Sunday, February 22, 2015

NYFW Fall/Winter 2015: Backstage Beauty

The insanity of New York Fashion Week has subsided and in its wake, as usual, I am left with a barrage of images from the week. Here are some of my favorites from backstage and beyond.

If you'd like to check out some of my dispatches from the week, you can check them out on Her Campus.com here and here, and on The Jewish Daily Forward here.

















Thursday, February 12, 2015

F*ck That Movie

"From Oscar bait prestige bullshit, to lesser known indie smegma— they'll be covering it all..."

So said the invitation to the new monthly event, Fuck That Movie, hosted by comedians Anna Drezen and Joel Kim Booster. Held at Videology, a bar/screening room/movie rental joint in Williamsburg, Fuck That Movie brings together four comedians to share--nay, present (as formally or informally as they choose) what they think is the worst movie of all time (from the aforementioned prestige or smegma categories, and anything in between). After presenting, Anna and Joel allow equally hilarious rebuttals and further questioning from the audience. At the end, we choose by applause the winner, the person who has most convinced us of the terribleness of the film they've presented.  

On a particularly frosty Friday evening, some friends and I found our way to the rad Videology (side note, it's pretty great to see some places in Williamsburg can still be cool, i.e., not tainted by yuppie scum). We wound our way past the stacks and stacks of DVDs to the back room, where for a mere $5 we would see some of our fave new standups in action. The January edition of the series featured the talents of Christi Chiello (MTV), Josh Gondelman (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver), Emmy Blotnick (Comedy Central's Comics to Watch), and Langston Kerman (NBC's Stand Up for Diversity Showcase), and of course the delightful, sassy, and delightfully sassy Anna and Joel.  

Emmy Blotnick and Happythankyoumoreplease
And I have to say, none of us stopped laughing once we got there. Even my friend's boyfriend, usually pretty stoic, regularly burst into laughter. Christi Chiello, in her signature squeaky voice, bemoaned the lack of black hobbits in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, from a poster board decorated with rainbow letters and stars and fake quotes from George Lucas; Josh Gondelman ridiculed the utter boringness of The Social Network; Emmy Blotnick shared a bewildering reading of the utterly mindless and trite script from Happythankyoumoreplease; and Langston Kerman divulged the wonders/horrors of Rudy Ray Moore's title role as pimp/karate expert in Dolemite.

Langston Kerman and Dolemite
As a film nerd to my core who prefers any life activity with an extra dose of laughter, Fuck That Movie is pure joy. Because, duh, I laughed, but I learned too! Some of the comics even delved into the history of the films and the times in which they were made so we could further understand their perceived horribleness. It was like taking a film class at a comedy club (read: SO MUCH FUN. I said I was a nerd, were you not prepared?).

Anna actually came up with the idea for Fuck That Movie while saying the phrase aloud to herself as she watched the critically acclaimed American Beauty. "It made me furious," she said via email. "It wasn't a genius work of storytelling. It was a bold-faced Oscar-baiting pedophile-apologizing woman-hating piece of schlock, and it's dated as hell. I literally couldn't stop saying 'fuck that movie' out loud to myself." Anna's G-Chat was open at the time, and she chatted Joel. "My ADD meds were at prime bloodstream levels, so I immediately pitched him the show," she said. "We had previously done a cheesy movie segment on Daralyn Kelleher and Ross Parsons' excellent show Comedyology (also at Videology) so I knew we had great chemistry and were on the same page." I'm happy to say she was right.
Anna Drezen and Joel Kim Booster

Anna and Joel both have strong comedy backgrounds, she as an actress, comedian, writer--she has a book forthcoming from Clarkson Potter based on her hotel blog, "How May We Hate You?", which has also been optioned for a pilot with Universal-- and associate editor of Reductress, a fake women's magazine site (think The Onion meets any women's magazine ever); he also as a comedian and writer--he was recently named one of the 10 Comedians You Need to Know by Paper Magazine, and his critically acclaimed play 'Kate and Sam Are Not Breaking Up' is available for sale on Amazon.

