Articles by

<Ryan Vlastelica>

07/16/15 9:47am

Hailed in: Downtown Brooklyn
Hails from: India

One time I was driving and thought I saw my ex-brother-in-law, and I actually changed lanes to get away from him. Now, I could see in the mirror that it ended up not being him, and I’m not even 100 percent positive that he was trying to hail me, but I’d probably do that same thing again, lame as that sounds. It was a bad divorce, and her brother used to always give me shit about being a cab driver, so I think that if somehow he wound up in my backseat that would be terrible.

Hailed in: Times Square
Hails from: Pakistan

I’m not sure I really have enemies. If there’s someone walking around out there who hates me, I don’t know about it. [What about a public figure you dislike?] You mean like Dick Cheney or Donald Trump? If someone hailed me and I pull over and it’s Dick Cheney, ugh. That man makes my skin crawl. I might refuse to let him in. I don’t know; I feel like he could easily get me fired. But if he couldn’t, yeah, I wouldn’t want him around. Donald Trump I might drive, but only because he’s so rich he might give a big tip. But now with the credit card machines, people generally tip the same amount, so who knows?

Hailed in: Lower East Side
Hails from: Brooklyn

I refuse people every day. If people are so drunk they can’t stand, I don’t let them in because I’ve cleaned up enough vomit. If someone helps them into the cab, OK, but I don’t want drunk guys. If a girl is drunk I might let her in just so she’s not out on the street alone and drunk. The other day, a guy got in, and he smelled horrible. He looked normal, but he just absolutely reeked, like he had shit himself. I kicked him out. He was pissed, but if you don’t do that, you have to smell it, and then the next people who get in might leave because of how bad it is.

Hailed in: Park Slope
Hails from: Crown Heights

I honestly don’t pay that much attention to what people look like when they get in, so no, unless they were holding a gun or covered in blood or something. Actually, if they’re covered in blood they may need to go to the hospital, so I should probably pick them up. [What about your worst enemy?] You mean, would I lock the doors and drive the cab off a bridge and jump to safety at the last minute? Yeah, probably.

07/01/15 8:37am


Hailed in: Hell’s Kitchen
Hails from: Pakistan

I was mugged once, and it wasn’t really that bad. It was pretty much the best time I could’ve gotten mugged, because I’d just left my apartment to buy some cigarettes, and since I was coming right back, all I had on me was a $20. I didn’t bother with my wallet or phone, anything they might’ve wanted, luckily. The guy took the money, but you could tell he was pissed by how little I had on me. [What did you do?] Nothing. He ran into the subway and I figured the cops wouldn’t do anything, especially for $20. So I just went home, got more money, and got my cigarettes. (more…)

06/17/15 9:52am



Hailed in: Midtown West
Hails from:Sunset Park

Well how much did I win? [Let’s say $10 million after taxes and everything.] Ten mil, OK. Well first, pay off my credit card. My brother also has debt, from student loans, so I’d help him out. I feel like I should probably give something to everyone in my family, since none of us are rich. After that I’d want to move out of my neighborhood, so I’d probably want to buy some amazing apartment in Manhattan, maybe in the Village or one of those luxury apartments that are going up. [I’m not sure you’d have enough left over.] Maybe not. Well, I could afford a better place than I have now, at least. (more…)

06/03/15 12:06pm
Illustration by The Dooz

Hailed in: Upper East Side
Hails from: Arizona

My town had a baseball league for kids, and pretty much all my friends were forced to be in that. It was kind of like Little League, only not well organized. You could skip a lot of games and even change teams if you wanted to be with your friends. It wasn’t bad, and I was a pretty good player, but it was really hot and it stopped being fun after the first couple of weeks. I think the adults were worried we’d destroy the town without something to do, but they weren’t ever sure what we should do. There was a roller-skating park, but no one went there. I was a pretty good roller-blader, though.


Hailed in: Chelsea
Hails from: San José

I always had jobs. My dad owned a store so he always put me to work stocking shelves or sweeping the floor. I guess it isn’t child labor if it’s your child. [Did you get paid?] I got $20 a week, which felt like a lot of money at the time. It actually wasn’t that bad. The store was within walking distance of our apartment and I’d only work a couple hours a day, depending on how busy things were, and they were never that busy during the weekday after the morning commute rush. Funny, I used to complain about that store a lot, but thinking about it now, it’s actually one of my fondest parts of childhood.


Hailed in: Hell’s Kitchen
Hails from: Queens

My family moved around a lot so what we did was based on where we were living. Sometimes we went and visited family because one of my aunts lived near a lake, one year we went to the Grand Canyon, which was awful because it was like a 10-hour drive and my sister and I wanted to kill each other. I went to a really crappy summer camp one year, and the only good thing was that I had my first kiss there. It was awful. I hate the outdoors so all the hiking and campfires were torture. I got so many mosquito bites.


Hailed in:Crown Heights
Hails from: Outside Nashville

The thing I really remember is that our neighbors had a pool, so a lot of the kids from my block would go there. The people who owned the house were really old, and they didn’t have kids. Or if they did, they were in college. It was a married couple, and the wife always liked having us around; she would bake us cookies and make lemonade. The husband was kind of a jerk, and sometimes he would make us leave if we were being loud. One year someone broke something, a window or something in the garden, and after that he barred us from going over. We all had to go to the public pool, which was gross. There was a kid section and you just knew everyone was peeing in it.

