★ BEST ART HOUSE MOVIE THEATER WITH A PORN VIBE
Two Boots Pioneer Theater
155 E. 3rd St. (betw. Aves. A & B)
Times Square was succumbing to its makeover, but there were still a few porn pits that hadn’t yet closed. A few of them kept running all night while showing DVDs of bootleg kung-fu films and old public domain movies. It was a lot of fun to stop by at 3 a.m. and watch these things. We’d sit in the cheap rows of seats nailed to the floor, look at the tiny screen and watch the occasional flash of a DVD menu while the features changed. We thought it would be our last opportunity to experience that kind of cobbled-together cinema.
We were wrong. In fact, the Pioneer Theater is a perfect approximation of the porn pit experience—and it’s also more fun than the Sunshine or the IFC or the Angelika. Management there insists that they don’t screen on DVD, and they discourage people taking advantage of their ability to screen on VHS. Still, the theater’s fine mix of documentaries, schlock and art films makes it constantly feel like you’re watching anything but an actual movie.
Interestingly, they don’t screen 16mm, either. It’s just that any 35mm print looks like 16mm by the time they’re done showing the film. We’re not complaining, though. No matter what we’re watching, it always feels pleasantly nostalgic.
★ BEST DESPISED BUT NECESSARY RETAIL OUTLET
6 St. Marks Place (betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves).
Yong-man Kim has finally gotten into the film business with 2005’s One Third, but his main hustle remains Kim’s Video. Long known in the city as the place to buy and rent videos from cashiers who would just as soon spit in your face as ring up your purchase while burly security guards stare you down, silently praying for the chance to toss you from the establishment, the NY chain lost its luster after employees were arrested for allegedly making illegal CDs and DVDs in the back room. Since then, several Kim’s stores have closed, and Netflix has become even more popular. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for that out-of-print Hungarian, rock opera, long form video shown only once at a festival in Berlin back in ’92, Kim’s is still your best bet.
★ Best NY Director We Still Love to Hate
What man could get away with fondling a prepubescent Christina Ricci in his directorial debut, getting a real live onscreen blowjob from Hollywood starlet Chloë Sevigny, put a cancerous curse on film critic Roger Ebert (that worked!) and finally offer his sperm for sale on the Internet (unless, of course, you are of the brown persuasion)? It can only be Ronald Reagan fan boy Vincent Gallo. Thing is, with all there is to hate about him, he’s actually one of the few classic New York artists left. He played in a prog-rock band with the late artist Jean Michel Basquiat, dealt early B-boy aphorisms in the ‘80s on New York’s “Graffiti Rock” and (whoa!) was actually born in New York (Ok, Buffalo, but still …). Possibly the only New Yorker more neurotic than Woody Allen, Gallo still remains arrogant enough that it’s a miracle he hasn’t had his ass literally handed to him on some NY street corner. Only a real New Yorker could piss so many people off yet still have so many fans.
★ BEST CLUB IN A NEIGHBORHOOD HIPSTERS ARE AFRAID TO VISIT
The Elite Ark
900 Sheffield Ave. (betw. Stanley & Wortman Aves.), B’klyn
Let’s face it: East New York, while somewhat improved in recent years, is not a neighborhood most New Yorkers are willing to visit. Gentrification has made most formerly dangerous sections of Brooklyn safe for the bourgeoisie, but that wave has yet to reach Pennsylvania Avenue. The Elite Ark—which advertises itself as, and might just be, Brooklyn’s largest nightclub—has accomplished the Herculean task of bringing crowds of revelers to a desolate industrial stretch local cops used to call “The Dead Zone.” While events are primarily geared toward the Caribbean community (the club is owned by four Trinidadian brothers), The Game, Keyshia Cole and Rick Ross all performed there during their respective ascents to fame. With clubs like The Rock in Canarsie shut down, it’s currently New York’s pre-eminent venue for dancehall and soca music—Sean Paul even filmed the video for “Like Glue” there back in ’03. Yes, we had to go to Brooklyn for this one; Manhattan has been officially seized in a bloodless coup.
