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Archive for November, 2007

This evening was warm enough to walk from Park Slope to Brooklyn Heights, where the Brooklyn Historical Society was hosting an evening of Brooklyn-themed documentaries. I arrived too late to get a seat, but managed to get a good space to stand in the back. As I looked around the room, I realized that I was probably the youngest person in the audience by a good amount. Almost immediately, the documentaries started.

The first films that were shown were of late 19th century and early 20th century Brooklyn. The footage was quite amazing (and apparently available at the Brooklyn Library as well as the Museum of Transit), showing shots of a century-old Coney Island and the East River Waterfront. Most interesting was footage of French actress Sarah Bernhardt giving a speech in Prospect Park in 1917. Although the footage had no sound, the speech itself is quite famous, as she was addressing over fifty thousand people about French-American cooperation in the war.

The title of the festival was a bit misleading, as I thought that the series would feature films spanning 1899 to the present. Instead, there was the archive footage show first, and then six documentaries that were made in the past ten years.

Nonetheless, the archive footage was followed by a short documentary called Brooklyn: Among the Ruins. The film, directed by Suzanne Wasserman, focused on Paul Kronenberg, a resident of Sheepshead Bay, who has a fascination with subway cars, to the extent that he has fashioned his own apartment after a 1930’s subway car. He takes Wasserman on a tour of some of his favorite subway stations, including an old and unused platform at Chambers Street. He looked at these old stations as if they were aging pieces of fine art, outlining the beauty of water sewage stains and comparing them to his own life. This was definitely the audience favorite, and Paul Kronenberg joined the director after the screenings for questions.

After this was the longest of the group, a series of clips from an unfinished documentary called Player Hating about a rapper named Half A Mill living in the Albany Projects who was on the verge of breaking into the mainstream before committing suicide in 2003. Some of the other people involved in the documentary, as well as the subjects of the film, attended the screening, but left towards the end.

The evening then took a turn towards the gentrification of Brooklyn, with an amusing fake advertisement about condo real estate in Greenpoint called Greenpoint: Rezoned So You Can Own. This was followed by Brooklyn Matters, where director Isabel Hill documented the conflicted Atlantic Yards project and the problems it will cause both the Prospect Heights and Fort Greene neighborhoods. Hill talked about trying to get her film screened throughout Brooklyn, and the trouble she has been having. At one point she even spoke about a chance meeting with Marty Markowitz. She had sent him a copy of her film and asked if she could give him a private screening. To Hill’s surprise, Markowitz apparently responded that he would not watch the film “until the last skyscraper goes up.”

Other than these, there was an interesting series of photographs called Vodou Brooklyn, taken at Haitian Vodou ceremonies in the Flatlands, and a short documentary about Crown Heights called New Heights: How the Crown Gets Down, about race relations between African Americans and Hasidic Jews in the neighborhood.

Though I would have been interested to see more documentary footage of Brooklyn between the early 1900’s and the present, it was still an interesting evening with an eclectic group of films. About half of the audience stuck around after the films to ask questions, and the directors were eager to answer. For more information on the films shown (or footage of the films), see below.

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Awake: This is the only movie coming out in wide release this weekend. And it wasn’t screened for critics. What does that mean? It probably sucks. Hayden Christiansen goes in for surgery but stays awake (holy shit, that’s the title of the movie!) while under anesthesia, and learns of a murderous plot. Jessica Alba plays his fiancee, who, I gather from the trailer, tries to save him by pouting her lips and looking hot. While I have trouble resisting a movie that Fisher Stevens both produced and stars in (for some reason, as a kid, I was obsessed with Short Circuit 2), I’m probably going to wait for video on this one. Strangely, it’s not playing at any theaters in Brooklyn, but in Manhattan all over the place.

Johnny 5!

Mr. Johnny 5!

