From New Zealand to Monaco- BOY x SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

To travel around the world without leaving home there are only three ways. The first is to jump around the internet which really doesn’t count, the next is to visit Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida which has a pavilion of buildings representing many countries except unless you live in Orlando that would count as leave home, so the real way is through the power of film and exotic restaurants. The added addition of films is you get to time travel as well.

On the last week/first week of February/March 2012 I got to visit New Zealand, India, The United Kingdom and Monaco and each adventure was quite amazing.

It started out with getting to see Taika Waititi’s latest feature BOY at a special screening at Knitting Factory Brooklyn. Taika is an Oscar nominated film maker who is best known for his very popular Eagle vs. Shark and his work with Flight of the Conchords. BOY takes place in the early 80s and tells a truly funny, smart and compelling film about a young man in rural New Zealand. He lives in a very small town full of lush landscapes and beauty in a very poor but sustainable lifestyle. The bulk of the film is about his father’s return to town after a stay in prison and the changes that come to Boy’s life in that time. The film has some awesome fantasy sequences including animation, music video recreations and uproarious photo montages. The film has so much heart, but its also full of kinetic energy. The landscape scenes of New Zealand’s lush green are an amazing stark contrast to the poverty of the houses and town, creating a vibe in the film of hope full with hopeless that so much of life contains. When so much changes, it also always feels the same, as people come in and out of your life, relationships change, emotions evolve, personalities develop further and BOY finds a way to express all that through a simple story with complex situations.

After the film I had the pleasure to meet Taika himself and he was very down to Earth and open. That feels like it’s changed a bit in his very humorist updates on his Kickstarter, but I’m pretty sure it’s still humble despite the films instant smash success in America. I had asked him some simple questions about the film, in both its making and its message and he expressed himself with an honest and passionate discussion. If you have the chance to see BOY while its on its US tour, do so… but hopefully this will all lead to a North American DVD/Bluray available at a reasonable price and not imported from New Zealand for multi-zone players.

Before seeing BOY I had dinner at Bay Leaf, an excellent Indian place off of Bedford. It’s actually from what I can tell the only Indian cusine in that area of Williamsburg. Traditionally I have Thai when out there, but since I was alone for the evening I got to try out this place and it was excellent. Actually some of the best tasting Indian I’ve ever had. I ended up having Indian again on Thursday at one of the places on 1 and 6th and they paled in comparison at least flavor style, in my opinion. Both meals were amazing and filling, but Bay Leaf was a tantamount experience followed by an amazing movie I had really desired and meeting its star.

I had gone to Sunshine Cinema on Thursday evening to see a Village Voice screening of SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt with Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas. It was directed by Lasse Hallström from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, two masters of adapting complicated novels into exceptional films. The novel in question here is by the same name and was written by Paul Torday, while never having not read the book, I ascertain from what I can find online that it was very comedic in nature, a great satire filled with a poignant story. The film strips a a bit of that comedy down to just the barest essentials I feel, but still delivers a poignant story with a completely non-allegorical political message alongside an a subtly allegorical life message. Amr Waked is the best thing in this entire film outside of the travelouge. His performance is so strong it is unfortunate when this film has debuted in America, as if it wasn’t directly after The Oscars he would be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor nomination if not a win and as there’s no Acting Nods for foreign films, well… He is just that good though. As said, next comes the visuals. The film travels throughout the UK and Monaco and truly shows them off with a flair. A much higher flair than New Zealand is shown in BOY, but here LOCATION was a character where in BOY it was just a setting. Every space becomes as important to the events and the story as the people themselves. Traditionally one would credit the Director of Photography for this, but Terry Stacey’s previous work was never at a scale like this, so I’ve gotta think that Beaufoy’s script and Lasse’s directing propels this magnificence. Look at Simon’s 127 Hours or Slumdog Millionaire or Hallström’s many films to see their hands in the work no matter who the cinematographer is. SALMON is parable in many ways, just as the concept of salmon fishing in the yemen is a metaphor for life itself.

Through these two films and two wonderful meals I got to see and feel life, love and imagination and for just a moment feel like I’d left New York City and traveled the world.

(It must be stated that unfortunately BOY is currently only scheduled for the following cities: New York, Throughout California (LA, SF, etc.), Boston,  Seattle, Washington DC, Atlanta, GA and Santa Fe in Texas with various different opening dates at specific theaters which you can see here.

and SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN opened March 9th in Limited Theaters in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Info can be found here.

As stated above on BOY, hopefully both films will recieve North American DVD/Blu-Ray releases, they are both worthy.)

Oh, my Pasta!

