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Guilty Plea in 2012 Murray Hill Slay 10

FAO Schwarz Plans New Rock Center Home BY REBECCA FIORE Toy soldier doormen, decked in red with gold trimmings, will return to their new post. That’s right, the city’s most iconic toy store, FAO Schwarz, is returning to Gotham — to a new home in Rockefeller Center. In 2015, Toys “R” Us acquired the 155-year-old business and closed down its 767 Fifth Ave. flagship store after nearly 30 years at the location, citing rent increases. ThreeSixty Group, a product development and sourcing company working throughout North America, bought the toy store in 2016, and according to the Commercial Observer, has signed a deal to replace the NBC Experience Store at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The new store, set to open next fall, will be significantly smaller, at about 19,000 square feet, compared to the old space, which was 61,000 square feet. Chris Byrne, content director for TTPM.com, an online consumer research resource about the toy industry, said the old store had become somewhat of a museum, where people were looking at expensive, luxury toys like enormous stuffed animals and motorized cars, but not actually buying them. “What did them in was in order to be able to sustain that level of real estate they had to carry Barbie, but Toys ‘R’ Us was selling it way cheaper,” he said. “I definitely think the downsizing is strategic. It’s more about creating that experience than it is about FAO SCHWARZ continued on p. 4

Photo by Marcin Wichary/ Wikimedia Commons

The old FAO Schwarz store at 767 Fifth Ave. at E. 58th St.

Year’s Protests in Pictures 12-15

Best Films of 2017 18-20


Page 6 Photo by Judi Jupiter

Billy Idol (right) and “me best friend” at the opening of Limelight on W. 20th St. in 1983.

INCREASE IN STREET FOOD VENDOR LICENSES TABLED FOR NOW BY REBECCA FIORE Local community leaders and advocates for the city’s street vendors offered mixed reaction to the tabling of street vendor legislation — originally scheduled for a vote last week at the City Council’s final meeting of the year — by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who had previously supported the measure. Intro. 1303, the Street Vendor Modernization Act, would increase the number of food vendors by 330 per year over 10 years, above the current cap of 5,100 and also provide a new office for enforcing laws and regulations affecting vendors. Another feature of the measure, however, would mitigate the impact of more vendors by requiring that the person licensed for the cart be present during all hours of

December 28, 2017 – January 10, 2018 | Vol. 03 No. 26

operation, tightening the requirements that currently allow a license holder to hire workers to staff a cart 24 hours a day. Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project (SVP), a unit of the Urban Justice Center and the group fighting for Intro. 1303, blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio for reversing his initial support of the bill. “We don’t know why the mayor pulled the rug out,” he said. “We thought that there was a deal, and suddenly there wasn’t. We don’t know what changed his mind. When you are fighting against the mayor, it’s very, very hard to win.” Basinski noted that de Blasio already “demanded significant changes to the bill, including a provision VENDORS continued on p. 4


Pot-Stirring ‘Spicy’ Playwrights Don’t Sugarcoat Reality BY REBECCA FIORE Adult themes of compassion, redemption, and solidarity ran through “Stirring the Pot: The Spicy Plays” — 10 short works for the stage written by kids and performed Dec. 8-10 by professional actors, as part of the 52nd Street Project’s Playmaking program. The Playmaking program is the first of many available to kids up until the end of high school at The 52nd Street Project (52project.org). Ten children, five boys and five girls, are selected for a nine-week playwriting course. They must be nine or 10 years old at the time of application, and are required to reside in Hell’s Kitchen. Playmaking has two public performances a year, in December and March, at the 150-seat Five Angels Theater (located within the 52nd St. Project; 789 10th Ave., btw. W. 52nd & 53rd Sts.). Kat Almirañez, who teaches the Playmaking course and serves as the Project’s associate artistic director, said she starts the children off with writing about things they’re familiar with, and learning to write from different perspectives. Alexander Brenton, 10, was inspired by Peeps, those soft Easter-time marshmallow treats. In his play, “Heaven on Earth,” an angel and a devil fight a kingdom of Peeps. The angel, Halo, understands in the end that when he crushes all the Peeps and kills the devil, that he’s finally “happy but lonely.” Alex Torres, 10, wrote a play appropriately titled “Soccer” about Hiro, a young Brazilian soccer player who discovers his soccer ball, Zach, can speak. At first, Zach wishes he could be a different kind of ball — but when he starts helping Hiro win games (with impressively high scores of 30-22), he realizes he “doesn’t need to be another ball to be great.” Torres said he “had a million ideas” for his play and was inspired by his favorite sport. He also said he wants to continue writing plays and one day become a Smart Partner, a one-on-one program the theater provides where mentors meet once a week with a child for 90 minutes. After the Playmaking program finishes, Almirañez said that the children become full members of The Project — giving them access to playwriting, acting, and set design programs, and even help with homework. John Sheehy, director of institutional advancement for The Project (and an actor in one of the plays), has been working for the theater for almost 20


December 28, 2017

Photos by Winston Rodney

The writers responsible for cooking up “Stirring the Pot: The Spicy Plays.”

Charlotte Graham and MaYaa Boateng in “Happy Mother’s Day” by Melanie Correa, age 9, directed by Chelsea Hackett.

years, and is now mentoring the children of former Playmaking members. “We have a pretty high retention rate,” Sheehy said. “Over 90 percent who complete the gateway program will do more than one program, and 75 percent will do more than that.” Following in her older sister Jasmine’s footsteps, Melanie Correa, 9, applied to the program. She knew exactly what she wanted to write about, she noted, because she loves thinking about her friendships. “I’m really close to my best friend and I love my mom,” she said. Her debut “Happy Mother’s Day” is a sharp drama about a 19-year-old who, after

she learns her best friend’s mother has passed away, understands why her friend doesn’t have any Mother’s Day plans. “Even though you hold a lot of things in, you’re still my best friend,” Correa’s character Chloe Capintone, played by Charlotte Graham, sang. At the end of the course, each young playwright is matched up with two actors and a dramaturge/director, who also mentors them through the weekend retreat, helping them write their plays. For this show, the kids stayed with host families in upstate Stone Ridge. Like many others, the weekend get-

away was Amirah Hancock’s favorite part of her experience. “I’ve never been on a trip with my friends for three days. We got enchiladas, ate chocolate cake, and went roller skating,” Hancock, 11, said. Hancock’s play, “The Doll and the Pendant,” was a comedy about Maddie, daughter of the evil Malli (played by Sheehy), who is forced to kidnap Princess Surray — but befriends her instead. “Did you talk to Ivan? I’m the better roller skater,” Hancock said. Ivan Garcia, 10, wrote “A Wish.” One of the evening’s more abstract plays, it’s “about a giant who wants to be a snowman and they [both] regret it after,” Garcia said. Neil D’Astolfo, who plays Ginormous, said he admires the level of creativity each child posses. “There’s so much imagination at play,” he said. “[The actors] talk about it seriously. We want to honor their story. There is this pressure because we want to do it the way it was imagined, with generosity and compassion.” There were some challenges, D’Astolfo said. Each play has a song, written by the child and composed by music director Avi Amon, that he has to become more comfortable singing on stage, especially a high note, high above the ground. “I’m a giant so of course I’m on stilts,” he said before the show, “But I’m not a singer. I have to sing a song and I’m terrified, not just because of SPICY PLAYS continued on p. 23 NYC Community Media

