Aspen Times Weekly: What to do on New Year’s Eve
December 29, 2011
ASPEN – OK, the new movie “New Year’s Eve” is a stinker (on the Rotten Tomatoes website, it registers an almost impossibly rotten 7 percent on the Tomatometer). Which does not mean that taking in a film on New Year’s Eve should be totally ruled out as an option.
Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings series presents “The Iron Lady,” a biopic starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, on Saturday, Dec. 31 (with a start time of 5:30 p.m., for those who still want to dine and dance after the movie). Streep is garnering her usual set of accolades (best actress prize from the New York Film Critics Circle; nominations from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild) for her portrayal of the former Prime Minister of the U.K.; the film, directed by Phyllida Law, focuses on the price Thatcher paid for the power she wielded. The local screening comes with bragging rights; “The Iron Lady” doesn’t get a national release until mid-January.
Also on the Academy Screenings calendar: the French Canadian film “Monsieur Lazhar,” about an immigrant schoolteacher, and “Shame,” starring Michael Fassbender as a closeted sex addict, are set for Thursday, Dec. 29. “Albert Nobbs,” starring Glenn Close as a woman masquerading as a man in 1890s Dublin, and Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” a a drama of family gloom set against a sci-fi background, are set for Friday, Dec. 30.
New Year’s Day brings a tripleheader: “The Kid with a Bike,” a subtle Belgian film of morality that earned the Grandy Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival; “The Artist,” the black-and-white film with no dialogue that has improbably being considered as a contender for the best picture Oscar; and “The Descendants,” starring George Clooney as a prominent Hawaiian landowner unexpectedly thrust into the role of father.
All films are at Harris Hall.
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If you haven’t filled your funk quota for 2011, there’s still time. March your butt to Carbondale’s PAC3 on Thursday, Dec. 29, and jump into what promises to be the liveliest dance floor this holiday season, as two prominent Front Range acts, the Motet and Euforquestra, get their groove on.
The Motet was launched a decade ago by drummer Dave Watts as a means to experiment with jazz, funk, Afro-Cuban, electronic and South American styles – anything that would make a crowd shake its collective body. The band has since released six albums, including 2009’s highly regarded “Dig Deep,” but more important, they have perfected the art of the live-music dance party, mixing modern techno beats and old-school rhythms. The Carbondale gig isn’t one of their themed shows – Halloween has found them playing the music of Herbie Hancock, Talking Heads and Stevie Wonder – but the songs have become part of their repertoire, and fans can expect to hear some recognizable melodies: “Chameleon,” “Sir Duke,” “Once in a Lifetime.”
Expanding the party is Euforquestra, which is slated to open the show, but can be counted on to become part of the main event. The band relocated from its native Iowa City to Colorado three years ago, bringing with it a sensibility similar to the Motet’s: if it grooves, play it. Expect Euforquestra’s two-piece horn section to put in overtime at PAC3.
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Needing just a little bit of Manhattan in your end-of-year celebration? Aspen can’t provide a ball dropping into the thousands of revelers in Times Square – but it will have a sweet ringer of an intimate, sophisticated New York City jazz club.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ JAS Cafe Downstairs@the Nell continues Thursday and Friday, Dec. 29-30 with vocalist Carmen Lundy, who plays two shows (7:30 and 9:15) each night. The Florida-born Lundy was raised in a musical family that counted gospel singers and jazz bassists among its members. In her 20s, after studying opera, Lundy moved to New York to sing jazz; among her first performances were at the legendary Village Vanguard, where she joined the Mel Lewis/Thad Jones Big Band. An unusually well-rounded artist, Lundy has appeared Off-Broadway, portraying Billie Holiday in the show “They Were All Gardenias,” and taking the lead role in a tour of the Duke Ellington musical “Sophisticated Ladies”; she is also an accomplished painter.
Nearly as much of an attraction as Lundy is the room itself. An inconspicuous space usually used for conferences, Downstairs@the Nell had proved a fine spot for Jazz Aspen’s small-scale jazz concerts, with good sound and a cozy, dark feel. Concertgoers can also dine from the Little Nell’s bar menu during the show.
The concert series continues through the end of March with two weekends of performances each month.
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After delivering an exceptional slate of live music most nights of the year – among those who have appeared in 2011 are Public Enemy, Railroad Earth, Punch Brothers, Ziggy Marley, Lucinda Williams, Stone Temple Pilots, Stephen Stills, the Go-Gos, Ted Nugent, Blues Traveler, STS9, Kevin Costner and Ben Harper – you’ve got to figure that Belly Up is going to go huge for its New Years bash. Sure enough, they bring in Jane’s Addiction, for a two-night stand, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 30-31. Jane’s Addiction might stand as an iconic cutting-edge band – two decades ago, they had a big hand in establishing the notion of alternative-rock, and launched the influential Lollapalooza festival – but in Aspen, they are showing a fondness for tradition; this is the third consecutive year they are playing a New Year’s run at Belly Up.
Jane’s Addiction has had the occasional reunion (and subsequent break-up) over the years, but the band is currently in full force. This past October saw the release of “The Great Escape Artist,” the first studio album in eight years, featuring three-fourths of the original lineup, including singer Perry Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro.
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In a mood for humor rather than rock on these final days of the year? The Wheeler Opera House is going for laughs with its Best of the Fest 2011 event on Friday, Dec. 30. The show gathers four of the comedians who were the biggest hits at last spring’s Aspen Laff Festival – Stewart Huff, Jackie Kashian, Auggie Smith and host Todd Johnson – for a night of standout stand-up.
For humor hardcores, consider this a warm-up for February, when the second annual Laff Festival returns to the Wheeler for four full days of comedy, Feb. 22-25. Headline events include Bobcat Goldthwait and former Aspenite David Brenner, and comedians addressing the topics of Wall Street and parenting.
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Subtle, on the quieter and thoughtful side, armed with an acoustic guitar, Lyle Lovett doesn’t necessarily make for a rowdy New Year’s Eve celebration. But he might make an ideal act for the days just after the big bash, so the timing is perfect as Lovett, a frequent Aspen visitor, settles in for a two-night stand, Sunday and Monday, Jan. 1-2, at Belly Up. (Bonus: The shows come with some welcome early start times: 8 p.m. on Sunday, 9 p.m. on Monday.)
Since emerging in 1986 with his self-titled album, Lovett has established himself as a legend of the rich tradition of the Texas singer-songwriter. His distinctive style has mixed humor and romance, gospel and country, sincerity and satire. Lovett should come armed with fresh material; his new album, “Release Me,” is set for release in February. And even though Christmas is behind is, Lovett might pull out some songs of the season; he released a three-song Christmas EP, “Songs for the Season,” featuring the original “The Girl With the Holiday Smile,” earlier this month.
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