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Stream These Five Action Films Now


For action fans seeking out new movies on streaming, there are plenty of car chases, explosions and fist fights to sift through. We help by providing some streaming highlights.

Stream it on Amazon.

I love inventive microbudget films. It’s rarer to discover these treats in the action genre, since the form often requires higher production values. But “Agent Revelation,” from the writer-director Derek Ting, manages to deliver big thrills on a smaller scale.

Ting also stars in this high-concept sci-fi movie as Jim Yung, a C.I.A. reject infected by an alien-made biological weapon: a red dust known as the Ash. While usually deadly to humans, the Ash instead gives Jim heightened reflexes and strength. When Dr. Victoria Jansen (Carole Weyers), the head of a secret underground military installation, hears of Jim’s survival, she recruits him for testing, pushing him through dangerous exercises. These claustrophobic battles featuring tactical movements through mazes provide the film’s biggest action moments.

But the smart world building is equally impressive. Jim comes under the watchful eye of the base’s rich benefactor, Alastair (Michael Dorn), the Morpheus to Jim’s Neo. Alastair teaches Jim how to harness the energy of his powers to wield against the invading aliens. A cross between “The Matrix” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “Agent Revelation” places grand sci-fi imagination into a modest package.

Rent of buy on Amazon, Google Play, or YouTube.

Since the premiere of “Jaws” in 1975 made sharks a six-letter scare, the toothy predators remain a cinematic go-to for easy frights and outsized action. “Great White,” an Australian-set flick from the director Martin Wilson, follows in the footsteps of “Deep Blue Sea” and “The Meg” to deliver hair-raising survivalist set pieces.

The financially submerged couple Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko) and Kaz (Katrina Bowden) provide private airplane tours to travelers. Joji (Tim Kano) and Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi), an affluent couple, employ the guides and their cook Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) to transport them to an isolated atoll. Then, the menacing title character disables their plane, leaving them adrift in a raft. To pull through, the stranded humans engage in wild sea battles with the unrelenting shark, leading to an abundance of over-the-top defense methods involving weaponized paddles and flares against a sharp set of pearly whites. After watching “Great White,” it’s still not safe to go back in the water.

Stream it on Amazon.

If you turned Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” into a road movie, you might end up with something like the writer-director Joe Duca’s intimate coming-of-age adventure trek “Her Name Was Jo.” The 10-year-old title character (Mary Cate Williams) lives along the Shenandoah River with her abusive, drug-addled stepfather. She dreams of one day traveling to Los Angeles to find her real dad, a folk singer whose records she often listens to for comfort.

When her stepfather overdoses, Jo decides to take her best friend Selma (Elisa Duca) cross country in search of the singer. Along the way the pair steal a car, are held hostage by abusive men, help a pregnant woman deliver her baby and shoot their way through every hurdle. Closer to a drama than a big action or adventure spectacle, “Her Name Was Jo” is given a tragic edge through a heart-pounding score melded with touching folk ballads.

For audiences well-versed in gangland films, the South Korean writer-director Park Hoon-jung’s “Night in Paradise” may offer few surprises. Rather, the simple mob thriller gives blood-soaked comfort in its familiarity. Park Tae-goo (Um Tae-goo) is a brash enforcer to the suave crime lord Mr. Yang (Park Ho-san). After the assassinations of Park’s half sister and niece, he is convinced that the hit was placed by a rival kingpin in the Bukseong clan, causing Park to murder that mob boss with the savagery of Viggo Mortensen’s tough guy in “Eastern Promises.”

Park runs away to the tiny island of Jeju to hide, where he forms a platonic bond with the terminally ill Jae-yeon (Jeon Yeo-been). The stoic companions navigate a huge, bloody power grab between Yang and the merciless new Bukseong leader, Chief Ma (Cha Seung-won), as Park becomes their shared scapegoat.

The film’s director takes great pleasure in carnage. An extravagant barnyard shootout leads to jets of blood bathing the screen, and later, there’s a gory one-on-20 brawl involving a car key. Vicious knife fights likewise turn bath houses into slaughterhouses. And all are captured with a clean, steady hand, allowing viewers, with a gleeful smile, to marvel at the unrepentant brutality.

Rent of buy on Amazon, Google Play, or AppleTV.

When you first see the buzz cut-sporting, salt-and-pepper bearded Mads Mikkelsen as Markus, a Danish soldier stationed in Afghanistan, you assume Anders Thomas Jensen’s “Riders of Justice” will solely offer high-octane action. The death of Markus’s wife from a train bombing, however, adds a deep, unexpected heart to this revenge flick.

Now a single dad to his daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), the stoic Markus must punish those who carried out the attack and grapple with his repressed anguish. Jansen explores how grief leads a person to search for answers in the unanswerable. It’s that quest that makes Markus susceptible to a theory by two earnest scientists (Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Lars Brygmann) and a computer whiz (Nicholas Bro) that the bombing was perpetrated by a gang to silence a witness.

Mikkelsen gives a well-shaped performance by adding exterior emotional textures to a character whose inner turmoil makes him prone to raging outbursts. His agile acting makes “Riders of Justice” a singularly humanist action film.


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For U.K. Bands, Touring Europe Is Now a Highway to Brexit Hell


LONDON — When the British rock band Two Door Cinema Club began playing shows across Europe a decade ago, the group’s three members would jump in a van, throw their instruments in the back and drive from their then hometown, Belfast, Northern Ireland, to sweaty clubs in Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris.

“We did that hundreds of times,” Kevin Baird, the group’s bassist, said recently by phone. “Everything was at a moment’s notice,” he added.

