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Cultural Calendar

Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, September 28th to January 14th 2014, at the MOMA

Rene’ Magritte, the famous surrealist painter behind such masterpieces as The False Mirror, The Son of Man, and the Treachery of Images, is featured in this MOMA retrospective that focuses on his early years, from 1928 until just before the outbreak of World War II. The exhibit aims to trace the central themes and methods of his most prolific period. For a good look at one of the fathers of Surrealism - easily one of the most interesting and engaging artistic movements - one can do little better.

12 Years a Slave, Directed by Steve Mcqueen, Starring Chietwel Ejiofor. Now Playing at Area Theatres

The horrors of slavery receive their finest and most shattering onscreen depiction in Steve Mcqueen’s 12 Years a Slave. The film focuses on Solomon Northrup, played by a peerless Chiwetel Ejiofor, a musician leading a tranquil life in upstate New York, who is led to believe he will be playing a gig in Washington DC, only to be kidnapped and sold into slavery, a state in which he would spend the next 12 years of his life before reuniting with his family. The brutality inherent in slavery, and ever present in the American iteration of such, is manifested here by actors ranging from Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, and frequent Mcqueen collaborator Michael Fassbender, who turns in a brutal performance as the monstrous slaveowner who takes possession of Northrup. All the moral, emotional, and national reckonings that got lost in Django Unchained’s blood splatter are thrown into full relief here. You will want to look away, but won’t, because you know you can’t.

Esa Pekka Salonen’s New York Premiere of his Violin Concerto, and Sibelius’ Fifth, at the New York Philharmonic, Wednesday and Thursday, October 30 and 31st.

Esa Pekka Salonen, masterful former conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has spent the past few years writing worthy contributions to the violin and piano concerto repertoires. His violin concerto, as angular and twisty in some places as it is warmly tonal in others, is a dynamic, exciting new work, one that now receives its east coast premiere in the hands of the worthy New York Philharmonic. The program also includes Jean Sibelius’ masterpiece, his Fifth Symphony - my personal favorite - and a must for anyone whose knowledge of the Romantic tradition begins and ends with Ode to Joy.

The Counselor, Directed by Ridley Scott, starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem. Opens October 25th.

There isn’t much to say about this, except that the screenplay is by Cormac Maccarthy, perhaps the greatest living American writer. Maccarthy knows his way around blood, violence, sex, and emotional turmoil. The director is Ridley Scott, who has made those concepts and substances his cinematic lifeblood. Then there’s that cast. Go see it.

Frightened Rabbit, Webster Hall, October 24th.

The beardiest, flanneliest, despondentiest, sing-alongiest Scottish folk-rock band, particularly beloved in these parts, are back for another 2 hours of beery heartbreak rock. The two elements that elevate Frightened Rabbit above your average sad sack indie band are their sharply observed songs of love and loss, where humor, darkness, and a generously crushed heart are never far, and the insanely catchy rock songs they keep framing such feelings in. Do yourself a favor - buy all their albums, starting with The Midnight Organ Fight, and see what the hell I’m talking about. Then GO.

Dance with Dragons Softcover Edition, written by George R.R. Martin. Available at local booksellers and on Amazon October 29th.

For those of you who silently repeat to yourself A Song of Ice and Fire every time anyone makes reference to “Game of Thrones”, the day quickly approaches when you can own the latest book in the series. No spoilers, but there will be dragons in this one. It also features a billion pages, a thousand new characters, and some cliffhangers that made me want to claw George R. R, Martin’s eyes out. I won’t though, because I’m desperately waiting for October 29th, and I don’t think dictation will make things any quicker.