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11.09.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW

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1. ACTING in the film Precious

I think I laughed too much during this on-the-nose depiction of horrifying abuse. Director Lee Daniels seems completely unaware how to emotionally tell a story with any sense of depth or true purpose. Luckily, the source material was incredible to cover much of his flaws and even more so, he had an amazing unexpected cast of actors. Mariah Carey is passable, showing so much more range than Glitter. Mo’Nique is simply incredible with her heartrending portrayal of an abuser who doesn’t know better. But the heart and soul of this film is Precious herself, newcomer Gabby Sidibe, whose face is so filled with hurt, loss and hope that you find yourself ignoring the shameful editing and directing and becoming completely engaged in this story of pain.

2. ALBUM 300 Pianos Andy Suzuki

The songwriting talents of Suzuki are undeniable. The songs are instantly catchy without placating the audience into a dull stupor. The title track alone has flavors of stage music, but with an edge of that amazing early ‘90s sound that has been missing from melody-less popular music these days. Add on top of it, the song is inspired by his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, and you have music that packs a beautiful punch. It’s really the simple elegant instrumentation that makes this music work for me, the piano taking center stage well matched with an electric violin and percussion, topped by Suzuki’s lush almost R&B voice. This is well worth a listen; I bet these guys are going places (they’re already playing Rockwood, The Bitter End, and now Joe’s Pub, so it’s a safe bet).

3. FOOD Brunch at Trestle on Tenth

After enjoying dinner so much there, I thought it worthy to add it to the brunch roster. This little 10th avenue joint did not disappoint. Focusing more on the savory rather than the sweet, I was most pleased with my two poached eggs covered in a béarnaise sauce on top of a duck confit hash. The pulled pork sandwich, while a bit heavy for brunch, was pure salty goodness. And for the slightly more standard fare, you can always get two eggs with a lovely side of breakfast meats and brioche toast. All in all, it’s a hearty good meal, but only truly perfect when you finish it all off with that ridiculous tall sundae with the caramel swirls and fresh berries.

4. TV The Third Season of 30 Rock

My Roku finally cooperated and started to offer up the entire third season for download, in HD no less. This show is so beyond addictive that I polished off the entire season in less than a week. And the smiles it put across my face knew no boundaries! As usual, Liz’ less than stellar dating life provided excellent laughs, both in her attempt to date Peter Dinklage and the ever gorgeous Jon Hamm. I must also applaud the series for effectively using cameo performances for good, rather than sweeps-style evil. Oprah, Steve Martin, Jennifer Anniston, Alan Alda, but it was definitely Salma Hayek’s recurring role as Jack’s girlfriend that provided me with consistent laughs.

5. MOVIE A Serious Man

I honestly don’t know what to make of this movie. My initial reaction is to think it terribly anti-Semitic. But then I find myself laughing hysterically at these outrageous Jewish characters that do bare striking resemblance to people I have dealt with in my life. In any event, the Coen Brothers, as usual, demonstrate how adept they are at filmmaking. This story of Job is told with such artistry, details and intelligence. Camera angles, set design and the editing all work so beautifully together, as they have in previous outings. Now if only I were more interested in the story they were presenting so artfully.

6. FOOD Le Grainne Café

It seems absurd that I haven’t been frequenting this place since I moved into the hood three years ago. While certainly nothing incredible, the food is tasty and served in a lovely secluded French bistro setting that makes it the perfect place to sit for hours on end with newspapers and magazines, or better yet, with a good friend, and just dish about anything and everything. I went with the fresh fruit crepe, nicely cooked, fluffy and sweet, and drizzled in strawberry sauce. If you want something a bit more filling, go with the pouched egg on a bed of ratatouille. Sure, it might be a bit much for breakfast, but when it tastes like that, you and your stomach forgive you.

7. ALBUM With The Beatles The Beatles

This album opens with my absolute favorite of the pop-ier songs, “It Won’t Be Long.” There’s just something about the melody that makes we want to bop up and down. From there you get classics like “All My Loving” and “Little Child.” But for me, this album is all about the covers, like “You Really Got a Hold On Me” and “Please Mister Postman.” This was a stable set of songs that clearly had their sound defined and down. But then I hear something like “Til There Was You,” and you can understand the musical genius of taking this beautiful if sappy show tune from The Music Man and turning it into an elegant guitar serenade. Just a draw-dropping amount of musical intelligence behind each recording.

8. SPORTS The Yankees Win!

Admittedly it’s late, and I was down one entry, and this story is a bit passé at this point, but come on people, Yankees WIN!! I’m not going to say the final game was thrilling (I did manage a nap during the 7th and 8th innings) but watching Hideki Matsuki was nothing short of amazing. His ability to hit is so phenomenal that every time he stepped up to bat I actually found myself watching the sport, rapped attention and all. And then I realized that the distance between most Americans sitting to watch a sport so intently wasn’t so far from how intently I watch a performer on Broadway belt from center stage… interesting.

9. MUSICAL West Side Story

I went back to the Palace Theater and gave the show another try. Thanks to a heavy shifting in casting, I must say the piece came together a bit more for me this time. No matter how or why this music is performed, the power is undeniable. But that raises the stakes so much higher if you can bring it all together and make a real smash. This production still just isn’t quite there, despite some better singing from the standby Tony (looks less the part, but a much preferred voice). This show needs to bite and snap, and I applaud the addition, and now reduced, use of actual Spanish to add to the fire of these feuding gangs, but I cannot wait till someone really rips open this material and delivers a version with so much ferocity to actually compete with the ingenious score and lyrics.

10. MOVIE Stepbrothers

Too many people told me how funny this movie was for me to not sit down and at least try. Well folks, I’m not going to lie, this humor is so totally not me, but that didn’t stop me from laughing out loud at the buffoonery of Will Ferrel and John C. Riley. They both are a little too good at playing overgrown children and are thankfully helped by an excellent supporting cast. Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgeon play the adults with excellent wit. Adam Scott as the obnoxious brother is wonderful, to the point that I wish he would be more effectively used in the other shows he graces these days. But hands down the person who had me laughing the most was relative newcomer Kathryn Hahn. The few moments she was on screen were the most delicious, and it was so wonderful to see her outrageous humor that worked so well on stage in Boeing Boeing play out so absurdly on film.

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