Craveable - The Culture Craver Blog

Friday 31st of August 2012

Image: Photograph by Robert Adams at the Matthew Marks Gallery


Gallery Openings

Metropolitan Opera Summer HD FestivalLincoln Center Plaza at 7:30 p.m. — Gunod’s Faust 

Into the Woods at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park

Hoodwinked Too: Watch this movie with your family at the NYC Parks Free Summer Movies Program — Betsy Head Memorial Playground in Brooklyn at 8 p.m. 


Metropolitan Opera Summer HD FestivalLincoln Center Plaza at 8 p.m. — Rossini’s Le Comte Ory

Into the Woods (final performance of the extended run): Delacorte Theater in Central Park

High Line: check out the newest artworks at the high line with the High Line Art Map

NYC Unicycle FestivalIf you’re a unicycle pro — or a novice, head to Governors Island! Noon to 5 p.m. on Governors Island 

Happy Feet 2This film is part of the NYC Parks Free Summer Movies Program at St. Mary’s Park, Bronx at 8 p.m. 



Metropolitan Opera Summer HD Festival: Lincoln Center Plaza at 8 p.m.: Verdi’s Il Trovatore

NYC Unicycle FestivalIf you’re a unicycle pro — or a novice, head to Governors Island! Noon to 5 p.m. on Governors Island 

Brazilian Day FestivalCelebrate Brazilian Independence Day in Manhattan’s Little Brazil from noon to 6 p.m., 6th Avenue and 46th Street 

High Line: check out the newest artworks at the high line with the High Line Art Map


West Indian-American Day CarnivalA parade celebrating the 50th anniversary of the independence of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago along Eastern Parkway, from Schenectady Ave. to Grand Army Plaza. The New York Daily News outlined related events throughout Labor Day Weekend. 

Free Bike Holiday Monday at Governors Island: Adults and children can borrow free bikes for an hour on Governor’s Island. There are plenty of art installations to see while pedaling around the island. Monday, September 3 is the final day of the excellent (and free) Graphic Design: Now in Production exhibit organized by the Cooper-Hewitt and the Walker Art Center.

Metropolitan Opera Summer HD FestivalLincoln Center Plaza at 7:30 p.m. — Donizetti’s Anna Bolena 


Gallery Openings:



Gallery Openings: 



Gallery Openings: 

Film Screening: Jules and JimSee the classic film with other New Yorkers — for free! It’s part of the NYC Parks Free Summer Movies Program. At Low Memorial Library at Columbia University at 8:30 p.m.


Gallery Opening: Aris Moore at Jack Hanley Gallery — Opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m.

Forbidden PlanetSee the classic film at sundown at the Narrows Botanical Garden in Brooklyn (Shore Road between Bay Ridge Avenue & 72nd Street in Bay Ridge)

Friday 31st of August 2012

The first time I realized something was not quite right about the romantic comedy formula, I was leaving the AMC Times Square Theater in the spring of 2002 after seeing Spider-Man.

Beyond the action, I was taken by how interesting Peter Parker was: he was struggling to achieve his professional dreams; he had inner torment over his family and social status; and he had super powers. Peter longed for MJ, but Parker’s character was interested in more than love.

For comic diehards, the first Spider-Man film was not well done, but for a neophyte like me, it was a game changer.

Peter Parker’s richness and complexity highlighted how female comic heroes — in contrast — were lacking.

In her 2012 book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns),” Mindy Kaling notes that romantic comedies are just science fiction for women. Well, I have never fully escaped the sci-fi paradise of romance discovered in my youth. I grew up very happily in love with The Little Mermaid, classics like Meet Me in St. Louis, and Nora Ephron everything, bless her soul.

The female leads I grew up on were solely motivated by love. If they had a purpose separate from love, they did not toil over it. These things were never as powerful as the prince. (Even Wonder Woman, which I watched on Nick-at-Nite as a child, provided no personal story, no inner debate, no sense of purpose. Linda Carter just twirled, and I was satisfied with that. I twirled.)

