September 30, 2011

Outdoor Fall Movies On The High Line--TONITE!

One of my favorite NYC things to do in the summer is check out all the various outdoor screenings of movies the city has to offer.  It all started with the famous Bryant Park series back in 1994 and now has spread to countless venues across the five boroughs.  

This year, summer movies are moving into the fall with the advent of the High Line Film Series.  The theme?  Trains of course, in homage the High Line's history as rail freight line that served the West Side until the mid-'60s.  Last week they showed one of my all-time favorites SOME LIKE IT HOT.  And tonight, at the 14th Street passage, they will be showing the Hitchcock thriller STRANGERS ON A TRAIN.  Beforehand, there is a screening of a short film that compiles clips of Hollywood films about trains called ALL ABOARD.  The fun starts at 7pm, up on High.

September 28, 2011

Branded Networking: PAN AM & THE PLAYBOY CLUB

There has been a lot of anticipation this TV season about two shows aping AMC's hit series MAD MEN and its '60s nostalgia.  But what's more interesting to me about these shows is that they have both have adopted the corporate logo of their respective companies, Playboy and Pan Am, as their main image for advertising and promotions.  That actually harkens back to the 1950s when advertisers regularly sponsored entire programs, like the Camel News Caravan (which featured Edward R. Murrow) and soap operas (thus the name).

Marketing aside, the proof is in the pilot as they say. So I checked them both out over the weekend.  THE PLAYBOY CLUB is an odd show and not at all what I expected.  It seems more interested in being GLEE than MAD MEN, with it's musical numbers, fluffiness and homosexuals (there was even a meeting of the Mattachine Society?!).  With a strange voice-of-God narration by Hugh Hefner, the show just doesn't really make sense in the end.  

As for PAN AM, it was a lot more coherent as a show about 4 stewardesses flying transatlantic Clipper service on the storied airline.  But it also pulls a bit of a bait-and-switch in that it's less MAD MEN and more akin to a flying LOVE BOAT. Not that that's a bad thing....but it's an awfully small boat :)  This show seems more likely to succeed as an actual interesting program as opposed to a 45-minute commercial which is somewhat ironic, given Pan Am is not currently in business.  However there is a newly launched shopping site where you can buy everything from bags to key chains with the company's  iconic blue logo. Given the state of the air travel industry, this approach will probably be much more profitable than restarting the actual airline.

September 27, 2011

Washington Monument Closed Indefinitely After Earthquake

The National Park Service announced yesterday that the Washington Monument will be closed indefinitely after a survey inside of the obelisk revealed more damage than initially thought from the August earthquake.  Specifically, the top or "pyramidium" of the monument really got shaken around.  On top of that, the elevator is busted too and only can get half way up the 50 stories.

The Washington Post has the full story on this, (and this graphic which shows the problems) along with some video of the inside of the monument with tourists racing for the stairs during the earthquake as debris falls down on them.  Amazingly, no one was injured.  A full assessment of the exterior stones begins this week with man rappelling down the sides of the monument.  

The entire interior and exterior was restored in 1999 and, during that process, each stone was numbered, photographed and catalogued so that they will be able to compare their condition before and after the earthquake. It's amazing that the earthquake wrought such havoc on the monument which has been standing there since 1884.  But, unlike modern office buildings of the same height, there is no steel frame that can sway and counterbalance with the movement.  It's just stones and mortar and, when shaken up, it simply starts to fall apart.

September 26, 2011

DRIVE Soundtrack Is An iTunes Hit

DRIVE is a stylish new film starring Ryan Gosling as a stunt car/getaway driver opened this weekend to great critical acclaim.  I saw it this weekend and have to say it is one of the most cinematic movies of the year.  The director, Danish auteur Nicholas Winding Refn, knows how to create some beautiful images and truly creates a mood reminiscent of a Miami Vice episode or a Michael Mann movie, with a sleek 80s vibe.

A great deal of that vibe comes from the film's soundtrack which, not surprisingly, is doing even better than the film.  The movie opened in the number 7 position on the Box Office charts while the soundtrack shot to number 5 on iTunes.  The album has a mix of some great new songs, along with scoring by Cliff Martinez that sounds like an update of Tangerine Dream, who did the memorable score for RISKY BUSINESS.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I think I like the music is better than the actual movie, which sorta fell apart about halfway through due to a weak screenplay.  But it's great to see audiences embracing a film which is moody, interesting and a real, old-fashioned movie in that it tells its story visually and with a certain, deliberate pace rare in the Hollywood hyper-editing we've grown accustomed in the post-Michael Bay world. And Ryan Gosling is an actor who can definitely keep your attention, even when he's doing nothing but chewing a toothpick.

