Mark Allen's Top One for 10/31/05:

1. Potentially the most blasphemous movie since Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
    So they are filming this very heavy movie on my street. The film is called "Across The Universe" and is directed by Julie Taymor (who directed 'Frida'). Guess what the movie is going to be? What the world so needs right now: a baby boomer self-congratulatory sleaze-fest. According to their write-up, it will be "...a psychedelic musical love story using famous Beatles songs as the source for a whirl-wind tour of the sweeping changes the world experienced in the 1960s." And guess who's in it? Bono.
    Appropriately... the set designers have shamelessly raped and pillaged the "charming" Lower East Side at the intersection of Rivington and Clinton streets with super-faux, super-cheeseball 1960s ephemera, ham-fisted graffiti, plastic store fronts, real period cars with fake "peace n' love" signs painted on them... and even piles of fake trash covered in psychedelic colors (piles of trash that are bolted to the sidewalk so no one steals them) Brilliant! I'm used to having my eyes assaulted with crackheads and stabbings and obstacle courses of dog doo... but now this? One business (I think it's a Korean nail salon) has had it's frontage transformed and has now become... that's right: The Black Panthers' headquarters! They even slathered 60s graffiti and a fake beatnik coffee shop sign over the front of the vigilant punk/DIY mainstay ABC No Rio... ugh... please kill me now.
    I took the above photo of a very real neighborhood deli with a now fake front. Again, like the nail salon and ABC No Rio, this is a working businesses... still in operation when the "magic of Hollywood" has gone for the day. I wonder how much dough these places get for this kind of visual disruption? I bet it's gonna be a real come-down when people walk into the Psycedelicatessen asking for an electric brain banana and a dreamcatcher, and see that it's just a Spanish bodega that sells plantains and Alka Seltzer. I'd love to walk into this one, a family-run deli made up to look like The Village Gate, and loudly demand to know the next showtime for Alice In Acidland is. The Village Gate right down the street from the Black Panthers' headquarters... imagine! What's around the corner... Spahn Ranch?
    During the day the streets are shut off for several blocks, while crowds of extras dressed as Woodstock-bots awkwardly shuffle around while a director on a crane screams at them through a bullhorn and "Let It Be" overloads on a loudspeaker.
    Last night when I was jogging, they were doing some night shoots, and I saw them filming in front of a fake "TV Repair" shop they had constructed over an old jewelry store, and they were shooting this group of costumed hippies standing, staring, motionless like zombies at the TVs in the window... which all were broadcasting (brace yourself) identical test patters! Heavy. I wonder what Beatles song will go with that?
    Speaking of... I hear Madonna is in town right now, promoting her new album and attending some political heaviness at the United Nations... why not invite her to make a cameo with Bono? Her particular brand of movie magic may be just what this picture's sense of groovy purpose needs! No... deserves!
    Blogger Bluejake has created the clever game of Movie Extra or Lower East Side Resident? Bet you can't tell which is which! Here are some people talking about Rivington Street on an IMDB chat board. I love how one person calls it "Potentially the most blasphemous movie since 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'." Here is a nice write-up from, and another (Rivington Street intersects St. Mark's Place?) Here is someone named Kathryn's collection of Flickr photos of the area. Here is a very lively discussion about the street on WFMU's blog. Apparently they are filming all over town as well.
    They say that if you can remember the 60s, then you weren't there. I think that just about says it all... doesn't it?
    ADDENDUM: I've visited the street a while after initially writing this, and apparently the spirit of the 60s will indeed live forever, because they are still filming. The other night they had this whole line of guys in 50s-style business attire, like Jacques Tati-esque outfits, with briefcases and pipes and horn-rimmed glasses - getting into 50s cars in unison... like businessmen zombies or something.
    I also just noticed this hysterical shelf of fake marijuana potted plants in front of the Psycedelicatessen. "Dude... my dealer just sold me this pot from L.A. and it's like so wow... it's like totally... UN-REAL!" It's not just fake pot... it's fake Hollywood prop pot!
    Also... they now have this oval glowing orb suspended in the middle of the air, directly above the street  intersection, held in place by all kinds of tethers and wires. At first a friend and I thought it was a prop, like a giant pill or something... then we realized it was being used for lighting purposes... a fake sun. And upon reflection, I have to admit that my NYC street has never looked so magical at night under the moon lit sky and fake sunlight.

Copyright 2005 Mark Allen

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