Tag Archives: brooklyn

Lame Adventure 451: Appropriate Behavior

Recently I attended a screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center of Appropriate Behavior, a romantic comedy set in Brooklyn about hipsters. Shirin is an Iranian-American bisexual obsessing about Maxine, her cool butch lesbian ex-girlfriend, following their crash and burn breakup. The story time travels back and forth when they were happily together in the recent past with newly single Shirin disastrously coping in her miserable present. My expectations for this film hovered at the bottom of the ocean. Much to my surprise, I found this briskly paced debut feature by screenwriter-director-star, Desiree Akhavan, who plays Shirin, entertaining. It’s witty, she’s pretty and this edgy tale is packed with sex, angst and colorful glimpses into Iranian American culture and customs.

What’s not to like?

Something I wasn’t wild about was The Knuckle Dragger who stood directly in front of me completely blocking my view after the film ended, just as the q&a was about to start. Eventually, Lurch realized that they had more in common with a door than a window. Often, I find the questions asked in film screening q&a’s painfully stupid. For example:

Audience Member: How many of you [actors] were playing yourself?

Did this person think that Akhavan had directed a documentary?

Desiree Akhavan standing as she fields audience questions.

Desiree Akhavan (standing) as she fields audience questions.

Akhavan, who has extensively screened her film on the festival circuit, was an admirable pro fielding such an idiotic question that drew audience gasps or maybe I was just hearing the sound of my own less than silent GERD. I later realized that it could be interpreted as a backhanded compliment. Akhavan did a commendable job directing her actors who were very well cast. She and Rebecca Henderson, who plays Maxine, had palpable chemistry.

Akhavan has been referred to as “the Persian Lena Dunham”. Dunham is a major player in the zeitgeist and no doubt Akhavan would love to follow that “it” girl’s influential lead. The comparisons are obvious: Akhavan has screen presence, a clever way with words and she is very comfortable both behind and in front of the camera. For the fourth and current season of Girls, Dunham has written Akhavan into her hit series. That strikes me as a vote of confidence from Dunham to Akhavan.

During the q&a Akhavan admitted that her screenplay was influenced by Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. In lieu of revealing any spoilers, I detected some homage to Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Appropriate Behavior also brought to mind an early Ang Lee film, The Wedding Banquet, a romantic comedy about an Asian American son’s anxiety over admitting that he is gay to his immigrant parents. Shirin is in the closet to her parents. The stress to come out contributes to her neurosis and adds to her problems with Maxine. Akhavan is blatantly and subtly borrowing from some of the best veteran filmmakers, but I also recognized a unique voice and perspective that is her own. I look forward to seeing what she directs next.

Desiree Akhavan

Desiree Akhavan – you go girl! (Dress from Opening Ceremony for those into knowing that sort of thing).

Appropriate Behavior opens January 16th in New York City at the IFC Center, and theaters in select cities coast to coast. Check local listings. It’s also available on iTunes. Sex, partial nudity, drugs and 90 painless minutes when q&a-free.

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Lame Adventure 118: Bottoms Up

Will Skyy respect you in the morning?

I know this billboard is supposed to make me want to don my red vinyl leggings, strap on a coordinating pair of ankle spikes and proceed to get intimate with the nearest Stanley Cup-sized bottle of Skyy vodka.  That is the message here, right?  Yet, every time I look at this ad when walking down West Broadway en route to the Chambers Street subway station, all I can think about is suffering a glass shard in a very intimate soft body part.  The thought of finding myself bleeding profusely in the emergency room due to a self-inflicted extreme act of embarrassment does not make me lust a supertanker of vodka.

My clear spirit of choice is gin but I do have a taste for sake, too.  Since I’m more dull center than cutting edge, I prefer both while sitting upright and holding a glass.  In the case of the sake, a wooden box, or a handle-less miniature cup works nicely, too.

A little background about Skyy vodka, for those of you that read Lame Adventures primarily for its vast educational component … it was created by Brooklyn-born inventor and entrepreneur Maurice Kanbar, who launched it in 1992.  Now 80-years-old, Maurice resides in San Francisco, where Skyy is produced.  He could be lifting a glass of Skyy vodka today in response to the Giants trampling the Rangers for the second straight game in the World Series.  Among his vast and varied accomplishments, Maurice is the mastermind behind the D-Fuzz-It sweater comb and New York’s first multiplex, the Quad Cinema.  He owns much of Tulsa, Oklahoma and in 1997, he opened his wallet and donated $5 million to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, so the film school is now called the Skyy Vodka Institute of Film and Television.  Possibly I’ve gotten the name in that last factoid wrong.

