Emily Atlas and Donna Tallent
Donna and I recently met at a Natural Selections interest meeting and learned that we both love food and exploring the various food options of the Upper East Side and beyond. Although some friends have told me that the Upper East Side has limited interesting food options, in my two months so far as a student at Rockefeller, I have found that this is not entirely true. We heard about a new Sichuan restaurant called Hui that opened about three months ago and thought it would be fun to share a meal together, try a few dishes, and then tell a Tale of Two Meals.
If you’re walking up 70th Street toward Second Avenue, it’s hard to miss this ground-floor spot with its large maroon awning. Hui is situated in the Lenox Hill neighborhood, equidistant from Hunter College and Weill Cornell Medical College, and three short blocks from The Rockefeller University. Even at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday, which is an early dinner hour for most New Yorkers, I observed a steady stream of pedestrian traffic heading inside or pausing to check out the menu as I stood out front waiting for Emily to arrive. One woman, someone who I imagined was local to the neighborhood, stopped and addressed me where I stood, as if I were some sort of an ambassador for the restaurant: “Grand Opening…Is this a new Chinese restaurant?”, she asked.
We had a 5:30 p.m. reservation at Hui. Having just come from an interesting Friday Lecture, I hustled to Hui, a 5-10 minute walk from Rockefeller’s campus. As I walked, I thought about how I had not yet found many Chinese restaurants near Rockefeller. In fact, before going to Hui, I had only been to Xi’an Famous Foods, a small shop on 78th Street that serves thick hand-pulled noodles, famously spiced with cumin. Delicious as it may be, Xi’an Famous Foods focuses mostly on noodles and regional specialties from the Xi’an province of China. While I am excited about the uptick of more authentic and regional Chinese restaurants in New York City, my childhood memories of Chinese food consist mostly of Chinese-American versions of Sichuan and Shanghainese food, and I still crave many of those dishes.
Hui, with its white tablecloths, attentive staff, and family-style portions, reminded me of the Chinese restaurants my family frequented when I was a child, but with much more of a modern-day feel. The exposed brick walls, grey wood floors, and sculptured metalwork décor give the restaurant a polished yet comfortable and inviting vibe. There’s also a lovely yet sleek, soft-lit, fully-stocked bar if you’re looking for a cocktail and a quick nibble. Hui is a place to have an after-work drink, an intimate meal with a friend, or a large family gathering.
The first thing I noticed was that the décor shows a lot of attention to detail. This is a place to go for a sit-down meal in a way that Xi’an Famous Foods is not. The restaurant was a tad empty at 5:30 p.m., but it filled up over the course of our meal, and was near capacity by 7:00 p.m.
The attentive wait staff quickly informed us that it was Happy Hour (every day from 5-8 p.m.). I ordered a glass of a dry Riesling ($6 at Happy Hour), a good wine to pair with Chinese dishes.
The menu had a near-overwhelming array of choices. Luckily, Donna and I agreed to share our dishes, so we could try as much as possible. We decided on scallion pancakes (six pieces for $7.95) and pork steamed buns (six soup-filled buns for $9.95). We also ordered the spicy and sour beef pot ($21.95) and the spicy and sour shredded potatoes ($13.95). Scallion pancakes and pork steamed buns (also known as pork soup dumplings, juicy pork buns, or xiaolongbao [shau-long-bau]) are two familiar dishes I try, if available, to get a sense of any new Chinese restaurant I check out.
When the scallion pancakes arrived, I wasn’t sure whether I would like them. I tend to look for crispy, browned, bubbly scallion pancakes with only a slight sheen of oil. These particular scallion pancakes were not browned, and frankly looked a little greasy. However, I was struck by how delicate they were. They were both crispy and chewy and paired perfectly with the dipping sauce of soy sauce, ginger, and rice vinegar. The pork steamed buns arrived piping hot in a bamboo steamer. The soup inside the buns was flavorful and rich and the pork was well seasoned. I was most impressed with the dumpling dough, which was delicate and cooked perfectly. You could tell that the dumplings were freshly made.
Finally, our main dishes arrived. The waitress had told us earlier that the sour and spicy shredded potato dish was one her mom used to make for her when she was a child, and eating the dish evoked nostalgic feelings of home for her. I dove right into the potatoes, which were very thinly julienned and crisp, with a vinegary tang. There were many thinly sliced red chilis and the dish was extremely spicy. I have a very high spice tolerance and I enjoy spicy foods, but by the end of the meal, my lips were definitely feeling the effects of the capsaicin. The spicy and sour beef pot was less spicy, but still flavorful. Donna seemed to prefer this dish, but I found it hard to enjoy the subtler flavors after digging into the potatoes; that is one of the perils of highly spiced foods.
Emily and I ordered beer and wine from the almost-half-price happy hour menu (beer is $4 a glass, wine is $6 a glass) and then pored through pages and pages of glossy menu items, including full-color photos of dishes from ten different categories: Cold Appetizers, Hot Appetizers, Soup, Salad, Vegetables, Entrees, Rice and Noodles, Special Clay Pot, Chef Specialties, and Desserts.
It didn’t take us long to pick out several items we felt were worth sampling: From Hot Appetizers, juicy steamed buns and scallion pancakes. Emily showed me how to eat the steamed buns, piping hot and full of luscious, savory broth, by gently balancing a bun on your spoon, nibbling the top until the broth trickles out, and then slurping up the broth. I attempted to be graceful with the first dumpling, but by my third, I began to shove them into my mouth whole. The scallion pancakes were light, crisp, and flaky. I imagined they received a quick, delicious dip into a shallow pan of oil and told Emily I could just eat an entire plate of only them. From Vegetables, spicy and sour shredded potatoes, which were too spicy for me but Emily seemed to love; and from Chef Specialties, the spicy and sour beef pot. Now this specialty dish was the plate of food that will make me return to Hui. A generous pile of shredded beef lay on top of rice noodles, which swam in a perfectly seasoned beef broth. I left my to-go box on the table and truly mourn for my abandoned, uneaten leftovers.
All in all, I had a great meal at Hui with Donna and would definitely return! Hui has a reasonably priced lunch menu and it would be a good break from my usual Collaborative Research Center or Weiss lunches.
314 E 70th Street, between First and Second Avenues
Lunch specials served Monday-Friday, 11:30–3:30 p.m.
According to Web site, online orders are 10% off until December 31, 2018
Visit Web site for hours and additional daily specials.
As the new year approaches, I wanted to draw your attention to three limited engagement plays that hit Broadway this fall and are set to close in January: The Lifespan of a Fact, Waverly Gallery, and American Son.
The most lighthearted among the three is The Lifespan of a Fact. This play features Daniel Radcliffe as an intern at a magazine whose superior, played by Cherry Jones, assigns him to fact-check an article by a writer who prefers “truthiness” to truth (though this writer, played by Bobby Cannavale, would immediately correct me to say that he wrote an essay, not an article, and that there isn’t really a difference between truth and “truthiness” or maybe that “truthiness” has more truth). With this highly topical play, you’re in for ninety-five minutes of absurd humor that considers the value of facts and the role the media has in telling the truth.
If you prefer to trade in the absurd for something that grounds itself in terrifying realism, you should make sure to see Kerry Washington (famous for Scandal) and Steven Pasquale (from Rescue Me) play parents of a biracial teenager caught up in a police incident in American Son. While the play focuses on one incident with one particular family in the middle of the night in a police station in Florida, Christopher Demos-Brown’s writing and Washington’s emotional performance excellently portray how her character’s frustrations and worries about her black son are the worries of many black mothers in America, sentiments that her estranged white husband fails to grasp for the majority of the play. The dynamic portrayed by this couple also delves into some of the challenges of interracial marriage and raising biracial children to have a cohesive identity in a world that won’t see them in their entirety. It’s a lot to tackle in ninety minutes, but this cast will keep you engaged and in suspense until the lights go out.
