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Cultural Capital

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Mel Gibson Rides Feathered Serpent to Boffo B.O.

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Seems he will work in that town again. Mel Gibson's Apocalypto is the weekend's No. 1 film. Okay, it's true: Its haul was only a so-so $14.2 million, which means its top rank was due mostly to lack of competition — the only potential challenger, Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle Blood Diamond, flopped hard with an $8.5 million box office, which means it'll be okay to wear diamonds to the Oscars. And Gibson's take also pales next to the $83.8 million premiere of his previous directorial effort, The Passion of the Christ. (Then again, more people seem to be into Jesus than the Mayan god Chac.) But the main point remains: The auteur's DUI arrest and the subsequent Jews-and-sugartits business apparently did little to hurt the film. Apocalypto's dialogue is entirely in Mayan, it has no stars, and it's rife with Gibson's trademark torture-porn, so it's hard to see it making any more money even without the baggage. It's amusing, however, to see the industry insiders' tone shift from gleeful derision to polite surprise ("The movie obviously succeeds on its own level") at the first hint Gibson might actually still be financially viable. Oy. Gibson Delivers Another Box Office Win [Yahoo News]

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The High Line, Suddenly Not as High?

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Not that it's any big surprise at this point — after secret sets of books, and floated-and-then-retracted fare hikes, and all that — but the MTA might be up to something a little shady again. While everyone's busy being excited about the redevelopment of the High Line, it turns out the MTA has been whispering to developers looking at its West Side yards — where Bloomberg wanted to build a Jets stadium, and which contain 31 percent of the elevated rail tracks — that a purchaser might be able to dismantle at least part of the Line. (You know, so building could start faster.) Last night, Friends of the High Line rallied its base in a meeting at Chelsea Market to protest this news and presented the case that maintaining the High Line on the MTA property would actually make it more attractive to developers, and thus more lucrative to the MTA. To that end, Friends of the High Line — with partial funding from developers with projects elsewhere along the structure — offered this sketch, from the Chelsea firm SHoP Architects, of what a redeveloped MTA yard would look like with the High Line still intact up there. Pretty, ain't it? —Alec Appelbaum

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XBox Beats PS3, Saves Relationships

Juelz Santana
At the PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 Challenge at the Apollo Theater yesterday, H3TV — apparently "the only high-definition flat screen that allows players to simultaneously compete on both gaming systems" — allowed players to, well, simultaneously complete on both systems. (The crowd seemed to prefer the cheaper XBox.) Juelz Santana of Harlem's beloved Diplomats rap crew — also known as Dipset — sat down for a spirited game of Madden and was all business, dodging both autograph requests and an aggressive pass rush from his opponent, an anonymous Dipset affiliate he swore was the crew's resident gaming ringer. Santana came up short, but he made it out of the loss with his swagger intact, turning right around to sign those autographs for his patient fans and to extol the virtues of the H3TV. "If you're always playing your game, your girl can watch Lifetime or something. She ain't got to leave the room. It's good for relationships!" Armed with that, we're sure you can finally convince your girlfriend to let you buy a high-def flat-screen. —Amos Barshad

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The Strange Thing We Learned About Ryan Adams This Week

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He's apparently a big Friends fan. A fan inexplicably yelled "Monica!" between songs at the first of the prolific troubadour's three Town Hall shows Monday night, and that was all the cue Adams needed. "Don't get me started on the Geller family," he said, and then got started. On a monologue: "Why can't they keep it together for America? And, I mean, he wants to go play a sergeant on Broadway?" Adams was referring now to David Schwimmer's recent and not particularly acclaimed stint in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. "No one's gonna believe you're a sergeant, man. They're just waiting for Chandler to walk in!" No one, thankfully, asked him about Joey. —Rebecca Milzoff

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Aerosmith Plays Beacon; Steven Tyler Confesses to Using His Daughter's Career For Personal Gain

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Aerosmith played a private concert at the relatively tiny Beacon Theater Sunday night, exclusively for members of the new Citi/AAdvantage card. (This on the heels of similar, AmEx-only events featuring Kanye West and Lauryn Hill earlier this year.) It was a rare opportunity to see the stadium rockers up close, and we learned several things: Tom Hamilton, who'd missed part of the recent tour due to throat-cancer treatment is back in fine form. Joe Perry still has his abs. And Steven Tyler advises his daughter, Liv, on her movie choices. "She called me up and said, 'Dad, Jerry Bruckheimer's doing this movie,'" he said about Armageddon. "I said, 'What's it about?' And she said, 'It starts off with Bruce Willis hitting golf balls into the Gulf from an oil rig and then a meteor comes down, and everything goes to hell.' I said, 'Take that shit!' They wanted four songs from Aerosmith. KA-CHING!" Ah, the joys of fatherhood.
Jada Yuan Earlier: Lauryn Hill: Not Crazy After All These Years?

