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Articles by

<Marissa Gaines>

11/22/11 4:15pm

Some Gaga stuff happening outside Barneys.

  • Some Gaga stuff happening outside Barneys.

It’s holiday shopping season and what better way to get into the giving buying spirit than with Lady Gaga-inspired tchotchkes? As if the pop superstar weren’t already sufficiently ubiquitous, she has now taken over an entire floor of Barneys New York, all 5,500 square feet of it. The journey into Gaga’s Workshop begins outside Barneys’ doors (above) and continues throughout the ridiculous and exotic interior.

Bright colors, abstract art, and of course pictures, videos and even lollipops of Gaga decorate the crazy floor. Creative director Nicola Formichetti worked closely with artist duo Assume Vivid Astro Focus (Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide Pierson), Lady Gaga, and the team at Barneys in order to transform the classy, upscale department store into the wacky world of Gaga. Known for its over-the-top Christmas displays, the Barneys flagship store at 60th Street and Madison Avenue wanted to do something more extreme this year to entice shoppers.

So, what can you buy in Gaga’s Workshop? Anything from toys to leather jackets to candy (including Disco Sticks!). There are a few featured holiday items, but the Christmas pieces don’t seem to be the focus of the workshop—although the Stiletto Stockings will surely sell like hot cakes. And Santa is sure to be impressed with your new Avant Garde Boot Stocking.

The jewelry section is clearly the focus of the Workshop’s collection, while weird treats like a candy finger (gross!) are more Halloween-y than yuletide. It’s not that surprising though, considering that this is all coming from the same person who wore a dress of meat. (but hey, at least the website is really cool, right?)

If you happen to find yourself in Midtown among annoyingly slow-moving crowds of tourists and looking for further annoyance, stop by Gaga’s holiday showcase and see the madness for yourself—the Workshop opened its doors at midnight last night. And if you can’t choose between the Gaga Bust Candle or Chocolate Lipstick, remember that 25 percent of all profits are going to her new foundation, Born This Way, to fight against bullying, so buy both.

11/16/11 4:00am

Rid of Me
Directed by James Westby

After moving back to her husband’s Oregon hometown, newlywed Meris (Katie O’Grady) finds herself trying too hard to fit in with hubby’s old friends. How the quiet, awkward, mousy Meris ended up marrying the loud jock meathead Mitch (John Keyser) is a mystery from the very beginning; she doesn’t fit in with her own husband. His cliquey circle of friends seems never to have left their small suburb, and they’ve all married each other. Although they appear to be reaching out to the outsider, they’re also portrayed as chest-bumpingly, racial-slurringly ignorant. “I’m a social butterfly,” Meris continuously reminds herself, psyching herself up to feel comfortable around these bigots whose acceptance she so desperately craves. She has obsessive tendencies, especially in regards to cleaning, is completely introverted, and not very relatable.

As Meris’s every attempt to please the locals fails miserably, writer-director James Westby wrings humor out of very uncomfortable situations, a la Meet the Parents. Close-ups of Meris’s over-the-top nervous and terrified expressions matched with suspenseful music earn the film its black comedy classification.

The only real character development in Rid of Me is much too extreme to be taken seriously. At the peak of her isolation, Meris finds work at a local sweets shop. There, coworker Trudy (Orianna Herrman) introduces her to drugs, late curfews, and a lot of other things that people in their thirties should probably already know about. The eclectic characters Meris meets working in the candy story lead to the acceptance she has been longing for, as well as welcome laugh-out-loud scenes in the film’s second half; awkward sexual encounters and stressful run-ins carry the suspense throughout.

From homemaker to raging goth to gardening yogi, each phase is equally intense. At the end of the film, drastic comparisons between the old and new Meris are fun, but a bit too literal, with exaggerated before-and-after lighting schemes. We get that Meris has a better life now. But who is this person? The road to self-discovery she sets off on is one that high schoolers often face, but at least it’s an entertaining ride.

Opens November 18

11/15/11 4:15pm

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Tonight and tomorrow, the Other Israel Film Festival screens the first episode of the recent British miniseries The Promise; the subsequent episodes will be presented at the JCC in Manhattan over the next three weeks.

