Mentions | Winter 2023 ​



The weirdest cinematic treasures of Czech surrealism, Bulgarian folk drama, and Polish sci-fi aren’t available on HBO Max, Paramount+, or even the Criterion Channel, but would-be consumers can sate their hunger on this site that sounds like spam but isn’t. The owners — whoever they are — are as secretive as dissidents behind the Iron Curtain; what they have produced is a delectable combination of thrilling discovery and confounding subtitles (“Separate Tierra del Fuego… the subtle of the brut… slowly, with great art!”). In a streaming landscape devoid of mysteries, a lifetime membership to a quasi-legal hotbed of rare films supplied by the determinedly anonymous re-enchants spectatorship. Most importantly, it’s the only place to watch I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen.


The Tracy Anderson Method |


For fitness enthusiasts weary of SoulCycle’s pseudo-spiritual gibberish, Western yoga’s cringe appropriations, and Peloton instructors’ inane monologues about how much they love music, consider the Tracy Anderson Method. It has its faults: the cult following and celebrity clientele, the glamor shots of the company’s founder that accost you with each click on its website, the $4,000-6,000 price tags for luxury equipment, which include such delights as a “toxin-free supportive landing pad” and access to a “universe of original, nature-inspired choreography.” But the greatest asset of her online classes, which goes unremarked upon in Instagram ads, is that absolutely no one speaks. Tracy assumes that you can watch and copy her movements in companionable silence; only a friendly beep signals when it’s time for a new move. With Tracy, the exerciser is spared the search for deeper meaning and the pretense of wanting anything besides a nicer butt.


Laila Gohar’s tableware universe |


Perhaps thanks to social media, where the way that something photographs is more important than how it tastes, Laila Gohar became an in-demand caterer for people who don’t eat. She assembles dopey mounds of loose marshmallows and startlingly queasy shellfish topiaries, mostly for high-end brand activations, and has received slavering acclaim from a credulous fashion press corps desperate for levity. There’s a light flavor in her work of Les Dîners de Gala, Salvador Dalí’s bonkers 1973 cookbook (crayfish topiaries figure prominently), except the surrealist didn’t prescribe life-sized butter ears. Depending on your tolerance for whimsy, Gohar’s installations either amplify the artful pleasures of nature’s endless bounty or tease out a compelling argument for a wealth tax. When the pandemic forced the luxury sector to momentarily stop throwing parties for itself, Gohar cannily conceived an alternate revenue stream in “Gohar World,” a “tableware universe” — read: online shop — where you too can avail yourself of cotton napkins with dangling pearls shaped like chicken feet and trompe l’oeil candles resembling sweaty wedges of Gruyère (essentially, handsome gags). But in a way, convincing our most image-anxious industries to pay you to arrange boiled potatoes for dinner parties is the best joke of all. 


This Beautiful Future |


In this production of Rita Kalnejais’s 2017 play, a seventeen-year-old girl quarrels with, fawns over, and eventually bangs a young Nazi. The set, a pink, womblike bunker in occupied France, was one of the few understated elements of its autumn run at Cherry Lane Theatre — which indulged in several daydream sequences, a pillow fight, and fever-pitched debates over Hitler’s impending surrender. Meanwhile, the couple’s older selves watch the action unfold from a glass karaoke booth upstage, occasionally jumping in to perform anachronistic pop ballads. Among them: Adele’s “Someone Like You,” which inexplicably turns into an audience sing-along. It’s unclear whether the play is a metaphorical plea for bipartisanship or an ill-advised attempt to humanize Nazis, but either way, it succeeds about as well as an auditorium of theater-goers trying to harmonize to early-aughts pop songs. 


Turn Every Page |


It seemed like Robert Moses was everywhere in 2022 — not just in New York’s urban landscape, but also on stage at The Shed, in a Hopper exhibit at the Whitney, and most recently, in filmmaker Lizzie Gottlieb’s latest project. The movie is ostensibly about two other Roberts — biographer Caro and his longtime editor Gottlieb (also Lizzie’s father) — but those Bobs spend a huge amount of time discussing the first. We see in Moses’s rapacious power-brokering a parallel to the wordsmiths’ literary ambitions. His obsessive attention to detail was channeled into megalomaniacal construction projects; theirs into the placement of semicolons throughout the five books they’ve collaborated on. They may not have razed any neighborhoods as part of their process, but at the very least, they share Moses’s air of secrecy. When is the sixth tome coming out? The Bobs (both around 90) say we aren’t allowed to ask.


Spoorloos (The Vanishing) |


George Sluizer’s 1988 thriller, which Stanley Kubrick supposedly called the scariest film he had seen, is, in spite of its premise, a relatable movie. Forgive me for being glib about such a plot: it follows Rex, a Dutchman who spends years searching for his girlfriend, Saskia, after she is kidnapped at a rest stop. What’s terrifying is not so much the fact of Saskia’s murder but the absurd banality of her disappearance. The story is a violent transposition of the agony of abandonment; this kind of passion can follow a death, of course, but can also accompany a breakup, a betrayal, even a casual rejection whose meaning “is precisely to be meaningless,” as Annie Ernaux has written. Kubrick himself once said that the “most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent.” I wonder how many times he was ghosted.


