Thursday, October 30, 2008


I am in love with Jeremy Piven. Love love love. He is about a foot too short for me but (reader, please) a girl can deal. He did me proud in this short, sassy little Hollywood play that my big sister Laura and I smiled all the through last night. Love.

Piven stars with Elizabeth Moss, from my beloved West Wing, and Raul Eparaza, who absolutely holds in own against the dynamo that is Ari Gold.

Okay, Piven doesn't actually play Ari Gold in Speed-the-Plow, I realize this. But he might as well have. Its the same role...the same testosterone laced ego, the pointed glances, the jarring inflections. That Piven played Bob Gould as Ari Gold wasn't an error, and most certainly not a disappointment. There is no doubt Piven's scale as an actor--three Emmy's, thank you very much. Its just that this is Piven's playground. No one else could have nailed the Hollywood He-Man with the same satisfying gusto. Ari he needed to be.

Speed-the-Plow is a swift 90 minute battle--three scenes, no intermission--between art and commerce. Piven and Eparaza hold commerce in their greedy Hollywood trenches, knowing full well that money, fame, and glory stand as prizes. It isn't art, Piven thunders... its not supposed to be! But alas. In walks the girl, clutching art as her moral compass. And there lies the story.

Moss does a gorgeous job with the subtlety of her character's humor... after all, she does represent goodness in this tale. But with goodness comes naivety, and with naivety comes the brunt of many-a-joke (and as the case may be, a bet on the likelihood of Piven sleeping with her). Moss owns this. Her lines center around the reading and analyzing aloud of an Eastern text that she wishes to be made into a movie. That she needs to be made into a movie... for art's sake of course.

We listen to passages of this book for what must have been pages and pages of the second scene. When we think we are finally through with her heartfelt argument, she grasps the text again-- one last hope to convince these two hoodlums of joining forces with good, not evil. When finished reading a bizarre passage on bells and showers and rain with the utmost of her honor, she pauses for just two beats and retracts... 'wait, that was the wrong part...' Brilliant.

Piven is completely convincing in what becomes his own inner battle of right and wrong, good and evil, art and commerce. We love his selfish yet realistic ambitions at the start of the play, then actually flip to believe that he will turn his back on all of it at the opening of the third scene. Finally, Eparaza stands in as reason, a violent reaction to the mush of crazy art talk.

This is where the play accomplishes an extremely difficult task in not asking us, or letting us, choose sides. We are as baffled as Piven, who at one climactic point turns away from the other two and states in jaded comedic defeat, 'I am so confused.' So are we. At this point, no one knows which side to join, which banner to wave. Its Eparaza, in the end, who sets everything straight, as reason often will. We leave content and completely satisfied, another impossible task firmly accomplished after a 90 minute moral debate.

Although- this script and these actors didn't take the content too seriously. Thats the unholy beauty of it all--they didn't actually ask us to do so either. It was light and funny and extremely smart which convinces me that theater---that art (ah ha!)--will always come out on top.


Daniel Radcliffe is currently staring in Peter Shaffer's Equus on Broadway. I saw this a few weeks ago with a lucky second row ticket.

Equus debuted in 1973 at the National Theater in London. Now, the National Theater is one of my favorite places in the entire world, and I can say with complete confidence that the best theater in the world comes out of its productions and off of its stages. Equus is no exception. The production is so clearly British and so flawlessly crafted... It didn't feel like Broadway, it felt like London. I was thrilled.

Radcliffe stars opposite Richard Griffiths, who I originally saw in History Boys at the NT in London. No one else should have this role, and if I ever see a psychiatrist I kind of want it to be Griffiths, or more appropriately, his character Dr. Martin Dysart. He was believable in his empathy and discretion; successful in his approach. Griffiths opened and closed the play with startling monologues that drew the audience in with his first breath and kept us there, swirling and hovering like the cigarette smoke above him.

