THE BLOG
04/23/2013 03:26 pm ET Updated Jun 23, 2013

On the Culture Front: Stillwater, Hot Sauce, Helm, Malick and Matilda

The beer dinners at Jimmy's No. 43 always fun and intimate and the latest one the other week with Stillwater was no exception. Held in the backroom of the main dining area near the kitchen, a couple dozen beer enthusiasts gathered for a sampling of half a dozen of Brain Strumke's craft brews paired with a five course all duck menu. The evening began with a pour of French Connection Blonde, made in collaboration with Thiriez, a small French brewery located near the Belgium border. Strumke's Belgian style beers are the perfect blend of subtlety and boldness. This blend was most intensely felt during the fourth course when a crispy duck skin, roasted beet, and kale salad was paired with Of Love And Regret, a saison brewed with Heather, Chamomile, Lavender, and Dandelion. Owner Jimmy Carbone is not one to shy away from strong flavors, so it seems apt that he launched his first Hot Sauce Expo last weekend at the East River State Park in Williamsburg. Borough President Marty Markowitz was there to proclaim Saturday "Brooklyn Hot Sauce Day," and dozens of small batch producers like Long Island's High River Sauces will be available for tasting.

On the film front, there's a great new documentary about Levon Helm, Ain't In It for My Health, which opened April 19th at Cinema Village. Filmmaker Jacob Hatley follows around the legendary drummer in the last years of his life as he battles cancer and struggles with his legacy as part of The Band. Some of the best moments happen at Helm's house when he and guitarist Larry Campbell work on the lyrics of an incomplete Hank Williams song about pining for a love that's long gone. It begins, "I'm living with days that are forever gone." They read the lyrics a couple times over and then Helm pieces together a verse the drives home the theme: "My lonely heart holds no hatred or blame, though sometimes I feel it may die/but it always beats stronger when I hear your name/and it won't let me say goodbye."

Another film about love's regret is the lyrical and moving To the Wonder, Terrence Malick's latest staring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko as an ordinary couple who's love spans to continents but fades over time. Malick is not one for verbal narratives and To the Wonder is very spare in the dialogue department, but he uses this space to develop richly unspoken moments, the kind that can be the most important in relationships. Gorgeously shot Emmanuel Lubezki, the film lives up to its magical title.

On the theater front, Matilda is a wonder to behold. From Rob Howell's playful sets and costumes to Tim Minchin's slyly spare score to the adorable kids who sing it, there isn't a false moment in this Roald Dahl adaptation by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The story focuses on a precocious little girl as she learns to overcome an abusive home life and tap into her superpowers, but it's also about understanding the world and our place in it. Matilda (Milly Shapiro at the performance I saw) does this at a young age while her teacher, Miss Honey (Lauren Ward), is struggling to do it as an adult. The cast, especially the young children, are a marvel to watch, and Minchin uses the way kids speak to great effect: "When I grow up, I will be strong enough to carry all the heavy things you have to hold around with you when you're a grownup."