THE VILLAGE VOICE CHOICE EATS EIGHTH ANNUAL TASTING EVENT
125 West 18th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Friday, March 13, $65-$99, 6:00 – 10:00 (21 and older only)
Tickets are now on sale for the eighth annual Village Voice Choice Eats festival, but you have to move fast if you want access to tastings from more than fifty New York eateries. Last year’s festival was a smash sellout, and for good reason; we thought it was one of the best food events of the year, with generous, unlimited samplings of signature dishes, sides, and desserts from some of the city’s most innovative chefs, along with complementary craft beer pairings and specialty wine and liquor. This year’s event, taking place March 13 at the Metropolitan Pavilion, includes dozens of cool names, many new to the event and others longtime favorites. Among those signed on so far are 2 Duck Goose, 606 R&D, Awadh, Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter, Brooklyn Kolache Co., Butter & Scotch, Casa Mono and Bar Jamon, the East Pole, Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue, Gloria's Carribean Cuisine, Huertas, John Brown Smokehouse, Littleneck, Mable’s Smokehouse, MAX, No. 7, the NoMad, the Queens Kickshaw, Spicy Pot, Thai Rock, and Tuome. We’ll be sure to return to Butter & Scotch’s table, which we declared best in show at the 2014 event, which took place at Basketball City; this year they are celebrating the launch of their first restaurant space. Although the lineup so far contains a generous helping of Brooklyn’s world-famous (or infamous) artisanal offerings, all five boroughs will be represented. General admission at 7:00 is $65; we have never been fans of extra pay for extra play, but the huge and enthusiastic crowds surging through the aisles of Choice Eats can feel overwhelming and make the Early Entry tickets ($85, 6:30) very attractive, while the VIP passes ($99, 6:00) come with a gift bag and private VIP lounge (pssst, with its own facilities, ahem) as well. You can also purchase a Choice Eats / Choice Streets combo ticket ($115-$170), which will also get you into the May 5 food truck fest at the Intrepid.
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles, 1947)
209 West Houston St.
Friday, January 23, and Saturday, January 24, 2:40, 6:35, 10:30
“Orson Welles 100” continues through February 3
Film Forum’s “Orson Welles 100” festival, a wide-ranging celebration of the centennial of the iconoclastic auteur’s birth, continues with another terrific double feature on January 23-24. In 1947, Welles followed up the creepy black-and-white Holocaust thriller The Stranger with The Lady from Shanghai, a colorful, in-your-face noir about a rogue Irish sea captain and the gorgeous wife of a crippled rich man. Welles plays the shifty seaman, Michael O’Hara, with an in-and-out Irish accent; his estranged wife, Rita Hayworth, is simply breathtaking as the femme fatale, Elsa “Rosalie” Bannister; Everett Sloane is terrifically annoying as Elsa’s husband, wealthy lawyer Arthur Bannister; and Glenn Anders shows off one of the great all-time voices as Grisby, Bannister’s unsuspecting partner. Like The Stranger, the film suffers from awkward moments — Welles famously fought with studio head Harry Cohn over the editing and various stylistic touches — but even as minor Welles it’s an awful lot of fun. Columbia wanted Welles to make sure to show off Hayworth’s beauty, which had recently been on display in such hits as Gilda and Cover Girl, so he goes way overboard here, changing her hair color and zooming in far too close far too often. Based on Sherwood King’s novel If I Die Before I Wake, The Lady from Shanghai is a wicked tale of crime and corruption, lust and revenge. “Talk of money and murder,” O’Hara says at one point. “I must be insane, or else all these people are lunatics.” In another scene, Elsa says to him, “I’m not what you think I am. I just try to be like that.” The film is worth seeing for the spectacular ending alone, which takes place in a funhouse hall of mirrors.
THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed, 1949)
209 West Houston St.
Friday, January 23, and Saturday, January 24, 12:35, 4:30, 8:25
“Orson Welles 100” continues through February 3
Carol Reed’s thriller is quite simply the most entertaining film you’re ever likely to see, the best Orson Welles film not directed by the man who gave us Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. Set in a divided post-WWII Vienna amid a thriving black market, The Third Man is heavy in atmosphere, untrustworthy characters, and sly humor, with a marvelous zither score by Anton Karas. Joseph Cotten stars as Holly Martins, an American writer of Western paperbacks who has come to Vienna to see his old friend Harry Lime (Welles), but he seems to have shown up a little late. While trying to find out what happened to Harry, Martins falls for Harry’s lover, Anna (Alida Valli); is told to get out of town by Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and Sergeant Paine (Bernard “M” Lee); meets a stream of Harry’s more interesting, mysterious friends, including Baron Kurtz (Ernst Deutsch) and Popescu (Siegfried Breuer); and is talked into giving a lecture to a literary club by old Mr. Crabbin (Wilfrid Hyde-White). Every scene is a finely honed work of art, filled with long shadows, echoing footsteps, dripping water, and unforgettable dialogue about cuckoo clocks and other strangeness. SPOILER: The shot in which Lime is first revealed, standing in a doorway, a cat brushing by his feet, his tongue firmly in cheek as he lets go a miraculous, knowing smile, is one of the greatest single moments in the history of cinema. “Orson Welles 100” continues through February 3 with such other gems as Othello, Macbeth, Chimes at Midnight, and A Man for All Seasons as well as such rarities as It’s All True and Too Much Johnsons.
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Peter Jay Sharp Building
230 Lafayette Ave.
Wednesday, January 28, $35-$50
“Miranda July’s ability to pervert norms while embracing what makes us normal is astounding,” Girls creator Lena Dunham says of Miranda July’s debut novel, The First Bad Man (Scribner, January 2015, $25). “Writing in the first person with the frank, odd lilt of an utterly truthful character, she will make you laugh, cringe, and recognize yourself in a woman you never planned to be. By the time July tackles motherhood, the book has become a bible. Never has a novel spoken so deeply to my sexuality, my spirituality, my secret self. I know I am not alone.” On January 28, Dunham, who wrote, directed, and starred in the indie hit Tiny Furniture and whose memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, was released this past September, will host an evening of conversation with July, an influential multimedia artist who writes, directs, and stars in her own films (Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Future), writes short stories (many of her earlier ones have been collected in No One Belongs Here More Than You), has recorded albums (10 Million Hours a Mile, The Binet-Simon Test), developed the personal messaging app “Somebody,” and makes performance pieces and art installations (“Eleven Heavy Things,” “Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About”).
In her first book since 2011’s It Chooses You (a companion piece to The Future), July introduces the world to one Cheryl Glickman, a rather persnickety, peculiar, strangely punctilious woman who lives her life and interprets situations a bit oddly. When her carefully laid out existence is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of her bosses’ troubled daughter, Clee, who will be staying with her for an indeterminate amount of time, Cheryl is forced to reevaluate her needs and her “funny way of doing things,” as Clee says. Cheryl suffers from globus hystericus, has a bizarre relationship with her therapist, pines away for an older member of the board of directors where she works, and is constantly in search of Kubelko Bondy, a “baby I think of as mine.” An eccentric both inside and out, Cheryl and her exploits are endlessly charming and plentifully weird as she deals with sexuality, femininity, class, age, and family. And just when you think you might have her figured out, she does yet another thing that surprises, delights, and confounds you. In reviewing No One Belongs Here More Than You, we wrote, “July’s characters live in their own alternate, warped realities, constantly confusing their relationships with friends, family, and even strangers, mistaking nothings for somethings,” a statement that suits The First Bad Man to a tee. The book even has a cool, chic design, courtesy of July’s husband, artist and filmmaker Mike Mills (Thumbsucker, Beginners); the dust jacket and case are all black, the title and author name in plain white sans serif type, but the endpapers are like a groovy psychedelic abstract painting. Seeing July, who was born in Vermont and raised in Berkeley, and Dunham, a New York City native, together at BAM should be endlessly charming and plentifully weird as well, making for one very entertaining evening. We’re hoping for a warped, brilliant view directly into two very particular expressions of contemporary female creative sensibility — and one very kooky discussion.