I think, as a result, I live in a perpetual state of disappointment that my prince has not come.

After my encounter with Peter Parker, I was quickly obsessed with Marvel, and a little less fulfilled by romantic comedies. I began to question my film-taught lessons about life and love.

I watched Sex and the City throughout college and watched the series wrap as I relocated to New York City. In the context of Peter Parker, I slowly realized that being a Carrie meant being a hot mess.

For me, emulating Carrie increasingly meant questionable outfits, an out-of-control credit card situation, and a lot of time spent chasing the wrong guys. After a while, I grew tired of wearing ridiculous heels in nightclubs and restaurants, night after night, posing and flirting, living for the cocktail conversation that was always better than the date.

The world has changed a lot since Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda’s swan song: the Internet gave everyone access to unlimited dates, cool women started talking about not wanting children or preferring to be single, the economy broke career dreams, startups began to bloom.

I was soon over the sauce. It seems that others were feeling the same way as well.

By the time the Sex and the City franchise started producing movies, women were catching on that it was not a great look to be a woman in her 50s still primarily chasing men and sample sales (in a tutu and stilettos).

Enter the new female lead — who for me (and for America, I think) came at exactly the right time.

First there was Tina Fey, who charmed women with the quirky, not-at-all-about-boys 2004 comedy, Mean Girls before capturing a co-ed audience through television on NBC’s 30 Rock, starting in 2006. Suddenly, everyone loves the everyday girl, one who lacks in fashion, men, and luck. Cue That Girl.

The next year, thanks in part to Franklin Leonard’s The Black List, a little movie by Diablo Cody — Juno — became a major success. Being a teen mom would be traditionally a very woman-targeted subject (I expect only teen girls watch MTV’s Teen Mom), but the dismissal of expectation is something that is universal. Each character in Juno carries his or her imperfection and his or her adorable factor in balance, and the feelings portrayed by actress Ellen Page become those that both male and female audiences can absorb.

Last year’s Bridesmaids continued this trend: everybody fell in love with this movie about women being normal (moody, insecure, silly, flawed, debauched, hysterical, not skinny, not cutesy, and not always coupled). It is like a white flag for normal women wrapped in a simple idea from two women writing a screenplay about the fact no one likes weddings including the bumbling bridal brigade. Life is painful for women too.

Meanwhile, on the Internet, Awkward Black Girl, developed by Issa Rae, became a sensation, so much that Pharrell Williams picked up the series up in its second season for his YouTube channel i Am OTHER.

And then Lena Dunham came along this year with Girls.

Suddenly, it’s clear: today’s girls are not the ones who I idolized and emulated growing up. They are more like Peter Parker than they are like Carrie Bradshaw. These new stories are by women, about women, and for everyone.

We all — women included — are just trying to make it through life. Today’s women have too much going on to sip cocktails in over-hyped, yet well-marketed stilettos — just waiting for men. Welcome to 2012’s upgraded version of Desilu: everyday entertainment with modern female-driven savvy.

This summer, the new female lead has really come into her own.

In Two Days in New York by French actress Julie Delpy, the lead character simply affirms that she is fat and a mess. We go with it, as it comes in a package of wit and charm that shines amidst the gentle force that is Chris Rock. It’s a story not about finding love, but about dealing with a relationship when your family drives you crazy.

Rashida Jones’ Celeste and Jesse Forever is a gentle nod to the dystopia of turning 30 and letting go of fantasy and the idea that one can achieve all the right outcomes, or even know what they are.

Both films are reassuring romantic comedies that affirm all we have to do as women is just keep plowing and try to remember to breathe, and never apologize if it is true that we are crazy.

Last week, I attended the premiere of For a Good Time, Call..., which opens tomorrow in New York City and in select theaters nationwide.

The film, written by co-star Lauren Anne Miller and executive produced by co-star Ari Graynor, is the story of two women, having suffered a (hilarious) failed first attempt at friendship, who are forced into a redo. Their relationship changes as they become roommates in a very familiar modern day New York, where the rent is too high and jobs are hard to come by, even with college degrees.

