DID YOU READ

“Florent: Queen of the Meat Market,” Reviewed

“Florent: Queen of the Meat Market,” Reviewed (photo)

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Jeez, this is one hell of a restaurant.

Restaurant Florent, to be exact, a funky diner-slash-brasserie-slash-bistro in New York’s Meatpacking District. Owned and operated by French transplant Florent Morellet since the mid-1980s, the place was a haven for artists, eccentrics, outsiders, and regular neighborhood folks for several decades. As the documentary “Florent: Queen of the Meat Market” opens, all sorts of celebrities and cultural elites pay homage to the place, many of them standing right in front of the restaurant. That’s where we see the stencil on the window: “Serving 24/7 until the bitter(sweet) end: June 29.” And then below it in all capital letters: “AU REVOIR.” So we know this movie does not have a happy ending.

The story of “Florent” is a story of New York City; in other words, a story of change. When Morellet moved to the Meatpacking District it was still a working meat market. Almost singlehandedly, according to this film and the people in it, Morellet turned the area into the coolest place in town. Whether that is overstating the case, it’s clear that Morellet is a true renaissance man: a restauranteur, a political advocate, a cartographer, an artist, a philanthropist, even a children’s book author. He’s also got at least a few contradictions at his core: he loves preserving and restoring old things (like his diner, which he bought from its original owners, or the largest fireboat on the eastern seaboard, which he bought from the FDNY), but he hates nostalgia in all its forms. Given how intensely nostalgic this film is for his restaurant and for the days when the Meat Packing District was a haven for artists instead of yuppies, I wonder how he feels about it.

Yes, here’s yet another disaster we can blame on yuppies. Morellet was ultimately a victim of his own success; the transformation he helped create in the neighborhood eventually priced him out of his own restaurant. It’s a familiar story these days. Earlier this week the Upper East Side institution Elaine’s announced it, too, was closing after decades in the business. These amazing, unique places make it safe for banks and stores and cupcake bakeries; once they’ve brought in the money, they’re given the boot.

Director David Sigal lets his affection for Florent shine through, and he’s assembled a truly impressive list of celebrity testimonials, from Julianne Moore to Diane von Furstenberg to Isaac Mizrahi. His one mistake, I think, is to backload all of the actual narrative in the film — Morellet’s struggle to renew his expiring lease, his eventual decision to close, and his six week celebration of the artists and customers who made his restaurant special — into his documentary’s final 20 minutes. The rest of “Florent” is one endless series of talking heads and quirky anecdotes. It may have made more sense to organize the entire film around the closing, which then becomes the impetus to journey through the place’s history. It also would have been nice to see more of Morellet living his day to day life, rather than just constantly explaining what his day to day life is like. For documentary about such an unusual man, this is not a very unusual film.

Still, it is a fairly entertaining one, and for New Yorkers, a good conversation starter on the state of our city. Should we preserve places like the Meat Packing District? Or do we let progress and prosperity take their course? Maybe the most interesting thing about “Florent” is the fact that the film and its subject might have totally different answers to these questions.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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