Radcliffe plays Alan Strang, an adolescent boy who, as we learn before he even steps onto the stage, committed a violent and disturbing crime against six horses. Its a classic set-up-- we learn the outcome before we hear the story. But they get us there, brick by brick, and in the end the violence and the disturbing nature of it makes so much sense that Dysart actually convinces us that Strang may in fact have it right. And all of us should be so lucky. It was so beautiful, I cried.

One line struck me in particular. It was said by Strang's mother, who defends herself, her husband, and her son. Alan is Alan, she said. He was born Alan and nothing I can do to change him. I look at everything I've done from his birth until now and nothing points to this. Alan will always be Alan, that's who he is. It was so striking to me, and something I've thought about several times since: we are convinced by parentage, so trusting in guidance. But there is something to be said for the person that is our soul. Religion, parenting styles, tone, and environment--those are our strongholds. And yes, guidance is essential but Alan is Alan and there is nothing she could do about it.

The set consists of a few blocks that the cast rearranges and shifts to denote space in a rounded stable with six tall doors and six tall horses inside. The horses come alive in the skin of six men whose stances, twitches, and body language are undeniably horse. They wear cage-like masks and didn't have hindquarters, which is an important detail to dissect from the storyline. (I would again like to credit the National Theater for nailing this costume design.) The costumes referenced the photo above Alan's bed--a horse facing directly toward him. Both eyes.

This is so important in order to understand Alan's real interest and passion... its the soul of the horse, the all-encompassing Equus that he fell for, not his creature. And its the head facing directly at us that we see as Alan's perspective. The horse as a physical being was not Alan's interest. The hindquarters makes a horse more real to us, but not to someone focusing on who the horse is at its core. Plus, this takes away some of those sodomy fears, if you were concerned.

And, yes, I know what you're wondering. Did I see Harry Potter naked? Yes, I did. Second row center. But it wasn't what you would think. He was so incredibly convincing that I just wanted to wrap him in a blanket and cover his nakedness. The nudity makes sense in its place and is essential for the us to really understand the intense, very specific pain in this young, confused, passionate boy. But, yes. Naked as a jaybird.

The script is an absolute feat in terms of depth and thoughtful substance. And its execution matches this glory inch for inch. This represents the best theater I've seen in New York and reminded me what a script can become with proper care and detail. As I've said, I think about it often. Its a play about passion... real passion and its sometimes damaging remains.

All right! Griffiths says in final surrender, The normal is the good smile in a child's eyes. There's also the dead stare in a million adults. It both sustains and kills, like a god. It is the ordinary made beautiful, it is also the average made lethal. Normal is the indispensable murderous god of health and I am his priest.

No. 7

No. 7 is a new eatery in Fort Greene just a short walk from my apartment. I shared a gorgeous meal here last night with my dear friend, colleague, and neighbor, Karen Chahal.

The entrance to No. 7 is hidden behind the C train at Lafayette, and in true Brooklyn fashion, doesn’t have a sign or any other markings to denote its presence. Local flavors, infectious laughter, solid conversation, and a full-bodied Syrah were plentiful, so I am thrilled that Karen, an avid food reader and writer, found it for us.

Karen is the food writer, not I, so take a peek at her delicious little blog, I’m sure she’ll write a lovely post about No. 7 soon.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Movies this good are a privilege. I saw Happy-Go-Lucky tonight, on Movie Monday, at the Sunshine Theater on Houston and was so excited for the experience that I accidentally arrived 40 minutes early. I didn't realize this until I entered the theater and saw the credits still rolling from the 4:00 showing... ha. This is exactly my favorite kind of movie and I just adored it. Every second.

Happy-Go-Lucky is centered around a very unlikely topic and a rarely portrayed character trait in films today: happiness. (Finally, say I!) Its not a comedy, really, and not a drama either. Its a pocket, a window, a porthole into this generous creature's life. I was so honored to be granted entrance.

Sally Hawkins stars as Poppy, a British school teacher, but don't take that as boring. Poppy is the least boring character I have encountered in a while, and one that I am dying to meet in real life. She gets pissed (as they say in London... drunk, if you're a New Yorker) with her girlfriends in one scene, then conducts a classroom of chirping first graders in the next. And its completely believable. Had this happened the other way around we may have disapproved, but as it stands we applauded Poppy for being both. We believed it because in neither role was she pretending. She truly believes in being herself one hundred percent, in the least obnoxious of manners. This, my friends, is tricky.