Reunion Show Sees The Washington Squares Come Full Circle BY COLIN MIXSON A Battery Park City resident is reuniting with his Grammy-nominated musical act, The Washington Squares, for a one-night-only performance featuring Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame at City Winery on Jan. 10, and he’s inviting locals to join him in reliving the folk sensation that swept Greenwich Village back in the day. “The music is really good. It really is!” said Tom Goodkind. “I think you’re really going to feel better at the end of the show than when you came in.” The Squares’ original lineup featured Goodkind, Bruce Paskow, and Lauren Agnelli, and the act was born out of the new wave music scene that swept the city in the late 1970s. Goodkind was best known at the time as a nightclub manager, running venues such as Irving Plaza, the Peppermint Lounge, and Roseland Ballroom — although he also had his own pop act, US APE. Meanwhile, Goodkind’s best friend and inveterate prankster, Paskow, had played in a punk band called The Invaders, and Agnelli wrote a music column for The Village Voice and played in the synth-pop act Nervus Rex. The Washington Squares project was

Courtesy Tom Goodkind

The Washington Squares, in a 1984 Irving Plaza performance with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

partly inspired by 1982’s “The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time!” — a documentary about the iconic Greenwich Villagebased folk quartet blacklisted amid the Red Scare, after members Pete Seeger and Lee Hay were identified as Communist Party members. But while the documentary served as

an inspiration, the real urge to go folk was born from the desire to stand out. In the early 1980s, cookie-cutter poppunk acts were a dime and dozen, and the scene’s unharmonious vibes often blended into a deafening white noise, Goodkind recalled. “I remember going back to my apart-

ment with Bruce, and I said, ‘We’re never going to cut it, because there’s four billion of these bands. We have to come up with something really weird.’ That’s when we said, ‘Let’s try folk music!’ ” SQUARES continued on p. 17

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December 28, 2017


brand. It’s mostly parents and grandparents now that know it was the quintessential toy store. It was the Neiman Marcus of toys. It was an iconic New

York destination.” Many movies were shot inside the old store, including “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” “The Smurfs,” and of

course, “Big,” the movie where a young Tom Hanks performs “Heart and Soul” on the large floor piano. While toy sales have kept at a steady stream throughout the past 15 years, Bryne said, the methods of buying toys have changed drastically, from catalogue shopping to clicking away on Amazon. Either way, less people are actually going into toy stores. He also said FAO is planning on reestablishing itself as a toy brand. By focusing on its own products, it won’t be competing with discount outlets. “Potential for profitability is that they will do better on toys that are unique to them,” Bryne said. “If you have a Rockefeller Center lease, you can’t compete on price with a discounter.” ThreeSixty Group could not be reached for comment. It is unclear whether or not the “Big” piano will be making a comeback.

The Street Vendor Project, Levine, and Mark-Viverito have all emphasized the importance of street vendor entrepreneurship to the city’s immigrant communities. While the Street Vendor Project views the measure’s tabling as a major upset, Michele Birnbaum, a member of the Upper East Side’s Community Board 8 and co-chair of its Vendor Task Force Committee, said she is very happy the bill didn’t go to a vote, arguing it was “flawed” and was “not sufficient enough to make a real difference.” Birnbaum said her work on the committee aims to mitigate tensions between Upper East Siders and vendors. “We are for comprehensive street vending reform,” she said. “We want to take everyone into consideration and treat them fairly.” Stating that the major aim behind the measure was to curb the “big black market in vendor licenses and [that] if you raise the cap in the number of vendors then you can eliminate some of the fraud,” Birnbaum said she wasn’t convinced it would achieve that aim. Meanwhile, a steep increase in vendor licenses would require a corresponding increase in

enforcement efforts, she said. Birnbaum also argued that the community must have more of a say on where vendors set up shop, even though there is already a list of areas with restrictions on mobile food vending, including stretches of more than 130 streets in Manhattan, according to the city’s website. Seth Stein, a spokesperson for de Blasio, said, “We opposed this bill because it would have led to a dramatic increase in food vendor permits without providing the tools or time necessary for effective enforcement, and would have increased competition with mom and pop businesses.” Birnbaum agreed, and turned the argument about helping immigrant communities on its head by arguing that street vendors affect immigrants who own stores most negatively. “All those immigrants who work hard to have a brick and mortar fruit store or bodega,” she said, “they have to man it, get insurance, be compliant with all the health regulations that a street vendor doesn’t. The vendor population is not the only immigrant working population in New York.” Basinski said that while there have

been many arguments against street vendors, the claim of unfair competition facing brick and mortar stores isn’t accurate. “Vendors are selling different things, different experience, different item,” Basinski said. “Even if you have a coffee vendor outside a Starbucks, it’s a different price point. The person who goes for the $4 latte isn’t the person who gets the $1 coffee.” Robin Levine, a spokesperson for Mark-Viverito, said, “The speaker has always sought consensus in the body before bringing legislation before the full City Council for a vote. While the speaker continues to believe that the city’s antiquated street vending laws are in dire need of modernization, we will not be moving forward with a vote at this time.” It’s time for a re-grouping, Basinski said, pledging — prior to the news that Chelsea Councilmember Corey Johnson, not currently an Intro. 1303 sponsor, has the votes to be elected the next speaker — that depending on the Council’s new leadership in 2018, the Street Vendor Project will assess how to reignite momentum behind the bill. The fight, he said, isn’t over.

FAO SCHWARZ continued from p. 1

necessarily selling a lot of toys. The ThreeSixty Group has been trying to revitalize the brand as a boutique in other stores.” Most recently, in October, the toy store opened up a pop-up shop inside Bergdorf Goodman — across the street from FAO’s former home — launching itself with a “Return to Wonder” line, including items such as drones, train sets, and plush bears. Byrne said he finds the location choice interesting and purposeful, since other showcase stores for major brands, including the American Girl Doll Place, the LEGO Store, and Nintendo, also call Rockefeller Center home. “It’s going to be a major hub for toys and family tourism in the city,” he said of the new FAO Schwarz store. “They are feeding into the nostalgia of the

VENDORS continued from p. 1

that he could stop the flow of new permits after only three years.” The bill’s language provides that after 990 new licenses are issued, by 2021, the city health commissioner “has the discretion to discontinue or reduce the number of supervisory licenses issued in subsequent years.” Twenty councilmembers sponsored the measure, including Upper West Side District 7’s Mark Levine, who several weeks before the Council wrapped up it 2017 business on December 19, removed his name as its prime sponsor, according to his spokesperson Jake Sporn. Levine continues, however, as a sponsor of the bill. “I remain committed to pushing forth legislation to empower immigrant entrepreneurs, drain the illegal market of permits, and protect neighborhoods,” Levine said in a written statement explaining his decision. “However, with just weeks before the legislative term comes to a close, I am concerned there is not enough time for my colleagues and New Yorkers to provide their input on any changes that need to be made.”

Photo by Ralph Daily/ Wikimedia Commons

FAO Schwarz’s former flagship store at night.

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December 28, 2017

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TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell

NYC Community Media

phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at

a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.

Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.