Now, it’s not so simple for Two Door Cinema Club — or any British act — to tour Europe. Last Friday, the band headlined the Cruïlla music festival in Barcelona, Spain, playing to an audience of 25,000 screaming fans. But because of Britain’s 2020 departure from the European Union, known as Brexit, the band spent weeks beforehand applying for visas and immersing themselves in complicated new rules around trucking and exporting merchandise like T-shirts.

Visas and travel within Britain to apply for them cost 7,500 pounds, about $10,400, for the band, two extra musicians, and an eight-person crew, Baird said. New rules mean that a British tour van carrying audio and lighting equipment, or merchandise, can only make three stops in mainland Europe before it must return home.

“It’s proved a headache when there was never a headache before,” Baird said. “If we were a band starting out, we wouldn’t have done it,” he added.

For much of this year, Brexit has been an even bigger talking point in Britain’s music industry than the coronavirus pandemic. Since Jan. 1, when a trade deal between Britain and the European Union came into force, hundreds of British musicians — including Dua Lipa and Radiohead — have complained that the deal makes touring the continent more costly for stadium acts, and almost impossible for new bands.

The new rules are “a looming catastrophe” for young musicians, Elton John wrote on Instagram in June. “This is about whether one of the U.K.’s most successful industries, worth £111 billion a year, is allowed to prosper and contribute hugely to both our cultural and economic wealth, or crash and burn,” he added.

Even musicians who supported Brexit have complained. Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, told a TV interviewer in June that, although he welcomed Britain’s departure from the European Union, he found the new rules unreasonable. He then addressed Britain’s government: “Get your act together,” he said.

The furor over the regulations has led to a blame game between Britain’s government and the European Union over which side is responsible for the new barriers, and who made viable offers when negotiating the trade deal.

Regardless of who is responsible, the issue has become an embarrassment for the British government. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his government is working “flat out” on the issue. “We must fix this,” he told lawmakers in March.

Yet so far, there hasn’t been enough progress to appease musicians. In June, Britain agreed new trade deals that the government said would allow musicians to tour easily in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This was met with disdain: “Ah those infamous tours of mountainous Liechtenstein with its total lack of airport,” Simone Marie of the band Primal Scream wrote on Twitter.

“We’re all becoming increasingly despondent,” said Annabella Coldrick, the chief executive of the Music Managers Forum, a trade body. In June, she helped launch Let the Music Move, a campaign for the government to compensate artists for the new extra costs and renegotiate the tour rules.

“The problems are only just starting to become clear,” as the coronavirus pandemic eases and bands start booking tours, Coldrick said. The biggest sticking point was the regulation that vans and trucks can only stop three times before they must return to Britain, she added.

Several British music trucking business have already moved some of their operations to Ireland to get around the rules. But Coldrick said this was not a viable solution: Trucks would also have to make longer journeys to pick bands up, increasing costs. It also seemed like a poor outcome for Britain, she said, because the country was losing companies and workers.

For Two Door Cinema Club, the main issue was visas, said Colin Schaverien, the band’s manager. In June, a member of the band’s crew was rejected for a visa on a technicality related to his job title, so he had to reapply. Another band member, based in Belfast, was told they had to fly to Scotland for a visa appointment.

Despite the band’s problems before traveling to Spain, Two Door Cinema Club’s show last Friday went off without a hitch.

“All the things we were worried about didn’t materialize,” said Baird, the bassist. The band’s equipment, traveling in a truck from London, cleared customs on the British side in 25 minutes; checks at the border in France took only 10. The band, whose members flew to Barcelona, had no problems at the airport.

Once in, the group was so excited to be playing a show after months sitting at home during the coronavirus pandemic, they took selfies of every moment, Baird said.

The crowd was equally excited, said Marc Loan, 36, a fan who was in the audience. “I made sure I didn’t drink much, so I didn’t have to miss anything,” he added.

“It was amazing,” Baird said of the night.

Brexit was the last thing on his mind during the gig, Baird added, but it reared its head the next day when the band and crew headed to the airport to fly home. Members of the group with Irish passports, which everyone born in Northern Ireland can hold as well as a British one, breezed through passport control; those with British passports only were stuck in line for an hour.

The band was pleased with the trip but Baird was worried about how a more complicated schedule would work. “We’re all well aware this was a one off concert,” he said. “What we’re apprehensive about is next year when we’re playing three different countries in three days. I expect that will be a lot harder.”


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The Louvre’s Art Sleuth Is on the Hunt for Looted Paintings


Polack already had made her reputation abroad, as a member of an international task force in Germany following the discovery of around 1,500 works squirreled away by Cornelius Gurlitt, whose father, Hildebrand, bought artworks for Hitler.

While working for the task force, she uncovered the key to the Dorville story. She looked at the back of a portrait by the Impressionist painter Jean-Louis Forain and discovered a yellowing label, with an item number from the catalog of auction in Nice. “CABINET d’un AMATEUR PARISIEN,” it read, with no other information about the seller’s identity.

Intrigued, she traveled to the city, and uncovered in public archives the sale catalogs, the auction minutes, the identity of the seller and documents proving the involvement of the Vichy government’s Commissariat for Jewish Questions. Working with a genealogical firm, she located and then befriended the Dorville heirs.

“Her tenacity, her combativeness is incredible,” said Philippe Dagen, an art historian and critic for Le Monde newspaper who wrote a book on looted art with Polack.

“The Indiana Jones of Looted Paintings,” is how Le Point magazine has described her.

Nearly eight decades after the auction, the consequences of the sale in Nice continue to haunt France, pitting the French government against Dorville’s heirs, reviving the ugly history of the Louvre’s involvement in a problematic sale and putting Polack in an uncomfortable position.