We tend to scoff the loud dressers, shush the gigglers, look down upon the goofy girls--and rightfully so. Persons of this personality often lack a real understanding of self and are reaching just north of comfortable. Not so for Poppy, whose slouchy boots and laced tights fit seamlessly in nightclubs and appropriately in the classroom. It's grace granted by confidence. Poppy is the anti-Bridget Jones. A true testament to what a chosen happiness and decided contentment can do for the single thirty-something English spinster.

She takes flamenco, trampolines weekly, shares wine with girlfriends, loves children, and isn't focused on finding a husband, or even a date. Sure, she wonders in passing where all the good men have gone, laughs with Zoe about how they are both are ready and willing. But its said with a smile and left with a shrug. Its something fun to look forward to, not a mountain to climb. And when she does go on a date, its not the center of her universe, or even her mindspace. Its fun! A great way to spend a Friday night! Nothing is looming and nothing should be.

The grit of this film exists in Poppy's trials and clear challenges. Her heart, so big, aches deeply when encountering the brokenhearted. If this were a Dickens novel, they would be called Doom, Fear, Bitterness, and Envy. (Dickens had it right-- life would be somewhat simpler if we could avoid friends called Callous and lovers named Greed, am I right?) In this case they are embodied by a jilted driving instructor, a schizophrenic homeless man, a fragile classroom bully, and her insecure pregnant sister. Poppy comes through with depth and a fluttering lightness-- so very refreshing. The rarity comes up again, which is so incredibly frustrating when considering that Poppy's goodness and happy-go-lucky demeanor are simply a choice. It shouldn't be rare, for it's is in all of us too.

This movie was life affirming. Life changing, even, as I told my friend Sarah afterward over chicken soup with crackers. Its a welcomed reminder that we can all live in this manner quite easily. And every one of us should go about doing so just as quickly as we can.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cecily Brown

Cecily Brown is showing right now at Gagosian Gallery on 24th street. This is the best contemporary painting show that I have seen in New York this year. Its outstanding.

I always have a hard time believing in contemporary painting and often get stuck on this blocking question of why the artist chose paint to illustrate his or her idea. Why not photography? Why paint an idea when you can take a picture of it? Why paint an idea when you could write about it? (Lawrence Weiner perfectly demonstrates this at Dia:Beacon in his series, 5 Figures of Structure, 1987.) Brown bulldozes this question with over 15 large canvases. (She displays smaller works as well, which I cared much less about.)

Brown is a paint's painter. A painterly colorist who, upon seeing the work I posted above, you may be tempted to associate with Pollock. And that's okay, this is of course deliberate. In person this comparison will be made far less often, as you will start to pick out the figures, the shapes, the structure of each painting. This can only be imagined in Pollock's works (you want to argue with me? fine.) Yet, Brown carves her works with brushstrokes, not splashes. She forcefully applies each color in a motion that you can absolutely feel.

The figures and shapes in her works reference history paintings hanging in Musee D'Orsay, in the Louvre, and in the Met uptown. Yet the figures in her grandiose scenes are called pornographic rather than nude. Their poses are vulgar, not sweet. With this, Brown flawlessly falls into contemporary art with a jarring stamp of approval. Genius.

I first saw this show with a friend of mine on a 70 gallery tour of Chelsea that took over 6 hours and less than 5 minutes in each space. We were exhausted and totally art-ed out and could barely form words much less thoughts in the last 20 or so stops. Yet when we stepped into Cecily's arena (quite unintentionally our very last stop, squeezed into the last 5 min of gallery hours) we both froze. Our eyes widened and smiles began to form, and we looked at each other in astonishment. This was good. Really good. We both immediately fell in love with the beauty before us and wanted to kiss these canvases in thanksgiving. Both of us are straying painters who haven't actually painted in a while. The next weekend we went home and started painting again without each others knowledge. Cecily Brown makes painting look so fun. She is the best painter on the market right now, yet her works are not in any way intimidating. They make the viewer feel like we can paint like that too. You'll feel it. Go see Cecily.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Beautiful Inside My Head Forever

Damien Hirst is important. He just is. If you know anything about the contemporary art market, you are currently rolling your eyes, and if you know nothing of the sort, you may still know this image. Which says something.

