This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Who: Orlando Ferrand, Sabine Heinlein, Vasyl Makhno, Elyssa Goodman, and Oriana Leckert
What: Miss Manhattan and Brooklyn Spaces Present: To the 5 Boroughs
Where: Niagara Bar, 112 Ave. A at Seventh St., 212-420-9517
When: Monday, October 5, free, 7:45
Why: Taking its name from the 2004 Beastie Boys album To the 5 Boroughs, which features such tracks as “Ch-Check It Out,” “Shazam!,” and “An Open Letter to NYC,” To the 5 Boroughs is a free evening of nonfiction readings, hosted by Elyssa Goodman of Miss Manhattan and Oriana Leckert of Brooklyn Spaces, who has been lured across the East River for this event. The three readers are Orlando Ferrand (Apologia: Cuban Childhood in My Backpack, Citywalker), Sabine Heinlein (Among Murderers: Life After Prison), and Vasyl Makhno (Winter Letters, The Gertrude Stein Memorial Cultural and Recreation Park). Why should you go? Because as the Beasties famously declared in “An Open Letter to NYC,” “Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten / From the Battery to the top of Manhattan / Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin / Black, White, New York, you make it happen.”



Greta Gerwig and Ethan Hawke star in New York-set romantic comedy MAGGIE’S PLAN

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Sunday, October 4, 9:30, and Monday, October 5, 6:00, $25, Alice Tully Hall
Sunday, October 11, 3:00, $20, Walter Reade Theater
New York Film Festival runs through October 11

Rebecca Miller channels her inner Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach with the bittersweet romantic comedy Maggie’s Plan, making its U.S. premiere at the fifty-third New York Film Festival. Greta Gerwig is at her loopy best as Maggie, a thirtysomething college arts administrator who, after failing to maintain any relationship for more than six months, decides to become a single mother by impregnating herself with the sperm of an old classmate, Guy (Travis Fimmel), a Brooklyn hipster trying to become a pickle mogul. (He works for the real Brooklyn Brine Co.) Maggie’s married best buds, former boyfriend Tony (Bill Hader) and Felicia (Maya Rudolph), who have just had a baby themselves, debate her decision, but she is determined to forge ahead. As she prepares for the artificial insemination, which she is performing herself, she grows close with older New School adjunct professor John (Ethan Hawke), a ficto-crypto-anthropologist working on his novel. John has two kids of his own but is feeling overwhelmed by his wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), a wickedly ambitious educator who has just been offered a lofty position at Columbia. Soon Maggie, John, and Georgette are in the midst of a complicated love triangle that is at times as frustrating to watch as it is endearing.

Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore play a married couple whose relationship is on thin ice in MAGGIE’S PLAN

Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore play a married couple whose relationship is on thin ice in MAGGIE’S PLAN

Miller, the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, is a novelist and writer-director who has previously made such films as The Ballad of Jack and Rose, which starred her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Inspired by an unpublished novel by Karen Rinaldi, Maggie’s Plan is likely to be Miller’s most popular film, despite the clichéd setup that threatens to be annoyingly obvious and mundane but usually manages to bring out something fresh and charming. The tale evokes such films as Allen’s Manhattan and Baumbach’s Frances Ha, with mumblecore breakout star Gerwig (Nights and Weekends, Hannah Takes the Stairs) again playing a quirky character who seems to live in her own candy-colored fantasy land. Miller even uses cinematographer Sam Levy, who photographed such other Gerwig films as Frances Ha and Mistress America, to shoot Maggie’s Plan. Hawke is in good form as a man caught between two worlds, Hader and Rudolph provide cynical comic relief, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off Gerwig, who once again displays her mesmerizing natural talent, but Moore nearly steals the show as the sensationally dressed and coiffed Georgette, an unrelenting force with a to-die-for Danish-Teutonic accent and an attitude to boot. Maggie’s Plan is screening twice at Alice Tully Hall, first on October 4 at 9:30 with Miller, Gerwig, Moore, Hawke, Rudolph, and Fimmel in person, followed on October 5 at 6:00 with Miller present to talk about the film. In addition, an encore screening has been added on October 11 at 3:00.


