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 IssueRock-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.
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-UpThe 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."
Some of my most recent PopMatters reviews:The Box
"Of course, in the hands of director Richard Kelly, even a simple thought experiment becomes not-so-straightforward."Moon
The most compelling movie futures are not necessarily the shiniest. They don’t always show us the sleekest designs, most efficient technologies, or the most spectacular visions of what’s to come.Staten Island
"With the film Staten Island, director James DeMonaco promises to push past all of the borough’s stereotypes—which, let’s face it, are mostly negative—for a more honest look at what it means to be from the Island. He does so, as he mentions in a thoughtful commentary with stars Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio, because he grew up on Staten Island, and always felt a sense of being mocked when he told that fact to outsiders."The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
"The huge ensemble is reduced to as series of one-note or half-note gags—get this, Ken Jeong’s character is Asian!—used to kill time when Piven is off-screen. And, since yes, it is funny to watch Piven go off on some type of ranting monologue, the film gets out of his way and gives them to him—many times."The Monster Squad: 20th Anniversary Blu-Ray
"The Monster Squad is one of those ‘80s underdog-adventure movies that’s just one Corey shy of being a Saturday-afternoon television mainstay like the most famous of its brethren, The Goonies."V: Series Premiere
"Viewers barely had time to wonder at the potential metaphors embodied by the extraterrestrials before we were hit with another shift in identity or expectation."Flash Forward: Series Premiere
"Instead of engaging in diplomacy and cooperation, the episode focused on investigation: just three FBI agents—Benford, Demetri Noh (John Cho), and Janis Hawk (Christine Woods)—were assigned to figure out the cause of the blackout and the probability of its recurrence. Worse, instead of developing into an international procedural, the show immediately and extremely narrowed its focus, emulating every other unexplained-phenomenon series, from The X-Files to Fringe."PopMatters's Year-End Lists Contributions:
Best Singles of 2009: Bishop Allen's "Oklahoma."
Best Albums of 2009: The Decemberists's The Hazards of Love (No. 25).
Best Movies of 2009: Coraline (No. 14)
Best TV Shows of 2009: Kings (No. 24).
We started 2010 with lots of service, and I put together some great packages for the beginning of the year.
How to Do Just About Anything
A huge package full of tips on picking up any skills, from beer pong strategies to nuclear-meltdown preparedness. "Look back on your New Year’s resolutions. Did you vow to become a smarter, handier, more well-rounded person? That’s all well and good, but did you come up with a game plan for how to do it, too? No? Lucky for you, we did. Westchester’s packed with experts ready to teach you everything from the art of faking conversations with wine snobs to shedding those holiday pounds (while at work)."Read This and Save a Bundle
Another service-packed feature, this time about saving money in the county: "How smart you are, you will think as you gaze at the best buy in your closet, that you were able to find that of-the-moment hot-ticket item for half price while your neighbors had to pay top dollar. And that’s what the best shoppers do: they don’t buy cheap items—they hunt, scour, and hustle until they can find great items at lower prices. And, believe us, it takes a lot of work. Lucky for you, we’ve done a lot of that work for you. We asked the pros, expert shoppers, and proud cheapskates (meet some of them here) to tell us how to find the best bargains in the county. Put down those coupon-clipping scissors and read on."The Producer: Emily Gerson Saines
A profile of the executive producer of Temple Grandin: "When Cynthia Nixon accepted the Best Actress Tony Award for her performance in Rabbit Hole, there were only three people she mentioned by name: the playwright, the director, and Emily Gerson Saines."Theater Review: 42nd Street
A review of a local production of the classic musical: "The characters in 42nd Street are excited to be cast in a new Broadway musical, not just for the sake of their showbiz careers, but because the economy is bad and they’re grateful for the jobs—sound familiar at all? Luckily, even if you haven’t been touched by the recession, the Westchester Broadway Theater’s 42nd Street gives you a lot of show for your money."Five Places to Propose
Where to pop the question: "With Valentine’s Day in the air, and thoughts turning to romance, are you feeling inspired to buy a ring and ask for your true love’s hand? Finding someone to marry is the hard part—proposing should be easy. And, now, it’s even easier with our helpful list of five perfect places to pop the question. Take your pick from our à la carte menu of proposals."January Highlights
Marianne Faithfull, Gregg Allman, and more.January Home Theater
The Simpsons, Moon, and more.
Mardi Gras galore!February Home Theater
A Serious Man, The Wolf Man, and more.March Highlights
Henry Rollins, Ronnie Spector, and more.March Home Theater
Kids' movies: Ponyo, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and more.