No Grey Goose for Maurice!

Lame Adventure 38: Theater Hiking

The other night I almost killed Milton by accident.  He, Elaine and I went to BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music for non-New Yorkers) to see a new translation (by David Greig) of August Strindberg’s play Creditors directed by Alan Rickman (or Snade to Harry Potter film fans).  Even though I’ve yet to cross the pond to London, it’s very convenient that this Donmar Warehouse production is currently being staged in Brooklyn.  The play stars the original British cast:  Tom Burke, Anna Chancellor, and Owen Teale.

Teale, Burke and Chancellor.

Last month, Milton received an email for discounted tickets ranging in price from $18.75 for gallery seats to $56.25 for orchestra.  Since our means are rather modest, everyone was on board to go for the cheap seats.  Center section row B seats 103, 104, 105 looked like a good view to me.  Milton’s only demand was that I make sure we were not in an obstructed view area where we might find ourselves watching the production through a pillar.  All indications were that these seats were full view, and that was indeed the case.

What was not indicated was that we had to literally climb the stairway to heaven to reach the gallery.  When we entered BAM’s Harvey Theater, we were immediately told we had to use a side entrance or as Elaine quipped, “The servants’ entrance.”  When we rounded the corner to the entrance for the cheap seats (the factual name for the gallery), the three of us looked up at the steepest, longest and most daunting staircase of our lives.  Plus, we had each just ingested substantial burgers at 67 Burger.  The view alone was enough to make my silent GERD* scream.

Now it can be told, Led Zeppelin was singing about the Harvey Theater staircase!

I started climbing followed by Milton and Elaine.  Elaine bolstered Milton who began complaining loudly by the third step (only 97 to go buddy!).  To distract him from this slice of Everest in Brooklyn, she told him about having to scale five flights daily to reach our department.  As we approached the top, Milton gasped, “Death!”

We were so high up, our next stop was surely the moon.  Then, we had to walk down half a flight to our second row seats that a woman on Flickr described as “the most uncomfortable ever.”  A fairly apt description.  They were hard elevated stools that looked straight down at the stage at a terrifying angle.

Ugh.

While Elaine and I were trampling over one another, Milton announced, “Either a heart attack or my vertigo’s going to kill me right now.”   It was quite a scary view.  Had we been in row A, Milton might have tumbled over the railing, with me following as I tried to clutch his ankle and Elaine going down with both of us as she grabbed hold of mine.  As she likes to say, “One for all, and all for one!”  Then the three of us sail headfirst into the swells in orchestra.

Geronimo!

Fortunately, we remained seated, but the woman sitting behind us chattering endlessly about the height of the view did not provide the distraction Milton needed to maintain his rapidly diminishing sanity.  To pass the time until curtain, we discussed applause etiquette in London versus New York.  Elaine claims that applause in her homeland is scant compared to here where we applaud every entrance, exit, encore and usher.  Milton is certain that there are paid clappers at most Broadway shows.  Nice work if you can get it.  (If there is anyone out there who pays clappers, I’m available.)  I asked Elaine if UK theatergoers let loose at the end of the show.  She said, “Not like over here.  It’s some polite clapping, but they’d probably kick you out if you applaud over there like we do over here.”  Well, we are the country that stages critically acclaimed shows with names like American Idiot.

Finally, the lights lowered, and the play started with the sounds of the seaside transporting us back in time to a resort in late 19th century Sweden.  Quickly, this riveting tale of obsession, revenge, lust and rage, or all the emotions that make life interesting, unfolds.  Within ten minutes, Milton loosened his grip on his armrest.  The protagonist’s motives in this cat(s) and mouse study are cleverly revealed in the span of ninety intermission-less minutes.  At the end I felt as devastated as the victims.  Following the cast returning for four curtain calls to screams of praise and thunderous applause, the lights came up, Milton’s vertigo returned, Elaine assured him that walking down the stairway back to earth would be easier than the climb up, and I promised that I would take a blood oath and will never again subject him to another play while sitting in the clouds.  Yet, if you are like us and can only afford the cheap seats, the air in the gallery might be thin, but the action on the stage is so brilliant, it’s well worth the hike.

*Chronic acid reflux with no noticeable symptoms unless when looking up a mile long staircase.