment an instant success, Koenings’ recounting of the case is still definitely worth a listen.


There’s been a lot of talk as of late as to whether or not The Revenant will finally be the film that breaks Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar curse. I personally think Leo’s life looks pretty complete, super soakers and super models considered, so I’m less concerned if 2016 is finally the year he gets to thank the Academy. That being said, I am still looking forward to seeing Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s follow up to Birdman, for which the Mexican filmmaker won Best Director and Best Original Screenplay awards at the 87th Academy Awards. Based on the true story of a 19th century fur trapper seeking both resurrection and revenge in the wild American West that was, Iñárritu’s newest film is already creating quite a commotion—bison livers! bear attacks! an almost unrecognizable Tom Hardy! I’ve been fascinated by the process, and the lengths, this cast and crew went to in creating this movie, making it a must-see for me this month. (It was released on Dec. 25, but we’re all playing end-of-the-year-movie-glut catch-up right now, aren’t we?)



RATATAT-magnifique-album-art-600x600Who doesn’t love a good onomatopoeia? Ratatat is already a winner in the rock-band name game. The Brooklyn duo of Mike Stroud and Evan Mast is bringing its rock-electronic mashup to Hammerstein Ballroom on Jan. 14. Stroud used to strum his guitar for Dashboard Confessional, and together he and Mast have toured with another favorite Brooklyn band of mine (and most likely yours), Battles. This time around they’re touring their new LP Magnifique. If you’re looking for a high-energy live show to get you through the cold months ahead, this is the ticket.

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