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6.01.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW


Pixar has indeed done it again. The opening ten minutes will likely make you cry, hell, the whole movie will make you cry. It’s all about growing older, facing the fact that living your dreams is nearly impossible, and once you do, it might not have been the initial dream you were planning on. If you think I’m being evasive with this mini-review, I am doing so intentionally. I would hate to ruin any aspect of this genius film, from the gorgeous computer generated design to the amazingly fleshed out characters. A true delight that will have you nostalgic, crying, clapping, impressed, shocked and wanting to see it again and again.

2. EVENT Veuve Cliquot Polo Classic
Taking the ferry out to Govenors Island, you begin to realize how much of NYC you haven’t seen yet. Wandering among historic buildings, you come upon the pitch (is that even the right word?) and find horses being ridden, long sticks grazing the ground, and a new set of sporting terms and rules that don’t really make much sense (seriously, chuckers?) But add a little champagne and an expertly packed picnic to the proceedings and you have yourself a happy little respite away from the burning hot summer in the city. Prince Harry didn’t do much on that horse, but the announcer certainly focused the commentary in his direction. The true spectacle had to be the crowd, some dressed to the nines, including a group all in black and white after the famous My Fair Lady scene, and some not dressed much at all, creating a fascinating amalgam of people that gave people-watching in Sheeps Meadow a run for its money.

Hidden in one of the massive factories out in Red Hook, there’s this haven for Brooklyn artists to show their wares on two large concrete floored loft spaces. Lining the walls is a wide range of media, photographs, paintings, collages, sculpture, with the quality ranging from impressive to amateur, but all capturing the spirit of making art in the city (there were a few too many people putting photographs on canvases, only one of which actually used the mixed media to any real effect). I was most impressed by a series of black outlined photographs printed on transparencies and then watercolored underneath, capturing the stormy colors of the New York skyline. Along the brick wall in the back of the space, a series of textures were amazingly made from different paper stocks and metals, the combination of smooth and course makes for quite a bit of visual pleasure. It’s a nice contrast to the more uptight world of the Chelsea galleries.
4. FOOD Grand Sichuan
Soup dumplings, it’s all about the soup dumplings. The outer coating is thick and smooth, the inside a little nugget of meat surrounded by the yummiest soupy juice. Dip it into the vinegar-based sauce provided and you have a bite straight from heaven. And it’s fun to watch others attempt to eat them without it exploding all over their mouths, a near impossible feat, you should have seen the tablecloth when we were done. The rest of the menu has the usual assortment of meats, orange chicken, spicy General Tso’s, beef with broccoli, fried rice, and so on and so forth. But it is those soup dumplings that keep me coming back for more.

5. SOUNDTRACK Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Henry Mancini created a masterpiece with this jazzy score. Forget “Moon River,” sure it’s a beautiful song, but it’s a bit tired (and barely makes it on to the soundtrack other than as theme music). It’s the rest of the jazz-influenced, 1960s-style sound that immediately makes you want to pull out your cocktail shaker and whip up a martini or two. The theme music for Mr. Yunioshi is wonderfully racist in skewering Japanese music through plucked strings and bossa nova trumpets playing half tones (similar to the amazingly inappropriate portrayal by Mickey Rooney in the film). “Hub Caps and Tail Lights” is that unforgettable drum based scoring that accompanies the strip tease, complete with cymbal crashing punctuation points for removing articles of clothing. All in all, this is the perfect soundtrack for any party with just a touch of that retro vibe.

6. FOOD Burger Joint
Oddly hidden in The Parker Meridien hotel on 57th street, this slightly seedy nook of the lavish hotel serves up juicy burgers that are the perfect late night nosh. The cheeseburger will definitely drip all over your hands, especially if you order it with “the works,” which is truly the only way to order it. Add to that some fries and that kinda disgusting but enjoyable Minute Maid lemonade, and you’ve got happiness. It seems they’ve also added a little bit of that Chicago Weiner Circle vibe by asking the restaurant workers to add some sass with the service. It’s not my favorite concept, but when the food is this good, it truly doesn’t matter.

7. ALBUM Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix Phoenix
The CD opens with repeated back and forth chords that almost make you think you’re about to enjoy ABBA’s “Mamma Mia.” But the sound quickly turns to equal amounts of fun with this Beatles meets Vampire Weekend and Keane sound (except I think Phoenix came before both of the latter bands). Intelligent production brings together soft melodic vocals with poppy throwback sounds for pure sonic pleasure. I especially like “Love Like A Sunset,” opening with revving engines that explode into a Philip Glass-on-acid repetition and finally ending with a catchy song that completely subverts everything that preceded it. The album ends strongly with “Armistice,” not breaking any new ground, but creating enjoyable jammable music that is perfect for your summer mix.

8. SONG “Indian Summer” Mandy Moore
Channeling Carole King, Moore makes quite a nice impression with this short ditty about summer love. Descending piano chords bring us into the song, Moore’s smooth voice coming in over a totally 70s singer-songwriter vibe. Drums join, and then harpsichords and finally a Theremin, but never becoming over-produced or uninteresting. I wish I could recommend the rest of the album along with this one track, but it’s honestly a mishmash of styles that don’t quite suite her vocal range all clearly trying to reposition her in a more songwriter vein that she actually one day might be suited for.

9. ALBUM Abnormally Attracted to Sin Tori Amos
There are way too many tracks on this album, 17 in all. If edited down, I think there is one full and good album in there, but this is some major overkill. In the middle of the album, Amos hits her stride with “Curtain Call,” a moody dramatic piano number that nicely complements Amos’ odd voice. “That Guy” brings about a modern take on ‘40s songwriting, almost cabaret or Kurt Weil in sensibility turning into a ‘90s power ballad. The title track could be a missing track from Madonna’s Ray of Light, which is actually a good thing in case people were unsure how I felt about Madge. And finally, the fascinating inclusion of the countrified Fleetwood Mac-esque “Fast Horse” actually works for me, even if it might belong on a completely different album.

10. EVENT Shutting down Times Square
As a pedestrian, I love this concept. As someone that takes cabs once in a while, this sucks. But turning Times Square into a completely car free environment seems logical and a demonstration of ways in which this city is actually catching wise to its own problems. I truly hope this will help make crossing over the massive intersections much easier and remove all of the angst that comes with being in that particular part of the city. Every time I go to the theater, getting out of the subway and having to make that trek is horribly infuriating. By the time I get to the theater, my blood pressure has raised and my head is about to explode with thoughts of using an electrified cattle prod to help herd the clueless tourists. So I hope this plan sticks in the end, and I can finally get to theater without such stress and exhaustion.

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