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Beyoncé Busts Up Midtown

Beyoncé
Stalkers and shoppers, take note: According to well-dressed and equally well-informed sources, Beyoncé will arrive at the Armani store on Madison Avenue sometime between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. today. She'll pull double duty, promoting both the Bono-hyped AIDS charity, Project RED — it's World AIDS Day today — and, naturally, promoting her new movie, Dreamgirls. Will the style icon wear one of Armani's chari-tees to her photo op? The odds are good, if she shows up at all — though Miss Knowles is lauded for many things (star power, grace, lip gloss), party punctuality isn't one of them. She famously held up a Marc Jacobs show for two hours and often arrives to her own events only as they're ending. Or sometimes she doesn't show at all — panicked, perhaps, that her hair just isn't shiny enough. —Faran Alexis Krentcil

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Ricky Gervais Writes ‘The Office,’ But Is It Any Different?

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The British were coming! The British were coming! And this time we colonials were looking forward to it. Last night's episode of The Office — the American version, airing on NBC — was written by Ricky Gervais, the creator of the original, British version of the show, and his writing partner, Stephen Merchant. It was a big moment for TV-comedy geeks — but did it live up to the anticipation? New York's very own TV-comedy geeks, Adam Sternbergh and Emily Nussbaum, tuned in to find out.
Nussbaum: So, what'd you think?
Nussbaum: You're a huge Office fan, no?
Sternbergh: I am, it's true.
Sternbergh: Like most, I like the American one but revere the British one.
Sternbergh: So it was nice, for one night, to be able to put aside the international squabbling
Nussbaum: Yes, it's good to shut our ears to the war and enjoy one night of laughter.
Nussbaum: Oh, you mean because it was written by Ricky Gervais.
Sternbergh: Correct.
Sternbergh: Even though I know he's the exec producer of the U.S. one and a professed fan, I still like to think that the two casts hate each other and might one day have a rumble
Sternbergh: Gareth would definitely be an asset in that case
Nussbaum: Like in the Michael Jackson "Bad" video?
Sternbergh: Exactly. But with more neckties.
Nussbaum: So, did this episode have a distinctive Gervaisian flavor to you?

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And Now For Something Negligibly Different

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If you'll indulge us for a minute in an observation that has nothing to do with New York: What's up with the USA Network's ceaseless ads for the holiday episode of Monk? Have you seen them? In the most confounding gimmick on television since someone green-lighted Joey, the December 22 episode of Monk, which the network has already been plugging for weeks, will be broadcast in black-and-white. Then, immediately thereafter, it will be broadcast in color. No alternate ending. No change of cast. No live transmission. No nothing. The audience is invited to watch both and decide which version is "more Monkish." We're not sure who watches Monk in the first place (a quick survey of friends and relatives turned up no one), but, please, don't ruin things by telling viewers that the same nostalgic frisson is attainable by setting hue saturation to zero. Next up: A very special muted-unmuted episode. Monk [USA Network]

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Tom Wolfe Wants a Bonfire at the Whitney

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Tom Wolfe called the Landmarks Preservation Commission "de facto defunct" in a Times op-ed on Sunday, its members pawns of developer Aby Rosen and his evil plans to build a 30-story glass condo in the Upper East Side Historic District. Then today came news that the Whitney Museum, located in the same historic district and after decades of fighting to build an addition, would give up on its Madison Avenue expansion plan and instead build a "satellite" branch along the High Line in the meatpacking district. So does Wolfe think that this move, finally, is the right stuff? We called to find out. So, Tom, happy that the expansion has been stopped? Everything possible should be done to keep the Whitney from expanding. I mean, we really don't need any more of that, unless they improve in taste. Mainly, they should just get rid of the building. Almost anything they could put in its place, as long as it's no higher than that, would be real plus for the city.