September 23, 2011

Everybody's Working For The Weekender

After years of complaints for the MTA to do something to help people understand the myriad of services changes and disruptions on an average weekend, they finally took some real action. Last week, the MTA reveal a new interactive weekend-only subway map called The Weekender, which takes over the home page of their website now Fri-Sun.

What is really cool is that they've utilized an updated version of the beautiful but damned Vignelli artsy map from the 1970s.  The map, which is similar to the ones in major cities like Boston, Washington and London, takes the disorder of the mammoth system and arranges it in sleek Modernist lines.  The problem was the lines don't really relate to the city's grid and, in the original, some stations were not located in the right spot geographically.  But with the interactive map, the mod map is used to show how the system is altered in a relativity clear manner, by blanking out stations not in service and "greying" out lines not operating.

It's a vast improvement over the previous alternative, which was trying to read the notices posted in the subway which were hard to decipher, especially at a glance.  Now if only they could limit the weekend work.  Unfortunately that's never gonna happen....the blessing and curse of a 24/7 system.

September 22, 2011

It's My Birthday!

For those not on Facebook (and I know there's at least a couple of you out there), today is my birthday.  One of my friends found this lovely picture of a cake mistake and posted it on my Wall....possibly from Cake Wrecks though I can't confirm that.  Anyway, it's a brilliant combo of two of my favorite things; cake and icing!  :)  And it's used to comic effect too, intentional or not.

The big birthday fun is planned for tomorrow as it's Gay Night at Six Flags in NJ.  This combines two of my other favorite things; gay men and roller coasters.  The night gives a whole new meaning to the term screaming queen.  Look forward to riding the new Green Lantern (a stand-up coaster!) and the old favorite El Torro (a sit down and scream your head off wooden ride).

September 21, 2011

The End of Don't Ask Don't Tell....Finally

It's been a long time coming but the military's misguided and discriminatory policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has finally come to an end.  At the stroke of midnight Tuesday, the U.S. Army released a statement that gays can serve openly in the armed forces.  Other service branches are complying with this as well and it truly marks a turning point for the gay rights movement.

One of the more interesting stories about this development was in the TIMES yesterday.  It was about a military recruiter who set up a table at a gay center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Apparently, the Marines are taking the end of discrimination as an opportunity to actively recruit gays and lesbians.  Giving the fact that there are two wars on, recruiters have their work cut out for them.  And I secretly suspect that some of the impetus behind this policies' ultimate implementation was the basic math of the situation; the US simply could not afford to discharge anyone in a time when the forces are stretched tight in the war on terrorism.

Regardless, it's great news that we are now moving past this senseless debate on "gays in the military" (hello--they've always been there) and moving forward to fight the real battles that count.

September 19, 2011

New HALF-SHARE Teaser With JAWS!

Jesse Archer and Sean Hanley, the co-creators of HALF-SHARE, the half-hour comedy about life on Fire Island, posted a new teaser trailer for the show online today as part of the run-up to our appearance at the New York TV Festival later this week.  The trailer features our drag character, Anita Spinoff (ha), who would do just about anything to be on TV, as witnessed in the trailer. The pilot is screening on Thursday and Friday evening down at the Tribeca Cinemas ....for more info go the festival website.  Hope you can come!

September 16, 2011

Cat Travels From Colorado To New York City

This story hit the wires yesterday about a cat who somehow made it from Colorado to New York after having gone missing in 2006.  However, there was a curious lack of explanation or even speculation how this cute cat pulled this off. Today, the veritable NY Times has some cat travel experts (?!) discussing the how's and maybe the why's of this kitty's cross-country trip.  

In true Times fashion, the story has some amazing little facts;  did you know that 1,715 Coloradans move to NYC every year?  More importantly who the hell is keeping track of these sort of things? Apparently, that is the leading theory about the cat's remarkable trip, that someone in her home state found here and then moved with the cat to New York where she got loose again to be found on East 20th Street.

Anyway, what truly tickled me about this story is the TIMES' photo treatment of the cat as the atypical New York-dreamer, thinking about a new life in the Big Apple and then actually having the gumption to make the trek to get there, hell or high water. (In this case, a tough crossing of the Mississippi River seems to rule out an actual cross-country journey on its own four feet).  No matter what the real story, which we'll probably never find out, this whole yarn would make a pretty good Disney movie, in the old-fashioned animation style of course.  Throw in a couple yearning songs about living the calico dream in Manhattan and I think you've got a blockbuster.

