Articles, interviews, tidbits and rants from New York entertainment journalist Dan Avery
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Monday, February 21, 2005
This is a special early birthday present for my friend Danielle. She loves Meryl Streep. Well, we all love Meryl Streep, but Dani loves in her in a special "lets take scalding hot radiation baths together until secret government agents run us off the road" kind of way.
Danielle and I are both having birthdays this weekend, though she keeps forgetting she's a year OLDER than me. Must be the senility creeping in.
Ah well, I love you anyway -- you old coot!
Thursday, February 17, 2005
"If you're sad and like beer, I'm your lady."
The Godess: Isabella Rossellini in The Saddest Music in the World
I’ve got to stop judging books by their covers – or more precisely, DVDs and videos by their cases. I usually decide if I want to rent a movie within three seconds of looking at the box, and that’s without even reading the description on the back. If a film looks too “deep” or it’s a boxing movie or it stars Kevin Spacey, I won’t bother with it.
There’s another class of films I often pass over – ones I want to see, but it never seems to be the right moment for. I mean, I can’t say I’ve ever bounded gaily into the video store eager to rent In the Bedroom or Maria Full of Grace. I keep waiting to be in the right mood, which apparently I’m never in.
The last category of films I don’t end up renting are movies that I need to watch with someone else – maybe someone in particular, maybe a group of people. (I still haven’t seen 24 Hour Party People or the Mayles Brothers’ cult documentary Grey Gardens for this reason.) Since most people prefer going out to watching movies at my place (the fools), the list of good cinema I haven’t seen grows longer and longer.
One picture that eluded me for several months matched all three criteria. The Saddest Music in the World is a black comedy from avant-garde Canadian director Guy Maddin, who makes David Lynch look like John Hughes. Positive reviews and my love of leading lady Isabella Rossellini landed the film on my “must-see” list, but I thought it would be some sort of inscrutable existential comedy like I [Heart] Huckabees and therefore always managed to defer actually sitting through it.
Last week, however, it came off the “New Rental” shelf at TLA Video (the best video store in town), which meant it would only cost $3.50 and I’d have it for five days (Enough time for someone – anyone — to come over and watch it with me). I was hard up to find anything better, so I rented it – and it turned out to be the funniest movie I’ve seen in a year. And not funny in an “Oh, how droll” kind of way; I mean “laugh out loud and spill your Greyhound” funny.
Set in Winnipeg, Canada during the Great Depression, the film stars Ms. Rossellini (sigh) as an eccentric beer baroness who holds a contest to determine which country has the saddest music on Earth. Representatives from Timbuktu to Siam ("homeland of dignity, cats and twins") descend on the icy village and match off in Fight Club-style face-offs. Mark McKinney (“Kids in the Hall”) costars as the American contender (despite being Canadian) and Maria de Medeiros(Bruce Willis’ bobble-headed girlfriend in Pulp Fiction) plays his nymphomaniac playmate Narcissa. Did I mention Narcissa has the attention span of a goldfish and the Baroness sports artificial glass legs filled with the very lager she made her millions from?
Filmed in gauzy, blue tones that evoke a half-remembered dream, Music creates its own universe, where people punctuate their dialogue with lethal zingers and Gershwin tunes fill the arctic air. Maddin is known for being somewhat -- ok, very -- off-the-wall, but he wisely reins it in here and lets his international cast take center stage. The result is a super-stylized film that's both intimate and universal; realistic and fantastical; romantic and sardonic. Whether you love art films or prefer to watch popcorn flicks like Legally Blonde 5: Back to the Bleach, make it your business to see this one.
P.S.: I have to say I couldn’t have picked a better person to see the film with than my friend Bill Roundy, an aficionado of all things fine and good and the possessor of a particularly wicked cackle. We yelped at all the same moments and both insisted on rewinding to catch missed bits of comedy gold. I highly recommend watching this film with someone who shares your sense of humor -- especially if it’s of the dry, barbed variety.
