Exhibition spans ten years of dogs, death, and social experimentation

By Annesha Sengupta

via Tyler Rollins Fine Art

via Tyler Rollins Fine Art

Located a handful of subway stops into Queens, the SculptureCenter is an old warehouse converted into an art gallery. Looking up, the skylight is framed by spindly, rusting rafters. It’s an open, quirky place, and the perfect place for Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s US exhibition.

The exhibitions here are cheerful sometimes, macabre other time, a strange mingling of emotions. On one wall, there’s a projection of a dog running around the yard and playing. It takes minutes to realize that there’s something wrong with the dog: it’s walking funny, and its hind legs collapse with every step.

On a tiny, blurry television, a woman is giving a lecture to a group of corpses, spread-eagled on giant dissecting dishes. “Today we are going to talk about D-E-A-T-H,” she says writing it on the board. “Does anyone have anything to say on today’s topic?” Of course, the corpses do not reply. “Well, I can see you need more time,” the professor says, and begins her lecture.

Watching seems to be another motif of the gallery. There’s a wall with framed pictures of Thai men peering into framed pictures of European and Asian masterpieces. In these, the viewer becomes part of the art, adding to the voyeuristic chain.

Rasdjarmrearnsook’s pieces all have an underlying story, and there’s the sense that every exhibit has an answer, a firm and unflinching narrative running behind it. An example: in the middle of the gallery are various sized bottles of hair, each matched with the face of a dog. It doesn’t make sense at first, but when dogs are injured, the area of the injury is shaved. Rasdjarmrearnsook hides these little glimpses inside her art, small facts that completely change the light and the angle.

The gallery also has a sense of withdrawal and secrecy; Rasdjarmrearnsook refuses to tell us the whole story. Her viewers can do nothing more than guess. There are no explanations, most of her pieces don’t even have titles. On one ledge, a few mummified, bandaged lumps lie together, which look suspiciously like dog paws. On another ledge there are broken glasses and twisted phone cases which look like artifacts from a car crash— but the artist doesn’t admit to anything.

Rasdjarmrearnsook does something spectacular in her 10-year exploration of art: she makes art, and she makes the observation of art an intellectual experience.

Rasdjarmrearnsook’s exhibition will run at the SculptureCenter until March 31.

Annesha Sengupta is a contributing writer. Email her at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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Binge TV: “House of Cards”

By Sidney Butler

via Netflix

via Netflix

Season 3 premiered on Netflix on February 27th. All seasons are available for streaming.

House of Cards” was originally produced as a four-episode miniseries for the BBC in 1990; in February 2013, it was adapted for Netflix. During pre-production, Netflix did its homework, enlisting cinematic icon David Fincher to shoot the pilot and casting Kevin Spacey as the lead.  In 2013 House of Cards” made history, becoming the first show from an online service provider to win an Emmy nomination.

House of Cards” is a political thriller set in modern-day Washington D.C. The show follows Frank and Claire Underwood as they try to rise to political power through manipulation and forceful charm. The series begins with Frank Underwood, the House majority whip, being passed over for appointment as Secretary of State. This launches his elaborate plan to get himself into an even greater position of power.

Frank (Francis) Underwood: The House majority whip of the United States. He’s duplicitous and cunning and will not stop until he gets what he wants from the political machine. Throughout the show, Frank will break the “fourth wall” and describe his internal feelings to the audience, unveiling his most conniving of schemes. His power hungry attitude is expressed in every aspect of his life; it is theorized that he and his wife Claire actually married for power not love.

Claire Underwood:  Claire met Francis (what she calls him) while attending Harvard Law School. She wanted kids, but Frank did not wish to bring a child into “a world of pain.” Claire is a strong and determined woman who does not like to be taken care of or coddled, proven by her relationship with Frank. She began the series as the CEO of the Clean Water Initiative, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring clean, drinkable water to developing and impoverished countries. The mystery surrounding Claire’s past only develops as the series evolves, and her skeletons come to light in intriguing and surprising ways.

Zoe Barnes: A young, pretty, and sometimes naïve new reporter. She develops a sexual relationship with Frank which develops into a mutual partnership of exchanging information in order to gain power within their respective careers.