September 15, 2011

HALF-SHARE Screening At NY Television Festival

HALF-SHARE is a half-hour comedy pilot I co-produced last fall about the "wildlife" on Fire Island. Ha. It stars a gay galaxy of stars, including comedian and THE VIEW guest host Alec Mapa, Sam Pancake, Jack Plotnick and the multi-talented Jesse Archer (who co-wrote and co-directed with Sean Hanley).  The project turned out great and next week we've been invited to screen at the annual New York Television Festival.  Now in its 6th year, the festival was created to as an indie outlet for the development and promotion of new ideas and new approaches to TV programming.

The screenings of HALF-SHARE are happening next week at the Tribeca Cinemas, Thursday the 22nd and Friday the 23rd. Tickets are available and they are FREE....all you need to do if you want to see it is just make your reservations at this link here. So if you can, please come and check it out. I can guarantee you will be laughing and enjoying this fun take on life on "the Island".  I will be there on Thursday night (my birthday!) so I hope to see you there!

September 14, 2011

To The Moon, NASA: Space Agency Reveals New Rocket

NASA announced its new post-Space Shuttle vehicle today, called the Space Launch System (SLS).  They also released a cool animation of the new rocket blasting into space. This new mega-rocket will be made with parts familiar from the Space Shuttle, like the solid rocket boosters and the shuttle's powerful main engines, all super-sized for maximum thrust to get to the moon (maybe) and beyond.

The new SLS will be able to lift 70 tons of spacecraft and/or materials into orbit and, eventually, as much as 130 tons.  The question is when.  Estimates vary depending on the funding of NASA by Congress.  And, given the problems there, the first launch date of 2017 seems optimistic at best.  Hopefully, Congress can see this for the jobs program it could be, especially in Florida where the new craft would be based.

September 13, 2011

My Play WTC VIEW Is Being Published

Earlier this year, WTC VIEW, my play about life in NYC after 9/11, had its off-Broadway premiere at 59E59 Theaters in midtown. We had an amazing run with many sold-out houses, some great reviews, a feature in the NY Times and, in the end, it turned out that we were the highest grossing show in that theatre since it opened in 2004!

Now, WTC VIEW is going to be officially published by Dramatists Play Service, or DPS. They are the leading publisher of new plays and musicals in the U.S. and they will also be handling licensing for the show for future amateur and professional productions.  This is great news because the main reason we wanted to get the play out again was to get it out to a wider audience.  Now, theatre companies across the country will have the chance to put on their own productions of the show. It will be available in a bound "actor's edition" by the end of the year....and I will post details when that happens. 

Also, in the online realm, WTC VIEW has just become available on a new and unique website called Indie Theatre Now. Described by founder Martin Denton as "Netflix for plays", this service allows users to download a number of plays for a set varies depending on how many plays you want. It's another great way to help get the show out into the world and, already, it has garnered some attention for a possible international production next year!  Kudos to Mr. Denton for spreading the word about the vibrant Indie Theatre community here in New York.  

September 12, 2011

Cantor Fitzgerald & The Names On The 9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial opened to the public yesterday and there is one company whose names take up almost two entire walls on the north tower void, Cantor Fitzgerald.  On 9/11, they lost 658 employees which was more than two-thirds of the company, whose headquarters were on the top five floors of Tower 1.  They suffered the largest loss of life for any single entity on that horrible day and they account for nearly a quarter of all those who died in the terrorist attacks in NY, PA, and DC.

Because of this, Cantor played a unique role in the memorial. They strongly advocated for the names to be placed above ground (the initial plan had them underground) and they made sure that all the names were arranged in proximity to the the deceased's friends and colleagues at work, as opposed to alphabetical arrangement.  It took some work with computer algorithms to make this happen but in the end it is the most fitting and moving way for the names to be displayed.

For the last few years, I've been working as an Associate Producer on a feature-length documentary that tells the incredible story of this company's loss and survival. It's called OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY (directed by Danielle Gardner,whose brother worked at Cantor) and should be hitting the festival circuit in 2012.  I spent the 10th anniversary yesterday shooting their beautiful memorial service in Central Park, attended by Hillary Clinton and with music provided by the New York Pops.  When you see all those people, more than a thousand, gathered in one place to remember their loved ones, the loss is both overwhelming and inspiring.  It was a day, like 9/11 itself, that I will not soon forget...

September 9, 2011

New Video of The New World Trade Center

Silverstein Properties, the developer of the World Trade Center site, has released a new video that shows the site's progress and gives a tantalizing glimpse into the future. With some nifty computer graphics and time lapses, the video shows the new One World Trade Center rising up and even being occupied by office workers (though none of them look nearly as stylish as the Conde Nast employees who will arrive in 2013).