Friday, February 11, 2005
Dive! Dive! Dive!
Who says the rich are ungrateful?
This note was posted on the website of the Harvard Club of New York City, located on W 44th St.:
A hearty thank-you to Mario Metullus, Houseman, and Herbert Campbell, Assistant Executive Housekeeper, who went diving in a packed dumpster to find a member’s piece of jewelry that was inadvertently thrown out. The jewelry was returned to the member. All of us at the Club greatly appreciate Herbert and Mario’s outstanding service of which this is merely one example.
See, the system works!
Friday, February 04, 2005
Ain't Nuthin' but a Number
So I did something last night that I'm not too proud of – I lied about my age for the first time. I hadn't planned to – in fact, I made a pledge of sorts some years back (as I approached the feeble old age of 27) to never lie about my age, because that was the truest sign I was turning into a sad old poof. I've never felt the need to fudge my digits before, even though I'm rapidly approaching my mid-30s. Around this time of year (the span between New Year's and my birthday, Feb 25), I usually take a personal inventory and I've been pretty happy with where I am lately: back in school, working at Time Out New York and pursuing my dream of being a magazine journalist. But sometimes things happen in a moment and all your promises go out the window.
When I originally made plans to meet up with my fellow Time Out interns for drinks, I knew it might be awkward. I’ve hung out with a lot of awesome people in their early twenties – heck, my last boyfriend was 23 when we met – but lately, I’ve encountered a few immature youngsters, the kind of people who went to the right schools, were raised the right way and didn’t have to do too much growing up on their own. I had a feeling at least one of my colleagues would fall into this group. And I was right.
We gathered outside Coffee Shop in Union Square around 8pm, but soon headed off to another spot when it was realized they were carding (yes, that’s right – one of my colleagues is all of 19). As our party of six lumbered towards Telephone Bar on Second Avenue, we chit-chatted about the usual mundane subjects that early twentysomethings obsess over. “Where’d you grow up?” “Where’d you go to school?” and the inevitable clincher, “how old are you?” It was the 19-year-old who asked me, and as soon as she did, I could tell she would flip out when I told her I would be 32 at the end of the month. I mean she was already borderline spastic, filled with that youthful frenzy that dissipates shortly after you bounce your third rent check. But I was cornered. If I demurred, she’d press harder. So, as casually as I could, I said “I’m thirty...” And then I stopped. I was going to add the “one,” which would at least be technically correct, if not completely honest. But I didn't – I just let the teee reverberate like an irrepressible fart. I guess I thought it might soften the blow if I was just teetering into my fourth decade, rather than firmly planted in it. I was wrong.
“YOU’RE THIRTY?! GUYS – HE’S OLDER THAN ALL OF YOU!” she whipped around and shrieked to the rest of the gang, who were trailing several feet behind us. I never quite understood what it meant to smote someone, but I swear I wanted to smite her right where she stood. Instead, I grabbed her arm and squeezed verrry tightly as I said, “Calm down – it’s not that big a deal,” an over-friendly smile plastered on my face. Once the shock of my dotage wore off, Miss 19 started to apologize profusely, as if she had accidentally blurted out I was molested by my uncle when I was 11. Again, I smiled and said "it's not a big deal" – with a withering look that made her feel even worse.
To their credit, the other interns -- who range in age from 23 to 26 -- just sort of shrugged and we moved on to other topics. And, I guess, to my credit I didn’t let it ruin the night for me. We arrived at the Telephone Bar and once the alcohol started to flow freely, all generational differences ebbed away. We gossiped about co-workers who weren’t there, shared New York apartment-hunting stories and bonded in the way people who spend 10-20 hours a week together do.
There's no real p.s. to this story. Miss 19 is going back to Oberlin next week (of course she goes to Oberlin. Where else?), so I won’t run into her in the hallway. And even if I did, I would flash her another stupid smile and laugh inside. One of the advantages of being an old fart is that you just don’t give a fuck what other people think.