★ Best Sports Money Pit New York Knicks
Los Angeles got it right. Chicago got it right. Hell, even Dallas and its disgustingly overzealous owner Mark Cuban got it right. But somehow, no matter how many millions of dollars James Dolan sinks into the New York Knicks, the city hasn’t been able land a championship in decades. Pat Riley came close, Van Gundy did what he could, and Larry Brown gave up after just one season. Despite the ineptitude displayed by Knicks President of Basketball Operations and now Head Coach Isiah Thomas, it’s pretty clear that this team is cursed. If you are an unmanageable, surly, middling skill-level wanna-be NBA All-Star who is grossly overpaid, chances are, you play for the Knicks. It’s no wonder that upon hearing that the New Jersey Nets will soon become the Brooklyn Nets, thousands of NY sports fans are suddenly pretending they loved the Nets all along. Meanwhile, Thomas busy trying to draft his next 6’2” power forward for $10 million a year.
★ Best Pseudo NY Wanna-Be Thug TV Show
The latest HBO obsession has moved from “Oz” to “The Sopranos” and now the ghetto fabulous “The Wire.” Created by former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, the show depicts the hardcore realities of drug dealing and drug enforcement in Baltimore (cue the authenticity envy music). In interviews, Simon often goes to great lengths to mention that New Yorkers don’t really know how hard “the ghetto” is outside of Manhattan (apparently, when in NY, he’s too busy doing power lunches at Sascha to venture out into the other four boroughs). Simon might have a bit more credibility if: 1) The show’s three main writers on a show featuring more n-words and hip-hop slang than XXL magazine wasn’t written by three 50-something, overweight white guys, and 2) the show’s two top drug villains weren’t played by Wood Harris (a Woody Allen alum and NYU Masters degree holder) and Idris Elba (a British native whose real voice sounds sweeter than Jude Law fresh from a bubble bath). Sure, seeing New York poet Sonya “Officer Kima Greggs” Sohn (who is not a lesbian) suckling the boobs of naked hotties is indeed edgy, but until “The Wire” gives us a police chief getting mouth raped by crackheads, a la “The Shield,” it can’t claim scariest police drama on cable TV.
★ BEST UNDERGROUND RADIO STATION
Waah Gwan Radio (95.9 FM)
At night, the radio waves in Brooklyn take on a decidedly Caribbean flavor, with close to a dozen pirate stations broadcasting reggae/dancehall, soca, news from the West Indies, or some combination of the three. Dancehall DJ Steelie Bashment’s Waah Gwan Radio is the most popular and diverse of the bunch, with DJs from Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana among other nations covering the gamut of Island music. Broadcasting from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends, Waah Gwan (that’s Jamaican patois for “What’s Going On?” or, more literally, “Where We Going?”) also streams online at www.steeliebashment.com, giving it a reach far beyond its borough-bound signal; it’s well-known as far away as England. DJ Obsession, the station’s most charismatic host and the guy responsible for the massive remix of Sizzla’s “Solid As A Rock” over the beat from Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared,” holds court with a mix of hip-hop and dancehall on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday nights.
★ Best War On Terrorism Metaphor On TV
In the world of entertainment, brilliance often comes from where you’d least expect. When rumors that “Battlestar Galactica” was coming back to television surfaced a couple of years ago, the snickers were audible amongst the hipster elite. But as episodes of the show (first shown in the United Kingdom) began to trickle into the United States. via Bittorrent, the verdict was quickly modified to a resounding cheer of geek adulation. Fueled by Cylon sexbots that fuck their way to supremacy, fighter pilots with space-heroin habits and deeply corrupt politicians with shifting motives and metaphysical quandaries, the show has now crossed over into the mainstream using present-day events to great metaphoric effect. This season, humanity, now enslaved by their robot masters (the Cylons) wage guerilla warfare, complete with underground rebel armies that strap themselves with dynamite and embark on suicide missions against the enemy (sound familiar?). After you get past all the shiny space ships, sex and drugs, you’ll notice that the metaphor here puts real-life humans (Americans?) in the role of hegemonic robots intent on world/universe domination. Whatever your politics, “BSG” follows the hallowed tradition of using sci-fi to make points about present-day society. And … did we mention the Cylons are hot?
