June Culture Essentials, go see a summer movie, and order popcorn, too


Summer is almost here and with it comes a deluge of free and reasonably-priced cultural experiences in New York City, as well as summer blockbusters to escape into and a crop of really excellent novels in amongst the poolside fluff. Get the Junior Mints and the popcorn, throw a book in your bag and head to the beach, spend your nights listening to music in Prospect Park, soak up all that goodness and sustain yourself. Art isn’t the answer to everything, but it does connect us to the infinite complexity and beauty in our world.

10. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, June 6

Twenty years ago The God of Small Things was the novel everyone was talking about. Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize for her astonishingly sensitive and imaginative debut novel, and then turned her attention to writing as an activist rather than as a novelist. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness can accurately be called one of the most longed-for second novels of all time. Weaving together the tale of an intersex or hijrah activist in Delhi, the Kashmiri struggle for independence, and the deep divide between Muslims and Hindus in South Asia, as well as a variety of other narrative and thematic threads, early reviews have declared the novel well worth the wait.

9. Celebrate Brooklyn opening night, Lake Street Dive, June 7

Every summer the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival brings an incredible array of talent to the Prospect Park Bandshell in a series of concerts and performances, most of which are free. This summer the season kicks off with Lake Street Dive on June 7, and the line-up for the year is beyond stellar, including Brooklyn Raga Massive, Amadou & Mariam, Andrew Bird, Chronixx, Fleet Foxes and Béla Fleck & the Flecktones. Check out the full schedule and mark your calendar.

8. Northside Festival, June 7-11

There are two components to the Northside Festival: Innovation and Music. Check out our music columnist, David Chiu’s picks for what to see during the aural part of the program (and for the rest of the summer). On the Innovation side of things, the line-up could not be more exciting, with the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Anna Holmes, Jessica Bennett, Bill de Blasio and Rebecca Traister. Really, this is a solid five days of blow-your-mind-good stuff, so get your badges and make your your brain-expanding plan of attack now.

Roots and New Ground 2 in Rehearsal from Brooklyn Ballet on Vimeo.

7. Brooklyn Ballet’s new season kicks off June 8

Nope, modern ballet is not all tutus and Swan Lake, as Brooklyn Ballet is so gorgeously proving with a dynamic new season of performances. Their new show, Roots & New Ground 2 features several pieces including Found and Lost, which is set to music composed and performed by cellist Malcolm Parson, of Turtle Island Ensemble and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and deeply influenced by jazz, as well as Pas de Duex, which pairs a ballerina and a hip-hop dancer, with a strong visual arts component as well. Tickets range from $25-50 with student discounts.

6. The Great British Baking Show returns to PBS, June 16

This will be the last season of the Great British Baking Show as we know it, with Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins as hosts, as the show hops networks. I’m being extremely careful to keep myself from any and all news reports about this season, since it already aired in Great Britain and I managed to spoil last season’s winner for myself before I even started watching it. The thing is, this show is so much fun to watch, so civil and soothing and fun that it didn’t really even matter. Even better, it will inspire you to get ready, get set, BAKE with all those lovely summer fruits that are showing up at the farmer’s market. Victoria sponge, anyone?

5. The Big Sick, June

Normally Ray Romano in a movie is a deal breaker for me. Everyone Loves Raymond exemplified the worst kind pf stomach-churningly awful, men are dopes and women are nags garbage. It was Archie Bunker minus the satire, brilliance and social conscience. But this is not about Everyone Loves Raymond, it’s about The Big Sick. The early buzz is that it’s funny, sweet and unexpected, and deals with cultural differences with a similar sense grace as Aziz Ansari has been showing on Master of None. The plot goes something like Kumail Nanjiani, who also co-wrote the film with Emily Gordon, and Zoe Kazan start dating, and they really like each other, but his Pakistani family and her American family make that difficult. Then she ends up in a coma and he has to spend a lot of time with her parents, the ever-wonderful Holly Hunter and the aforementioned Romano. Laughter, tears and likely some heartbreak ensue. It sounds cheesy, but just watch the trailer, it will get you. Or, at least it got me.

4. Letters from Bagdad, June 2

Have you heard of Lawrence of Arabia? Yes? How about Gertrude Bell, the woman who worked alongside T.E. Lawrence and who was instrumental in establishing British policy in the Middle East at the turn of the 20th century? No? I hadn’t either, but there is an absolutely fascinating looking documentary, narrated by Tilda Swinton coming to the Angelika on June 2 that simultaneously fills us in on Bell and will serve as a history lesson and a real reminder that oil, colonialism, greed and politics have been a messy business for a long time.

3. The Changeling, by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle is one of the spookiest, weirdest writers out there, but not in a straightforward, Stephen King way. His novels creep under your skin and their worlds seem foreign, then familiar, then even more foreign again. The Changeling deals with one of the scariest prospects of all, new parenthood, without losing any bit of edge, as might be assumed with that subject matter. In a season of fluff, it’s a summer must-read.

A pop up tea service at the Met is a memorable experience. Photo: yuxi liu courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

2. The Brooklyn Based kids calendar

There are so many good kid-centric events coming up this month. Start the summer fun with our June kids calendar and head to the World Science Fair, Governor’s Island and to a secret tea house.

1. Wonder Woman, June 2

When it comes to Wonder Woman my allegiances are with Lynda Carter, now and forever, so much so that I almost didn’t even bother with the trailer for Wonder Woman, but I’m glad I did. It left me cautiously optimistic enough to read reviews that declare it the best superhero movie since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy left Bruce Wayne sipping an espresso in Florence. The critics are saying that it’s fun, the action sequences are amazing and Wonder Women receives a proper backstory and character development. Plus, star Gal Gadot gave Lynda Carter all the love on the red carpet.

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