December 28, 2017


When the City Truly Never Slept BY TEQUILA MINSKY It was a time of sex, drugs, and disco. Early this month, a firecracker storyteller amused a decidedly jaw-dropped crowd with an X-rated exposition about 33 of her photos — black and white and color — that capture the spirit of that bygone era. Judi Jupiter took most of her shots, now on display at a hair salon cum gallery on Eighth Ave., at Studio 54, but she also found celebs to photograph on the streets, in Broadway theaters, at private parties, and in international venues. A long pristine wall at MIDOMA Gallery beautifully sets off these timecaptures photographed by Jupiter when paparazzi was not a dirty word, which happens to be the name of the exhibit. Usually dressed in risqué, themed outfits and traveling with her photo and business partner, Meryl Meisler — the duo self-styled as Neurotic Erotica — Jupiter was one of the first women inhouse photographers at the iconic Studio 54. Costumed up like a performance artist was part of the night’s adventure. Mid-wall in the MIDOMA exhibit, there is a photo of Meatloaf with a hot Judi Jupiter in a rubber dress. Sent by the PR firm Gifford/ Wallace, the photographer swept past the velvet ropes, a permanent name on the guest list. “Once the bouncers knew me, entrée was unlimited,” she gloated as she revealed, “These photos have never been seen.” Jupiter came to New York in 1974 from Detroit to be a buyer at Macy’s. That gig didn’t last very long — she boasts of great social skills but also concedes issues with authority. She met Meisler on a Grey Rabbit bus to New Orleans in 1977 and just a few months later the two began their nightlife forays. It was May of 1977 — a month after Studio opened — when the two began clubbing, mostly hanging out, dancing, and having fun — “our main reason to be there!” Meisler said. Jupiter carried a discreet spy Minox camera or a Leica CL. A triple exposure photo of Calvin Klein, Janice Dickinson, Halston, and Steve Rubell is the first in the show. “My Minox had a mind of its own, and I ended up with a lot of triple exposures that were really liked,” Jupiter beamed. The entirety of Jupiter’s blue tales can’t quite repeated in print, but she

Photo by Judi Jupiter

James Brown at Studio 54.

Photo by Tequila Minsky

Judi Jupiter at the opening of “When ‘Paparazzi’ Was Not a Dirty Word: Celebrities in the 70’s” at MIDOMA Gallery.

Photo courtesy of Judi Jupiter

Judi Jupiter with Meatloaf.

Photo by Tequila Minsky

MIDOMA Gallery owner Marianna Ranieri-Schwarzer.

Photo by Judi Jupiter Photo by Judi Jupiter

JUPITER continued on p. 11


December 28, 2017

Tina Turner.

Sylvester Stallone captured unawares and unhappy on West Broadway.

Photo by Judi Jupiter

Keith Richards and wife Patti Hansen. NYC Community Media

Side Street Residents Seek More Robust L Train Shutdown Mitigation Measures BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC It is almost Shakespearean in nature, except while Hamlet was musing on the existential nature of humanity, for “floored� and “blindsided� residents of W. 15th St., the question is: Where will traffic go when 14th St. becomes busonly for rush hour during the L train shutdown? “I don’t think it is realistic to reroute traffic to a single-lane residential street. Where is it going to go? That’s the question,� Janet Charleston, who has lived on W. 15th St. since 1987, said. For residents on side streets bordering 14th St., the proposed mitigation plan the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released earlier this month is raising questions and concerns. Starting in April 2019, the tunnel that connects Brooklyn and Manhattan, known as the Canarsie Tunnel, will be closed for 15 months to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy. Kimon Retzos is the co-president of the West 15th Street 100 and 200 Block Association, and has lived on the street between Sixth and Seventh Aves. since 1995. He said in a phone interview that people were “floored� by the plan that was released and, “We’re back to the same issues that we started with.� The issue is what happens to displaced traffic with the restrictions on 14th St., Retzos said. “There is no provision for that,� he said. “It’s the elephant in the room that is being ignored.� When asked where cars and other vehicles will be rerouted while the street is bus-only during rush hour, Brian Zumhagen, a DOT spokesperson, said in an email statement, “DOT will not be actively rerouting drivers to particular alternative streets, but will instead make the 14th Street thru-traffic restrictions clear to the public using a robust marketing campaign, on-street messaging, and enforcement.� He added, “The repair of the Canarsie Tunnel will place an unprecedented demand on the full 14th St. corridor. Based on DOT and MTA’s traffic modeling, DOT has determined that limiting vehicle access to 14th Street strikes the best balance to support a projected 84,000 bus riders, and to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, maintain access for local businesses, and to limit spillover traffic on neighboring streets.� Zumhagen also noted that the exact hours of what is being called the “busway� is still under consideration. According to the plan, “The core of 14th Street (3rd to 9th Avenues eastbound and 3rd to 8th Avenues westbound) will serve as NYC Community Media

Photo by Scott Stiffler

Traffic and congestion are already issues on W. 15th St., and residents fear it could get worse during the L train shutdown.

Courtesy NYC DOT

As part of the proposed mitigation plan, 14th St. will be bus-only during rush hour. Also planned is a two-way protected crosstown bike lane on 13th St., the first of its kind in Manhattan.

an exclusive ‘busway’ with rush hour restriction, with bus lanes and Select Bus Service (SBS) added there in the next year.� Christine Berthet, co-chair of the Community Board 4 (CB4) Transportation Planning Committee, said that she expects that the DOT will present to the board about the plan, and there is still a fair amount of time until work is slated to begin in 2019. Berthet said it is clear that there is going to be a lot of traffic on those streets and residents should be concerned. “No matter which was you look at it, 15th, 16th, 17th streets are going to be affected,� she said. The board would like to see what mitigation measures the DOT will be applying for those side streets, she said. “We have to take some drastic measures [so] that those residential streets are not overwhelmed, not swamped by traffic,� she said by phone.

Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office declined to comment for this article. Retzos pointed to what happened about two years ago when W. 17th St. between Seventh and Eighth Aves. was closed due to construction work for a condominium project. There was gridlock — and that

was just one block, he said. “I think the neighborhoods are going to be screwed,� he said. Another issue is that W. 15th St. is not built to handle more vehicles, and there SIDE STREETS continued on p. 16

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Resolutions for the Rage-Filled Screaming Set BY MAX BURBANK If you’re anything like me, right about now you’re thinking, “What? How can it be almost New Year’s again? Didn’t we just have one?” If you’re really like me, you’ve also missed another meeting with your parole officer and you’re crouched down under your work desk, sipping off-brand booze out of a Fresca can.