Convinced yet? Waiting with bated breath? Good! The next edition of Fuck That Movie will take place on Friday, March 6, 7pm at Videology, and it's well worth your $5. I know I personally can't wait to Fuck That Movie with you.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Hey There, Astoria

You know those times when you're a kid and you say to yourself, "When I'm older, I'm going to have sleepovers with my friends and eat ice cream ALL THE TIME!" Except you get older and then you never do, and that's kind of sad.

Two of my friends brought that up in the last few months, and in that time we've reversed the clock. Maybe it's because I was an only child growing up, but even to this day when I have to leave my friends at the end of a dinner or a night out, I always feel like I've left part of myself with them. I get into a cab with a sigh and watch the lights flicker past on the dark skyline. It's like there will never be enough hangouts, never be enough time spent with the people I hold most dear.

Once in a while, though, we'll do a sleepover. And you know what? At 12 or 26, sleepovers are still the best. You get to hang out with your friends til you're too tired to go home, and then guess what? You don't have to go home! And you don't have to ride the subway with gross morning breath in yesterday's clothes, wondering if anyone sees the hangover that by this point has tattooed itself on your forehead.

J and I hadn't seen each other in a year and a half, though we live mere boroughs away and have known each other since we were 14 years old. I went to see her at a concert last week, and we agreed to make a night of catching up this weekend. Her new place is out in Astoria, though she was kind enough to pick me up in her car. I packed a bag for an evening away as I would have when I was a kid--pajamas, toothbrush, a clean shirt for the next day--and jumped into her car with a more grown up addition to my luggage, a bottle of champagne. Because if you can't celebrate a hangout with your girlfriends, what can you celebrate?

The times I have been to Astoria, I very much enjoyed how it's international and vibrant in a quiet way. There's almost no hustle and bustle, and there are people from all walks of life--young and old, families and singles. It's just far enough away for J, who says the neighborhood's small-town feel is perfect for "people who don't want to fuck with the big city," like herself.

Dinner took us to Agnanti, a Greek restaurant on Ditmars Boulevard. Decorated with famous screen couples from 1960s Greek cinema, the restaurant had long wooden tables and a real furnace burning off in the corner. Save for the Amtrak trains running above us on the bridge, I felt like I was far from the city, in a small town restaurant nestled away from honking horns and flashing lights. We ate bread dipped in olive oil and pepper, creamy tzatziki thick with cucumbers, deliciously charred grilled vegetables, mussels in white wine sauce and beef stew. I had a glass of retsina, a Greek white wine, which J informed me would taste like pine needles. I raised my eyebrows but decided to try it anyway. It was delicious, kind of like a chardonnay that, yes, tasted of pine needles but also smelled of olive oil (I learned that retsinas get part of their flavor from tree resins, so much of that makes sense).

After a dessert of Greek yogurt with berries and another neither of us could define (it was complimentary!), we took back to J's abode for champagne. We talked and talked about our families, about men and boys bad and good, about beauty standards and relationships. I have always believed that one of the best feelings is being able to sit and talk with your friends you haven't seen in a while and it's like no time has passed. J is as much of a positive force as she always has been, magnetic and passionate about the world around her. She is curious about my life and I about hers. We have seen each other grow and appreciate the journeys we have taken. J's cat Penny nestles next to our champagne bottle as if protecting it from intruders. Luckily, soon there is no more champagne to protect and we fall asleep.

In the morning, we take a quick gander in the snow through Astoria Park, a massive (by New York standards) stretch of open land leading to the East River. Bridges glide over the top of the park and through the snow you can see the Manhattan skyline. I personally can't wait to see Astoria Park in the spring and summer, when it's doubtlessly bright green and perfect for a day by (but definitely not in) the water.


