January 30, 2012

Queer Country Monthly and A Musical Discovery

On Saturday, I went to something called the Queer Country Monthly at Branded Saloon in Prospect Heights.  I didn't know what to expect but was delighted to find a great lineup of original songs and cover tunes by a nice array of local artists.

I particularly loved a duo called My Gay Banjo, who have been playing around the BK and developing a loyal following over the last couple years. I wrote about them for NEXT magazine's Nexus blog, where I am a semi-regular nightlife correspondent.  You can read my article here and watch My Gay Banjo on YouTube, performing their delicious cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene".  

January 27, 2012

Michael Urie Makes His Broadway Debut In HOW TO SUCCEED

Michael Urie, who starred in the original stage production of my play WTC VIEW as well as the film adaptation too, is now making the leap to Broadway.  He made his debut on the Great White Way this Tuesday, playing the role of Bud Frump in HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING.  He jumps into the show along with Nick Jonas, who is taking over for Daniel Radcliffe who originated the lead in this revival.

I chatted with Michael earlier this week about his big debut and posted a short story about it on Queerty too.  Michael also sent me a link to a fun video he and Nick did about how well they've got to know each other as they've been rehearsing together all month for stepping into their roles.  So congrats to Michael for the next big step in his acting career.  Break a leg! :)

January 26, 2012

First-Time Oscar Nominee Bret McKenzie Is Kinda Cute

I've slacked a bit on my semi-irregular "Kinda Cute" feature here on the blog. But today, I was inspired to get it going by Bret McKenzie, who you may know as the star of a daffy, little HBO show called FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS.  I always thought he was quite cute and scruffy on that show, as him and his partner wrote songs and kicked about the East Village with their rag-tag team of friends.

But as of this week, Bret is a first-time Oscar nominee for his awesome song "Man or Muppet" from THE MUPPETS movie.  Does this make him cuter? No, it just gives me a timely tag to feature him today!

The New York TIMES caught up with Brett by phone down in New Zealand, where he is originally from.  He seemed pretty surprised and delighted about the nod for his original song.  He was even more excited by his unusual chances of winning.  This year, there were only two nominees for best song, the other from the movie RIO. So Bret has a 50/50 chance of winning. So I look forward to his charming acceptance speech...and how he looks in a tux!

January 25, 2012

Troubles At The World Trade Center

There have been a number of problems recently at the World Trade Center site which have slowed construction of what was formerly known as the "Freedom Tower" and has brought construction on the 9/11 Museum to a halt.  Also, construction for a planned WTC 3 tower that was supposed to be 80-stories tall may now stop at the 7th floor due to a lack of tenants for the building.

All this was reported by the AP today over on the HuffPost's NY page.  The slowdown on World Trade Center 1, which was rising at a floor a week, is being attributed to technical difficulties as the building passes the 90-story mark.  But problems with the other projects are more complex, involving a problem in the steel production for the site and political/budgetary disputes with the Port Authority.

The bottom line in all of this is that completion of the site is going to be delayed for months and possibly years, with the opening date for the 9/11 Museum being pushed to 2013 at the earliest. It's disappointing news considering how so much progress was made in the last couple years. Hopefully, the mayor can intervene and get these entities working together to complete this massive project sooner than later.

January 24, 2012

Guest Blogging On QUEERTY This Week

This week, I'm guest blogging over at the website Queerty. You can read my posts about the Oscar nominations announced this morning (yay Melissa McCarthy!), the new Snickers ad (a DYNASTY reunion), and two guys who do tag-team sessions on Grindr drunk.  All these and other stories about some movement on the gay marriage front are viewable on www.queerty.com today and tomorrow.  Then I'll be back here with more Hi-Fi Bri-ness. Thanks for checking them out!

January 23, 2012

A Tribute To Producer Steven Spielberg

Most of us think of Steven Spielberg as a director.  However, while he has helmed nearly 40 feature films  in his 40 plus year career, he has produced more than 130 features (not to mention a new TV show.) Over the weekend, the Producers Guild of America honored Spielberg with its 2012 David O. Selznick achievement award.