Fantasy Grandma Jane B will be joined by FG Myrtle J  and lots of other pickle lovers at annual celebration on the Lower East Side

Fantasy Grandma Jane B will be joined by FG Myrtle J and lots of other pickle lovers at annual celebration on the Lower East Side

Orchard St. between Houston & Delancey Sts.
Sunday, October 4, free, 12 noon - 5:00 pm

Ambrose Bierce once said that life is “a spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay.” That quote takes on a whole new meaning at the annual Lower East Side Pickle Day, being held on Sunday, October 4, on Orchard St. The afternoon festivities will include a Pickle Relay Race, the always popular Pickle Toss, the Pickle Pooch Parade and Contest, a Home Pickling Contest, Pin the Pickle (we’re not sure what on), a Brine Dunk Tank, bocce, face painting, a Pickle Photo Booth, and lots of pickle merch. The303 at Louie & Chan is presenting live performances by Kristin Lush at 12 noon, PJ at 1:00, SR Serge at 2:00, Nikodemus at 3:00, and Gil K at 4:00. Among the participating eateries are Melt Bakery, Georgia’s BBQ, Russ and Daughters, Sweet Buttons, Kapowski’s, Shi Eurasia, the Meatball Shop, Mission Cantina, Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, Langos Truck, Khao Man Gai NY, and Pop Karma, as well as eighteen pickle vendors, from Brooklyn Brine, McClure’s, Doctor Pickle, and Pickle Me Pete to Rick’s Picks, Adamah, Divine Brine, and, of course, Guss’. Pickles have a long affiliation with the Lower East Side, and the annual Pickle Day only adds to that pickled history.


taste of battery park

Brookfield Place
200 Vesey St. across West St.
Sunday, October 4, $25 in advance, $35 day of event, 12 noon - 3:00 pm

Big changes have been taking place down at Brookfield Place and Battery Park, so they have joined up to celebrate their growing culinary community with Taste of Battery Park, a benefit fundraiser for PS89, also known as Liberty School. From 12 noon to 3:00, people can wander around the waterfront marina at Brookfield Place and sample signature dishes from seventeen local eateries: Le District, Parm, Dos Toros Taqueria, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Tartinery, Northern Tiger, El Vez, Shake Shack, North End Grill, Financier Patisserie, Harry’s Italian, Atrio, P.J. Clarke’s, François Payard Bakery, Blue Smoke, Le Pain Quotidien, and Sprinkles. A $25 advance ticket gets you five tastings. (The tickets go up to $35 if purchased on Sunday.) There will also be a raffle, a Kids Corner with family friendly activities, and live music by PS89 students at 1:00 and TriBattery Pops at 2:00.


A TOUCH OF ZEN is a trippy journey toward enlightenment

King Hu’s A TOUCH OF ZEN is a trippy journey toward enlightenment

Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Monday, October 5, 9:00
Festival runs through October 11

Watching King Hu’s 1969 wuxia classic, A Touch of Zen, brings us back to the days of couching out with Kung Fu Theater on rainy Saturday afternoons. The highly influential three-hour epic features an impossible-to-figure-out plot, a goofy romance, wicked-cool weaponry, an awesome Buddhist monk, a bloody massacre, and action scenes that clearly involve the overuse of trampolines. Still, it’s great fun, even if it is way too long. (The film, which was initially shown in two parts, earned a special technical prize at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.) Shih Jun stars as Ku Shen Chai, a local calligrapher and scholar who is extremely curious when the mysterious Ouyang Nin (Tin Peng) suddenly show up in town. It turns out that Ouyang is after Miss Yang (Hsu Feng) to exact “justice” for the corrupt Eunuch Wei, who is out to kill her entire family. Hu (Come Drink with Me, Dragon Gate Inn) fills the film with long, poetic establishing shots of fields and the fort, using herky-jerky camera movements (that might or might not have been done on purpose) and throwing in an ultra-trippy psychedelic mountain scene that is about as 1960s as it gets. A Touch of Zen is ostensibly about Ku’s journey toward enlightenment, but it’s also about so much more, although we’re not completely sure what that is. The film is screening on October 5 at 9:00 as part of the fifty-third New York Film Festival’s Revivals sidebar, which continues through October 11 with Akira Kurosawa’s Ran and Manoel de Oliveira’s Visit, or Memories and Confessions.


1040 Grand Concourse at 167th St.
Friday, October 2, free, 6:00 - 10:00

Ten years ago, the Bronx Museum partnered with Full Circle Prod Inc. to promote B-girl culture, leading to, among other things, East Harlem-raised pioneering break dancer Ana “Rokafella” Garcia’s 2010 documentary on female hip-hop culture, All the Ladies Say. On October 2, the Bronx Museum and Rokafella are teaming up again with a special free First Fridays! presentation celebrating the fifth anniversary of the film. The evening will include performances by Lah Tere and Queen Godis from Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen and DJ KS360, live painting by Lady K Fever, and a dance-off between Brooklyn B-girl Mantis and Connecticut B-girl N’tegrity. The event starts at 6:00, but be sure to get there early to check out the excellent exhibit “¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York” and the new show “Trees Are Alphabets.”