★ Best Cheap Date
New York City has always been a haven for guys who like to date often but don’t have the six-figure bankroll to feed the hungry models and starving artist chicks. But as the city has slowly taken on a more opulent sheen (cheap coffee is now $3.95?), getting by on slick lines and creative sidewalk jockeying has become much harder. For the stalwart serial daters still trying to make due we suggest the following … 11 a.m. Twelve Chairs café in Soho, 56 Macdougal St (betw. Houston and Prince Sts.). All the snobbery and artifice of Europe for the cost of a croissant and (reasonably cheap) coffee. When empty, it’s even a bit romantic. 3 p.m. Central Park’s Strawberry Fields (west side of the park between 71st and 74th Sts.). Always festooned with colorful, fresh flowers and John Lennon-loving peaceniks, show your sensitive side with a visit to this city oasis. Bring tofu-turkey sandwich meat and small hippie blanket for best results. 8 p.m. This move is only for the bold. Purchase a bottle of $10 red from your local market (conceal in jacket or bag) and ride the elevator up to the Peninsula Hotel’s Pen Top sky bar and lounge (700 Fifth Ave., at 55th St.). Immediately make your way to the balcony space just before the bar on the right. This is where couples are usually left unharrassed by waiters understanding of the need for smooching privacy. Your date will swoon over your cheapskate daring and fuck-the-system ethics (if she likes you). Just be sure not to try and be a hero and actually walk up to the bar to buy drinks or you’ll lose a month’s rent in 30 minutes.
★ BEST UNFORTUNATE ALL-YOU-CAN-DRINK DEAL
$15 for Unlimited Beer at Bar 4
444 7th Ave. (at 15th St.),
Park Slope, Brooklyn
All-you-can-drink specials are the devil’s henchmen. No matter how much we pay, we always chug three drinks too many to prove to ourselves we got a bargain. Our favorite place to booze when we want to lose all self-control is Park Slope’s Bar 4.
Sunday through Thursday, this small neighborhood slice of foosball, couches and acoustic musicians offers the college-boy special: $15 buys all-you-can-drink PBR and Yuengling. It is a one-way ticket to blurry eyes and bad decisions. Fork over your fee and a bartender will tag you with a medical-quality wristband. And then you enter a boozy all-night amusement park where, if you remember to tip, you can drink enough to accomplish a miracle: You’ll get so tanked you’ll forget you are drinking in Park Slope.
★ BEST BROODING UNDER-USED LOCAL ACTOR
Over the last decade his widow’s peak, defiantly pouty mouth and drowsy eyes have become trademarks like Christopher Walken’s skeletal cheekbones, Ray Liotta’s pockmarks and Gary Oldman’s crazy blue eyes. His breakout performance in the Julian Schnabel produced Basquiat in ’96 was so powerful many seem to prefer Wright’s version of Jean Michel Basquiat to the real mccoy featured in Downtown ’81. The mostly unknown actor held his own in a cast that included the likes of Oldman, Walken, Dennis Hopper, Wilem Dafoe and David Bowie. In the tradition of the great New York character actors of the ‘70s, Wright’s onscreen characters are often more well known than he is. Despite earning a Tony on Broadway, as well as a Golden Globe, Wright exists under the radar for most casual film fans. Although he’s constantly working in some of Hollywood’s biggest releases, he can often be found in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene (where he keeps a home) chatting up locals at Moe’s bar or The Brooklyn Moon café. This fall he’ll appear as secret agent Felix Leiter alongside the new James Bond, U.K. actor Daniel Craig. Best suggestion for Wright’s next role, for the studios reading: the role of Hiro Protagonist in an adaptation of Neal Stephenson’s epic novel Snow Crash.
★ BEST NEW ANNOYING HOMEGROWN MUSIC TREND
Hip-hop began in the South Bronx with plenty of energy and originality, but lately it’s grown stale. The “hip” has mostly “hopped” off into the history books. Reggae suffers from the same problem: beat for beat, we’ve heard it all before—well, most of it anyway. Thanks to reggaeton, the two styles have merged under the same heading to form an unbelievably bland and repetitive new category of music. Sure, the Dem Bow beat, around which the reggaeton rhythm centers, gets the booties bouncing, and that Daddy Yankee song “Gasolina” is too damn catchy for its own good; but if we have to wake up one more time to those monotonous thumps blasting outside our windows on a Saturday morning from speakers hooked up to the bicycle of a passer-by, heads will roll.
