November, December, and January

Best of the Decade
An editorial feature package—edited by me and written with other editorial staffers—about the best county institutions that have been in business since the magazine was founded ten years ago. "One decade. Ten years of tireless research, experimentation, and reporting. Year after year, we scout out the most superlative offerings in Westchester County for our annual 'Best of Westchester' issue. Now, we’ve undertaken the enormous task of reviewing all of our previous editors' picks, distilling them down to the absolutely essential—the most stupendous, the most stunning, the most delicious, the most thrilling, the most dazzling—to bring you the 'Best of the Decade.' Think of it as the Best of the Best of Westchester."

Then & Now
A feature about how the county has changed in the past ten years: "Where do you go when, on a warm and breezy day, you want to have a drink or a bite to eat along the Hudson River? X2O? Half Moon? Red Hat on the River? The Day Boat Café? The Boathouse? A decade ago, none of these summertime staples would have been an option. The Hudson was not where we went to have fun. The river wasn’t for recreation—it was for work. (Not glamorous work, either—Riverkeeper called it the 'region’s sewer.') The water was polluted, the sites were choked off from the rest of the county, and it still had the workhorse vibe of lingering manufacturing industries, many of which had already taken flight, leaving chemical-filled messes in their wake."

She Checked It Out
A Q&A with writer Marilyn Johnson: "The old stereotype of the librarian with the tight bun, horn-rimmed glasses, and finger pressed to her lips in the 'shhh' position has been shattered. Now, you’re more likely to see librarians with tattoos, funky haircuts, and blogs that—rather than being meek and reserved—actually are quite loud-mouthed and opinionated. Marilyn Johnson, Briarcliff resident for the past 24 years, is one of the writers to shatter the fussy old preconception about librarians. Her book, This Book Is Overdue!, published in February, chronicles the work librarians do today, from getting the library plugged in to fighting the Patriot Act."

Happening Holidays
A round-up of holiday events outside of the usual performances of Handel and The Nutcracker: "People often forget that A Christmas Carol is one of the best ghost stories of all time. If you love Christmas/Halloween mash-ups, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, and want to see the Dickens tale become even more ghastly, the Westchester Broadway Theatre has a new show just for you. A Sleepy Hollow Christmas Carol, adapted by Jean-Paul Richard, weaves together A Christmas Carol and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In it, Scrooge, played by Mamaroneck’s John Treacy Egan, is visited by Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle, and the Headless Horseman."

Totally Goth
A review of a local production of Jekyll & Hyde: "Behind every great man there’s a great woman and, in the case of split personalities, there are two."

Four Questions For...David Harbour
A Q&A with an actor in The Merchant of Venice and The Green Hornet: "'Al Pacino is a real gentleman—generous and gracious. He’s really grounded in being an actor and loves working on scenes. But, on stage, he’s like an untrained animal—you never know what he’s going to do.'"

Hepladock the Mylagoat
An item about a locally produced game that uses nonsense words: "'People think the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is coming up with the idea, but it’s not—it’s getting the idea in front of people,' Phelps says. After the meeting with the buyer, Barnes and Noble agreed to stock 48 copies of the game. Today, five years later, Yamodo sells more than 30,000 copies per year through Barnes and Noble, Toys R’ Us, and independent retailers, as well as its own website (yamodo.com)."

Book Clubs' Best Reads
A round-up of what local book clubs are reading: "Looking for a great book recommendation? Look no further than local active readers—the ones who go to their book-group meetings having actually read the books, not just to socialize."

November Culture Highlights
Barenaked Ladies, Anna Deveare Smith, Kathleen Hill, and more.

November Home Theater
The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, The Pacific, and The Goonies.

December Culture Highlights
Cyndi Lauper, Judy Gold, and more.

December Home Theater
Inception, The Other Guys, Despicable Me, and Futurama Vol. 5.

January Culture Highlights
Citizen Cope, Twelfth Night, the African American Writers and Readers Literary Tea, and more.

January Home Theater
Genre movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Machete, The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, and Justified.

Please click the links to read the articles in full.

