8.31.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW
1. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this movie. The thought of a fantasy revisionist history taking down Hitler seemed so indulgent to me and a useless exercise, but in the capable and overly film literate hands of Quentin Tarantino, the two and half hour experience is close to euphoric. The opening chapter (oh yes, there are chapters) is horribly tense and an artful bridging of the spaghetti western and holocaust drama. The rest of the picture is a paean to film, working directly from Weimar cinema but infusing it with the splendid color palette of an Edward Hopper. One must also make special mention of the incredible performances from the two leading women, Melanie Laurent as an escaped Jew and Diane Kruger as a German screen femme fatale and the revelation that is Christopher Waltz as Colonel Landa. And yes, at the end of the day, there is a horrible satisfaction in watching Nazi’s being scalped.
2. MOVIE District 9 (2009)
This is an amazingly visceral film that takes the apartheid history of South Africa and re-imagines it as man versus alien, in this case a race derogatorily titled Prawns. Much of the film is shot as if a film crew were following the systematic eviction of this species from a slum city to a tent city more akin to a concentration camp. You find yourself caught somewhere in the middle, sympathizing with both human and Prawn, all the while wondering how it is that we can all be so horrible to each other. The film is anchored by a stellar performance from Sharlto Copley who transforms from in-over-his-head political pawn to a different type of refugee. And there is one weapons testing scene that will go down as one of the most brutal and ultimately effective moments in recent film-going.
3. ALBUM Ellipse Imogen Heap
Starting with the propulsive “First Train Home,” the album pushes into a heavenly chorus of harmonies, twisted words, noises, beeps and blips that transform into choruses, with Heap’s fascinating voice dancing above it all. “Tidal” stands out for its kinetic mixture of strings, percussion and digital video game sounds, an odd mixture that works surprisingly well. “Between Sheets” and the gorgeous album closer “Half-Life” display a strong influence from India, creating a sumptuous combination of sounds, as Heap’s voice calls and responds to the atonal melodic lines. An extremely pleasant listen, even if she isn’t breaking much further past the barriers on her previous release.
4. Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman in Taking Woodstock
These two wonderful character actors become the life force behind this slow paced and muddled nostalgia piece. Taking on stock tropes of the old world, the beaten down obedient husband, the money hording wife always comically afraid that the Gestapo is about to bang down the door, these two actors shine with heart and soul more meaningful than any of the peace loving hippies that inhabit the rest of this film. While I think somewhere I have come to understand the point of this work, it seems unforgivable to have a Woodstock movie with bad music, a boring acid trip and the oddest unnecessary send up to Godard’s infamous tracking shot in Weekend. Ok, that was all horribly snobby of me, but it’s Ang Lee, I wanted to love it! And instead, I was so vexed by the whole experience…
5. FOOD O Mai
Vietnamese food for cheap in a slightly gussied up setting, seems like an excellent idea to me. This Chelsea restaurant, which I have walked past a hundred times saying I should really try it, is serving up tasty morsels, delightful appetizers and well portioned entrees. I would strongly suggest starting with the crispy spring rolls, the lemongrass beef roll and the soft rolls of seared tuna, all served with their own mouth-watering sauce perfectly complimenting the individual rolled goodness. For a remarkable blast of flavor, go with the duck in tamarind sauce, an amaking party for the taste buds. For something a little lighter, go with the lemongrass beef over vermicelli noodles. Add a bottle of wine and it’s a great meal that wont drain the funds.
6. ALBUM Everybody Ingrid Michaelson
The album opens with a strong hooked song, “Soldier,” continuing Michaelson’s dominance as a coffeehouse chanteuse of sing-able melodies that are immediately infectious. The well orchestrated title track has the same upbeat feel of her second release, “Be OK,” with its addictive chorus of “everybody wants to love/everybody wants to be loved.” Sure, these aren’t genius statements, but assembled in these guitar and percussion heavy tunes, you feel yourself pulled into her orbit. My favorite from this album was also released as a live track previously, but I’m totally sunk by the repetitive piano and splendid harmonies on “The Chain.” Michaelson finds a bit more edge towards the end of the album with “Locked Up,” a rocking tune with an excellent clapping bridge.
7. FOOD Café Sabarsky
It’s like stepping into an old world Viennese café, the wood paneled walls, the Hoffman lighting fixtures, the Adolf Loos furniture, the newspapers on wooden racks, all combining to create the perfect afternoon spot for light lunch or tea. If you’re looking for something heavy, the spätzle is amazing with wild mushrooms and sweet corn. For something lighter, the smoked salmon salad is perfect with a smattering of chive-cream cheese and caper berries or the ham-speck with melon and mustard pickles. And save room for something sweet because the apple strudel is truly to die for.
8. FOOD The Red Cat
You can never go wrong at this fine Chelsea standby, for its delicious foods and no-fuss fancy décor. Start with the light, though fried, proscuitto and parmesan croquettes in an olive oil aioli. Move on from there to the pan roast salmon, perfectly cooked and placed atop a flavorful bed of potato and artichoke doused in a basil lemon dressing. The crispy skatewing sautéed in a lemon-hazelnut brown butter is sure to delight the palette. And as always, leave room for dessert, where, if you can believe I’m recommending it, you have to have the carrot cake, which comes out warm, moist and mouthwateringly good. The peanut butter chocolate parfait is overwhelmingly sweet and thus delightful, but must be shared because there’s just too much goodness in that little cup.
9. GAME Wii Resort
I was never one for games, but find that the Wii has revolutionized my thinking. This new game pack, expanding on the already ideal sports pack, brings you ping pong, air sports, archery, Frisbee toss and eight other activities for you mii to do in a warm vacation setting. Every time I doubt how fun it can be to do an outdoor activity indoors, the Wii seems to prove me wrong. I mean, seriously, jumping waves using a remote, and yet, you feel like you’re riding on that water, hopping and jumping those waves with the salty air flowing through your hair. And I promise you, you’ll fall in love with the dog they assign you in the Frisbee toss, so adorable.
10. FOOD 5 Napkin Burger
It seems like new burger joints are popping up everywhere, and I do like to think of myself as a connoisseur of the NYC burger, but truth be told, I just like burgers. They all taste good for a whole variety of reasons and I find myself craving Shake Shack on some occasions and Rue 57 on others. Go figure, meat on a bun covered in deliciousness. So what does this new Hell’s Kitchen venue have to offer? Well, pretty much a perfectly cooked 10oz burger smothered in Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and a heavenly rosemary aioli with a side of crispy fries. The other options on the menu are equally yummy, especially the cheddar bacon burger with its raw onion. And if you’re lucky, the special of the day will be something as delectable as the mushroom teriyaki style burger served on a bed of mashed potatoes.