December 31, 2011

NEW YEAR'S SPECIAL: A Final Look Back At 2011

In my final post for 2011, I wanted to share this year's zeitgeist video made by the folks at Google which looks back on the past year in a musical and moving way.  I know it's basically an ad for Google and it's web services....but it's a damn good one!  I especially love the inclusion of the gay solider Randy Phillips telling his dad he's gay from back in September, just hours after Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed.

Anyway, 2011 was a clearly momentous news year in many ways that will not soon be forgotten, from the triumphs and tragedies of Arab Spring to the Occupy movement this fall.  In little under 3 minutes, this video captures the emotions of a remarkable year...

December 30, 2011

The Top Grossing Films of 2011 Are All Sequels

There was a somewhat disturbing article in the NY Times yesterday reporting that, to date, 7 of the year 10 top grossing films were sequels.  The third TRANSFOMRERS movie dominated the summer and the box office too, landing at number 2 for the year with 352 million dollars. With the release of more sequels hitting holiday screens (i.e. SHERLOCK and MI4) its possible that 2011 may go down in history as a year in which all of the top 10 grossing films were sequels.  Unbelievable.

Sequels have been around for decades in Hollywood but the pace has picked up to a distressing degree in recent years.  And then studios wring their hands and wonder why people are not going to the movies?  The answer is simple: give the audience something new to see.  In 2010, original films like INCEPTION and TANGLED were in the top 10.  Let's hope that the new year brings more truly new films to the theatres and get the sequels going on a downward trend.

December 29, 2011

The Year In Words From Webster's Dictionary

Continuing this week's year end roundup, I present the year in words courtesy of Webster'  Each week, the dictionary's website highlights a word that has shown a big surge in search requests on the site.   For example, "zany" was the word of the week for December 14th after Mitt Romney used it to describe his then-surging opponent Newt Gingrich.   There was "mercurial" the week Steve Jobs died and "lewd" back in June when the Anthony Weiner scandal peaked.

Their list for the entire year reads like something of a snapshot of 2011's language zeitgeist. As a writer, I visit the site often and I always enjoy reading about Webster's word of the week while sometimes getting clarification about meaning and/or usage of the word of the moment.   My personal favorite entry for 2011?  Haboob, the usage of which caused a bit of a political storm this summer.  Don't know what it means?  Well you can actually see one in one of the big holiday movies out now.

December 28, 2011

A Trailer Mashup/Recap Of The Films Of 2011

More year end madness--today, a mashup of the movies of 2011.  Scenes from the trailers of the years films have been expertly edited together by the SleepySkunk to remind us how a lot of things blew up this year and, amidst all the destruction and carnage, there were even some beautiful cinematic moments worth remembering as well.  Can you name all the pictures?  (Hint: the list of films is here.)  Music by Lords of Acid and Randy Edelman, from the DRAGONHEART soundtrack.

December 27, 2011

My Nomination for Photo of the Year

In the year-end countdown to the last days of 2011, there are lists everywhere.  Top 10 movies, songs, political stories and even over at, the top 10 celebrity hair makeovers of 2011!  One list I've seen a few places which I always enjoy is the top 10 photographs of the year.  National Geographic has some typically stunning photos in their gallery whereas has a more newsy gallery with 40 pics.

But my personal favorite photo of the year is one that I didn't even see until a couple days ago.  It's a stunning picture of the space shuttle's final voyage last May.  The picture  also has an unusual story behind it because it was not taken by a photojournalist, or even with a real camera.  It's a snapshot from the iPhone of a passenger on a commercial flight who happened to look out the window and see the Endeavor climbing towards space on the long, sinewy trail of its white exhaust.  Not only is the photo historic for capturing the last trip of the shuttle but it is simply beautiful as well, revealing an angle on spaceflight that had never been seen before.  At least not by me....

