March 31, 2009

NetPix: Lars & The Real Girl

Ever since I was in film school, people have been asking me what movies they should see. Lately this question has evolved into friends looking for films for their NetFlix queue. of the semi-regular features I'll be doing is "NetPix", where I tell you what you should see and, hopefully, you heed my advice and love my recommendations. If not, it's Netflix so it's not like you're out 12 bucks or anything!

My inaugural "NetPix" is a movie that ended up on my own queue reluctantly; "Lars And The Real Girl". I h
ad heard about when it was released as it received some pretty decent notices and awards nominations. Still,I was wary of "Lars" premise, about a guy in a small town who starts dating a full-size, human sex doll. The whole thing sounded a little twee. (Does anyone use that word anymore?)

Well, I was completely wrong. "Lars" is a total trifecta hit; gorgeously shot, beautifully acted,and sharply written. It's a sweet and quirky story that is actually a bit more complicated than I expected it to be, probably due to the lightweight impression created by its TV commercials. (I think that, as a rule, good movies do not boil down into good 30-second TV ads.) "Lars" works so well because it takes its premise, that Ryan Gosling has fallen for a fake girlfriend, quite seriously. There is some real psychology in the movie explaining this phenomenon,presented credibly by Patricia Clarkson's smokey-voiced local doctor. But "Lars" does have a sense of humor too. In fact, it is quite funny as it delicately walks that very fine line between silly and sad.

I'm surprised the film did not get some more serious juice around awards time. Maybe if "Juno" (which gave quirky a bad name) hadn't taken up all the awards oxygen in '08, this lovely little movie could have breathed a bit more and taken home some honors. But, in the end it's still a damn good movie. And if it doesn't make you a little weepy (in a good way!), your tear ducts may need to be checked.

March 30, 2009

"You've Danced With A Persian"

I was at a friend's party in midtown this weekend when someone suggested going to Habibi. Habibi is an Arabic word which, translated into English, means "my beloved" and/or "I love you", depending on how it's used. However, when used to describe a certain Saturday night at the China Club where the crowd is 99.9% male, it means "I love you hot Arabic gay man."

The Habibi party is a monthly gathering of gays from the pan-Arabic world and the men who love them. It moves location each time and, though the China Club was convenient to the party I was attending, the space was odd and felt like an queasy mix of Elks Lodge and Colorado apres ski circa 1979. But more importantly, it was filled with a hot and friendly crowd so we stayed. For a while...

The music was a mix of Arabic pop, Bollywood disco numbers, and a few tracks that sounded like a Muslim call to prayer with a slammin' bass beat behind it. There was even a belly-dancer intermission around 1:30am during which a real woman did some serious shaking and waving of veils along with her assets. It kinda reminded me of those gay flag dancers and made me wonder if there was some evolutionary link between the two.

In general, the crowd was very mixed, though a Turk in our party said that the majority of the folks there were Iranian from what he could tell. This made me fell better about the pricey $20 cover; we weren't just hanging out in a gay disco on a Saturday night, we were doing our part for world peace. You know, getting a dialgoue started, dancing without preconditions, etc. Actually, the best part about the party, was all the dancing. There was even some dirty dancing. In particular, there was this one dark, handsome man who really did look like "a young prince out of the Arabian Nights" who started bumping up against me at one point. He was very energetic and had the body to prove it. Anyway, when the song and our dance ended he said to me (and this is a direct quote) "now you can say you've dance with a Persian." Nice.

So yeah....I've now officially checked that one off the Bucket List and can now move onto belly dancing. See you next month, Habibis!

March 28, 2009

Ye Olde Forgotten Train Tunnel

ABC News recently did a story about the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, one of oldest train tunnels in NYC that dates from the 1840's. The tunnel was "lost" for many years and found in the early 1980's by Bob Diamond, a subway/city history buff who now runs tours. I've taken the tour, which starts by dropping into an open manhole at the intersection of Court & Atlantic in Brooklyn and ends at the dark end of the tunnel where, after about 100 yards, it abruptly stops. Jerry Kolber, a producer on my new film PROM QUEENS, is also working on a doc about the tunnel and Bob Diamond's efforts to open it up all the way to the waterfront. Fascinating stuff.

