July 29, 2011

Deep Under Park Avenue, A Resting Place For A Drill

This is a picture of the East Side Access tunnel that has been carved out more than 100 feet below under Grand Central Station and Park Avenue over the last 4 years.  The machine that did this incredible job is a huge TBM (tunnel boring machine) which, now that the work is done, will be buried below the intersection of 37th and Park because it's basically too expensive to extract it out of the tunnel.  That's right...they are just going to leave it there encased in cement, with a nice plaque of course, to explain this weird subterranean artifact to future generations who might discover it in the future.

This remarkable story was in the TIMES earlier this week.  Apparently this sort of machine burial is often done on tunneling projects due to the expense of removing the machine.  However, it's never been done under New York because the underground real estate is often just as precious as it's above ground counterpart.  But in the case of this East Side tunnel, removal would not only have been ridiculously expensive (about $9M!) it would have been impossible to open up a 40 foot hole in the middle of the tony block which boasts the Union Club.

Anyway, this is another fascinating story of what's going on underneath the city as part of the largest expansion of the transit system in more than 60 years.  East Side Access trains are set to run in 2016.

July 28, 2011

The Short That Started AUGUST

We had our screenings of AUGUST last weekend at the NewFest and they were a big success!  Nearly sold-out crowds filled up both of our screenings, despite the 100-plus heat.  And though the movie itself takes place during a heatwave, it was certainly easier to watch that on screen in a nicely air conditioned cinema.

During both Q/As afterwards, questions came up about the short film that started it all, Eldar Rappaport's POSTMORTEM. I saw it at Outfest in 2005 and was so impressed that I approached the director asked if he was doing a feature.  I actually assumed there was a full-length script.  But there wasn't and that's when I started working with Eldar to expand it into a feature film.

You can watch the short below, on the Logo website.  The feature will be released in the US by Wolfe Video, who just acquired AUGUST this month. More details to come on that soon....

July 27, 2011

Photos Of The New World Trade Center

I was downtown yesterday for a meeting and took some pictures of the new One World Trade Center building.  It's really coming along and is now more than 700 feet tall!  And despite the generally negative reviews it received when David Childs released his re-design, the former Freedom Tower  actually looks like it could be quite a beautiful building when completed.

One thing I noticed is that, with it's reflective glass, you can see an image of the Woolworth building when looking at the eastern facade (second photo below).  I thought that was pretty cool...unfortunately the effect won't last when WTC 2 is built across of the newly restored Greenwich Street.  It's glass surface is a strong contrast to the original building, which had narrow glass windows between its trademark supporting beams on the outside.

You can see echoes of the original WTC in the building going up on the southeast corner of the site, WTC 4.  This building has window panels that mimic the look of the the trade center's windows with faux "beams" running in parallel lines (see below).  This building is going to be a big one too....almost 900 feet tall!  You can follow all the progress at the site on the new Port Authority website which features a live cam.

July 26, 2011

NetPix: Marwencol

In the midst of summer movie madness, I've been trying to do a little counter-programming on my Netflix queue. I found a rare recording of a revised Tennessee Williams play THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE, the original TRON newly re-released, the first Barbara Streisand TV special, James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in HOWL and a documentary about the folks behind Pixar.  But recently, I discovered another doc that just blew me away called MARWENCOL.

I had read about this film when it had a limited release here in NYC last year and put it on my queue.  It's about a man in upstate New York, Mark Hogancamp, who was drinking heavily and got assaulted outside a bar by a group of five youths.  He survived but his memory was basically wiped out as were his skills as an artist.  He had to relearn how to speak, write, everything.  However, he was sent home from rehab early because he couldn't afford it. Thus, he was forced started his own unique physical and emotional therapy by building a fictional, WWII-era Belgian town filled with toy soldiers and Barbies.

I have to admit that, when streaming on Netflix I often stop and start and sometimes never even finish films.  But with this one, I was riveted.  This is a fascinating story of a unique man who channels his fear and rage into his art in the most surprising way.  The photos he takes of the town and the people are stunning; they are at turns graphic, melancholy, creepy but totally unforgettable.  Mark's story has many surprises and revelations along the way so I'm not going to say more other than I have not been so moved by a documentary in a very long time.

July 25, 2011

A Wedding Weekend Told In Pictures

Marriage equality kicked off in grand style this weekend as hundreds of gay couples in lower Manhattan got hitched.  It was an extraordinary day in New York City's history.  A number of photo galleries on the TIMES site and on Buzzfeed online to give a sense of the emotion and beauty of this moment so many years in the making. What's especially moving to me are the photos of the senior couples, like the guys above, some of whom have been together 30 or 40 years waiting for their wedding day.  A hearty congrats to everyone and another step forward in the continuing struggle for equal rights for all!