A young Westerner is our eyes and ears in Israel in this first episode of the British miniseries, which gets up close and personal with a country too frequently seen from afar. Erin Matthews (Claire Foy) leaves her disapproving mother behind in the UK as she jets off to the Holy Land with her best friend, dual citizen Eliza (Perdita Weeks). Having recently discovered her sick grandfather’s journal written in 1940s Palestine, Erin’s journey is into the nation’s past as much as its present.

The episode weaves the two very different stories together brilliantly. A British soldier during World War II, Erin’s grandfather Len (Christian Cooke) liberates Bergen Belsen, then serves in Palestine during the postwar wave of Jewish immigration. Passionate Len finds himself in trouble with his superior officers, who are far less sympathetic to the Jewish cause, as he smuggles in illegals and falls in love with a Jewish woman.

Once Eliza begins her required military service in the Israel Defense Forces, Erin spends the majority of her time with Eliza’s older, rebellious brother Paul (Itay Tiran). Upon arrival in Israel, days and nights of shopping, clubbing, and watching the sunset over the calm Mediterranean have Erin believing, “It’s like paradise.” But as the episode continues, the naïve eighteen-year-old begins to understand the more difficult reality.

Writer and director Peter Kosminsky uses blank-slate Erin as a tool to educate the audience: her incessant questions allow other characters to explicate local politics in a way that feels natural. Since Erin knows only what she has learned on the news, even simple situations are fully explained, successfully filling any gaps some viewers may have.

Len and Paul, both outliers in their own time, share the spotlight. Pro-Palestinian Paul challenges Erin’s assumptions about the Arab-Israeli Conflict when he whisks her away to the West Bank, calls Israel a military dictatorship in arguments with his more patriotic father, and protests the wall, or security fence, east of Jerusalem. Checkpoints, intense café security, and even pro-peace discussion panels ensure that the Conflict is—at least—as ever-present in The Promise as it is in daily Israeli life.

With Len in the post-war British Mandate of Palestine, the audience uncovers the history of the heavily disputed land as Paul brings us up to speed on what is happening there today. Past and present intertwine flawlessly in the first episode of The Promise, as we are educated alongside Erin, and left as eager as she is to learn more.

11/11/11 2:43pm

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This year’s Other Israel Film Festival kicked off last night and continues through the 17th; Naomi screens tonight, tomorrow and Sunday.

Lies, adultery, love, and death surround beautiful young Naomi (Melanie Peres) in Eitan Tzur’s film of the same name, which focuses on the characters affected by the leading lady more than on the woman herself. Sure, she’s on screen a decent amount, but only to remind the audience why everyone is so infatuated with her.

Though married to shlumpy, overweight professor Ilan (Yossi Pollak), Naomi—possibly 30 years younger—is carrying on an affair with the more age-appropriate Oded (Rami Heuberger). It’s clear from the beginning that Ilan has suspicions: the first scene has him frantically searching the house for Naomi, repeatedly dialing her cell, and being questioned once again by his mother: “You’re at it again?” Ilan’s sarcastic mom (Orna Porat), who apparently had numerous affairs in her day, advises her son to let if fizzle out naturally lest he lose his trophy. “You’re smothering her,” she says. Easier said than done, at least for Ilan.

Tzur and his cinematographer Shai Goldman don’t focus on the Haifa backdrop, but rather on key props, foreshadowing the elegantly functional plot, and on the characters themselves. In fact, it’s a story that could easily take place anywhere. Close-ups of the talented actors enacting raw emotion and believable interactions allow the audience to connect effortlessly.

Suspense is also an important element, but Tzur’s tone remains naturalistic. While some events are more “normal” than others, each character’s reaction leaves us with an unsettling feeling. The characters are all passionate people, but their reactions to the plot’s turns can be unsetting; their capacity for denial of guilt has us questioning our own morals. Ilan’s mother in particular has such a nonchalance about her that you can’t help but be put off. Naomi successfully forces us to consider why unacceptable acts are performed with unselfish intentions.

11/04/11 10:44am

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Acclaimed author and Brooklynite Arthur Phillips took to the stage at the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Wednesday night, for an evening of storytelling, theatrical performance, and slight confusion. Reading excerpts from his latest novel The Tragedy of Arthur, Phillips blurred the lines between fact and fiction, a main theme throughout the text.

Phillips began by starting, “This story begins in my childhood.” The novel’s protagonist and narrator just so happens to be a novelist named Arthur Phillips, and has numerous similarities with the author himself—but the character is fake… right?