★ BEST NEW FILM PROGRAM TO KICK NYU FILM SCHOOL’S ASS
Ghetto Film School
The NYU Film School’s fat head could use some deflating. Consider Ghetto Film School the Bronx-based pin to get that job done. The program began in June 2000 and has taught more than 500 students throughout New York City. The school provides classes and workshops in cinema studies—from technical training to understanding the classics—and the 15-month Fellows Program culminates in an annual public screening at Lincoln Center. Students’ works have appeared on CNN, The Independent Film Channel (IFC), “ABC News Now” and in film festivals around the globe. The best part is that the program is meant for people ages 14-21, meaning Ghetto Film School participants have the opportunity to receive hands-on training sooner and to get a jump on the competition. Maybe if Spike Lee had this when he was just starting out, he wouldn’t still be whining about not being able to sit with the popular white kids at the NYU cafeteria.
★ BEST PLACE TO SEE THE HEALTHIEST/ UGLIEST NEW YORKERS
New York City Marathon (November 5, 2006)
Over 35,000 people journey to New York City to compete in the yearly Marathon. These contenders come from diverse backgrounds, but on the day of the race throughout the five boroughs, they all have at least three things in common: good health, determination and profound ugliness. Runners trade in their designer daywear for old gym socks, unflattering spandex, white sneakers and cruddy T-shirts, ignoring the sweat slithering down their makeup-free faces. Sometimes they gasp and choke for air; sometimes they cry. It’s not a pretty sight. But to be fair, anyone running for 26.2 miles is going to be a little harsh on the eyes, even P. Diddy.
★ Best Sign That NY’s Downtown
Life Is Dead
When the hottest stories in the news about the NY club scene revolve around underage bridge-and-tunnel types getting roughed up, mugged, drugged and snatched by ex-con bouncers, it’s obvious that the nightlife game in Manhattan has changed. At first you might be tempted to believe that everyone has moved the party to Brooklyn, but don’t be fooled. Invite a Brooklynite to a Manhattan party and watch the event become over-run with the desperate whiff of Kings Borough refugees clawing their way over and under the velvet rope like Ellis Island immigrants in 1892. Worse yet, club king Peter Gatien has been exiled to Canada, smoking is banned everywhere, you now need a handheld-computer scannable picture I.D. to enter most venues (retina scan coming), the archiac cabaret law is still enforced (“YOU! No. Dance. Here!”), and the hottest new nightclub buzz is located at the bottom of a dirty abandoned swimming pool in the middle of nowhere (McCarren Park). If you think getting into Stereo to party with Nicole Richie is “hot,” you … are not.
★ BEST TREND IN BARGOING ENTERTAINMENT
We’re so tired of shooting bar pool that we could stab ourselves in the eyes with cue sticks. Same goes double for darts. And even bocce ball bores us. That’s why we’re thrilled to peaches that more and more bars are starting to look like Coney Island. From Greenpoint’s LuLu’s to the East Village’s Ace Bar and Crocodile Lounge, saloons are embracing Skee-Ball. Oh, how we love bowling those smooth wooden balls down the lane, aiming for the 100-point hole, more often dropping into the 10-point chasm. But that’s OK. How can you grow angry at a game that so defined our Chuck-E-Cheese childhood?
Skee-Ball is the perfect alcohol activity: We can play it when we’re passing-out drunk or as sober as an Al Gore speech. We can roll when we’re alone or drinking beside a gaggle of friends. In fact, there’s only one problem with the bar Skee-Ball machines. Because they don’t spit out tickets, how are we supposed to win a bendy rubber pencil?
★ BEST JAZZ FOR A SONG
St. Nick’s Pub
773 St. Nicholas Ave. (at 149th St.)
The days of Sonny Rollins wailing on the bridge are gone. How can you find quality jazz on the cheap in an era when the swanky heir to Augie’s can run $30 covers, and even Smalls costs twice what it used to? In music, as in real estate, the best values and most authentic properties are Uptown. The pick of the litter is still the Monday jam at St. Nick’s, where you only pay the $3 music charge if you ask for a chair. Tourists crowd the blast zone by the drums, but pork pies, aviators and horns clot that dingy valve of a corridor between stage and bathroom. There’s no menu, but vats of grub can be had for tips. There’s even a back garden where—gasp—you can still smoke. It sure beats that band on the 72nd Street traverse. On the other hand, contributions on city property are strictly limited to one’s sense of shame.
