Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rare and Essential

"Precious" is not a chore to watch - it's a very engaging, creative, moving story about living and surviving among our cinematically-under-explored underclass, propelled by two powerhouse performances by Mo'nique (below) as an abusive forty-ish welfare mother and Gabourney Sibbide (left) as her dejected, pregnant teenage daughter, Precious.
No, it's not 'feel-good-movie-of-the-year' territory, but it's also unpredictable and is neither the huge downer it could have beenn or a cloying, simplistic, 'public service' movie... This movie wants to understand Precious, and we get inside her inner life and her fantasies and we follow her struggle through a pilot program designed to kick-start her education and her adult life.

Mo'nique will likely walk off with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her brash, corrosive turn as a woman rotting from within.

Known more for her stand-up comedy, sitcom, and talk show gigs, Mo'nique has shattered the entertainment world's expectations and left her competition in the dust.

Gabourney Sibbide's work is necessarily more understated due to the stoic, withdrawn character she's playing, but it's nonetheless snagged a Best Actress nomination on her very first acting job, quite a coup for a newbie.. The supporting cast is crackerjack, notably Mariah Carey's very impressive performance as a thoroughly deglamorized social worker. Also terrific: a soundtrack packed with rare late-60s and 70s soul/funk gems...

Watch the trailer, then see or rent the film...

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Seriously Wicked Fun

I throughly enjoyed, and highly recommend, 'A Serious Man,' the brilliant dark comedy by the Coen Brothers that looks at late 1960s Jewish life through a funhouse mirror while channeling the Book of Job.

Centering this film is a terrific performance by the heretofore little-known Michael Stuhlbarg (pictured righ) as a Jewish professor, husband, and father whose life is suddenly unravelling, leaving him reeling and asking 'the big questions."

Since I was a child in the late 60s Jewish suburbs - very much like the shirking, distracted grade-school son of the main character - I can vouch for the film's pitch-perfect period authenticity; my particular memories mesh well with the surreal-but-real, subtly caustic sensibility the filmmakers deploy here. It's a very personal film - the brothers Coen themselves grew up in this time and place, in a Jewish midwestern enclave.

Something is not quite right under the surface of this community, the era's creature comforts haven't quieted the residual trauma of the preceding decades great migration from the old country to the new, and their microcosm is on a collision course with the post-60s Zeitgeist. And all the world's shag carpeting, plastic sofa-covers, and earth-toned furniture isn't going to save them...

This film actually got nominated for Best Picture, a happy dividend of expanding the category from 5 to 10 films, as it was before 1944. Here's the a video review by Chicago Tribune....

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Deena!

It's my baby sister's birthday today!

Here's a 'Deena-rama' of 18 months of memories...
DSC01667DSC01727 IMG_6781

Here's the entire family, and then some, taking in the holiday cheer at Mormon Lights...

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Roads Not Taken

RBS headquarters in Stamford, where I chose not to work.. I passed it by coming back from dinner with a Stamford client... I can't say I miss the 3 1/2 hours of daily commuting...

Shop window I barely notice en route to work.. Interesting things surround us, but are our eyes really open?

Flyer for play I didn't see...


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Show Must Go On

Hey there. I have a pretty bad headcold but staying home is not an option. I'm feeling too groggy to post, but here are some photos of Paris Commune, where JP & I had a lovely belated birthday brunch with Bart & Ashley two weekends ago... I love this mural lady:

Luminous and red: are they trying to tell me something?

En route to the basement bathroom, salons with lamps and red murals...

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Building The Sputnik

Bruno clearly inherited his parents' creative streaks... behold his latest creation! Did you 'sputnik' means 'voyager' in Russian?
bruno kraftwerkingI

An accomplished architect - he turned 2 1/2 yesterday.
Happy half-birthday, little one...
bruno builds sputnik

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Monday, February 22, 2010

1976 or 2010?

Blindfold yourself and today's song, 'Lovesick,' could be some delightful, obscure, mid-70s mid-tempo disco funk nugget, with horn and piano ruffs and a saucy come-on..

But it's a very recent recording and great retro fun by the team of Norwegian DJ/producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and Christabelle, the throaty chanteuse with whom he occasionally collaborates.