Dorville’s heirs contend that the sale of his artworks was forced under the wartime anti-Jewish laws, making it an illegal act of “spoliation” or looting. They argue that, had the government given them the proceeds from the auction, perhaps the five family members who perished at Auschwitz might have found a way to survive.


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Art Meets Its Soundtrack Deep in ‘The Dirty South’


Entirely sonic, the Sims piece is based on a single familiar song, “Dixie,” composed for pre-Civil War minstrel shows and meant to mock clichés of “happy” Black slave life. (It’s possible that its lyricists were Black.) Later, with altered verses, it became the national anthem of the Confederacy, and then the canonical expression of Lost Cause nostalgia in the Jim Crow era. Sims doesn’t rewrite the song; he simply records it being performed by Black musicians in a range of Black music styles — gospel, blues, soul, hip-hop — undercutting, through genius appropriation, its white supremacist punch.

His piece is particularly effective installed where it is: in an 1897 Confederate Memorial Chapel that still stands on the museum’s grounds. Indeed, the immediate neighborhood is saturated in Confederate culture. The headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy sits, a squat block of white Georgia marble, directly beside the museum. Monument Avenue, a residential thoroughfare once dotted with statues of Confederate heroes, is close by. (Since 2020, all the heroes but one, Robert E. Lee, have been trucked away.)

The term “Dirty South” can refer to many things, including a morally sullied history. All the art in the V.M.F.A. show, though largely of recent date, has roots in such a history. And although the show will be traveling to other venues in other cities, it has particular resonance seen here.

The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse

Through Sept. 6, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, (804) 340-1400, vmfa.museum.

The exhibition travels to the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, Oct. 23, 2021-Feb. 6, 2022; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark., March 12-July 25, 2022; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Sept. 2022-Feb. 2023.


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Review: ‘Schmigadoon!’ Has a Song in Its Heart, and Everywhere Else


Welcome to Schmigadoon, “where the men are men, and the cows are cows,” a magical musical land where Melissa and Josh (Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key) find themselves stranded during a trip meant to rehabilitate their romance. At first they think it’s like Colonial Williamsburg, or a warped Disney experience, but they quickly buy into their new reality: They’re trapped in this wholesome, old-timey parallel universe until they learn the lessons about true love it is meant to impart.

Melissa is into it. She likes musicals, and she’s thrilled to discover that when she joins in on one of the townsfolk’s numbers, she instinctively knows what to sing. Josh is not into it. He dislikes musicals, and he refuses to sing along. She wants to be in love, get married and win every argument. He wants her to accept that love is flawed and marriage is whatever, and he also wants to win every argument.

I won’t say that there are only two types of people when it comes to musicals, but for our purposes: The Joshes of the world are unlikely ever to warm to “Schmigadoon!” To my fellow Melissas: Dust off your character shoes. Our time is now.

“Schmigadoon!,” which debuts on Apple TV+ Friday, was created by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, the team behind the “Despicable Me” franchise; Paul also wrote all the songs. The show’s most obvious references are “Brigadoon,” “Carousel” and “Oklahoma!” But there is also plenty of “Annie Get Your Gun” in there, as well as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” “South Pacific” and “The King and I.” Individual numbers have nods to dozens of other musicals. Some are direct parodies of specific songs — Melissa explains human reproduction in medical detail in a spoof of “Do-Re-Mi” — and others send up the genre in general.

The residents of Schmigadoon are also walking parodies. Kristin Chenoweth is the town grouch and main villain, a dark lipstick nightmare who turns to her fellow tut-tutters and asks, “Ladies, can I get a cackle?” Alan Cumming is her husband and the closeted mayor. Jaime Camil is the sultry, judgmental doctor, Aaron Tveit is the hunky bad boy in “Carousel” cable knit, and Ariana DeBose is the enchanting school marm. Tveit and DeBose are particularly electric, and when they are singing — or even better, singing and dancing — it’s impossible not to root for them. Everyone, go forth and win the hearts of our miserable normies.

“Schmigadoon!” has its moments of good honest fun, but it is more inclined toward ironic and satirical fun — it’s in on its own joke and routinely mocks its own corniness. (There’s even a song called “Corn Puddin’,” which, like all the other songs on the show, is pretty darn good.) The vibe works, particularly the jabs at classic musicals’ rigid sexism. The show’s credited writers, Bowen Yang, Julie Klausner, Allison Silverman and Kate Gersten, are best known for their work in sketch comedy and sitcoms, so unsurprisingly the punch lines are clever and often acidic. But it does sometimes feel as if “Schmigadoon!” had only one real joke: Musicals, especially those of the ’40s and ’50s, are similar to one another, and cheesy.

We love these musicals not in spite of those qualities but because of them, and “Schmigadoon!” embodies why whimsy can be so appealing. The more the series focuses on Melissa and Josh’s conflicts, particularly on Josh’s sour avoidance, the more one longs for goofy elation and purposeless giggling. Sure, the town is prim and smothering, but wouldn’t you rather dance your troubles away than return to that pile of tedious self-help books about how to save a lukewarm relationship?

Naïveté can be a vice, but so can obstinance. Is falling in love over a trumpet really dumber than any other way people fall in love? Isn’t it good to sing what you can’t say, especially when you can’t seem to say much at all?

