Is Your Love Big Enough, Lianne La Havas
There’s a reason for the goosebumps. When Lianne La Havas sings, “You broke me, and taught me to truly hate myself,” she’s reliving a real moment, reconnecting with real pain. To hear it is to feel it. "It's really important that my lyrics are truthful," says the charismatic Londoner, 22, whose stunning debut record conjures Meeshel Ndegeocello and Erykah Badu, and has critics predicting a Best New Artist Grammy. "It's hard for me to make up a story and to be able to put the necessary emotion into the performance. It doesn't make me happy if I can't hear myself in it. It's like I'm lying."
Red Hook Summer
Leave it to Spike Lee to toss a firecracker down the gullet of the otherwise placid Sundance scene. Six months ago, at the Red Hook Summer premiere, Chris Rock popped up in the middle of the audience like any other film fest geek to ask how a big studio budget (Spike financed the film himself) would have changed movie — or in Rock parlance, “would he have blowed up or some shit?” Spike replied that he was glad about the lack of interference. “Studios don’t know nothing about black people,” he said, a comment that quickly reverberated throughout Hollywood. The film, like the tirade, is raw, provocative — and dead-on. As The New York Times reviewer put it, the long-overdue chapter in Spike’s chronicles of Brooklyn “goes slightly mad … and still registers like a flashing sign that cannot be ignored.”
Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story, Jim Holt
Who, What, Where and When are rarely a problem. It’s the Why that confounds. Why do we fall in love? Why hate? Why is there war? And the granddaddy of them all: Why is there anything at all? Jim Holt, who writes about science and philosophy for The New Yorker and The New York Times, is the ideal guide through the potentially terrifying terrain of the cosmic puzzle, thanks to his ability to go toe-to-toe with the great thinkers and his willingness to reveal his humanity through his own struggles to make sense of life, death, being and nothingness.
WORTH THE TRIP
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass., August 18
Thirty-five years before the first Occupier unfurled a sleeping bag in Zuccotti Park, a guy with a guitar began a five-night, 10-show stand on West 4th Street in New York City. That week at the Bottom Line forever changed rock and roll and birthed a lasting hero for the working class. Not since the '70s have we needed one as much. Luckily Bruce, at 62, is still at it. He’s just wrapped a European tour, during which the Brits, apparently unaccustomed to such displays of endurance, committed the ultimate sacrilege in front of 80,000 Hyde Park fans: They pulled the plug on the Boss when he played beyond curfew. This week in Boston, which started with two shows at Fenway Park, marks Springsteen’s homecoming. Don’t be surprised if he celebrates by proving it all night.
Steam of Life
PBS, August 16 (Check you local PBS station for full broadcast information)
Steam of Life is one of those films that never would have survived the elevator pitch. Pasty Finns get buck naked and sit around in saunas. Yet the film is gorgeous — visually and emotionally — as it quietly explores of the transformative power of simply revealing oneself to another. The documentary follows 12 men into the small, hot rooms where their traditional reticence evaporates in the steam. Perhaps the most perfect summation of this PBS doc is a line spoken by one of its subjects: “Knowing you are not alone is a relief."
Pamela Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.