Lauren (Miller) is the well-adjusted, sensible, career-driven girl who has done everything right, while Kate (Graynor) is the passionate drifter, with no particular view of the ideal life and no concrete aspirations. Life has gone wrong for both and neither is able to catch a break.

When their misfortunes align, Lauren observes the business opportunity behind one of Kate’s side hustles, working as a sex line operator.

A startup and a savvy comedy (both perfect for our era) are born.

With a strong script about keeping your head above water in today’s hardscrabble New York City, the film is impossible for anyone between the ages of about 21 and 50 not to love. The directing is melodic and the story is infused with the fun of punch lines that belong in a film about phone sex.

As someone still blushes at the mention of sex, the film was wildly entertaining … and embarrassingly empowering: it was another romantic comedy that left me wanting myself and less obsessed with finding the mythicized “him.” 

I think that’s the ultimate moral of For a Good Time, Call… and the other films in this (thankfully) blossoming category: women seeking a good time should seek their best selves.

For a Good Time, Call...  Credit: Ryder Sloane/Focus Features

For a Good Time, Call... Credit: Focus Features

Monday 27th of August 2012

We are sure that the conventions in Tampa and Charlotte will satisfy most Americans’ political cravings these next few weeks. But we know you’re out there — the true political junkie whose political appetites cannot be satisfied by the conventions' candidates and talking heads alone. For you, we have compiled a top ten list of our favorite films focused on U.S. politics and political issues. Please let us know if your favorite is missing. There were SO many to choose from that we neglected favorites including Dave, The American President, Milk, and Thank You For Smoking. We might need to expand beyond 10...

10. W. 

Director Oliver Stone dared to chronicle George “Dubya," (played by Josh Brolin,) in 2008, while George W. Bush was still in office. Brolin delivers an exceptional, if overly sympathetic, view of the former president from the college parties to the Republican Party.

9. JFK

Also by Oliver Stone, JFK explores the events leading up to and following the assassination of the 35th president through the eyes of a New Orleans district attorney (played by Kevin Costner).

8. Nixon

Nixon is a biographical film focused on the life and politics of Richard Nixon (who is played by Anthony Hopkins). It’s one of many movies focused on the controversial 37th president — and it’s the third film directed by Oliver Stone to make it onto this list.

This satire is inspired by the life and politics of Bill and Hillary Clinton. It offers laughs, cringes, and insights into the workings of American politics.

This opinionated documentary analyzes the 2008 financial crisis — arguably the most relevant issue for the upcoming presidential election.

Robert Kenner’s film exposes how lobbies and politicians have their hands in America's food — exploring modern agriculture and slaughterhouse practices to show how food and politics are inextricably linked.

George Clooney directed, co-wrote, and starred in this film about the broadcast journalist who worked to bring down Red Scare Senator Joseph McCarthy.

This political thriller chronicles the Washington Post’s famous investigation into the Watergate scandal, giving audiences a dose of history and a reminder of the power of the press.

Another Watergate-era story, this film is based on a series of interviews between British Journalist David Frost and the disgraced President Richard Nixon. It was an excellent play on Broadway before Ron Howard turned it into a great film.

This classic comedy satirizes the trigger-happy politicians of the Cold War. 


Friday 24th of August 2012

Here’s our list of fantastic free events this coming week in New York City:


  • INTO THE WOODS: this runs through September 1, so it’s time to get in line.
  • THE METROPOLITAN OPERA’S SUMMER HD FESTIVAL: 10 operas will be screened in Lincoln Center’s Plaza.
    • Saturday — The Enchanted Island at 7:30 p.m.
    • Sunday — Mozart’s Don Giovanni at 7:30 p.m.
    • Monday — Bellini’s La Sonnambula at 8 p.m.
    • Tuesday — Glass’s Satyagraha at 7:45 p.m.
    • Wednesday — Strauss’s Salome at 8 p.m.
    • Thursday — Rossini’s La Cenerentola at 7:45 p.m.
    • Friday — Gounod’s Faust at 7:30 p.m.
  • AFRO PUNK FEST: August 25-26 from noon to 9 p.m.. at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn. You’ll see art, music, skate boarders, and food trucks galore.