The Waverly Gallery is also based in realism but can often feel surreal as you are drawn in by Elaine May’s masterful performance of a feisty New Yorker facing Alzheimer’s disease. May returns to Broadway after fifty years to portray Gladys Green, a liberal activist in her eighties with Alzheimer’s who has been running a small art gallery for many years, from which the play takes its name. While the gallery isn’t thriving at the time the play begins, it is still serving as a familiar place for Gladys to remain engaged as her dementia progresses. This play explores how a person with dementia and their family cope as Alzheimer’s takes its course. Although a heartbreaking topic and portrayal, you’ll find yourself laughing throughout at the odd relationship Gladys develops with a young artist, played by Michael Cera, and maybe some all-too-familiar family dynamics.
Closes January 13, 2019
$40 General Rush
Closes January 27, 2019
$35 Student Rush
Closes January 27, 2019
$40 Student Rush
Brian Dougherty of The Rockefeller University’s President’s Office will be singing with the Musica Sacra Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. His performance of Handel’s Messiah will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 19, and tickets can be purchased online.
On Thursday, December 20, Collette Ryder of the Office of Sponsored Program Administration at The Rockefeller University will be singing A Ceremony of Carols with the NYChoral Chamber Ensemble. This holiday concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church and tickets are $40. More information can be found online.
Bernie Langs has recently recorded a medley of his original composition “I Didn’t Tell Anyone” and two cover songs by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, “Till the Next Time We Say Goodbye” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Check out the release on SoundCloud.
Email Megan E. Kelley at email@example.com to submit your art/music/performance/sporting/other event for next month’s “Natural Expressions” and follow @NatSelections on Twitter for more events.
This month, the Natural Selections Editorial Board bids farewell to Jim Keller. We would like to thank him for his interminable dedication to Natural Selections over the past seven years. Jim first joined Natural Selections as a contributor and copy editor in October 2011, and he became Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor in July 2013. Jim’s love of film is evident if you’ve read his “For Your Consideration” column that has shed light on contentious Oscar races and given us insight into the best performances each year; luckily for our community, this column will have future editions. For the past five and a half years, Jim has been the fearless leader of Natural Selections as Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor, making the publication the success that it is today for the Rockefeller and Tri-I community. Jim has made a permanent impact on the Editorial Board, and we will do only our best to try to emulate his success in the years to come. We wish him all the best and will miss having him on the team!
With Thanksgiving all a faded memory, it’s time to close out the Ones to Watch series with the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races. The nominees for both races can be unpredictable but last year was the second year in a row where the Best Supporting Actor winner was essentially decided early on during the precursor awards circuit. Conversely, the Best Supporting Actress race has become very easy to predict the winner of for the past six years. Often a film’s narrative can decide who from the supporting races makes it in. Last year was a bit different, as you can see from the outcomes below. But the Academy clearly used other parameters in their decision to nominate Melinda Dillon for Absence of Malice in 1982 and more recently, Rachel McAdams’s for Spotlight three years ago. In the former, Dillon’s character famously skipped across lawns picking up newspapers and McAdams does nothing outside of make a few pensive “Mmm” sounds. This is why I use a different format when discussing the supporting than with the leading races. Instead of laying out each actor’s accomplishments and whether I would bet on them for a nomination, I have broken down the various circumstances these actors find themselves in because of the film’s narrative, and how that may influence Oscar voters to pencil them in for nominations.
Various critics groups, including the National Board of Review (NBR), the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) have announced their respective winners and The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes), and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) have announced their respective nominees. These announcements, and the events associated with them, help to form a consensus of Oscar nominees and make the acting categories clearer as we approach nominations on January 23. In effect, they signal the start of the Oscar race’s second leg.
Last Year’s Best Supporting Actor Results:
Mark Rylance — Dunkirk: Because the film was still considered a Best Picture frontrunner at this time last year, it made sense that Rylance could be pulled along, but despite eight nominations for the film, including Best Picture and Best Director that was not the case.
Ben Mendelsohn — Darkest Hour: Even though the film landed six Oscar nominations, Mendelsohn was not one of them.
Willem Dafoe — The Florida Project: Dafoe was the film’s sole nomination, and the race came down to him and Sam Rockwell.
Armie Hammer — Call Me by Your Name: Sadly, despite Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Golden Globe nominations, Hammer was unable to muscle his way into the top 5.
Michael Stuhlbarg — Call Me by Your Name: Same here, Stuhlbarg was unable to find Oscar love despite a BFCA nomination.
Sam Rockwell — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: As I mentioned above, the race came down to Rockwell and Dafoe, with Rockwell collecting trophies from most of the precursors, including the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), BFCA, Golden Globes, SAG and eventually went on to win the Oscar.
Woody Harrelson — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: After his SAG nomination, Harrelson gained some traction and was nominated. This was a real two for one for the film with Rockwell’s nomination and win.
Michael Shannon — The Shape of Water: Although the film did extremely well in overall nominations and went on to win Best Picture and Best Director, the Academy snubbed Shannon’s villain.
The category was rounded out by Richard Jenkins, the good guy in The Shape of Water, and Christopher Plummer, the bad guy in All the Money in the World (who replaced an even worse guy who originally played the role, Kevin Spacey). When Spacey was caught up in the #MeToo tide following sexual misconduct allegations, Plummer was tapped to refilm his scenes and take the role.
Before we dive into this year’s list of contenders, let me touch upon some of the phenomena we often see in the supporting races:
Two for one: A film can often have multiple supporting nominees. The precedent was set in both supporting categories back in 1939 when Hattie McDaniel and Olivia de Havilland competed against one another for Gone with the Wind, and Harry Carey and Claud Rains were nominated for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In the ninety years of the Academy Awards, we have seen this play out twenty-nine times for Best Supporting Actress and only seventeen times for Best Supporting Actor. Last year we saw the end of a twenty-six-year streak of no double nominations in Supporting Actor with the nominations of Rockwell and Harrelson for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The last time this occurred was in 1991 when Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley were nominated for Bugsy. Conversely, we must only go back to 2011, when Octavia Spencer won and Jessica Chastain was nominated for The Help, for the last instance in Supporting Actress. It’s worth noting that Rockwell’s win should negate the idea that many Oscar watchers have that double nominations for a film effectively cancel both actors out.
Ride Along: A Best Picture nomination can often yield supporting nominations for the film’s actors, e.g., Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) and Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread).
Category fraud: When there are too many high-quality performances to choose from in a given year, Academy voters have been known to fill lead performance slots with supporting roles and vice versa. Lookout for Mahershala Ali to pop up in supporting for Green Book for the men and Emma Stone in The Favourite for the ladies this year.
Eyes on the newcomer: Voters for precursor awards often rally around a newcomer to the Oscar race and anoint them the prom king/queen, i.e., they win most of the races leading up to Oscar so that by the time the Oscars roll around, it is a given that they will win that too. See Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Allison Janney in I, Tonya just this year.
Guide to the precursor awards and nominations standings: BFCA (*), LAFCA (+), NBR (~), NYFCC (^), Golden Globe (#), and SAG ($). The symbols appear after the contender’s names below.
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)* # $, Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)* # $, Richard E. Grant – (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)^ * # $, and Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy)* # $:
Last year we saw three films vie for Best Picture that comment on the Trump regime: Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, and the eventual winner The Shape of Water. This year, that trend continues. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that most of this year’s Best Supporting Actor contenders come from films that capture the zeitgeist. First up is Green Book, which recounts the true story of a New York bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) who drove a Jamaican-American classical pianist (Ali) on a tour through the 1960s’ American South. Although billed as a comedy, much of the South was steeped in racism back then, and without spoiling the film, much of what unfolds is far from laughable—though the director, Peter Farrelly handles the subject matter with kid gloves, thereby avoiding it becoming the film’s focus, much the way it was handled in 1990’s Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy. The film, which has seven BFCA nominations, examines race relations in pressure cooker situations such as the division we currently see in the U.S. Ali’s performance is widely regarded as the one to beat.