Chronicle of an Escape: The goalie of a soccer team is kidnapped by the Argentine government and tortured. He eventually tries to escape. This was a hit at Cannes, and has already been entered as Argentina’s choice for the Best Foreign Language category at the Golden Globes. It’s playing at the IFC Center.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Brooklyn Skeptic contributor Bearclaws and I saw a preview for this while at the Angelika to see Margot at the Wedding. She told me that it was about a guy who literally blinked out his memoirs after suffering a debilitating stroke that left him paralyzed. He blinked. It’s based on a true story, and I feel like it kind of has to be, otherwise no one would believe it. I’m already crying. The director is also a Brooklynite, and directed both Basquiat and Before Night Falls. It’s playing at the Angelika.

The Protagonist: This new documentary comes from Jessica Yu, director of the criminally underseen film In the Realms of the Unreal, which chronicled the works of a janitor who wrote and illustrated a 15,000 page epic novel. This new film shows the lives of a bank robber, an evangelist who has renounced his homosexuality, a karate enthusiast and a German terrorist. It’s my pick of the week, and it’s playing at the IFC Center.

The Savages: I watched Tamara Jenkins’ Slums of Beverly Hills the other day and had forgotten how incredibly funny a film it is. Nine years later Tamara has directed this film, where a brother and sister and forced to come home to help their sick father. Stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney have already received heaps of praise, as has Jenkins’ writing. Sadly, as far as I can tell, this is also only playing at the Angelika.

One exciting thing for Brooklynites to do tonight is to go to the Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival, which is taking place at the Brooklyn Historical Society at 128 Pierrepont St. in Brooklyn Heights. A collection of films about Brooklyn dating back to the 1890’s, as well as several Brooklyn based documentaries, the event is free and guaranteed to be interesting for people who love this great borough. For more information, go here.

There are some midnight screenings tomorrow night also, including the classic Sansho the Bailiff at the IFC Center and Jurassic Park at the Landmark Sunshine. Enjoy!

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As nouveau cirque enthusiasts across the city gear up for the upcoming run of Au Revoir Parapluie (Dec 4-16 at BAM), a French food enthusiast is born in Brooklyn.

For two of the last three nights I have warmed myself on Le Gamin’s hearty yet refined sandwiches, delicate yet substantive crepes, and invigorating yet stupefying GROG.

legamin.jpg

Le Gamin graces New York and Boston with several locations; ours is located on Vanderbilt between Dean & Bergen, nestled on a very special block next to two of my favorite spots, sweetie pie boutique Red Lipstick and reliable repair shop Bicycle Station.

This is a first date’s wonderland with a cozy, romantic feel and a menu that won’t break your bank, even if he orders the most expensive thing (roast beef tenderloin, $15). A fireplace warms the back of the restaurant, and a generously sized patio equipped with umbrellas and picnic tables promises warm weather fun to come.

Mooseknuckle and I both began with sandwiches, or as they call them: “Les Sandwiches.” Isn’t that just darling? He housed the Merguez a la Moutarde Forte – spicy lamb sausage with roasted red peppers. You know how sometimes roasted red peppers are the ‘luxury’ item in a sandwich or salad that you pay extra for, but still you’re like – is this worth it? Should I have just gotten free tomato slices instead? In this case, the roasted red peppers totally complete the sausage – just the two of them there in that sandwich would keep each other well enough, but the goat cheese that Moosie opted to add contributed a lovely smoothness as well as that cool tartness to cut through the sausage-spice and red-pepper-sweet. Mmm!

I went for Le Saumon Fume – smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, cucumbers, mesclun, homemade mayonnaise, and pesto. Right away I liked their boldness at including as standard two condiments. They’re a funny pair. If you added mayo to pesto, it would totally bring down the quality. If you added pesto to mayo, you’ve got yourself some gourmet spread. But allow the two to exist separately but equally (what doesn’t work in society can sometimes work in sandwiches) and you’ve got a sandwich whose mayonnaise helps things stick together and keeps the eggs from sticking in your throat, and whose pesto seeps into the ciabatta and gives your teeth a succulent layer of olive oil to sink through before reaching the chewy crust. I liked it. The salmon itself was also great – not overly salty, and generously portioned.

Both sandwiches,$9.75, were served with mesclun salad on the side – fresh leaves, appropriately engaging but understated dressing.