Stephanie Gordon, from Hoboken, NJ, shot the photo and didn't think too much of it until, after sending it to a friend.  That day, it went viral and she became instantly famous.  The picture also amped up the debate about photo rights and copyright on the the Internet.  But despite all that it is still a remarkable image and it has my vote for photo of the year.

December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas From New York's Central Park

No, you're not dreaming.  It's not a white Christmas this year.  This photo is from January 12, 2011, of one of this year's many winter snowstorms.  However, despite the freak snow of October 29th, there hasn't been a flake since.  So I thought I'd make this my "online" Christmas post in hope of some of the white stuff this weekend.  Wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2011

25,000 Christmas Lights Synchronized to "Firework"

OK--I know that Katy Perry's "Firework" is not a Christmas song. But the guys in Austin, Texas have done a spectacular job synchronizing their 25,000 exterior holiday lights display to the song's incessantly catchy and triumphant beat.  I have to stay that, at this point in the season, I'm pretty played out on all the Xmas standards but this really put a smile on my face. Truly a joy of the season.

So, these guys have to be gay, right?  I mean seriously....Katy Perry? "Firework"?!  Well, they do live in Austin.  ;)  You can check out their Facebook page here and maybe more will be revealed....

December 21, 2011

The Cinematic Phenomenon of the "Spielberg Face"

This week, two Steven Spielberg movies will hit theaters; THE ADVENTURES OF TIN-TIN and WARHORSE.  So it seems a fitting time to consider what is it about Ameria's auteur that makes him such a master of the movies.  Well, one answer could be the "Spielberg face."

A video essay has been making in Internet rounds in the last couple weeks which dissects the "emotional closeup" which is a common thread in Spielberg's blockbusters over the last 30 years.  The creator of the video is Kevin B. Lee and he acknowledges his inspiration was an article by Matt Patches earlier this year about the "Spielberg face".  

If you can get past the semi-funny sounding name of this phenomenon, it's a truly fascinating look at Spielberg's signature move and even how it has even evolved in his films post-9/11.  The piece also offer a spirited argument in favor of the director's much-maligned A.I., a film which I also would argue is the director's misunderstood masterwork.  

December 20, 2011

Summer Trailers and Trailers For Trailers

The Christmas movie season is becoming just as well-known for the actual films that screen during this time of year as it is for the previews of next summer's coming attractions.  

There was a lot of "buzz" this weekend as the trailer for the new and supposedly final Christopher Nolan Batman movie THE DARK KNIGHT RISES came out on Friday in theatres only, as a preview attached to the new MI:4 movie. Of course, it took only hours for it to leak all over the Internets so the studio released the trailer online late yesterday afternoon.  Traffic to the Apple website was so heavy they seemed to experience a mini-crash. Anyway, you can watch it a littler easier here on FirstShowing.Net. It looks pretty impressive and even has a note of Occupy Wall Street in it (with Anne Hathaway as Catwoman representing the 99%).

In other trailer news, a new phenomenon in movie previews hit this week as a trailer for the trailer (!) of Ridley Scott's outer space epic PROMETHUS was released on YouTube. This 30 second tease features some scenes from the ALIEN-esque film as well as quick quotes from the director himself.  Release date for this film is June 8 and for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, July 20.  It's looking like a hot summer at the multiplex!

December 19, 2011

SNL's Take On Tim Tebow Scores A Touchdown

After leading the moribund Denver Broncos to a string of unlikely victories over the last two months, Christian quarterback Tim Tebow has become The Story of the NFL season.  This weekend's SNL took on The Tebow in a hilarious sketch, which I thought was one of the best of their own season.

Taran Killam (who recently killed it as Robyn in a viral video) plays Tebow perfectly as a guy with a little too much love for Jesus after the son of God makes a surprise appearance in the Broncos locker room to explain a) he is responsible for their victories and b) he doesn't have time to do this anymore so the team better get their act together. Jesus is played well by Jason Sudekis who, oddly enough, is more famously known for playing the devil in a series of Weekend Update appearances.