Tiptoeing our way around the icy sidewalks, we eventually make our way to New York City Bagel and Coffee House, right near the Astoria-Ditmars Stop on the N train. I'm stunned by the sheer array of bagel and cream cheese flavors, the latter of which you're allowed to try as if they were ice cream flavors. I'm happily shocked upon hearing this. "I can TRY them????" I say in disbelief, eyeing first the wasabi cream cheese but ultimately settling on the bacon scallion for my multi-grain, whole wheat bagel. It's delicious, but I cannot finish it and give the rest to J.

Walking back to her house, she points out a pet store. "This is where I like to go to pet other people's animals," she laughs. We go inside and pay a visit to a spunky Boston terrier in the window and a fluffy, brown tabby perched high above the shelves of dog food. I never really understood dog sweaters but this place is full of them, along with yardsticks of duck jerky for dogs. To each his own. As we tiptoe over the ice yet again, J mourns the lack of Mexican food in her neighborhood, prompting her to read to me from her phone the hilarious essay by Darin Ross, "Dear Guy Who Just Made My Burrito," from Medium (which I encourage you all to read if you haven't already!). We laugh loud laughs while I try not to fall on my face in the snow. At one point I laugh so hard I almost spit out my tea.

As J drives me over the Triboro Bridge, I already feel that same part of me getting left behind. What's nice though is that, no matter how much time passes, I know now I can always get it back.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blizzard Bunny

You've likely heard that the blizzard we received here in the Northeast, and in some places are still receiving, was said to be for New York of "historical" and "epic" proportions. Beginning at 11pm last night, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, our faithful MTA, was instructed to shut down all public transportation across the city. Roads were closed to everything except emergency vehicles. While in the city itself "epic" became not entirely the case (a total of 9.8 inches are said to have fallen in Central Park), the outer boroughs and Long Island received much more (11 inches at JFK out at the edge of Queens and more than two feet in some parts of LI). New England bore the brunt of what became known to some as Winter Storm Juno, knocking out power and causing floods.

But for most of the five boroughs, today was a snow day. A fun one, that is. A chance to stay home, miss school or work and, well, play in the snow, whatever that means to you. Though I experienced a few of them in college, the concept of a snow day to me is still very foreign. When I was younger to miss school because of weather was never a good or exciting thing. I still have visions of my high school being shut down for two weeks during my senior year because Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma hit one right after the other. Entire parts of South Florida were without power for a week or two--traffic lights didn't work, ice melted everywhere, stores couldn't open, and I remember lying on the tile floor of my house in shorts and a tank top trying desperately to cool down in the oppressive humidity.

Today, though, children were playing in the park, sledding and tobogganing down its hills, building snow men on its lawns, and throwing snowballs at each other. They drew smiley faces on car windows and fire hydrants covered in inches of snow and splashed on the slushy curbs. As if nothing bad had or could have happened.

As the snow fell yesterday and last night, I watched the stuff pile up higher and higher on my fire escape, getting stuck in the gates and the trees. I knew by reading all of the messages from the Mayor's office and the city government and the press that someone wanted me to be worried enough to dash out to the grocery store at 7am to make sure I was prepared (yes, people actually did this, to the extent that there were lines to get into some grocery stores at that hour), but I just didn't care too much. I had half a box of pasta, some leftover white rice from Chinese delivery, goat cheese, an egg, some sliced turkey, a bottle of mustard, some frozen vegetables, a jar of peanut butter and a bottle of Champagne. I could get through a week if I needed to.

A friend of mine texted me from Florida to ask if I was going to be okay, wishing that she, too, could have a snow day from work, followed by a sad face. "I don't know if it makes you feel better," I said, "but I'll still be working. Freelancing means no snow days!" The beauty and the beast of freelancing, of course, is that it can happen anywhere, at anytime. Interestingly, though, the situation was similar for people who had regular 9-to-5s. As New York Magazine writer Jesse Singal says in his piece, "The Adult Snow Day is Dying, and That's Sad," the concept of not working because you can't get into the office is no longer, well, a concept unless you're in a profession that can't telecommute. So instead of taking actual snow days, people are working from home, making that unexpected day off, unfortunately just like the expected day off, so much more elusive. I agree with Singal that it is definitely sad that 9-to-5ers no longer have this luxury, on top of the fact that so many of them forget to use their vacation days each year. For me, it's one thing not to have any paid vacation days, but to know that people aren't taking ones they're actually offered is consistently mind-boggling to me. What I wouldn't do to have some of those!

