Spotlight
Sweeping Culture Daily

SPOTLIGHT: Sweeping Culture Daily

Sergei Filin, Bolshoi Ballet Acid Attack Victim, Comes to NY

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard anything from or about Sergei Filin, the former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, since his recovery from an acid attack in January 2013. After an investigation, it was discovered that the man behind the attack was a dancer in the company, reportedly scorned over his girlfriend, another dancer in the company, not getting the lead role in one of the Bolshoi’s productions.

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The Renaissance of TV Horror

I haven’t found the time to sink my teeth into the gritty charms of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” — but I do have friends who are hooked on the post-apocalyptic zombie franchise. In a recent episode titled “The Grove,” an acquaintance described to me the emotional violence that accompanied the mental instability of a little girl that drove her to kill her younger sister — a baby would have been the next to go if the adults didn’t arrive on the scene. Because of distrust an adult took little Lizzie outside, told her to look at the flower, and shot her in the back of the head.

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Wu-Tang Clan Plan Release of New Album as Art Object

RZA, sage figurehead of the Wu-Tang Clan, is nothing if not ambitious. In addition to being the glue that keeps the often-feuding members together (even if the music has been on an increasingly mediocre slope for over a decade), he scores, directs, and acts in films, writes books, and keeps an absurd number of aliases. And if everything goes according to plan, soon you’ll be thinking of him and the rest of the group as artists.

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Listen: Mac DeMarco’s “Let My Baby Stay”

It’s hard to feel wishy-washy about floppy-haired slack rocker Mac DeMarco. You either love the guy (and all that gum-cracking, lewd-spewing, lovably crass style he’s got going for him), or you don’t get what he’s all about and don’t care. Either way, after having found reasonable success with 2012’s “Rock and Roll Night Club” and “2,” DeMarco returns with his album “Salad Days,” currently streaming over at NPR. Even at first glance, the track titles (“Chamber of Reflection,” “Goodbye Weekend,” “Let Her Go,”), suggest that DeMarco is finding himself feeling a little less Steely Dan these days, and a little more Kurt Vile. The results are quietly beautiful in their lo-fi, off-kilter way. “Let My Baby Stay,” for instance, is a slow-churning proclamation of love to an unseen partner. Made up of very simple orchestrations (a few reserved guitar strums aided by tropical percussion knocks), the lyrics weigh heavy: “I’ve been an addict, and she’s been good to me. As far as I can tell, she’s happy living with a monkey, so please don’t take my love away.” The four-minute track never picks up speed, but as it draws to a close and DeMarco croons out a couple of uncharacteristic wails (seemingly sounds of a very particular type of despondence that kisses the youth), you can’t help but wish the song away from fading into obscurity.

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Hollywood’s Obsession With Real-Life Tragedy

Now that the mystery behind the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 is seemingly closer to reaching its tragic conclusion (and no, it wasn’t a black hole), what is the next step? Do we support the families who’ve lost loved ones? Do we investigate how this happened, and what could have been done to prevent it? Do we examine our own tabloid-crazy obsession with the entire thing, and look at how it might have made the situation worse?

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Benedict Cumberbatch Joins UK Stage Production of “Hamlet”

Benedict Cumberbatch, like many an actor before him, will take to the stage this fall in a new production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at the Barbican Theatre in London. Lyndsey Turner, who was recently at the helm of the the Broadway run of “Machinal” (which we reviewed here), will direct. Cumberbatch was last seen on the stage in the National Theatre’s 2011 production of “Frankenstein,” directed by Danny Boyle, and will next he heard on screen in a trio of what are sure to be shining examples of cinéma de merde — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Magik,” and “The Penguins of Madagascar” — all set to appear in theater over the next year. Continue Reading

Listen: The Black Keys’ “Fever”

If you’re a successful rock band which hasn’t put out any material since 2011 and you’d really like to, you know, generate a bit of buzz, you make an announcement via Mike Tyson’s Twitter account, right? Curiously enough, that was the path taken by The Black Keys. After announcing last Friday that they’ll be dropping a new album, Turn Blue, come May 13th, today they released the first single, “Fever.” A surprisingly upbeat, keyboard-driven jam, “Fever” hints at a potentially new, more pop-influenced direction for the Keys, a duo usually anchored in howling guitar riffs dripping with blues. The new song, while perhaps a tad underwhelming, is catchy enough, especially when the violins come in at around 2:40, giving the song a more inviting texture and bringing to mind acts like Ra Ra Riot and Tame Impala. Check out the impending tracklist via Pitchfork, and listen to the song below.

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Film Critics Not Useless, Finds New Poll

This just in! Breaking news! According to an Associated Press report, film critics aren’t the least important people on earth. The Nielson annual American Moviegoing report, which is something that apparently exists and seems like a totally valid gauge of public opnion, “revealed that 80 percent of moviegoers refer to movie reviews at least some of the time when deciding what to see.” That’s enough for me. “About equally reliable to moviegoers are movie trailers, which 44 percent of those polled said they trust as a source of information on a film.” Oh boy. I guess I knew there had to be a downside to this.

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Lessons of Darkness at New Directors/New Films

Toward the beginning of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Charles Marlow, the sailor at the center of the novel’s journey, comments on the fading light of civilization. “It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery — a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over,” the character remarks. “It had become a place of darkness.”

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San Diego Opera Closes Its Doors

Another one down. According to a report in the New York Times, The San Diego Opera, once one of the most famous companies on the West Coast, will close at the end of their season in April due to “an insurmountable financial hurdle.” The decision was made on Wednesday to end their run “with dignity and grace” rather than “inevitably entering bankruptcy,” an obvious reference to the closing of the New York City Opera last year.

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