It is, in a lifetime of pretty neat things, pretty neat to see a movie your friend made. Not a film/video school final project or an amateur job captured on their digicam, but an actual, bonafide feature length major motion picture. And that's exactly what I saw when Chris and I were in New York a week ago today. After a whirlwind weekend in Toronto, which I wrote about here, we headed to the pomme grande (grande pomme?) last Monday morning. Chris had a little investigative work to do, but the main reason we went was to support my old friend Matt Tauber by attending the premier of his movie, The Architect at the Tribeca Film Festival.
(File this under list of things you should not do: do not walk until your feet bleed the day before you get to New York. If you cannot make your way around this city on foot, without excruciating pain, then you probably don't need to be there in the first place. Learn from my mistakes, people.)
Still, I managed to hobble around a bit on Monday afternoon after checking into a compact but clean and well-appointed room at the Hotel Chandler. So what if you can't stand in front of the closet and open the door? The toiletries are Aveda! There's a snuggly white bath robe! The bed linens are Frette, which probably means something to the kind of people who spend money on bed linens! (Note: Because of my treatment for fibromyalgia, I can't use any topical products with plant oils in them. Thus, being offered free Aveda products is actually akin to torture. However, I made Chris use them all and then spent a while sniffing at him. It's how we roll.)
Kickin' it with the big kids at the Tribeca Grand
Monday night, we joined Matt for drinkie-poos in the lobby of the Tribeca Grand Hotel. I kind of expected to get stopped at the main entrance and escorted to the staff entry but, remarkably, they let us waltz right in along with the beautiful people.
Matt was there with his friend, producer Jon Stern, who was very nice and funny. And who happened to produce two indie films I loved, Scotland, PA and The Daytrippers. After a while, we were joined by Danny Leiner , director of Dude, Where's My Car? and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and, more recently, episodes of TV shows such as Arrested Development and The Sopranos. Danny and Matt are partners in their production company Sly Dog Film and directed their film The Great New Wonderful , which will be released in June.
Danny is, as Matt promised, a really nice, funny guy. He and Jon entertained us greatly with stories about working together years ago on a TV movie called Flashback. Then they talked a little bit about their current projects and it was, admittedly, somewhat surreal to sit around with people who, when they talk about movies, aren't just talking about what they've seen -- they're talking about what they've made and who they're working with.
For the most part, the Tribeca Grand lobby was quiet that evening, although it's sort of the unofficial hub of the Tribeca Film Festival, Robert DeNiro's post-9/11 artistic shot-in-the-arm for the city he loves so much in American Express ads. And sitting there I was suddenly painfully aware -- to the point of distraction -- that the white ankle socks poking out from the cuff of my jeans were ALL WRONG. I had, after all, dressed for walking around NY and hadn't known we'd meet up with Matt.
Of course, half the people in the lobby were wearing old jeans and ratty t-shirts. But they're movie people. They're directors and producers. No one cares what they look like. I, however, am a normal person, so I assumed that, in such fancy surroundings, I was supposed to look somewhere between unemployed-screenwriter and ready-for-my-screen-test talent. And my socks were bothering me.
So in the midst of joking around with movers and shakers, I managed to remove my socks and stuff them in my purse without anyone noticing. I think. Removing them didn't help much. It turns out that, in the world of said movers and shakers, I'm pretty much ALL WRONG. Which is okay, as we decided we'd play the part of Matt's unsophisticated and unassuming Midwestern friends. Someone has to.
Does it count if you walk the red carpet afterwards?
On Tuesday evening, we attended the show's premier at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Matt has basically worked on this baby for the past decade, when he first saw Scottish playwright David Greig's play of the same title. Falling in love with the storyline, Matt adapted and rewrote it, changing the location from Glasgow to Chicago, tweaking the characters and making it a more classically American drama.
The Architect is the story of the point at which the lives of two very different people intersect. Leo (Anthony LaPaglia) is a past-his-prime architect, resting on his laurels in the rich Chicago suburbs, falling increasingly out of touch with his family. His wife (Isabella Rossellini) is checking out of their marriage, his uber-tan daughter (Hayden Panettiere) is testing the limits of her budding sexuality and his son (Sebastian Stan) is coming to terms with his own homosexuality.
Enter a woman named Tonya (Viola Davis), an activist who lives in a housing project Leo designed decades before. She's struggling with raising her own two daughters in the development that is now controlled and dominated by gang activity. And she's agitating to have the projects torn down. She seeks Leo's support in this but Leo can't see that his design could possibly be flawed and fails to step outside of his own comfort zone to consider the reality of others.
It's a powerful situation, a really human drama, with a lot of conflict and potential. Viola Davis -- who you may not know by name but would recognize from guest star turns on shows like Law & Order SVU and CSI) gives a particularly passionate performance.