Metacritic score: 70
A second film focused on race relations is Spike Lee’s fantastic BlacKkKlansman, which is also based on a true story where Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado Springs (John David Washington), sets out to infiltrate and expose the local Ku Klux Klan branch. Driver plays Stallworth’s Jewish partner and the decoy for the operation. The depiction of two men of different races who work together in harmony to bring down evil is a bit of a metaphor for combatting the aforementioned division in the U.S. I would be remiss not to mention that Lee ties in past events to deliver a searing indictment of the Charlottesville, VA rally last August. Regardless of how the awards season turns out, the film will forever mark a dark time in the U.S. as a must see with a powerful impact.
Metacritic score: 83
There are two other films this year that capture the zeitgeist in different ways. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is based on Lee Israel’s memoir of the same name and tells the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer Israel (McCarthy) who resorted to forgery to revitalize a failing writing career. Swazi-English actor Grant plays Israel’s sidekick Jack Hock who gets embroiled in her schemes and leads to her undoing. The beauty of Hock is that he is a character who happens to be gay. His sexuality is not examined under a microscope or even discussed at all. Instead, Israel and Hock are kindred spirits who find comfort in one another as people who are largely rejected from society, and who do not have a definitive path forward. Grant lights up the screen opposite McCarthy and looks to be a lock for a nomination.
Metacritic score: 87
Beautiful Boy is based on a pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff chronicling the experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with drug addiction over many years. Chalamet mesmerizes as Nic, a teenage boy whose drug experimentation sends him down the slippery slope of addiction. The film is one of three films this year exploring addiction; the others are A Star Is Born and Ben Is Back. It’s no surprise really that three films tackling the same subject matter were released in a year that saw drug overdoses become one of the leading causes of death in adults under the age of fifty-five.
Metacritic score: 63
Best Picture Bets
Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)* ~ $, Sam Rockwell (Vice)#, and Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)*: The rest of our contenders represent a mixed bag. We have Elliott, a veteran actor whose first film role was in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and who is known for his work in westerns on television and the big screen. In ASIB, he makes the most of little screen time, but his voice was also purposely channeled by Bradley Cooper who plays his on-screen brother who suffers from addiction in the latest version of love and stardom. Elliott’s unique voice has helped him stand out, and, in this case, is highlighted by Cooper’s use of it.
Metacritic score: 88
Next is Rockwell as George W. Bush in Vice, a biopic of Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney (Christian Bale). The film is the third film commenting on the Trump regime in that it examines the events of the past that made it possible. Rockwell, last year’s Best Supporting Actor winner, is said to be strong, but there is a question about his screen time that could ultimately affect his nomination chances.
Metacritic score: 63
Finally, there’s Jordan in Black Panther who looks to join Heath Ledger as only the second performance to date in a superhero movie to earn an Oscar nomination. The film is the first in the genre with an all-black cast, which sees the heir to the hidden kingdom of Wakanda (Chadwick Boseman in the title role) step forward to lead his people while confronting a challenger from his country’s past (Jordan).
Metacritic score: 88
In all three cases, the men appear in strong Best Picture contenders, which helps their chances of a nomination.
Others who could be nominated include Steve Carrell for Vice and Lin-Manuel Miranda for Mary Poppins Returns. Ever since Carrell first played against type in 2014’s Foxcatcher his projects have often landed squarely in the Academy’s wheelhouse, and this year is no different with roles in Beautiful Boy and Welcome to Marwen. On the other hand, Miranda, a star of the stage looking to segue his voiceover career to the screen, is said to be great in the sequel to the Julie Andrews classic. It’s important to note that neither of these men have appeared in the precursor awards conversation. The only other one who has is Steven Yeun for Burning, but it’s difficult enough to land a Best Actor or Best Actress nomination for a foreign film, so it is not very likely that Yeun will connect.
Last Year’s Best Supporting Actress Race Results:
– Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird: She was nominated but unable to take down Allison Janney who kept winning on the precursor circuit and never stopped.
– Mary J. Blige – Mudbound: She was nominated thereby breaking the no acting nominations curse that Netflix had been enduring.
– Allison Janney – I, Tonya: As I mentioned, she not only was nominated, but she won.
– Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water: My hunch that the Academy wouldn’t be able to resist nominating her given that they recognized her twice in sprawling ensembles (The Help and Hidden Figures) was correct.
My instincts on Holly Hunter (The Big Sick) and Brooklyn Prince (The Florida Project) were also correct, and neither made the cut despite BFCA and SAG and BFCA nominations, respectively.
The biggest snub was Hong Chau who gave one of the best performances of the year in Downsizing. I was really hoping that the Academy would break an abysmal eleven-year streak of zero nominations for an Asian actress, but sadly it was not to be.
Amy Adams (Vice)* # $
If you ask anyone who pays even the slightest attention to the awards race, they’ll tell you that Adams is long overdue for a win. She was first nominated in this category in 2006 for Junebug, and she amassed three more nominations in the category for Doubt, The Fighter, and The Master in 2009, 2011, and 2013, respectively. Adams earned her first Best Actress nomination for American Hustle in 2014. She won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical for Big Eyes, a BAFTA-nominated role the Academy, SAG, and BFCA ignored. Just two years ago she appeared in Arrival, a Best Picture nominee that earned a total of eight nominations but Adams was left out despite Golden Globe, BFCA, BAFTA, and SAG nominations and an NBR win. This year, not only does Adams have the nominations denoted above for Vice, but she has received double nominations from those awards bodies for her leading role in HBO’s Sharp Objects: Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television (HFPA), Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series (SAG), Best Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series (BFCA), giving her campaign a boost from the television side. Here she portrays VP Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, and is once again earning raves for her performance that has many saying that she could win. There’s only one woman standing in her way: Regina King (see below).
Emma Stone* # $ and Rachael Weisz (The Favourite)* # $ and Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased)*:
Oscar often retreats to what is comfortable by nominating those whom have won or been nominated before. Enter Stone and Weisz who play a pair of dueling cousins at each other’s throats as they try to curry favor with Queen Anne (Olivia Colman ruling, literally) in early 18th century England. Both women have won Best Actress Oscars: Stone last year for La La Land and Weisz in 2006 for The Constant Gardener. But Stone also has a nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for 2014’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and, the much showier role, giving her a leg up on the competition. As does her second SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series in Netflix’s Maniac. As one of the highest reviewed films of the year, the film is on track for a Best Picture nomination—w ill it pull both Stone and Weisz along for the ride?
Metacritic score: 91
In Boy Erased, based on Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir of the same name, Kidman plays Nancy Eamons, the mother of Jared (Lucas Hedges) who is forced by his parents to participate in a gay conversion therapy program. Kidman played a mother just last year in Lion, thereby earning her first Best Supporting Actress nomination. She has also been getting rave reviews for her performance in Destroyer this year, earning her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Like Adams, she has done well on television having won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television this year for Big Little Lies. The same role won her the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie last year. Sadly, the film, my favorite so far this year, hasn’t been able to build momentum, and has been largely shutout of the awards race. Because of this, a nomination for Kidman would be a nice surprise.
Metacritic score: 71
Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots)$:
Last year, Robbie was always in the awards conversation for Best Actress for playing the ill-fated figure skater, Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. So, it was no surprise when she landed her first Best Actress nomination. This year is a bit of a different story—f or one, her film has mixed reviews, but for another, she is just barely in the supporting race with her SAG nomination. In Mary Queen of Scots, Robbie plays Queen Elizabeth I opposite her cousin Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) who is ultimately imprisoned before facing execution for her attempt to grab the crown. At this stage, I am betting Robbie gets in the top five, but a win is just not in the cards.
