August 31, 2012

The Google StreetView Cam Sees Some Crazy Things

Google's StreetView camera has tooled around the world, taking photos of millions of miles of byways with it's unblinking eye.  And sometimes, unintentionally that eye captures some extraordinary images. A Canadian artist named Jon Rafman has been scanning Google's street views looking for things and people out of the ordinary and the design website Demilked has compiled some of his best screenshots.

Some of the images are shocking, like this van on fire above, and some are truly beautiful, like this flock of seagulls in flight below. Some are downright disturbing, like a baby crawling on an urban sidewalk by itself in front of a Gucci store.  Rafman is not the only one who has found art in the mundane.  A California based artist Doug Rickard has found interest in the street views of poor and depressed neighborhoods.

August 30, 2012

Amazing Cast Photos For Season 2 Of AMERICAN HORROR STORY

Last fall, I kept hearing raves about Ryan Murphy's AMERICAN HORROR STORY. However, it didn't sound like something I'd be interested in as I'm not a big horror fan. But I checked it out anyway (probably because of Dylan McDermott!) and was instantly hooked. 

With its mix of real-life history (the Lindberg baby, the Black Dahlia) and fictional kinkiness (the Rubberman), it was the craziest show I had seen on television in a very long time...or quite possibly the craziest show I'd ever seen on television. But one of the most shocking things about it to me was that Ryan Murphy had revived a genre of TV that has been listed as dead for decades; the anthology series. Despite valiant attempts in the 80s to revive it with Spielberg's AMAZING STORIES and reboots of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, anthology was deemd un-doable. 

But much like he did with GLEE ((which essentially revived the also dead variety show genre), Murphy covered his tracks a bit and pretended the show was a series.  At least in the first season. That pretense seems to be over with Season 2 as the show has an entirely new setting (an instituational asylum) and new roster of characters, though Jessica Lange and a couple other cast members are returning but in utterly different roles.  The photos posted on EW's website this week give some tantalizing clues as to what's to come this year. Jessica Lange as a nun looks awesome and Joeseph Fiennes as a priest looks weirdly hot.  I can't wait for this one to air--it might even convince me to buy Hulu plus as the 10-day waiting period was killing me last fall!

August 29, 2012

Ally Sheedy At Age 12 On TO TELL THE TRUTH

Before she took her seat at THE BREAKFAST CLUB, a 12 year old Ally Sheedy wrote a novel. It was a NY Times bestseller back in 1975 when it was published called SHE WAS NICE TO MICE which was an illustrated children's book about mice and Queen Elizabeth.  I have a vague recollection of the book from my own childhood though I'm not sure I fully read it...I may have just looked at the pictures. 

Anyway, as a clever way of promoting the book, Sheedy made an appearance on the game show TO TELL THE TRUTH. (The fact that her mother is legendary literary agent Charlotte Sheedy may have helped make this happen--as well as maybe getting the book published too.) This game/chat show was one of my 70s' favorites as it always had cool celebrity panelists like Kitty Carlisle Hart and Gene Rayburn (from MATCH GAME, another fave!).  I came across this clip recently when a friend was putting together their own version of this show for a variety act and, while trying to find a clip of Jimmy Carter's appearance on the show when he was the governor of Georgia (actually turns out he was on WHAT'S MY LINE), I found a 12 year old Sheedy instead.  

It's a fun clip as Sheedy does not make a most convincing child author. We thought the red-head was better and, as it turns out, the red-head is the illustrator of Sheedy's book. 

August 28, 2012

A Fun Dance-y Video I Love By Walk The Moon

Last night, I went to check out Ben Lerman's Big Band Hot 100 last night at the Ace Hotel, a fun night of music when Ben and his band cover Billboard's top hits.  Most of them I knew but there was one catchy tune sung by the talented Marcos Sanchez that I didn't; "Anna Sun" by an alt-rock group called Walk The Moon.