Before receiving the award, they played a clip reel of film that Spielberg served on as a producer. And while you'll certainly recognize some of these classic Spielberg titles, there are many other films iconic (BACK THE FUTURE) and otherwise (BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED) included in this sharply edited homage to his body of work as a producer.  [As a sidenote, Todd Sandler, who edited this tribute, is also editor of The Devotion Project shorts that I've feature here.]  It's a striking look at this modern day mogul's effect on the film industry over the last four decades.

January 20, 2012

An Animated RAIDERS Opening That Took Six Months

Here's a fun Friday clip to end the week with. In honor of the 30th anniversary of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, one serious fanboy by the name of Jeff Gurwood created a stop-motion redo of the first 6 minutes of the film.  It took him six months of painstaking frame by frame animation to (I'm guessing that torch in the beginning took a lot of time!). He used real Indiana Jones action figures but what is most impressive is that he created the sets and props himself.

As a follow-up, think it would be great if Jeff gave the crazy opening sequence of TEMPLE OF DOOM the same treatment.  However, that could possibly take somewhat more time than six months given all the insane action going on in that nightclub and ensuing chase. That is definitely one my favorite Spielberg set pieces...maybe due to all the dancing girls!

January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Poe And Good Luck In The AFC Championship Game

Today is the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, one of America's first and foremost writers of poems, novels and really scary short stories.  Poe was always one of my favorite authors as a kid, mainly for the creepiness of his tales but also for the fact that he was a fellow Marylander too.  Poe is strongly identified with Baltimore, where he spent a lot of his adult life and, most infamously, died on October 7, 1849, a few days after being found on a city street.

What many people don't know is that Poe spent the last years of his life in New York City, not Baltimore. In fact, he lived just a couple blocks from my apartment in the Village but then moved way uptown for quieter times in what was then "the country" but soon would became known as "The Bronx." There is a detailed article on the Bowery Boys website about Poe's final home on what is now the Grand Concourse (which I've previously blogged about on a library visit to the Kingsbridge Branch).

Finally, Poe's stories live on today to scare new generations of schoolchildren. But his legacy is also, strangely enough, a part of the National Football League. Baltimore's football team was named "The Ravens" (after Poe's classic poem) in a fan contest back in 1996.  They remain, now and probably forever, the only U.S. sports team inspired by a literary figure.  (Though "The Gatsbys" would be a swell name for the new Brooklyn NBA team.)  This weekend, Poe's team will be battling it out with the New England Patriots for the AFC title. Oddly enough, Poe's birthplace is actually Boston but I doubt he'll have many fans rooting him in Foxborough. We can only imagine what Poe might think of our modern day Gladiators doing battle for the glory of his Raven...and ol' Baltimore too.

January 18, 2012

The Devotion Project's Latest Love Story: Paul & Brian

My good friend and fellow filmmaker Tony Osso has a new short film out as part of The Devotion Project.  Last year, he decided to start filming LGBT couples who've been together for more than 20 years.  I posted the first film back in the fall and now he's got a new one which is even more amazing than the first.

This time, he gives us the love story of Paul Labrecque and Brian Cantor, a couple who celebrated their 25th anniversary on the day that New York state made marriage equality a reality last summer. What I particularly love about this couple is the honesty they share in talking about their relationship and the difficult challenges they faced together.  It's a moving story and beautifully told.  I look forward to more...

January 17, 2012

Bill Moyers Returns To TV With A Startling Show

Last night, I caught the compelling first episode of Bill Moyers new program, Moyers and Company.  He featured two journalists (Paul Pierson and Jacob S. Hacker) whose book, WINNER TAKES ALL POLITICS, is about how the richer have gotten so much richer in the last 30 years due to Washington's rewriting of tax regulations and the growing power of corporations to dominate our political process.  Forget issues of left and right: the real problem is the how the rich are getting so much richer than the rest of us and how it is corrupting the tenets of our democracy.

Forget the 1% that we hear so much about...these authors also talk about the even more shocking gains that the smaller percentages of the 1% have made that are literally off the charts and are a direct result of a lopsided redistribution of wealth that only keeps growing. The show is an hour of detailed discussion on a crucial topic which, to many people, has become mired in political slogans (see Occupy Wall Street). However, when the simple mathematical facts are presented, there is no denying that not only the middle class but our very democracy are at risk. It is essential TV viewing in this election year.