I came across the sketch on YouTube Sunday morning where, in less than 24 hours, it now has nearly a million hits. As to the Broncos game with the Patriots yesterday referenced at the end of the sketch, Jesus was not on Tim's side as they were handily dispatched by the Super Bowl champs 27-16.

December 16, 2011

Tale Of Two Women From An Iconic Civil Rights Photo

In 1957, Little Rock, Arkansas became the first battleground in the fight to integrate public schools.  On a September morning, nine African American students tried to enroll for class at a local high school and were confronted by the National Guard as well as an angry, vocal mob.  A local photojournalist named Will Counts snapped the above picture that morning as one of the students arrived at the school, forever immortalizing the two women caught in its frame; Hazel Bryant (left) and Elizabeth Eckford. Instantly, this image became one of the most iconic photos of the Civil Rights era.

Last night, there was a story on the PBS Newshour about these two women and the surprising lives they've lead, both separately and together, since that fateful day in 1957.  The story was tagged to a new book that's out from writer David Margolick which tells their unusual story over the past 50-odd years entitled ELIZABETH AND HAZEL.  Also, you can read a lengthy excerpt from the book that was published in VANITY FAIR earlier this fall.  It's a fascinating story of two lives randomly caught in a moment of history and how that experience has affected them ever since.

December 15, 2011

Vivian Maier's Beautiful Photos Of New York In 1940s

About a year ago, I posted about the discovery of a treasure trove of photos taken by a Chicago nanny that are an artful record of mid-Century American urban life.  A Chicago real estate attorney discovered thousands of her photos a couple years ago, taken when she was off duty as an upper-class nanny, and has been sifting through them ever since.

I recently found some of Vivian Maier's photos posted on one of my favorite photo sites, How to Be A Retronaut.  Unlike the majority of her work  that depicts Chicago, these photos were of New York City in the 1940s and they are just extraordinary.  I am posting two of my favorites here but I encourage you to check out the rest on the site.  They are really remarkable given her compositions, the characters she finds and her subtle use of available light.  Earlier, critics likened her work to Walker Evans but, based on these new pictures, I'd say she's more like Henri Cartier-Bresson, with a mad touch of Diane Arbus thrown in there too.

The first NYC exhibit of her work opens today at Steven Kasher's gallery in Chelsea. I look forward to seeing them in person as beautiful photos like these should be seen; printed, framed and hanging on a wall.

December 14, 2011

TIME'S Person Of The Year is "The Protestor"

Today, TIME magazine named its Person of the Year and it's actually more than one.  "The Protestor" is their "person" who has had the biggest effect on the world's event in 2011.  I thought they might be more specific, like chosing "the 99%", the phrase that has been popularized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, or the young men and women who bravely brought about an Arab Spring.  But I think using the more general term is actually more apt, in that it shows what a remarkable and broad range of protest this tumultuous year has seen around the world.

In fact, just two days ago, protestors took to the streets of Moscow to express their anger over what has been called a fixed Russian election, where longtime leader Vladamir Putin's party remained in power despite popular unrest. In some ways, it seems the world has a bit of a protesting virus that just keeps spreading.  First it was the Middle East, where protests in one country seemed to inspire those in another, eventually leading to the unthinkable toppling of Egypt's longtime leader Mubarak.  In the US, who would have guessed that the handful of original protestors who camped out in a park a couple blocks from Wall Street would have sparked a national movement encompassing thousands of people in less than a couple months?  

One of the main runners-up for TIME's honor this year was Admiral McRaven, who orchestrated the attack that killed Osama Bin Laden.  But the death of the leader of a weakened and increasingly marginalized Al Qaeda is less momentous than the birth of a global movement in which the masses, in the still-prophetic words of the fictional Howard Beale, are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore.