“Nobody likes a dream ballet,” Melissa declares near the end of the season, a line that thrilled me because I indeed was softly dreading what seemed to be the onset of exactly such a moment. Dream ballets are not my favorite anyway, but “Schmigadoon!” would have collapsed under the weight of one because for all its abundant joys and glories, it isn’t built like a two-act musical. It’s built as a six-episode TV show. So it can’t generate momentum in the same ways, can’t breathe in and out, can’t orient itself toward an 11 o’clock number. Hooray for an overture, but if you binge the show, you hear that overture six times, at which point it’s just a theme song. (Apple TV+ is releasing the first two episodes together, and the following four episodes weekly after that.)

This adds up to a slight but persistent sense of not-quite-rightness, echoing Melissa’s and Josh’s feelings of being in the wrong story. It’s a show whose own protagonist complains, “It’s like if ‘The Walking Dead’ was also ‘Glee.’” (I think it’s more like “Smash” or “Gallivant,” because its songs are all original, but I doubt Josh would know what “Smash” or “Gallivant” are.)

At times, “Schmigadoon!” can feel like a “Simpsons” parody that outgrew its segment, or a classic movie butchered in order to insert commercial breaks. Luckily, it’s also too fun for most of that to matter.


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Summer Movies That Deliver Chills and Skyline Views


The outdoors is a terrible place to be if you’re in a horror movie being pursued by a knife-wielding maniac. He’ll always know the woods better than you.

But for horror-movie fans, outside has been a refuge this past year. When theaters went dark, old-school drive-ins stayed alive with the help of scary movies, some of which became box-office hits, at least by pandemic standards.

This summer, outdoor venues in and around New York continue the promise of spine-tingling nights under the stars. Most of their programming is heavy on blockbusters, classics and children’s films, but a few evenings are devoted to actual screams. From creepy-cuddly animated films for kids to terrifying exploitation shockers, here’s a selection of horror movies (and a sprinkling of sci-fi) to accentuate your summer. Most films begin at dusk, with venues encouraging viewers to arrive an hour before to set up blankets or lawn chairs.

Various locations in New York City; free.

Outdoor movie screenings come to green spaces across the five boroughs in this summer-long series presented by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and NYC Parks. Showing on July 22 is the 2016 reboot of “Ghostbusters,” starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, in Highbridge Park in the Bronx. Seating is limited so get there early.

Manhattan; $30 spending minimum; reservations recommended.

The Standard, High Line, a chic Meatpacking District hotel, has turned its open-air terrace into a summer cinema, free popcorn included. A night of nostalgia is in store for Gen Xers on July 26, when the hotel shows “The Goonies” (1985). The antic-adventure movie, starring Corey Feldman and Josh Brolin, isn’t quite in the horror category, but it will definitely keep kids — and parents — on the edge of their seats.

Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn; free.

“Grit” is the theme for the 21st season of this popular film series from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. “Shaun of the Dead” (2004), a surprisingly tender zombie apocalypse comedy, kicks things off on Aug. 5. The movie will be shown at Harbor View Lawn, located at the highest point in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and that means fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan. Before the movie starts at sundown, there will be music courtesy of Brooklyn Radio at 6 p.m. and a short film selected by BAMcinématek. There’s also a free bike valet and vendors from Smorgasburg.

Flushing, Queens; $10 for members; $15 for nonmembers.

On Aug. 20, the Garden’s movie night series — its first — will feature the animated film “Abominable” (2019), about a cuddly Yeti named Everest. In addition to after-hours access to the Garden, attendees can sample icy treats and make snowpeople-themed crafts out of botanical materials.

Greenville, N.Y.; $8 per ticket.

This Catskills drive-in, established in 1959, has become a popular spot for visitors to Greene County, about a two-and-a-half hour drive north of New York City. The summer film schedule includes a two-night stint (July 30-31) of the sci-fi meta-comedy “Galaxy Quest” (1999), starring Tim Allen, about a group of actors from a “Star Trek”-like show who are transported to outer space for an actual mission. Pair the film with concessions that include a rotation of beers from local breweries.

Hillsdale, N.J.; $25 per car.

Founded in 1886, this Bergen County farm is known for peach picking, cake doughnuts and an annual Halloween light show. But this summer there are movies on the calendar as the venue brings back its popular drive-in theater space. The very family-friendly film lineup includes the animated comedy “Monsters Inc.” (2001), on July 16; the scarier-than-you-remember creature feature “Gremlins” (1984), on July 24; and the undead-with-a-smile teen comedy “Zombies 2” (2020), on Aug. 14.

Oyster Bay, Long Island; free.

Here’s another chance to see “The Goonies,” this time at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park and Beach on July 28, as part of this summer series of pop-up drive-in movie nights. Vehicles will be admitted to the parking lot on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 7 p.m.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn; $55 per car; $22 per outdoor seat.

Located on the East River with killer views of Manhattan, this popular outdoor cinema offers a dark slate of very scary horror movies at midnight all summer long. High points include “The Nun” (2018), on July 16; “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” (1986), on July 17; “Grindhouse: Death Proof” (2007), on July 24; “Army of Darkness” (1993), on July 30; and “The Cabin in the Woods” (2012), on July 31. Watch from your car, or get there by bike or by foot and use a chair provided by the venue. Movies are shown rain or shine, and pets are welcome.

Various locations in New York City; $16 per ticket.

Adventurous programming is on the calendar for this outdoor cinema organization celebrating its 25th anniversary. On July 19, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn will show “October Country” (2010) with a live score by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, a member of the troubled family featured in the 2009 documentary. On July 24, the cemetery will also present a program of eerie short films about “the living, the dead and those caught in between the two,” as the listing puts it. On July 28, the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, Brooklyn, will play host to a free screening of the playfully dark German psychological thriller “Sleep” (2020).