You are rolling your eyes because you are sick of hearing of Hirst and his formaldehyde sharks and his diamond encrusted skulls. You are totally against the bigwigs buying this crap (caution, reader, don't bite the hand that feeds you) and hate that he is overselling Koons, Rothko, Pollock... the real greats. Butterfly paintings!?, you scream... diamonds!? Where does Hirst get off succeeding in this masquerade?

Well. I love Damien Hirst. I am fascinated by him and his flutter of glory and his aura of glittering success. Fascinated. Hirst came onto the contemporary art scene and stormed through its pretension and its careful word-play and demanded top billing. He shows at the best galleries in the world... Larry Gagosian reps him, and so does White Cube back home.

Hirst creates the most bizarre of pieces--I already mentioned the formaldehyde-- next to the most lovely of paintings. Fluttering butterflies, stained glass windows, spinning colors, pleasing dots. Sharks for the jaded moneyman, butterflies for the new collector who still believes in only buying art that speaks to him. (Rubbish, says the Met. We'll take the shark.) Its shocking, its risky, and its bitingly fresh. It's dancing hippos, it's an orchestra of choreographed fountains, it's a parade of gory feathered masks.

Hirst's works proudly accept titles like Beautiful Bleeding Wound Over the Materialism of Money Painting; This Be the Verse Mount Zion; The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living; Lullaby Spring; My Problem is You. He is laughing at us. Laughing at the viewer who dares to read too much into color on canvas, into religious schemes so obviously present when looking at a sheep of any sort. While this is far from the point of his works, it is clear that Hirst enjoys playing. This alone is quite impressive for the wealthiest living artist showing today.

Hirst had an auction last month at Sotheby's in London entitled Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, shocking in its entirety. This auction was unprecedented not only for its scale (223 works!) its commission (dropping your dealer!? Larry!? Whats going on...) its buyers (some random Russian tycoon buying dots for his girlfriend) and its buzz (there is much scandal, gossip, and juice surrounding this auction. Google its title). It was unprecedented for its record breaking sales on the very day the market crashed. This auction took place on September 15th, 2008, just as Lehman filed for bankruptcy. The black news broke hours before Hirst's auction commenced, worrying Sotheby's to the extent that they began offering layaway payments for potential buyers.

Yet the first session’s total was $127.2 million, above the high estimate of $112 million. And if you know nothing of auctions, know that overselling the high estimate rarely happens. Unless you're Damien Hirst. Damien Hirst, who competely dropped his dealers and sold his works independently through Sotheby's. This. Doesn't. Happen. Damien Hirst, who recently declared that he is never painting butterflies again. That he is done with stained glass windows. Translation: get 'em while they're hot. This hasn't happened in the art world unless the artist suddenly died. Think about how much easier it would have been for Van Gogh and his poor ear had he just stated that he was no longer painting stars and streetlights. Hirst is completely limiting his retrospective so that he doesn't flood his own market. Smarty.

So. Say what you will. And even if you can't gain energy from auctions and records and sales, if you are still in the school of thought preserving art-for-art's-sake... pay attention to this conceded, hot-headed, poetic Brit. There is good to be found in his diamonds, some value in his sharks.

The Way We Were

I watched this again last weekend with Alison, who had never seen it. Nothing makes me happier than watching a good movie with someone experiencing it for the first time. This was, of course, no disappointment. The Way We Were never is. It was a Sunday afternoon. We drank beer, made stuffed tomatoes, and cried over Katie and Hubbell and Hollywood and ice boxes and desperate phone calls. Yes, we said with knowing nods and furrowed brows. We have been there.