Even with telecommuting being a part of the new snow day ritual for so many, it was still really nice to go to the park today and see so many people either out with their dogs, their children, their partners, or all of the above, making the most of the crisply white, freshly fallen snow. I hope a lot of 9-to-5ers just said "Fuck off!" to their companies that told them to work from home and enjoyed the snow day as they remembered when they were younger (if they did, in fact, get to experience snow days!). Interestingly, I even did the same when I spent some time taking pictures outside today. Suiting up in my best snow bunny, nay, blizzard bunny, gear--black and white checked rubber boots, more layers than I've worn in recent memory, a bright white puffy coat, sparkly legwarmers and leopard gloves--I made my way through the snow, feeling the crush of the still-fluffy stuff under my feet. I was going to spend the whole day working, but I knew it would be a mistake to skip out on what would likely be a stunning winter scene. It's important to get out every now and then and smell the roses. Or the snow, for that matter. Some things you only get to see once a year, like the leavings of a great big-ish storm. So here are some images from today (click to enlarge)! If you're in the Northeast, stay warm out there, kiddos! And if you're not, may your hearts be warm as warm as our radiators (hopefully) are up north.
















Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kind of Blue(s)

It had only been about three and a half years.

Last night, Friday night, I was supposed to photograph a concert but it fell through. At the last minute, I had no plans for the evening. The thought of staying in and catching up on the television I missed this week sounded profoundly pathetic and frustrating. I went to yoga and came home, wondering just what exactly, now that it was 8 o'clock, I could do with the rest of my evening. Go to a movie? Maybe. Dinner? I could do that I guess. Then somewhere in my brain the button went off and I knew I had to follow the urge. I was going blues dancing.

My friend Julie brought me blues dancing my sophomore year of college, knowing I had danced most of my life and thinking I might like to try something new. I remember instantly loving the smoothness and the sensuality of it, this type of partner dancing, with no specific movements required to complete it. For example, in a dance like salsa, you have the requisite "one two three, five six seven" steps done on beat in a variety of ways. But blues is very free form, very improvisational--lots of hip movements, long, langourous leg drags, dips, and more--and the music is phenomenal because it is, of course, blues. The good folks at Blues Dance New York have a great definition of it here, if you'd like to learn a bit more. And there are blues communities and events all over the country and the world, from Colorado to London to Seoul to Seattle. Incidentally, today Julie is an internationally renowned blues dance instructor, competitive dancer, and DJ. Check out her website here and see some of her amazing moves (turns out there's a video of Julie dancing on the Blues Dance New York homepage, too!)!

When we were in college, I would go with Julie when I could, but with crazy college schedules I only managed to get to dances a couple times a semester, if that. It was always something I remembered fondly, even if I wasn't very good at it, and wished I could have picked up again. The last time I blues danced was with a random group of people in Washington Square Park all dancing in front of a stereo they brought one summer those aforementioned three and a half years ago. As social dance people often are, they were kind, welcoming, and friendly. "Come to our dances!" they said. "It's always great to have a new face!" But I never did.

Honestly, I think part of me was terribly nervous. I remembered how awkward it felt to giggle nervously and say "I'm new!" when I missed a step or couldn't understand where a lead wanted me to go next. My friend Dan, another blues instructor, told me that I thought too much. "STOP THINKING!" he'd command me when we danced. "AND DON'T BREAK YOUR FRAME!" (Breaking your frame, according to Julie, refers to "the relationship between our arms & the rest of our body, insofar as it helps us communicate with our partner. For me 'breaking frame' would be letting the connection between arm & body dissolve so they didn't behave as part of the same system (moving in a way that is disconnected from each other).) It's true, my brain would often trip me up--AAAH WHAT IS HE DOING WHERE DOES HE WANT ME TO DO I DON'T UNDERSTAND I'M SO NEW I'LL NEVER BE GOOD AT THIS!!!111!!!11!1--and I'd lose my place completely. And break my frame. Ugh.