March 27, 2009

Hot Summer Movie Alert--"Taking Woodstock"

The trailer for Ang Lee's new flick "Taking Woodstock" was released today. Damn--I wish the actual movie was being released today! This looks like a whole lotta fun. That Demetri Martin is quite cute and plays a gay in this movie. Also, the idea of Liev Schreiber going tranny is just....intriguingly bizarre. Could this be the HAIRSPRAY of '09? I guess I'll have to wait 'til Augst 14th (Woodstock's 40th anniversary!) for the answer.

March 26, 2009

Every Day Is New Year's Day...

Not being a true New Yorker (I'm originally from Maryland), I still find myself looking up like a common tourist and often being surprised by what I see walking around the city. So last night, I was heading down Broadway and what did I spy on top of One Times Square but the 2009 New Year's Eve ball, still blinking and glowing and making all sorts of beautiful kaleidoscopic patterns, almost three months after all those revellers had gone back to Europe.

At first, I thought it was a sign of the current bad economic times. I wondered if the city had run out of money to remove it and decided it would be cheaper to just leave it there. However, though the city is in dire financial straits and yesterday raised the subway fare by
50 cents, the ball was actually left there on purpose and will now be a permanent attraction for years to come.

Apparently tourists year-round were always asking where it was so the city decided to build a better ball (twice as large as the last one) and leave it there as a permanent attraction...albeit one that is about 25 stories up. I grabbed this picture of it from the Times Square website, which makes it look like a colorful Epcot Center. But it's really much cooler than that in person. Next time you're in the vicinity, look up and see for yourself.

March 25, 2009

The Soundtrack Of Our Youth

I'm probably being a tad presumptuous with that headline, which assumes that everyone reading my blog spent the majority of their wasted youth in 1980's. If, in fact, you did, I can guarantee you will love this link to a site where you can listen to audio playback of 80's video games sound effects.

Some industrious geeks in Falmouth, Mass. spent endless nights at their local arcade (Time Out?) not only playing but recording all the action on cassette tapes. What's even better than the sound efx is all the random background chatter; "how do you learn how to die?" was my personal favorite during a game of Berzerk.

As you listen, the memories will flood back...not just of the gaming hits like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong, but also gems like
Q-Bert, Dig-Dug and yes, even Rootbeer Tapper. (Anyone who played and loved this game is my new best friend!) So listen and, if you become obsessed, you can even purchase a DVD for hours of home listening pleasure for only 20$. And that is a nostalgia bargain!

March 24, 2009

Time To Make Your Donut

Look at that--barely a week into my blog and already a donut post! Seems that Dunkin' Donuts is throwing a little contest on their website where you can literally make your own donut. This is the funnest interactive thing I've done on the internets since playing German lady or Lesbian....and that was like 10 years ago.

If for some unfathomable reason you're still skeptical about the thrill of making your own donut how 'bout this? Whoever comes up with the best friggin' donut of all-time wins 12 grand! I already did one myself (pictured above), the Double Nutter is a peanut butter, chocolate, Reese's cup and donut lover's dream. For my next creation I am aiming for some sorta over-the-top, sugar-coma inducing madness. Unless, that is, you beat me to it....the donut challenge is ON!

March 23, 2009

So--40 Teen Authors Walk Into A Bookstore...

Yesterday, as the culmination of the 1st Annual NYC Teen Author Week, there was a massive book signing/be-in at Books of Wonder in Chelsea. Here's a great class picture of most of us that organizer and teen author guru David Levithan took after it was all over. And in true class picture fashion, due to my height I'm in the center of the back row (just behind Coe Booth).