Phillips read two passages from the first part of the text, the books extended “Introduction.” Both involved the importance of Shakespeare in Arthur’s life, beginning in childhood and continuing through his discovery of what might be a lost Shakespeare play, The Tragedy of Arthur, which is featured, in its entirety, in the book’s second half of the book. Phillips claimed it was not a real work by W.S., but also suggested that he could be sued for saying the wrong thing, and stupefied the audience by hinting that unnamed professors had authenticated the 1597 date on the manuscript.

Next came a theatrical interpretation of The Tragedy of Arthur by New York’s Guerrilla Shakespeare Project. Now was the real test: did the play sound and feel like the real thing? Well, yes and no.

During the twenty minute performance (the actual play-within-the-novel would run three hours), questions of identity, war and romance played out in iambic pentameter across of modified version of the Arthurian legend, with a fatalism reminiscent of the great tragedies.

wait, did King Arthur just say, “Saxon-ish?” And “Saxonland?” Did Shakespeare ever use “ish?” Probably not. And perhaps that first scene was a bit too sexually suggestive. Sure, Shakespeare liked to write bawdy puns , but the whole exchange about dominating the tree (I think?) was just too crude, even for Will.

Following the spectacle, there was a chance to ask Phillips some questions, but certainly not for purposes of clarification. (Unless his young son was there to tell you the answer you really wanted to hear.)

So fine, Phillips’s book is a novel questioning the truth of art, itself included—but then why extend the confusion to tonight’s reading? Why not just say it’s a piece of fiction, about a faux? The book’s answer is simple, in its mysterious way: “To set the record crooked once and for all, so that someone’s life (some stranger’s) was not without wonder.”

10/14/11 3:30pm

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Beginning this Sunday, October 16, the Big Apple will be overrun with numerous variations of its favorite fruit. Apple Project’s Cider Week festivities will begin with New Amsterdam Market’s “A Cider Revival,” featuring hard cider samples, apple pies, seasonal hors d’oeuvres, and much more. And that is only the beginning. This weeklong celebration of cider—fermented apple juice—includes a plethora of fun events such as panel discussions, how to make your own cider classes, cider pairings, and of course cheese.

Spend the next week getting tipsy on this Autumnal beverage whilst getting to know its makers. Although there will be special events highlighting ciders and apple alcohols native to NYC, the bubbly drink will also hail from the Hudson Valley and from all the way across the pond from France.

With events like Astor Center’s second annual “Applepalooza,” “Cider Draft Night,” and countless tastings, apple ciders, spirits, wines, and cocktails will surely give you your apple fix until next year.

10/07/11 4:00pm

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Just because summer is winding down doesn’t mean everyone has to head indoors. Grab a fork, chopsticks, or just use your hands and spend some time stuffing your face at the second annual Good Food Fest in the Meatpacking District this weekend. A ridiculous amount of local farmers and chefs from all over NYC showcase their deliciousness at the Gansevoort Plaza. The event is free and open to everyone to attend, but if you’d like to try tantalizingly tasty treats, you can purchase your ticket here.

Once you’re filled with good eats, head over to the Standard Biergarten for some refreshing brews a few feet away. All proceeds from both the Food Fest and the Biergarten benefit the FEED Foundation and God’s Love We Deliver. Delicious food and beer for a great cause. Do it.

09/27/11 3:15pm

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The day has finally arrived for selected cell phone service on certain Manhattan subway platforms, but not on trains, and not for every cell phone carrier. Props to AT&T and T-Mobile. To see how New Yorkers are reacting to this new development, I took to the streets, er, the subway platform to get the scoop.

The 14th street L platform seemed like a good place to get people’s reactions to the new service bustling with Brooklyn-goers. Upon entering the waiting area, some phones rang while others received text messages. Most people were wearing headphones, blocking out the noise of vents and screeching tracks, and it did not appear that they were speaking into them. Plenty of other travelers’ thumbs were going to work on their touch screens and keypads, but whether they were sending texts, BBMs, pix messages, or playing Angry Birds shall forever remain a mystery. One guy appeared to be searching for reception beneath the busy New York streets while other fast-walking train riders didn’t seem interested in their cell phones at all.

A girl on her cell phone waiting for the Brooklyn-bound L train told me the service should have started way earlier. “It’s important enough,” she stressed. Although she didn’t know when exactly she, as an AT&T user, would have cell reception in the underground tunnels. “So many other countries have it already. Why did it take us so long?” Amen, sister.