Bayshore, N.Y.; $40 per car.

This Suffolk County pop-up venue, located in a parking lot at the Westfield South Shore Mall, is heavy on horror all summer. Late-night screenings include “Us” (2019), on July 16, and “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), on July 17. There’s also a Christmas in July lineup that includes some playfully dark ones: “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” (2010), on July 30, about a monstrous Santa Claus; and “Krampus” (2015), on July 31, about a demonic creature who terrorizes children on Christmas. Even better: They’re shown on a 52-foot screen, the largest on Long Island.

Lehighton, Pa.; $10 per ticket.

About a 90-minute drive from New York City, this is a go-to destination for die-hard horror fans. Highlights include a deadly Christmas double feature (July 23-24) that includes the ’80s slasher films “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Christmas Evil,”; a 10-film, 35-mm “Schlock-o-Rama” series (July 30-Aug. 1) that includes “The Tingler” (1959) and other movies by the schlockmeister director William Castle; and Herschell Gordon Lewis’s exploitation jolter “The Wizard of Gore” (1970), on Aug. 3. Parts of the grounds are available for folks who want to set up a tent and camp overnight. In the dark. In the woods. (You’ve been warned.)


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Britney Spears Can Hire a New Lawyer of Her Choice, Judge Rules


More than 13 years after being deemed mentally unfit to choose her own legal representation, Britney Spears can hire a high-powered Hollywood lawyer, a Los Angeles judge ruled on Wednesday, signaling a new phase in the battle to end the conservatorship that controls the singer’s life.

The decision by Judge Brenda Penny came at the first hearing since Ms. Spears, 39, called the conservatorship that she has lived under since 2008 abusive and said that she wanted it to end without her having to undergo additional psychiatric evaluations.

Ms. Spears’s emotional speech on June 23 triggered a flurry of court filings in recent weeks as those involved in the conservatorship traded blame for the singer’s unhappiness and professed lack of personal agency. Her longtime court-appointed lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, asked to resign, as did a wealth management firm that was set to share control of Ms. Spears’s estate with her father, James P. Spears.

On Wednesday, the judge accepted Mr. Ingham’s resignation, along with that of co-counsel he had brought on, allowing Ms. Spears to hire Mathew S. Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor, who has worked with celebrities including Sean Penn and Steven Spielberg.

Mr. Rosengart, who is expected to aggressively pursue a path to end the legal arrangement, attended the hearing in person on behalf of Ms. Spears. When the judge asked Ms. Spears, who appeared remotely by phone, if she wished to retain Mr. Rosengart, the singer said that she did and that they had spoken recently.

Lawyers for Mr. Spears did not object to allowing Ms. Spears to choose her new lawyer.

The decision was met with cheers outside of the courtroom, where dozens of fans representing the Free Britney movement shared news updates through a pink bullhorn, leading to hugs and tears. Among the crowd was Representative Matt Gaetz, who called for a change to federal laws overseeing conservatorships.

After Mr. Rosengart was approved by the judge, Ms. Spears, emotional and at times audibly crying, read a written statement, reiterating her desire to terminate the conservatorship without undergoing an evaluation. She added that she wanted her father removed as conservator and charged with abusing his role.

Ms. Spears said that the conservatorship had ruined her life. “I’m here to get rid of my dad,” she said.

Mr. Rosengart then asked for Mr. Spears to resign on the spot, but a lawyer for Mr. Spears declined, calling the request inappropriate.

On Wednesday, Judge Penny also accepted the resignation of Bessemer Trust, the investment firm that asked to resign after Ms. Spears’s speech in court, potentially leaving the singer’s estranged father once again in sole control of her roughly $60 million estate.

Scrutiny over Ms. Spears’s conservatorship has increased in recent months, culminating in her asking in court last month how she could still be considered unable to care for herself even as she continued to bring in millions of dollars as a pop star. The conservatorship that oversees her personal life and finances was approved by the court in 2008, after Mr. Spears petitioned for legal authority over the singer because of concerns about her mental health and substance abuse.

Yet even before her speech in court in June, Ms. Spears had long expressed serious objections to the conservatorship and questioned her father’s fitness as conservator, confidential court documents recently obtained by The New York Times revealed.

At the previous hearing, Ms. Spears also raised questions about Mr. Ingham’s advocacy on her behalf, saying that she had been unaware that she could ask to terminate the conservatorship. “I’m sorry for my ignorance, but I honestly didn’t know that,” she said, adding: “My attorney says I can’t — it’s not good, I can’t let the public know anything they did to me.”

“He told me I should keep it to myself, really,” Ms. Spears said.

It is unknown what private discussions Mr. Ingham and Ms. Spears have had over the years about ending the conservatorship, but Mr. Ingham said last month that he would step aside if asked.

Mr. Ingham was initially named as her court-appointed representative while Ms. Spears was hospitalized and found to lack the capacity to hire a lawyer at the outset of the conservatorship.

A lawyer for the singer’s mother, Lynne Spears, who is an interested party in the conservatorship, asked the court to allow the singer to choose her own lawyer this month, arguing that Ms. Spears should not be held to a decision made in 2008: “Her capacity is certainly different today.”

The decision to allow Ms. Spears to hire her own lawyer was not a foregone conclusion. Since the singer had previously been found unfit to do so, the judge could have appointed her a new lawyer from a court-approved panel or required Ms. Spears to undergo a medical evaluation to prove her capacity to choose one herself.

Jodi Montgomery, Ms. Spears’s current personal conservator, had suggested what is known as a guardian ad litem, who would have been responsible for reporting Ms. Spears’s choice to the court, along with any potential concerns about the pick, and then retaining the private counsel if approved. But the judge deemed that step unnecessary.

