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  • Issue of
  • Dec 12-18, 2007
  • Vol. 28, No. 9

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • Romance & Cigarettes

    At its heart, it’s a simplistic tale of love, betrayal and redemption. Nick is an ironworker on New York City’s network of bridges, and lives with his wife Kitty (Susan Sarandon) and three daughters — petulant punk Constance (Mary-Louise Parker), needy, love-struck Baby (Mandy Moore), and “not right” adoptee, Rosebud (Aida Turturro, who played Gandolfini’s sister on The Sopranos) — in a Queens bungalow defiantly stuck in the 1950s, both in décor and the attitude of its inhabitants. When it’s discovered that Nick is enmeshed in an affair with the fiery, flame-haired Tula (Kate Winslet, overtly slumming as a lower-class Brit), much anguished shrieking and impassioned singing follows, as everyone takes sides in this pitched battle of the sexes. It’s not hard to see where Turturro stands: he liberally quotes Charles Bukowski in portraying Nick as a befuddled romantic blindsided by his sexual desires (expressed in vivid, explicit language). The women are demanding harpies, walking open wounds oozing anger and resentment.
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  • The Scene
  • Margot at the Wedding

    Accompanied by her adolescent son (Zane Pais), New York-based fiction writer Margot (Nicole Kidman) travels to her childhood home to attend the wedding of her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh — Baumbach’s wife). Clearly rebounding from a string of failed relationships, Pauline has chosen an unemployed depressive for her beau. Slovenly artist-musician Malcolm (Jack Black) is far from the perfect mate but the two seem happy. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough for the bitchy, almost sociopathic Margo, who seeds discord wherever she goes. The only trouble with making a movie about tediously self-centered and loathsome people is that your film is in danger of becoming equally tedious, self-centered and loathsome. Though Baumbach clearly envisions himself as a Manhattanite version of Eric Rohmer (going so far to ape his titles … Pauline at the Beach, Chloe in the Afternoon, etc.), he lacks the French director’s universality and humanism. There are no simple truths in Margot or Pauline’s behaviors, just shallow solipsism. Everyone is so self-indulgent and unlikable that even when Baumbach’s dialogue crackles (which it often does) it never adds up to anything more than verbal fireworks. Which is a shame because Baumbach gets terrific performances from his cast and creates the kind of fly-on-the-wall intimacy many directors struggle but fail to achieve.
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  • The Scene
  • The Golden Compass

    How much you’ll enjoy The Golden Compass, the latest in a long line of magical otherworldly adventures, depends upon your craving to see armored polar bears duke it out … and your patience to witness their onscreen arrival. Until then (about an hour into the film), Chris Weitz’s (About A Boy, American Pie) adaptation of the Philip Pullman novel Christian fundamentalists love to hate is exposition-laden script and defanged. Set in a parallel universe, spunky newcomer Dakota Blue Richards plays Lyra Belacqua, a 12-year-old orphan raised by her uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), an Oxfordian scientist and explorer. Obsessed with the magical dust that connects all universes, Asriel has attracted the attention (and wrath) of the Magisterium, a quasi-fascist government that looks and acts like the Catholic Church. When he impulsively takes off for the North Pole, Lyra is left vulnerable to the slinky Mrs. Coulter (the icy Nicole Kidman), and her freaky ape-like familiar. You see, in this world, an individual’s soul takes the form of an animal companion (known as daemons) and Coulter and the Magisterium have been abducting children and conducting experiments in order to separate them from their alter-ego pets. What Coulter doesn’t know, however, is that Lyra has (inexplicably) been given the last Golden Compass, a device that reveals the truth to any question asked of it.
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Food & Drink

  • Table and Bar
  • Flavor & fun

    Neighborhood Italian joint has eclectic and "from scratch" fare. A fresh Caesar or Caprese salad will run you $6, and a pizza with feta, grape tomatoes, roasted banana peppers, kalamata olives and more is $8. Tender, fluffy gnocchi of ricotta and spinach come surrounded with a rich sauce, and veal saltimbocca arrives on soft layers of rapini and gnocchi, resting in a silky Marsala sauce. There are many more beef, chicken and seafood entrées, and 30 glasses and 60 bottles of wine to wash them down. What's more, there's often live music (call for schedule) and legendary Royal Oak martini bar Goodnight Gracie is connected to the restaurant.
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