Clearly, this band loves the 80s and thus I love them! Everything from the tune itself which is reminiscent of 80s college rock as well as the day-glo fashion....not to mention the hot dance moves.  Then there is also a hopefully intentional homage to Janet Jackson's "When I Think Of You" one shot video.  Anyway, it's a fun song that was apparently the song of summer 2011, according to Esquire magazine.  Somehow I missed that--but I am enjoying it just the same in 2012. Keep on rockin', WTM!

August 27, 2012

WNBC's Ben Aaron Is Kinda Cute

I had not come across any "Kinda Cute" candidates in a while. In fact, I was losing hope for this increasingly rare feature here on Hi-Fi Bri. Then, I was watching something called LXTV on NBC over the weekend when they had this handsome young man doing a story about an exercise convention.  And you know what? This Ben Aaron is Kinda Cute!

Ben is a feature correspondent for NBC, usually seen on the 5pm faux news show they now do which is lifestyle/ entertainment fluff. But Ben delivers the fluff in an amusing, sorta wacky way which makes it somewhat more watchable. That's for sure!  As to whose team he actually plays for, I found a lively debate as to whether he is gay or straight, possibly fueled by his "dance walking" segment below.  There is no official word on this topic from Ben either way so I'll let you be the judge on that one.

After doing some Googlin', I found a Huffinton Post QA he did with more details on this goofy and charming up n comer. I found out that Ben is an Emerson graduate who is actually a radio man at heart.  As I used to do radio, this was exciting news to find out that we have so much in common! ;)  A phrase I often heard in my radio days was "that guy has a face for radio", referencing the sometimes not so cute folks behind the mic (ie. Rush Limbaugh). Well, Ben clearly did not have a face for radio and got on TV in Phoenix and then LA and now is hitting the big time at WNBC in New York.  I look forward to seeing more of him as I'm sure his own talk show is not far away.

August 23, 2012

MTA Blows Up 72nd St, Halts Construction On 2nd Ave Subway

Something went spectacularly wrong during construction on the Second Avenue subway station at 72nd street earlier this week. What was supposed to be a controlled explosion for the escalator wells got wildly out of control and blew rocks and dirt more than 80 feet into the air, breaking windows and making pedestrians scatter. Miraculoulsly no one above or below ground was hurt.

The photo of the explosion above was captured by a tourist, John Wilson, who was told by an MTA employee to get his camera ready as they stopped pedestrians and cleared 72nd street for the blast--standard practice for the project. What wasn't standard was what happened next. Yesterday, the MTA said construction on the project has been temporarily halted until they can figure out what went wrong. Of course, the usual statement was released saying that it was not an act of "terrorism"....just another mishap on the long delayed and trouble Second Avenue subway.

August 22, 2012

The Bowery Boys History Of The Rockaways Is Great Beach Listening

This week, as people hit the beaches for summer vacation, I have a great recommendation for some beach listening. The Bowery Boys podcast recently did an wonderful history of New York City's first resort beach, the Rockaways.  They start with the Indians (a tribe which gave the Rockways their unusual name), cover its height as New York's most luxurious beach resort (see above), and also cover its downfall when Robert Moses cleared a whole swath of it for public housing.

Lately the Rockaways are resurgent as a new generation rediscovers NYC's loveliest natural shoreline within the five borough.  I'm a Fort Tilden regular (where the Army secretly stashed some nuclear weapons in case of a Soviet attack), as are many of this hipsters from the BK. I have jokingly started referring to it as Hipster Beach. Anyway, the podcast is a great story told with humor and loads of factoids by the knowledgeable Bowery Boys, aka Gregory Young and Tom Meyers. Check it out on your iPhone while you lie on the beach!

August 21, 2012

AUGUST Is Available On DVD & Download--Check It Out!

As we hit the dog days of August, you might be looking for something to watch other than a movie about a superhero or an animated child.  May I suggest the excellent indie AUGUST, directed by Eldar Rappaport and co-written by yours truly, me!  :)  It's a beautifully shot and wonderfully acted sultry drama about a love triangle that takes place in Los Angeles during a heat wave. Talk about the perfect summer movie....or should I say the perfect movie for the month of August.