It's not Vogue, but the September issue is still my favorite issue of the year. Fall Arts Preview! I take a look at upcoming arts, culture, and events.Fall Movies
"Where the Wild Things Are: It might seem like Maurice Sendak’s chidren’s book classic is impossible to adapt into a feature-length movie, but leave it to a couple of hipsters: Being John Malkevich director Spike Jonze and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius writer Dave Eggers have come up with a big-screen version that actually looks faithful to the spirit of the book. Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O. stirs up the wild rumpus by providing original music."Fall TV
"Melrose Place: Consider Tuesday flashback-to-the’90s night. Coming on the heels of the CW’s 90210 revamp, Melrose Place is another resurrected, catty, soapy, California-based drama with an ensemble of fresh-faced up-and-comers (and a couple of original Melrose Place veterans). Watch it while wearing your old flannel and drinking a Zima."Fall Books
"The Humbling: Philip Roth is one of the country’s most decorated authors, winning the Pulitzer Prize, the National Medal of Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN/Nabokov Award, and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award, among others. It’s strange, then, that the protagonist of his newest book has lost all confidence. The celebrated actor no longer feels at home on stage, and he has to learn to get through his most challenging performance: life in his 60s."Fall Events
"Bike Rides: In between releasing albums with Brian Eno, staging critically raved-about tours, and generally being awesome, former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne is a tireless bicycle advocate. It’s no shock, then, that he is an advisor on this exhibition, which features two-wheelers that have been customized and repurposed by artists. We love the Pimp my Piragua bike, which is essentially a giant boom box with huge speakers attached to the bike frame. Keep an eye out for museum-sponsored bike rides (where some of the artwork actually performs), bike raffles, and other fun two-wheeled events."In addition to the Fall Arts Preview, it was also an issue devoted to kids, so wrote about the best in children's books and movies.Book Reports
A survey of almost two dozen local children's book authors and illustrators: "No matter what your book is about, two things will always happen on a school visit. A kid will ask you about dinosaurs, and another how much money you make. I know a fair amount about dinosaurs. As for the other question, I usually reply, ‘More than you do.'"New Classics
Local children's librarians and film educators were asked to name recent classic books and movies: "It’s inconceivable that you haven’t heard about the young wizard and his attempts to avenge his parents and stop the evil Lord Voldemort. 'Part of the series’ appeal is the proximity of the magical world to our world,' Rovenger says."On top of all of that, there were my usual departments:Craft Work
A look at some upcoming craft fairs: "Why learn to knit, decoupage, or make jewelry when you can buy artisanal goods from neighbors much handier than you?"Culture Etc.
Los Lobos, John Scofield, Alan Menken, and more.Home Theater
Sugar, The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition, and more.
My interview with director Joe Berlinger about his documentary, Crude: "Boy, I’ve never appreciated my home in Westchester more than in making this film. First of all, it was extremely hot—one-hundred-twenty-degree heat. We were in the rainforest, in a part that was devastated by pollution, so the air smelled and you’d go back to your hotel room with a splitting headache...The first night I checked into my hotel in Shushufindi, somebody had been shot in front of the hotel. The crime was being cleaned up as I was checking in. It was really a dangerous part of the world to be in."Archie Pops the Question
A small item about Archie Andrews's upcoming nuptials: "Whether or not Veronica will keep her maiden name of Lodge or become Mrs. Veronica Andrews has yet to be decided."Culture, Etc.
This month's highlights: the International Noir film series, M. Ward, B.B. King, and more.Home Theater
Adventureland, Flight of the Conchords, Battlestar Galactica, and more
A guide to summer movies: "Hugh Jackman may have looked dapper soft-shoeing in a tux when he hosted this year’s Oscars, but he doesn’t look so charming when the adamantium claws come out. Jackman returns to his popular X-Men character in a film that goes back to learn how Wolverine got so scruffy and angry."The Future of The County's Demographics
As part of our package looking into the year 2020, I wrote a small item about the county's changing demographics: "The Department of Planning predicts that if the trends continue, the elderly will account for a greater share of the county’s total population in 2020 than at any point in recent history."Why So Many Tutors?
A look at one of the industries that still seems to be booming: "'Tutoring is so popular now because the college-admission process is so unbelievably competitive,' says Anthony Green, an ex-Westchester resident and president of the tutoring service My Ivy Leaguer. 'More kids are applying to college today than ever.' And, while parents have been cutting back on restaurant splurges and shopping binges in The Westchester, tutoring seems to be a luxury few are willing to give up. 'We’re still growing pretty rapidly,' Green says."Beyond Brunch with Mom
A round-up of ideas for Mother's Day that go beyond the boring brunch routine: "We’re Westchester—our moms are not impressed by mere omelets, and we can come up with something more interesting to do with the women who gave us life."Brother, Can You Spare 25,000 Dimes?
A look at indulgences the wealthy might have to give up because of the economy: "Looks like we’re all going to have to do a little belt-tightening—even if that belt used to be a Dolce & Gabbana."Quadricentennial 2009
A survey of events celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage: "'My belief is that the most interesting thing about historical celebrations is the ability for them to hint at the continuum we’re always living within: The Hudson was, the Hudson is, and, under any name, it has supported civilization from the Lenape people, to the Philipse clan, to industry and recreation today,' says Brittany Wheeler, museum programs coordinator at the Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site."Cuture, Etc.
Judah Friedlander, Paul Taylor, an art fair, and moreHome Theater
Star Trek, True Blood, and classic musicals.