Articles by

<Ryan Vlastelica>

04/08/15 10:42am

Hailed in: Atlantic Ave
Hails from:Pennsylvania

I guess I’ll probably end up voting for her, but do I have to think about this now? The election is so far away, almost two years away. I hate that we’re already talking about it. By the time it happens we’re just going to hate everyone running. Someone will say something, and everyone will scream about it. Then Clinton will say something, and everyone will scream about that. I really think we should not be allowed to talk about the election until six months before. Maybe less.



03/25/15 7:32am



Hailed in: Grand Army Plaza
Hails from: Philadelphia

Um, I think tourists think we take a lot more cabs and Ubers than we actually do. I get a lot of tourists who only want to go a couple blocks, and I think it’s because that’s how tourists think New Yorkers get around. [Maybe they don’t know how to use public transit.] Maybe. That’s probably it, and actually that’s probably a better answer: Everyone thinks the trains are really hard, but they’re not once you get used to them. They’re tons better than what other cities have. (more…)

03/11/15 6:36am
Illustration by Katie Narduzzo

Hailed in: Lower East Side
Hails from: Brooklyn

I got a hat and earmuffs, and I wear a lot of sweaters that cover my neck. I used to wear a ski mask, but one time I put it on in a 7-Eleven and everyone freaked because, obviously, a black man putting on a mask has to be getting ready to rob the place, right? (What happened?) There was a cop there, and he kind of tensed up and asked me what I was doing until he realized I was just leaving, like every other fucking person putting on their stuff to go outside.


Hailed in: Hell’s Kitchen
Hails from: Queens

It sounds crazy, but on really bad days I’ll get a paper and wrap pages around myself. I used to live on the streets, and that’s one of the first things you learn, to use newspaper. (How long did you do that?) Oh, just a month or two. I had dropped out of high school, wanted away from my parents, blah blah blah, teenager crap, but my friends kept kicking me out of their places; eventually I just gave up and went home. (Are some papers better than others?) Well, it has to be really cold to do this; it’s kind of a last-resort thing, so I’ll just grab whatever I can find. AM New York is free, so probably that.


Hailed in: Astoria
Hails from: Dominican Republic

I don’t know what to tell you except to wear a lot of clothes. A lot of clothes. I think it’s better to cover everything, rather than to have a lot of layers—like, I’d rather wear gloves and a coat rather than no gloves and two sweaters. My hands get so cold when I pump gas, even if I’m only outside for a minute. Every driver you see, everyone has their hands right on top of their heater while they drive, trying to heat up.


Hailed in: Fort Greene
Hails from: India

I don’t really have any advice. I eat a lot of heavy food during the winter, stews and curries, those help a lot more than sandwiches, even if you eat them cold. Also, drink a lot of hot tea. Some delis will let you fill up a thermos with hot water for free, and I do that even when I’m in the car all day. Keeps your blood from freezing.

03/11/15 6:36am
Image courtesy of Sundance Selects

Seymour: An Introduction

Directed by Ethan Hawke
Opens March 13

Some people just seem to have it all figured out. Seymour Bernstein, as seen in Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction, is one of them.

This is a documentary that’s more philosophy than biography. Much like Rivers and Tides, the film about environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, it considers its subject’s musings on art and how the disciplines one develops there can be applied to the rest of life. As recounted in the film, Hawke met the pianist at a time when he was feeling “inauthentic” about his acting, struggling to find what deeper reasons he had for it beyond money and “acting like a big shot.” Bernstein, a once-promising concert player who quit the professional track to teach, provided such comfort that Hawke was spurred to make this film. He didn’t want to tell Bernstein’s story so much as to capture his essence.

It’s likely a cult will grow around Seymour, if not Seymour, which is as charming as its subject but lacks urgency for also being as low-key. Bernstein talks about music as a universal “language of feelings,” and urges his students to respond to Bach and Beethoven as children would, on purely emotional terms, without any knowledge of structure or history. He explains that he quit playing professionally because of the commercial considerations required, but that he still “goes to war” with the art, though now for purer reasons, and on his own terms.

Salinger nod aside, the title is appropriate. Little is learned about great sections of Bernstein’s life: he lives alone, doesn’t seem to have kids or to have ever gotten married. A line about his father having “three daughters and a pianist” hints that he’s gay and wasn’t accepted by his family, but Hawke doesn’t pry. In a moving section, Bernstein describes playing music while stationed in Korea, then breaks down under the weight of memories. It’s one of the rare times that the film is devoid of music, a strong choice by Hawke in a film that otherwise lacks much sense of authorship.

Bernstein seems like a lovely man and a lovely teacher. At one point, a student of Seymour’s says that the focus he’s developed towards music has allowed him to be more responsive to other people. He’s clearly learning.

02/27/15 6:55am

the salvation_mads

The Salvation
Directed by Kristian Levring
Opens February 27 at the Landmark Sunshine

The Salvation, like its stoic heroes, wastes no time in getting down to business. A wife and son arrive at the American frontier. Within an hour, they’re dead. Who killed them? Some guys. Why? Because… evil? No motive is given; all that’s important is that the surviving patriarch (Mads Mikkelsen) has a black-and-white case for kicking ass. Which he does, moments later.