The film played to much acclaim at festivals worldwide last year and now is available on DVD as well as digital download. So please check it out, support independent film and have a great steamy week!

August 20, 2012

Guilty Pleasure TV: THE L.A. COMPLEX on The CW

With the Olympics over and the new TV season not yet begun, what to watch?  I recently got a recommendation from a fellow filmmaker about a show on The CW that I hadn't even heard of. It's called THE L.A. COMPLEX and follows the adventures of a group of folks trying to make it in "The Biz" living in one of those uniquely L.A. apartment complexes centered around a pool ala MELROSE PLACE.

OK--I know. This sounds like a recipe for boredom and/or soap camp but I was suprised how interested I was in the show. All the characters are vividly drawn and very real too (for the world they inhabit, that is!)  The writing is also sharp and quite funny too. And in the pilot alone there are a least two OMG moments which were great....a rarity in any hour of television.

The show is produced by a Canadian company and mainly shot in Toronto (my only gripe). It was done as 6 episodes initially but got picked up for a "second season" of 13 episodes which started airing this summer in the US. I've only watched the first couple of episodes of this series on Hulu but I look forward to the rest. Oh and there is one mega spoiler alert that I am not giving away here which I found truly unique and totally real.  Keep watching to find out!

August 17, 2012

Internet Nostalgia circ. 1995 And Some Shocking Predictions

"Hey -- why should I be on the Internet?" That's the question that kicks off a recently rediscovered Montana PSA to encourage local libraries and school to get online.  The answer, though is the kicker; "the internet will be our phone, our shopping, even our TV" so say a bunch of extremely enthusiastic 9-year-olds.  This video is great not only for it's spot-on prediction but also for the great screen grabs of the Internet 1.0.

When I saw this on YouTube, the next featured video was a 1995 commercial for AOL (posted below).  Ah--remember when AOL was The Internet?  Those were the days.  Except for the ads reminder of how they used to charge hourly for access.  That has to be one of the best money-making scams of all time, right?  The commercial repeatedly boasts "10 free hours!" if you sign up with AOL.  Well, they got the certainly got their corporate comeuppance.  Now it just may be Facebook's turn as their stock took a dive yesterday, hitting an all-time low.

August 16, 2012

ONE TERM MORE--Musical Video In Support of Obama

This has been making the viral rounds today, in support of Obama's reelection. It's called a musical parody but it seems pretty serious (including an odd cameo by Trayvon Marin), though there are a few hysterical/clever rhymes as well. Was this funded by a Democratic superPAC? Or maybe the actors just chipped in. Either way, it's well done and almost stirring too at the end.  That picture of Obama in Rosa Park's bus seat helps.  One Term More--to the barricades, Broadway!

August 15, 2012

MONUMENT: IMPOSSIBLE--Cool Photos Of Damage Control Team

Last August, Washington DC experienced a rare 5.8 earthquake which did some serious damage to the Washington Monument, the city's tallest structure at 555 feet 5/18 inches. It has been closed and will remain so likely until 2014, according to a recent story in the Washington Post. Meanwhile, a damage control team from the engineering firm of Wiss, Janney, Eltsner and Associates have been scaling the surface trying to keep the massive slabs of stone together.

This weekend, the Washington Post Magazine ran some stunning photos of the team at work. They reminded me of scenes from a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film as men (and women!) dangle from cables hundreds of feet off the ground with incredibly panoramic views of the cityscape.  To view the photos as a slideshow, you have to click thru to the Post's website. They are really amazing...but then again, I'm an old DC tourguide so I live for stuff like this!

August 14, 2012

Ran Palillo From WELCOME BACK COTTER Dies At 63

I'm not a big one for obits on this blog but this one struck me today. Ron Palillo, who played "Horshack" on WELCOME BACK KOTTER in the 1970s, the sitcom which launched John Travlota's career, died today in Palm Beach.  He was only 63 and the cause of death at yet is unknown, as reported on the Palm Beach Post website today. It is also reported that he is survived by his partner of 41(!) years Joseph Gramm, a fellow actor.