But something happened last night where I just decided I needed to go and have fun. No, I wouldn't be dancing perfectly by any means, but I could at least try and see if I remembered anything! I remember finding out a long time ago, at another time when I was flirting with going back, that there was a Friday night blues dance in New York. Did it still happen? In fact it did! Called "FNBlues," the dances are held by Blues Dance New York, every Friday night either at Steppin' Out Studios, a dance studio, or La Nacional, a bar on 14th Street. I showered and changed and remembered to wear my shoes with the really soft soles so I could turn and move easily across the floor.

So I arrive and set down my coat, and shortly I'm dancing. And you know what? I'm not half bad! Dancing with some of the more experienced dancers is more challenging, but they are kind and helpful when I don't understand where I'm supposed to be going. I still giggle nervously and sheepishly say I'm new, but it feels less awkward this time, like it's just part of the process. I'm allowed to be new. I still notice my brain working overtime when I dance with a more experienced dancer, but then I notice it's happening and I just pay attention to the movement. "STOP THINKING!" I hear Dan say when I start to get frazzled. And then I just move and it feels good. People ask me to dance multiple times, even. I spin, I slide, I wiggle my hips, I gracefully extend my arms and it feels like this is something I should always be doing. Even in the two short hours I was there, I felt myself improve, learning to relax, learning to improvise, learning to be more confident, learning to laugh at myself and be goofy when it suits me or my partner. And I don't break my frame...as often (sorry, Dan).

Blues dances are (thankfully) not the typical dance club affair of some dude you don't know trying to grind his pelvis into your backside. Quite the opposite, you go and people ask you to dance, or you ask them to dance, and you say yes or they say yes and you dance with them for a song, say thank you, and then maybe you dance together again later. Or you say no, and they leave you alone. In an age of catcalling and other regular indecencies, it's nice to go to a place where manners and decorum are regularly upheld! Do I sound like a 1920s schoolmarm? YES and I don't care. I don't know who told guys at clubs or anywhere else that they could come up to you and touch you without your permission, but that doesn't happen here. It's a safe, respectful place. I personally like to dance with lots of different people because you never know who will surprise you--never judge a book by its cover because you could be missing out on an amazing partner (unless of course I didn't enjoy dancing with them the first time, in which case I will respectfully decline). It's one more thing about the experience that makes it easy to enjoy.

The other is of course the music. Everything is slow and sinewy, guitars that make your blood pump faster, pianos that tickle your heartbeat. Covers of Muddy Waters's "Hoochie Coochie Man and Bessie Smith's "Sugar in My Bowl," and so much more. My favorite song they played last night though was Ruth Brown's "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Sit On It," a classic innuendo-filled jam that may or may not be about an armchair. It's the stuff my soul sounds like.


I don't expect I'll be dancing like Julie any time soon, but I know in the short term I'll definitely be going back. Thanks BDNY for a lovely evening! Here's to many more nights painted blue.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

SNEAK PEEK: Women of Letters!

If you haven't already heard of Women of Letters, you're missing out. Founded in Australia by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire in 2010, Women of Letters is a live storytelling event in which distinguished women artists, writers, and entertainers come together to share personal, intimate stories in the form of a letter, to, as the founders say, "revive the lost art of letter writing." Before the event each of the participants--which, in the past have included the likes of actress Edie Falco, musician Martha Wainwright, fashion designer Rachel Antonoff, and author Meg Wolitzer, among many renowned others--writes a letter along the lines of the night's theme and reads it aloud. Past themes include "To The Person I Misjudged," "A letter to the night I'd rather forget," and more. It provides a forum for creatively minded women to share their work and continue their evolution as artists in their fields while bonding with other women in a truly unique setting. Since it began, Women of Letters has gained a following that stretches from Los Angeles to Indonesia and back, and has spawned five books. All the proceeds from the shows go to charity, as well.