Atlantic Stage 2
330 West 16th St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 1, $20-$45
Theater critics are taking quite a beating these days. In Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, F. Murray Abraham portrays a snarky critic who wants to feel included at an opening-night part for a new Broadway show. In Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Oscar-nominated Birdman, Lindsay Duncan plays a vicious New York Times critic who can’t wait to eviscerate a former Hollywood star’s (Michael Keaton) big debut on the Great White Way. And now in Halley Feiffer’s I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard, a playwright father (Reed Birney) and his actor daughter (Betty Gilpin) skewer critics right from the start. “They are a sick cadre of pathetic, sniveling, tiny men with micropenises and no imaginations who write out of their asses and who love to tear you down because in truth they know that you are doing exactly what they could never do — that you are doing the only thing they have ever wanted to do — and they are fucking jealous,” David, winner of a Pulitzer and two Tonys for such plays as Gavalt! and Four Questions, lashes out. “You know that, don’t you? How jealous they are? They’re boiling with envy. They want a piece of you. They want in. They wanna get inside you! They wanna climb right in!” That mini-soliloquy, which of course contains more than a morsel of truth, is part of a kind of vitriolic halftime locker-room pep talk David is giving to Ella, who has been passed over for the role of Nina in The Seagull, losing out to a sexy ingénue who, David argues, uses her assets to get what she wants. (Ellas is cast as Masha instead.) Smoking and drinking with a passion, David rips apart theater as a whole, not just critics, barely leaving room for Ella to sycophantically scream back at him such words of shock and agreement (and ecstasy) as “Whoa!” “Wow!” “Right!” “Yes!” and “Oh god!” It’s not a pleasant conversation to listen in on — and one can only hope it’s not based on fact, as Feiffer is an actress (The House of Blue Leaves, The Substance of Fire) as well as a playwright (How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them) and the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and writer Jules Feiffer.
I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard takes place on Mark Wendland’s cluttered Upper West Side apartment set, which runs three rooms deep instead of across, creating a narrow, claustrophobic space that barely contains the fiery emotions streaming out of David and Ella. The second scene is far shorter than the first, almost more of a coda, taking place on the floor instead of the stage, as the set is now the black box theater itself, a transition that is wholly successful. But Birney (Casa Valentina, Circle Mirror Transformations), one of New York’s most deservedly busiest actors — he’s also starring in Feiffer and Ryan Spahn’s upcoming web series What’s Your Emergency? — and Gilpin (Heartless, Nurse Jackie) make for a rather odd couple, forming an unsettling and hard-to-believe father-daughter dynamic that is often difficult to watch. But then Feiffer and director Trip Cullman (Punk Rock, Murder Ballad) tear it all apart in a brash, brutal finale that is actually a disappointing cop-out. I’m Gonna Pray So Hard for You is a relentlessly nasty and bitter play, and although often that works, in this case, by the end, you’ll be praying for someone, anyone, to just lighten up.
MATANGO (aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE) (aka FUNGUS OF TERROR) (Ishirō Honda, 1963)
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Friday, January 23, 7:00
Festival runs monthly through February 20
How can you go wrong with a Japanese monster movie with such alternate titles as Attack of the Mushroom People and Fungus of Terror, directed by the man who gave us Godzilla, Rodan, Destroy All Monsters, and The Human Vapor? Well, you can’t. Ishirō Honda’s 1963 cult classic, Matango, is a postwar apocalyptic tale that evokes Lord of the Flies, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Antonioni’s L’Avventura while predicting Lost and, yes, Gilligan’s Island. Written by frequent Honda collaborator Takeshi Shimura based on William Hope Hodgson’s 1907 short story “The Voice in the Night” (which was included in the 1958 compilation Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 12 Stories They Wouldn’t Let Me Do on TV), Matango also has its fair share of social commentary, as seven characters on a yachting outing end up stranded on a seemingly deserted island: the first mate, Senzô (Kenji Sahara), the skipper, Naoyuki (Hiroshi Koizumi), the wealthy Kasai (Yoshio Tsuchiya), the writer, Yoshida (Hiroshi Tachikawa), the sultry singer, Mami (Kumi Mizuno), the professor, Kenji (Akira Kubo), and the mousy Akiko (Miki Yashiro). Mushrooms are thriving on the island, but it’s best not to eat them, because they are not exactly the psychedelic fungi beloved by hippies in the mod movies of the ’60s. The film touches on jealousy, resentment, loneliness, hunger, and sanity in the nuclear age, with special effects (courtesy of Eiji Tsuburaya) that make the early years of Doctor Who — and Gilligan’s Island itself —seem like a technological marvel.