It seems like more exhibits are opening than closing for the final weeks of August, but September is right around the corner. Here are some free options for the week ahead:     


Friday 24th of August 2012

Here’s a pop quiz: what determines whether a movie released today will make a lot of money at the box office?

  1. The quality of the movie (as measured by the enthusiasm of reviewers)
  2. The number of reviews it receives (a measure of buzz)
  3. The number of theaters the movie appears in (both opening weekend and over the course of the movie’s lifetime)

We always avoid movies that receive horrible reviews. Wouldn’t you? Based on this, we’d figure that quality matters. If a movie receives horrible reviews, it should earn less.

Similarly, we would also figure that movies that receive tons of reviews should outperform those that receive only limited attention from critics.

We would also assume that the number of theaters matters: if more people across can see a movie, it will do better.

Under the legacy system established by the big movie studios, most of our assumptions — it turns out — are wrong.

We analyzed the movies released this year between May and last weekend. To measure quality, we used the movies’ Culture Craver public scores. This is a measure of how positive reviews are (on a scale of 0 to 100). To measure the number of reviews, we used the number of reviews in Culture Craver. These ranged from 6 to 90. The box office figures and the number of movie theaters came from the website

Based on our analysis, the only factor that has any statistically significant effect on box office performance — either during the opening weekend or over the movie’s lifetime in the movie theaters — was the number of theaters in which the movie appears. 

The number of theaters explains about 90% of the variation in first weekend box office performance. If you look at the movie’s performance over the entire time it is open in theaters, the number of theaters explains about 85% of the variation in performance.

It’s clear that today the old studio distribution strategy is still critically important in determining a movie’s success.

What excites us is that the world is changing. Today, we are poised to move away from the legacy system that disregards quality.

Increasingly, new distribution strategies are being adopted and people are able to watch movies in new ways (courtesy of on-demand-video, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, etc.) — and movie theaters themselves are becoming less important vehicles for distribution.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s Michelle Kung wrote about the movie “Bachelorette” starring Kirsten Dunst, which debuted on video-on-demand on August 10 — about a month before it is scheduled to appear in movie theaters.

She wrote: “…in the Internet age, the system is starting to show cracks, as consumers become accustomed to making their own decisions about when, where and how to find their entertainment, rather than following aging rules that are essentially arbitrary.”

At Culture Craver, we think it is inevitable that this shift away from theater distribution strategies and toward digital downloads will elevate the importance of people’s opinions about movies. If people are making decisions on their own — and not having movies spoon-fed to them by their local cinemas — they will surely pick “better” films.

Likewise, we believe that word-of-mouth will begin to have a more significant impact on movies’ performance. If people can see whatever movie they want, whenever they want — rather than being completely beholden to the schedules of local movie theaters — buzz from critics and friends will become increasingly important.

Our real question is how long this transition will take. We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Thursday 23rd of August 2012

As summer approaches its final week, Culture Craver did a quick analysis to see how the summer movies fared at the box office. Based on data from, it's clear that there were a few major success stories (AvengersDark Knight Rises). But the majority of movies made more modest amounts of money (in the millions or tens of millions) during their opening weekends. (Opening weekend performance is VERY strongly correlated with a movie's overall performance.) 

Tuesday 21st of August 2012

The end of summer is approaching, and so are the final performances of many great Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Be sure to book your tickets before it's too late. 

Through Sunday, September 2

Public Score on Culture Craver: 76 (based on 53 ratings) 

Why to go: You'll see an award-winning show about race and real estate. (It won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play!)


Through Sunday, September 23

Public Score on Culture Craver: 71 (based on 51 ratings)

Why to go: Audra McDonald! 


