Thursday, March 11, 2010

New York International Children’s Film Festival: Best Bets 2010

Is your child a future movie director or film critic longing for something off the beaten track? Are they sick of Pixar and Hannah Montana? Are they interested in oddball short films or Japanese animation? Look no further, the New York International Children’s Film Festival, going on now through the end of March, has the right film for every age group and interest. In its thirteenth year, the NYICFF prides itself on promoting intelligent and provocative films for 3-18 year olds, and is the largest festival for kids in North America. Our list breaks down key demographics to aid your search for your kids’ next favorite movie.

Manga-Obsessed Nine-Year-Old:
The Festival opens with the US premiere of Summer Wars, a full length animated flick from emerging Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda. A math prodigy solves a riddle sent to his cell phone and is drawn into a virtual world called Oz, complete with avatars, kung fu jackrabbits, and nuclear launch codes. A perfect fit for any anime fan. Sat March 13 at 11 am, IFC Center.

Angsty Teen: The trickiest age group to please, especially with a film festival with “Children” in the title, Flicker Lounge: for Teens and Adults Only contains the best short films with an over-12 age requirement. daring and thought-provoking, these films treat teens like the sophisticated audience they are. Sat March 13 at 2 pm, Symphony Space.

To continue reading, click here!

Make a Difference: Volunteer in a New York City School

I just finished my training to become a volunteer at Learning Leaders.

I found out about them from Ms. Bertilia Diaz, the Parent Coordinator at Hamilton Heights School in Harlem. She was so enthusiastic about them that I had to check them out. I had been trying to get involved as a volunteer in my son’s previous school but was incredibly frustrated when I found that I couldn’t even give away free services because nobody ever called me back. I did not want to pursue another dead-end opportunity to get involved.

Well, I was pleasantly disappointed in my determination to be frustrated again when I walked in for my training that first day. I was met by a great group of parents with similar interests, hot coffee and fresh bagels with cream cheese in the school lobby. After our yummy breakfast, we all moved onto the school library where we met we Luis Lopez, one of the Program Coordinators for Learning Leaders. Mr. Lopez was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and drew you into his high energy almost immediately. For some reason that I never quite got, parents and schools have been pitted against each other in New York City for too long – each often viewing any input from the other as “interference”. Mr. Lopez understands that at a very basic level since he coordinates volunteer opportunities for parents and has had personal experience as a public school parent. Learning Leaders works very hard to help parents and the schools to work together for the greater good of the children and the community at large.

To continue reading, click here!

Calling All Monsters: Tim Burton at The MoMA

If you haven’t made it to The Museum of Modern Art to see the Tim Burton exhibition yet, you still have another eight weeks to get on line! The show, described by the gallery guide as: “…over seven hundred rarely or never before seen drawings, paintings, photographs, moving image works, storyboards, puppets, concept artworks, maquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera…” has been a mob scene since it was unleashed at MoMA in November. On a recent Friday, admission tickets for the exhibit, which are timed at twenty-minute intervals, were sold out by one o’clock in the afternoon.

The main approach to the gallery is lined with video monitors showing a selection Burton’s short subject work, which tends to back up the line of visitors. “Just so you know, you can see all the videos on Youtube!” barked out one of the ticket takers, trying to keep the line moving. No one paid much attention though, already engrossed in the shorts, unaware yet of the really, really good stuff waiting within.

As a terrific foreshadowing effect, the curators have the first room in the gallery illuminated solely by “black light” and featuring a spinning miniature Carousel (2009) — complete with demented carnival music composed by collaborator Danny Elfman— and a selection of Burton’s “Predatory Clown Series” (1985-94). The idea of a sinister menace underlying the surface of everyday life and popular culture echoes throughout the show. No one is safe from monsters disguised as Superman and Snickers Bars and everyday clowns! Oh my!

To continue reading, click here!

How To Be A Road Warrior: NYC Biking One Pedal At A Time

Biking has really been one of the biggest joys in my life– whether it was the first time without training wheels around my cul-de-sac, or traveling across state lines through the vast U.S. countryside. Traveling by bike is my chance to feel the wind on my skin, make personal connections with my landscape, to be a driver of my own physical power.

Since moving to New York City, this love of biking has taken me many places from Pedicab jobs to cross country trips; riding is a powerful tool not only for fossil-free commuting and exercise, but for personal growth.

A lot of New Yorkers are baffled by urban cycling, especially in Manhattan where the pace of cars and pedestrians is enough to trigger your dormant vertigo. But let’s demystify it: being a city cyclist is about always looking three steps ahead – to the pedestrian that’s about to step off the curb, the door that’s about to open, the light that’s about to change. Once you widen your scope of awareness, the chaos will coalesce and become an orchestra that rises and falls to your movements on the road. Your reflexes will quicken, adrenalin will fuel your decisions, and you will arrive at your destination, alive and proud.
Below are 10 tips to get you started, but there is always more to learn – contribute to the discussion!


1. A no-brainer: wear your helmet. In fact, wearing a helmet is the new not-wearing-a-helmet. I mean, it’s your life – over 52000 cyclists have died in automobile collisions since the feds starting keeping track 80 years ago.

2. For long commutes or day rides, wear synthetic materials instead of cotton. This will keep your skin dry and body temperature regulated. Layer up, because even if it’s cold you will begin to sweat up those NYC hills.

3. For winter biking, never underestimate the importance of a balaclava. Although it may make you look like a bank robber, it will greatly increase your stamina for freezing wind! In any season, sunglasses are also essential for keeping wind and particles out of your eyes.

To continue reading, click here!

5 Ways To Blend In While in New York City

For millions of people, walking around New York City is a difficult enterprise to undertake. Whether you’re new to the city, or just visiting, there are people ready to give you the evil-eye at the slightest sign of incompetence. Do yourself a favor: before you venture out into the city next, read this list, strictly follow its advice, and you’ll be a local in no time.

1. Pronounce Houston Street correctly: “How-ston.” Houston street runs across Manhattan, east to west, and more than likely you’ll come across it in your travels. For some strange reason, mispronouncing this street is the number one way to look like you’re from somewhere else. It’s not pronounced like the city in Texas. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Most likely New Yorkers wanted to separate themselves as much as possible from the Lone Star State. You threaten to secede? Fine. We’ll pronounce incorrectly the only influence Texas has in New York City.

2. Know where you’re going before you leave your house/hotel. Yes, New York is big, and at times can be a bit overwhelming. With the presence of the internet, however, there’s no excuse for at least having a good idea of where you’re going. Look at a map, study it, and have some familiarity with how the streets work.

Google maps are perhaps the best way to do this. If you put in directions from your hotel to wherever you are going, then click “transit,” Google Maps gives you a very accurate description of which subways and busses you can take, when they leave, and where to transfer. If you’re really dedicated to this idea, use “street view” and “walk around” for a bit. The only downside to this is that you can’t get a slice of pizza this way…not yet at least. (Go, Google, go!)

To continue reading, click here!