★ BEST RADIO PERSONALITY TURNED CLUB DJ
Bobbito Garcia (aka DJ Cucumberslice)
First coming to public attention as the host of the seminal hip-hop radio program, The Stretch & Bobbito Show in the early ‘90s, DJ/journalist/sportscaster/streetball fixture/barber Bobbito Garcia multitasks the way only a native New Yorker living in New York can. As former owner of Bobbito’s Footwork store, author of the 2003 book Where’d You Get Those?: New York City Sneaker Culture 1960-1987 and the host of the ESPN show It’s The Shoes, he’s also the world’s pre-eminent expert on sneaker culture. Though he was the personality, not the DJ, when he was partnered with Stretch Armstrong on the radio, as DJ Cucumberslice Garcia’s blossomed into one of New York’s most resilient selectors. Earlier this year his last-Monday-of-the-month residency at APT reached the five-year mark, an almost unheard of feat in NYC. Together with DJ Spinna, he’s also responsible for the annual Wonder-Full party which, despite its novelty (only songs by, written by or sampling Stevie Wonder are played) is now seven years strong.
★ BEST IDIOTIC HOMEGROWN DANCE CRAZE
Chicken Noodle Soup
It used to take years for dances to spread around the country, but thanks to YouTube, it now takes a click of a button. The first local dance of note since extras in rapper G.Dep’s "Let’s Get It" video popularized the Harlem Shake back in 2001, the Chicken Noodle Soup was created by Harlem high schoolers at local DJ Webstar’s teen parties. The 19-year-old Webstar recruited a 16-year-old friend named Young B to join him on a single of the same name, some kids taped themselves doing the dance and, like that, New York had its response to the Atlanta-based snap music craze. While the dance, in which dancers “let it rain” and “clear it out” before letting loose with a side-to-side freestyle dance, has been criticized as minstrelsy by some black leaders, 19-year-old Webstar points out that the tweens who’ve taken to the dance are so young they haven’t even learned history yet. (Stanley Crouch is already furiously penning his Anti-Chicken Soup Manifesto.) With New York hip-hop getting more pathetically irrelevant by the day, this amateurish teenybopper anthem with a monotonous hook and a skeleton beat sounds hotter than almost anything the city’s actual rappers have managed to muster out this year.
★ BEST MEDIA ROSETTA STONE
SPY: The Funny Years
Around Manhattan, media executives who should be checking the bottom line, analyzing spread sheets and improving their product can often be found stealing looks at Gawker, buttocks clenched as they pray their names don’t appear, and squeeling with glee at the sight of the next media pro’s embarrassing foible published on the site. After a recent Internet media gathering in Manhattan, Gawker creator Nick Denton told the New York Times “It made me want to move to Budapest, batten down the hatches and wait for the zombies to run out of food … Better to sober up now before the end of the party.” The vote of no confidence from the site’s creator, the firing of one of its editors and a buggy new redesign suddenly lowered the site’s profile as the posts went from witty insider gossip to predictable pop smaltz about the Lohan’s and Hilton’s. Right on time to pick up the slack came the re-launch of Radar magazine’s online component, which immediately asserted it’s dominance by outing Anderson Cooper’s CIA past (the print version is set to re-appear in 2007). But what many readers don’t realize is that both titles are direct rip-offs of Spy magazine, created by Graydon Carter (now Editor-in-Chief at Vanity Fair) and Kurt Andersen (currently writing a column for New York magazine) in the ’80s.
Housed in Soho’s Puck Building (the original home of NY Press) most Manhattan media insiders acknowledge that Spy magazine forever changed the way media looked at itself. The next time you get your Huffington Post/Drudge/The Onion/Gawker/“The Daily Show” media fix, remember the original masters of schadenfreude—you’re reading their legacy of divine snark.