Archive for the ‘ST Reviews’ Category

“Some Days are Better Than Others” is one of the better films I’ve seen in a good long while. First there was the “hmm!” discovery that the film stars James Mercer of The Shins (he and everyone else in the film is fantastic). Then there was the fact that it snuck down from Portland, Oregon in all its unassuming splendor. We caught it at MoMA’s New Directors/New Films series.

It’s the beautiful girl with no makeup on: refreshing and authentic – especially in contrast to the well-lacquered lounge floozies of Hollywood. (Harsh? But you get the idea…) Matt McCormick lets nothing escape his lens. With stark inserts of wrecking balls crumpling Portland houses, and bottle green expanses of Pacific shoreline – even a character opening a refrigerator door – everything has that calm clarity of a morning spent alone. And the movie doesn’t just shrug in a mumblecore kind of way. It confronts you with issues of educated poverty, foreclosures, forgotten objects, lost souls, and the yearning to matter to someone…or in the case of one character, matter to everyone. It spoke to me. What did it say? I’m not going to tell you.  Give your ten, eleven dollars to Matt McCormick who made an ultra low budget movie look like oro verde. I sincerely hope you get the chance.


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Every now and then I take a serious interest in Myspace. It’s kind of like revisiting your grandparent’s house with a new pair of eyes. At some point you created an image of every porcelain trinket and shag rug in the place, so that each visit is essentially like navigating a fixed set. But this time you’re actually open to the possibility of finding something new – and I’m not talking about making new friends you’ll only communicate with when Myspace reminds you it’s their birthday – I’m talking about new music, new art. You know, the worthwhile stuff.

"The Circus Has Left Town" by Femke Hiemstra

"The Circus Has Left Town" by Femke Hiemstra

On one of these discovery tours, I stumbled across Dutch artist, Femke Hiemstra’s, page. Her art could easily be remeniscent of your grandparent’s house, in a dusty, twisted, corner-of-your-brain kind of way. Hiemstra describes her art as “mixed media” and often features listless or savage fruit and animals. It’s extraordinary. I highly suggest you check it out. Friending Femke Hiemstra: one good reason to delay canceling your Myspace account.

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Have you seen “Slumdog Millionaire” yet? This is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in years.

movie-going_experienceI went sola to Lincoln Paza Cinemas, my favorite theater in the City. Despite  a release several weeks earlier, torrential rain and icy, umbrella-devouring winds, the theater was pretty packed. The movie-going experience started out just dandy. I chose a seat toward the back and near the aisle. I settled in with an iced herbal tea and began the still and silent process of becoming human again after getting tossed around in the wicked winter gail. Sitting alone in a dark movie theater is kind of like being in a giant womb for two hours if all goes well…if all goes well. When the previews started I had two empty seats on either side of me. After the previews ended and the movie had just started, an older couple decided to claim the seats to my left. I was stumbled over, there were hushed apologies, and we all soldiered on. Then, easily fifteen minutes into the film, a young couple charged into the theater, Hell-bent on negotiating the best seats possible. They split up, examining the theater from every angle and using hostile, SWAT team hand signals to communicate across the divide. Finally, they agreed on the two seats on my right, despite there being other pairs scattered across the theater, and then embarked on a chatty settling-in that lasted another five minutes. I have never, ever understood why people who arrive late to screenings and performances feel they are entitled to prime seating. I’ve witnessed the number game, where couples will distract audience member’s attention away from a screening in progress to respond to the number of seats available next to them; I’ve witnessed couples demanding that someone who got to the movie 45 minutes before previews move over to accomodate them, just so they could have their seats of choice; and I’ve witnessed couples get into tiffs about whether to sit in the neckbrace seats or divide and conquer. This sense of entitlement is just nonsensical to me.  “Beggars can’t be choosers” springs to mind. And speaking of beggars, this film was so good, it managed to lift me – at least mentally – well83569293NB003_2008_TRIBECA_ above the crowd and keep me there right through the closing credits. At several points during the film I got the sense that there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house. When it was over, the annoyance I felt toward my neighbors had completely melted. We may have even exchanged a smile. My only criticism for the movie (and this is really minor) is that I’ve never liked that in-camera shaky effect that Danny Boyle and Ridley Scott are so fond of. For me, it adds nothing to the moment, viscerally or emotionally. Other than that, I just loved it. I’d see it again. Let’s go right now…

