The Yes List – Tim Burton's Macabre Art at MoMA
Each week, The Daily Beast scours the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. This week, the dark art of Tim Burton at MoMA, Penelope Cruz dazzles in the new Almodóvar movie, and Will Smith and Jay-Z come to Broadway.
Tim Burton's Macabre Art at MoMA
Director Tim Burton’s goth circus aesthetic has become nothing short of iconic over the years—it only takes watching a few frames of a Burton film to recognize his twisted imagination. So it is only fitting that the Museum of Modern Art has given the former art student a major retrospective (opening November 22). The man may not be a traditional fine artist, but he has achieved what many trained painters or sculptors never will—a vision. Visitors enter the exhibition through a black-and-white cave (not unlike the striped motif from Beetlejuice or Nightmare Before Christmas), and inhabit a universe full of Burton’s strange fascinations—drawings of ghostly children, a menacing pumpkin-head sculpture, the original Batman costume mold, and slightly terrifying Kewpie dolls. Read more about Burton’s weird world, including Kate Taylor’s interview with the director, on Art Beast.
Penelope Cruz Dazzles in Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces
Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar has been making brilliant independent films for years, but even his biggest hits, like Talk to Her, have remained somewhat under the radar. Now, he is attempting to compete at the weekend box-office with Broken Embraces, his biggest-budget and longest film to date, starring his old muse (and current Hollywood A-lister) Penelope Cruz. Critics are already championing Broken Embraces, calling it one of Almodóvar’s best. The story, like an Almodóvar joint, is convoluted, but it essentially involves a blind screenwriter looking back on a life he left behind after losing his sight in a car accident. He fell in love with his secretary and part-time actress/call girl (Cruz), and had to battle for her against a sleazy stockbroker. The storyline turns disastrous, all against the barren, volcanic backdrop of Spanish island Lanzarote. Cruz is the real revelation here, best in her native language. As Variety’s Jonathan Holland writes, she “delivers a compelling, subtle perf as a woman continually aware that the shadow of tragedy hovers over her.” And he’s right—nothing is better on camera than big pools of sadness in Cruz’ doe-eyes.
Will Smith and Jay-Z Come to Broadway
There is a reason The Lion King has been such a phenomenal stage hit—African rhythms are infectious. But a Disney production does not an authentic African musical make, and on Monday, a new show opens that will bring theatergoers an even sharper glimpse of the sounds and beats of the continent. Fela!, directed and choreographed by legendary performer Bill T. Jones, tells the story of controversial Nigerian musician Fela Kuti (known as Fela ) who used Afrobeat music (a fusion of jazz, funk, and African drums) to stage revolutions, both political and artistic. James Brown considered Fela to be the true godfather of funk, and though he passed away of AIDS in 1997 at age 58, he packed a lot into his life. His 1977 hit record, Zombie, was a sharp critique of the Nigerian government, and though it was a popular smash, it led to Fela (and his family) being exiled. He married 27 women in a commune and later disavowed marriage altogether. He shared a stage with Bono, and was arrested several more times, finally for “murder” during the rise of the Nigerian dictatorship in the early ‘90s. What Fela left behind was a tremendous musical legacy, and performer Sahr Ngaujah does an excellent job of bringing his raw passion to the stage in the musical. And if you need another excuse to go, Jay Z and Will Smith are the production’s major backers—they realize that Fela! is an important moment for African-Americans in an Obama world.