December 13, 2011

Droids In Dubai: Photographer Brings STAR WARS Down To Earth

This striking photo was in the TIMES art section this weekend.  It is the work of a French photographer named Cedric Delsaux who has created a book in which characters from the STAR WARS series inhabit the earth. The photo above has droids from Episode 3 hanging out in a rough and tumble section of Dubai. A number of his other photos place STAR WARS characters, including Darth Vader and C3PO, in Paris.

Delsaux, 37, was a true STAR WARS baby as the movie inspired him as a child....and still inspires him today.  He even found a fan in the often litigious George Lucas, who actually wrote the introduction to his book of photos featuring these characters, DARK LENS. It could be the perfect gift for the STAR WARS fanatic in your life.

December 12, 2011

Paul Rudnick Creates A New Kinsey Scale

Over on the New Yorker website, I came across this very funny essay by Paul Rudnick in which he creates a new version of the famous Kinsey Scale of sexuality.

With 24-points, this is a much more nuanced version than Alfred Kinsey's 6-point scale marking the degrees of sexuality from 100% hetero to 100% homo. Rudnick's new scale has entries that take into account some very modern factors in calculating someone's sexuality, such as Regis and Kelly (#14) and the revival of FOLLIES (#24).  One only wonders where Rick Perry might fall on here...

December 9, 2011

A Round-Up Of The Week's Rick Perry Memes

There was an explosion of memes this week surrounding Rick Perry's hateful YouTube "commercial" for his failing Presidential campaign.  The spot was desperate ploy to revive a campaign that has crashed and burned since his infamous "oops" moment during a Republican Presidential debate where he could not remember his own talking points. And now, with more than a million views on YouTube and more Dislikes than Rebecca Black's "Friday", the "ad" has inspired a lot of gay outrage....and humor too.

 I love the Teletubby in the background version of his ad below but I'm especially fond of the Brokeback pic, given that Perry has some rumors about his own sexuality.  Of course, there are even some YouTube spoofs. One in which Perry is remixed to "lisp" through the whole ad.  Another where someone stands in for Perry.

The bottom line is Perry's campaign is going nowhere and, even with all this Internet attention, he'll be lucky to get single digit support in Iowa's Presidential caucus next month.

December 8, 2011

A NYC Novelist Scams An Internet Scammer

I came across this unusual story on The Awl recently.  Teddy Wayne, a NY writer and novelist, received a friend request and then some back in August.  This Facebook "woman" claimed to be in love with him and in desperate need of his help.  Since then he has been carrying on a hilarious back and forth with the scammer who has been trying to get him to wire "her" (fake profile picture, left) money to a Western Union account.

Essentially, Wayne scams the scammer in the wryly absurdist manner of, well, a New York novelist, leading "her" on and giving "her" false Western Union numbers and wondering at length how true "her" vows of Internet love are, especially when he reveals to his beloved a case of chronic gastro-intenstinal problems.  This exchange went on for three months and ended with the scammer begging and pleading Wayne to leave them alone!  Genius.

The entire exchange is a bit long to read but for anyone who has ever received an email from a Nigerian bank, it is sweet revenge that is long overdue. The pen may not be mightier than the sword, but a keyboard in the right hands can do some serious mental damage that's for sure.

December 7, 2011

Historic Speech By Clinton On International Human Rights Day

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an historic speech yesterday on International Human Rights Day. Speaking before an audience at the UN in Geneva, she stated unequivocally that "gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights." The speech coincided with a remarkable statement that President Obama released yesterday as well (which you can read in full here) which also tied future U.S. foreign aid to how countries around the world deal with their gay citizens.

This comes at a time when human rights violations against gays and lesbians are on the increase internationally, especially in Muslim countries like Iran and some African countries where death is the government-sanctioned punishment for being openly gay. Even in nations like Poland and Russia, there have been recent upswings in violence against gays and lesbians and government actions to ban gay groups and even public discussions of the topic, like in St. Petersburg.