Moyers & Company 101: On Winner Take All Politics from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

January 13, 2012

NetPix: Bridesmaids

Somehow I missed the party on this movie last summer, probably because I was in the midst of my own play and film's premieres when the film was out in theatres.  Anyway, it recently came up on my Netflix queue and, on a day that I was home sick and not doing much but sitting on the couch, I popped it in and was laughing my ass off from the film's opening minutes.  This movie is not only one of the best studio comedies I have seen in a few years, it is easily one of the best films of last year.  The reason is that not only it is funny but it is also charming and somewhat real (in a Hollywood way, of course) about the characters and their dilemas in the run-up to an over-the-top wedding.

I have to say, I expected this movie to be about being a bridesmaid (thus the title).  And though that situation sets the framework for the film, (spolier alert) the wedding does not happen until the film's final minutes. Up to that point, the movie goes in all sorts of unexpected directions as Kristen Wiig's lovable loser of a character comes to terms with the fact of her best friend's marriage as her own life implodes. The movie strikes the perfect balance between the reality of her sad life and the humor of her situations, especially when it comes to her own romantic situations (which I am not going to spoil here at all!).

Today, Oscar ballots are due out in Hollywood and I can only hope that Academy voters ignore all the hype about THE ARTIST and honor BRIDESMAIDS with a Best Picture nomination.  There has been much talk about how Melissa McCarthy deserves one for her hilarious performance, not to mention Wiig and Paul Feig for writing and directing this film.  But, by far, it is clearly one of the best films of the year and deserves to be recognized as such.

January 12, 2012

MTA Closes A Subway Line For FastTrack

This week began an unusual MTA experiment as service was shutdown on the 4 and 6 trains from 10pm to 5am between Grand Central Station and Atlantic Avenue.  It's part of an extraordinary new approach to line maintenance that is being tested called FastTrack.  Usually, this sort of work would be spread out over a month or longer as track workers dodged regular trains and passengers suffered slow overnight service.  Now they are hoping for quicker more efficient repairs in a much shorter amount of time by shutting down an entire section of a line.

Tonight is the last night of this first FastTrack experiment and the reviews from the MTA have been positive.  The amount of work accomplished in those four nights by more than 700 workers has been staggering.  However, straphangers were not happy about having to take 3 trains instead of 1, as reported on CBS-2. Still it seems this sort of repair makes so much more sense in saving time and money while completing the necessary repairs on what is usually a 24/7 system.

January 11, 2012

The Gay Geeks of New York Trivia Challenge

I have been a contributor to NEXT magazine's nightlife blog, The Nexus, for a little over a year now. In that time, I've covered many club nights, benefits, and openings.  But I have to say, my assignment last Sunday was one of the most unique and fun events I've covered so far.

I went to check out the Gay Geeks of New York monthly meetup at the LGBT Center on 13th Street for a trivia game they were playing.  Out of 40-some questions, I knew the answers to only about five of them.  But I had a blast!  And the team that I was on, fortunately packed with some staffers for the organization, actually won the whole challenge so I got to take home a nice boxed set of one of my favorite TV shows, HEROES (Season 1, of course).

Anyway, here's a link to my post on The Nexus for the full story.  I think I'll be returning for that Pictionary night as my drawing skills are much better than my comix knowledge.

January 10, 2012

Did THE ARTIST Rape Kim Novak?

There is a bit of an Oscar brouhaha that started yesterday when Kim Novak took out a full page ad in VARIETY that begins with the statement "I want to report a rape" and then continues to say that "my body -- or at least my body of work -- has been violated by the movie The Artist.  She is referring to a section of the film which uses some iconic movie music from the Hitchcock classic VERTIGO.  I have to say when I saw THE ARTIST I was a bit startled to hear Bernard Hermann's music in the midst of the films's original score, as it is so utterly identified with Hitchcock.  Some people have gone so far as to call Hermann's work on that film the best Hollywood score of all time.