What a twisted web revenge weaves, leading to a moment when Kristian Levring’s Western actually seems pointed in an interesting direction. When the brother of the murderer demands his own retribution, it’s before he hears about the murders his kin committed. He’s having the same night as Mikkelsen, loved ones gunned down for no apparent reason. Two men facing off against each other, both with airtight cases for vengeance, is an intriguing way to explore the destructive nature of revenge.

Alas, the film becomes a paint (with blood) by numbers exercise, without a plot beat that hasn’t been seen before or better. Even the characters seem aware of it: in the “annoy the jail guard to get his key” scene, the dialogue is delivered monotonously, as though part of a daily routine and not a risky tactic. The film is too simple to work as drama, too ugly to work as action, and too humorless to be any fun. (Actual tagline: Bad Men Will Bleed.)

Mikkelsen is wasted, his intensity from Hannibal carrying no weight without that show’s moral context. As the first killer’s wife, Eva Green somehow has it worse, only called on to glower and heave her bosom. (No Bechdel pass here: all the film’s women get raped, killed or both; Green doesn’t even get a word of dialogue, her tongue having been cut out by “savages.”)

The Old West setting does at least mean the visuals are a change of pace from other Taken ripoffs. The sets and scenery seem fake or computer-augmented, but on purpose; cinematographer Jens Schlosser hides the degree of manipulation, and more than the script or performances, it’s the lighting that makes the film feel unsettling. He’s the only one who didn’t phone it in.

02/11/15 9:00am
Photo courtesy of Radius

The Last Five Years
Directed by Richard LaGravenese
Opens February 13

Are movie musicals so out of style that even basic rules of composition and choreography are forgotten? Consider the key sequence of The Last Five Years, an adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s beloved all-sung deconstruction of the life and death of a relationship. Cathy, whose story is being told in reverse from the divorce, is getting engaged to Jamie, whose arc is told in sequence from their first night together.

This is the only time the characters are on the same page at the same time, as they otherwise alternate solos in a show that’s as much a concert as a narrative. Director Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You) shoots it in a flashy shot that circles his lovers, but since the camera is handheld instead of on a track, it’s all his operator can do to keep from tipping over. Instead of an emotional crescendo, poor Anna Kendrick gets decapitated by framing.

It’s no surprise Years is a favorite of community theaters, since productions only need two actors and minimal staging. Those factors work against it as a movie, though. Since the actors can’t sing to the camera the way their on-stage equivalents belt to the audience, they now make appearances in each other’s songs. Not only does this rob the central number of its power as the only time their X-shaped timelines intersect, but as they don’t have lyrics they’re forced to mug non-verbal responses.

The film never makes the jumps in time wrenching. There should be a certain amount of whiplash between happiness and despair, a foreboding as outlooks get simultaneously brighter and darker while recurring musical themes reveal deeper ironies.

Kendrick does make for a radiant Cathy, her dreams of stardom both plausible and plausibly out of reach. But while Jeremy Jordan would be one of Hollywood’s biggest stars if it still had room for Gene Kelly types, he’s woefully miscast here. Jamie should be awkward and unsteady, first amazed to be with a “Shiksa goddess,” then rocked by the acclaim and temptations that come with his own artistic successes. Jordan, with his strong jaw and rock-hard abs, is the kind of conventional leading man that Jamie expressly isn’t.

He’s a lovely singer, though. The soundtrack should be dynamite.

02/11/15 8:45am
Illustration by Sarah Lutkenhaus

Hailed in: Eastern Parkway
Hails from: India
Things like that are good for business, so I think I would be okay with it. I bet a lot of people would stay in Manhattan and need cabs over the bridge, so it would probably be good money for me and other drivers. (What about issues like crowds or security?) Well New York is always crowded. I’m not sure we’d notice anything, especially compared to tourist seasons. Same for security, there’s always a lot of security everywhere. (more…)

01/28/15 1:52pm
Illustration by Katie Narduzzo

Hailed in: Fort Greene
Hails from: New Jersey
I have a friend who claimed he smoked pot right in front of a bunch of cops and they didn’t do anything or care. To be fair, he exaggerates a lot, and there have been times when I’ve been high around cops without them caring. I never smoked a jay in front of them, but from what he said they weren’t doing anything unless you were kicking someone’s ass or something. Did you hear that some types of arrests were down like 90 percent? The world didn’t fall apart. Just proves that arresting people for pot is a waste of money and cops shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. (more…)

01/28/15 9:00am
Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films

Amira & Sam
Directed by Sean Mullin
Opens January 30
Amira & Sam has such insight into the awkward reassimilation its veteran protagonist goes through that it’s disappointing how little it has into its other themes. There are moments that are so keenly observed that it’s not surprising to learn writer-director Sean Mullin is himself a former Army officer, though it’s also not difficult to imagine the better film that would have emerged had he kept a narrower focus.

01/14/15 8:50am
Illustration by Rachel Clark



Hailed in: Gramercy Park
Hails from: Taiwan

It’s actually hard to tell when that kind of thing happens. If it goes down like it does in a movie—where someone opens the door but someone else jumps in and the first person starts screaming—all I hear is someone screaming outside. Which, this is New York: There’s always someone screaming about something. You have to just trust that everything going on outside is being done fairly.