Barbara Streisand is never better and Robert Redford is DREAMY. The original Brad Pitt, if you will. Don't believe me? Skip to the white turtleneck sweater scene, the part when Hubbell tells Katie that 'he sold one' and Katie babbles over Mrs. Kingston marrying the Duke of Windsor. Da-reamy.

The beauty of The Way We Were really exists in its truth. Girls like Katie don't end up with guys like Hubbell. And that is okay. Beautiful even. As retold by Miss Bradshaw and company, this movie is really about the curly haired girls. The Katies of this world. Yes, its a love story and the telling of the relationship is quite important, but the story really exists in Katie.

Katie speaks her mind, fights for her causes, forms rallies and demands that everyone around her follow suit. She is the political girl, the working girl, the smart girl. She is the type of girl who made friends with her professors and spent her Saturday nights volunteering or writing grants or working her third job. Katie was a caterer at her homecoming dance, and of course didn't have a date. And while she doesn't want to be part of America The Beautiful (as she calls the popular crowd) she can't help but show just the slightest bit of jealousy. This is where Streisand won us over... she tapped into Katie's human side. Into her one weakness. Hubbell Gardner.

Remember the scene after Hubbell sleeps at her place for the first time? The scene after the photo above? Painful. She loves him, its so obvious. And he says 'thank you for letting me crash.' Hopes his snoring didn't keep her up. Her orange juice and eggs and real coffee make a mockery of the woman who just moments earlier was pulling soldiers into the night club and screaming 'fascist!' at anyone in her way. Buttered toast and a freshly pressed suit coat suddenly cast a desperate light on her world. She begins to fall and we fall right beside her.

The love story is just that...lovely. Our hearts expand when Hubbell kisses her for the first time, in front of the fireplace, while talking about his writing. The beach scenes are epic, the laughter so real. Hubbell loves Katie, he really does, and she never stops adoring him, never stops believing in his work. Her eyes actually sparkle and he is finally able to be himself. Its perfect.

Although, I should mention that this perfect relationship is interrupted by the best scene in this movie, and maybe the best breakup scene of all time. (Loralei and Luke reenacted it during their first breakup, watch that if you haven't yet.) President Roosevelt has just died, and Hubbell's friends can do nothing but make jokes. This drives Katie nuts, always has. She makes a scene and Hubbell leaves her proverbial side. Ouch.

She goes home to her bathrobe and tears, he has a martini with JJ. Then Katie does the unthinkable. The worst thing a girl can do after a breakup, the end-all humiliation of the female heart... she calls him. She asks him to come over. Just until I fall asleep, she says. I promise I won't touch you. I just need my friend to help me through this. Help me through this, Hubbell. So he comes over and she asks why it couldn't be her (the guts, woman!) and you know the rest. He clenches his jaw, turns away, smiles that perfectly white teeth Robert Redford smile, slaps the wall, looks at her in complete exasperation... and takes her back.

The second breakup is less painful, or more-so, depending how you look at it. Its much less passionate, way cleaner, and of course more mature. But it hurts knowing that it really is the end, that Katie is going to DC and that Hubbell really can't love her enough. The Red Scare may have had something to do with it, the maturing I mean. The politics get absolutely crazy, just as they did in that rarely portrayed portion of Hollywood's past, and everyone is forced to reevaluate themselves and their needs. And Katie needs to snap back into her own life. She owes it to herself, who in the end (listen up, girls) is more important than Hubbell.

A few things are confusing in this movie, the biggest being the baby. Hubbell Gardner as absent father? Does that seem odd to anyone else? I can only blame the times, and the bi coastal separation of parents. Yeah? The other is Katie's long red fingernails... wowza. I guess Streisand will always be Streisand. And that's a good thing.

I am lucky enough to live in New York City and have to admit, in complete embarrassment, that I pause to embrace the last scene of The Way We Were every time I pass the Plaza Hotel and its square at 59th and 5th. Your girl is lovely, Hubbell. And then I, like Katie, step back into the city to continue passing out my fliers.

The Philadelphia Story

If you haven't seen The Philadelphia Story, stop reading this and go watch it. Its so good I can barely stand it. This is one of those rare movies that is startling in its perfection. Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart... I mean, come on.