The video is a great tribute the progress that is finally being made at the site, 10 years after the entire WTC complex was destroyed.  Unfortunately, the estimates on the site's ultimate completion run anywhere from 2018 to 2030.  Hopefully it'll all be done sooner than later and this gaping scar in Lower Manhattan will finally be healed.

September 8, 2011

Flight Numbers From 9/11 Are Officially Retired

I was watching a piece on the CBS Evening News last night about Flight 93.  Due to that plane being the only one on 9/11 where data and sound recorders were recovered, there is a lot of information about that fateful flight and the passengers who fought back, possibly saving the US Capitol from a direct hit.

Curious about whether the airlines still use these flight numbers, I found out that the numbers of all four planes involved in the terrorist attacks had been officially retired by American and United Airlines in 2001.  However, in May of this year there was a system error at United in which the numbers 93 and 175 showed up in the system and were quickly removed.

Here's the CBS report from last night in it's entirety with Scott Pelly introducing it from the new Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA, opening this weekend.

September 7, 2011

THE GREAT GATSBY 5: This Time It's In 3D!

That's right--brace yourself for the 5th filmed adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel, this time in glorious 3D!  Australian impressario Baz Luhrman starts filming  at Fox Studios in Sydney this week with a glittery cast headed by Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character and Tobey Maguire as the cutest Nick Carraway the screen has ever seen.  Carey Mulligan is playing Daisy Buchanan, which seems like it could be spot on.

I can only imagine the spectacular spectacle Baz has in mind with a reported budget of $125M.  When I first saw this story (and the pricetag!) on the Hollywood Reporter website, I thought that he was making a musical version.  But his innovation this time out is 3D, which doesn't seem like a such great idea for this particular story.  I can already see the camera zooming-in through the spectacles of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg. But other than that? 

Then again, I was impressed by his take on Shakespeare's overdone R&J (with more than 30 versions on IMDB). So maybe he can surprise us with this remake too.  Baz's glittery GATSBY will hit theatres in November 2012 in hopes of catching Oscar's attention.  

September 6, 2011

Could A Silent Movie Win An Oscar In 2012

There is big Oscar buzz for a silent movie that is making the festival rounds.  It's called THE ARTIST and is actually set in Hollywood during the silent era, telling the story of two actors who are awfully similar to Greta Garbo and John Garfield.  With the advent of sound, Garfield's career tanked due to his high voice and Garbo's career soared.

The film premiered at Cannes in May, was snatched up by the Weinstein's and recently play to strong audience response at Telluride.  There's a big write-up on the Hollywood Reporter about the film today and whether it just might be the first silent movie to get an Oscar nomination since 1929.  However, to be technical, there are apparently three instances in the film where sound is used to dramatic affect.  The article talked about these but also gave a Spoiler Alert so I didn't read it all the way til the end.

But the film certainly looks promising in its stunningly beautiful trailer, which you can watch below.  The big question is will audiences go to see a silent film?  The Weinstein's have their work cut out for them but they've surprised us before.

September 2, 2011

Top 6 Worst Excuses By Gay Politicians

So it's been a pretty big summer for political sex scandals.  It started with DSK and the hotel maid back in May, then Anthony Weiner's weiner blowing up all over Twitter in June.  And now in August, when these sort of things tend to flourish, we have two very juicy gay sex scandals entangling two very conservative Republicans.  Quel surprise!

One is a Congressman from Indiana who hired a teenage male hooker from Craigslist, but then tried to say that this was some sort of political takedown he was trying to expose (?!). The other is a senator in Puerto Rico who was on Grindr with some very explicit photos which he claimed had been taken to document his recent weight loss. Oh Mary please!

I have an article out today about some of these summer '11 sex scandals as part of NEXT magazine's end-of-summer yearbook issue.  (It should post to their site this weekend.)  And over at New York magazine, the scandals have inspired them to compile a brilliant list of the top 6 worst excuses by gay politicians.  To mangle Shakespeare--these ladies doth protest waaaay too much.

September 1, 2011

Hoisting Steel At The Top Of The World

This photo was taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Damon Winter. The NY Times commissioned him in July to take pictures of the men working nearly 1,000 feet in the sky as they together the steel of One World Trade Center.  Winter's black and white photos are reminiscent of Lewis Hines work back in the 1930's when he documented the ironworkers piecing together the Empire State Building.

You can see a lot more of these photos online.  There is an extraordinary multimedia slidshow on the Times website that posted today and there will be print versions of the photos in this Sunday's magazine.  These images are beautiful and breathtaking; a lasting tribute to their work on what will soon be the tallest building in America.