10 Culture Essentials for February


The other morning my husband and I got into a bleary-eyed fight over a minor difference in opinion over a political matter of great importance. I’m being purposefully vague here because I don’t want to send you into the vortex of news-cycle misery we’re all struggling not to lose ourselves to right now. We did not manage to come to any enlightened conclusion about the state of the nation, or the issue we were bickering about, but we did reach one solid agreement–we need to engage with more non-political culture, together.

There’s a unique pleasure in watching a movie or reading a book and then talking about it with someone whose brain you enjoy. It makes us feel more resoundingly alive, and is a crucial reminder that being human is a very special, wonderful occupation. Here are 10 things to watch, read and ponder with someone you’re fond of this month.

tumblr_inline_ogl6z96gc61s6rwtx_50010. Not Even Happiness, Julie Byrne

Brooklyn Based-contributor Regina Mogilevskaya turned me on to Julie Byrne, who released a new album this week and is performing at City Winery Feb. 2-4 (those shows are sold out) and at Baby’s All Right on Feb. 15. I will admit that a certain amount of doubt enters my mind when I hear the words singer-songwriter, but the experience of listening to this lovely album can best be described as similar to the spreading sense of comfort and warmth that fills your whole body when you finally take some Advil and the tension headache you’ve had all day goes away. Put it on repeat for however long it takes.

9. Oscar Shorts at IFC

Unless you’re very serious about film you likely haven’t seen many of the shorts nominated for an Academy Award. Each year IFC Center screens several programs of animated, narrative and documentary shorts up for an Oscar and it’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours. The films are always stunningly diverse in subject and style, and it’s a peek not only into different worlds, especially when it comes to the documentaries, but into a less commercial side of filmmaking. The program starts on Feb. 8 and runs through March 2, check for showtimes.

8. Joan of Arc: Into the Fire

The Public Theater has a long history of being the original home of boundary-pushing shows that go on to take Broadway by storm, (see: Hamilton, Fun Home). Joan of Arc: Into the Fire is a new musical about speaking truth to power, directed by Alex Timbers with music and lyrics by David Byrne (yes, that David Byrne) and choreography by Steven Hoggett. Seems right for the moment, no? The show opens on Feb. 14 and tickets for the entire run are already sold out, but you know how New Yorkers are about actually showing up for things, so start asking around and checking Craigslist and Stub Hub now.

7. Lincoln in the Bardo

Start a two-person, or three if you’re feeling ambitious, book club with a friend and make Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders your first read. Saunders, who reported and wrote one of the best pieces about Trump and his fan base that I read prior to the election, is one of the great living heroes of American letters. The novel takes place in a graveyard, over the course of a single night as the spirit world argues over the soul of Abraham Lincoln’s just-buried son. A tangle of voices, the narrative is as much about the fate of the Republic as it is about the loss of a child, and what a thing to read right now. Saunders will appear at Congregation Beth Elohim on Feb. 15 at 7:30pm to discuss the novel, among other topics I’m sure, with Boris Kachka at the latest Brooklyn by the Book event. Tickets are $35 and include a copy of the book.

6. Santa Clarita Diet

I’m going to call this new Nextflix series Dexter by way of Modern Family with a little dash of Buffy, and no, I don’t know whether that will actually be good or not either. What I do know is that Santa Clarita Diet stars Drew Barrymore, which will either charm or repel you depending on your feelings about her, and Timothy Olyphant, who was great, if constantly upstaged by Walton Goggins, on Justified, which if you haven’t watched, please do so immediately. The entire series will be available on Feb. 3.

5. The Om Lab at the Rubin Museum

The Rubin Museum will begin the month of February with the sound of OM–your OM, if they can get it. The OM Lab, which runs Feb. 3-May 8, explores the meaning of the mantra in a variety of Asian religions and cultures. After you learn more about what you’ve been connecting to at the beginning of your yoga class, you’ll have the opportunity to record the sacred sound. Your OM will be added to the others they gather to generate the largest collective chant ever produced, which will then be featured in an exhibit coming to the Rubin in July called The World is Sound.

Miguel Luciano_FINAL REVISED

4. Ride or Die, Miguel Luciano

BRIC commissioned Miguel Luciano, a Brooklyn-based artist, to create this show, which looks at the politics and economics of Puerto Rico through the lens of bike clubs. Luciano used vintage cruisers to create a series of sculptures, as well as paintings and other works which will be on display through March 5. The show commemorates the centennial of Puerto Rican citizenship in the U.S. while examining the evolving relationship between the two. There’s also a bike meet-up on Feb 25 at CityPoint, a free event where Puerto Rican bike clubs will show off their tricked out cruisers and you could win a Schwinn to call your own.

3. Full Body Pleasure Suit, Elsbeth Pancrazi

unnamedI have to admit that although I am an avid reader, of real paper books and novels even, poetry is not much a part of my life. In the spirit of open-minded exploration though, I have a new book of poems by a Brooklyn resident on my to-read list this month. Here’s how the book, which looks more like an album from your favorite drummer’s side project than a collection of poems, describes itself: “Full Body Pleasure Suit illustrates just how difficult it is to discern what world we live in and whose body we inhabit. Two people in the near-future surrounded by bots, drones, and everpresent screens try to make sense of their relationship.” Yes. That sounds like territory best explored through poetry and I’ll go there. Pancrazi is reading at A Public Space (323 Dean St.) on Feb. 16 at 7pm, and there will be snacks and drinks, and presumably copies for sale, as it seems impossible to find it online to pre-order, even on Tavern Books, the publisher’s site. Poets.

Remember how things used to be with this classic film series. Photo courtesy of Film Forum.

Remember how things used to be with this classic film series. Photo courtesy of Film Forum.

2. Kids Calendar

Do you hate kids movies but watch them with youngsters in your life anyway? Can we talk about how creepy it is that the lady penguins in Happy Feet have breasts, not like, a robin redbreast bird situation, but to make them somehow sexy? Our kids calendar by writer and mom Meredith Craig de Pietro has 10 excellent activities for the youngest New Yorkers this month, including an alternative to shelling out another $20 for Moana or cringing through something on Netflix.

  1. John Wick Chapter Two

A few years back I spent an extremely pregnant winter going to the movies. My husband and I, realizing that we were leaving behind the portion of life where you can just hop on the train and see what’s playing, would go to any movie that worked into our schedules. (We often went to the wonderful, stuck-in-the-90s Kips Bay theater and then to Curry Hill after for dosas, a date night that I highly recommend.) Somewhere in this process we saw John Wick, which I wasn’t expecting to be particularly great. It was great. It was one of my favorite movies of 2014 in fact, and I am beyond excited for John Wick Chapter Two, coming out on Feb. 10. Keanu Reeves is one of the most physically gifted actors of our time and he’s packing some serious krav maga gravitas these days and no I am not joking. Chapter Two promises to be a lot of fun, especially with roles for Lawrence Fishburne, and the under-appreciated Lance Reddick. Some movies are good because of their themes and ideas, others, because they’re sheerly fun to watch and show us just how much a camera and a dude doing some crazy high kicks in a really expensive suit can accomplish.

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