BOILED EGG, and all you can do is wonder what the HELL that was in PREPARATION FOR? Okay! Maintain. We all have to get hold of ourselves. To stay calm, I recommend order — a routine, a plan to stick to; a set of “resolutions” if you will, for

HELPFUL PRO TIPS FOR THE NEW YEAR! #1: Crouching under your desk does not make you invisible, just like it said on your last performance evaluation. #2: Any beverage called “Southerner’s Comfort” that costs less than six bucks for a two-liter plastic bottle will certainly make you go blind. #3: Be less like me. How am I supposed to process 2017? I haven’t gotten over 2016 yet! Remember 2016? How it killed every single celebrity you ever loved, but left Scott Baio standing there totally unscathed, like some sort of person-sized, glazed ham with glued-on Googly Eyes and a slack jaw? And then, out of the more than 20 candidates running for president, the racist, shaved orangutan-looking, human practical joke won? And then Carrie Fisher died? And then Carrie Fisher’s mom died? And then it dawned on you that Carrie Fisher’s mom was the lady from “Singin’ in the Rain” and you cried for a solid week until you were as dehydrated as a strip of convenience store beef jerky? And then 2017 came along and was all like, “hold my beer” to 2016, which made you nostalgic for when the opportunity to use that joke structure was infrequent enough that it was still slightly funny? And that made you cry for another straight week? What the hell is 2018 going to be like? I mean, it could be better, right? Statistically speaking, it ought to be — but what if it’s more like a rabid wolverine that somehow has opposable thumbs, duct taping you to a chair and using a belt sander to take EVERY SINGLE HAIR OFF YOUR BODY until you’re as BALD as a HARD-


December 28, 2017

hold a pillow over your face, especially a spouse, significant other, or unknown intruder. That often ends badly. #2: BE LESS ENRAGED. You can’t feel a maximum amount of rage 100 percent of the time. Every athlete knows you have to pace yourself, and if rage isn’t a sport, then why is watching the news currently the best cardio workout ever invented by God? Try this: Instead of feeling mad, feel sad. Now bottle that sadness up, repress the hell out of it and shove it way down deep, where heat and pressure will transform it into a whitehot diamond of incandescent rage you can use later! Healthy, right? #3: GET FIT. Any doctor worth their salt will tell you good nutrition and exercise are the best medicines for depression, often while sobbing uncontrollably, presumably because the busy lifestyle of a doctor leaves them little time for either. Of course, with the recent passage of tax “reform,” chances are none of us will be able to afford health insurance in 2018, so the hypothetical doctor from whom I received

are James T. Kirk, they kick Klingons in the chest and have a fine time with the space ladies. Why is your Kirk crouching down under your space desk drinking Romulan ale out of a space-Fresca can and audibly sobbing? And oh GOD, I just realized none of my readers identify with my fantasy. My pop culture references aren’t even slightly topical, because I am SO OLD — bleeding gums, easily winded, too much hair in my hairbrush OLD; William Shatner, classic “Trek” OLD — and it fills their rippling, youthful bodies with REVULSION! #5: STOP IMAGINING YOUR READERS HAVE RIPPLING, YOUTHFUL BODIES. I know #4 was “Have More Cheerful Fantasies,” but there’s a fine line between “cheerful” and “delusional” — and in the world we’re living in, that line is very fine indeed; like the width of a single molecule, which (science fact) means that line is also dangerously, lethally sharp. So watch it, bucko. You’ll cut yourself real bad if you’re not careful. You know what? Throw Resolution #4 right out. Our current world is not a safe reality in which to get lost in pleasant daydreams! You need to stay on your toes, keep sharp, be wary, or you’re liable to end up in a dystopian re-education facility with a barcode tattooed on your forehead because you “cracked wise” once too often in a stupid little political satire column whose readers did not “get” your “references,” because you are ANCIENT! James T. KIRK? What the HELL, man? COME ON! #6: CUT THAT CRAP OUT RIGHT NOW. Seriously. This is why, when on the rare occasions you get invited to parties, everyone is scared of you.


Illustration by Max Burbank

the New Year, to keep from screaming all the time. Here’s a template you can crib from at will. #1: STOP SCREAMING ALL THE TIME. No one likes it. Stop. Now. Pull your upper and lower teeth together. Close your lips over them. Okay, now it’s just a super loud, scary humming. That’s worse. Try holding a pillow over your face. Do not ask someone else to

the advice in the first place is purely imaginary, which might explain the sobbing better than their busy schedule. Lately, all my fantasies seem to escape control and end in sobbing. #4: HAVE MORE CHEERFUL FANTASIES. For God’s sake, exercise a little self-control. It’s your head; you’re allowed to do what you want in it! When other people imagine they

Okay, scrap everything except Resolution #6. Maybe if people only had one resolution on their list, they’d keep it longer than a week. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and other metaphors that are hard to keep in mind when you feel like your hair is on fire. Take a deep breath and look around. You’re not alone. Every halfway-decent person you see feels like their hair is on fire right now. Anyone who doesn’t is either a highly evolved Zen master or a big sack of jerk. There are way more jerk sacks out there than Zen masters, and the Zen masters will take your constant, rage-filled screaming in stride. NYC Community Media

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December 28, 2017


Guilty Plea in Elderly Manhattan Man’s 2012 Murder BY DUNCAN OSBORNE Before pleading guilty to the murder of an 87-year-old man in the man’s Murray Hill apartment, Miguel Abarentos was preparing to offer an extreme emotional disturbance defense in the 2012 homicide. “He was hyper-sensitive to certain slights,� Toni Messina, Abarentos’ attorney, said following the 30-year-old’s plea in Manhattan Supreme Court on December 19. In 2012, Abarentos was employed as a caregiver for Thawerdas Sadhwani, who was described in published reports as a jeweler. No stories have quoted or cited any family or friends for Sadhwani nor have any stories said that he was gay. On December 15 of that year, Abarentos killed the older man in a particularly brutal manner and stole $7,000 from Sadhwani’s home. Abarentos fled to the Philippines, where he was born and raised, but not before confessing to the killing on Facebook. He later told his brother that he had killed Sadhwani. Police found Abarentos’ DNA in the apartment and video shows him arriving and later leaving the building around the time of Sadhwani’s death. Abarentos was arrested in the Philippines in 2016 and extradited to the US. He was charged with a single count of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25-years-to-life. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and will be sentenced to 20-years-to-life on January 23.


An NYPD wanted poster for Miguel Abarentos, who last week pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Thawerdas Sadhwani, an 87-year-old Manhattan man.

Earlier in the case, Messina filed notice that she would argue her client suffered from an extreme emotional disturbance when he killed Sadhwani. Under that defense, a defendant argues that the disturbance was so severe that he could not form the legal intent to kill that is a required element for proving second-degree murder. If a jury agrees with the defense, a defendant facing a second-degree murder charge will be convicted of first-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 25 years

in prison. Messina told NYC Community Media that Abarentos suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) though she declined to say what caused that condition. That underlying condition was inflamed because Sadhwani was abusive at times, she said, and she seemed to imply that he was seductive at other times. “In one particular instance, [Abarentos] was rubbing the guy’s knees and he didn’t like that,� Messina said. She declined to answer when NYC Community Media asked if she had been preparing a homosexual panic defense in the case. That defense, which argues that straight men fly into a homicidal rage when gay men hit on them, is less and less successful these days. Generally, juries do not respond well to psychiatric defenses, seeing them as little more than an effort to evade responsibility for a crime, but they can work. Abarentos’ state of mind during the murder was “just like blowing the top off of a volcano� and that “just being with a man and being insulted by him� contributed to that volatile condition, Messina said. Abarentos entered his guilty plea before Judge Ellen Biben, answering “Yes� to her questions, but otherwise not making any comment. The case was prosecuted by Maxine Rosenthal, an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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JUPITER continued from p. 6