The next night, intending to just stop in for desert, Mooseknuckle, Johnbaptisedme, and I were taken in by the savory selections. They were sadly out of mussels, so I opted for a Brie crepe ($9). Whaat??! Oh man. Combined with expertly carmelized onions and sliced baby tomatoes, it was excellent. If you are the kind of person who has to restrain herself from downing the whole baked brie wheel at a party, then this dish is for you. Don’t share it!

Moosepie went for a make-your-own crepe ($10.50) with chicken, goat cheese, and ratatouille. After the disappointment that it was not served by animated rats subsided, he tucked into this tasty concoction. The taste I begged off him was very satisfying. More ingredients provide many many possible combinations for personalized crepes. Like an omelette bar but way classier. Also served with salad.

Always a classist, I mean classicist, JBM got Gratinne a L’Oignon, the classic French onion soup ($6). Mmm! The rich broth you want, the crusty bread made soggy in it, the sharp cheese knocking you down. They get it right.

And then of course there’s desert! Though the actual desert menu sounds great, with a warm upside down apple tart served with creme fraiche ($5) and a classic creme bruelee (also $5), how could we do anything but head straight on to the sweet crepes ($4.50-$7)?

Apricot jam made a delicious filling. As did melted chocolate – of a really high quality and cocoa count – either on its own or combined with fresh bananas. They are famous for their crepe with fresh sectioned orange and homemade caramel, and for good reason. Unlike its made-by-Kraft counterpart (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Le Gamin’s homemade caramel does not stand up on its own, instead lending the subtle flavor of burnt sugar sweetness to the juicy oranges and light crepe dough.

The drink options in a French restaurant can be intimidating, but with a small and accessible wine list, I felt empowered to order a glass of Muscadet to accompany my meal. It was a nice choice and at $7 for a generous class I felt like all was right with the world. Mooseknucks opted for a bottle of Brooklyn, which Le Gamin rings in at $5. About reasonable and standard at a Brooklyn restaurant, no?

The drink enticements continued on to the section of the menu entitled “Les Boisson Chaudes,” or delicious wam things to which we occasionally add liquor. I was taken in by the GROG (as I may have mentioned before). It turns out GROG is a simple and refreshing drink, the Mandy Moore of warm winter drinks. Hot water, lemon juice, honey (that you add yourself to your liking), and spiced rum. Serve it in a big ole bowl and you’ve got yourself my new favorite drink!

The next night I opted for a steamed milk, again with honey and spiced rum, again served in an oversized bowl. What is not to like about drinking from a bowl? In a place like this, you feel like a viking and a refined French person at the SAME time! A valuable, if too rarely found, combination.

So, clearly, I recommend Le Gamin with no reservations (ha!). No, really, you don’t need reservations. This 3 1/2 year old restaurant was no where near crowded either night I went. Perfect for a romantic rendezvous or a night out with the gals, Le Gamin has an extensive, inexpensive menu that will make your friends think you know your GROG.

Le Gamin, 566 Vanderbilt Ave, Prospect Heights

Related merchandise: Joie de Vivre, simple living the French way. A book that tells you how to be happy like the French. I’ll stick to the food, thanks!

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The weather is getting colder and I am getting older. My weary bones sometimes ache from the chill of near-December winds. All I can see is a quarter year of frigid air ahead of me. There is only one thing that can get me through this: hot cocktails.

It all started a few weeks back at Buttermilk, where a drunk Boomstick whet his whistle with a potent mug of hot apple cider and bourbon. Obviously, I had to get some for myself. It was badass. Since then, I’ve pwned several Hot Toddys at Daddy’s while Pizappas has essentially dedicated her life to Sepia‘s spiked hot cider.

But, you know, with ever-rising gas prices, the cost of heating your beverage raises the price pretty significantly. And with the holidays right around the corner, you need to make the decision about spending your hard earned cash on gifts for your loved ones or getting warm and drunk. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to face that Sophie’s choice any longer. This is the big secret: you can make this shit at home.

