Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Enter G.U.L.F., or Global Ultra Luxury Faction. An umbrella activist group made up of the organizations Gulf Labor and Occupy Museums, plus a few savvy New York University students, this collective of advocates and hacktivists has orchestrated successful guerrilla protests aimed at the feckless institution that is the global Guggenheim. In March, for instance, G.U.L.F. made it rain fake dollar bills inside the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda. What are they protesting? Among other issues, the indentured servitude of thousands of South Asian workers beavering away on the museum's newest franchise: the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. But G.U.L.F. is not merely challenging the museum's alleged boondoggle (or the Louvre Abu Dhabi or NYU's presence in the Emirates). What the activist organization opposes is the hijacking of art and culture by the global real estate and financial biz.
On the breezy morning of July 22, 2014, there was something a little odd about the American flags that fly from the twin towers of the Brooklyn Bridge: They were gone, replaced with bleached-out white ones. The incident whipped police and politicians into a frenzy. Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams went so far as to call it a "terrorist act," offering a $5,000 reward out of his own pocket for information leading to the capture of the flag-swappers. Which made it all the better when two German artists, Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke, revealed three weeks later that they were behind the stunt, which they told the New York Times they'd intended as a salute to "the beauty of public space" and the memory of the bridge's designer, engineer John Roebling, a German émigré who died on July 22, 1869. (They pair returned the American flags soon after, properly folded.) The cops still seem steamed, vowing to work with Interpol to bring the two men back to New York to face criminal charges, but seen in a different light, the entire incident is delightful. Who among us doesn't enjoy a steaming froth of righteous indignation every now and then? More to the point, it proved New York can still be a wild place, susceptible to daring stunts and true mystery. Not only has it been the best thing to happen here this year — it just may be the best game of Capture the Flag, ever.
OK, a train ride to Yonkers seems a little daunting, but one sip of the "Maker's Mark Milk Punch Shake" at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will melt away any of your misgivings. It's high time this theater chain made its way to the New York area — the original Austin location has been kicking butt since 1997. With 4K and 135mm projection, online reserved seating, an auditorium layout that eliminates the dreaded front row, and a brilliantly curated programming slate filled with quirky events — think: movie quote– and sing-alongs, films set to live musical scores, classic movie screenings, and special guest appearances — the experience more than makes up for the Metro-North ride requirement.
As Manhattan continues its transformation into a high-end, city-themed shopping mall, we take our joy where we can find — and afford — it. An awful lot of our favorite things are crammed into the square mile between Astor Place and Canal Street: Chinatown, for one, which stubbornly resists gentrification and which remains the best place in the city for a cheap, delicious meal. The same square mile also hosts the Angelika Film Center, our pick for Best Multiplex; Pearl River Mart, where we recommend you decorate your apartment from top to toe; plus a host of other essential spots, both high-culture and low-, pricey and dirt-cheap: McNally Jackson Books, the IFC Center, Great Jones Spa, the sleek, expensive pubs and boutiques of Elizabeth Street, and the glorious shouting chaos and counterfeit handbag vendors of Canal. (Also in the immediate vicinity: Xi'an Famous Foods, classic greasy-spoon diner Cup & Saucer, and the breathtaking Eldridge Street Synagogue.) It's a spot in the city that feels both cozy and glamorous, a place where we can tell ourselves that maybe New York is changing at a pace we can handle.
The biggest surprise about scrawny high schooler Kamala Khan's transformation into the latest incarnation of the long-running superhero Ms. Marvel was not that Khan is an American Muslim. Nor that she's the first Muslim character to headline a monthly Marvel comic book. Nor that, being a geek for superheroes herself, as she vaulted off for her first adventure with her new shape-shifting powers, she actually willed herself into the more standard mold of buxom blonde avenger. (Later on, she learned to be herself even when wearing a mask.) Nah, the surprise — besides the smart, funny, gorgeous, moving qualities of the comic itself, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona — is Khan's other first. Has there ever before been a major superhero from Jersey City? Here's to Ms. Marvel, protector of the sixth borough! Now, where's the movie?
It's the last day of the month, and you're king (or queen) of the world! You can do anything, buy anything! Then it's the first, and your bank account is down to $28.93, because you live in New York and you just paid the rent. Don't despair: You have just enough dough for a copy of the American Institute of Architects' AIA Guide to New York City. Written by Norval White, Elliot Willensky, and Fran Leadon and most recently updated in 2010, this fat little tome divides the city and its boroughs into walkable chunks, offering thumbnail observations about our most significant buildings — not just acknowledged treasures like William Van Alen's Chrysler Building, but also small, quirky gems like the adorable Italian Renaissance firehouse at 14 East 18th Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Even if you don't know a cornice from a balconet, the AIA Guide will get you up to speed in no time. Your best revenge against the high cost of New York City living is to enjoy the metropolis in all its architectural glory. If you factor all that beauty in to the price of your rent, you're getting a bargain!