About 40 authors total were on hand to sign books and mingle with their readers and it was a bit of a mob scene. But, given the state of publishing these days, that was a very good thing. There were so many of us that they had us signing in three different shifts. I was on the last one, being an S. In addition to signing copies of PROM MESS and TALE OF TWO SUMMERS, I also signed three pairs of jeans as well as a dictionary in which I had to circle my favorite word ("donut"--shocker, I know). The owner of the dictionary, a blogger by the name of Hayley Anne Perkins, was then going to turn all 40 words the author's picked into a can see the results of her literary stunt here. Quite impressive....

Anyway, I had a blast chatting with avid readers, enthusiastic librarians and lots of authors, some who I knew (like Coe) and some who I'd recently met. One of the latter was Maryrose Wood (front row, far right), author of the recently published book MY LIFE: THE MUSICAL, about Broadway-obsessed teens living in Long Island. As we were discussing musicals, I told her how a production of Stephen Sondheim's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG was featured in TALE to which she replied; "Oh--I was in that show." And she didn't mean at the community center playhouse. Maryrose, as it turns out, was in the original Broadway cast back in 1980! So her book now goes to the top of my YA reading list. And, if you like musicals, you just might get a kick out of it too.

March 20, 2009

Poe In Da Bronx

Alright-maybe that's not the most politically correct headline. But it is true--and I have photos to prove it. You see, yesterday I was on my way yesterday to the fancy & newish Bronx Library for the 5-Borough Reading of NYC Teen Author Week. As I emerged from a long D-train ride from W. 4th Street, I saw this cute little cottage sandwiched between the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road.It looked so incongruous sitting there in the middle of the major intersection in the Bronx, almost like Dorothy's house when it drops into Oz. Well, it turns out this little house on the Concourse had some serious literary history behind it. Edgar Allan Poe spent his final years there after fleeing the filth and chaos of Greenwich Village as it was doing no favors for his ill wife and his own melancholy temperament. In fact, Poe's village pad was just a few blocks from my place until NYU tore it down a few years ago and put up a plaque. Lame!

Unfortunately, the Poe house is closed right now but, as I learned at the Bronx Historical Society's website, they are building a new visitor center opening later this year. So I'll have to make a return trip as Poe is one of my all-time favorite authors. My first screenplay was an adaptation of his short story THE PREMATURE BURIAL (creeeeepy), which starred Alan Alda and Faye least in my 13-year old mind. The movie never went into production, sadly...but maybe I should pitch it now that horror is huge. Alda is too old and Faye looks too weird. So who are the Alan and Faye of today? How 'bout Jon Hamm and Julia Roberts. I smell a blockbuster.

March 19, 2009

Space Invaders -- The Music Video

I don't know who this band Royksopp is or how to say their name or what this song is even about. All I know is that not only does it have a nice beat that I can dance to, it also features a live action, real world game of Space Invaders. With things blowing up and shit. Why? I have no idea. But it is frakin' awesome. Check it out here!

March 18, 2009

Vintage Food

I was home last weekend at my parents house in suburban Maryland. This is the same house that I grew up in so, over all this time, some things have changed (the Danish modern furniture and satellite chandelier are long gone) while some things remain the same (the basement is still decorated like an English pub). Yet one thing you’d except should change quite often is the food in the pantry. Well, while foraging for ingredients to make dinner one night, I found some Vintage Food that, no joke, was from the mid-1970’s. Check out this old school box of Shake 'n Bake, with no standard nutritional labeling and no UPC code!

This was not the only item I found. There was also a box of Betty Crocker Pie Crust Mix (29 cents!) which actually had a picture of “Betty Crocker” on the side panel. Granted, it was the 1970’s working woman update (no apron, hair up), but when was the last time you actually saw Betty Crocker as a fake-real person pictured on a box? If you are under 30 you might be going, uh, Betty Crocker is a real person? Yeah and so was Duncan Hines.