Tomorrow night, Women of Letters will be live in Manhattan, at Joe's Pub at The Public Theatre in the East Village, with readers Melissa Auf Der Maur (musician, singer/songwriter and former bassist for band Hole), Rayya Elias (filmmaker, musician, hairdresser, author of Harley Loco), Janelle James (writer, director, standup comedian), Maggie Ryan Sandford (scientist, researcher, writer for Smithsonian, Slate.com, The Onion and A.V. Club), Deborra-Lee Furness (actress, producer, director) and Megan Amram (screenwriter for Parks and Recreation, author of Science...For Her!). It will be hosted by writer Sofija Stefanovic. Tickets are $20 and the evening begins at 7pm.

Event founders Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, who are both writers in their own right, were kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the event. Take a look below to learn more, and be sure to attend tomorrow night!  

 
Miss M: How did you come up with the premise of Women of Letters? How did it gain such a following? What was your goal when you started the event?
Women of Letters: We were inspired to start an event that would regularly showcase the work of brilliant women in some way, but it took a little while until we came up with the letter-writing concept. We’re both writers ourselves, and thought it was a nice device that other people might get excited about. Our goal was just to have more than 20 of our friends show up to the first event! From that first sold-out show we’ve gained a very loyal following, who love the event enough to keep telling their friends to buy tickets.

What made you decide to bring the event not just to New York, but to LA, Austin and Indonesia? How did you choose those locations?
In a way, they chose us - we got put on the SXSW bill in 2013 thanks to our dear friend Glenn Dickie, and then figured since we were flying so far we should do shows in other major cities in the US. Indonesia as a result of the wonderful Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. We love traveling the show.

Why do you think women need an event like this? 
As artists, women need more events where they can showcase their work to new audiences. The shows themselves are about a lot more than that though, and to be given an opportunity to openly share or bear witness to personal, intimate experiences, is incredibly powerful and unifying.

What effect do you hope it will have on your audiences?
Overwhelmingly Women of Letters events create a very tangible, human connection between reader and audience.  To be a part of something that exists only in that moment is a privilege, and we hope that the honesty inspires people to go home and write letters of their own!

How do you choose who will read at each event? 
We program women who are intelligent, interesting, hilarious and wise, in a manner that isn’t too dissimilar to formulating our dream dinner party guest list. We’ve got a long series of wishlists, starting with the most outlandish lineups to the more realistic. We’re constantly surprised by who agrees to take part in our shows, and that inspires us to keep asking because we can never predict who might say yes.

How long does it take you to assemble each reading? 
Anywhere between six to eight weeks in advance we start putting out invitations for a show.  Sometimes it gets right down to the wire, trying to lock in our final reader but we get there eventually!

What is one/ are some of your favorite moments from past Women of Letters events? 
Oh gosh, there’ve been so many shows, let alone so many favourite moments… Our first NYC show last year was extraordinary. 400 New Yorkers had lined up in the snow, on a Tuesday night in Gowanus, and those were the only people in the world who will ever hear Edie Falco talk about ‘The night I’d rather forget.’ The room was so quiet while she read, and I think everyone realised instantly that what she’d spoken about was never going to leave that room.  

What can audiences expect to experience at Joe's Pub on the 14th?
We're careful about how we curate every show - there's always a mix of comedians, writers, actors, and musicians.  The readings will range, as they always do, from heartfelt to hilarious to emotionally raw.

What is the most rewarding aspect of putting on this event? What about the most challenging?
Getting to meet the most extraordinary women, many of whom are our personal heroes, is endlessly rewarding. The charitable aspect of our shows is also obviously incredible rewarding. We’ve raised over $600,000 in Australia for an animal rescue shelter, and hope to turn a similar profit in NYC for the New York Women's Foundation. The most challenging aspect these days is dealing with the heartbreak of not being able to commute from Melbourne to New York for each show!