Metacritic score: 61
Claire Foy (First Man)* # and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)+ ~ ^ * #: Although British actress Foy is new to the Oscar conversation, she is well known for her role in the Netflix drama The Crown, which netted her a Golden Globe win for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama in 2017 and a nomination the following year. In 2017, Foy was also nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Primetime Emmy award, which she won the following year. In First Man, Foy plays the wife of famed U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), and because she did a lot with a small role, hers somewhat overshadows the subtler performance given by Gosling. This has translated to more acclaim for Foy’s performance than her counterpart, but the film’s prospects are uncertain following the controversy that erupted among conservatives because of Damien Chazelle’s decision to not show a flag being planted on the moon during Armstrong’s history-making walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Given that Oscar nominations are often built Academy branch by Academy branch, if the film doesn’t land a Best Picture nomination (as it most certainly should), will Foy’s chances slip away? Her lack of a SAG nomination could be a harbinger of what is to come.
Metacritic score: 84
This brings us to the peculiar case of King. Up until the SAG nominations, she looked like a slam dunk for the Oscar. But when she failed to get that nomination, which many say is crucial—you have to go back 18 years to Marcia Gay Harden’s win for Pollack to find a winner in this category who did not have a SAG nomination—it set her chances of winning back. Some say that because the film is a late breaker the nomination committee may not have seen the film, but we can never be sure. So, let’s focus on what we do know: King is a revered member of the Hollywood community, having won three Primetime Emmy Awards for her work in American Crime. The first two in 2015 and 2016 were for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie, and the third this year in Netflix’s Seven Seconds was for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. King earned a third nomination for American Crime last year but did not win. This year, the BFCA nominated her for that same role in Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Limited Series. In If Beale Street Could Talk, King plays the mother of a pregnant woman in Harlem who scrambles to prove her fiancé’s innocence of a crime. The film is director Barry Jenkins’ follow up to 2016 Best Picture winner Moonlight and stands strong in the Best Picture race this year. All season, King has been the favorite to win. She will most certainly be nominated, but can she stem the tide of Amy Adams’ good will?
Metacritic score: 86
For the ladies, other possibilities include Michelle Yeoh as a high and mighty matriarch in Crazy Rich Asians, Natalie Portman’s caustic popstar in Vox Lux, and Rachel McAdams remarkable turn in another one of my favorites, Disobedience. Of course, one should never count out Meryl Streep who is said to be great in a small role in Mary Poppins Returns.
Similar to the men discussed earlier, none of these women have appeared in the major precursor awards conversation, though McAdams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress by the British Independent Film Awards.
With recent developments on the precursor awards circuit, this year’s races are quite exciting. It just goes to show that one should never get too comfortable where Oscar is concerned.
Quick, what is the most ubiquitous food you can think of? One that almost everyone around the world knows and loves, even if they have their own style? What is your go-to food to get when you want something quick and satisfying? I think pizza fits that bill. If you live here in New York City, you know that there is a pizza parlor almost every few blocks. How did pizza become such a pervasive and popular food?
Many ancient cultures had some form of flat bread, for example focaccia in Italy, naan and roti in India. The ancient Greeks made a bread called plakous, often topped with herbs, onions, garlic, and cheese. Archeologist have found evidence of baking a flat bread from 7,000 years ago in Sardinia and of pizza-making tools in Pompeii from the first century B.C. There are notations about soldiers in the sixth century B.C. Persia using their shields to bake a flat bread, and then adding cheese and dates on top.
The pizza as we know it today started in Naples, Italy. In the fifteenth century, Naples had a large working-poor population. Pizza, translated as “pie” in Italian, was a flatbread with cheese and olive oil, and sometimes vegetables. It was a popular, cheap, and quick food for these workers. In 1522, tomatoes were first imported from Peru and it was in Naples that pizza makers started adding tomato sauce to the pizza. Being a port city, many sailors and merchants spread word about pizza throughout Europe. In 1830, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, what is thought to be the first pizzeria in modern form was established in Naples and is still there today.
Raphael Esposito was a famous pizza maker in Naples in 1889. In June of that year he was commissioned to make some special pizzas for the visit of Queen Margherita of Italy. One pizza he made was covered with tomato, mozzarella, and basil, to mimic the colors of the Italian flag. Queen Margherita declared that version her favorite. Afterwards, people started calling that type of pizza “margherita style.”
Pizza first appeared in the U.S. in the 1800s, mostly among Italian immigrants. It surged in popularity after World War II, as many soldiers who had been stationed in Italy came home and raved about pizza. There is some contention as to which was the first pizzeria in the U.S. In 1897, Gennaro Lombardi opened a grocery store on Spring Street here in New York City that evolved into a pizzeria, receiving a city-issued commercial license to sell pizza in 1905. Brothers Gennero and Giovani Bruno opened a pizzeria on the Loop in Chicago in 1903 that some claim to be the first U.S. pizzeria. Totonno’s Pizzeria of Coney Island was started by a former Lombardi employee in 1924 where he sold slices for a nickel.
Several factors helped drive the surge in the popularity of pizza in the mid-1900s. Several chain restaurants started in the forties and fifties, such as Pizzeria Uno, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, and Papa John’s. The advent of frozen pizza, invented by the Celentano brothers in the 1960s, was another factor. Finally, the delivery of pizza to homes also became popular during the 1960s. The U.S. Army’s military intelligence unit reportedly used pizza deliveries to spy on politicians and reporters in that decade, according to a report issued by the City University of New York.
New York-style pizza is traditionally an eighteen-inch wide pie made in a coal oven, although many places use a gas oven today, and is known for its crispy crust and foldable slices. A “regular” slice has only tomato sauce and cheese. Some say it is the New York City tap water, used in making the glutinous dough that gives it that great, distinctive taste.
Other cities are known for their own unique style of pizza. Perhaps the most famous is Chicago, known for its deep dish pizza. The format, started by Pizzeria Uno, has high edges and uses chunky tomato sauce. In California, pizza is usually a personal sized pie that is topped with local vegetables and avocado. In St. Louis, the crust is made with a yeast-free dough and topped with processed cheese product that is a combination of cheddar, swiss, and provolone. Washington D.C., is known for its jumbo slices that can be more than a foot long and need to be served on two paper plates.
Has all this reading about the history of pizza made you hungry? The author admits to having pizza twice during the writing of this article. Luckily, in this city, there is always a neighborhood pizza parlor. In the Rockefeller area, while we have lost Sutton Pizza, there is still the popular Pizza Park on First Avenue., near 66th Street as well as Famous Ray’s on Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street. What is your favorite pizza joint in the city? Next time you are there, remember the famous quote from Yogi Berra when a pizza maker asked if he wanted his pie cut into eight slices: “Better make it four, I don’t think I could eat eight.”
This is a series to introduce the Tri-I community to the wildlife amongst us. In this issue, Natural Selections’ Pooja Viswanathan interviews Watson Gonzales (follow on Instagram @_watson_dog_), the terrier mix who lives with Kevin Gonzales (postdoc, Fuchs Lab).
Pooja Viswanathan: How long have you lived in New York City?
Watson Gonzales: I was moved to NYC in July 2017. I remember being scared in the car ride and pooped inside my carrier. Then I met my dad and the first thing he did was pour water on me and scrub me with soap! I’ve been in NYC now for 1.5 hooman’ years, and I still don’t know why he keeps doing that to me! I’ve learned it’s called a “bath.” I’m scared of baths!
PV: Where do you live? What is your favorite neighborhood in NYC?
WG: I live in Manhattan. I like my neighborhood, the Upper East Side. I heard only snobby rich dogs live here but I’m certainly not one! All my doggie and most of my hooman’ friends aren’t either!
PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?
WG: Anywhere with a big backyard where I can run run run run like a gazelle! My hooman’ brought me to Cape Cod for Thanksgiving and I love it there. Lots of space to explore! I chased and caught a mouse, but the hoomans’ got angry because it didn’t survive…I just wanted to play with it. 🙁
PV: What are your favorite foods of NYC?
WG: Hooman’ food definitely! I always look at hoomans’ eating with puppy eyes, and they always give me some! I love outsmarting hoomans’! Unless it’s salad, celery or strawberries. Ewww!
PV: What do you miss most when you are out of town?
WG: I don’t miss anything. Whenever I’ve been out of town, there’s always a big backyard to run around in and mud to roll in!
PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?