However, by using it for a few minutes in THE ARTIST (a film that is chock-full of visual homages to other classic films and directors) has the director really committed a rape? I think not.  You know, this is actually the second time that a Hollywood star has wildly misused this word in the last few months. Back in the fall, Johnny Depp talked about how photo shoots make him feel like he'd been "raped", a statement so ridiculous that he actually had to a apologize for it a few days later.

There are already some calls for Kim Novak to retract her statement or at least apologize. I'm sure Harvey Weinstein has been trying to call her today to give her a piece of his mind.  But the bottom line is THE ARTIST is a homage and the Hermann score is used in that manner.  In a sense, it's one artist paying his respects to another...something that filmmakers do all the time.  

January 9, 2012

The Beauty Of A Simple Grain Of Sand

So today, I'm going to willfully ignore all the strum and drang of the New Hampshire primary and presidential politics in general and take a look at something you've probably never seen before; a single grain of sand.  The image here is of different grains of sand from different beaches, magnified more than 300x by a special microscope. These beautiful reminders of the uniqueness of each grain were taken by a former medical research scientist who moved to Hawaii and now takes pictures of sand and other natural wonders under his microscope.

His name is Dr. Gary Greenberg and since 2001, he has been making these remarkable images from his 3-D light microscope (which he holds a number of patents on).  I read about him in the current issue of Coastal Living magazine, which talks about his unusual journey from science to art. You can look at more of these images of sand on his website.  Who knew that each grain of sand was so unique and remarkable, a record in a way of thousands of years of biological and geological history. Something to ponder on a chilly Monday in January...

January 6, 2012

A Man-Made Earthquake Suspected In Ohio

With all the Iowa election news sucking up the air this week, there was this somewhat alarming story on Yahoo news yesterday that got lost in the Iowa rush.  The New Years day 4.0 earthquake in Ohio appears to not have been a natural seismic event but rather something potentially caused by a side effect of the controversial practice of "fracking".

CBS News did a report on this as well which you can watch here.  It's not conclusive but certainly alarming that this method of disposing water waste from fracking could be setting off fault lines. So if the world does actually end in 2012, humans may be the direct cause of it.

January 4, 2012

Is Tilda Swinton "Your Auntie Mame"?

There was a delicious bit of potential movie news that I spotted on Popnography yesterday. Tilda Swinton, the intense and strangely beautiful actress known for her intense and strangely beautiful work in indies and studio films, is developing a remake of AUNTIE MAME, with herself in the titular role.  She discussed the project in a recent profile of her tagged to the new film WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, in which she plays the mother of a murderous boy.

Given her previous roles, the comic and larger-than-life Mame would be something of a departure for her. But clearly it would be a great challenge as well, and she's always up for pushing her craft.  If they are considering going back to the source material which is the original novel by Patrick Dennis, the Mame of the book is not as fluffy as the one famously played by Rosalind Russell in the movie.  Mame is a bit of a bitch in fact, funny sure but also saucy and a little mean too.  Mame's rough edges were smoothed first for the play and then the movie version that truly made her a lovable, eccentric character for the ages.

Anyway, this MAME remake sounds like it's just in the talking stages right now, but it would certainly be interesting if they went back to the source, in the same way Todd Haynes' MILDRED PIERCE did, and uncover something new about this iconic character.

January 3, 2012

Big Gay Ice Cream Guys of the East Village

Just before Christmas, I finally made a trek to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the East Village on an unusually warm December night.  The store was started by the couple who drove the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck to fame over the past couple years, tweeting their locations around the city and developing a loyal following for their take on soft-serve ice cream.

At the store, I ordered a "Bea Arthur" cone, which is vanilla with dulce de leche swirled up the sides. Then the whole thing was rolled in crushed Nilla Wafers.  Wow.  It was delicious and the store was so friendly too; not only the help behind the counter (who gave me a sample of this crazy cinamonn/peanut butter spread called Biscoff) but the other customers too. I chatted with a nice young college student who told me she didn't know who Bea Arthur was so I schooled her on the unique genius of Bea, directing her to "Maude" and "Golden Girls" reruns via Netflix.

Anyway, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop reopens today after a 2 week-long holiday hiatus. Here's a cute video I found about the store's owners/partners, courtesy of the NYTimes/NYU collaboration East Village Local.  What a sweet couple...and making such sweet treats! :)