Clinton's speech got scant coverage in the NY TIMES but more comprehensive and nuanced coverage in the Chicago SUN TIMES.  You can also watch Clinton's speech on Towleroad, which did a lot to publicize this major story.  For all the complaints about President Obama on the left, it's safe to say that this sort of statement would never have come from any of the Republicans currently challenging him.  It's clear the President is not only on our side, but on the right side of history.  So liberals better man-up and get behind the President who is taking bold actions domestically and internationally so that gays and lesbians are treated equally.

December 6, 2011

Getting Down With "The Low Line"

Down under Delancey Street, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, lies an old trolley terminus that has been sitting vacant for 60-some years.  Now there is a push to revive the space and maybe turn it into an underground park.

The NY Times recently did a piece about what has come to be known as "The Low Line", a nickname for the project inspired by the success of another reuse of abandoned rail infrastructure, The High Line. Though the two guys who are trying to make this happen are optimistic and the MTA is very eager to lease some of its real estate, the project has a long way to go, both financially and even theoretically. 

I think it's gonna be tough to get people to hang out underground near a major subway station, even if they filter in natural sunlight as pictured above.  A similar project was attempted in Washington DC in the '90s where a food court was developed in an old trolley terminus at Dupont Circle that met with disaster and lawsuits.  Below is the MTA's recent video showcasing the space, which is roughly 600ft x 100ft.  It looks pretty bleak but then again, so did the High Line ten years ago. Time and corporate backing will tell....

December 5, 2011

West Village Bar PIECES Saved By New Lease

For nearly 20 years, the West Village bar PIECES has been a popular gay hangout on Christopher Street. It was due to close next year but its landlord has changed their mind, based on community support for the bar.  You can read the full story on NEXT magazine's website (where I occasionally do nightlife coverage).  I was asked to do an exclusive interview with the establishment's owner Eric Einstein over the weekend as he wanted to get out the word that bar was going to stay in it's current home for a few more years at least.

December 2, 2011

Latest In Hi-Tech Toys Comes To Times Square

I was in midtown yesterday and stopped by the new pop-up WIRED store on Broadway and 42nd which features tons of hi-tech toys for holiday shoppers, including everything from 3D flatscreen TVs to touchscreen watches.  One of the most buzzed about items was the Lytro light field camera.  It is a curiously-shaped rectangular box that takes whopping 45MB pictures which capture so much information that you can change the point of focus after you've taken the picture.  You can check out one of these nifty cameras from the "ambassadors" in the store (a.k.a. cute actors with jobs for the holidays) and you take some pictures with it.  It won't be on the market til 2012 but you can pre-order them already, starting at $400.  This little cameras could be the wave of the future, especially when their expected video version comes out soon.

Other unusual products on display and for sale are the Maker-Bot 3D printer, which creates tiny objet'd'art in plastic (like a 3-inch Teddy bear or an octopus).  I would have liked to seen the printer in action but it only had the finished products.  Price tag...a cool $1300.  Another pricey item which was not on display due to theft concerns was a bit retro-tech.  A gold-plated Atari gaming system going for $6650.  That would look amazing in front of your huge flatscreen about some entertainment bling!  The WIRED pop-up store will be open everyday from 12-7pm until Christmas Eve.

December 1, 2011

On World AIDS Day, Looking Back 30 Years

Today is World AIDS Day, a day of remembrance of those lost to the disease and a day to educate those who are at risk.  This year's World AIDS Days is taking place in the year that marks the 30th anniversary of the emergence of this terrible plague which devastated gay men in the 1980s, specifically here in New York.

As part of this anniversary, I have been writing a series of profiles in courage about people who have been living with HIV since that decade.  These first person accounts are being posted on Queerty; so far, two have gone up with more to come later this month.  You can read the remarkable story today of Lee Raines, who joined an ACT-UP demo the day after his diagnosis in 1989.