Through Sunday, September 9

Public Score on Culture Craver: 85 (based on 34 ratings)

Why to go: Political drama, a starry cast, including Cybill Shepherd, John Stamos, Kristin Davis, Elizabeth Ashley, James Earl Jones, and John Larroquette


Through Saturday, September 1

Public Score on Culture Craver: 70 (based on 32 ratings) 

Why to go: You'll see Sondheim's twist on our favorite classic fairytales — performed outdoors in New York City's own woods! The reviews were mixed but some truly glowed. 


Through Sunday, September 2

Public Score on Culture Craver: 90 (based on 59 ratings)

Why to go: Farce (we know that you love laughing)! James Cordon — who plays the lead in this British import — is amazingly funny. 


Through Sunday, September 2

Public Score on Culture Craver: 47 (based on 16 ratings) 

Why to go: to indulge your secret (or not so secret) love for Harry Potter


Through Sunday, September 9

Public Score on Culture Craver: 72 (based on 39 ratings)

Why to go: When it opened in 1996, Rent won every major best musical award (Tony, New York Drama Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Cricle) — and the Pulitzer for Drama. And we know that you can sing along with the songs!


Through Sunday, August 26

Public Score on Culture Craver: 58 (based on 55 ratings) 

Why to go: Let's be honest — who doesn't like dancing, singing nuns? Plus, remember Olivia on "The Cosby Show" and Raven of "That's So Raven"? That's Raven-Symone, who plays the lead in this crowd-pleasing musical.


Through Sunday, September 2

Public Score on Culture Craver: 70 (based on 12 ratings) 

Why to go: circus, cabaret, variety, and burlesque


Through Sunday, September 2

Public Score on Culture Craver: 95 (based on 15 ratings) 

Why to go: You always had an inkling that pole dancing could be respectable (as well as entertaining). This show combines elements of dance and circus. 


Through Sunday, August 26

Public Score on Culture Craver: 71 (based on 25 ratings) 

Why to go: multiple adaptations of Vanya have stormed New York City this year. A starry team (Annie Baker, Sam Gold) are behind this one. 


Through Sunday, September 2

Public Score on Culture Craver: 55 (based on 9 ratings) 

Why to go: 70 a cappella and beat box versions of Madonna, Mozart, and more 


Through Sunday, September 2

Public Score on Culture Craver: 63 (based on 27 ratings) 

Why to go: if you couldn't get enough gymnastics during the 2012 Summer Olympics, you'll probably love this acrobatic feat by Cirque du Soleil

Friday 17th of August 2012

The summer may be ending soon, but that doesn’t mean that your favorite free cultural events are over. In fact, the iconic Shakespeare in the Park has just extended its show to September 1! Here is a list of free arts options this coming week:

Film: One of the great things about New York City summers is that many parks offer free, outdoor film screenings. There are few better ways to experience the city than watching movies with other New Yorkers surrounded by the city. Here are some options for this week:

Monday, 8/20 at 5 p.m., Bryant Park:

It’s the final week of the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival! You can see RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Wednesday, 8/22 at 8:30 p.m., Hudson River Park

It’s also the final week of Riverflicks. It’s your chance to see the newly engaged Jennifer Aniston and other stars in HORRIBLE BOSSES.

Thursday, 8/23, with music starting at 6 p.m. and the film starting at sunset, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1

Courtesy of the NYC Parks Department, you can see UNFORGIVEN beneath the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn bridge.

Friday, 8/24 at 8:30 p.m., Hudson River Park

It’s the final week of Riverflicks “Fridays for Kids” season as well. Families can see THE SMURFS.

Theater:  Free summer theater is also a great way to experience culture. Here are some opportunities for this week:

Saturday, August 18, Shakespeare in the Parking Lot


This is the final performance of CORIOLANUS.

Saturday-Friday, 8/18-8/24, Central Park’s Delacorte Theater

INTO THE WOODS. It was just extended through September 1, but it’s still a challenge to get tickets.