WG: What’s a weekend? My activities are eat, sleep, poop, and play. My favorite is play.
PV: Which human do you live with? How do they belong in the Tri-I community?
WG: I live with Kevin, he says he is a postdoc at The Rockefeller University, but I don’t know what that means. All I know is he keeps doing fun things outside home and won’t bring me.
PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community? (If you could share your bone with anyone in the Tri-I community, who would it be?)
WG: All my roomie’s friends think they’re my favorite, especially Tati! She always kidnaps me from my home when my roomie isn’t around. But she gives me biscuits, belly rubs, and takes really good pictures of me that highlight my true beauty! I guess she isn’t half-bad.
PV: Can you tell us a funny story?
WG: Once I went hiking with my hoomans’ upstate, and I found a big pile of poop! I thought it smelled nice so I wanted some on my fur and rolled on it! My hoomans’ made a funny face when they saw me and said, “What’s wrong with this dog?” They took all the tissue paper in the car to undo my effort. Guess they don’t like the smell of poop as much as I do…in the end, Kevin had to use his gym towel and Tati’s water to give me a bath. Their faces were so funny; it looked like they were getting sick, not sure why. Oh wait…you said a funny story, but that one had a sad ending with me getting an actual bath. I hate baths!
Science policy is a broad subject, which is vitally important to all scientists and members of society. It encompasses many topics ranging from NIH grant funding, to restrictions on new technologies, such as CRISPR or stem cells, to how data and science should be used when making policies about health care or the environment. These policies greatly impact scientific research and it is essential for scientists to understand these policies and to advocate for their research with society in mind.
The Science and Education Policy Association (SEPA) is a Tri-Institutional group led by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who recognize the importance of science policy. To bring these topics to light, SEPA organizes speakers on policy issues, discussion groups, career panels, and writing workshops to educate our academic community about science policy and potential career options in the field.
On November 10, SEPA hosted the Second Annual Science Policy Symposium at the Rockefeller University. The day was sponsored by The Schmidt Foundation, The Moore Foundation, The Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medicine. The goal of the symposium was to expose early career scientists to the world of science policy, provide training workshops to acquire skills used in science policy, and create a networking opportunity for like-minded scientists. The symposium attracted over 200 attendees, predominately graduate students, from all over the country.
The event was kickstarted in Caspary auditorium by Dr. Jennifer Pearl, the director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. Throughout the day we heard talks by Erin Heath, an AAAS Federal Budget expert, Dr. Frances Colon, the former Deputy Science and Technology Advisor for the State Department, and Dr. Dalal Najib, the senior program officer in the Policy and Global Affairs Division of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The day also included a panel titled Rebuilding a Sustainable and Resilient Puerto Rico through Science and a panel with representatives from different science policy fellowship programs. Six workshops throughout the day also trained attendees in skills pertaining to science advocacy, working with non-profit organizations, science communication, scientists in political office, and changes to STEM education. More than thirty students/student groups also participated as presenters in a poster session. The day’s schedule ended with a keynote talk given by Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, the Vice President of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the former United States Assistant Secretary of the State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. State Department. She discussed her invaluable experience serving as a scientific advisor in the White House.
This jam-packed symposium schedule allowed attendees to tailor the day to their interests, interact with and ask questions of high-level scientists working in the policy field, and build relationships with other early career scientists interested in science policy. The event has fostered connections and training opportunities for symposium attendees from around the country and particularly for SEPA members who organized and volunteered for the event. The magnitude of interest curated from the event encouraged attendees that there are other like-minded scientists passionate about science policy and that these interests are possible to pursue as a career. In a follow-up survey given to our attendees, 85% said that after attending the symposium they are more likely to contact someone they met at the symposium and 90% said they would attend another conference like ours in the future. For more coverage of the day, check out our twitter hashtag #NSPNsymposium18!
For those who are interested in science policy there is more exciting news—SEPA, in collaboration with the Science Policy Initiative (SPI) from the University of Virginia, has launched the new National Science Policy Network (NSPN). The organization aims to connect science policy groups all over the country and come together on new initiatives. One initiative is the microgrant project. The first round of grants have been given out to science policy groups around the country for specific projects or to launch their own group at their university. NSPN’s second initiative is the memo writing competition. Memo writing is a critical component for influencing policy and knowing how to write one is crucial for a successful science policy career. At the Symposium on November 10, NSPN announced the start of the memo writing competition. Winners will receive a reward and be published in the Journal of Science Policy and Governance.
If you are interested in being part of our memo writing team or just want to get involved please email SEPA (firstname.lastname@example.org). SEPA is working hard to educate our community about science policy issues and provide unique educational opportunities for scientists to be competitive for policy fellowships and jobs. Come join us!
Many comparisons can be made between a single day and a full year. Both are the result of the rotation of the Earth, on its axis or around the sun. This sunset—these three pictures taken within 15 minutes of each other—offered blazing colors, as it often does at the end of the year. Happy holidays!
While vacationing in London in May, my wife and I took the train to visit Hampton Court Palace in East Molesey, Surrey. Hampton Court Palace was occupied by King Henry VIII and his many wives in the early sixteenth century, and he utilized its grandeur to demonstrate power and magnificence. Several subsequent royals added structures to the Palace and William Shakespeare’s “King’s Men” first performed Hamlet and Macbeth there in 1603 for James I. The beautiful gardens were expanded by William III and Mary II in the late 1600s. Queen Victoria ordered the palace open to all of her subjects in 1838.
trust (n): a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something
I have been thinking a lot about the word “trust” recently. Its dictionary definition reads as follows: “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” The nominal form of the word has roots in Old English, Old Norse, and Proto-German. The words from which it has evolved are all unsurprisingly similar in meaning, beginning in the 13th century with roots in religion, and progressing into an umbrella term for all kinds of faith.
Of course, I think the subject of trust—either directly or indirectly—has been on the mind of many recently. Last month, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor and researcher in psychology at Palo Alto University and at Stanford University School of Medicine, testified during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school; she described her experience in detail, provided thoughtful and articulate answers to questions asked, and—true to her profession—accessibly and effectively dove into psychological and neuroscientific explanations of trauma, telling Senator Diane Feinstein that traumatic events can occlude “basic memory functions,” resulting in “the trauma-related experience [getting] locked in there whereas other details [can] kind of drift.” Blasey Ford, much like Anita Hill before her, was compliant and forthcoming, claiming simply that she was doing her civic duty and informing the American people of an unfit candidate for the United States Supreme Court.
Brett Kavanaugh, much like Clarence Thomas before him, was confirmed shortly after this testimony.
Trust calls for a belief in the “reliability, truth, ability, or strength” of someone or something. But what does it mean to really trust, and how does it manifest? Objectively speaking, Christine Blasey Ford checks all the boxes here: her testimony was reliable, she told the truth to the best of her ability (and had enough self-awareness and scientific understanding to account for moments when she was unable to do so), and she showed incredible strength. Brett Kavanaugh, by the dictionary definition, did not live up to Blasey Ford’s example. He was unreliable both in his temperament and his testimony: he lied under oath and also had what was essentially a tantrum on the senate floor. His ability has been questioned not only by the American people, but also by organizations such as the National Council of Churches, former friends and colleagues from Yale University (his alma mater), and several thousand law professors. Kavanaugh has not earned the country’s trust, yet he has it. He is not fit to be trusted (much less to serve on the United States Supreme Court), yet he is. It is disappointing, but not altogether surprising, that those in power are willing to put their trust in a man who does not deserve it, and revoke trust from a woman who does.
Throughout the whole confirmation process, our Senators (and our country’s system of justice) did not warrant trust. However, Christine Blasey Ford warranted trust, respect, and—above all—belief.