Mr. Spears had also called for an investigation into his daughter’s claims of abuse — including that she was forced to perform and remain on birth control — arguing that he has not been in contact with her and has not overseen her personal care for nearly two years.

But Mr. Rosengart, along with a lawyer for Ms. Montgomery, a professional conservator who took over Ms. Spears’s personal care on an ongoing temporary basis in the fall of 2019, did not agree on how best to proceed with an investigation.

Lawyers for Ms. Montgomery, citing text messages from Ms. Spears, have said that the singer wishes for Ms. Montgomery to continue in her role for the time being. They added that Ms. Montgomery was currently working on a “comprehensive Care Plan” with Ms. Spears’s medical team that would “offer Ms. Spears a path to ending her Conservatorship of the Person, as she so unequivocally desires.”

A representative for Ms. Montgomery said in court on Wednesday that Ms. Spears’s medical team strongly recommended that Mr. Spears not be involved with the conservatorship.

Now, attention will turn to Mr. Rosengart’s strategy. Should he file to terminate the conservatorship altogether on behalf of Ms. Spears, someone else involved in the arrangement — most likely Ms. Spears’s father — could object, possibly triggering a trial before the judge makes a final decision.

In addition to raising the stakes of the conservatorship fight, the recent developments have led to an increase in legal billings. This week, one set of lawyers for Mr. Spears filed an updated petition seeking approval by the court for more than $1 million in fees for about eight months of work.

Under the California conservatorship system, Ms. Spears is responsible for paying the lawyers working on all sides of the arrangement, including those arguing against her wishes.

“This system is broken,” Gladstone N. Jones, a lawyer for Lynne Spears, said in court on Wednesday. “This is lawyers gone wild.”

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Samantha Stark contributed reporting from Los Angeles.


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City Center Announces Its 2021-2022 Season


New York City Center will resume live, in-person performances in October with the Fall for Dance Festival, one of its signature events. The dance showcase will kick off the theater’s 2021-2022 season, which is also set to include a Twyla Tharp birthday celebration, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s annual holiday season engagement and two new dance series.

“We really wanted to reaffirm our commitment to New York audiences, as a very New York institution, and to New York artists,” Arlene Shuler, City Center’s president and chief executive, said of the ambitious season.

“It’s such a huge opportunity for artists,” added Stanford Makishi, the vice president and artistic director of dance programs. “The ones with whom I’ve been speaking over the last 16 months, they’ve all been really dying to not only get back on the stage, but also to actually have the interaction with the audiences.”

City Center announced four commissions for this year’s Fall for Dance on Tuesday. Ayodele Casel, Lar Lubovitch and Justin Peck will create new pieces that will be sprinkled throughout the festival’s five programs; and the Verdon Fosse Legacy, an organization dedicated to preserving the work of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, will reconstruct three dances for the festival. The full lineup and schedule will be released at the beginning of September.

In November, Twyla Tharp will celebrate her 80th birthday with “Twyla Now,” a program featuring two world premieres as well as signature works. A host of stars, Sara Mearns and Robert Fairchild among them, will perform, supported by an ensemble of young dancers.

City Center’s new dance programming will begin in 2022. Tiler Peck, a principal at New York City Ballet, will inaugurate Artists at the Center, which gives an accomplished dancer the opportunity to craft a program; Peck’s program, March 3-6, will feature works by William Forsythe, Alonzo King and others. City Center Dance Festival, a spring counterpart to Fall for Dance, will follow, March 24 to April 10. It will showcase several New York companies, including Martha Graham Dance Company, Dance Theater of Harlem and Paul Taylor Dance Company.

The Encores! series, which revives rarely produced Broadway musicals, will also return in 2022. The three shows, “The Tap Dance Kid” (Feb. 2-6), “The Life” (March 16-20) and “Into the Woods” (May 4-15), were announced last year. The coming Encores! season will be the first under the artistic leadership of Lear deBessonet, who was announced as Jack Viertel’s successor in 2019.

More information is available at nycitycenter.org.


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Reconnecting With Keith Haring’s Grace House Mural (in 13 Pieces)


DENVER — The exhibit “Keith Haring: Grace House Mural” may not add up to the happy ending the Keith Haring Foundation envisioned for the sprawling 85-foot-long masterpiece the artist painted nearly four decades ago at a Manhattan youth center.

Though it might be, at least in the short-term, happy enough.

After all, the show does return to public view the action-packed artwork Haring installed in one evening along the Grace House’s three-story stairwell, a gift for the teenagers who frequented the Catholic-run nonprofit on the Upper West Side.

Working for just two hours, the artist left behind several of his signature moves. Radiant baby, barking dog, dancing man — they were all included in this upbeat parade of faceless figures ascending the steps. The mural’s future fell into doubt when the shelter closed in 2016 and its operator, the Church of the Ascension, sold the building, rejecting pleas by the foundation to secure a buyer who would maintain the work.

Instead, it paid an excavation company $900,000 to extract it in sections, sending it off for auction at Bonhams in 2019. The work fetched $3.86 million, a record for a Haring mural. Because the buyer chose to remain anonymous, concerns emerged that an object intended to bolster youthful spirits would land in the home of a wealthy collector, out of sight for everyone else.

But here it is, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, sliced and diced and a bit worse for wear, but still bearing prime examples of an important painter’s work. Nora Burnett Abrams, the museum’s director and the show’s curator, has a personal connection with the buyer, whose name she is not revealing. The owner offered to loan the work to the museum, and Abrams agreed. In Denver, original works by the artist, who died of AIDS in 1990 at age 31, are rare.