Another kid on his way downtown took a few minutes to chat with me about the new technological advancement. He had no idea about the development. Maybe because he has Sprint, which is not part of the master plan. He felt “mad and frustrated,” he said, that he doesn’t have cell service while other people do.

A really ticked off guy with Metro PCS cell phone service shared his feelings, too. “Oh man, I get enough people yak, yak, yakking outside. I don’t need it on the subway too,” he said.

Although she couldn’t take too much time to stop and talk, a busy woman beamed that she felt “very positive” about the news. “This is a terrific thing,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a long commute wishing I could tell people I’m running late.” Very respectful. Now if only the service applied to inside trains and not just on platforms.

Two out-of-towners didn’t know a thing about the new cell phone service. However, one lady was kind enough to show me her phone with full reception with the name “T-Mobile” next to the little bars. Thanks. You are useless, Verizon. Useless.

Walking up and down the L train platform, I noticed the immense amount of people on their cell phones, but since so many phones are used for more than just making calls or sending texts, nothing seemed to be too out of the ordinary. Out of all of the people I saw there, I only noticed one person entertaining himself in a way that didn’t involve his cell phone: he was reading the newspaper. I bet he had a blue tooth in on the other side of his head.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story contained references to the cost of the program to the MTA. In fact, a private company will pay $46.8 million to New York City Transit over 10 years to develop, control and maintain service.

09/23/11 2:14pm

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The celebration of beer and really good sausage is upon us once again. Thoughtfully observed in many places outside of its native Germany, including in the international city of New York, the annual drunkfest draws crowds of all kinds to picnic table bars with overflowing brews and scrumptious wurst. As if you didn’t have a reason to have exotic yet refined and delicious drinks at Biergartens before, now is the time. And fortunately, New York has a plethora of them spanning across three boroughs. Below, we offer some tips on how best to enjoy the season.

In Brooklyn
Radegast Hall & Biergarten (Williamsburg)
Oktoberfest Events 9/15-10/6: Special Oktoberfest Menus (Appetizers, Entrees, Desserts); Live Music 9/24 & 10/1, No Cover; 9/24 & 10/1 Mug Holding Championship 7:30PM. (Mug Holding Championship?!?!?)

Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten (Williamsburg)
Oktoberfest Brew Specials: Der Schwarze Kölner (Fort Greene) German beer always on tap.

Schnitzel Haus (Bay Ridge) All German, all the time.

In Manhattan:
Bier International (Harlem)
Harlem’s 2nd Annual Oktoberfest 9/17-10/2: Live Music Sat. & Sun. 5-8PM; Lots o’ German beers and food; The Crowning of Harlem’s First Oktoberfest Queen, Sun. 10/25 at 5PM.

Zum Schneider (East Village)
Oktoberfest 9/24-10/9: Opening Party Sat. 9/24 at 11AM. Live Music Throughout. Join Their Mailing List for Details. Bring your Lederhosen.

Bierhaus (Midtown East)
Oktoberfest 9/17-10/3: Call For Reservations, Fills up Quickly.

In Queens:
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden (Astoria)
Oktoberfest 10/1-10/9: Live Music or Promos Every Night; Free Beer Tasting & $13 Pitchers (Times Vary)

Wunderbar German Grill & Bierhaus (Long Island City)
Oktoberfest Party 10/15

Alternatives:
The Bar Alternative: Sycamore — (Flatbush)
Oktoberfest 10/1 at 12PM – close: Traditional BBQ of German sausages and brats. Domestic & International Craft Oktoberfest Beers. $5 Beers, No Cover.

The Park Alternative (Which is Actually Just Another Bar): Berry Park (Williamsburg)
Oktoberfest 10/7: Live Oompah Band, The Ja Ja Ja’s, DJs all night.

The Christian Alternative: Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church (Brooklyn Heights)
Oktoberfest 10/3 at 3:30PM — 8PM: Authentic German Dinner in a Church Featuring Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, Red Cabbage, Coffee, and Tea. *Note: If you’re looking for German beer, go somewhere else.

The Culinary Alternative: Ger Nis Culinary & Art Center (Boerum Hill)
Oktoberfest, Schnitzel, and Beer 10/3 at 6:30PM — 9:30PM: $65 to Learn How to Cook Your Own German Food Including German Beers.