Ecco/HarperCollins, October 9, 2018
What if the speed of light was 25 miles per hour? What if we lived in “Flatland”, a world of two dimensions? What if you fell into a black hole? There is a whole genre of books dedicated to probing these mind-bending ideas about the nature of space and time—books written to bring complex mathematical concepts to eye level in terms of “what ifs.” However, what is harder to find, is the “how do” book. How do we know planets curve space-time? How do we measure the size of the black hole at the center of our galaxy? In fact, how do we even know there is a black hole at the center of our galaxy? Untangling the intricacies of designing experiments, taking measurements, and seeing a signal in the noise is more complicated and messy than a theoretical model. In Einstein’s Shadow, Seth Fletcher manages to weave these threads into a compelling narrative.
Einstein’s Shadow follows Shep Doeleman in his intrepid journey to build an earth-sized telescope to image the black hole at the center of the galaxy. The reader quickly finds out that this does not, in fact, involve building a Death Star-like outer-space contraption. Instead, this massive telescope requires the synchronization of radiotelescopes all over the world to get a view of that black hole from many points at once, creating a virtual telescope with a dish diameter equal to the distance between the observatories.
The undertaking of such a project is not as simple as asking for money and collecting data. Telescopes around the globe must be upgraded with state-of-the-art equipment and never before tested methods of data collection must be written. Time on the telescopes must be coordinated and the weather must cooperate in three to four different locations thousands of miles apart. Massive international consortiums of scientists must be organized and managed—by scientists with no formalized training in organizational management. Fletcher is attuned to the small absurdities that arise in this situation. “The minutes from their discussions convey the good-natured cluelessness of kids trying to start a rock band,” he writes of an early organizational meeting. “‘Perhaps we should keep a list of action items and take turns with writing minutes,’ concludes the first installment.”
Fletcher’s narrative ability shines as he describes the installation of an atomic clock in one of the many telescopes needed for this project. On its face, the process of moving a hulking piece of equipment from the first to the second floor of a telescope base seems so trivial as to not be worth a mention. However, Fletcher heightens the scene to an emotionally charged peak, laying out the nail biting process and the dire consequences of one misstep. From the slow-moving caravan up the side of the mountain to the lifting of the atomic clock by a slew of workers using rappelling harnesses and roping ladders together “as if to cross chasms in the Khumbu icefall” and swinging the atomic clock “Tarzan-style… cable to cable, across the open stairwell,” the reader is thrown in with the scientists, looking on with a bit of terror and a silent prayer. This is one of a thousand steps that must go right to create the earth-sized telescope, and in these moments the reader feels how precarious the scientific endeavor is.
The wonders of the day-to-day, mechanical work of getting a project of this scale off the ground were sometimes overshadowed by the people and politics involved. Fletcher’s focus on Shep casts the astronomer as the necessary hero of the story, the man shepherding a wily and complex idea towards execution—which wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t find the man so unlikeable. Throughout the book, Shep seems in turn difficult, smug, and paranoid. These character failings are not totally lost on Fletcher, who describes Shep as “tightly coiled and intense”; but the broader view casts Shep as a difficult genius, whose larger than life personality is a necessary quirk of his innate intellect. As a scientist I’ve met enough smart, capable, communicative, and cooperative people that I have little infatuation with this pernicious trope.
Part of the draw of this work is its importance; these scientists are trying to get a look at the structure of our galaxy, and in the process see the inner mechanics of our universe. If that’s not grand, I don’t know what is. By focusing on the nitty gritty work of engineering and organization for this ambitious astronomical project, Fletcher brings a massive undertaking down to earth, in more ways than one.
This month, the Natural Selections Editorial Board bids farewell to Chew-Li Soh and Stephanie Marcus. We would like to thank both for their dedication and for helping Natural Selections to become what it is today.
Chew-Li joined Natural Selections in May 2016 as a Copy Editor and served as Associate Editor beginning in December 2016 where she has left a permanent mark on the Editorial Board. She leaves us this month to begin a job at BlueRock Therapeutics as a Senior Scientist studying stem cell therapies for regenerative medicine.
Stephanie joined Natural Selections in October of last year as a Copy Editor and served as Associate Editor from March to October 2018. She leaves us to focus her attentions on Women in Science at Rockefeller (WISeR) where she serves as the group’s president. She is looking forward to future collaborations between WISeR and Natural Selections.
We wish Chew-Li and Stephanie all the best. They will be greatly missed!
As the sun finally sets on summer heretofore possibly known as “the rainy season”, it’s time for the second of a three-part series, which examines the roles that are likely to feature in the Best Actor race. In recent years, the eventual Best Picture winner had its big reveal at the Telluride Film Festival. The films of that festival (August 31 – September 3, 2018), along with the Venice International Film Festival (August 29 – September 8, 2018), the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, September 6 – 16, 2018) and, to a lesser degree, the New York Film Festival (September 28 – October 14, 2018), provide the majority of awards season fodder, and so begins the Oscar race. In fact, by this time last year, four out of five eventual Best Actor nominees were on the table following film festival premieres: Gary Oldman had become the frontrunner for Darkest Hour thanks to Telluride, the Sundance Film Festival gave us Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) and Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), and TIFF
gave us Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.).
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) would follow in December after his film’s premiere in New York.
Before we peel back the layers of this year, let’s revisit the last one. Of the seven roles that were discussed here, four landed Best Actor nominations: Oldman, Chalamet, Washington, and Day-Lewis. From the outset, there was no stopping Oldman who after a 36-year career in the industry had not yet won an Oscar. The only person who gave him any chase was Chalamet who was never going to win because of his age and newbie status. And so, the veteran handily defeated the newbie.
As for the other performances discussed here, Christian Bale (Hostiles) was the only one left out in the cold, with Kaluuya taking the fifth slot. But Bale returns this year (see below). As for the others, the ship sailed on Hugh Jackman’s chances for a nomination when The Greatest Showman failed to deliver and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Stronger did not have enough support to make it a contender.
This year, we have someone I would refer to as a frontrunner but its early and I am not willing to cash that check just yet.
THE ROCKSTAR: Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born (director: Bradley Cooper)
FYC: You have no doubt heard about the latest rendition of this timeless tale of love and stardom in which a musician (Cooper) helps a young songstress (Lady Gaga) rise to the top as his own career descends into darkness through his addiction.
With a current Metacritic Score of 88, it seems the fourth time is the charm for this version of the film. For a full summary of the other films’ brushes with Oscar, see last month’s column. Suffice to say that only the original (1937) had a Best Picture nomination, and the last time the film earned nominations for its stars was in 1954 (Judy Garland and James Mason). Cooper is mesmerizing as Jackson Maine—a man who spent most of his life on the road running away from his demons. The last time Cooper featured in the column was in November 2012 when the actor was first nominated for Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook—the same film that would nab Jennifer Lawrence her best actress trophy. Back then, Cooper was mostly known for his work in The Hangover film series, and that film marked the point where Hollywood began to take him seriously as an actor. The following year Cooper was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for American Hustle and the year after that he earned his second Best Actor nomination for American Sniper, which also netted him an Oscar as producer. As for his Oscar chances this year, Cooper has the trifecta: he is overdue for a win, the film is playing like gangbusters, and he’s great in the film. The only thing going against him is that a Best Actor nominee has only won twice for a film that he directed himself: in 1949 when Laurence Olivier won for Hamlet and most recently in 1999 when Roberto Benigni won for Life is Beautiful. In fact, it is far more common in such a case for the nominee to win for directing the film: five out of 10 times. The remaining three instances, the nominee didn’t win either award.
THE VEEP: Christian Bale – Vice (director: Adam McKay):
FYC: This biographical film stars Bale as Dick Cheney who rose from a bureaucratic Washington insider to the most powerful Vice President in America’s history, forever reshaping the country and the globe under president to George W. Bush. Bale won the first time he was nominated for his supporting role in The Fighter in 2011. He has since been nominated for Best Actor in 2014 for American Hustle and Best Supporting Actor for The Big Short in 2016. Based on the trailer, Bale appears to give a transformative performance something he did for The Fighter, where he lost 60 lbs. In Vice, he has packed on more than 40 lbs. But in a time when many are in dismay over the political climate, is anyone interested in revisiting another dark time in this country’s history?
