Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
THURSDAY 12/24-THURSDAY 12/31
Various times. Riverdale 10 Cinema. $8.
One of the year's best-reviewed and most widely anticipated films comes to Little Rock this week: "Room," directed by Lenny Abrahamson and based on a novel by the Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue. Based on a harrowing true story, it's about a woman (Brie Larson) who emerges from captivity with her 5-year-old son, both of them having been imprisoned by an older man in a shed for seven years. Winner of the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and named one of the year's 10 best films by the American Film Institute, it's been nominated for a Best Picture Golden Globe award and mentioned in all the conversations about Academy Award contenders that happen at this time of the year. The L.A. Weekly called it "shattering," the Chicago Sun-Times called it "one of the best movies of the decade," and the Los Angeles Times called it "exhilarating and then frightening and exhilarating all over again." WS
SMOKE UP JOHNNY
10 p.m. White Water Tavern.
Matt Floyd got married this year. He also came by my house to haul off this '60s-era refrigerator we'd been using to store booze, but had to get rid of to make room for children, to display his crafts and furniture in his forthcoming booth at Mid-Towne Antique Mall. Meanwhile, Alan Disaster draws illustrations of grumpacantigriffitaurcores and such for our online column Brasher and Rowe. Jon Rice has children. Corey Bacon presides over a shoe empire. In other words, the members of Smoke Up Johnny — once Little Rock's best and surliest barroom rockers — have grown old and respectable. Maybe the people who used to drunkenly sing along to songs like "Shit Faced on Life" and "12th St." have, too. But on the day after Christmas, everyone will remember and appreciate the formula that made the band's live shows so great, as front man Alan Disaster told me back in 2007 when I profiled the band: "We play good-time music. We play late at night. Everybody gets drunk." Plus, if you used to live in Little Rock and go to White Water and are back visiting family, this semiannual reunion — in the tradition of The Big Cats and Ashtray Babyhead seasonal shows of yore — is the place to go to see old, familiar faces. Also, you need to get out of the house. LM
SATURDAY 12/26-SUNDAY 12/27
RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS
11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Sat.; 1 and 5 p.m. Sun. Verizon Arena. $10.
Alexander Lacey is 39 years old, the son of a British zoo director and his wife who for many years toured together performing daring stunts with lions and tigers. The Laceys have trained 11 generations of lions — Alexander played with lion cubs as an infant, stepping into their cage for the first time at the age of 12. He speaks to his lions in English and in German, communicates commands via subtle hand signals, and can tell them apart by their roars. "When I'm asleep and I wake up in the night and hear the males calling out to the females, I can tell who's talking to one another," he once told a reporter. His brothers have also continued in the family business: Martin Jr. (a veritable star in the big cat community) and Richard. Lacey wakes up at 6:30 a.m. each morning to feed his cats — they consume around 8 to 16 pounds of meat daily — and to serve them warm milk and liver oil, which helps sustain their shiny coats. He is often pictured in photographs kissing a particular lion or tiger on the mouth. This weekend, as the holiday spell begins to wear off, to be replaced by the groggy, free-floating anxiety of the new year, consider taking your family to see the circus, where Lacey will bring out his cats and they will try their hardest to impress. WS
SATURDAY 12/26-FRIDAY 1/1
Little Rock venues. Free (feast for purchase).
Five Little Rock venues will host the seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa, the pan-African heritage tribute, with artists and community leaders as special guests starting Saturday. Adjoa Aiyetoro, professor at UALR's William H. Bowen School of Law, and jazz pianist Julia Buckingham kick things off Saturday, the day dedicated to the principle of unity (umoja), at noon at Pyramid Art, Books and Custom Framing, 1001 Wright Ave. Stylist Chanelle Brooks and poet Chris James will be at the House of Art, 108 E. Fourth St., North Little Rock, at 2 p.m. Sunday (self-determination, or kujichagulia); businessman Al Moore and performers Outloud Artistry will be at the Better Community Development offices at 3604 W. 12th St. at 2 p.m. Monday (collective work and responsibility, or ujima); Beverly Young and the Black Business Profile will be the guests at Pyramid at noon Tuesday (cooperative economics, or ujamaa); activist Dr. Anika Whitfield and teachers Juain Young and Phil Mouton will be at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Ninth and Broadway, at noon Wednesday (purpose, or nia); Jamie and hip-hop artist Leron McAdoo and opera singer Nisheedah Golden will appear at Pyramid at noon Thursday (creativity, or kuumba); Children International Director Ryan Davis and Imam Johnny Hasan will be guests at 3 p.m. Friday (faith, imani) at Simply Najiyyah's FishBoat, 1717 Wright Ave., where there will be a special meal and the ending "harambee" (let's pull together) singing. Ojima Robinson is the official drummer for the celebration. LNP
9 a.m.-noon, Pinnacle Mountain. Free.
You've eaten pumpkin pie and drunk egg nog until you're swole up like Santa's own self. Here's a way to burn off some calories and be distracted from the pain at the same time: Go out to Pinnacle Mountain State Park and meet up with a park interpreter, who'll entertain you as you summit Pinnacle Mountain with stories about the history of the mountain, what unique plants grow there, and what animals live there. The terrain is rugged, which is just what you need to shed the extra weight from the Christmas fudge, but the view from the top, of the Arkansas River Valley, is beautiful. Those jeans won't feel so tight, and you'll feel so virtuous that folks who stayed at the bottom won't be able to stand your boasting. Bring water and wear sturdy shoes. LNP
ADAM FAUCETT & THE TALL GRASS
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.
One of last year's very best Little Rock albums was Adam Faucett's "Blind Water Finds Blind Water." I'm still not sure it found the audience it deserved. Faucett is a longtime Arkansas songwriter in his mid-30s, with a rangy beard and a deadpan sense of humor. "For the last seven years it seems most of my time has been spent in my van," he told us last year. His music is a sort of grunge-country hybrid; an old Arkansas Times profile compared it to "Mark Kozelek or Gordon Lightfoot." There is an unhinged, mountain-yodel wildness to his voice that may remind you of the species of weird Ozark country-folk recently highlighted on the archival compilation "Corn Dodgers and Hoss Hair Pullers." Faucett's vocal range is always wider than you expect. The album is good, but it's gripping to see him live — one of those things. He and his band look like a black-metal group playing Neil Young songs for fun. Sooner or later you'll see them and probably like them; either way, they'll keep doing it. "I know damn well what it means to keep shining when nobody sees," Faucett sings on a song called "Living on the Moon." It's a great song. WS
Good analysis, something completely lacking from the daily newspaper's sports reporters/columnists.
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