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In these tough economic times, it’s important to keep morale high. This means treating yourself…”within reason”. This day last week, Acupuncture Bob and I decided to have dinner. Deciding to have dinner is the easy part, of course; the “where”  is always the biggest problem that needs solving.  AB and I tend to favor a hearty meal in a homey environment over the gourmet, austere, and mediocre that pervades the Upper West Side. On a friend’s recommendation, we made our way down to Pio Pio, the Peruvian chain that took root in Queens and generously spread over to our little island of Manhattan. True to its name, the chicken at Pio Pio is reason enough to get yourself to one of its seven locations. We shared the Matador Combo, which came with two chickens pio, rice and beans, tostones (we substituted for maduros instead of having dessert), salchipapa and avocado salad. This is more than enough food for two weekday wanderers. Menupages inaccurately depicts Pio Pio as expensive, displaying four dollar signs. It’s proabably impossible for the Menupages gods to calculate the sheer quantity-to-dollar ratio that Pio Pio is well-loved for. Other naysayers of the Pio Pio Salon on West 94th street report service shortcomings. Don’t these Upper West Siders know that exchanging furtive glances with the waitstaff will almost always improve the quality of your service? Also, save yourself the pound of sugar in a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks and get your coffee here. It’s a real kick in the pants. Conversation is very possible and seating is mercifully comfortable. Dessert is just a belt notch away.

Translation: pio pio = cheep cheep (and in this case, cheap cheap!)

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This entry is going to meander. Count on it.

First of all, to bolster the sinking spirits of librarians and English teachers everywhere, and hopefully to get youths reading for pleasure once again, Sony has sparked a “Reader Revolution” to coincide with National Book Month. The face of this revolution is David Farrow, formerly-dyslexic-ADD-cum-world-renowned speed reader. Farrow will sit in the window of Datavision on Fifth Avenue for no less than thirty consecutive days and do nothing but read.

With this campaign, what Sony is primarily “up to” is promoting its product, the Sony Digital Reader.

Now despite the saying, I used to choose books by their covers all of the time, and found many of my favorite books this way. Part of the process of selecting a book was seeing it and feeling its

weight it and thumbing through the first few pages. In fact, some of my favorite books are so well-loved that they have coffee stains on page 173; a passage underlined on page 41 with my favorite pen from six years ago. These personal additions are all tied to memories. Some of the best reading experiences come from picking up a used book that has retained a faint must from the late 1960’s, which is when that book went

into someone’s attic; an original hard-cover classic with an amorous inscription from someone you don’t know to someone else you don’t know. These will never be the same in this new digital format, just as e-mails will never be as romantic as letters.

Now I’m no Luddite, and I recognize the environmental benefits of these digital readers. I also recognize that children who spend most of their time texting from a young age will probably feel more natural with another gadget in their hands than with a chunk of bound-up paper of varying thickness. But somehow, I don’t see myself ever being satisfied with this new way of reading. Okay, maybe I am a bit of a Luddite. And if so, so be it.

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The Shy Traveler’s tagline is borrowed from the 2001 film, “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain”, or – to most of us – just “Amelie”. I was lucky that a good friend of mine insisted I see “Amelie” with her while it was in theaters. (And at the amazing Paris Theater, taboot.) It was a strange time to be living in New York City and this movie was exactly what so many of use needed. I left the theater and immediately went in search of the soundtrack by Yann Tierson, which still gets a lot of playtime on my iPod. I also recognized one of the posters on Amelie’s wall because I had the same one. I later discovered that it was because one of my favorite artists, the great humorist/painter, Michael Sowa, had done the art direction for the film.

The clip below is something that I think any shy person can relate to and it’s beautifully captured by director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet:

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Tien Yihen once said, “Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.”

Alices Chapter 1

Alice’s Chapter 1

New York City has plenty of din, (siren) and (honk) for (dog) those (baby) weary (cabbie expletive) travelers (jackhammer) looking to (car subwoofer) forget over freshly-baked scones and a delicious pot of tea (whew!), Alice’s Teacup provides the right kind of shelter. Located on residential blocks on the Upper West and Upper East Sides, Alice’s is furnished and decorated to make the curious feel as though they’re stepping directly into the pages of Lewis Carroll’s classic books. In addition to an extensive list of teas, Alice’s also offers up light fare from scones and other baked goods to sandwiches, soups, and salads.  Not a fan of children? You may want to make the trek down to Tea and Sympathy. Alice’s waiting area is teeming with little tykes flipping through Edward Gorey books and mothers buying their daughters vials of pink glitter. Within walking distance of Alice’s Upper West Side (aka Chapter 1) location are: AMC Loews Lincoln Square, La Belle Epoque vintage poster store, and Verve handbag and jewelry store, all great pairings with an Alice’s luncheon.

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