How has the event changed since you first started doing it?
Very little!  Since March 2010 Women of Letters has been a safe space for storytellers and a forum to share and listen.  With sold-out events across the world and five published books, we're not going to fiddle with a successful formula!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Celluloid City

When the weather doesn't even have the decency to be in the 20-degree range, falling instead blisteringly below into the teens, sometimes all I want to is curl up on my couch with a giant blanket, my La Cage Aux Folles mug filled with raspberry tea, my space heater, and a good movie. In celebration of snuggly nights in, and in spite of the current temperatures in the city, here are some of my favorite films set in New York should you find yourself in similar weather conditions in the not-so-distant future (or even if you just love a good flick!). New York has inspired countless filmmakers, and I know these films have certainly inspired me, be they in terms of writing, costume, cinematography, or what have you. This is by no means an exhaustive list of my favorites, just a few--maybe you've heard of them and maybe you haven't! So grab your popcorn or your own favorite fruity tea and enjoy.

The Thin Man (1934)
William Powell stars as the clever, charming, martini-swilling Nick Charles in the film based on the book of the same name by author Dashiell Hammett. Myrna Loy matches his wits as his feisty spouse. Nick is a former detective, but now enjoys a lifestyle of leisure with Mrs. Charles; the two decide to solve a murder, well, just for the fun of it. Cue witty repartee, gorgeous gowns, men who can wear fedoras without looking like idiots, sleazy underground mobsters in tuxedos, crime solved in high style, and plenty of martinis. If you like this one, it's the first in a series of Thin Man films Powell and Loy made together.


You Can't Take It With You (1938)
The Sycamore-Vanderhof household is bursting with eccentrics--a daughter who dances her heart out in pointe shoes at all hours of the day, a grandfather who refuses to pay taxes and goes to graduation ceremonies for fun, a father who makes fireworks in the basement, and a mother who started writing plays when a typewriter showed up at her door, among others. What happens when their more straitlaced daughter takes up with a young man who comes from a wealthy banking family? Chaos and lessons in happiness ensue. Directed by Frank Capra, it won the 1939 Oscar for Best Picture.


The Seven Year Itch (1955)
How could I not put a Marilyn Monroe movie on this list? The Seven Year Itch was actually originally a hit Broadway play, but came to the screen with my beloved Marilyn and Tom Ewell in 1955. Named for the point in a marriage at which a man feels he may start to stray, the film follows Richard Sherman as he awkwardly and hilariously crushes on and gets to know his very delightfully oblivious and very curvaceous blonde upstairs neighbor. It capitalizes on the infamous New York summer heat to tell the story, especially with Marilyn's now-famous 'white dress on the subway grate' scene.

The Apartment (1960)
The Apartment is the story of C.C. Baxter, played by Jack Lemmon, a lonely yet affable man who allows higher-ups at his company the use of his apartment for affairs with women who aren't their wives, hopefully in exchange for career boosts. One of these women is Fran Kubelik, played by Shirley MacLaine, an elevator operator in the building where he works. One night, in despair, she ends up staying longer than either of them anticipates, and the film follows the development of their interaction. The Apartment won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1960.


Cactus Flower (1969)
For a long time, dentist Julian Winston (Walter Matthau) pretended to be married to avoid commitment to his girlfriend, Toni (Goldie Hawn). But he falls for her and now has to dream up a wife to divorce, so he asks his loyal dental assistant Stephanie (Ingrid Bergman) to help him. This movie is in so many ways what I think of when I think about the phrase "the swinging Sixties"-- groovy music from longhaired musicians at cafes, love beads, record stores, and lots of eyeliner. The cast is utterly perfect, and Hawn even won an Oscar--it was her first starring role.


The Owl and the Pussycat (1970)
Felix Sherman (George Segal) is a quiet, nebbishy writer who gets annoyed when his neighbor Doris Washington (Barbra Streisand), a part-time prostitute, is making too much noise. He lodges a complaint against her, she loses her apartment, and foists herself upon him, demanding he give her a place to stay. Throughout the film, they are hilariously at each other's throats, sometimes in more ways than one.



Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976)
Set in the 1950s, aspiring actor Larry Lepinsky moves out of his parents' home in Brooklyn and into a studio apartment in Greenwich Village. He encounters a cast of unique, bohemian characters, all the while trying to be an actor, save his relationship and deal with his overbearing Jewish mother (Shelley Winters). At the time, except for Winters, most of the cast were unknowns (including a very young Christopher Walken).


The Goodbye Girl (1977)
Based on Neil Simon's play of the same name, The Goodbye Girl stars Marsha Mason as Paula McFadden, an unemployed dancer and single mother who needs to rent an extra room out when her  live-in boyfriend leaves her. Enter Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss, who won an Oscar for the part), a quirky actor who first infuriates then charms Paula and her precocious 10-year-old daughter, Lucy (Quinn Cummings).


Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
This Sergio Leone epic (it's nearly four hours long) follows the lives of David 'Noodles' Aaronson (Robert DeNiro) and Maximilian 'Max' Bercovicz (James Woods), two Jewish kids turned gangsters growing up in the Bronx before and during Prohibition. As any epic should, it features elaborate sets and costumes and of course some excellent shots of New York. I'm named after James Woods's character.


Working Girl (1988) 
Working Girl,  directed by the recently departed genius Mike Nichols, is the story of Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a smart secretary from Staten Island whose Wall Street boss (Sigourney Weaver) double-crosses her. With the help of the enthusiastic finance executive Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), she sets out to outsmart the woman. Prepare yourself for visions of the finance world in 1980s New York--big hair, big cellphones, shoulderpads, sneakers with suits on the way to work, fantastically dated computer technology--and a very uplifting story. You never know where the big ideas could come from, you know?


A Bronx Tale (1993)
Written by Chazz Palminteri and directed by Robert DeNiro, A Bronx Tale takes place in the 1950s and 1960s. It follows the life of Calogero (Lillo Brancato), a teenager whose friendship with a local gangster, Sonny (Palminteri) worries his father, a bus driver (DeNiro) who only ever wanted him to make good. It's based on a one-man show Palminteri did of the same name and features several events from his own life. One of the reasons I love this movie so much is because my dad is also from the Bronx, and watching it with him feels like seeing what part of his experience in the borough might have been like at the time. Excellent Bronx accents, excellent music.


Party Girl (1995)
Easily not just one of my favorite New York movies but one of my favorite movies of all time, Party Girl is about Mary (Parker Posey), a quick but aimless girl with an utterly amazing wardrobe--the movie is fabulous for the wardrobe change montages alone--who gets arrested for throwing an illegal party. Her godmother bails her out and hires her as a library clerk to make up the money, but doubts her ability and disapproves of her friends (which includes Guillermo Diaz as Leo, an aspiring DJ). Can Mary grow up? It's a rad look at '90s club culture in New York (cameo by Lady Bunny, hello!), fashion, and also saucily funny. Can I have a falafel with hot sauce, a side order of Baba Ghanoush and a seltzer, please?


 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
I actually saw The Royal Tenenbaums in theatres when it came out and I was struck by its dry humor and gorgeous cinematography. The film tells the tale of Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), a broke, disbarred lawyer estranged from his family--an archaeologist wife from whom he is separated (Angelica Huston) and three former-prodigy children (Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson)--who re-enters their lives only to tell them he's terminally ill (when the whole time we know he's not, and we get to enjoy visuals like seeing him eat a fast-food cheeseburger while hooked up to faux medical equipment). Another that's easily in the top 5 of my favorite movies of all time.


City Island (2009)
City Island is a comedy of errors that takes place on the eponymous island in the Bronx. In it we learn about the Rizzo family who, over a few weeks' time, don't share some major life events with each other and subsequently become embroiled in each other's drama without knowing it when an ex-con is invited to stay in their home. Andy Garcia is the family patriarch, Vince, and Juliana Margulies is his wife, Joyce. It won the Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award in 2009.


And that's what I got! What are some of your favorite New York movies?