In a pinch, Oneiroi, ImaginaryDomain and I have hit the Brooklyn Skeptic Hot Cocoa pretty hard. You can be just like us.

Good hot cocoa mix (like Ghirardelli’s)
Soy milk (unless you don’t have a milk phobia)
Coffee liqueur
Vodka

Follow the instructions to make the cocoa. Add a shot of vodka and one of the coffee liqueur. Stir with a candy cane. Drink until shitfaced and diabetic.

Might I also suggest warming some cider over an open fire and adding a splash of Maker’s Mark? That works too.

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Too Much of a Good Thing?

So even though I don’t have one, I love TV. Obviously. I would not be who I am today if not for TV. None of us would.

girl-tv.jpg

Banksy loves TV too.

But as hard as I try to embrace technology as it infiltrates my simple life, sometimes I encounter a situation that makes it hard to unabashedly embrace the boob (tube, that is).

This morning I went to the dentist. In their lobby they have a huge flat screen that is always showing vivid undersea explorations set to Enya, with informational captions at the bottom of the screen. After I was treated to the sperm ejections of a giant clam, I was called into the dentist’s office.

For some deeply ironic reason, since I stopped eating most processed sugar products this year, I have gotten LOADS of cavities. Damn natural licorice always gets caught in my teeth. Ew. No. But really. Lots of cavities. So in this, my final and certainly not first trip-to-get-fillings this year, I came prepared.

I said, “Hey dentist lady, I am going to put on my iPod so you can do whatever you want with the TV.”

That’s right, because there’s a TV in the examining room too! Now, I know that might seem like a great idea, but remember what it’s like to be in the dentist’s chair? That goddamn light in your eyes? You can’t see shit except the neck hair of your good doctor. But you can hear the dulcet tones of Christmas commercials, the golden retriever puppies playing over the Dirt Devils as they throb in time to your Novocained gum.

So okay, whatever, she didn’t turn it off. I don’t care. I am content listening to Ira Glass recount various tales of this lovely country of ours. I close my eyes.

And every now and then, I open them again. In my peripheral I see tools and devices sticking out of my mouth, the aide wielding that filling-dryer that may or may not project toxic light? The staff puts on protective goggles but I lay vulnerable on the other end. Do I see their eyes, reassuring and steady, guiding these potentially dangerous materials around my delicate oral orifice?

Um, no. I see the sides of their slack jaws as they STARE up at the TV! I know it’s hard to look away! It’s impossible even! But you know what? They used to think that repairing a tooth was impossible and the only way to get rid of a cavity was to yank the whole thing out! And we’ve progressed away from there. So I am here to stand up and say NO! It is NOT impossible to look away from the TV, especially if your JOB is to be facing in literally the OPPOSITE direction, pointing DRILLS and NEEDLES into my mouth!

Seriously? You seriously were watching TV when you were supposed to be filling my cavities? If you can’t look away then TURN IT THE FUCK OFF!

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As everyone prepares to evacuate the city in the next couple of days to go home, see family and drink their own body weight in red wine (or is that just my family?), here are several good excuses to get out of the house for two hours and hang out in a dark (and hangover-friendly) room. All of these movies, with the exception of Starting Out in the Evening, start tomorrow.

The Mist: Remember that movie The Fog? And the remake of the movie The Fog? I’m struggling to see how this is any different. Between these movies, Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, and (to some extent) The Day After Tomorrow, perhaps the term “meteorological horror” is not far off. We’ll get movies like Murder Puddle, Gust of Death and Put on a Jacket or You’ll Die. In any case, this is directed by Frank Darabont, who has already directed two more serious Stephen King projects (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile). It’s actually getting decent reviews so far, and stars Tom Jane and Marcia Gay Harden. This is playing at the United Artists on Court Street.

