Last night, I had the pleasure of letting my mind escape and dream of being in two countries that I’ve always wanted to visit: Spain & Italy.

My night started out with a showing of Vicky Cristina Barcelona by Woody Allen, starring Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem.  I had wanted to see it because I’m a fan of Woody Allen and I’d never seen a work of his on the big screen. The movie turned out the be much better than I expected. I had anticipated a bit of a love story, or a twisted love triangle. Keep in mind that I tend not to read reviews about a movie or play until I see it so that I won’t be influenced in one way or another. But if I come across a review, I’ll read it – but I don’t seek them out. The basic story is two female American tourists with different ideas about love visit Barcelona for a summer and romantic and not-so-romantic adventures ensue. This film was quirky without trying and everything just seemed to fit: the music, the cast, the environment. I didn’t really notice one aspect over another – the movie just was. It was great to just sit back, relax, and really enjoy a movie. Some of the lines could have been a bit forced due to their wit, but none were. I also enjoyed the relaxed linen fashion – all characters wore the loose clothing so effortlessly and fashionably, again without trying. 

I was unfamiliar with Rebecca Hall’s (Vicky) work, and was very impressed. Actually, I just found out that she’s performing at BAM alongside Ethan Hawke in The Cherry Orchard. Her expressions and reactions were natural, even with the character’s neurotic and nervous nature. Javier Bardem (Juan Antonio) performed with an amazing balance of lust and arrogance, but still allowed the viewer to really feel for his character. One particular scene that I enjoyed with him was when he kept asking his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) to speak English in front of his girlfriend, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson). Moments such as this made the movie as natural as it was. Maria Elena wouldn’t stop speaking Spanish, and Juan Antonio wouldn’t give up until she started speaking just a bit of English. She weaved in and out of both languages, but stuck primarily with Spanish. Juan kind of gives up, but still remains annoyed at her inability to listen or act appropriately in front of Cristina. Then he speaks Spanish too as much as Maria Elena, as would most likely happen in life.

Personally, I could relate a great deal to Cristina’s restlessness and need to jump from one setting to another. As soon as she feels settled in one place, she has this desire to move on. In my life, I’ve always wanted to move to NYC. Now that I finally have, I can’t wait to travel outside the US. This desire made me love the film even more, with 95% of the setting in Barcelona. I’ve always longed for the carefree lifestyle of artists living in Spain and the ability to jump on a plane and escape to a different country for a weekend. Vicky Cristina Barcelona allowed me to feel as if I were on a real journey with Vicky & Cristina for two months, temporarily satisfying my desire and allowing me to just relax and enjoy the film. Highly recommended ****

 

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Cristina, Maria Elena, & Juan Antonio Gonzalo

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Johansson, Bardem, and Cruz

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Juan Antonio & Vicky

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall

 

After the film, I went out in search of an amazing Italian restaurant that I’d dined at in the Fall. I couldn’t remember the name, but remembered their perfect, tender, and meaty lasagna and cozy atmosphere. After walking around the East Village for about 1/2 hour, we finally found Max on Ave B near 3rd St. We had to wait about 1/2 hr more just to get a seat, but it was worth it. The first time I dined there, I ordered the Rigatoni al Ragu Napoletano (meatballs and sausage). I don’t normally eat a lot of meat, but I guess I was feeling a bit carnivorous that night. It was delicious, but not as great as the lasagna I sampled from my neighbor’s plate. Last night, I ordered my own and was not disappointed. Their portions are pretty huge and definitely enough to take home about 1/2 or more. Both times, their dishes were served very very HOT and very fresh. We also ordered appetizers of caprese with Buffalo mozzarella and bruschetta. Both were extremely tasty and fresh and hit the spot after not eating lunch!

I completely recommend the restaurant for the food, but I wasn’t so crazy about the atmosphere or service. My first visit was on a weekday afternoon, so it wasn’t as crowded. But going on a Friday night was probably a bit of a mistake. We tried to wait at the bar, but even that was packed. For about 20 minutes, we stood there having to move constantly to let the dishwasher and bartenders and servers pass by us or get into the bar. There’s seriously nowhere to wait – I even considered waiting in the restroom! Maybe it would’ve been more tolerable if the outside seating area was open.

The hostess was very nice and tried to be accommodating for a packed house, but it was tough to flag the waiter down and I wasn’t thrilled with the waiters kept running into me on my way to and from the restroom. I know it’s packed, but none of them said “excuse me” or “sorry about that” – I did see them apologize to others who were seated though, so it just depends. In all, the food is definitely worth the wait and dealing with rude waiters on busy nights. It’s also pretty inexpensive (about $12 for the lasagna). They do have a pretty good wine list, but the only two basic drinks they serve are Coke and Sparkling water (or tap water). It’s a wonderful little taste of Italy if you don’t mind inconsistent service and a cramped atmosphere. Recommended ***

 

Max Restaurant - East Village, NYC

Max Restaurant - East Village, NYC

 

Max Restaurant - Front

Max Restaurant - Entrance

NYC Summer 2008 Review

November 12, 2008


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I believe that you haven’t truly experienced a perfect [city] summer until you come to Manhattan/Brooklyn/Queens/ [hereafter referred to as NYC] to live it. Since I didn’t get a chance to post over the summer, here’s a quick review of what went down from May to early September:

 


Powerhouse Arena

Powerhouse Arena

Special Events: New York Photo Festival 2008 in Dumbo, BK    

May 14th – May 18th, 2008
My company designed the NYPF and helped construct it. The festival was set at about 18 different locations throughout DUMBO and I managed to hit them all in 2.5 hours, followed by a lovely complimentary cocktail and free art/design magazines.