(Note: the day of the premier, I rode in the elevator at the Hotel Chandler with Davis and one of the other actors. I didn't know who she was at the time but I smiled at her and said hello and she just looked away. I guess she thought I was an annoying fan or something when really I was just an annoying stranger.)
If applause -- and the genuine tears of the guy sitting to my right -- were any indication, I'd say The Architect was well received. After the show, most of the cast joined Matt on stage for a brief panel Q & A. (Rossellini was absent since she had two other films going on at the festival, I believe.) It was kind of an odd set-up with a limited number of questions from the audience but moderately informative. Plus, it was just fun to see the same folks you'd just seen on screen standing in front of you.
Then we had some time to kill until the after-party so we wandered around Tribeca a bit, passing the infamous Nobu, and stepped into the cozy (if painfully understaffed) Viet Cafe. We did the small plates thing but perhaps didn't go for enough variety among the lemongrass crab cakes, Hanoi "pillow" dumplings and the spring rolls. Nothing was outstanding but it was plenty filling and the place has a good vibe.
Next, it was time to hit the after-party at the Tribeca Cinemas. It's not always easy wandering around Tribeca because, unlike most other areas of New York, the highway divides some of the streets so the maps can look a little misleading in terms of how to get from point A to point b. So it took us a little longer than we'd thought, but we got to gawk up at a number of cool loft buildings, so it was worth every extra step.
Got a lovely chance at the bar to catch up with one of Matt's oldest friends, producer and documentary film maker Maurice Bisaillon, who just finished the biography of Barack Obama for A&E's program Biography. He also previously worked on American Justice with Bill Kurtis which, of course, gave this fan of schlocky crime TV a great thrill!
It was pretty entertaining, watching the whole "scene" take place. It wasn't quite The Player, but there was a definite networking bent in the air and since we're so completely removed from that vibe, it was funny to observe. Though probably not somewhere I'd want to live, you know?
So we wrapped up the night with a quick goodbye to Mattie-poo and plans to meet the next morning for breakfast at the Soho Grand Hotel. Which we did, along with Maurice, Matt's sweet and lovely girlfriend Claudia, and two other friends of his from DC, Thom and Lisa.
Matt had to excuse himself during breakfast to film an interview with HDNet and, when he was done with that, the film's stars started arriving for their turn. I will say this about Anthony LaPaglia, who I got to check out from about a foot away -- he's far younger looking in person than those screen close-ups on Without a Trace make him appear.
In the meantime, we had a really nice breakfast and it was great to get to know Claudia, Thom and Lisa. All good people, doing good stuff. New friends! Yay!
Life after the film premier or How Normal People Live
After breakfast, Chris went off to do some sleuthing and I hooked up with a friend from St. Louis for lunch at the famed Shake Shak in Madison Square Park. Brilliant idea, that -- shakes for lunch! The weather was absolutely gorgeous and so I had a really nice time sitting outside and chatting in the sun and marveling that New Yorkers would patiently stand in line like that for a shake.
We were lucky enough to have a chance to hook up with Min-Ah (from the fellowship), who's in New York spending some time with family before she travels the globe and eventually returns to Seoul. I always feel like choosing a restaurant is such pressure in New York -- there are so many amazing ones that if you choose randomly, you could miss a potentially life-changing eating opp.
Min-Ah was meeting us at our hotel in Murray Hill, so Chris investigated some and we settled on Ixta, a really beautiful "cocina Mexicana" on East 29th Street with sleek decor and colorful accents in my favorite warm tones of oranges and reds. Turned out to be a good choice and we split a number of small plates, perhaps the best of which was an Ensalada de Noche - a salad adorned with calimari, jicama, banana, walnuts and a chili-lime crema dressing. Good stuff.
(It also had amazing sinks in the bathroom, these square concrete things filled with stones and a copper faucet like an open pipe that poured over the stones. I don't know why, but I have a thing for truly beautiful bathroom sinks and one day I'll become the crazy lady who takes her digital camera with her into restaurant restrooms. Beware!)
We walked Min-Ah to her subway stop and seeing her off was extremely sad. I really like her a great deal and with her return to South Korea, I'm not sure when we'll be able to see her again. Thank God for email, I suppose.
True New Yorkers would probably be appalled to know that we were back in the hotel in be by 10 o'clock Wednesday night, but we were just exhausted. In fact, I probably would have been okay with heading home that night.
But we had one more day to fill before our evening flight out of New York on Thursday and we spent the vast majority of it, yep, you guessed it -- wandering around, popping in and out of shops, and generally killing time NYC-style. (I bought only one thing: a summer pair of Merrell's which I considered a medical necessity.)
Then it was back to Ann Arbor. Back to face the very end of this experience and pack our things to head back to St. Louis on Monday. We've been around so much it seems strange and unthinkable in some way to head back to our old lives. I think we can handle it.