Visitors this summer will find it difficult to forget, however, that the mural was dissected into 13 chunks, disrupting the flow that was so integral to its placement. Haring painted it — in 1983 or 1984, neither Abrams nor the foundation is quite sure — as a continuous piece, snaking around doors, corners and pipes.

The odd-shaped mural sections reflect their original site; some have angled tops or bottoms mirroring the slanted stairwell’s ceilings or floors; one still has a light switch embedded; another has a “fire extinguisher” sign attached.

EverGreene Architectural Arts, the firm that excavated the pieces, did so with care, salvaging just a few inches of the wall’s concrete block face and reinforcing it with metal framing along the back. The painted surface was untouched, and the original scuffs, scrapes and cracks remain.

So do Haring’s mesmerizing brush stokes in black house paint. His figures, rendered as simple line drawings, still have a fluid painterly quality about them. Working quickly and without sketching or underpainting, Haring wielded his brush with precision, turning sharp corners around elbows and ankles without mucking up the depth of his surfaces — picking up and dropping his brush again and again to create those movement-implying dashes, leaving only a few casual drip marks behind.

The Denver museum has worked thoughtfully to make the mural look comfortable in its new setting. The individual sections are awkward to display, weighing hundreds of pounds and stretching as much as 9 feet in height and width. Some have six sides. The museum has built out its own walls around them so that they appear embedded in the building. Original doors, mailboxes and a Grace House building plaque are included in the arrangement for context.

Still, the display has its limitations. Even with the add-ons, viewers strolling through the exhibition’s four rooms can’t help but feel they are looking not at the original Grace House mural, but a chop-shop version of it. Removing this work from a stairwell fatally obscures its narrative of climbing stairs. The story is lost.

Gil Vazquez, acting director of the Keith Haring Foundation, calls the final result “bittersweet.” He knows it could have been worse; in the multimillion dollar real estate shuffle of Manhattan, the mural could have been destroyed. As the museum notes, Haring created 45 murals during his lifetime and less than half are still around.

But, Vazquez said, the Grace House mural also could have been saved in its original form. The foundation worked to foster a sale of the building between the church and Ali Forney Center, an organization that serves homeless L.G.B.T.Q. youth, though the deal fell through.

“At least the thing exists so it can be studied,” Vazquez said. For now, plenty of young people will have a chance to see it. The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver welcomes children, and for anyone 18 or under, admission is free. The mural will be on display there through Aug. 22, and has been booked for one additional public viewing: a stop at the Schunck Museum in Heerlen, the Netherlands, in March. Beyond that, Abrams said she didn’t know the owner’s plans. Happy enough will have to do for now.

Keith Haring: Grace House Mural

Through Aug. 22 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 1485 Delgany Street, Denver, Co.; 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org.


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When Rembrandt Met an Elephant


AMSTERDAM — In Rembrandt’s 1638 etching “Adam and Eve in Paradise,” there are two symbols of good and evil. A dragon hovers over the couple as they contemplate the poison apple, representing the danger of temptation. And in the background, a little, rotund elephant romps in the sunlight, a sign of chastity and grace. The meaning of these symbols, while obscure today, would have been recognizable in 17th-century Europe.

The dragon Rembrandt drew was a figment of his imagination. But the elephant looks surprisingly true to life. How did Rembrandt, who never traveled outside the Netherlands, know what an elephant looked like?

The answer to this question comes in the form of an exhibition, “Hansken, Rembrandt’s Elephant,” at the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam. The exhibition, running through Aug. 29, tells the story of a female Asian elephant, taken to the Netherlands in the 17th century, who spent the rest of her life in Europe and became a popular and famous spectacle.

This elephant’s life has been a particular obsession of the Dutch naturalist and art historian Michiel Roscam Abbing for almost two decades. He published his first slim volume about Hansken in 2006, but continued to search for additional documentation about her whereabouts and biography for the past 15 years, resulting in a new book and the Rembrandt House show.

What he discovered is that Hansken had an outsize importance in art, popular entertainment and science during her short life of about 25 years. She was depicted at least three times by Rembrandt; she traveled to the Baltics by ship, and by foot all the way up Denmark and down to Italy; and she became the first Asian elephant to be described by western science.

“It’s a very tragic story, actually, but it’s also fascinating,” said Leonore van Sloten, a curator at the Rembrandt House. “It’s just incredible to think that there is so much information about one animal.”

“She was brought to a world where she didn’t belong,” van Sloten added, “but she became a kind of window onto how life was at that time.”

Hansken was born in 1630 on the island of Ceylon, present-day Sri Lanka. The Dutch East India Company was doing business with the island, and the Netherlands’ ruling governor, Prince Frederick Henry, asked officials to send him back a young elephant as a curiosity.

Elephants were a true rarity in Europe before modern times. “In the 15th century, there was one elephant in Europe,” Roscam Abbing said. “In the 16th century, we know of two or three elephants, and the same is true for the 17th century.”

The trip took about seven months, and Hansken arrived in the Netherlands in 1633. Frederick Henry kept her in his royal stables, along with other exotic animals. But, perhaps because of the expense and difficulty of her upkeep, he later gave her to a relative, Count John Maurice.

She changed hands at least twice more before she was bought by Cornelis van Groenevelt, an aspiring entertainer, for 20,000 guilders, or the equivalent of about a half-million dollars today. Hansken spent the rest of her life with van Groenevelt, who rode her from town to town as an attraction.