PopMatters End-of-Year List: The Best 70 Albums of 2010

No. 40: Contra

"As with its self-titled debut, Vampire Weekend’s sophomore effort almost hides all of its innovation—its ability to blend global sounds, straight-up indie rock, and electronic music—by making such an easy, simple pleasure to listen to. Much is made of bands’ tendencies to put up a 'difficult' second record, but Contra seems engineered to encourage maximum repeat listens—there’s nothing abrasive about it, so you can throw it on at any time. Listenable, however, shouldn’t be confused with simple: band member Rostam Batmanglij’s production is easy to take in, but it’s also lush, bright, and full of twinkling elements: a marimba here, a keyboard flourish there. The full sounds still supports lyrics in that preppy upper-class milieu that brought them scorn with the last album, with references to Richard Serra, Wolford’s, and 'living at the French Connection'. But it just goes to show that the band isn’t apologizing for what it is: a band that’s created in the same mold as Paul Simon and Talking Heads, isn’t ashamed to sing about frippery like organic toothpaste and San Pelligrino, and one that is thoroughly enjoyable to hear."

Film Review: The Complete Metropolis

If There Was Ever a Movie That Deserved This Degree of Re-Examination, It’s Metropolis

"So, after 83 years of cutting and re-cutting, trying to piece together Lang’s original take we’re left to ask, Does the film live up to all the effort put in to save it?

Absolutely. Sure, on Kino’s Blu-Ray release, the newest 25-minutes of additional footage are scratched and grainy, and come in at a different aspect ratio than the rest of the film (the missing information is filled with black and gray bars), but that just underlines how gorgeous the rest of the film looks, filled with Lang’s soaring Art Deco towers and ornate cathedrals.

In fact, if there was ever a movie that deserved this degree of re-examination, it’s Metropolis. Every aspect of the movie is dense. The frames are full, sometimes with people (the DVD extras point out that 36,000 extras were used in the making of the film), sometimes with the light that bathes the saintly Maria, sometimes with smoke from the whirring machines. The story is packed with layers of symbolism. Sometimes machines are used as symbols for parts of the body, sometimes people are symbols as cogs in a machine, and on top of it all is a gloss of Biblical imagery. Even Gottfried Huppertz’s musical score—also restored to its original glory—swells and soars more often than it demurs. (Kino’s Blu-Ray is similarly exhaustive extras, mostly via a 50-minute documentary, 'Voyage to Metropolis', about the film’s making and restoration.)"

Read the full review on PopMatters.com.

Film Review: Eat Pray Love

Me Me Me, AKA "Eat Pray Love"

"Gilbert's objective is normally reserved, especially in movies, for 20-somethings. (Isn’t 'traveling to India to find oneself' the ultimate post-graduate cliché?) Liz, leaving a childless marriage in the beginning of the film, is beholden to no one. She is only responsible for herself, much like a privileged 20-something. The question is: Is there an age at which this emerging-into-a-whole-person storyline becomes vulgar? Or, considering the amount of scorn the younger generation brings down upon itself for being so similarly vain—broadcasting every interior thought on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the like—is there an age where this kind of selfishness isn’t vulgar?"

New Show Review: Outsourced

Outsourced: Series Premiere

You might want to skip this one, guys: "As the series begins, Todd, fresh out of a management training program, has transferred to India to set up a new call center there for Mid America Novelties. He’s been told that his employees are 'B-team.' They didn’t study in the U.S. They don’t know American customs and can’t speak with American accents. Todd is tasked with turning the rag-tag bunch into up-selling machines. This is the central duality of the show: half fish-out-of-water tale about Todd, half underdogs-come-from-behind-to-triumph story about his staff.

The problem is that neither plot has a sound foundation. For the first, it’s hard to identify with Todd because he’s not very likable. When he sees the traffic in Mumbai and calls it 'insane, like "Frogger" but with real people,' Todd seems not only dim but also insensitive, at best. (Has he really never seen bad traffic before? Does he seriously not consider the callousness of comparing people to the digital pixels in 'Frogger?') Because we have seen traffic before, it is easy to feel more sophisticated than Todd, and even the thought of investing an entire season waiting for him to catch up is exhausting...

While Todd’s romantic interest in an employee might complicate the series’ second plot, where the underdogs triumph, the other staff members looking like cardboard cutouts make it downright feeble. In the premiere episode we meet a series of types: the quiet one (Anisha Nagarajan), the one who talks too much (Parvesh Cheena), the corporate weasel (Rizwan Manji), the one who’s fascinated by American dating customs (Sacha Dhawan). They may as well be the pixels from 'Frogger.'"

Follow the link to read the rest at PopMatters.