Marisa de los Santos says it best in her novel, Love Walked In. "If you have seen it, then you know there's a moment when Katherine Hepburn as Tracy Lord steps from a poolside cabana. She's got a straight white dream of a dress hanging from her tiny collar-bones, a dress fluted and precise as a Greek column but light and full of the motion of smoke. A paradox of a dress, a marriage of opposites that just makes your teeth hurt it's so exactly right." Damn straight.

Santos also discusses a point so often overlooked in this straight-forward comedy... the audience should never have believed it. You see, Tracy Lord is loved by all. Any and all. Even her ex-husband, the dashing and darling Dexter, can't help but fixate on this biting creature. Her love story exists in three tales, all quite convincing.

We immediately approve her dear fiance, the one she throws to the ground and dirties before he may mount his horse... happy-go-lucky Tracy Lord finds clear contentment in this lovely and humble man. And we want that too.

Then Dexter, who in the opening scene (in which my friend Sarah and I will never lose humor) throws Tracy to the floor with a swift shove to her strong yet intricate forehead, and later declares in the sternest and most intimate of tones, "You'll never be a first rate woman or a first rate human being until you have some regard for human frailty." (Ah, the swimming pool scene! Is there a greater perfection!?)

.... and of course Jimmy Stewart, who we, as a collective heart, will always root for as a hard and solid truth. And we always yearn for dear Mike (J.S.) even more (is it possible?!) when he clutches Tracy in his pruned fingers and says "No, you're made of flesh and blood. That's the blank and unholy surprise of it. You're the golden girl, Tracy." We can't help but melt under his sincerity, under his raw sentiment, and fierce and loving tone.

If I could pick one human to emulate it would be Katherine Hepburn, no question. Sometimes I check my face for her cheek bones in desperate attempts to bring men to their knees with a sudden glance. And so do you, don't kid yourself. Yet I, as do you, often struggle with the choice of which Katherine to be... Tracy Lord the lovable dirty equestrian, Tracy Lord the stringent goddess, or Tracy Lord the embraceable and drunken human. Yet we, the viewer, will always root for all three. Then, quite abruptly, will astonish the film critic (and I, reader, am nothing of the sort) when we are completely content in the last scenes when she quickly dismisses two and ends up with one. Stringent goddess it is!

I often play a game with friends (and strangers) in which we attempt to re-cast this film with contemporary actors. (And yes, I KNOW that no one should or will ever attempt to re-make this film. It is perfect in its entirety and should not be touched. It would be like trying to repaint Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Don't you dare. But still... it's fun.) Clooney would obviously take the Grant role, no question. And I can only see Tom Hanks as Jimmy Stewart... but Tracy Lord? I have yet to find an actress with enough verve and edge to take on Hepburn... Cate Blanchett? Keira Knightly? A friend of mine recently chose Paul Rudd as Stewart, which I actually enjoy envisioning... my hairdresser, Chuck, unfortunately cast Nicolas Cage in c'est role. Yikes.

See it. Immediately. Then please tell me what you think.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Juan Antonio: Maria Elena is a very talented pianist.
Maria Elena: Not talented! Genius. Genius!
I could have been a concert pianist, I was that good.

Oh, this movie made me laugh. I find Woody Allen incredibly funny, more so than others do, I've discovered. This film in particular was such an observation of character that I clung to every word and gesture. Vicky and Doug absolutely cracked me up, so did Cristina and Juan Antonio, and obviously Maria Elena.

There is a very specific chatter that takes place in between the real dialogue that mocks every overheard conversation ever to have taken place between girls of the young-and-privileged-enough-to-choose-to-be-in-Barcelona-for-a-summer-before-I-start-my-real-life crowd. The opening conversations with Vicky's aunt and uncle are pointedly accurate. If you have ever traveled in Europe for an extended amount of time you know to what I'm referring... the small talk, the found excitement, the obligatory exchange of pleasantries over a stunning yet thrown together dinner. You are sampling the wine of the region, you must try this market, where did you study, etc. So funny when regurgitated on the silver screen.