Gallery openings: Gallery entry in NYC is generally free, and exhibition openings are both free and social. Here’s a taste of this week’s openings:

Saturday, 8/18, 1:1

Monday, 8/20, Pratt Institute: Steuben South Gallery

Tuesday, 8/21, Ouchi Gallery

YOUME: Hime-Princess (pictured above)

Friday 17th of August 2012

The New York International Fringe Festival is the biggest festival of its kind in the United States — with 187 shows in 20 theaters over only 16 days (August 10 to 26). Culture Craver’s Julia Levy spoke with a selection of the creators about their shows, the “Fringe experience” — and, of course, the culture they’re craving.

Sherri Barber

Director of “Men to be Feared

The creators of “Men to be Feared,” a dark fairytale by Rebecca Jane Stokes, had less than two hours in their theater before their first performance.

“It’s quite refreshing,” Director Sherri Barber said. “It's remarkable what you can do with boundaries when you don't see boundaries as a negative word — when figure out a way to use boundaries to your advantage to tell the story in a more unique way.”

The “Men to be Feared” team filmed a prequel to the play, which was available online in the weeks before opening night to whet the appetites of the Fringe audience. Sherri said the film, covered by The New York Times, made people excited to see the actors onstage.

What’s next for the show? Sherri hopes she will have the chance to do another production that allows the film and stage portions to “bleed together” as intended.

Sherri said it’s word of mouth — and not reviews — that drives audiences during the Fringe Festival. She is personally excited to see “The Particulars” because she is a “big fan” of actress Ashlie Atkinson.

“To see an actor who’s done so well in stage and film and come back and do a Fringe show is what it’s all about,” she said.


Wesley Fruge

Creator, Writer, and Director of “” is a play about a viral video star that takes on some of the big questions of today’s digital life: How much are you sharing online? How many friends are too many? What’s appropriate to say or to watch?

“It started from a question I had one day,” explained the writer and director, Wesley Fruge. “What are we missing by telling other people what we’re doing in our life instead of doing it?”

Consistent with its theme, the “” team has used social media to alert potential audiences. It considered creating “tweet seats” — seats where you can live tweet a play, which have been a topic of debate in the theater community — for the performances, but decided against it.

“It’s engaging in one way but in another way it's also a very disengaging method of communication,” he explained. “You see something and write about it, but while you're tweeting about it you could miss something else you were supposed to see.”

Despite some of the drawbacks of online communication, Wesley said Twitter is an effective way to find out about the shows at the Fringe Festival. He’s excited to see “Pink Milk” (described as “a magic tragedy loosely based on the life of Alan Turing”).

“I’m really excited about theater that is finding new ways to tell a story and finding new ways to connect with audiences,” Wesley said. “There are quite a few shows in the Fringe Festival that are doing that.”


Sarah Gitenstein

Director of “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche

The Fringe Festival can be “chaotic” and “stressful” for the people behind the scenes, Director Sarah Gitenstein said. There are quick tech rehearsals and only 15 minutes to set up and take down sets. But, she said, the challenge is worth it.

“The energy and enthusiasm that the Fringe audiences have for the shows is so encouraging and inspiring,” she said.

 “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” focuses on The Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. The women are having their annual quiche breakfast when communists descend on the town, giving the women the opportunity to show their true colors.

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” has received a lot of attention (during its Chicago run earlier this year, in The New York Post, and in Time Out) — successfully cutting through the noise to attract audiences.

Sarah said the team has achieved its word of mouth success by focusing on the show —staying true to the story and what they rehearsed.

Asked what culture she’s craving, Sarah said she’s excited about the York City theater scene: “I’m really interested in seeing the new ways theater can appeal to all audiences and how different companies and productions go about drawing in those audiences.”


Daniele Hager 

Singer and Actress, who plays Magda in “The Hills are Alive

The Hills are Alive” is a parody of what happens after “The Sound of Music.” Rather than Von Trapps, it tells of Von Klapps. Marta of the 1965 movie was a quiet little girl who wanted a pink parasol; in this parody, Magda (Daniele Hager) plays a leading role.

Daniele has been involved with “The Hills are Alive” since its first song, “Crochet and Quavers” was written. 

“It’s been incredible seeing how one song turned into a show and now we're at the Fringe,” she said.