I loved this show as a kid and I think the fact that Ron and John were in it had a lot to do with that. One was super-hot and gay (though not exactly out yet) while the other was super-funny and gay. Of course, they both played it straight on the show. Still the gaydar came through the TV in a subliminal way and I just adored this show and saw every episode more than a few times....oh the hours spent watch sitcom re-runs after school. Anyway, a sad loss to note but also lovely to see Ron's four decade relationship honored in his obit.

August 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Hitchcock, King Of The Director's Cameo

Many directors have inserted themselves into their films.  Some quite obviously, like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, and others somewhat more discreetly, like Michael Bay. Perhaps the only discreet thing in his films! 

However, Alfred Hitchcock takes the consistency prize for placing himself in small non-speaking roles in all of his feature films. Often his appearances are comical and can somewhat take you out of the action (i.e. lumbering onboard the train with a large musical instrument in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN).  While other times they are subtle and more organic, such as my personal favorite which is his appearance in the gay guy's apartment in REAR WINDOW, standing behind him as he plays piano. Is he a sugar daddy? An gentleman caller? Or the backer of a potential Broadway show?  All interpretations work and add to the fun of the guessing games involved when spying on your neighbors, which is what the film is all about.

A clever and diligent editor has compiled all of Hitchcock's appearances into a clip on YouTube. I found this through my friend Paul Maggio, who often posts celebrity birthday's on his Facebook feed. Anyway, watching this is a great way to celebrate the master of the movies on what would have been his 113th. Happy Birthday Hitch! :)

August 10, 2012

Two New Docs To See This Weekend: OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY and THIS TIME

This weekend, I want to draw your attention to two new documentaries that are opening for limited runs in the Village. The first one is a project I worked on called OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY. It's about Cantor Fitzgerald, the company that had it's offices on the top floors of the World Trade Center and, on 9/11, they lost 658 employees, nearly nearly two-thirds of their workforce.  Their surviving CEO Howard Lutnick (left), who was taking his son to kindergarten that morning, drew a lot of media attention because of his loss but the film goes into the real story behind the headlines and how the company survived against all odds.

I've worked on this documentary for the last 6 years as an associate producer and my good friend Danielle Gardner is the film's director, bravely telling this incredibly personal story (her brother was a Cantor exec who did not survive). The film has its premiere tonight at the IFC Center as part of the annual IDA Docuweeks series and it will play there every day for the next week. For those on the west coast, the film will be out there starting next Friday August 17 as part of Docuweeks LA. Oh--and we got a great review in the NY DAILY NEWS today too!

The other film is a doc by my Victor Mignatti, a filmmaker I met way back when I was in film school. His film is called THIS TIME and follows the story of the stories of a number of singers in show business (including Cissy Houston), some looking for second chances and other for their big break. In an age of IDOL where there is so much hype surrounding recording artists, this doc keeps it real and shows you the hard work and the heartbreak that goes hand in hand with a career in the performing arts. I saw a nearly finished cut a couple years ago and found it moving, intense, emotional and, of course, very musical and inspiring as well. It opens today at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street.

So no whining about "ah, there's nothing to see out there"...all you have to do is look and you will find some indie treasures. Especially this weekend.

August 9, 2012

NYC's Coolest Old Subway Map Is 40 Years Old

It was 40 years ago this week that the MTA made what was considered a colossal blunder; it introduced a mod-looking map of the world famous subway system by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli. The map was ultra modern and presented the subway in a grid of orderly and colorful lines that went at right and 45 degree angles. Unfortunately, it was so disconnected from the grid of the city that some stations were out of place and Central Park was represented as a squat, gray square. After a public uproar, the map was replaced in 1979 with the the version that's in use today.

The NY Times has an interesting story-behind-the-story tale of the map that went wrong. One interesting fact is that the map was supposed to be used with a series of other maps in stations that would have been more geographical in connecting to actual streets and tourist spots. Also, the MTA was so enthralled by Vignelli that they did absolutely zero testing of the radically new map before introducing it to a very cranky public. 