Titanique |


No joke is too stupid, too crude, or too deranged for this musical adaptation of Titanic, which employs a campy Celine Dion, played by Marla Mindelle, to narrate (and sing!) Jack and Rose’s tragic love story in the Chelsea basement of a former Gristedes. It’s pointless to try to make sense of why this bizarre pop-culture medley — featuring a botched Dion-style Quebecois accent, Jack’s ambiguous sexuality, and reality-T.V. personality Frankie Grande (half-brother of Ariana) as both the captain of the ship and Luigi from Mario Kart — works. The only way to stay afloat is to heed the wisdom sung by Dion herself: “That’s the way it is.”


Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty |


This $229.99 air purifier, which looks like a cross between an iPod Shuffle and a toaster, has been a top pick at Wirecutter for seven years running. Since 2010, Coway has sold over fifteen million air purifiers in 60-plus countries and made more than one online reviewer “emotional.” The company claims that its product can remove 99 percent of “volatile organic compounds” and wrap every room in a “blanket of 24/7 clean air,” but what you’re really getting is the privilege of paying for the only free thing in your house (air).


Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair |


Debut novel by June Gervais; The Alchemist for LIRR riders.


@julesthelawyer |


In her tongue-in-cheek vlogs, lawyer and self-described “famous person” Julia Romano asks brands to put her face on their billboards and her fiancé to “pay for the sins of men everywhere.” There is a devoted following for her dry, satirical monologues about her Starbucks addiction, student debt, and dream house manifestation, plus cameos from her hairless Sphynx cats. How unfortunate that her brother, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jordan Romano, has to live in her shadow. 


Gorbachev. Heaven |


In the first scene of Vitaly Mansky’s 2020 documentary, an 88-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev watches clips on his computer of his younger self — standing with Ronald Reagan at the Reykjavík summit, listening to Shimon Peres call him “a man who has changed history forever” — until he falls asleep at the keys. Mansky, a long-time acquaintance of his subject, renders a domestic portrait of the man once loved and hated by millions, now never without the walking frame on which he leans unsteadily and wide-eyed. There is, thankfully, no newsreel footage; the film does not try to teach us anything. It is, rather, a portrait of aging: the last General Secretary of the Communist Party tells rambling stories and bursts into songs his mother taught him. Towards the end, he watches Putin on television speak sternly of selflessness and generosity in a New Year’s address. Gorbachev seems tired and unmoved. When his hearing aid falls out, he is in no hurry to put it back in.


Wall Street Oasis |


In 2022, a mere three percent of Harvard’s MBA class went into investment banking, many opting instead for the greener pastures of Silicon Valley, where the land is fat and weekends are reserved for unwinding, as long as you’re responsive on Slack. Yet persistent Wall Street  aspirants seek refuge at Wall Street Oasis, a forum for bankers (“monkeys,” in WSO parlance) to discuss deal sleds, decry diversity quotas, and bemoan the death of white-shoe business culture. A recent post asking “Can we fucking celebrate our accomplishments here for once?” received 51 bananas.


Bill de Blasio’s retirement |


It has been a bumpy adjustment to civilian life for former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. There were the brief, go-nowhere looks at runs for governor and Congress, then the frantic acquisition of academic gigs at NYU and, this fall, Harvard, where he shared a panel with the former mayor of Wrocław, Poland. He may have dyed his hair. He has not landed a job at MSNBC. He is now in the stage of political afterlife at which a disgruntled former aide feels safe calling him “childish, intellectually lazy, overconfident in his own abilities, and annoyingly condescending” in a tell-some about working with politicians. Yet a glimmer of senior-citizen hope lies on the horizon, as the honeymoon ends for de Blasio’s crypto-boosting successor, Eric Adams, whose mayoral administration has been light on policy achievements, heavy on Zero Bond appearances. Does the old progressive giraffe look better in retrospect? Brother, in this country you can be a senator at 95.


The New York City Marathon |


The slogan of the New York City Marathon is “It will move you.” What is “it”? Daylight Savings Time moved the clocks back; Google Maps moved masses onto the 4 train at 4 a.m., despite the fact that it was out of service; the Staten Island Ferry, crown jewel of the NYC transit system, moved more people than it typically does on a Sunday at 5:30 a.m. “Don’t pay attention to red lights,” the coordinator instructed the driver of the school bus to Athlete Village, which moved riders to latch their seat belts. But what’s truly moving about the marathon is the full-body experience of being buoyed along all five boroughs by a solid wall of applause from those so moved to come watch. Monday is even more sacred: no runners shall move.


Straight Line Crazy |


It’s not an indictment of New York City, necessarily, that Robert Moses built everything from the FDR Drive to the Central Park Zoo with both Herculean corruption and total disregard for the welfare of working-class people. Nor is the fact that Hudson Yards, the corporate mall complex where people literally go to kill themselves, was built in the heart of Manhattan. The fact that this play — a 150-minute Moses caricature complete with barely disguised British accents, a script that reads like an A.P. U.S. History extra credit assignment, and Jane Jacobs breaking the fourth wall to say, “I’m Jane Jacobs” — was put on at Hudson Yards, and that some people are paying $2,000 to see it? Now that’s an indictment of New York City. 

E.S.B., K.V., & R.P.

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