Doug Stamper: Frank’s right-hand man, normally referred to as only “Stamper.” He’s cold and calculating, a vital cog in Frank’s manipulative political machine. Serving as his chief of staff, Stamper commits all of Frank’s dirty work. Due to decades-long loyalty, Stamper finds himself handling ruthless jobs on his own for Frank, finding it difficult to separate his work life from his personal one.

House of Cards” is arguably one of the most talked-about shows at the moment. Each season is relatively short and easy to catch up on, leaving you with hours of conversation if you ever find yourself in need of some quick conversation. The intensity of modern government portrayed in this show will leave you secretly craving more.

If you are ever finding yourself in a power hungry political thriller mood, House of Cards” is there to satisfy that urge. It’s witty, intellectually sharp, and Kevin Spacey is perfect as the manipulative Frank Underwood. House of Cards” gives you an inside look into the American political system in a new and exciting way.

Sidney Butler is a staff writer. Email her at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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Theater for College Students: TodayTix and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

By Tara Dalton

via Paper Mill Playhouse

via Paper Mill Playhouse

The sidewalk is packed and I’m thoroughly confused. My brother trails along beside me as we head down various streets, referencing the blinking dot on Google Maps. Moving through the busy sidewalk is a feat and even the direction we’re walking is uncertain. Are the street numbers increasing or decreasing? Wait, we just headed a block over, not down. Wait, the dot isn’t moving. I repeat, the dot has stopped moving. What do we do now? Slowly, we tilt our heads up towards an actual street sign.

When my family came to visit in September, I’d only been in NYC for about three weeks and most of that time was spent below 14th Street, close to Washington Square Park. Naturally, my navigational skills were, at that point, far from solid. Had I not owned a smartphone, I’m certain that I would have been lost attempting to venture outside my safe little rectangle of city. Everywhere else would be a foreign maze for another time. Luckily, I had my phone and I ventured out of my rectangle, and we eventually found our way to the Richard Rogers Theatre that afternoon.

That September day marked not only my first family visit, but also my first experience with TodayTix, an app that has a marvelous habit of providing really good deals for theater tickets.

The chaos of our navigation experience provides a nice comparison to what followed upon our arrival: a friendly woman, in a bright red TodayTix shirt, stood outside theater. My brother and I walked up and, after showing my Id, were handed an envelope with two tickets and wished a good show. Easy. Convenient.

And only forty-five dollars to see Idina Menzel in “If/Then.”

Since that day, I’ve unofficially become one of TodayTix’s strongest advocates and continue to recommend the app to nearly every single theatergoer I encounter (no exaggeration). The sales on the app beat TKTS every time, and can be purchased up to a week in advance. It’s also completely free to download.

The main hesitations people tend to have regarding the app center around tickets being limited to in-person delivery, as opposed to other methods such as picking tickets up at the box office or printing at home. To this, I can only provide my personal experience: as a newcomer to NYC, only slightly familiar with the Times Square area, I had no issues finding and retrieving my tickets. This app has been a solid resource for me this year and I have no doubts regarding its ability to continue to provide great deals.

Speaking (well, writing) of great deals, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s” run is set to end on Sunday, April 5. The show is at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn, New Jersey. Before you let the cumbersome process of traveling to New Jersey deter you, consider that this show is the result of a collaboration between Alan Menken, whose past credits include “The Little Mermaid,” “Newsies,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” and Stephen Schwartz, whose past credits include “Wicked,” “Godspell,” and “Pippin.” This show has been advertised as being much darker than the Disney movie it’s based on, having closer ties to the Victor Hugo novel that inspired the cartoon movie.  Should you call or visit the Paper Mill Playhouse the day of a performance, student rush tickets are available for $20 with a valid student ID.

Tara Dalton is a contributing writer. Email her at theater@nyunews.com.