September & October Issues

September Issue

Fall Arts Preview
A look ahead at the movies, books, network television shows, and cultural events premiering in the fall. Due to the size and number of components in this package, it looks much better in PDF form than on the web. See "Recent Work" for an excerpt.

Where the Laughs Are
Comedians come to the county: "Who says that every-thing in Westchester has to be so serious all the time? No, we don’t have our own dedicated comedy club, and we’re missing improv culture that’s present in a place like Astoria, Queens. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want a good laugh every now and again."

Home Theater
Iron Man 2, The Secret of Kells, and TV on DVD

This Month's Highlights
Roller Derby, circus art, and more.

October Issue

Rock-a-Bye Baby
One local musician arranges Simon & Garfunkel and Billy Joel tunes for babies: "How many times can you listen to one baby-oriented album before you wish they’d be old enough to start listening to Metallica, just for something different?"

Haunted Hudson Valley
A preview of a new Halloween attraction in Sleepy Hollow: "Unlike at certain other haunted attractions, don’t expect to see a man with a Scream mask wielding a knife at an off-model Freddy Krueger here. Lance Hallowell, the man behind Norwalk’s Misery Mansion FestEvil and last year’s haunted hayride in Sleepy Hollow, is in charge of keeping all the haunts—including the 40 to 50 professional actors working in the event—in line with our local history."

Home Theater
Scary movies: The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Splice, and the Alien box set.

This Month's Highlights
An Arts Fest in New Rochelle, Harvesting at Stone Barns, John Lithgow's one-man play, and more.

New Show Review: Running Wilde

Running Wilde: Zero Edges

"Running Wilde is clearly a post-recession show, a response to series where protagonists flaunt their riches and selfishness, too entrenched to acknowledge their own privilege. (Sorry, Gossip Girl.) Wilde’s pursuit of the most inessential items in the world—a horse that can fit into the backseat of a car, for example—makes it easy for an audience of more normal means to laugh at him, as opposed to feel bad about not having what he has."

More TONY

A few Time Out New York articles:

Places You Can Get to Without a Car
Ten destinations you can get to by train, bus, and Metro-North

Island Retreats Right in the NY Area
Including my favorite: Bannerman's Castle!

Free Classes in New York City
Comedy, crafting, boating, and yoga

Best Indie Shots: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The best boutiques for clothes, housewares, and comics

NYC's Therapy Addiction, By the Numbers
Stats on therapy in the City

Popmatters Round-Up

It's been a while, and there are more in the pipeline, so I figured it was a good time to do another PopMatters Round-Up

The Square

"In unfolding these events, The Square is almost remarkable in its straightforwardness. It is unadorned, like a square—all straight lines and right angles. This isn’t a twist on the noir genre, or an attempt to update and recontextualize it. This is straight-up about bad things happening to bad people."

Remember Me

"Tyler and Ally. They are a bundle of quirky affectations. He works in a used bookstore and re-arranges the books according to the sexual proclivities of the authors! She believes that life is short and disaster can strike at any moment, so she eats desserts before dinner! Ostensibly, Remember Me is a love story – is this a love story that filmmakers really feel the need to tell? Two self-involved adolescents take the time to see past their own problems and affectations to notice someone else for a brief moment in time?"

Mystery Team

"Though everyone in the cast is well matched to his or her role, it’s clear that they were chosen for the movie for their abilities to be naturally funny, not because they can disappear into their characters. The result is a series of encounters with small-town misfits that are exaggerated and distorted versions of the actors who play them (or at least were created with their comedic strengths in mind). This is the right way to approach the material, primarily because the actors they rounded up are really darn funny."

Tetro

"Gorgeous, high-contrast black-and-white images—courtesy of cinematographer Mihai Malaimare, Jr.—give the film a more classic, timeless look.Tetro is worth viewing just to see the breathtaking shots of Argentina—which can easily be stunning with all of the naturally occurring color —done in the dreamy, luscious black-and-white style. Shown in a 2:35 aspect ratio, the shots in the film could be museum quality as still photography."

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

"Just as Tim Burton was able to use stop-motion animation to achieve a perfect expression of his gothic sensibility in his 1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wes Anderson takes to the medium to make the most Wes Andersony movie possible. After all, his movies are always about the little details—the wallpapers, the ties—and stop-motion animation itself is nothing if not an amalgam of millions of little details."