was prodded to point out her favorite pictures. “I love the photo of Billy Idol shot at the opening of Limelight,” she swooned. “He’s so sexy, cool, provocative, and nice, really nice. Winking, she added, “Years later he hit on me.” On another occasion, “at a private party, Andy Warhol and I were at the entrance when Joni Mitchell entered. Photographing as if I was on a runway, with a very resistant, screaming Joni Mitchell, I created a really big scene.” The Stallone picture? “On West Broadway, Stallone flew up his hands, growling with that heavy Brooklyn/ Joisey accent, ‘Stop that!’” On the other hand, Dianne Brill cooperatively planted a big red kiss on Peter Allen for her camera. “I captured Karen Black in her Broadway dressing room, and Sandy Dennis exiting the theater,” Jupiter said. With her Minox, she photographed Kiss backstage at Studio 54. Also, on the wall are Fran Lebowitz, Bianca Jagger, Tony Danza, Debbie Harry, Cher, Keith Haring, Madonna, Tina Turner, Andy Warhol, and Keith Richards among others. There is a very young Paul Shaffer. “We dated for two years,” Jupiter said. Jupiter’s monologue on that early December evening was riveting. “Of course, I remember it like it was yesterday,” she said, as she dropped names of other clubs she frequented — Heartbreak, Hurrah, Xenon, the Underground, and the Mudd Club. From scribbled notes on napkins and pieces of paper in the period from 1977 to 1981, Jupiter has also compiled a memoir of her exploits in topless, bottomless go-go bars. “Queen of the B Girls” has 200 photos in 120 pages, and is soon to be published and marketed online for $3.99. “There will be two versions — PG, simple erotica, and the XX gay-friendly version — use your imagination,” she elaborated. “I’m looking for fame rather than money now.” (She’s not averse to the money following the fame, though.) Obviously, MIDOMA, located between W. 37th and 38th Sts., is no ordinary Eighth Ave. hair salon. Its owner, Syracuse native Marianna Ranieri-Schwarzer, is a compelling raconteur in her own right. As she introduced Jupiter’s show and photo talk that first night, she told of her father’s response to her opening a salon: “You want to open a barber shop?” And she did, which she runs with her husNYC Community Media

Photo by Judi Jupiter

Debbie Harry.

band, Michael Schwarzer. A strong supporter of the arts, RanieriSchwarzer has been curating and sponsoring exhibits for seven years. The salon, formerly on the Upper East Side, now has a seventh floor location on the West Side. Ranieri-Schwarzer handpicks local designer pieces for the MIDOMA Boutique that the salon also houses. Jupiter’s club-going pal Meisler exhibited at MIDOMA last December in an exhibit she dubbed “Disco 1.0.” RanieriSchwarzer bought a disco ball and fog machine for the occasion. Also documenting the club scene from a generation ago, Meisler showed photos from her two books, “A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick” and “Purgatory & Paradise: Sassy 70s Suburbia & the City.” After the very adult discourse on how each image came to be during the opening of Judi Jupiter’s “When ‘Paparazzi’ Was Not a Dirty Word: Celebrities in the 70’s,” the assembled pack migrated to the back of the MIDOMA space. Under a spinning disco ball and percolating colored lights, all danced for hours to DJ Reckless’ classic ‘70s picks while fog poured into the sweaty crowd. And about that time in New York. Though Studio 54’s opening was soon followed by the summer of the blackout and Son of Sam, those years were, in many ways, a simpler time than today. A keyhole into some corners of that era is richly celebrated by Jupiter, who, cameras-in-hand, scoured the famed clubs of the day. “When ‘Paparazzi’ Was Not a Dirty Word: Celebrities in the 70’s” runs through Jan. 5 at MIDOMA (545 Eighth Ave., btw. W. 37th & 38th Sts., suite 750). Visit midoma.com/gallery for details. December 28, 2017



Photo by Zach Williams

The idea that building community was as important as rallying against Trump spread among the 1,000 people who gathered to denounce him in NYC on Inauguration Day. The event — Stand Against Trump: Inauguration Day Rally & March — stretched along Wall St. to the site where George Washington first took the oath of office, as well as the New York Stock Exchange (seen here) and a Trump-owned property at 40 Wall St.

President Donald Trump’s draconian — though ineptly crafted and implemented — executive o for days beginning Thurs., Jan. 26. The evening before Trump announced his order, issued on Square in a rally hastily called by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. As seen in this p Photo by Paul Schindler

In massive numbers, a diverse group of New Yorkers — women, men, children, many in families, of all ages and races — marched through Midtown Manhattan to express their concerns, anxieties, and anger about the tone and polices President Donald Trump brought to the White House with his Jan. 20 inauguration. Here, on Jan. 21, marchers fill 42nd St. near Grand Central Terminal on the same day as the Women’s March on Washington.

Photo by Donna Aceto

United just as much by their commitment to peace and equality as their disdain for the bigotry and misogyny of Donald J. Trump, hands were joined together and women were in lock step on Jan. 21, at the Women’s March on Washington.


December 28, 2017

Photographer Christian Miles captured these images of May Day solidarity among workers, a daylong strike to protest dangerous warehouse conditions and an attempt to move union jobs NYC Community Media

ceniks, Patriots: 2017 Protests, in Pictures

Photo by Milo Hess

order on immigration and refugee entry into the US created a spontaneous eruption of protests nationwide and brought thousands of New Yorkers into the streets and to the airports Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day — which he bizarrely acknowledged without any mention of its six million Jewish victims — thousands gathered in Washington photo, thousands gathered at The Battery on Jan. 29, capping a weekend of demonstrations.

Photos by Christian Miles

activists, immigrants, and others sensitive to the ongoing concerns of labor. Miles began at the W. 34th St. and Ninth Ave. location of B&H Photo Video, where its workers were on a s to New Jersey. He followed as the assemblage made its way to Washington Square Park, then on to Foley Square, where several demonstrations throughout the city converged. NYC Community Media

December 28, 2017


Photo by Donna Aceto

Photo by Christian Miles

Thousands gathered near the Stonewall National Monument in the West Village on the early evening of June 12 to remember the 49 LGBTQ people who were shot and killed by a gunman in a Florida nightclub one year earlier. Seen here, 49 Human Beings representing the Pulse nightclub victims — a concept developed last year by performance artist Tigger-James Ferguson — entered the vigil.

Fifty demonstrators drawn from the ranks of Rise and Resist — a group largely focused on protesting right-wing assaults by the Trump administration on American democratic institutions and ideals — and their allies took to the streets of Greenwich Village and Chelsea on June 11, to call attention to the plight of gay people in Chechnya interned in concentration camps and murdered by their government or their families.

Photo by Christian Miles

The sun dazzled, the mood was jubilant, and, of course, the speakers blasted Beyoncé for the third annual Disability Pride NYC Parade on July 9. The festivities began in the morning at Union Square Park where Stephanie Wallace, 48, and her friends had gathered to participate in the parade. Wallace, a longtime Chelsea resident, said she came to show pride in who they are, and “support others like us. It gives us visibility. People don’t acknowledge us sometimes.” In this photo, the parade makes its way past Madison Square Park.


December 28, 2017

NYC Community Media

Photos by Christian Miles

With activists at the wheel and a diverse assortment of concerned citizens on board, the Refuse Fascism movement’s Nov. 4 march (held in over two dozen cities nationwide) made the case for removing the current administration from office. Following a Times Square rally, an orderly march proceeded through the streets of Manhattan to Washington Square Park for additional remarks. Organizer Jay W. Walker (in the above right side photo), who is also involved with the groups Rise and Resist and Gays Against Guns (both of whom endorsed the event), said Refuse Fascism is predicated on “non-stop activism. Our ultimate goal is to organize daily actions so that what may start out as a few thousand activists becomes tens of thousands and then millions until we finally bring down this dangerous and corrupt regime.”