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Things Finally Looking Up for ‘Studio 60’

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We don't know yet how NBC flacks will spin the last night's ratings for Studio 60 (with which — the ratings, not the show — we're a little bit obsessed). So we'll do it for them: According to our calculations, Monday marks the first-ever time that an episode of NBC's embattled skit-show-within-hectoring-dramedy pulled in more viewers than the previous one. That's right: For its entire ten-episode run to date, Studio 60 was on an unbroken slide. After the original catastrophic plummet from the pilot's 13.14 million viewers to the second episode's 10.82 to the third one's 8.85, it has been steadily losing 20,000 to 50,000 viewers each week. Critical accolades didn't help (not that any, it should be noted, came from this magazine). But lo! Monday's audience numbered 7.45 million versus last week's 7.31, reversing the season-long death spiral. The lesson? Sanctimony sells! Update: Now we know: "STUDIO 60 SCORES HIGHEST RATINGS IN SEVEN WEEKS ACROSS ALL KEY ADULTS," proclaims the NBC release. Earlier: Early-Adopter Fans Kill 'Studio 60'! (Maybe.) The Aaron Sorkin Show [NYM]

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Everything Is Illuminated

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Last night was the kickoff of Prospect Park in Lights, a holiday public-art thingie in which four of the Brooklyn park's entrances are decorated with seasonably over-the-top lighting displays. (Apparently some 4 million LEDs are involved.) We've been looking at some photos of the event posted by the Gothamist kids — including the above image, by Atomische — and we're thinking it looks kind of cool. We're also thinking we're glad we don't pay the park's Con Ed bill. Light Waves in Brooklyn [Gothamist]

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Horton Hears a Pollock

Teri Trucker
Trucker Teri Horton bought a $5 Jackson Pollock look-alike from a California thrift store fifteen years ago and is still trying to convince the art world of its legitimate provenance. In Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?, the documentary about Horton's quest that opened last week at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village, former Met director Thomas Hoving is among the experts who scoff at her painting, declaring that the piece "has no soul and no heart" after ostentatiously peering at it from different angles. A fingerprint on the back of Untitled 1948 matches one on a paint can in Pollock's well-preserved East Hampton studio, but forensic holds little currency with curators. "Scientists are very interesting," says Hoving in the film, "but they come after the connoisseurs." But buyers seem to agree with the CSI approach; Horton refused an initial offer of $2 million and most recently heard $19 million. She's quiet about the deal's details. Being coy, she says, "is a scheme I learned from the art world." — Wren Abbott

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Macy's Brings Touch of Christmas to Christmas

Taxicab Cash
Macy's windows themselves are a lot like the store's merchandise — safe and middle of the road. Macy's does score the highest in holiday cheer for daring to place both Santa and the tiniest hint of a religious statement in its windows in the form of a lion lying down with the lamb. (The overwhelming secularism on display this season makes me think that Bill O'Reilly might, in fact, have a point.) The set design is only so-so, lacking the sheer density of Bergdorf's or the stylization of Saks'. And though each scene relates to the next, there isn't much of a story arc, either. And I'm penalizing Macy's further for its shameless embrace of Miracle on 34th Street, which is commemorated in a second set of windows featuring the sort of old-school animatronics that were state-of-the-art at the 1964 World's Fair. But the fact remains that the movie was set in Gimbels, not Macy's, and the latter doesn't deserve any credit simply for outlasting its rivals. Holiday cheer: 8 Narrative: 5 Childlike wonder: 6 Set design: 6 Penalty: -2 Total: 23 (out of 40) This year's winner is Saks, with 27 points! — Greg Lindsay Fear the windows at Saks and Bergdorf. Feel overstylized at Bendel and Barneys.

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Brice Marden Once Touched a Picasso

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Seven things we learned about Brice Marden last night at the Strand bookstore, where he gave a talk promoting his current retrospective at the MoMA and the accompanying book, Plane Image: 1. He's left-handed. 2. He won a painting by an elephant at a circus three years ago. 3. His first New York apartment was on Avenue C. 4. As a kid, he'd skip school to visit MoMA. 5. He once touched a Picasso there. 6. He was not kicked out for having done so. 7. He thinks New York is no longer the American art mecca because it's too expensive for many young artists, who are instead moving to L.A. — Kendall Herbst Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings [NYM]

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Holiday Windows Take Turn Toward the Trippy

Scary Saks
The consolidation of department stores — a trend cooling only because there's nothing left to merge — leaves Manhattan as the last hospitable environment for that Norman Rockwell tradition, the holiday window display. The city's flagships — Barneys, Bendel, Bergdorf, Bloomingdale's, Saks, and Macy's — began unveiling their windows over the weekend, and, as usual, they're secular spectacles. Out: Santa, model trains, gingerbread men. In: Scary, post-modern vignettes. So which ones are worth wistful gazing? We've rated them according to five categories: holiday cheer, narrative, a sense of childlike wonder, and set design. Check back daily for three installments, culminating on Wednesday when the winner is revealed. Today, get creeped out by Saks and Bergdorf's.