The center story in Vicky Cristina is the old tale of complicated relationships. Yet, what Allen quite purposefully slices and serves is a realization that the relationships really aren't complicated at all. The comfortable and boring husband, the attempted threesome, the passionate one night affair, the actual threesome, the unhappy marriage. Meh. The people are slightly messed up... slightly... but the relationships are cut, dry, clear and present.

Penelope Cruz is phenomenal as Maria Elena, the infamous ex-wife of Juan Antonio, whom she once tried to kill. She is crazy in just the right places, darling in all the rest. (You went through my luggage!? cries Christina. Of course I went through your luggage, I didn't trust you! Maria Elena fires back.) She ignites a passion in this film and steals both the screen and the bedroom from dear Scarlett. We eat it up.

Doug enters as a comic relief with his pressed khaki pants and flat screen TiVo enthusiasm. He's generic America, says Allen. Laugh at him! Vicky dips into self-inflicted romantic conflict all-too-naive for any of us to really take seriously. We care about her and completely embrace her good intentions, but that's about it. Rebecca Hall nails this role.

Scarlett Johansson as Cristina does unexpectedly strike a cord in this film that hits us like a punch. She is the girl who is doing exactly what she wants in every way without really knowing ultimately what she wants. The vagabond. We discover that this careless, endlessly accepting, make-love-not-war heroine actually wants a coarse. Cristina moves to Barcelona with Vicky after writing, directing, and staring in an eleven minute film about love (funny.) and hating its completed form. So she dabbles in photography, explores the streets of Spain, searches in every nook and cranny for the real Cristina. Tale as old as time. And even after a perfect love affair with the generous and handsome Juan Antonio and his ex-wife Maria Elena... she is still kind of floating. We are left wanting more, wanting affirmation that Cristina found herself in Barcelona... that the salty Spanish air was just what she needed to jump start her life! But Woody Allen pulls away this gratification from both her and us, just as Lucy swipes the football from poor Charlie Brown. He does it on purpose.

And as narrated in the final scene, so humorous in its muses' faces, slowly descending the escalator out of Barcelona... Vicky returned home to have her grand wedding to Doug. To the house they finally decided to settle in. And to lead the life she envisioned for herself before that summer in Barcelona. Cristina continued searching... certain only, of what she didn't want.

Rachel Getting Married

I first saw this movie with my friends Annie and Greg at a film screening. It was so hot and stuffy in the theater (as I unfortunately realized is typical for screenings) that I felt like I was in a coat closet stuffed with 20 other people, all wearing wool sweaters and breathing recycled air. It was killer. But the movie blew us away.

Anne Hathaway stars as Kym, the title character's little sister, coming home from rehab for the wedding. And there, my friends, is a story. But on top of this perfectly set up plot is a film exquisite in its telling.

The music, although acting as a soundtrack in terms of emotional cues, is played throughout the film by wedding guests. We only hear what they hear. The camera is hand-held, following Kym from room to room, gathering bits of memories, bits of heartbreak, pieces of her past and of this family's present. And we know exactly what it feels like to come home. We know it feels warm, cozy, normal, yet always somewhat sad. For each time we leave and come back, home exists in a more abstract form. Home is where the heart is, right? Sure. But there is something to be said for quilts and coffee mugs and squeaky floorboards. We still yearn for that home. For that comfort. And for Kym, it feels quite removed.

Rachel and Sidney's wedding is a crazy all encompassing feast-of-pleasures centering around... what, exactly? The traditional wedding is turned on its head, not landing on any one particular theme. As quoted from an email exchange I had with a friend about this particular film... what i thought was so poignant in Rachel Getting Married was the Utopian version of religion, race, class, culture, and general divide in America. The entire event was a complete fabrication of what we want to exist in liberal idealism. And it was lovely! ...but still Utopian in its state. Its easy to watch and congratulate ourselves for coming so far and melding so effortlessly but i don't think we're there yet... something to aim for.