THE SPACEMAN: Ryan Gosling – First Man (director: Damien Chazelle):
FYC: Chazelle’s much anticipated follow-up to La La Land is a biographical drama based on James R. Hansen’s book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong and centers on the legendary Apollo 11 mission that led Armstrong (Gosling) to become the first man to walk on the Moon in 1969. Gosling was nominated for Best Actor in 2007 for Half Nelson and again just last year for La La Land—the same role netted him the Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). This win followed four other Golden Globe nominations, including two in the same category: Lars and the Real Girl (2008) and Crazy, Stupid, Love (2012), and two in Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama: Blue Valentine (2011) and The Ides of March (also in 2012). Although Gosling will likely be nominated for his performance as the famous astronaut, the role is not showy. What’s more, if Leonardo DiCaprio’s long history of being overlooked by the Academy for a win is any indication, Gosling likely faces the same difficulty due to his own pretty boy status.
THE PHILANDERER: Hugh Jackman – The Frontrunner (director: Jason Reitman):
FYC: This biographical drama based on Matt Bai’s book All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid chronicles the rise and fall of American Senator Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign when he is caught in a love affair. Although Jackman was nominated for Best Actor in 2013 for Les Misérables, most of his awards recognition has come from the HFPA who first nominated him for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical in 2002 for Kate & Leopold. He won that Golden Globe award for Les Misérables and earned a third nomination in the category this year for The Greatest Showman. The film faces the same uphill climb as Vice but additionally, Jackman’s role here is a departure from the others he has been recognized for because it is neither comedic nor musical in nature.
THE CONVERT: Lucas Hedges – Boy Erased (director: Joel Edgerton):
FYC: The coming-of-age drama based on Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir of the same name follows the son of Baptist parents (Hedges) who is forced to participate in a gay conversion therapy program. At 21, Hedges star has only begun to rise but he already has a Best Supporting Actor nomination under his belt for 2016’s Manchester by the Sea. In 2016, the same performance earned him recognition across several precursor awards as he earned nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and won the Breakthrough Performance – Male from the National Board of Review (NBR). He was also nominated for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts EE Rising Star Award. Landing a spot in the top five may prove difficult for Hedges though because he has a second performance in contention for Ben is Back, which could work against him.
THE DRIVER: Viggo Mortensen – Green Book (director: Peter Farrelly):
FYC: In this film, a New York bouncer named Tony Lip (Mortensen) drives a Jamaican-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour through the 1960s American South. Mortensen has earned two Best Actor nominations, the first in 2008 for Eastern Promises and the second just last year for Captain Fantastic. He also has Golden Globe, BFCA, and SAG nominations for those films. Mortenson has a Supporting Actor Golden Globe nomination for 2011’s A Dangerous Method and a third BFCA Best Actor nomination for 2009’s The Road. Green Book’s status as the People’s Choice Award winner at TIFF makes the film a serious Best Picture contender, which only helps Mortensen’s bid for Best Actor. The last six films to win the award went on to be nominated for Best Picture.
THE SINGER: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody (director: Bryan Singer):
FYC: This biographical film is focused on front man Freddie Mercury (Malek) and chronicles the years leading up to Queen’s legendary appearance at the Live Aid concert in 1985. Malek is best known for his work on television’s Mr. Robot for which he has two Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama and two SAG nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series, both in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Bohemian Rhapsody marks Malek’s first leading role in a major film, and regardless of its mixed critics reviews, notably for historical inaccuracies, there has been unanimous praise for his performance. It is important to note that unlike Gosling in La La Land, Malek lip-synchs throughout the film, which could impact his chances for a nomination as the awards season progresses.
THE POLICE OFFICER: John David Washington – BlacKkKlansman (director: Spike Lee):
FYC: This biographical dramedy, based on Ron Stallworth’s memoir Black Klansman, follows Stallworth (Washington), an African American police officer from Colorado Springs who sets out to infiltrate and expose the local Ku Klux Klan branch. Washington is the son of Oscar winner Denzel Washington and he only has eight acting credits to his name. Still, he is brilliant in this film as he deftly walks a tightrope between comedy and drama—all under the umbrella of a topic that carries as much relevance in America today as ever before: racism. This is to say nothing of the how Lee has used past events to amplify those in recent history, thereby delivering one hell of a powerful impact, which will likely be recognized in awards season and pull newcomer Washington along for the ride. But regardless of what happens in the awards race, Washington’s career is just beginning, and this film will forever mark a dark time in this nation’s history.
As always, there are more actors in the hunt for Oscar this year than I have the space to discuss. There’s Willem Dafoe’s turn as Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate—he has more than enough goodwill leftover following his Best Supporting Actor nomination for The Florida Project this year. Given that the film has the most Gotham Award nominations, including Best Feature and Best Actor, could Ethan Hawke breakthrough for First Reformed, which saw its release back in May? Or could the Academy swing the other way and recognize Robert Redford for his final performance in The Old Man & the Gun or Clint Eastwood for his late-breaking performance in his own film The Mule? Other performances from leading men to consider include Stephan James for If Beale Street Could Talk, John C. Reilly for Stan & Ollie, and Steve Carell for Welcome to Marwen. With the fall film festivals in the rearview, it’s time for the critic groups to weigh in and for a consensus to build. Until soon, Oscar watchers!
If you can’t wait for Thanksgiving to have a slice of pie, you can go down to the diner at the Brooks Atkinson theatre to get yourself a piece of pie in a jar. Waitress has been dishing up jars of pie and slices of musical joy since the spring of 2016. Before every show, pie is baked fresh in the lobby so that you are greeted by the intoxicating smell upon entering to prepare you for the baked goodness ahead.
This movie–turned-musical follows the empowering story of Jenna, a waitress in a small town pie diner who sees baking as a way to escape from her unhappy marriage. I love that a theme of this musical is the excitement and hope of new beginnings, and even more so, that this show has a history of giving actors a chance to make their Broadway debut. This was the first musical that Sara Bareilles wrote the music for and later starred in as Jenna. Katharine McPhee from Smash and American Idol also made her Broadway debut in this role, as well as Nicolette Robinson from The Affair. Katie Lowes from Scandal made her Broadway debut in this show as Jenna’s friend and coworker, Dawn, as did Kimiko Glenn from Orange is the New Black. In addition to giving many women their Broadway debut, Waitress also made history by having the first all-female creative team for a Broadway show. Some guys have also had their first chance to be on the Great White Way in Waitress: Jason Mraz had his Broadway debut as the doctor in this musical, and the latest celebrity addition is Al Roker in the role of Joe, an older man who owns the pie diner.
Celebrities aside, the talent runs deep in this cast and the music will bring you joy for days to come with Bareilles’ earworms. But Robinson and Roker announced that they will be extending their run at Waitress until November 18, so you still have time to see them in action and enjoy some pie in a jar before the holidays (you won’t regret getting the salted caramel chocolate).
You also won’t regret going to see Waitress this month because you will have the opportunity to help Waitress win a competition against the other shows. It’s not for a Tony, but it’s extremely valuable; twice a year an organization called Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS hosts a friendly competition between the shows to see who can inspire their audiences to donate the most, often with a brief auction for signed memorabilia held directly after the show. In the organization’s own words from their website, they help “men, women and children across the country and across the street receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance.” They are one of my favorite places to donate money to because I have full confidence that it will be used well to support individuals in the arts community when they need it most. So enjoy some pie, help some artists, and have a great start to the holiday season!
Discount tickets available:
– $40 Day-Of Rush at the Box Office
– Day-Of TKTS booth in Times Square
– Ahead of date with code: http://www.playbill.com/discount/playbill-discount-for-waitress
Chris Marhula of the MacKinnon Laboratory and Alicia Sicangco, Clinical Research Nurse at the Rockefeller University Hospital, will both be running in this year’s New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 4! Spectators can gather along the route to cheer on participants as they run 26.2 miles through all five boroughs, beginning in the morning in Staten Island and finishing in Central Park. Miles 16 to 17 run along First Avenue near the University, making this a convenient spot to watch the race. For further information, check out https://www.tcsnycmarathon.org.