Photo by Donna Aceto

On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions followed through on President Donald Trump’s repeated pledges to do away with President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that has allowed more than 800,000 “Dreamers” to win certification allowing them deferral from any adverse immigration action as well as giving them the right to work legally. Activists organized by Movimiento Cosecho converged from Fifth Ave. and 59th St. south to Trump Tower and below, to voice their outrage. At 5:30 in the afternoon, the New York Immigration Coalition drew a large contingent of protesters to the Foley Square courthouse center Downtown, a gathering that drew elected officials, including City Comptroller Scott Stringer and many city councilmembers. In both protests, some demonstrators staged sit-ins on the street, causing the NYPD to sweep in to make arrests.

NYC Community Media

Photos by Christian Miles

United to end sexual harassment and assault, women and men of all ages and backgrounds attended Dec. 9’s #MeToo Rally NYC, which took place outside Trump International Hotel and Tower. Dozens of Post-It notes were temporarily placed on the walls of the Columbus Circle subway station after the rally. When the NYPD took them down, citing the organizers’ lack of MTA permission, the women started placing the notes on themselves and their signs.

December 28, 2017


SIDE STREETS continued from p. 7

are concerns about damaging the foundation, and, possibly, the utilities, such as gas lines, that run underneath. “Our streets are not made for the increased traffic,” Retzos said. “They are not reinforced.” Charleston agreed, saying the street was not constructed to take that weight. The street already has traffic problems, she said. “We have a lot of illegal bus and truck traffic already,” she said by phone. “When the big huge trucks [go by], the buildings rumble and shake.” Charleston pointed out that W. 15th St. is the next westbound street, and there is a bike lane slated for W. 13th St., which is also westbound. The DOT “will add Manhattan’s first two-way protected crosstown bike lane to 13th St.,” according to the plan. Currently, cars get backed up on the street, she said, and “People just lay on the horn and they don’t let up until they get through.” In addition to the noise, there are other quality of life issues, Charleston said, including pollution from the fumes. Safety is also paramount as, she noted, “There’s a lot of pedestrians and dogs and bike lanes and I don’t think it’s safe to have that kind of traffic here.” Stanley Bulbach, a longtime resident of W. 15th St., said the block knows what issues need to be addressed — it went through this before, around 1990, when all of 14th St. was redone, he said. “It was to last 15 months but lasted two and a half years,” Bulbach, who has lived on the block since 1969, said. “During that time, traffic was routed everywhere except 14th St.” Bulbach told this publication late last year, when he retired as the head of the block association, that the city rerouted traffic to 15th St., and he and his neighbors contended with the concerns residents have now: an increase in traffic, and the air pollution and noise that accompanies it. In October 2016, Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit focused on pedestrian and bicyclists advocacy, presented its plan to CB4 for what was dubbed “PeopleWay,” which would have banned cars and trucks on 14th St. during the L train shutdown, and made the street available for buses, cyclists and pedestrian use. Bulbach said then that the block association “vigorously” opposed that proposal. “We don’t feel represented at CB4[’s] Transportation Committee,” Retzos said. In response, Berthet said, “It’s hard to understand why.” She said the committee has sent numerous letters, many of which were “focused on 15th St. and the side


December 28, 2017

Photo by Scott Stiffler

Longtime W. 15th St. resident Janet Charleston said the street has illegal bus and truck traffic, and the sign at the corner is not enforced.

Courtesy NYC DOT

Proposed bus, bike lane, and pedestrian improvements along 14th St. According to the DOT, about 50,000 riders currently use the L train only in Manhattan.

streets.” Bulbach said, “I think the way to proceed is to have a serious discussion with those who live on 14th St. and near 14th St. to cast sunlight on all the many serious aspects that have not been discussed.” Charleston, who is also a member of

the block association, said they have meet with residents from 12th St. “We need our concerns to be heard,” she said. Retzos said the recently released plan emphasizes cyclists and commuters, but neglects the neighborhoods that it will affect. He said he would like the agencies

to “consider the residents and businesses bordering 14th Street.” “It’s an incomplete plan,” he said. “It’s incumbent on elected officials and the agencies to be straight with us.” He added, “We fear it’s going to be a complete disaster when it starts.” NYC Community Media

SQUARES continued from p. 3

Agnelli, meanwhile, was white hot in the music scene. She was the punk rock beauty queen whose voice, keyboard talent, and music cred — once interviewing Lou Reed under the pseudonym “Trixie A Balm” for the Voice — made her the heartthrob of would-be punk suitors the Village over, according to Goodkind. “We all went to see her play keyboard in the back of Nervus Rex,” he said. “We just went to look at her, and then talk to her, and she would tell us to fuck off.” But Paskow and Goodkind weren’t the only ones looking for a change. Agnelli was growing tired of the blaring high-tempo harmonics that often characterized the scene, and began looking towards the past for a sound that was a little more square. “I think first of all we’re pretty rebellious, but our ears got too used to a certain sound,” Agnelli said. “Punk rock came out of a reaction to that music that was just too homogenized and clean. We came out of a scene that was too loud and not tuneful.” The boys ultimately recruited Agnelli — much to their surprise — with the melodious, crooning promise of threepart harmony — an appeal that harkened back to her younger, churchgoing years. “They found me and said, ‘Hey, let’s do a harmony folk-type band,’ ” Agnelli recalled. “I love harmony. That’s what I heard growing up going to church. I’m a good harmony singer.” To bone up on the genre, Goodkind booked a ticket to Washington, DC, headed over to the Library of Congress, and there — much to the librarians’ surprise — inquired where to find the folk catalogue. “They hadn’t had a visitor in years,” Goodkind said. The Squares would practice for months before stepping on a stage, mastering old folks songs like “Samson,” and “He Was a Friend of Mine” while working up originals including “You Can’t Kill Me” and “Be on the Lookout for the New Generation.” It was the band’s polish that in many ways helped the trio stand out, Agnelli noted. “We put together a good repertoire and practiced a lot,” she said. “The hard work was the important thing.” The fact that the group appeared on stage wearing beatnik-inspired getups, including striped shirts, berets, goatees, and sunglasses didn’t hurt either. After a packed open mic performance at a Village folk club — at which Goodkind bribed an organizer with $10 NYC Community Media

to go first — the Squares took off in popularity, and soon they were playing to packed houses throughout the Village and beyond. The band would eventually go on tour with comedian Billy Crystal, and sell out major concert venues including Carnegie Hall, playing with acts including the Beach Boys, Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Richie Havens, and Joan Jett. “People went nuts,” said Goodkind. “They said, ‘These guys are dressed as beatniks with bongos and they’re playing real folks songs.’ It was this goofy idea.” The band’s Grammy nod came with their eponymous first album release: 1987’s “The Washington Squares,”

which they followed up with 1989’s “Fair and Square.” The group split ways after Paskow died in 1994. Agnelli eventually fled the city after 9/11 for Connecticut, where she works in recreational therapy for seniors, and still plays with a jug band called Washboard Slim and the Bluelights. For Goodkind, however, the death of his friend was like the day the music died, and the goofball bandleader of The Washington Squares decided to cut his hair and commit the most unspeakable of crimes — going normal. “It’s the worst thing if you’re a beatnik and you go normal. It’s like turning coat,” he said. But Goodkind, now an accountant,

still looks back and marvels at the success of his almost nonsensical idea, and wonders at his achievement in the folk scene of the ’80s. “Everybody has goofy ideas, but 99 percent of them fail,” said Goodkind. “But this one worked. And I was like beside myself thrilled. I was like, holy shit, you can have an idea and it can actually work.” The Washington Squares 25th Anniversary Show, with special guests Richard Barone, Michelle Shocked, Anne Waldman and more, happens 8 p.m. on Wed., Jan. 10, at City Winery (155 Varick St., at Vandam St.). For tickets ($25–$35), visit citywinery. com.

