December 19, 2007
It’s possible that Burt Bacharach may have been too hummable for his own good. Such feathery songs as “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love” were so easy on the ears that they were bound to age poorly in an increasingly cynical environment. But the songs were the absolute best of music-lite, recalling the sophistication of Gershwin, and Bacharach has seen his day again. His appearances as himself in the “Austin Powers” films, making an album of duets with Elvis Costello (1998’s fine “Painted From Memory”), and being covered by Ben Folds Five have reaffirmed the coolness that was always there in Bacharach’s perfectly constructed pop. And then there’s his work with hip-hopper Dr. Dre. Expect the 79-year-old Bacharach to lay off the hip-hop ” but still be hip ” when he appears Thursday, Dec. 27, at the Wheeler Opera House.
Coming to recognition in the early ’80s, Donald Baechler was a leader in the movement that brought painting back to the fore. Shrugging off politics and conceptual art, Baechler’s work has emphasized the historical concerns of lines and figures. The New York-based artist has used simplicity, and even humor, to achieve emotional depth. He has a show of new paintings, as well as sculpture, opening Wednesday, Dec. 26, at the Baldwin Gallery. Also showing is Fiori in Acqua, a series of new paintings by Kentucky-born, New York-based Kevin Baker. Baker’s work has a sympathy with Baechler’s, with a focus on form, flowers and the art of painting itself.
Tamara Jenkins went nearly a decade between making “Slums of Beverly Hills” and this year’s “The Savages.” It’s tempting to say that the writer-director shouldn’t go so long between projects, but Jenkins put the time to great use. Where “Slums of Beverly Hills,” about a family of wacky California itinerants, was amusing but unfocused, her latest work is both more rooted in reality and funnier. “The Savages” stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as mostly estranged siblings forced to reunite to plan for the care of their demented father. The film can hit deadly close to home in its depiction of the financially insecure, the professionally wandering, and those whose parents are in declining health. The humor doesn’t exactly lighten the load, but makes it more human and compassionate. And Hoffman, who is up for a Golden Globe for the role, and Linney are both first-rate actors who mesh beautifully. “The Savages” shows Saturday, Dec. 29, at 5:30 p.m. at Harris Hall as part of Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings. Other highlights of the series this week: the French film “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”; Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” based on the Upton Sinclair novel “Oil”; and “Youth Without Youth,” Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in a decade.