Get "Lovesick" with the sleek, symmetric and superficial sexiness of their clip...

This duo first caught my ear three year's ago with 'Let's Practise,'
a hypnotic, highly retro synth-whipped-and-chimed number that channels Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love,' as well as Moskow Diskow's 'Techno Talk,' and does these references proud... The video is steamy...

These two can rock it live very convicingly.. Here they are at Electric Zoo back in September with 'Baby I Can't Stop...'

Here's 'Music In My Mind' with footage from 'Vicky Christina Barcelona'...

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Beer Fairy Cometh

Have you ever wondered where bars get their tap beer? JP & I happened by 8th Avenue's Sports Bar on delivery day...
I was intrigued at the highly blog-able photographic possibilities... My apartment is smelling nice, because...

..JP is in the kitchen cooking 'Turkey and Hominy Chipotle Chili..'
From the NYT cooking section, using a '2-alarm' mix; not sure exactly when we'll eat it.. I'm having lunch with Christi, and that will most probably...

...be take-out empanadas because it's a sunny and beautiful 47F day in Gotham, practically springtime! Ruben's empanadas opened up a store near me two weeks ago; more on that later... last night in Deepest Jersey...

in Olive Grove, I mean Highland Park, where JP's old pals Cathy & Chris
regaled us with highly tasty and caloric shrimp scampi (a stick of butter!), mounds of fluffily perfect rice, mixed salad, an indescribably scrumptious homemade chocolate torte garnished with berries.. It was nice being in a real house and seeing the moon. waxing. 35%.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sixty Minutes, Suggestion, and a Shoestring...

Last night we saw the 3rd in a series of classic, 70-minute atmospheric mystery/horror films by Val Lewton of 'Cat People' fame. We're told the studio would give him a creepy title and a meager budget, and he'd put together the rest. So far we've seen - and enjoyed - 'The Seventh Victim, ' 'Ghost Ship' and 'Leopard Man,' - this last film is set in a poor, mostly Hispanic New Mexico town where a provocative castanet-playing senõrita provokes a stunt leopard into at least one horrific crime...

Here's a pair of Val Lewton trailers to give you a feel of his oeuvre...

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Power Flowers

IMG_0189A short, grueling week comes to a merciful end. Tonight, I'm seeing an early show of 'Precious' with my baby...

Sunday, I'm seeing 'Crazy Heart' with Christi. Those films are expected to win Best Supporting Actress (Mo'nique) and Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), respectively.

JP bought more flowers - I love having their vibrant colors gracing our humble abode...

Pinks and purples have a special place in my heart (indeed, the entire red-blue end of the spectrum speaks to me...)

Can you believe we're only three weeks from Daylight Savings Time! that extra hour of evening sunlight does wonders for my morale... It's been years since I've longed for spring as intensely as I do at this moment...


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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Un-Peanut Brittle

David's boyfriend Paul is a culinary genius, and for David's birthday he created a unique cake with lemon curd, lemon frosting, and, best of all, a shower of pistachio brittle! It tasted every bit as rich and scrumptious as it looks in this here photo:

Up close and brittle... I'd never heard of brittle using a non-peanut nut, but the practice is widespread.. To make this hard sugar candy with embedded nuts, you heat sugar and water to 300F, caramelizing the sugar, and add the nuts, spices, and leavening agents such as peanut butter. This hot candy is poured onto a flat surface for cooling, after which it's broken into pieces...

Aerial views... David had no trouble extinguishing the candles and securing his birthday wish...

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Fixing A Hole

I've gotten condolences from many after posting what my wall looked like after a team of plumbers did some 'exploration' in search of the steam leak that turned my upstairs neighbor's walls to liquid goop... JP took that picture - I wasn't here when the wall was opened, and when I got home that day it had been covered with carton and duct tape pending full restoration. Here's what I saw:


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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Something Borrowed

I'm stuck 'borrowing' images today, since my own work at flickr.com is momentarily out of order... Here in NYC the snow hasn't really stuck - with highs in the high 30s, it all melts away pretty quickly...