December 28, 2017


From Reboots to Reckonings: The Best Films of 2017 Cinema delivered solace during a tumultuous year

Via Sony Pictures

Kinetic action sequences and a killer soundtrack jump-start Edgar Wright’s creative crime caper “Baby Driver.”

BY SEAN EGAN Well, we all thought nothing could possibly be as bad as 2016, but boy howdy did 2017 do its best to be worse. From Washington’s daily, anxiety-inducing developments to the stillactive sexual misconduct reckoning facing Hollywood, it seems everything that’s happened this year was calculated for maximum miserability. One area, however, where 2017 managed not to disappoint or depress, was at the movies. Through the year, filmmakers tackled hot-button issues, gave us hope in dark times, made us feel less alone, or simply provided some muchneeded escapism. Below is a list of my personal favorites — unranked, but loosely grouped. They represent some of the best the movies had to offer, or, at the very least, movies that made things better.


December 28, 2017

WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE Really, there isn’t much new about Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age film chronicling the senior year of its titular high schooler, “Lady Bird.” You’ve seen the rites of passage unfold on screen time and again. And yet, it’s rare that a movie renders these archetypes and plot points with as much wit and specificity. It’s there in the antagonistic yet warm relationship between Lady Bird and her mother; there in the stumbling forays into romance that seem monumental to the precocious lead. That’s the movie’s greatest trick: You’ve met these characters before, because chances are you’ve been these characters at some point. The film effortlessly guides viewers through the emotional peaks and valleys encountered at the precipice of adulthood, in ways at once hilarious,

awkward, and honest. Ultimately though, it’s that honesty that makes “Lady Bird” a contemporary classic of the genre, and the year’s very best film.

AMERICA, ACROSS THE POND If nothing else, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” solidifies Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh as cinema’s resident master of dialogue — his characters are never at a loss for words, lobbing acerbic digs at one another like Molotov cocktails, while still feeling fully lived in. Following the quest of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand, at her best since “Fargo”) to get answers from her local police department about the brutal rape and murder of her daughter, McDonagh has created a decidedly non-didactic,

humanist character study that taps into something resonant about small-town America in ways only an empathetic but honest outsider could. After years of trouble breaking it in Hollywood, cult UK-director Edgar Wright (beloved flop “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) finally connected with American audiences in earnest by crafting a supremely fun crime caper. From the word “go,” “Baby Driver” wastes no time delivering some of the most creative, masterfully edited action setpieces in recent memory. With its tinnitus-afflicted protagonist behind the wheel, cars speed along in time to a carefully curated soundtrack in an exhilarating union of drag race and ballet. With equally sharp comedic timing, the movie’s a cinematic sugar rush that’ll hopefully grant Wright the keys to more expensive Hollywood vehicles moving forward. NYC Community Media

SUPER-SUBVERSIONS Functioning as a send-off for Hugh Jackman’s venerable Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier, James Mangold’s moody, moving “Logan” expands the scope of what a superhero movie can be by going admirably smallscale and adult. A dusty neo-western, the film focuses on the rapidly-deteriorating super duo grappling with morality and their legacies as they try to help an 11-year-old mutant raised in captivity escape to safety. It’s heavy stuff (and the R-rated violence throughout is resolutely not of the wham-bang variety), but it builds to a climax as evocative and poetic as any movie, comic book or otherwise. If “Logan” expanded on what a superhero movie could be, “Thor: Ragnarok” may well be the perfection of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) formula. Bringing in Kiwi indie darling Taika Waititi to perk up Marvel’s most staid franchise was an inspired move; his excitement behind the camera is palpable. Largely a Thor/Hulk buddy movie, Waititi sets “Ragnarok” in Marvel’s underexplored, candy-colored cosmic universe, bringing in ringers like Jeff Goldblum (nonchalantly nibbling the scenery throughout) and composer Mark Mothersbaugh (basically in full-on DEVO mode) to keep the humorous galactic road trip chugging along. It adds up to 2017’s giddiest blockbuster, breathlessly charging through offbeat action and deadpan banter like it’s getting away with something.

NOTHING TO FEAR BUT LIFE ITSELF Good horror filmmakers know little separates laughter from horror; excellent horror directors know little separates horror from reality. “Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s feature debut about a black man’s sojourn to meet his white girlfriend’s parents, proves the sketch comedy maverick has the makings of a top-tier genre director. The uneasy humor is there in early, cringeworthy conversations between Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris and his microaggressionoblivious hosts. The horror comes when you realize the truly nightmarish scenario the movie’s got waiting in the wings is not all that different from how black Americans are fetishized, commodified, and mistreated daily. It’s required viewing not just for horror hounds, but for anyone looking to take the pulse of race relations in 2017 America. Despite the unimaginable, horrific acts of violence, what’s most disturbing about “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is just how darkly funny it is. In this meta, modern-day riff on Agamemnon, Yorgos Lanthimos’ all-seeing, clinically gliding camera follows characters who NYC Community Media

Via A24

The year’s very best film: Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” is an exceptional coming-ofage tale, produced with heart and specificity.

Via Fox Searchlight

Frances McDormand rivals her iconic “Fargo” turn in Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Via Marvel Studios

Director Taika Waititi breathed new life into the “Thor” franchise by focusing on character, comedy, and Marvel’s candy-colored cosmos.

converse in stilted monotone (think Wes Anderson calibrated to “creepy” rather than “quirky”) until they’re finally pushed to the breaking point and forced to do the unthinkable. Riffing on moral culpability and parental neurosis, Lanthimos nonetheless delivers his bleak thesis with a madman’s chuckle: The world is random and cruel, pain is inevi-

table, and we’re all culpable. Ha, ha.

REJUVENATED REBOOTS Following up a film as iconic as 1982’s “Blade Runner” after decades could have been disastrous. Fortunately, Denis Villeneuve was more than up to the task,

building on the original’s themes and adding some of the stealth humanism found in his last feature, “Arrival.” Gorgeously shot by Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049” is the sort of movie that marinates in its Big Ideas and envelops you in its meditative atmosphere over an expansive running time. It’s the kind of heady but rewarding sci-fi one can only hope to see more of in the mainstream. “Alien: Covenant” is 2017’s most welcome return to form, with original “Alien” helmer Ridley Scott returning the series to its dark, weird, creepy roots. Keeping what worked from his prequel “Prometheus” (specifically Michael Fassbender, turning in a homoerotic dual performance here that must be seen to be believed), Scott dives headfirst into exploring the metaphorically-rich origin story of the Xenomorphs. The result is a gonzo, gothic creation myth that treats its philosophical influences as sly jokes and cultural touchstones as pulp fodder. Though it delivers what may well be the most show-stopping lightsaber fight to-date, the most dynamic battles of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” are the internal struggles its characters contend with deep in the heart of war. While some have been hesitant to embrace the film’s more subversive, comedic tone, by focusing on human flaws and stressing a spectrum of gray in a series known for blackand-white morality, writer/director Rian Johnson pushes the “Star Wars” saga and YEAR IN FILM continued on p. 20 December 28, 2017


Via Lucasfilm Ltd.