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Our Heroes Are Dumb But Addictive

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NBC's Heroes is one of the few breakout hits of the new TV season, and last night was its so-called fall finale. We know people are watching — some 14 million a week — but the question remains: Is it actually any good? New York pop-culture experts Adam Sternbergh and Emily Nussbaum tuned in last night to consider the question. Can two TV critics — one's a Heroes vet; one's a Heroes newbie — share an IM window without driving each other crazy?
Sternbergh: So?
Sternbergh: As the official Heroes newbie, what did you think?
Nussbaum: So. Turns out it's a little bizarre for me to watch the quasi-finale of a plot-arc show I'd never seen before.
Nussbaum: Which is not to say it was hard to follow, since it seemed to be made up of the scavenged body parts of shows I've already seen.
Nussbaum: What did you think?
Sternbergh: I kept wondering what it was like for someone watching it the first time.
Sternbergh: And hearing them deliver lines like "He's believes that if he saves the cheerleader, he'll save the world"
Sternbergh: without laughing

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Department Stores Don't Know It's Christmas

Bendel
The consolidation of department stores — a trend cooling only because there's nothing left to merge — leaves Manhattan as the last hospitable environment for that Norman Rockwell tradition, the holiday window display. The city's flagships — Barneys, Bendel, Bergdorf, Bloomingdale's, Saks, and Macy's — began unveiling their windows over the weekend, and, as usual, they're secular spectacles. Out: Santa, model trains, gingerbread men. In: scary, postmodern vignettes. So which ones are worth wistful gazing? We've rated them according to four categories: holiday cheer, narrative, a sense of childlike wonder, and set design. Check back daily for three installments, culminating on Wednesday when the winner is revealed.

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Soup Is Good Art

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As if last week wasn't big enough for Andy Warhol — the late Pop artist's works pulled in more than $88 million at auction, including that Mao silk screen that went for a record $17.4 million — on Friday he also got a brand-new tchotchke. Barneys will this year be celebrating a "Warhol-iday" season, including just-unveiled Christmas windows at its Madison Avenue flagship rife with Warhol-inspired paraphernalia featuring, more ironically — limited-edition Campbell's Soup Cans all dolled up with bright Warhol-esque labels. Stop for a moment to savor the double-reverse appropriation going on here (as Warhol himself no doubt would have): He famously made art by faithfully reproducing the iconic soup cans on canvas, and the soupmaker is now putting his art back onto the cans. Campbell's has an ongoing relationship with the Andy Warhol foundation, according to a company spokesman, with gift-shop kitsch like plates and scarves already on the market. These new cans — containing actual, real, good-ol'-fashioned tomato soup — will be available exclusively at Barneys stores nationwide (and online). At $12 a pop, we're sure it'll be delicious. — Rachel Wolff

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Mrs. Gotti Wants to See Bill Clinton Naked

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"In Praise of Older Women," an exhibition of paintings by Victoria Gotti Sr. — that would be Growing Up Gotti Victoria's mom, the late Dapper Don's widow — opened last night at MW Gallery in Chelsea. Many of the paintings, as it turns out, are her impressions of famous faces, from Bill Clinton to Johnny Depp. "I only paint pictures of people that I like, and I love Bill Clinton," Gotti told us at the reception. "I voted for him twice. I don't think this country would be in the mess that it's in now with Iraq if he was still president." We asked if celebrities sit for her. "No, I wish," she said. "Can you put in a good word? I'd paint Bill Clinton nude." She paused for a second. "Don't print that," she said. Sorry, Mrs. G. — Fiona Byrne

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Phillips de Pury Auction Panics Art World

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Gulp. At Phillips de Pury auction house last night, as the New York art-auction season drew to a close, there was a moment of pure, unmitigated, and industry-wide panic. Phillips was the final big sale of a two-week season that has moved a staggering $1.4 billion in art. At auction after auction, sales records have been set, and the hundreds of people who packed Phillips's meatpacking-district showroom expected more of the same. But then a Matthew Barney didn't sell. (Gasp!) A Richard Prince went cheap. (What?) When the most expensive piece of the sale, Charles Ray's convoluted carousel, got no bids, a tsunami of nervous chatter swept from the front to the back of the room. (Impossible!)

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