Hitman: I’ve never played this video game before, but I can say that the trailer for this adaptation, which features a bald Tim Olyphant shooting everything in the entire world, does not really inspire a whole lot of confidence. To be honest, I don’t really understand why they’re still adapting video games. Has there ever been a good one? Ever? And has it ever helped an actor’s career? Did Christopher Lambert win an Academy Award for his potrayal of Raiden in Mortal Kombat? Was Raul Julia showered with praise for his role in Street Fighter? Honestly, it says a lot about the video game adaptation genre that the best in the bunch had Dennis Hopper starring as King Koopa. This is playing at the United Artists on Court Street.

King Koopa

August Rush: I was okay with this movie until about half way through the trailer. This is when a cowboy Robin Williams shows up, complete with dyed hair, sideburns, and a soul patch. Honestly, he looks so ridiculous that Mrs. Doubtfire might have inspired less laughter from the audience. The film also stars Keri Russell, Freddie Highmore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who I believe learned to act by starring at himself provocatively in the mirror. This is playing at the Pavilion and the United Artists on Court Street.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Enchanted: There is a kid inside me who still loves Disney. Although I haven’t been as impressed with them lately, this movie looks cute. Amy Adams stars as a cartoon princess who is cursed by a witch and ends up in real life New York City. It’s the kind of movie that you tell people your younger cousins made you see, even though they actually wanted to see Michael Clayton and kept calling you immature. This is playing at the United Artists on Court Street and the Pavilion.

This Christmas: Another prematurely released Christmas movie. This one stars Regina King and Delroy Lindo, which is already an improvement on Vince Vaughn and a bunch of creepy looking elves. There will probably be a Christmas movie released every weekend until December 25th, so I guess we should all get used to them. This is playing at the Pavilion and the United Artists on Court Street.

Starting Out in the Evening: Someone needs to give Frank Langella an Oscar. He consistently plays assholes, but he’s always happy to do it. Here he plays an aging, grumpy writer who starts a friendship with a young writer (played by Lauren Ambrose). This does not open until Friday, and the showtimes are not up yet.

I’m Not There: Despite the gimmick (multiple actors portraying Bob Dylan), this is my pick of the week. Director Todd Haynes has an incredible career behind him (and ahead of him) featuring films like Safe, Velvet Goldmine and Far From Heaven. While I’m not normally a fan of biopics (I’m the guy who hated Walk the Line), this looks like it is told in a less linear and more interesting fashion. While I’m excited to see how the different actors take on Dylan, I’m especially excited to see David Cross as Allen Ginsberg. This is playing at Cobble Hill Cinemas.

Margot at the Wedding starts tomorrow at BAM. Also, the Big Lebowski is the midnight movie at the Sunshine on Friday, and everyone’s favorite psychopath, Crispin Glover, has invited everyone to spend Thanksgiving with him at the IFC Centre, where he is premiering his new film called It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. It also starts tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!

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It is dusk on a Sunday, and bearclaws is approaching a crosswalk, visions of sugarplums probably dancing in her head. Mechanically, she notes that the intersection’s resident electronic crossing guard is wearing his smart white pantsuit, NOT his fiery reddish-orange unitard. To bearclaws, this sign says, “C’mon! Cross over! We live in a civilized republic where it was decided that anarchy -while sexy when you are 15 and hate your parents- is ultimately impractical, so have faith that aforementioned white pantsuit means that you will be safe to get to the other side.” Fault her for not looking both ways – which she admittedly didn’t- but had bearclaws started to cross a moment earlier, she would have been ass over tea kettle, sideswiped by a biker going through a red light.*

Now before all the bikers get themselves into a kerfuffle about how riding a bike has more positive side effects than hanging out with baby kittens, save it. I get it, and I mostly agree with you. Biking is healthy, ecologically friendly, creates less traffic, etc. However, what is NOT healthy is colliding with pedestrians nor scaring the bejesus out of them. I am a proponent of increasing the volume and enforcement of bike lanes, until the next time I get knocked on my ass. Nothing is guaranteed to erode the goodwill of bike-supporters faster than six months of eating food through a straw. Think of it like this; running red lights just because you are on a bike is like having a friend with gills who always brags about being able to breathe underwater. At some point, I am going to try to drown you both in my toilet.

*No bearclaws were harmed during the inspiration for this PSA

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