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Unpopular Opinion (Film): “Silver Linings Playbook”

By Ethan Sapienza


via Time Out Chicago

If Andy Tennant (“Fools Gold,” “Hitch”) had directed “Silver Linings Playbook” starring Matthew McConaughey (circa 2006) and Katherine Heigl, would the film have been received so well? Would it have made so many Top Ten lists? Would it have received eight (eight…? EIGHT?!?!?) Academy Award nominations?

Please, reader, imagine the film with those changes and really try to answer those questions. It seems readily apparent to me that the answer to all three would be no.

I propose this scenario to illustrate that “Silver Linings,” at its core, is a rather silly romcom with a flare for the dramatics. By adding director David O. Russell and actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the foundation for a typically poorly received flick about irrational people falling in love somehow turned into a serious Best Picture contender.

It baffles me too, reader.

One could argue that the performances from the two leads and the directorial style of Russell are what elevated the film to have such a lofty distinction. Truly, though, Cooper and Lawrence’s performances are far from creative or noteworthy, as they relied more on their recent hot streaks than anything else. Both portray neurotic, heartbroken characters, and act in the way one would immediately expect, containing a childlike repertoire of limited mood-sets: severely distressed, elated, calm, or angry. These portrayals are meant to illicit an emotional or comedic reaction, yet instead are flat. I found that I couldn’t care less about the results of their respective story arcs; they were far too plain and boring to put any investment in them.

The film also treats the idea that everyone is slightly crazy, lost, and just trying to get by as both highly original and valid. Sure, everyone has his or her quirks, and it can be difficult to find one’s path in life; yet thinking that everyone is on the brink of collapse and experiences bipolar behavior is ludicrous. Equally ludicrous is believing that it is inventive to have characters who are struggling with fitting in with societal standards.

Continuing with the streak of craziness, Russell’s directing indicates that the “auteur” might be neurotic himself. The camera and style of the film seems to never cease in movement, being remarkably distracting and disorienting. I’m not sure what the director was going for, but it proves to be a gigantic nuisance. It’s possible he was attempting to achieve a similar aesthetic found in Martin Scorsese’s seminal works. However, where Scorsese has an accelerated and biting pace, Russell falls short. This also combines oddly with the story of the film.

The one redeeming quality of “Silver Linings” is its depiction of Philadelphia Eagles fans. Granted, I am a born and bred New York Giants fan, so my dislike for the Eagles runs deep. Yet it has been recognized by numerous publications that many Eagles fans are some of the worst in all of sports. Known for booing Santa Claus and cheering rival players’ injuries, the film shows some of the football fans as being rowdy and rude, even provoking fights with fellow Philadelphians.

In all honesty, as much as I enjoy seeing my sports biases confirmed cinematically, there is no way that a film can have any true merit for simply pandering to my (justified) prejudices. Put bluntly, the plot is far too predictable and utterly lame, regardless of who’s in it and who directed it.

Ethan Sapienza is a staff writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

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“Broadchurch”: Season 2, Episode 4

By Nivea Serrao

via TVNZ

This season of “Broadchurch” has revolved around two dead kids (and one missing teenager). As expected, all of the parents involved are having a rough time. As this Wednesday’s episode proved, parent-child relationships – good or bad – can have a huge impact on a person.

Look at Mark and Beth. Now the parents to the insanely adorable newborn Lizzie, both husband and wife find themselves coping in different ways as the memory of Danny hangs over both of them. Mark opts for paternity leave, not wanting to miss a minute of his youngest daughter’s life, while Beth wants to honor her deceased son by setting up a charity.

It’s an understandable reaction for both of them. As we’ve seen recently, Mark has tried to make up for his perceived sins as a father by being a paternal figure for the currently parentless Tom while Beth has been focused on getting justice for Danny’s death. My only question here would be how Chloe feels about both her parents’ decisions. The episode – as well as Mark and Beth – seemingly forget about her when she’s not on screen.

The Latimers’ reactions are contrasted with those of the Gillespies. Since Pippa’s death (and Lisa Newberry’s disappearance), the couple has drifted apart, their growing disconnect only exacerbated by the tragedy. In any case, Cate has remained in their home, in the hopes that Lisa might return, while Ricky is adamant against seeking justice for their daughter and niece.

