Thursday, July 31, 2008

Movie list in July!

Lots of people highlight great movies worth seeing at the end of the year (i.e. December). Why not do the same in July, half a year later? Here are some quick picks, worth checking out if you haven't already -- including one that's have made it to the rental stage of its life cycle: Wall-E, Man on Wire, Definitely, Maybe, Lars and the Real Girl and ... Get Smart (go in with low expectations and a very loose sense of comparison to the original and you might be mildly impressed).

Movies I still want to see: Edge of Heaven, Roman de Gare, American Teen and Brideshead Revisited.

Movie I will never see under any circumstances: The Love Guru. (OK, maybe. Someday. When I'm really bored and feeling in the mood to experience what it means to be anti-funny. Perhaps.)

Chain link

Test your chain knowledge of New York City. McDonalds, Starbucks, Subway, Dunkin Donuts: Place these in order from most locations to least locations within the five boroughs. The answer, written up here in Crain's, might surprise you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Micro prefab at MoMA

The next time your apartment feels small, just think of this 76-square-foot machine for living currently on display in MoMA's "back lot" -- future site (::fingers crossed::) of the amazing twisty proposed Jean Nouvel tower.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Street songs on the pier

The Public Art Fund showed Dara Friedman's 48-minute film Musical tonight on a pier off Riverside Park South, as dark clouds loomed but didn't break and night fell. I missed seeing it when it was at Gavin Brown's Enterprise last month, but I think seeing the film out in the open, among people, was a much more fitting way to experience it. After all, the film - shot over a few weeks last fall - consists of dozens of people singing a capella in public places, roaming the streets of Midtown Manhattan or standing in some of its most famous indoor spaces: the MoMA lobby, Grand Central Terminal. It doesn't really have a story line beyond the ones captured in the lyrics of each song, but the film brought to mind: movie musicals shot on the streets of New York, iPod lip synching, street buskers, the Joshua Bell experiment in Washington, reality television, and the way we do or do not reveal our reactions to things that don't fit our expectations. Almost all of the performers sing pretty well and mostly in key, and when they don't, it's usually for effect or just plain funny. It's one of those pieces of art that makes you look a little more closely at the people around you. What songs or stories are they carrying around in their head?

Monday, July 21, 2008

City cuisine: Goodbye, hello

Latest palpable sign of tough economic times ahead: The considerable amount of vacant storefronts around town. I've always been aware of the turnover in retail, restaurants, and bars, but it doesn't seem like there's been this many closings since I moved here in spring 2004.

Frown-inducing closings in recent memory: Mary's Dairy on West Fourth and the Baggot Inn on West Third. Zen Palate on Union Square. Cafe Figaro on Bleecker. Ivy's Books (Broadway) and Monsoon (Amsterdam) on the Upper West Side. Les Deux Gamins in the West Village.

What's the future? Total daily nutrition -- a la the Axiom from Wall-E -- delivered through cups and cones hawked by any one of the proliferating high-end frozen dessert purveyors.

Friday, July 18, 2008

This actually was his (show)

I was a bit disappointed to find Kelli O'Hara's name on the not-appearing-tonight flier stuffed in our Playbills the other night at LCT's South Pacific, my recent ambivalence her new album notwithstanding. Her understudy was decent enough, but just not the same. Luckily, we got to enjoy the memorable Brazilian opera singer and now Tony-award-winning Broadway star Paulo Szot, in the lead male role of Emile de Beque. That man knows how to command a stage without really seeming to try too hard. Such a wonderful voice too. M. and I noted how his voice stood out as having much more power behind it than most of the other performers. The show, one of those classics by Rodgers & Hammerstein that are filled with famous melodies from curtain to curtain, definitely felt true to its origins. The production doesn't fuss with allusions to present day sentiments. It felt like a revival in the truest sense, free of attempts at "updating" it. That's not to say I don't respect the importance and potential of doing that for classic plays and musicals. If anything, the show erred on the side of being respectful at the expense of pizzaz. Not a problem, as there was more than enough soul in Szot's singing to go around.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Open bar x 2

Last night, it was the wrap party for the Forum for Urban Design's bike-sharing demonstration project. Tonight, it was MoMA's opening reception for Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. Last night, there were cookies and hors d'oeuvres like mini BLTs on brioche rolls and some sort of tortilla filled with cheese and pumpkin that actually tided me over. Tonight, the light snacks that were promised in the invitation turned out to be heavy on the lightness: mostly breadsticks and nuts. Thus, I'm chowing down on some late-night mac 'n cheese as I read about how NYC is a drinker's paradise in the summer. Says the Times: "a certain extra layer of permissiveness seems to infuse the city in the summertime, along with a wellspring of opportunities to get sloshed, slightly or mightily."

Monday, July 14, 2008

"I told you I had to quit the body shop so I could work on my swordsmanship."

Fans of TheBurg -- which still needs your hits and help! -- should recognize several of the same actors from hipsterville featured in a trailer for a satirical video project about another quirky, colorful, close-knit community: Ren Faire. It's called All's Faire.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

E lucevan le stelle

M. sang in the chorus for a production of Puccini's Tosca at the Riverside Church this weekend that showed how a shoestring budget operation can still produce great opera. The Times article I read the other day recounting the 25-year history of supertitles provided a good backdrop for seeing an opera for the first time without the simultaneous English translation above or below the action. I'd seen Tosca before and it didn't take long to brush up on the plot. That left me the ability to focus more fully on the singing and the acting and to look for the subtler emotional touches warranted by the story. It also made it feel a little more passionate and mysterious. The use of the space also impressed me. The audience was arrayed in diagonal lines, cutting across a rather ornate meeting room on the 10th floor of the tower of Riverside Church, the tallest church in the U.S., funded back in the '20s by Rockefeller money. It well suited the three settings of Tosca: a church, palace apartments, and the parapet of a castle. Rather than using the actual stage provided, the action took place off to the side of the room, which could easily stand in for each act's scenery - right up to the part where Tosca jumped out the window (onto a safe ledge overlooking the Hudson and the starry sky). The show produced the desired Puccini goosebumps for me.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Congressional influence

It's heartwarming to learn that while it is becoming harder and harder to find a rent-stabilized apartment in this town, Charlie Rangel has managed to occupy -- and finely appoint -- four of them. Nice, also, to know that I've been paying more than he does on a per-unit basis.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Interesting use of those horizontal ceramic rods

That part of me that hated the architecture of the new New York Times Building since I first saw it piercing the skyline kinda enjoys the fact that it’s become this target for climbers (three so far!). Yes, it’s illegal and dangerous and not really as majestic, say, as what Philippe Petit did at the World Trade Center. But it adds a quirky bit of history to a facade than reminds me of an especially hideous 1970s jail.

That time of life, I guess

This seems to be the year of people around me getting engaged. That's generally a good thing; I wish them the best. With that in mind, though, here's a good read of a column by Maureen Dowd, who spoke to a longtime marriage counselor about what to look for in a potential husband. (And no, the richest contract in baseball isn't one of them.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The camera is in the shop

In recent weeks, the pictures I've been snapping with my Canon PowerShot SD800 IS have been showing up unacceptably blurry through half the frame, even after I cleaned the lens, so I figured now was time to see if that $90 warranty I was suckered into purchasing last year from Best Buy would prove to be worth it. At the time they promised repair or replacement. My fingers are crossed while it's being sent away. Thus, no new original photos in this space until at least July 12.