05/20/15 11:33am
Illustration by Lutkie

Hailed in: Chelsea
Hails from: Austin

I don’t have an official bucket list, but skydiving is the first thing that comes to mind. Ugh, that’s lame. I bet everyone says skydiving. But yeah, I’d actually want to do it. But it’s more about being able to say you’ve done it than doing it, know what I mean? Like, the point is being brave enough to jump out of the plane, not what it feels like to fall. If you can actually jump, that’s amazing. [Maybe they push you out if you don’t jump.] I’d have a heart attack if they did that. I’d be dead before I hit the ground. (more…)

05/06/15 7:45am



Hailed in: TriBeCa
Hails from: Michigan

I’m having a roommate horror story now. Will my last name be published? [No.] Good. Because my roommate is an asshole. Nothing too unusual: He eats my food; leaves his stuff everywhere; he’s always late with rent and utilities. I hate him. Luckily, I don’t see him much, since I work nights and he works days, so we don’t really cross paths. [How did you two come to live together?] Craigslist. That’s it, really. My old roommate moved out suddenly, so I needed to get someone right away, and this guy was the first guy who could do it. I can’t wait until I can afford to ditch the asshole. (more…)

04/27/15 2:03pm

cartel land

Cartel Land
Directed by Matthew Heineman

How rare, and what a thrill, to see a documentary that could double in large part as its own narrative remake. Most docs are woefully uncinematic, strings of talking heads and archival footage that too often ends with links to “for further information” websites. Cartel Land, exhilaratingly, could not be translated into an op-ed piece.

As the title implies, the film considers modern narcotic trafficking, but while dealers and manufacturers do appear (masked, with one shocking exception), the primary focus is on the vigilante groups—on both sides of the border—fighting back. In Mexico, a small-town physician forms one such group, becoming a folk hero, while stateside, a veteran marshals a militia to monitor the border. Both sides raise important questions about how much citizens should step in if the official apparatus to provide security fails, while the leaders of both sides sometimes seem just as ominous as their opponents.

The War on Drugs is too big a topic for any film to go into fully, but some context would be helpful. Both sides seem to relish living out machismo fantasies, shooting into the air in celebration, so their necessity and effectiveness is uncertain, making it difficult to know how to evaluate their role in the issue. Nonetheless, director Matthew Heineman has made a tremendous work, getting so close to the action that you fear for the camera operators. The filmmaking itself is extraordinary, so one can forgive it if it gives less basic reportage. It’s difficult to imagine someone making a more vivid depiction of this issue.

A theatrical release is planned for this year.

04/23/15 9:00am

far from men

Far from Men
Directed by David Oelhoffen

Seldom has a film derived so much of its impact from scenery as does David Oelhoffen’s Far from Men. Wind thrashes at every manmade structure with such ferocity that they seem poised to collapse, while the barren Algerian landscape offers no protection from enemies or elements. When guns are fired, the sound is as painful as the damage they inflict, and the rolling echoes do nothing except betray one’s position.

The film stars Viggo Mortensen as Daru, a teacher of French descent who nonetheless identifies as a local as he’s scarcely left his birth city, let alone the country. When he’s asked to help transport a criminal to trial in a nearby city, his loyalties—to his country, his morals and his prisoner (played by A Prophet’s Reda Kateb)—immediately fall into question. Oelhoffen strips his story down to the basics, counting on the audience to pick up on details it might otherwise miss without a close-up to underscore things . Because the most visible elements of the film—the performances, editing, cinematography—are all so strong, its only when it ends that one realizes how vague the intangible and emotional elements were. This is not necessarily a flaw; the film was based on a short story by Camus, who wasn’t exactly one to spell things out. It will likely improve on subsequent viewings given how little padding Oelhoffen uses, but on first watch it inspire more respect than enthusiasm.

Upcoming Tribeca Film Festival screenings: 9:30pm, Friday, April 25 and 3:45pm, Saturday, April 25. Theatrical release beginning May 1 in NYC

04/22/15 6:27am
Illustration by Katie Narduzzo

Hailed in: Fort Greene
Hails from: Florida

Well, my big plan is to fix this. [Holds up an iPhone with a cracked screen.] I literally had this for an hour and a half before I dropped it, and because I just got it, I didn’t have a case. I don’t even remember what it’s like to use a phone that isn’t cracked; you have to touch it a different way because there are parts of the screen that don’t read your finger well. So that’s my plan. Anything else goes to credit cards and student loans. (more…)

04/20/15 8:41am

men go to battle

Men Go to Battle
Directed by Zachary Treitz

It’s not easy to make a convincing period piece. Show too much deference to the era and the characters risk speaking and acting stiffly, scared too straight by the threat of anachronisms. Be too casual, and it’s unconvincing in another way.

Men Go To Battle is one of the most quietly convincing period pictures imaginable, a Civil War-set drama that feels uncannily like something captured in the 1860s. Because this small-scale film feels so realistic, it feels epic, from its glimpses of battles to quiet scenes indoors, all of which seem entirely filmed with natural lighting.

Tim Morton and David Maloney star as brothers, and its unlikely the festival will offer two better performances. The characters are realized to the smallest degree, from the way they goof around to the various slights on their pride and courage. It’s easy to imagine some growing restless with the story, as it plays out more in body language and unspoken dialogue rather than conventional plot points, but for those who are on its wavelength, there may be no more quietly devastating film on hand.

Upcoming Tribeca Film festival screenings: Monday, April 20, 6:45pm; Wednesday, April 22, 9:30pm