Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Frugal Traveler

Last year, Matt Gross, better known as the New York Time’s Frugal Traveler, set himself a challenge: to visit as many places as he could around the world in 90 days without spending more than $40 on food and $100 on lodging per day. Very quickly his weekly updates became the first article everyone read on Wednesdays. This summer, he’s spending 12 weeks on the road, doing his own version of the quintessential American road trip.

His frugality certainly makes him appealing, but it’s more than just saving a few bucks here and there. He’s interested in having genuine experiences, not simply checking sites visited off a master list. Likewise, he values style over (cheap) substance: he won’t pay a lot, but he wants to get a lot (think camp sites and B&Bs over Motel 6s). Finally, he actively takes—and uses—tips from readers. His method of travel is 'solicit advice, then DIY with lots of patience, few set expectations, and a willingness to try new things,' an effective demonstration of the way the Internet has the potential to be the friendly neighbor next door, cluing you into the all the cool ins and outs of a place, without the intervention of a publicist or major ad campaign.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Soraida Burgos

Thanks for marrying us.

Friday, May 11, 2007

60s Spies A-Go-Go at Film Forum

Comfortable it ain’t, but you can’t beat Film Forum for its repertoire programming. Earlier this week, we endured the shoddy seating and chilly temperatures to watch a double feature: “Our Man in Havana” (1959), followed by “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” (1965).

Of the two, “Our Man in Havana” is a better all-around movie: James Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman in pre-Castro Cuba, accidentally gets recruited into the British secret service. Completely at a loss for how to be a spy, he begins making things up about not just about the spies he’s supposedly enlisted to the cause but also about clandestine activities taking place in the mountains (he even sends in models of advanced weaponry, based on his vacuum cleaners). Things get sticky when London sends a secretary and radio man to help Wormold run his network, and stickier still when his ‘agents’ start turning up dead. Graham Greene wrote the screenplay based on his eponymous novel—and the result’s full of jokes, shots of Cuba, attentive mise-en-scene, and themes about the importance of imagination and fantasy in the life of any worthwhile (or would-be) spy.

Then we left fun, sunny Cuba for the cold, cold war of “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.” Also based on a novel, this movie follows Alec Leamas as he resigns from the British secret service and defects to eastern Europe—or does he? It’s a gray and cerebral take on the gray and cerebral nature of morality. As the movie goes to great lengths to point out, rigid adhesion to any belief—capitalist or communist—inevitably leads to destructive, antisocial behavior.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Nacido y criado at the Tribeca Film Festival

Despite its ongoing corporatization and 50% hike in ticket prices, the Tribeca Film Festival continues to offer New Yorkers a chance to see indie and international movies that might not receive a mainstream release. Last night we saw “Nacido y criado” (Born and Bred) in a theater on 34th just two-fifths full.

Pablo Trapero, a major part of the burgeoning Argentine new wave, wrote and directed the story of an interior designer named Santiago who abandons culture and civilization for the loneliness and emptiness of Patagonia. After a terrible car accident, Santiago disappears into a new life at a tiny airport along with Roberto and Cacique, but the rural area’s terrible weather means the trio have more time for drink and debauchery. Nobody in his new life knows about the accident, nobody from his old life knows where he is, and, most importantly, he left before he could find out whether his beloved wife and daughter survived.

As a whole, the movie owes much to New Hollywood, particularly in its long, long takes and gritty realism. The close ups of a suffering Santiago contrast with the wide shots of the vast frozen landscape, bordered by snowy mountains. Sometimes it’s as melodramatic as it sounds. During the Q&A, Trapero explained that the movie’s title has two meanings: Santiago is reborn after the accident a difficult, changed man, and Argentines abbreviate the phrase nacido y criado as "nyc," a slangy way of demonstrating your place cred.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Marriage Bureau

The building's exterior is beautiful, overlooking both the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall Park. The interior is another beast altogether, institutional and aging. Nevertheless, even the security guard congratulated us as he checked our bags. Today we got our marriage license. Ain't no stopping us now.

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