Via A24

The narrative subversion and moral ambiguity thrill as much as the battles in Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Colin Farrell is rendered a modern-day Agamemnon in Yorgos Lanthimos’ darkly humorous “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

YEAR IN FILM continued from p. 19

its characters into uncharted, rewarding directions. Plus, come on, those space battles are awesome too!

THEY CAME FROM THE DEEP The humanoid sea creature at the heart of “The Shape of Water” — Guillermo del Toro’s wonky Cold Warera interspecies romance — may well be the director’s most gorgeous grotesquery so far. Much of the credit belongs to actor Doug Jones, who brings him to life with a deft touch, capturing the character’s animalistic and alluring qualities simultaneously. The whole affair plays out like a storybook come to life (granted, one punctuated with graphic violence and the occasional bout of sea monster/ human coitus). Delightfully strange and strangely touching, “The Shape of Water” can stand proudly amongst del

Toro’s previous masterpieces. Okay, yes, “Monster Trucks,” the movie about monsters that live inside of and operate trucks, was conceived of by the four-year-old son of a now-fired Paramount executive — but doesn’t that sound kind of great? Unsurprisingly, the movie bustles along with childlike enthusiasm, as it follows teenager Tripp and his newfound monster buddy Creech, as they attempt to protect Creech’s habitat from a greedy oil-drilling bureaucrat (played to perfection by a Twizzler-munching Rob Lowe). This loopy slice of Americana/quasi-environmentalist fable is the kind of liveaction cartoon that recalls the goofy, good-hearted Amblin family films of yore. There’s really no way to explain “Colossal” simply and succinctly that does it justice. In broad strokes, Nacho Vigalondo’s singular sci-fi dramadey concerns an alcoholic 30-something (a career-best Anne Hathaway) whose rock-bottom trip to her hometown coin-

cides with the appearance of an enormous kaiju in South Korea. Though it delivers laughs and the requisite monster movie goods, the film ultimately ends up an effective meditation on addiction and abuse, without betraying its own unique vision or slipping into sentimentality.

JOY AMONG THE HARD TIMES Let’s make one thing clear from the jump: “Girls Trip” is stone-cold filthy, likely the raunchiest comedy to come out of a major studio this year. It’s almost definitely the funniest (and most heartfelt) as well. While special mention must be given to Tiffany Haddish — her live-wire performance and commitment to the act of “grapefruiting” finds her nearly walking away with the movie — Malcolm D. Lee’s girls-gone-wild flick is buoyed by the crack timing of its entire, game-foranything cast. It’s just a bonus their

chemistry comes so naturally and its third-act pathos lands so effectively. Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” chronicles the dog days of summer at the Magic Castle, a low-rent motel in Florida with a shocking-purple paint job. Its denizens include hard-on-herluck Halle, her young daughter, and the eminently decent manager, Bobby (a gentle Willem Dafoe). As hardscrabble and unflinching as it is full of life and exuberance, this film recognizes the monumental importance of small acts of kindness and captures all the beauty present in everyday life. Make no mistake, there are trials and tribulations aplenty — things painful to watch. But its euphoric ending is one of the most affecting scenes of the year, a moment of pure, escapist joy amongst all the tumult and pain of reality, and a stirring act of friendship to boot. While it might not be perfect, and it might not make everything okay, it’s a hard-earned bit of hope — something we all might have earned at the end of 2017.

Via A24

Via Universal

The sprawling purple motel becomes a character unto itself in Sean Baker’s lively and moving “The Florida Project.”

The star-studded cast of Malcolm D. Lee’s “Girls Trip” bring the raunch (and heart), in the year’s funniest comedy.


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SPICY PLAYS continued from p. 2

the hitting the high note, but there’s a reason and emotion behind it. There’s no room for ego here.” Greg Hildreth, who plays Snowy Snowman, said as an actor he applies the same principles to his job — as if he didn’t know it was the work of a young playwright. Hildreth, who has been participating in the program for about six years said, “I’ve done a lot of different [children’s] programs, but the playwrights are on stage with you. We get to watch them watch their work. We get to see them realize their potential and see what art they have created.” For every performance, each of the playwrights sits at a desk, cast under a spotlight facing the audience. Sheehy said that even though the formatting for the program stays the same, “the content is always exciting, always expanding.” Well-known actors often lend their talents to Playmaking performances. This time around, three-time Emmy Award-winner Edie Falco played Sofia, a coffee shop worker who wants to cook for George Lucas’ “Star Wars”-themed restaurant, in “Jabba the Hutt” (written by Evaluna Santoni, 10). Emmy Award nominee Bill Camp played Bob, the rowdy half of a pair of friends searching for treasure and fighting off alligators, in the “Sewer Break-Up” (written by Liam Petard, 10). “We get a lot of working actors, some on Broadway, some Off-Broadway, some regional, some emerging from graduate programs,” Sheehy said. “But they are all unified by the idea of realizing a kid’s vision.” Almirañez noted that she does not censor the children and wants to give them complete freedom in writing, which they may not have in school or otherwise. “What is written on paper is what we have,” she said. “Some of the language, there’s an extra ‘s’ or ‘-ed’ at the end of words, but the actors are committed to that. We do discourage cursing, but there is a beep in one of the shows, which is a big deal.” Petard’s play featured a “What the [BEEP]!” from Steven O’Reilly, who played Bob’s best friend, Mike, after Bob aggressively danced around the theater, leaving him alone in the sewers. Family dramas such was “The Bad Uncle,” written by Xavier Espinal, 10, and “Stay,” written by Kylee Chester, 9, are two different takes on the challenges of being a twin. “It’s about an uncle who doesn’t NYC Community Media

Photos by Winston Rodney

Neil D’Astolfo and Greg Hildreth in “A Wish” by Ivan Garcia, age 10, directed by John Sheehy.

Lynne Marie Rosenberg and Chalia LaTour in “Hollywood is Harsh” by Sarah Lopez, age 10, directed by Sarah Krohn.

Bill Camp and Steven O’Reilly in “Sewer Break-Up” by Liam Petard, age 10, directed by Nick Mills.

treat his niece fairly, he likes her twin more than her,” Espinal said. The play reveals the uncle and his niece may have more in common than they think, having both been ignored growing up. But the two come together and settle their differences, singing “We’re Different” but realizing they are the same. Chester said she was intrigued by the idea of twins, since her mother is one. In her play, twins Miley and Riley have conflicting opinions on whether or not they should go find their mother, who abandoned them when they were little, after their father dies. “My actors just got everything! All the emotion. They were on point,” she said. Sarah Lopez, 10, said she was influenced by soap operas for her play “Hollywood is Harsh,” which centers around a young poor woman who breaks her leg while trying to make it big (in hopes that she can find her family), and a rich woman who befriends her, then realizes money can’t buy a family. The playwrights packed a full house on Dec. 8’s opening night. All the actors and crew members work pro bono, as everything in the Playmaking program is free, including the shows. Sheehy said that theater can be an expensive and exclusive art to many — but everyone is welcome. December 28, 2017





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December 28, 2017