Granted, I found the Vintage Food way up on the top shelf where only someone who is 6'4" can easily reach. So I honestly don’t think my mom even knew it was there. I mean, the last time I can recall she was shakin’ and bakin’
, I was in high school. I suggested she call the Smithsonian regarding these items but, in the meantime, I think I might put them on eBay. I'll let you know what happens...

March 17, 2009

William Shakespeare & Williamsburg

It's official....after 400-some years, we now know that this is what William Shakespeare really looked like. And you know what? He doesn't look that bad. Certainly a lot cuter than that pic in my high school English text book which basically had him looking like my high school English teacher. Yeek!

But seriously, the thing that struck me the most was that, confirming all those rumors, Shakespeare looks kinda gay. Maybe some of that is because he is sporting the classic look of the Williamsburg hipster homosexual. If you remove the frilliness of ole England and just consider the face, the guy's a total mod Mary. Check it out; he is ridiculously pale, he has a huge geeky forehead, and, most importantly, he is sporting some trendy facial hair.

I mean really....I think I saw this guy at Sugarland last Saturday, wearing a skinny tie & dancing his ass off to "If You Seek Amy". Maybe that's why they call it Wiliams-burg?

March 16, 2009

Jonas Mother

While I was visiting my folks last weekend, my dad told me he has started reading the obituaries. He says you never know who you might see. So I decided to give the local Obits a glance and this picture caught my eye. Now I don't know if this dearly departed lady is an actual relative to the Jonas Brothers. But at least God showed some grace by calling Mother Jonas "to her greater rewards" (as the Jesuits used to say) in 2002 while the boys in the band were still in grade school, thus sparing from seeing her surname sullied in her lifetime by association with Jonas Brothers cheesy brand of quasi-Christian. Disney-fied "rock".

Yes it's true--I am no fan of Jonas Brothers. This puzzles those who've assumed these popstar teens, with their beautiful hair and hyper songs, would be totally up my cultural alley. I mean, I loved the Cassidy Brothers and the Carter Brothers so why not JB? Well, here's the deal; they've been on my Shit List ever since they covered this really awesome Brit-pop single called "That's What I Go To School For" and censored the original lyrics about lusting for your teacher. In the Jonas version, Joey have a crush on a senior! Whaaaaa?!?

So they're, like, totally and seriously forever banished to teen pop star purgatory for that one. In fact, I hope that one day they'll meet Mother Jonas at the pearly gates and she'll scowl at their skinny jeans, so-called purity rings and rocked-out hair and send them straight to hell for ruining her good name. And God Bless her for it!

March 15, 2009

OMG--It's Brian's Blog

Hi all and a hearty welcome to my little corner of the blog-o-sphere. After years of being told by many of my friends that I know way too much about way too many random things and should probably find a more creative outlet for my interests than their ears, I've decided to do something about it and start up a blog. The name Hi-Fi Bri is childhood nickname that is still popular in some circles. The donuts come from Dunkin' and don't they look delicious!

So-what inspired me to finally take action? As I work on both a new book and my next film, I figured I might have a lot to report about those things as they develop. I used to have an Amazon blog but that was just about book stuff and (I can admit it!) was kinda boring. This blog will be more dynamic, informal and interesting and funny. :) Also, I realized having a blog would be an awesome way to procrastinate! Now, whenever I'm on the internets, I can say I'm just doing "research". Sounds much better that way, right?

So, other than my own stuff, what will I be writing about? Pretty much what it says at the top. Things that interest me, like good indie movies and noisy studio pix, roller coasters and the subway, television and a healthy serving of pop culture, all things New York and, of course, occasional items about donuts. Seriously. And whatever the hell else strikes my fancy. . . because it's my blog and it's freakin' me out! If you can name that film reference, you should subscribe to Hi-Fi Bri immediately. If you can't, you should still subscribe because, well, you've got a lot to learn. :)