Jacqui Gal

Adventures of a Vegemite Knish Princess

Baby Mama, no NYC drama

Apr 29, 2008

Image courtesy of Universal.

Imagine for a moment that it was your job to choose which film would open the 7th annual Tribeca Film Festival. What would you choose: A gritty, edgy drama that personified urban living in the Greatest City In The World? Or perhaps a brilliant foreign film, filled with complicated characters and nuance, but one that deftly reaches the very core of the human condition? Or would you choose, essentially, a chick flick?

When the lights dimmed, and the opening image of Baby Mama flashed across the opening-night screen—with sweeping views of the East River and several Brooklyn-Manhattan bridges—I thought, “Ah, I get it.” This film was going to be a portrait of the city. Perhaps it was going to be one of those perennial New York Stories.

It wasn’t. Granted Tina Fey is a bit of a New York icon right now (she lives here; she’s the head writer for Saturday Night Live; and she writes, executive-produces and stars in a show about a show made in Rockefeller Center). And—in an even greater stretch—I’ll allow that there are a great number of females living in New York who put their careers as priority number one, moving up a corporate ladder at the expense of cashing in on prime baby-making years.

But can this possibly justify Baby Mama’s selection as the festival’s numero uno prime attraction?

Personally, I found the film to be very funny. As a 31-year-old woman, working on said career and yet to test out the trusty fallopians, for me it was one of those “it’s-funny-coz-it’s-kinda-true” experiences.

When a doctor tells Fey’s character, Kate Holbrook, “I just don’t like your uterus,” because, apparently, it’s T-shaped. I had to wonder, is it possible that I too have a T-shaped uterus?

And when Amy Poehler’s character, Angie, explains the origins of her common-law marriage—“He never actually asked me to be his wife. But, he never told me not to be his wife, so things are going pretty well”—I thought about stealing that pearler to explain my own dis-nuptial situation.

But what about the guys?

For a broad swath of this city’s population, the mere mention of words like “baby”, “uterus” or “biological clock”, is enough to send them packing (and not as in “packing the aisles to see this movie”). It hardly seems fair.

Therefore, in writing about it, I feel compelled to use certain qualifiers. For example, “It might be a chick flick, but there are some great performances by supporting actors,” such as Romany Malco (the guy from Weeds), Steve Martin and Sigourney Weaver.

Martin plays Kate’s way-too-new-age boss, who once offers to reward her on a job well done with “five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact.” Meanwhile, Weaver graces the screen as irrepressibly fertile director of a surrogacy agency, who drives Kate so insane with jealousy that she once seethes, “How can you be pregnant? Your eggs are from the ‘40s!”

Poehler captures the white-trash-lady-with-a-heart-of-gold character to perfection, and gives one of the strongest performances of the cast. Fey is predictably good, and not altogether different from her 30 Rock character Liz Lemon.

Overall, there are plenty of belly laughs to be had. But this only brings me back to my original question: Is this what Tribeca should be about?

When the Tribeca Film Festival was first conceived—by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff—to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the 9/11 attacks, nobody wanted more drama. Comedies were highly appropriate. But we are not there anymore.

In 2006, organizers opened with United 93, signifying a readiness to deal with what is emotionally fraught. Then came the premiere of Spider-Man 3. Now, in 2008, with weighty issues facing this country and slew of pictures to choose from, they seem to be pulling in a different direction. And not in a good way.

An abbreviated version of this blog first appeared on Metromix.com

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Up and away (and out of control!)

Mar 11, 2008

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since moving to the U.S. from Australia. Long-haul travel has simply become a part of my life.

Okay, who am I kidding? Traveling to far-flung destinations has been a part of my life since as far back as I can remember. But I’ve been doing it alone (or with friends) since I was 14.

It wasn’t until I moved here that I realized — for a lot of people, if something is quite far away, it’s a reason not to go there. Being an Australian, this was something I found really hard to grasp at first.

New Yorkers are incredulous when I tell them that, yes, I’ll happily hop a place for 19 hours (at least) to reach my hometown. And that furthermore, it’s not even that bad.

“Look. You get on the plane, they feed you. You have a drink, watch a movie or two. Sleep. They feed you again. You flip through some magazines, or read a book. And you’re done. It’s not hard,” I used to say.

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Always thinking, thinking, thinking.

Mar 01, 2008

My sleeping life

Photo by: Sarah Hobbs

This feels a little like blog incest, but here goes… My friend Kirsty (who I like to call “Squishy”) posted some pictures to her website artpet.

One of them really captured my imagination; it sums up my recent experience of sleep so well, I had to post it here.

The picture, by photographer Sarah Hobbs, is of a rumple-sheeted bed. Above it are a thousand sticky notes.

This is my sleeping life.

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NY noshing

Dec 18, 2007

Old-fashioned pastrami sandwich

Earlier this year, AJN editor (at that time) Dan Goldberg really chewed me out for my lack of blog reporting on the Jewish food landscape in New York.

“I mean you wrote about 600 words on culinary fantasies — a gift for a Jewish topic if ever there was one — and the sum total of Jewish content was, if I’m not mistaken, one word: ‘Bagel’.”

Of course, he was right.

But when it comes to the bountiful food landscape of New York City, even after living here for three years, exploring Jewish food has been more of a novelty than a serious endeavour.

It’s something that I would do for kicks, to entertain visitors. Take them to the Carnegie Deli and show them a ridiculous pastrami sandwich (two dried out pieces of flimsy rye bread, topped with an outrageous mountain of sliced meat and not much else).

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