Oddly, a new version of the map has had a resurgence, designed by Vignelli himself. As I wrote here, The WEEKENDER started appearing on the MTA's website last year to show weekend changes to lines. It's become so popular that now it's available at all times to show service changes and disruptions, of which there are more than a few.  Glad to see the map is back and Vignelli's reputation somewhat restored too.

August 8, 2012

Check Out This Book Trailer I Directed For THE MARRYING KIND

I recently directed/produced a book trailer for my friend Ken O'Neill's debut novel, THE MARRYING KIND. We did a little talk show skit with Ken appearing on a program hosted by the lovely and hilarious Jennifer Westfeldt (writer and star of the recent feature FRIENDS WITH KIDS). It was lots of fun working with her and Ken and the whole thing turned out great!  Thanks to Alton Christensen and Cory Beisser for their Canon5D and lighting skills, respectively which helped make it all happen.

If you're looking for a great beach read, I'd recommend Ken's book which is about a wedding planner who starts a "wedding boycott" when he has an epiphany that he and his partner can't get married themselves. Check it out!

August 6, 2012

Kodak's Colorama Gets An Art Exhibit In Grand Central

The Colorama was a massive advertisement for Kodak prominently placed on the eastern wall of Grand Central Station's cavernous main room from 1950 to 1990.  It displayed an ginormous transparency of a Kodak image in which someone was using an instamatic camera or Super8 movie camera to record the scene.  As I've written here before, George Eastman didn't invent photography but he invented the idea that people should take pictures of each other as mementos of a occassion or trip. And the Colorama was the ultimate purveyor of the Kodak message, seen by thousands of commuters every day for 40 years.

There is currently an exhibit in Grand Central of the original photos that were displyed in the Colorama.   The pictures, 36 of them hung as prints in the MTA store/museum at Grand Central, are quintissential Americana scenes of familys and iconic American landscapes like the Grand Tetons, an endless wheat field in the plains, or a California beach.

It's a great sample and the only disappointing thing is that the exhibit centers just on photos from the 1960s. I would have loved to have seen how these photos and their depictions of the American family evolved over the decades.  You can see some of that as womean go from more traiditional family roles (a mother in a dress playing with a daughter playing with dolls, 1962) to small hints of women's lib (a women in capri pants biking atop a mountain in the Pacific Northwest, 1967). The photos will be up until November of this year.

August 3, 2012

Some Cool New Public Art For New Bleecker St Station

Recently, the MTA unofficially unveiled a new work of public art at the Bleecker Street station.  They took down the construction boards blocking the view of the new 6/BDF train transfer, which will eventually allow passengers to transfer to the uptown side of the 6.

The art on display is by an artist I know from my NYU days, Leo Villareal. He has created a honeycomb-like pattern of colorful flourescent tubes that shift and change color constantly.  It's really cool and watching the colors change is almost hypnotizing. Leo has specialized in computerized LED style displays, large and small.  This one is called "Hive" and it's a beautiful addition to the newly renovated station.

August 2, 2012

John Goodman As Col. Sanders Welcomes The Gays To KFC

There has been a lot of Internet-insanity this week over Chik-Fil-A, the fast food chain with a hateful CEO Truett Cathy.  How this man calls himself a Christian is beyond me and, frankly, would be beyond Jesus Christ  himself. Unbelievable. Yesterday was Chik-Fil-A appreciation day inspired by Mike Huckabee and supported by Wendy's.  Meanwhile this fracas has inspired other companies like Schnippers, Amtrak and The Muppets to come out in support of marriage equality.

Fortunately, in all this intensity, there is something to laugh about.  John Goodman has done a very funny and somewhat demented faux ad for KFC welcoming the gays.  Or, as he puts it in his own unique, way "any money mouth" who wants to eat some fried chicken.  Hilarious and creepy and spot on.  I mean, what national chain business in their right mind actually wants to exclude certain customers?  None, of course. Which leads to the conclusion that CEO Cathy is not in his right mind.