Whenever I’m out with a friend and decide its time to get a nice meal I have three types I’d gear for, Thai, Indian and Italian. The problem with Italian is that I feel weird paying for pasta dishes which I can easily make at home. I could probably make Thai and Indian dishes as well, but not as easily as Italian. Most places use pre-made pastas, so you’re just paying for labor, but not ingredients you don’t traditionally can pick up at the grocer for cheap. What I’m always looking for is a place that not only mentions that their pasta is made in house, but prides itself in this fact.

Luckily recently I finally found this place on Montague Street in the Brooklyn Heights section of New York City. While the restaurant might have a hokey name in “Oh, my Pasta!”, the cordial service and absolutely amazing food made up for it completely.

We started our meal with their rendition of eggplant parmigiana. This isn’t the way you would expect it in a regular Italian restaurant, very heavy with lots of breading and topped with more tomato sauce than eggplant almost. No, this was a succulent portion cooked to a perfect palate that just melted in the mouth and really triggered the start of the meal.

We decided to sample two of the pasta dishes.

Tagliolini al pesto Siciliano and Troccoli alla carbonara.

The silician pesto was made with basil, pine-nuts, shelled almonds, grated sheep’s milk Rodez cheese, tomatoes, and extra-virgin olive oil. It was served on Tagilolini which is a flat noodle, much like linguine for the lay-man, but more more delicate. This pesto was just the right balance of flavors and the tagiliononi absorbed it so perfectly, it melt in the mouth.

I serve carbonara at home on a regular basis, but never with Sheep’s Milk cheese the way they do here. Troccoli is a traditional spaghetti like pasta and the carbonara sauce didn’t take as well to Troccoli as the pesto and was lacking something, but was still delicious. It is possible that because I am working on various type of forms of carbonana sauce at home my mind and taste buds are more selective than with a pesto sauce which is much more intricate to make and why I don’t do it at home often.

For desert we had an absolutely amazing chocolate tort. This thing was perfect in every way. I tend to despise raspberry sauce in chocolate but here it worked and was a perfect ending to an amazing meal.

I must also bring up the amazing service here. While our waitress was brand new, actually having just started that day, the rest of the house from manager to owner and chef all made a point to be involved. While some criticisms on sites such as Yelp and other restaurant reviews sites have mentioned that when the place gets more full their front of the house to back of the house control can be lacking, I didn’t find it to be that bad and the food was definitely worth it.

While I do not find myself in Brooklyn Heights as often as I’d like, when I have a group of acquaintances, colleagues or a female friend to impress I will definitely make a point of returning here.


Chef Steven J. Lecchi makes pasta

Some early Cool Things Coming Up at the 2011 New York Comic Con

First of note is the nine course dinner at wd-50 with food writer and SVP of Creative at Marvel C.B. Cebulski and former Vertigo editor turned Marve Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. Oh and Joe Quesada will be there too. While I personally would rather spend $606 and have an even LARGER meal at wd-50 with some close friends, this event is the perfect opportunity for 10 folks who want to make their NYCC experience even more amazing. If I had $550, I’d probably go, but I don’t… so, there’s that!

Opening night for folks who can afford themselves 4 day tickets there will be a very special concert from DJ Z-Trip. Labeled as America’s favorite DJ these days and one of the original kings of mash-up, this could be an exciting addition to events. This one is free to 4 day ticket holders and while it may seem like there’s no pop-culture tie in, one would be wrong. On closer scrutiny one of the songs that first got Z-Trip noticed was his re-mix of the RUSH classic “Tom Sawyer” which got featured in the cult classic SMALL SOLDIERS starring  a teenage Kirsten Dunst, a teenage Greg Smith (famous now for the TV series Everwood and Rookie Blue and the film, Hobo With a Shotgun), some of the world’s greatest stand-ups (Dennis Leary, David Cross, Jay Mohr, Phil Hartman) and a who’s-who of classic Hollywood as the voices of the toys (including Ernest Borgnine and Frank Langella).   If you need some extra incentive to check the concert out, go to Z-Trip’s website where you can download almost all his albums for free.

Also notable is the Speed Dating event.  I really wanted to attend this at last year’s convention and scheduling of private press events, walking the floor and meeting certain folks preempted it.  This year I feel it is an experience I should have as both an attractive, eligible nerd bachelor and as a pop-culture journalist.

There are many comic book releases, debuts and toys at the show this year.  None of the panels have been announced other than the Jay & Silent Bob Get Old Live ticketed event.  As much as I enjoy them, I listen to Smodcast enough and have seen the Kevin live speaking DVDs, I don’t need to see them live, but it could be a great experience for someone else.

As time gets closer I’ll plan to try and break down the panels, IGN Theatre events, various booth happenings and possible exclusive press events I’ll be involved in.  I hope you  look forward to that.