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Soy Vay Es Meer

No Cutesy Product Name Left Behind? From the shelves of Gristedes, my main market, a brand of Asian-esque sauces that are both kosher and branded 'Soy Vay' in cloying Hebrew-esque script... : - )

Not to be outdone, it's Bone Suckin' Sauce..
(that sounds obscene, actually).. 'we're talkin' serious' is their motto..

Hey, this, from a blogger who purchased a $13 mushroom this weekend.. : - ) OK, it was indeed the size of my head... More on that later... Mrs. Dash is no slouch when it comes to condiments, this time in the marinade family...

Here's the Jardine's Ranch 7-J sauce line... I took a lot of great photos this long weekend, and will regale you with these as we run out that February clock....

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Angular Surfing

Today's Song of the Week, 'Let's Go Surfing,' with its insistent guitar riff and intermittent whistling, manages to be spare but captivating, drony but bouncy, overlaying a Smiths/Cure-influenced vocals of Jonathan Pierce over a twangy if drony 'surf' guitar- and drum-work of his bandmates. This NY-transplanted foursome has the local music scene abuzz with their EP and is working on a hotly-awaited debut album..

Just the song titles on their EP - 'Don't Be A Jerk, Johnny' and 'I Felt Stupid,' give you an inkling of their sensibility..

The 'Let's Go Surfing' video is a spare as the song - literally shots of night jogging - and stretching - on the beaches of Brooklyn...

More black & white athletics and infectious, spare hooks characterize the band's other single and video, 'I Felt Stupid'...

Here they shake it live at The Annex with 'Don't Be A Jerk, Johnny...'

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reliving A Shining Moment

Once upon a time, when I was an infant, when New York theaters were palaces with giant screens that seated hundreds, an extremely talented bunch created the film 'West Side Story, ' which I think is the absolute high point of American musical theater, with its timeless but timely New York street gang version of Romeo and Juliet. Spectacular in every way a film can be, brilliant written, directed, acted, choreographed, and designed, this film remains something very special even with repeated viewings.

For one weekly only the palatial Ziegfeld is showing 'West Side Story' on the giant screen of its cavernous theater. JP & I saw it yesterday as one-half of Valentines' Day and fell in love with it all over again. The other half is the Ziegfeld's concurrent showing of 'Funny Girl' Both are running through Thursday only - if you are in New York, treat yourself to quintessential film experience!
Two exerpts for your pleasure:

First, 'America', as led by Oscar winners Rita Moreno and George Chakiris (early ethnic film pioneers!)..

Watch this opening scene too - an aerial view of New York fades into an exquisite choreographed tour of street tensions between the Jets and Sharks....

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Dusting Off An Old Classic

Happy V.D. all! It's the extraordinary, irreplaceable Dusty Springfield belting out X's 'Sunny' on her September 1967 TV Special.. Give a little listen, as WABC's Cousin Brucie used to say (to the dismay of my 7th grade English teacher)...

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

E Unus Pluribum

It's a well-deserved three-day weekend!!!! Over which, we'll regale you with photos, film reviews, and other tasty tidbits. I love a good color scheme, such as in this San Francisco graffiti:

It makes me nostalgic with its lovely 'let's beautify the barrio' 70s vibe..

Any section I zero in on could be companion painting in some series, but the scale of the graffiti merges the manifold possible sections...

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Bloom. Let It.

I am clawing and crawling toward a three-day weekend... This was a two-movie week, a rarity for yours truly...
On Wednesday I saw the Semitic Seventies Stiletto that is 'A Serious Man,' full review this weekend, and last night, with my sweetie, saw 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane' on the big screen, as hosted by local drag persona Hedda Lettuce (aka Cabeza de Lechuga).. JP said it this week, and he said it with flowers...


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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Like A Hole In My

'In my what?,' you must be asking. In my freaking wall!
The occupant of the apartment above us is getting steamed to death, to the point of their wall plaster liquifying and collapsing.. So the search was on for the source of the problem, and the search process was knocking a hole in the wall of several apartment on this line (i.e., below me)..
Well, they covered the holes with brown butcher paper and duct tape until a contractor can be summoned and dispatched. Below, what it looked like in mid-examination, as captured by JP. Thanks heavens I wasn't a home as I would have been horrified. It looks much better taped up, I'll post a picture later...

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