This last revelation, along with the fact that we have recently learned that the second mystery number in Claire’s phone belongs to Ricky (not to mention the picture of bluebells in his office), paints quite a guilty picture. (I think we found our mysterious third party.) However, what is curious is that the pair have kept in contact all this time – although maybe not that much, given that they were having an affair at the time of the crime. As Ellie points out, it is strange that Claire would constantly be googling for “Lee Ashworth” and “Murder” all the time. Perhaps she’s trying to singlehandedly skew Google’s AutoComplete feature against her (ex?) husband.

Not that Lee is making things any easier for himself. He turns down (and threatens) Olly when he offers him a chance to “tell his side of the story.” I’m with Lee on this one: Olly’s track record hasn’t always been the best and his ethics (and practices) are more than fifty shades of grey. However, the episode presents the young journalist with the interesting dilemma of possibly reporting on his own mother’s testimony – but the thread falls by the wayside quite quickly.

Olly’s relationship with his mother, Lucy, does provide an interesting contrast to that of Nigel and his mother. Now that Susan is back in town due to her cancer, we get to revisit their dynamic. Of course, Nigel is still angry at the revelation that his mother kept his father’s child killing ways secret (as we all would, I expect) but Susan is convinced her son has inherited a genetic predisposition towards her husband’s not-so-extracurricular activities. And she follows up on her belief by testifying as much in court.

While this ends the episode on a not-as-big note – their argument earlier in the episode, plus her reveal as a witness pretty much gives it away – it does pit Susan’s testimony against Lucy’s, with both women claiming to have identified the murderer. And of course it doesn’t help that both Joe and Nigel fit a lot of the same descriptors (shaved heads and similar fashion sense). I do suspect that the characters will be dealing with this twist quite hard – not unlike how viewers took Ellie’s accusation.

This episode went quite a long way towards evening out the defense’s advantage so far. Jocelyn’s main character witness (and Joe’s former co-worker) was really effective in convincing everyone (including me) that Joe had this hidden, violent side to him. It was also nice for Joe’s legal counsel to confirm that they believed him to be guilty as well. (Side note: Ellie and Hardy’s shared look of shock at this reveal was quite priceless.)

Stray Observations:
* Sandbrook literally gives Hardy nightmares. Especially considering he nearly drowned while on the job.
* Hardy could probably tell you what Lee ate on the night in question, but he can’t remember Fred’s name to save his life.
* Let’s hope that Olly’s Twitter feed doesn’t hurt Tom’s relationship with Ellie too much. Now that Mark can’t spend time with him, that boy has never needed his mother more.
* The little fact about Danny being a newspaper delivery boy is a great reminder of how big an impact this murder has had on the town.
* As Lee so expertly demonstrates, the key to a woman’s heart is to bring her her favorite take out.
* The lighting and cinematography for this show has never been as on point as when it placed both Lee and Claire in the shadows, perfectly symbolic of their shady characters.
* Considering Claire also slept with Hardy, is there anyone she hasn’t had sex with?
* “I’ll sleep in the car.” “Broadchurch” is just writing its own fan fiction.

Nivea Serrao is a staff writer. Email her at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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Pages with Patel: Alabaster Bookshop

By Nishtha Patel

via the Examiner

via the Examiner

Decades ago, 4th Ave was known as Book Row and numerous second-hand bookshops lined the streets. Now, in the year 2015, only one remains.

Walking down 4th Avenue between 12th and 13th street, it would be easy to miss the entrance for Book Row’s lone survivor, if not for the four $2 discount book racks outside. These carts house anything from a dusty volume of the “Tales of Sherlock Holmes” to a vintage copy of “Walden” from the ’40s, or even a brand new hardcover “Life of Pi.”

Upon entering the small store, one is greeted with stacks and stacks of books lining the shelves, standing incredibly tall from floor to ceiling. There are even books stacked on the floor. In some places, there isn’t room for two people to stand comfortably shoulder to shoulder.

