Best of Manhattan 2001: Entertainment

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Best Rap Crew
Screwball



Q.B. or
Not Q.B.
When Screwball put out their 2000 album Y2K, we figured
it was the last gasp for New York hardcore. Four seasoned intelligent-hoodlum
types from Queensbridge, these guys must have preceded Nas and Mobb Deep in
everything but the rap industry, where their talents were wasted in unheard
groups PHD and Kamakazee. So they were very angry. DJ Premier helped them with
Y2K. Of course it was awesome. Of course Tommy Boy failed to sell many
copies and subsequently dropped the group. That’s how hiphop works, pretty
much.


But Screwball
beat the game and came back, quickly and effectively. The crew’s second
album, Loyalty, was released this summer on Hydra/Landspeed. That first
break must have only made them hungrier. Now 2001 finds underdogs Hostyle, KL,
Kyron and Poet rhyming with the unrestrained intensity that hiphop as a whole
was too self-satisfied to muster this year. Loyalty producers Ayatollah
and Godfather Don contributed beats that should have rap’s ascendant Pro
Tools posse ashamed of itself. On top of that add the near-perfect guest roster
of M.O.P., Cormega, Kool G. Rap, Nature, Noreaga and Tragedy, and what else
can we say besides that this, too, is how hiphop works, sometimes–thank
God.



Best Art Gallery
James
Cohan Gallery
41 W. 57th St. (betw.
5th & 6th Aves.), 755-7171



The 21st-Century
Leo Castelli.
This three-year-old gallery has distanced itself from the
pack by dint of patience, relative geographic isolation and curatorial panache,
putting on one great show after the other. Representing the best of Brit pop
(like Richard Patterson, Ron Mueck and Ian Dawson) and some of the best artists
the U.S. has to offer (Fred Tomaselli, Roxy Paine and Bill Viola, among others),
James Cohan Gallery has quietly but steadily moved to the top of a rather spiritless
art heap. Throw in the gallery’s reputation among artists for straight
shooting and you have the promise of an honest, forward-looking dealer to match
the mythical Leo Castelli.


Best Example
of NYC Movie Theater Entropy

UA
Union Square
Broadway (13th St.)
777-FILM #777



Your Silver
Screen Is Tarnished.
A spanking new jewel of a multiplex just a few short
years ago, UA Union Square is really showing the wear and tear New York moviegoers
can put on a space. It’s as though both management and the teens management
hires to do the actual work have given up on the place out of sheer exhaustion.
By Saturday evening nowadays the theaters are strewn with trash and food garbage
that the shoe-shuffling kids don’t even pretend to be cleaning up, and
the bathrooms are disgustingly filthy. The once-plush seats are getting dirty,
and the floors are permanently sticky. On any given night it seems that half
the electronic ticketing machines in the lobby are broken, causing long lines
that sort of defeat the purpose. The service from the kids at the snack counters
has become enragingly slow and surly.


In short, UA
Union Square is just another beat-down New York City movie theater now, no longer
even trying to give itself the airs of superiority it had when it was young
and cocky.



Best Contralto
Mary
Fahl



Uneasy Listening.
The contralto is the black-eyed-Susan voice in a field of daisies. Never pretty:
more like handsome, hard-boned. Heavy-lidded. Never eager. The female contralto
(or the male contralto, for that matter) never bares its midriff. Nor does it
ever go near the affects of teen bubblegum. After all, contraltos have pasts.
And pubic hair. All dark.


It’s the
vocal range of the lone wolf, lurking above the tenor and below the soprano.
Think of contraltos like Joan Armatrading and Alison Moyet, with their fluid
vibratos, mature and tragic; divas without a megaselling worldwide hit to their
proud names. In pop, the contralto is not the money voice. And then there’s
Mary Fahl, a contralto with a college-girl face and kohl-streaked eyes. We don’t
know where she got her regal voice, but it wasn’t at Space Mountain.