Matango is not so much scary these days as just an absolute hoot, a kind of minor time capsule treasure that you can check out on January 23 at 7:00 when Japan Society screens it as part of its monthly film series “The Dark Side of the Sun: John Zorn on Japanese Cinema,” which concludes in March with the U.S. premiere of the made-for-television Nagisa Oshima’s It’s Me Here, Bellett, preceded by eight shorts by Osamu Tezuka. “I had been a huge fan of Japanese music, art, and film since the early 1960s, but late night Tokyo TV provided a peek into an entirely different world outside the classic art film masterpieces of Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, and Inagaki,” experimental musician and composer and downtown fixture Zorn explains in his curator statement. “It was a revelation to discover that Oshima’s Cruel Story of Youth and The Sun’s Burial were not so much an isolated vision but actually two examples of an entire cinematic genre, and that directors like Seijun Suzuki, Kinji Fukasaku, Toshio Masuda, Yasuzo Masumura, Teruo Ishii, and others had made incredible and uncompromising films that spoke as much about the Japanese psyche as origami, noh theater, or the tea ceremony ever had. . . . For me, the experimental, adventurous, and uncompromising side of any society is often the home of the deepest truths, and these films each hold their truths to an often uncomfortable extreme. I hope you enjoy the (occasionally blinding) intensity of ‘The Dark Side of the Sun.’”
MOLOCH TROPICAL (Raoul Peck, 2009)
343 Malcolm X Blvd. between 127th & 128th Sts.
Thursday, January 22, $10, 7:30
“Après the Earthquake” runs January 22-25
On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti, setting in motion a global relief effort. Five years later, there’s still a whole lot more to be done, as well as many questions to be answered. “Après the Earthquake” is a four-day examination of the state of Haiti and the Haitian people in 2015 organized by the Haiti Cultural Exchange and the DDPA (Durban Declaration & Programme of Action) Watch Group, who have teamed up with the Maysles Institute and Port-au-Prince–born filmmaker and activist Raoul Peck. The series begins with Peck’s Moloch Tropical, which was selected as the centerpiece of the 2010 Human Rights Watch Film Festival; the work of fiction follows the sad decline of democratically elected Haitian president Jean de Dieu (Zinedine Soualem) as power corrupts and overwhelms him. A combination of nineteenth-century Haitian leader Henri Christophe, twentieth-century president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, any of several Shakespearean kings, the protagonist of Aleksandr Sokurov’s Nazi drama Molokh, and General Vargas from Woody Allen’s Bananas, de Dieu lives in a mountain fortress where he takes advantage of the female servants, gets all excited when a Hollywood film crew shows up to meet him, and tries to prevent his mother from visiting because he is ashamed of the poverty he came from. In the beginning of the film, he steps on a piece of broken glass, so he limps through the rest of the movie, symbolic of his shaky regime. Although the film does suffer from an overabundance of clichés, it’s still a compelling portrait of the downfall of a powerful man. Moloch Tropical is being shown January 22 at 7:30 at the Maysles Documentary Center (MDC) and will be followed by a Q&A with series curator Michelle Materre and Dowoti Desir of the DDPA.
FATAL ASSISTANCE (ASSISTANCE MORTELLE) (Raoul Peck, 2012)
Friday, January 23, Maysles Cinema, $10, 7:30
Saturday, January 24, Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church, 15 Mount Morris Park West, $10, 4:00
Moloch Tropical is followed the next night by Peck’s Fatal Assistance, which starts by posting remarkable numbers onscreen: In the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit his native country on January 12, 2010, there were 230,000 deaths, 300,000 wounded, and 1.5 million people homeless, with some 4,000 NGOs coming to Haiti to make use of a promised $11 billion in relief over a five-year period. But as Peck reveals, there is significant controversy over where the money is and how it’s being spent as the troubled Haitian people are still seeking proper health care and a place to live. “The line between intrusion, support, and aid is very fine,” says Jean-Max Bellerive, the Haitian prime minister at the time of the disaster, explaining that too many of the donors want to cherry-pick how their money is used. Bill Vastine, senior “debris” adviser for the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH), which was co-chaired by Bellerive and President Bill Clinton, responds, “The international community said they were gonna grant so many billions of dollars to Haiti. That didn’t mean we were gonna send so many billions of dollars to a bank account and let the Haitian government do with it as they will.” Somewhere in the middle is CIRH senior housing adviser Priscilla Phelps, who seems to be the only person who recognizes why the relief effort has turned into a disaster all its own; by the end of the film, she is struggling to hold back tears.