Book subjects range from occult to psychology, from recent fiction to rare first editions of classics. The smell of musty books wafts through the air and the sound of instrumental jazz plays through the loud-speakers. The employees are very friendly and greet customers when someone enters. Browsing the shelves, one may find numerous decently priced titles — anything from “Lord of the Rings” to “Madame Bovary.” A true book lover’s paradise.

The employees are well-read and well-versed in books. I asked one for recommendations and left the store holding a stack of some of his favorites after spending a good 15 minutes discussing numerous authors. It is this fondness for books that makes Alabaster Bookshop stand out from the rest.

One of the most special things about this store is that the books are very genuine. When people come to sell their books, the employees look through each book to make sure it is worthy to display proudly in their store. As a result, there are thousands to peruse, from post-modern titles to rare first editions of Dickens, making it difficult to leave the shop.

Although it is a few blocks from The Strand and Barnes & Noble, this tiny bookshop attracts many customers, from bookworms to the curious wanderer. If you want to ditch the bigger book stores for a while, step into the comfortable atmosphere of Alabaster Bookshop and get lost in the books. This 4th Avenue gem will not disappoint.

Nishtha Patel is a contributing writer. Email her at books@nyunews.com.

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Hump Day Update: March 25, 2015

By Rachel A.G. Gilman

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

Welcome to Hump Day Update, the place to find out everything you need to know about what’s been going on in the entertainment world for the week. I’m Rachel A.G. Gilman. But enough about me, let’s get to the news.

It was announced this week  “Downton Abbey’s” next season will be it’s last, only appropriate since most of the characters must be well beyond 100 by now. I don’t think PBS is prepared to show the cast going through their second round of teenage years.

The lines are no longer blurred for Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke. They were found guilty of copyright infringement for their 2013 hit resembling Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” Williams is claiming the jury acted on emotions rather than logic when making the decision that he and Thicke must pay Gaye’s estate $7.3 million. Not so happy now, Pharrell, are you?

“Orange Is the New Black” will be required to compete in the drama category at the 2015 Emmy awards despite other hour long comedies getting the green light. I think members of the Academy are just peeved because they can’t remember their Netflicks passwords and are unable to catch up before season 3 premiers in June.

This week, Taylor Swift reportedly purchased the web domains “Taylorswift.porn” and “Taylorswift.adult” before they became available for public purchase. The question now is, what is she going to do with them? Perhaps use them to blog photos of her cats? We never know with Taylor….

On “Pretty Little Liars,” all of the girls found themselves locked up in jail alongside their good friend Alison DiLaurentis, who was found guilty of murdering Mona Vanderwaal —yes, this has basically become a nighttime soap opera. With all of the main characters behind bars and confined to orange jumpsuits, the costume department is taking a well-deserved break. I mean, seriously, do these girls ever repeat outfits?

Speaking of clothes, E! made the decision to put “Fashion Police” on hold until September after Kelly Osbourne and Kathy Griffin parted ways with the show following controversial comments made by Guilana Rancic. The show’s been in a rough patch since the loss of host Joan Rivers. Face it, E!; without Joan, “Fashion Police” is just a bunch of mean people making comments about pretty people while lame people in pajamas watch from their couches at home.

Zayn Malik took a leave of absence from One Direction this week claiming stress after rumors swirled of a break-up with fiancé Perrie Edwards. At the first show without their bandmate, the other four members of the group introduced themselves individually rather than labeling themselves “One Direction.” Parents attending were thrilled because they finally learned which boy is which.

On  Monday, Jason Derulo dropped his newest music video, “Want to Want Me,” using the dating app, Tinder. Not sure how that works, but feels appropriate since his songs are all pretty much about physical image and isn’t that what Tinder’s all about, too?

And finally, we bid adieu to “Glee” this week after six seasons. In it’s two-hour finale, we were reminded of the past and flashed to the future, showing us what happens to all of our favorites down the road. For the most part it was good (Rachel finally wins a Tony; Tina and Artie find their way back to each other), but if Sue Sylvester really does become VP in the 2016 election, we might want to finally stop believing, New Directioners.

Hope you enjoyed this week (and your spring break)! See you back here next Wednesday.

Rachel A.G. Gilman is a staff writer. Email her at music@nyunews.com.

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