Fahl cowrote
and released a four-song EP called Lenses of Contact this year, and it
makes us embarrassed for both the mincing stampede of girl singers on the charts
and for Fahl herself, who actually cares enough to sing, literally, from her
guts, while daringly carving every phrase into dizzying terrain. She never goes
reedy or ragged, even on a song like “Raging Child,” where she chases
a “poor girl” over her treacherous range. In “Paolo,” Fahl
loses her imperfect guardian angel to cigarettes and wine (“wherever you
are/Say a prayer for me/I’ve been dancing with monsters perilously”);
“Meant to Say” is the grandest apology we’ve heard in a long
time; and “Redemption,” the EP’s final track, is an anthem waiting
to be seized, hopefully by an audience of strange birds with a fine-tuned ear.
(Redeye Distribution, www.redeyeusa.com)



Best Ongoing
Party

Ladies’
Night, Webster Hall
125 E. 11th St. (betw.
3rd & 4th Aves.)
353-1600



The Perfect
Mixer.
First of all, there’s no bullshitting around at the door. On
Thursdays, if you’re a girl, you get in free before midnight; just show
your ID to the bouncer, one of a pair in NYC who sport handlebar mustaches (the
other works at Baktun) and smile. Once inside, we head to the main floor first,
where we’ll hear everything from bowel-shaking trance to the album version
of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” We dance to it all–”Teen Spirit”
in particular was made for raging. Then we go downstairs to the sweaty, funky
hiphop room. The air conditioning might be on, but we can’t feel it, as
pairs of women dance sexy to show up the men and the men sit on the sidelines
waiting for their shot, just like summer camp. Then it’s to the bathroom,
where deodorant, condoms, pens and sprays of cologne are sold for around $3
each. All along the way, the male-female ratio is perfect, the crowd is so racially
mixed-up that we can’t tell what sort of hottie we’re looking at and
the couples look so happy that we don’t get jealous. We just look at whoever
we’re with and grin. Terrific as either a singles spot or a date destination
(we split the bill since one of us is free), this night has been going on forever
but refuses to let up. Bonus points for the late-night souvlaki and speedy 3rd
Ave. cabs available when we leave.


Best “Changes
to the Program” Notice

GMM
Records



Nazi Punks
Fuck Off.
GMM puts out some if not most of the best new American punk rock
available, much of it by working-class bands like Anti-Heros, Dropkick Murphys
and Hudson Falcons. They also put on an annual festival concert called the Beer
Olympics. A notice at the GMM website that appeared prior to this year’s
B.O. epitomized not just the moral courage and the fire of modern hardcore,
but also a tone of righteous indignation so little heard in a music culture
where most have long since surrendered their ability to be shocked, and wouldn’t
sincerely admit to being shocked if they were, somehow, shocked.


The message
read: “GMM regrets to inform its supporters that Condemned 84 will not
be appearing at the GMM Beer Olympics. C-84 has opted not to perform due to
the fact that two bands who have African-American members would be performing
on the same stage. We are shocked to hear that one of our bands would take this
racist outlook in this day and age. We at GMM are also shocked that a band that
we have invested time and money with in the past would come out and embarrass
us with this statement. GMM and its bands are strongly anti-racist and we hope
our supporters are as well.”



Best Stand-Up
Comic

Sarah Silverman



Can We Have
Her Baby?
Sarah Silverman’s got that head-bobbing supercute hipsterchick
thing going, all bemused and self-effacing in beat-up jeans and sneaks; and
she’s definitely light-years smarter than us all. Probably a science geek
in grade school before she blossomed into the slender-hipped knockout she is
today.


Did you see
her on Conan O’Brien batting cleanup for the bloviating Penn Jillette?
She saved the show, turning a prepared layup session between O’Brien and
herself into a piece of ur-hilarity full of bizarre pauses, glances, grunts
and grapefruit slurping. She caught serious shit that night, too, having used
“chink” in a joke the entire point of which was to parody just the
sort of loony who actually would use that word. (Evidently, the Sino-p.c. thug
brigade barraged NBC with angry mail and the network knuckled under a few days
later, issuing a few pusillanimous grunts of its own.)


But best of
all, Silverman’s as indescribably pretty in person as she is on tv. This
we discovered recently when we spotted her walking down 2nd Ave. We swallowed,
patted down our hair and approached, asking if she would repeat a funny line
she has about getting serious with her boyfriend. “Sure,” she said
with a smile, obviously happy to oblige. “It goes like this: My boyfriend
and I have finally gotten to the point where we’re comfortable peeing in
front of each other–” “Yeah?” we said. And then she told
us the punchline, but damn if we can recall it. See, we always seem to forget
how jokes end, and truth be told, we were too busy melting.


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