 

 

 

 

St. Ann's Warehouse

St. Ann's Warehouse

Art
DUMBO

DUMBO

Theater: 

Endgame @ BAM
Starred John Turturro…so amazing. 
BAM - Brooklyn Academy of Music

BAM - Brooklyn Academy of Music

Macbeth @ St. Ann’s Warehouse (the home of innovative theater from around the world in DUMBO, BK)
-The most incredible performance I saw all summer. Innovative outdoor theater space between the Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridge…a Polish adaptation of Macbeth. They gave us headsets to better hear the actors and the sound effects & music…this alone really heightened the experience! The projections, set, and actors were all incredible. A very inspiring performance. 
FMBMLM (Fuck Me, Beat Me, Love Me) & Mary Christmas – Part of Orange Hanky Productions
   

       

Alex Rivera - Writer/Director of "Sleep Dealer"

Alex Rivera - Writer/Director of Sleep Dealer

Films

War, Inc – twice. It was that amazing
The Fall
The Dark Knight on IMAX
Gonzo
NY Asian Film Festival: Accuracy of Death & M
Film Forum’s The French Crime Wave: Shoot the Piano Player
The Pineapple Express
My Blueberry Night
Cites Les Perdues Enfants (part of their cabaret night series) @ RMA
Wanted
Sleep Dealer & Choke @ Sundance at BAM
Sundance @ BAM

Sundance @ BAM

Sex and the City
Lou Reed’s Berlin
In Search of a Midnight Kiss
The Shining at Empire Fulton Park/DUMBO

Shining

 

DeVotchKa Concert

DeVotchKa Concert

Concerts: 
DeVotckha w/ Basia Bulat
Saul Williams w/ Telepathe @ SOBS
Siren 2008 @ Coney Island…sponsored by Village Voice
DeVotchKa II

DeVotchKa II

Basia Bulat

Basia Bulat

Saul Williams - Niggy Tardust

Saul Williams - Niggy Tardust

Telepathe

Telepathe

Art:
Judith Supine @ English Kills Gallery (Bushwick, BK)
Judith Supine @ English Kills

Judith Supine @ English Kills

Bushwick Open Studio & Arts Festival
PS1 in LIC – Olafur Eliasson
Waterfalls by Olafur Eliasson
Salvador Dali & Kirchner @ MOMA
Waterfall - Olafur Elliason

Waterfall - Olafur Elliason

 Local (Ditmas Park/Newkirk Sq) Restaurant Reviews: 

The Farm on Adderly – Amazingly fresh food…truly tastes like the food is straight from the farm. The food was savory, delicate, and perfectly-proportioned. We sat in the backyard area to eat brunch and it felt like we left the city for a moment. It’s one of the more pricey restaurants in the area, but definitely worth it. My Recommendations: The Bluefish Crabcakes, the Hot 5-roses Tea

Don Burrito – Since moving to the area, this has become one restaurant that I visit weekly. I usually order the Veggie Burrito for the fresh mushroom and peppers and perfectly cooked rice, but everything I’ve tasted and seen looks really delicious. Some dishes come out sizzling and smell amazing. The ambiance is great for a Friday night – dim lighting and a very chill atmosphere. My recommendations: Veggie Burritos, Guacamole, Sangria Soda, Fried Ice Cream

Mama’s Italian Restaurant – From what I gather, this restaurant has been open a long time and has served many celebrities in the 80’s. I’ve only dined here once – early on a Sunday afternoon right after they opened. The smell coming from the kitchen was mouth-watering, but I wasn’t that impressed once it arrived. I had the Lasagna and it was okay, but the sauce tasted watered-down.

Bally’s Energy Food – Just opened about a month ago in the Plaza. They serve a slew of different wraps, juices, and smoothies. I tried the Chicken Teriyaki wrap and Peanut Butter & Jelly Soy Smoothie. Both tasted very fresh, but took a long time to prepare. I’ll definitely be back – I love the healthy/vegetarian options and the soy option for smoothies. Their prices are also relatively low on wraps/sandwiches…smoothies and juices are a little above average. My recommendations: Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie [w/ soy]

“That Bagel Place” in Newkirk Plaza – Pretty much a standard bagel place, but worth mentioning because their prices are low and they offer a vast selection of sandwiches, bagels, spreads, etc. [I just wish they served Tofutti cream cheese] The owner/manager also remembers his customer’s names and orders – it reminds me of that small town feeling.