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Drawing an X in the Sand

Film

Drawing an X in the Sand

Fifty years ago, Jack Valenti, then president of the Motion Pictures Association of America, replaced the existing Production Code with its current “voluntary rating system,” which included the “adults-only” X rating for content considered “unsuitable for minors.” (The adult film industry soon started using “XXX” to distinguish its films.) This month, the Quad Cinema is having a fantastic series featuring dozens of these controversial titles. Comments (1)
Films like “The Wedding,” written and directed by Sam Abbas, often get overlooked because they are made on a shoestring with an unknown cast. But this auspicious feature debut by the Egyptian-American Abbas demands attention. It’s a gem. Comment
Music

Ghost Story at the Opera

Music

Ghost Story at the Opera

Juilliard Opera Theater, on November 16, mounted Benjamin Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw.” Any musically strong performance of this masterful score compels awe — and gratitude. Steven Osgood really had the measure of his excellent band and paced and blended them accordingly. With a dynamically versatile chamber piece like this, the intimate but not cramped auditorium reaffirms its status as one of the city’s very best places to hear operas. When he took his bow, Osgood generously and justly invited his players up onstage with him and the singers. Comment
Theater

Finding Grace After Abuse

Theater

Finding Grace After Abuse

The long overdue #MeToo movement has empowered countless women, and more than a few men, to confront, if not avenge, their abusers and reclaim their dignity. Comment
Theater

Magic and Manipulation

Theater

Magic and Manipulation

My main concern in seeing Mike Birbiglia on Broadway was whether the intimate appeal of his previous Off-Broadway outings would translate to a much larger house. I shouldn’t have worried. His latest piece, “The New One,” has taken up residence at the Cort Theater, and it fits with the ease of your favorite jacket. Comment
Nightlife

Queens of the Holiday Scene

Nightlife

Queens of the Holiday Scene

Peace on earth is intangible. Frankincense and myrrh are cliché — and expensive! A gift card is worthless, once it’s been maxed out. But the memories you and those on your “Nicely Naughty List” take from a holiday drag show will last a lifetime. This month, the star that beckons hovers not over a manger, but directly above the Laurie Beechman Theatre — a cozy little den of drinks, sass, and sin located below 42nd Street’s West Bank Café. Comment
In a way, this all came to head with Scarlett Johansson. Comments (1)
Film

Getting By

Film

Getting By

Esmail (Ardalan Esmaili), the protagonist of Milad Alami’s “The Charmer,” uses women for survival. At first, his actions seem wholly mercenary: he’s an Iranian immigrant in Denmark whose visa has run out. He’s about to get deported back to Iran unless he can get a green card through marriage to a Danish woman. This leads to a string of seductions, one of which ends in a tragedy depicted at the film’s beginning. But Esmail has a secret that keeps him from just doing whatever he wants, and he knows that he’s constantly violating his moral compass. He’s a step away from becoming a Patricia Highsmith character, but Alami’s sensibility is much more humanist. Comment
Film

Alone in a Crowd

Out gay writer/ director Sebastián Silva makes squirm-inducing films. In his breakthrough, “The Maid,” in 2009, the title character grappled with issues of class and power in an upper middle class Chilean household. His 2015 feature “Nasty Baby” chronicled a gay couple encountering harassment from a mentally ill homophobe. Silva’s latest work, “Tyrel,” is in much the same vein as it, too, addresses an outsider struggling to find his place in an unwelcoming environment. It is a compelling comedy-drama that, like all of the filmmaker’s work, will get under a viewer’s skin. Comment
For the latest in its annual series of Ópera en Español presentations, the New York City Opera staged Ástor Piazzolla’s tango operita “María de Buenos Aires” for three performances at (le) poisson rouge. The production concept by director Tomer Zvulun originated with the Atlanta Opera but was restaged in the past month for the (le) poisson rouge cabaret space by revival director Stephanie Havey. Comment

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