Lost in NYC

Lost in NYC #1, Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio Garcia Sanchez, 2015

These cartoons were excerpted from the graphic novel, Lost in NYC. As such, they don’t tell the whole story, but fair use and all that, permits only telling part of its story. They were in an exhibit of comics at the New York Transit Museum, where all of the cartoons displayed had a transit theme. These two comics portray a common troupe that of being lost in a strange city. The fact that this city is the biggest and the baddest of them all and that the party lost are children, makes them seem all the more imperiling. As these stories go, after many perilous adventures and frequent chase scenes our intrepid wanderers eventually find safe haven. This rescue is usually facilitated by some daunting denizen of the city who turns out to have a heart of gold. Don’t you love a happy ending?

A frequent scene in almost any NYC story is one set on the subway. As modes of transportation go it is exotic enough to find itself center stage in any tale there. Having ridden them some, I must say that you do get to meet many new friends. Their environment is frequently loud and certainly frightening to the uninitiated, but ride them enough and you can quickly gleam the unspoken rules, like don’t speak. It helps to have a seasoned guide to help you with this learning process.

Frequently annoying, but sometimes amazing are the buskers that perform on the trains. If you travel between Brooklyn and the Island then under the East River is a coveted venue. It offers a captive audience and an unusually long period between stops. The best act that I’ve seen is a mariachi band, in full costume. After their performance, they were well rewarded.

If you don’t mind the higher cost, it is usually more relaxing to take a car around town, instead of the subway. However, in a town where time is money and nothing is more expensive than a New York minute, it is frequently faster to take the train. Except when it isn’t, but at those times, it is too late to do otherwise.

Lost in NYC #2, Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio Garcia Sanchez, 2015

The Forty-Year-Old Version

The big 4-0, no longer young, but now middle age. Radha Blank has dropped on Netflix a sensational new autobiographical movie. It talks art, NYC, being black, being a woman and getting older. That’s a lot of shit! Enough to weigh down any show. Instead Radha persists, perseveres and pushes on through. Her movie is profane, at times poignant, at others embarrassing, but always engrossing. And as stellar is her performance, writing and directing, the accompanying ensemble cast is even more radiant. You must watch this amazing new work.

Turning forty, Radha was once herald as the next new thing and one of thirty-under-thirty to lookout for. Once a promising young playwright, she hasn’t done anything new in ten-years and now makes rent by teaching a high school drama class. This Greek chorus of youths offers her no praise either. Her agent, her only booster, her gay Korean high school alum keeps pushing her to workshop, collaborate, sellout, but she is ambivalent. There is a lot to unpack in this movie.

She eventually relents creating a play within a play. This work competes with a foray into hip-hop, showing that even at forty, she is still trying to define herself. She is pretty good at it too. These major plot elements are leavened with a series of one-off characters, like a bus driver, a homeless man and an old lady that depart from the main storyline, but adds a running commentary on Radha’s life.

Shot in black and white, this movie pays homage to its NYC predecessors, like She’s Gotta Have It and Manhattan and its titular Judd Apatow reference. Like that reference, Version keeps raising themes that whites, men and/or the young might be more comfortable with, before casting them aside, but this is Radha’s story and she’s got to be keeping it real. This movie offers a funny, moving and novel glimpse at a world few Netflix viewers will ever see. An inner city world, but also a world devoid of poverty porn. A real world that features real people. People you might see on the street, but never meet. Yo, yo-yo, watch it. I’m out.

Luce Center Visible-Storage

Silver Aisle in the Met’s Luce Center Visible Storage Gallery

In New York’s huge Metropolitan Museum of Art or simply the Met, tucked away in one of its hidden corners, is the Luce Center, a visible-storage facility that displays more than 10,000 works of American fine and decorative art. Walking its aisles is like walking through a fine department store. In it, objects are arranged by material (paintings, sculpture, furniture and woodwork, glass, ceramics and silver), and within these categories they are further arranged by chronology and form.

Think of the Luce Center as the chorus line of the Met’s artworks, on stage, but not yet in the spotlight. Someday, one or two or even a few of these pieces will leave their glass case and be featured in some art show, say a retrospective of colonial era silver-smithing, but for most items this is their lot in life. A work of art, but not a great work of art. The corridor lights are motion activated, where illumination signals the arrival of the next occasional visitor. The lights shine for only a brief while, as someone marches down the aisle reviewing, but not really seeing. There are too many to see or to savor. Still, it beats being locked away in a box. You are after all on display, in showbiz sort of speak, if only in the chorus line, but maybe, just maybe, someday a star.

The Met’s collection is all online. That includes all of the objects in the Luce Center. Objects can be searched for. Online though, each object is catalogued and displayed individually. There is no sense of their collective presence. No chorus line to review. Every one of these objects is just a singular sensation.

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Even though yesterday was V-E Day, we took a break from our relentless pursuit of World War II era justice, in the series Foyle’s War. We had already screened pass the V-E Day episode and have entered the post-war era. For a break, we watched the 2010 Rom-Com Valentine’s Day. It is a star-studded affair. Virtually a who’s-who of that year’s silver screen luminaries. It was an enjoyable piece of fluff that indulged is some serious tinsel town navel gazing. Set entirely on its namesake’s day, we follow this truly large ensemble cast’s trials and tribulations, all in the name of love. The part that I liked the most actually occurred at the end of the movie, while the credits were rolling.

If featured Julia Roberts, who plays a returning servicewoman, on only a very brief leave. Most of the movie she has been seated next to Bradley Cooper on a plane. He is playing a high flying businessman, sort-of-speak. Throughout the movie is teased their A-list hookup, but this is not to be. Instead, Cooper lends her his limo, so that she can have a few more minutes, out of her all too brief leave, with her significant other. In the credits, she is headed back to the airport and while passing Rodeo Drive, the limo driver asks her, if she has ever shopped there. Her big meta moment comes with the answer, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” An allusion to her Pretty Woman role. I warned you about the naval gazing.