July 22, 2011

AUGUST'S New York Premiere Perfectly Timed With Heatwave

I have talked about AUGUST on the blog a bit lately.  It's a film I co-wrote and helped produce that is about  love triangle set in LA during an intense summer heatwave.  Well, in a case of crazy timing, the movie has it's NYC premiere this afternoon during an intense summer heatwave.  I just checked on Weather.com and it's 104 degrees in Central Park.  Amazing.   That means it's gotta be at least 107 in my hood, where there are a few less tress than Central Park.

Anyway, despite the heat, the show will go on as the movie theatre is air conditioned.  The film plays today at 5PM at the SVA Theatre on 23rd Street, just west of 8th Avenue.  Tomorrow, it screens at 7PM at Cinema Village on 12th Street, just west of University Place.  Tickets are still available for both screenings at the NewFest website.  So come and cool down with our hot sexy film this weekend.  Hope to see you there!

July 21, 2011

Getting Married Is Like Winning The Lottery

At least in New York!  As widely reported this week, there has been something of a gold rush of gay couples who want to get married on the first day it is legal in NYC this weekend.  Of course, City Hall can't accommodate the thousands of gay men and lesbians who want to tie the knot on Sunday so they've organized a lottery and the 724 winners will get hitched on the 24th.  Even the losers get something...a cute certificate stating that they wanted to get gay married on that day but couldn't!  I love New York :)

Last night, Jimmy Kimmel's show did a fun little spoof of the gay wedding lottery.  If only it were this easy!

July 20, 2011

Senate Committee Hearing On DOMA Repeal Today

Today on Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to discuss repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.  This awful piece of legislation, which defines marriage as between a man and woman and excludes federal recognition of marriage equality for gays and lesbians, was enacted back in 1996 during an election year. (Senator Al Franken (above) had some sharp questions for the Focus On The Family hate group which are up on Towleroad.)  DOMA's constitutionality has been in question since then and now, finally, the Senate may be poised to act after a boost from the White House.

In a remarkable statement that seems to have gotten lost in all the debate over the debt crisis, the Obama Administration came out yesterday in support of repeal of the law.  The President himself said that DOMA was unconstitutional last month, after the passage of NY's gay marriage law.  But he has been wary of making actual political moves on the federal angle of marriage equality.  But with yesterday's announcement, the President says he will now push like he did with the gays in the military to right a longstanding wrong.

July 19, 2011

Death Row Inmate's Victim Sues State To Stop Execution

Forget Casey & Caylee--if you want a true crime story that not only amazes but actually inspires, here it is. The shooting victim of a man who is now on death row petitioned Texas to commute his sentence to life and, now that the Supreme Court has turned his request down, he is suing the state for violating his rights as a victim.  This is no frivolous lawsuit either.  This is a man on a mission.

Rais Bhuylin, a conveience store clerk, was one of three people shot in Mark Stroman's post-9/11 rage shooting spree.  Bhuylin (pictured here shortly after the shooting) was the only one who survived but he was left blind in one eye.  However, in line with his Muslim faith, he has not only forgiven his assailant but believes he does not deserve to die and has been lobbying for the a life-without-parole sentence. For his part, Stroman, age 41, deeply regrets his admittedly stupid and deadly actions nearly a decade ago but will now face his death by lethal injection Wednesday morning. In Texas, there is no room for forgiveness

This story was featured on the CBS Evening News last night but the only version of it I can find online today is over at BBC News...go figure.  It's 10 times more fascinating than the tabloid-obsession over Casey/Caylee because it gets to the heart of the American justice system and the continuing battle between retribution and rehabilitation.

July 18, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog....

Hi all--so the last month or so has been a bit of a whirlwind with the play WTC VIEW wrapping up and the movie AUGUST opening at film festivals.  Anyway, after a month of travel and film festivals and general excitement, I plan to be back on track with the daily postings here this week.  Sorry about the bloggus interruptus but sometimes life and work just get in the way.  :)

Finally, in movie news, AUGUST has its NYC premieres this Friday and Saturday at NewFest....tix are still available so come check it out this weekend!

July 11, 2011

Come Out And Play Gaming Hits FiDi At Night

The gaming organization Come Out And Play hit the financial district for a night of outdoor gaming.  The first event was a sniffing scavenger hunt called Hounded which we got there too late for unfortunately.  It did seem like fun though as there were a bunch of real dogs involved who were all quite frisky/friendly and a a real live British dude in hunting gear too! WNYC has some nice, full coverage of that game on their website.