This film was Shakespearean in its telling (which delights me to no end) in that the story was focused around a wedding. The song and dance was completed and shown in its entirety- which is rare for films today, no? The event itself happened as it would have in life and the merriment proved much needed breathing room for the horrified audience... post-car-accident-mother-slapping- painful-toast-giving-build-up. Shakespeare often did the same thing.

Hathaway was achingly flawless in this role, a giant leap from The Princess Diaries and Get Smart... yeek. She was brilliant and beautiful and absolutely nailed the narcissism of an addict... the frail and powerful confidence so earth shatteringly painful in its interactions. We root for Kym. But we also kind of want her to stop talking. This is where the title becomes eminent... Rachel(!) getting married, not Kym Coming Home.

Rosemarie DeWitt, as Rachel, clarifies this point in more than one scene (I'm counting three). This isn't new. Kym making everyone uncomfortable, completely on her terms, has been happening for their entire lives. Dead brother or not... we're kind of sick of it. And well done, Anne Hathaway, for coming out lovable, for ending up endearing and whole. I don't know how you did it.

There is so much more to say about this film. Gah, SO MUCH. Bill Irwin shone as the emotional and love, love, loving father... the final interactions between Rachel, Kym and their mother ("I'll just slip out the back, I don't want to make a scene.")... Emma, Sidney, Kieran... Ethan... the wedding dancers and band members, one of whom Alison realized that she had made out with- ha!.... the DISHWASHER SCENE!...the fact that there was a black standard poodle named Olive. But I won't ruin it for you.

This movie was so good that I kind of want to see what happens next to these people with whom I became so very intimate in 113 minutes. Is it completely lame for indie films to make sequels? Probably... but I'm lame too, and I would attend its opening night, coat closet and all.

Falling in Love.

Love, Love, Love is a collection of essays written by one of my most memorable professors at St. Olaf College, Charles Taliaferro. In the essay with the same title, Charles speaks of the epic, grandiose concept of love with his dying father. "You know, Dad, when you get to the other side, there might be lots of questions. I hear that it's a good idea to say the word 'love' a lot." Shortly thereafter, his father takes his last breaths, squeezes his son's hand three times and whispers, "Love. Love. Love."

On a similar (lighter?) note, my dance instructor, Corey Hill (the magnificent) often says that words are best when repeated. I think its because he is too excited to say anything once... 'Here we go, here we go!' 'one more, one more!' 'dance, dance, dance!' 'its Britney, Its Britney!'...

Since I moved to New York City slightly over a year and a half ago, I too have come to realize exactly what this epic and grandiose concept can do... what power it can have. I have fallen in love time and time again with its streets, with its light, with its vigor, and its grace. I love its people and its energy and its temperance. New York taught me how to love unconditionally and what the word unrequited means. It taught me that loving is enough, and something we can absolutely choose to do. (It is a choice, ah ha!) Its fluid and easy and simple... its sharp, and biting, and clear.

However, in the recent past, New York and I have experienced the opposite of love: heartbreak (not hatred, yo). The city’s streets are screaming with economic upheaval, my dear friends' hearts are breaking over jobs, grad school, friendships, and boys. We are crying over stress and homework and deceit. It’s awful. I feel myself falling, failing, and flailing and realizing that there are things in this world that I can't make happen... things that I cannot fix. This is new to me.

Until this point I have rested my trust on the belief that I can create the very world I want to live in out of dust, and clay, out of paint and generosity. But I am quickly learning that I cannot create everything. I suddenly find myself beliving in crazy ideas like destiny for the first time. 'Destiny' being a future and livelihood beyond my control. This 'destiny' is happening to me whether I like it or not. And its kind of the best feeling ever.

I am left with an intensity to love as much as I can... to let go and fall head over heels with this city. With this beautiful old Building and Loan. There is nothing to do but release this heartbreak and start my own love story. And there is SO MUCH to fall in love with. So much to love me back.

New York love comes in many forms (and cliches) and, as Corey Hill so joyously taught me, are best when repeated. Best told over and over. So here is my small attempt at sharing my intense, crazy, and passionate New York love. That's what a blog is, right? A way to share so that others may repeat? Well, if so... these are the things that I love, love, love.