A self-described “political radical,” Peck doesn’t play it neutral in Fatal Assistance, instead adding mournful music by Alexei Aigui, somber English narration by a male voice (Peck narrates the French-language version), and a female voice-over reading melodramatic “Dear friend” letters that poetically trash what is happening in Haiti. “Every few decades, the rich promise everything to the poor,” the male voice-over says. “The dream of eradication of poverty, disease, death remains a perpetual fantasy.” Even though Peck attacks the agendas of the donors and NGOs while pushing an agenda of his own, Fatal Assistance is an important document that shows that just because money pours in to help in a crisis situation doesn’t mean that the things that need to be done are being done properly. The centerpiece selection of the 2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Fatal Assistance will screen at MDC on January 23 at 7:30, followed by a Q&A with Materre and Peck, a two-time Human Rights Watch Lifetime Achievement Award winner, in addition to a reception with food and live music from the Haitian Diaspora. The film is also being shown on January 24 at 4:00 at the Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church as part of the public health forum “Haiti: Five Years Later,” a panel discussion with Peck, Materre, and others, followed by a reception at the nearby MDC. The series continues January 25 at 4:00 at MDC with Peck’s 2001 film, Profit and Nothing But!, followed by a Q&A with Materre and Darrick Hamilton, then concludes with Peck’s most well known work, 1992’s Lumumba: The Death of a Prophet, screening at 6:30, followed by a Q&A with Materre and others.
STRAIT-JACKET (William Castle, 1964)
Chelsea Bowtie Cinemas
260 West 23rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Thursday, January 22, $8, 7:00
One of the posters for William Castle’s 1964 camp classic, Strait-Jacket, screams out, “Warning! Strait-Jacket vividly depicts ax murders!” accompanied by a lurid illustration of an ax swinging down and spraying blood. Indeed, when Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) comes home early one night and catches her younger husband (Lee Majors) in bed with another woman (Patricia Crest), she grabs an ax and gives them each a nasty whack. After twenty years in an asylum, she returns to her farm to find her daughter, Carol (Diane Baker), engaged to Michael Fields (John Anthony Hayes), whose parents (Howard St. John and Edith Atwater), don’t particularly approve of the union. Soon heads are rolling, and no one is safe. The first of a handful of low-budget exploitation films made by Crawford at the end of her career — which also included Castle’s I Saw What You Did, Jim O’Connolly’s Berserk! and Freddie Francis’s Trog — Strait-Jacket has quite a pedigree, written by Robert Bloch, the screenwriter of Psycho; produced and directed by Castle, who had previously made House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler; photographed in black-and-white by two-time Oscar nominee Arthur E. Arling (The Yearling, I’ll Cry Tomorrow); a Theremin-heavy soundtrack by bandleader and composer Van Alexander; and costarring future Oscar winner George Kennedy, Six Million Dollar Man Majors, WWII navy hero Leif Erickson, and Pepsi vice president and nonactor Mitchell Cox. (Crawford was the widow of former Pepsi president Al Steele and was still on the board of directors of the company, resulting not only in Cox’s appearance but also in overt product placement in the movie.)
But most of all, Strait-Jacket has Crawford, who chews up the scenery with relish, living up to Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of her in Mommie Dearest. Just wait till you see her light a match using a record on a turntable and her reaction to a bust of her that her daughter has made — an actual bust of Crawford from her time at MGM in the 1930s. And be sure not to miss the Columbia Pictures logo at the end. Strait-Jacket is being shown January 22 at Chelsea Bowtie Cinemas as part of Hedda Lettuce’s weekly Chelsea Classics series, in which the self-described “eco-friendly drag queen” hosts screenings of popular movies; the long-running series continues in January and February with Thelma and Louise, Titanic, All About Eve, It Happened One Night, and From Here to Eternity, so Strait-Jacket finds itself in some pretty good company.