Beacon's Boston: fiction, film, and fine arts

by Christina Bartson / Beacon Staff, Mark Gartsbeyn / Beacon Staff, and Rebecca Szkutak / Beacon Staff • September 3, 2015

Take a look at these book nooks

With over a hundred years of history, Brattle Book Shop is the one of the oldest used bookstores in the country. Located on West St., just a few blocks from Emerson, this establishment is a book lover’s dream. More than 250,000 books sprawl over three floors and out into the adjacent parking lot. Brattle also offers a floor comprised of first editions and rare finds that is great for snooping through original copies. If you are searching for cheaper options, the shelves set up outside offer some of the best book deals in the city offering books for $5 and lower. This store will satisfy your novel needs regardless of what you end up looking for.

—Rebecca Szkutak / Lifestyle Editor

I’ve never left Brookline Booksmith empty-armed, and whenever I exit, I’m usually already nose-deep in the pages of a new book. The Booksmith was founded with the slogan “Dedicated to the fine art of browsing,” and indeed, you can browse books finely, because the employees are proud bookworms eager to pluck their favorites off the shelves and offer a genuine recommendation, or allow you to lazily mill about the aisles under the glow of the twinkle lights strung across the ceiling. The basement is devoted entirely to used books, and there’s a nook dedicated to French literature, complete with mustache adorned knick-knacks. If you’re in need of hearty and intellectual conversation, the Brookline Booksmith Book Club meets the second Monday of every month, and the store hosts a frequently star-studded lineup of book signings and readings—Lena Dunham has graced the Booksmith, and Mindy Kaling will be signing copies of her new book “Why Not Me?” on Sept. 14, when she kicks off her tour in Boston.

—Christina Bartson / Managing Editor

Despite its name, the Harvard Square Coop is not just for Harvard students—if you can get past the massive VE-RI-TAS banners, you’ll find that this bookstore is easily accessible to more than Harvard Yard’s crowd. The Coop goes old-school with its Doric columns and grand spiraling staircase, which connects its four stories. The store’s selection is contemporary, covering any genre of interest. You could stop by the café on the second floor, or read a book while looking out over the bustling Harvard Square. And if you please, you can also get a Harvard sweater there… but if you’re going to do that, at least get an Emerson one first.

—Mark Gartsbeyn / Arts Editor

 

The new, the old, and the indie: Films for all

The Coolidge Corner Theatre was originally a church way back in 1906, but today it’s a non-profit movie theatre that specializes in independent, international, and animated films. It has four screens and an Art Deco aesthetic, which combine to give the theatre an intimate, time-travelled feel. The Coolidge has numerous films series scattered across the season’s calendar, including an ongoing late night program called “After Midnite” featuring camp, avant-garde, and cult films often from 35mm prints. And if you’re into opera or ballet, the theatre screens performances from the biggest companies across the globe. This fall, they’re having an 80s favorites film series as a part of their “Rewind!” program including flicks Clueless and Jurassic Park.

—Christina Bartson / Managing Editor

If you want a cheap movie, you can’t beat the Somerville Theater in Davis Square: Matinee shows before 6 p.m. are $7, and after are $10. The showings at Somerville include well-known movies along with more independent fare and esoteric film series like “Silents, Please!” showcasing silent movies accompanied by live music. Later this month, you can catch a 70mm screening of perennial film-kid favorite “2001: A Space Odyssey.” And no trip to the Somerville Theater is complete without a visit to the Museum of Bad Art in the basement, which is free with admission. The collection of thrift-store and thrown-away art is small but can’t be ignored—there’s one painting with poorly-conceived religious iconography that will stick with you for a very, very long time.

—Mark Gartsbeyn / Arts Editor

AMC Loews Boston Common is the obvious place to go for the big blockbusters—it’s got IMAX 3D, if you don’t mind paying $17 for a movie ticket—but you might not know that they also have a commitment to screening lesser-known independent movies as well. The AMC regularly shows festival favorites and foreign films on the same supersized screens as the big hits, and you don’t even have to hop on the T to get there. It also hosts a midnight Rocky Horror screening every month: The next showing is this Friday night on Sept. 5.

—Mark Gartsbeyn / Arts Editor

 

Free with your Emerson ID: Art of the ages on display

 The go-to art museum in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, is our city’s very own little Louvre. With five wings, including ancient art, world art, and contemporary art, there’s something for everyone at the MFA. It holds over 450,000 pieces—some notable works are the massive 17-by-12 foot painting The Passage of the Delaware, the enormous glass sculpture Lime Green Icicle Tower, and an original print of Hokusai’s famous Under the Wave off Kanagawa. The MFA boasts large collections of works from Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, but if you’re looking for something a little more up-to-date, the Contemporary Art wing has eight galleries, including one dedicated to crafts and decorative objects, and another showcasing experimental films. The museum also hosts rotating exhibits. “Crafted: Objects in Flux” examines contemporary craft; “Unfinished Stories” features nearly 300 found photographs; and “Yours Sincerely, John S. Sargent” delves deep into the life of the American painter through a collection of letters and photographs.

Built in her vision in 1903, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is modeled as a Renaissance-era Venetian palace, surrounding a lush glass-covered courtyard filled with sculptures and exotic plants. Right around the corner from the MFA, the Gardner houses the personal art collection of the late Isabella herself, from Raphael and Michelangelo to Matisse and Degas. Its atmosphere is atypical—there’s not a blank white wall or a fluorescent light in sight. It’s intimate, not intimidating. Every room exudes tasteful resplendence, each embodying a unique architectural and decorative style, like the Spanish Cloister, the Chinese Loggia, or the Gothic Room. Going here for free is a total steal, but try not to steal any art while you’re there. The Gardner already had a heist in 1990, losing a Vermeer and a few Rembrandts, among others. The crime hasn’t been solved to this day, but the Gardner still leaves the original frames up in anticipation of their recovery.

If you’re looking for something a little more avant-garde, the Institute of Contemporary Arts at the South Boston Waterfront is where you want to be. The building itself is a piece of art, with its blocky, angular facade hanging over the Boston Harbor. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbor provide spaces for serene reflection and contemplation—you could spend all of your time at the ICA just gazing out over the water. The museum itself isn’t very large, but its exhibitions frequently change. If you’re into contemporary sculpture, now is a great time to go. You can look at the abstract and organic clayworks of Arlene Shechet and the photographic examinations of Erin Shirreff, along with a collection examining sculpture as a whole. The Institute is not really accessible by T, but the walk there is a treat in itself. Once you cross the bridge over the Fort Point Channel, South Station, you can follow the Harborwalk and take in the Boston skyline.

—Mark Gartsbeyn / Arts Editor