Collette Ryder announces a concert from the New York Choral Society and NY Choral Chamber Ensemble, “My Shadow and My Light” on Monday, November 12 at 8:30 p.m. at Carnegie Hall. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, this concert features the works of three early 20th century composers, two British and one American, who composed pieces expressing their deeply personal reactions to the social and political environment of their day. Tickets are $30-80 (https://www.nychoral.org/events/nychoral-presents-my-shadow-and-my-light/).
Santa Maria Pecoraro Di Vittorio brings us another concert at Carnegie Hall—the season opener for the Chamber Orchestra of New York. On Friday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m., conductor Salvatore Di Vittorio will open with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, followed by Di Vittorio’s own Baroque-inspired Sarabanda Antica. The evening will continue with the world premiere of the June Naxos recordings, followed by Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto RV477, and Marcello’s Oboe Concerto. The program will conclude with Mozart’s ever popular Serenade in G Major Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Tickets are $40-50 (general admission online discount code: CNY29834 / students at the door: $30). Further information can be found online at https://www.carnegiehall.org/calendar/2018/11/16/chamber-orchestra-of-new-york-0730pm.
Bernie Langs shares the release of his recently recorded medley of “Just My Style” (by Al Capps, Thomas Lesslie “Snuff” Garrett, Gary Lewis, and Leon Russell) / “Do You Love Me” (by Berry Gordy) with music and singing performed by Bernie Langs and Matthew Murphy providing additional vocals. Check out this release on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/bernie-langs/just-my-style-do-you-love-me-b-langs-feat-matt-murphy.
Gretchen M. Michelfeld, from Rockefeller’s Office of General Counsel, announces the online release of the feature film, As Good As You, on which she worked as screenwriter and executive producer. This film is “…a serious comedy about trying to grieve the right way…” and was the winner of the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival’s 2016 “Best LGBT Feature”. As Good As You is now available to stream/buy/rent at http://firstrunfeatures.com/asgoodasyouhv.html.
Email Megan E. Kelley at email@example.com to submit your art/music/performance/sporting/other event for next month’s “Natural Expressions” and follow @NatSelections on Twitter for more events.
Concert Review: Paul Simon at the Prudential Center (Newark, NJ), September 15, 2018
By Bernie Langs
Singer-songwriter Paul Simon completed his farewell tour with an outdoor concert in Queens, New York on September 22, 2018, close to where he and his former musical partner Art Garfunkel grew up together in the 1950s. The duo joined forces in the 1960s creating hit records as Simon & Garfunkel and acrimoniously splitting in 1970 at the height of the band’s fame. Garfunkel has a fabulous voice, hitting and sustaining high harmony and lead vocal notes that few can attain in the pop/rock genre, but Simon wrote most of the band’s hits and played a mean and creative acoustic guitar on songs such as “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Boxer.” Simon’s voice is wonderfully rich and unique and he’s a masterful composer and arranger, but in the same way that Eric Clapton had many great records after he left his Cream bandmates in the late 1960s, both he and Simon could never maintain the unique fantastic sound they had as a member of a group during that turbulent decade in musical history.
I saw Simon perform at Newark’s Prudential Center one week prior to his final bow in Queens. The artist informed the crowd that although it is well-known that he grew up in New York, he was actually born and spent the very early days of his life in Newark. Simon has always had an amiable persona and has hosted Saturday Night Live many times over the years, often appearing in self-deprecating skits and showing off his natural wit and humor (see his infamous opening bit where he is dressed as a turkey for Thanksgiving while crooning his song, “Still Crazy After All These Years”). I jumped at the opportunity to see Simon in concert after viewing video of his brief reunion tour with Garfunkel—they have yet to speak again according to many sources.
Simon played many of his solo hits as well as those from his days in Simon & Garfunkel and each song was a delight for different reasons. He had a back-up band of about fifteen musicians, featuring virtuoso guitarists Mark Stewart, who played with Simon on the prior tour with Garfunkel, newcomer Biodun Kuti, as well as Bakithi Kumalo, who is a smooth bass guitar master running complex lines that are easy on the ears, yet technical wonders. The band’s lineup included drummers and percussionists, string, woodwind, and horn players, and a bevy of back-up singers. The group performed as a miraculously tight unit amid the complex arrangements. Simon’s solo career is an homage to world music, showcasing African and Latin textures throughout his compositions. In the international mode, the band tore through crowd-pleasing renditions of “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes,” “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” and the grooving, reggae-inspired “Mother and Child Reunion.”
For me, the hits from the 1960s that Simon performed throughout the evening were the highpoints. The performer’s voice was unexpectedly strong for a 77-year-old man and he did not shy away from challenging vocal phrases and high notes, which he hit each time. He retains a knack for making his guitar playing stand out as both accompaniment and lead. Simon took time during the show to tell anecdotes, reminisce, and discuss the emotions surrounding his retirement from touring. He never mentioned Garfunkel by name, who flew by in only a handful of photos in the highlight film reel of his career. When Simon performed their music, the oft-times melancholy tunes took on greater significance, not just for the star himself as a farewell, but as a moment of finality for the music of the 1960s. Simon opened the show with “America,” a hit from 1968 that could have served as the thinking man’s hippie anthem. “The Boxer” was released in 1969 and it was played in Newark as a dark, yet celebratory poem on the subject of the unexpected and unending turbulence of life and love. As the emotional tone and tide rose during the lamenting chant sung by the backup singers at the end of the song, Simon’s acoustic flairs finally relieved the crowd from its grip and we were brought back to calmer waters by his instrument’s marvelous ringing, bright tone.
Near the halfway point, Simon told the audience that the next song was one he’d known immediately on composition as a more exceptional creation. He explained how he’d given it away to another artist to record and would now play his own rendition. The joke, we realized as the tune began, was that the song was “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” a huge hit for Simon & Garfunkel, sung solo on the record by an emotionally expressive Garfunkel until Simon enters later with dazzling background harmonies. At the Prudential Center, the composer reclaimed his song, and the new arrangement with Simon on lead vocals was not only the best moment of the evening, but among the top performances I’ve ever heard live. I was absolutely stunned by how “Bridge” built and towards the end I became completely overwhelmed by the music. Perhaps the Sixties and its promised utopian nonsense, which I’d bought into, were now long gone and deservedly recognized as idealistic, unrealistic dreaming? Perhaps my musical heroes were now too often appearing in the obituary section than in the arts section? Perhaps Simon, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney were old men—not the youthful powerhouses who had had wowed us decades ago as they swept millions of people into the clouds with promises and sounds of sweet song? But as “Bridge” finished up, and later as the artist played the final song of the evening, “The Sound of Silence,” alone with his acoustic guitar, I knew that Simon’s music was as strong and powerful as ever and he had absolutely proven that the soul survives.
“What about ‘Spooktacular’?”, “I like spooky scientists!”, “What about something with CRISPR?”, “Oh! I got it ‘CRISPR Gone Wrong’!”—and that is how, in the back of yellow cab, Donovan Phua came up with the theme for this year’s Halloween party. Each year, the first year graduate student class organizes the Rockefeller University Halloween party. A group of highly qualified party planners (wink!) were chosen from the first year class to organize, plan, order, and set up for the party. Just as every other year, the party took place in the famous Faculty Club with a chill bar set on the patio outside. The party planners created fun activities for kids and adults alike, including pumpkin DNA extractions during the kids’ hour, and a costume contest for adults. Beautiful, original pumpkin carvings designed by the first years were on display during the Halloween party, which took place on October 26. Hopefully you didn’t miss it! In the words of one party planner, Mari Soula, “It [was] lit!”
Alcázar of Seville
In the middle of the capital of Andalusia is a royal palace, well protected by tall, thick walls: the Alcázar of Seville. Across centuries, more elements were added to the exterior. Getting lost in this charming maze of lovely patios will make you travel further than Spain!