(photo by James Ewing)

Laurie Anderson’s latest project is a dazzling immersive installation at Park Avenue Armory (photo by James Ewing)

Park Ave. Armory
643 Park Ave. between 66th & 67th Sts.
October 2-4, installation viewing $15 (12 noon - 7:00), concerts $45 (8:00)

With “Habeas Corpus,” multimedia artist Laurie Anderson has taken a very serious topic, the seven-year incarceration of an innocent fourteen-year-old in Guantanamo, and turned it into a stunning celebration of freedom and the indomitability of the human spirit. In 2001, Mohammed el Gharani, a Chadian raised in Saudi Arabia, was arrested in Karachi while praying in a mosque a few days after September 11. He spent the next seven years being tortured in prison until lawyer Clive Stafford Smith and his Reprieve organization finally got him a trial, and U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon granted his writ of habeas corpus and ordered his release in 2009. Anderson and el Gharani have collaborated on “Habeas Corpus,” an immersive audiovisual installation at Park Avenue Armory, but it’s about a lot more than just el Gharani’s grueling personal journey. “It’s a work about words, story, place,” Anderson said at a preview earlier this week. She pointedly noted that it asks the question “Where is America?” Near the back of the vast Wade Thompson Drill Hall, Anderson has built a sculpture that approximates the Lincoln Memorial, a giant white chair on which she has sculpted el Gharani’s body, as if his ghost is sitting there (while evoking the twelfth president, who delivered the Emancipation Proclamation). From October 2 to 4, a full-color el Gharani will be remotely projected onto the work from a studio in West Africa, where he lives; he is unable to be in New York in person because his imprisonment at Guantanamo bars his entry to the United States, despite his innocence. An amiable man who Anderson says “would make a great talk show host,” el Gharani will sit motionless in the chair every day from 12 noon to 7:00, projected live, but he will take a break once an hour, when prerecorded stories he tells about his time at Guantanamo will be shown, dealing with torture as well as developing close, important friendships.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Mohammed el Gharani takes a moment while recalling his time at Guantanamo (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Upon entering the hall, visitors step into a dark world lit by the glow of el Gharani in the chair as well as swirling lights emanating from a disco ball that causes immediate disorientation. Balance becomes precarious as you teeter toward the sculpture of el Gharani and the chair. But there’s also something exhilarating about it as you forge ahead through the loss of equilibrium. (Long strips of cardboard are provided if you need to take a seat or lie down, and you very well might have to.) Meanwhile, a droning guitar feedback score composed by Anderson’s late husband, Lou Reed, is played by his guitar tech, Stewart Hurwood, on a platform that appears to be moving but is not, presenting yet another illusion. It all makes for a dizzying yet thrilling experience that delves into the nature of torture, identity, surveillance, borders, technology, personal responsibility, fighting injustice, and the very future of civilization. Make sure to allow yourself a few hours when you come to the armory in order to really absorb “Habeas Corpus”; walk around it (very carefully), contemplate its multiple meanings, meditate on its messages, and just enjoy the sheer spectacle of it. Each night, Anderson will be joined by Syrian musician Omar Souleyman, Pakistani American performer Shahzad Ismaily, the Oakland-based Merrill Garbus (aka tUnE-yArDs), Hurwood, and surprise guests for what Anderson promises will be “a great dance party.” In another room at the armory, el Gharani shares some of his stories in a short documentary, talking about his friend Shaker Aamer, the construction of Camp 5, how he taught himself English, and imploring Obama to keep his promise and close Guantanamo. He tells his tales very directly, not seeking sympathy or complaining about what happened to him but instead hopeful there will be positive change in the world. In addition, Anderson’s “From the Air,” a monologue about her dog, Lolabelle, and 9/11, plays in a third room, projected onto miniature sculptures of chairs on which tiny versions of Anderson and her dog sit; the text (which is not the lyrics from her 1982 song of the same name) is also part of her new seventy-five-minute film, Heart of a Dog, which will screen at the New York Film Festival on October 8, with Anderson at the Walter Reade Theater to discuss the work.