The second event was called Shadowplay and it was awesome.  Images of green balls were projected on a large wall next to a church on John Street and, using your body, you and a teammate had to create shadows on top of the balls.  As you did, they would "explode" and you would get points.  And you had to avoid the blue balls that were floating around too.  If you hit one of those, you lost a "life" (4 per 2 minute game).

I played with a friend and we did pretty well, breaking 100 with our first turn.  It really required a lot of stretching skills so fortunately I had been to the gym earlier! As we were waiting, everyone kept saying I would do great because I was tall but actually I would have done better if I were fat.  My skinny shadow was only good to get two or three balls at the same time.  But it was tons of fun and we wanted to play again and again...unfortunately, the computer's batter died and we had to settle for two games.

If you'd like to play yourself, there is a massive gaming Field Day these folks are throwing out on Governor's Island this weekend.  It's happening Saturday July 16th, from 11am-5pm, with multiple games, including some water sports--not the dirty kind! :)  Sounds like a fun summer's afternoon out on The Island, as it were.

July 8, 2011

The Word Of The Week Is "Haboob"

Yes, it is a real word. No, it doesn't refer to an idiot.  A "haboob" is the Arabic name for a dust storm and the word was being bandied about all over the news this week when a huge haboob hit Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday.  You can watch the incredible video which looks like something from an apocalyptic Hollywood thriller. In fact, it looks like the exact thing Tom Cruise is trying to out-run in the newly released MISSION IMPOSSIBLE trailer.

Anyway, here's the video of the Haboob Of The Week that hit Phoenix.  Note that this is time lapse to that makes it look a bit scarier than it really is. But the dust apparently did get all over everything....it even set off a lot of smoke detectors in people's homes.  Some think it was the large haboob to hit the city in a century.

July 7, 2011

He Lights Up His Life--Mark Sam, Celebrity

I have spent a lot of time in the last couple months tooting my own horn on the blog, with WTC VIEW Onstage and AUGUST making their debuts.  Well, today I'm going to take a break from all that tireless self-promotion and toot someone else's horn for a change!

My good friend Mark Sam Rosenthal is doing a show next month in the NY Intl. Fringe Festival called I LIGHT UP MY LIFE: THE MARK SAM CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY.  I saw the first iteration of the show at Dixon Place last summer and it was fantastic.  It's a spoof of the whole celebrity autobiography genre but also a spoof of celebrity in general and filled with wonderful, true stories of Mark Sam's glamourous life.

He's just started putting out some promo videos for the show on YouTube which give you a sense of the whole thing.  The first one is posted here with more to come.  And the show itself will hit town in August, running for 5 performances the 12th through the 16th at Dixon Place.  Tickets will be available July 22nd on the Fringe NYC website.  Check it out and hope to see you there!

July 5, 2011

AUGUST On The Radio & AUGUST Tickets On Sale

While I was in San Francisco for the Frameline premiere of AUGUST, Steve Pride of KPFK radio interviewed the director and me as well as our lead actors.  The interview, which is part of an Outfest LA preview show, aired last night on the West Coast.  But you can listen to it here online as a podcast.  I've been on Steve's show a number of times before, for my film and book projects, but this was special in that it was a sort of audio portrait of the main creative teamof the project  (minus our amazing cinematographer James Adolphus) as we discussed it's unusual journey from short to feature film.  The portion about AUGUST is about 10 minutes long and starts around the 40:10 mark.

Next up for AUGUST is the L.A. premiere, which happens next Sunday July 10th at Outfest with a screening at the Directors Guild of America theatre.  This is one of my favorite places to see a film....a beautiful auditorium with fantastic sound and a huge screen.  After that, the film will be in Philadelphia the weekend of July 16-17th, where I will be representing the film as the west coasters take a fest off.  Then, the week after that, the film plays here in New York City at The NewFest, July 22nd and 23rd.  Tickets for that screening just went on sale today so get them while you can at the NewFest website.

July 4, 2011

On the 4th, Remembering The 14th State That Never Was

Ever heard of the State of Franklin?  I hadn't until today when I stumbled upon a mention about it in an article about a documentary filmmaker doing a feature on the lost State of Franklin...or "Frankland" as it was going to be named.  This was an area west of the Appalachia mountains that was originally part of North Carolina but ended up as it own independent territory around 1785.

There was even a resolution presented to the Continental Congress in 1786 to make "Frankland" the 14th State of the nascent United States.  That resolution obviously did not pass and the territory as eventually turned into the eastern end of the state of Tennessee.  Today, there are still remnants of this "ghost state" in the names of institutions like the State of Franklin Bank!

I'm always fascinated to read about these little lost bits of history, especially on a day like today when we celebrate our nations' 235th anniversary.  Here's hoping you have a fun Fourth filled with fireworks and Frankland flag waving!