Van Groenevelt taught the elephant tricks — how to carry a bucket, lie down, wield a sword and fire a gun — that were depicted in prints by the Swiss artist Jeremias Glaser, and in other drawings and etchings by unknown artists, sometimes as advertising for her shows.

One of Hansken’s first stops was in Amsterdam, in 1637, which is probably the first time Rembrandt saw her. He created a detailed sketch of her that same year, capturing the textures and folds of her skin and the curvature of her trunk. The drawing probably served as a study for the later “Adam and Eve” etching.

“He was interested in the animal as such, and not in the tricks she performed,” Roscam Abbing said. “These other artists focused on her shooting a pistol or carrying a bucket with water, but not Rembrandt. He was interested in capturing the elephant itself.”

Roscam Abbing was able to document Hansken’s arrival in at least 136 cities and towns in Europe; she visited Amsterdam four times during her life. Rembrandt may have seen her two or three of those times. Around 1641, he sketched her again, depicting three versions of her from several angles, and in different poses: eating, reclining and walking.

After years of touring and performing, probably with poor nutrition and care (because Europeans knew almost nothing about caring for such an animal), Hansken collapsed in the Piazza della Signoria, a major square in Florence, Italy, on Nov. 9, 1655, around age 25.

Her final moments were captured in three drawings by an Italian artist, Stefano della Bella, who happened to be there.

“It was unclear what happened to her; it was at first thought that she had been poisoned,” van Sloten said. After a medical examination, it was determined that she had died of a fever from an infection; she had severe abscesses on her feet.

Van Groenevelt sold Hansken’s body to the grand duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, who was interested in the natural sciences. He had her corpse studied extensively, and described in scientific literature. Both her skin and skeleton were later put on display in the Uffizi Gallery.

The skin deteriorated and was thrown away in the 19th century, but Hansken’s skeleton survives today and is part of the permanent collection of the Museo della Specola at the University of Florence.

Her skull is on loan to the Rembrandt House as part of the exhibition.

“There are no bones that you can still see of any other contemporary of Rembrandt’s, not even the bones of Rembrandt himself,” van Sloten said. “So it’s an incredible notion that we can stand next to her.”


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Broadway, Awaiting Crowds’ Return, Will Get More Wheelchair Access


Two months before most of Broadway’s theaters reopen, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan announced Tuesday that a major operator had agreed to provide more wheelchair access at its five theaters as part of a settlement.

Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced a lawsuit against the Jujamcyn Theaters, alleging its theaters were in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as well as a settlement with the company to fix it.

As part of the agreement, the Al Hirschfeld, August Wilson, Eugene O’Neill, St. James and Walter Kerr theaters will provide 44 additional wheelchair-accessible seating locations and 54 aisle transfer seating locations, and will remove approximately 200 barriers to accessibility in theater restrooms, concession counters, waiting areas and box offices.

Jujamcyn will also pay a $40,000 civil penalty, according to the announcement.

“As New York City begins to reopen and welcome the world once again, we are pleased that Jujamcyn Theaters, L.L.C., has worked collaboratively with the office to improve accessibility at its historic venues, so that all patrons are able to enjoy Broadway,” Ms. Strauss said in a statement.

An email message sent on Tuesday evening to a spokesman for Jujamcyn was not immediately returned.

The first upgrades are expected to be completed by the end of September, according to court documents.

The agreement with Jujamcyn is the latest that officials have struck with companies that operate Broadway theaters, many of which were opened decades before the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act was signed in 1990, requiring greater accessibility for those who are disabled.

For years, accessibility at Broadway theaters has been a challenge, with issues ranging from a limited supply of wheelchair-accessible seating inside the theaters to a lack of accommodations at box office counters. Broadway theater operators have long pledged to make their facilities more A.D.A. compliant.

Join Times theater reporter Michael Paulson in conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda, catch a performance from Shakespeare in the Park and more as we explore signs of hope in a changed city. For a year, the “Offstage” series has followed theater through a shutdown. Now we’re looking at its rebound.

In 2003, the head of the Shubert Organization said that it had spent about $5 million upgrading 16 theaters to bring them into compliance with the A.D.A., after a recommendation by the U.S. attorney’s office. “What we did was a combination of compulsion and volunteerism,” Gerald Schoenfeld, the chairman of the organization, said at the time. “We were a willing complier.”

In 2014, the Nederlander Organization entered into an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office to upgrade nine facilities after the prosecutor’s office filed suit. The company agreed to provide 70 additional wheelchair-accessible seating locations and 134 more aisle transfer seating locations, and to eliminate more than 500 barriers to accessibility at its theaters.

In general, for facilities built after the A.D.A. began to take effect in the 1990s, barriers to accessibility are required to be removed “where it is readily achievable to do so,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The announcement about the settlement with Jujamcyn came as Broadway and other theater districts around the world prepared to reopen after pandemic restrictions forced many of them to temporarily close their doors. Some shows responded by offering a streaming version of their in-person productions, enabling ticket holders to watch and listen from home, a boon for those who had found in-person productions inaccessible.

But as more people got vaccinated and the pandemic restrictions were eased, shows returned to their respective stages. (Last month the first show returned to Broadway, as Bruce Springsteen dazzled more than 1,700 theatergoers with music and storytelling for two hours at the St. James Theater.)

And the return to more in-person performances at theaters has revived concerns over theater accessibility and fears that the pandemic-era accessibility may be lost.

In New York City, theater operators have said they are making strides at improving the in-person experience for those who need assistance.

In 2018, New York City announced it would offer grants to Off Broadway and other small theaters to install software that allows patrons to follow along with low-light smartphones and tablets.


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