Pop Culture Day Trip to NYC

With the Oscars gone, what are you going to turn your pop-cultural attention to? I have a suggestion — a pop-culture day trip in New York City featuring Tim Burton

The Oscars are over. Our local horse in the race, Stanley Tucci, did not bring home the statue for his creepy work in The Lovely Bones. (It went to Inglourious Basterds’ formidable Christoph Waltz.) The frenzy of Oscar media attention — reports that Gabourey Sidibe is not actually miserable like Precious, reminders that director nominees Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron were once married, speculation about how 10 Best Picture nominees might change the race — are all over. Maybe you went on a binge and tried to watch all ten Best Picture nominees before the ceremonies, or maybe you just dismissed the whole thing as political. The question remains: With the Oscars gone, what are you going to turn your pop-cultural attention to?

I have a suggestion — a pop-culture day trip in New York City. Now, I don’t usually recommend that people travel to the city. We have enough culture right here. But the snow is melting and there doesn’t seem to be any more on the horizon, so it might feel good to get out, blink your eyes in the sunshine, and stretch your legs a little. The Valley’s pop culture will still be here when you get back.

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So, what’s so powerful that could draw you from the confines of your own neighborhood and into the city? Tim Burton.

tim burton exhibitTim Burton exhibit at MoMA
Photograph by Jason Mandella

tim burton entranceEntrance to the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA
Photograph by Michael Locasiano

As a suburbanite, I know Tim Burton isn’t our biggest fan. He doesn’t make us look so good in Edward Scissorhands or Sleepy Hollow (whose whole point seems to be that bad things happen when you leave the city for Westchester). But suburbanites seem to love him, otherwise Hot Topic wouldn’t have been invented and stocked with all his merchandise.

I happen to be a huge fan, so when I found out that the city’s Museum of Modern Art was hosting a Tim Burton retrospective, I jumped on the chance to go. (In fact, I’ve gone twice now, and both times I ran into classmates from my high school, further proving my theory that suburbanites are Burton’s biggest fans.) When they say retrospective, they really mean it: At the exhibition, you can find some of Burton’s childhood drawings and school projects. But there you can also see his personal sketches, paintings, drawings, and sculptures, including a series of very Burtonesque scary clowns, pictures that express his dissatisfaction as a Disney animator, and even a video installation showing his little-seen adaptation of “Hansel and Gretel” reimagined as a kung-fu movie. Every work in the exhibition showcases Burton’s twisted, gothic style. The last room features cool props from his movies, in case you ever wanted to check out Sweeney Todd’s razor blades up close. (Not too close — they’re sharp!)

Admission to the exhibition is $20, and you have to buy a timed ticket. I suggest you go early in the day, because it fills up pretty quickly with people lingering over the twisted artifacts. There are also Burton movie screenings throughout the month, and they’re included with the price of admission. (C’mon, you know you want to see Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on the big screen again.)

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the red queen

alice, mad hatter, white queenAlice in Wonderland photos © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But if you don’t want to stay for the free MoMA screenings, I suggest that, after you wander around the Tim Burton exhibition, you go see his new film: Alice in Wonderland. And, it couldn’t be more convenient: Right across the street from the MoMA is the Ziegfeld Theater, the best movie theater in all of New York City. The single-screen gem recalls the movie palaces of old, with plush red carpeting and seats in an auditorium that can hold 1,000 people. They really don’t make ’em like that any more. Lucky for us, the theater is showing Alice in Wonderland in three glorious dimensions. The biggest drawback is the price: since it’s New York City and in 3D, one ticket will set you back $15.75.

But, it seems that people think it’s worth it. Alice made a whopping $116 million in its first weekend. That means it’s the most successful opening for a non-sequel movie ever. (Yes, even the mighty Avatar only made $77 million its first weekend.) Critics haven’t been as enthusiastic, but my theory is that critics, who are writers at heart, love the Lewis Carroll books too much to give a movie — especially a crazy Tim Burton semi-retelling, semi-sequel — a fair shot.

So if you’re planning on a trip to the city to do a Burton/Burton double feature, go quickly: the exhibition is only around until April 26, and Alice in Wonderland leaves theaters in twelve weeks. The details:

The Museum of Modern Art
11 W. 53rd St.
New York, NY

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Ziegfeld Theatre
141 W. 54th St.
New York, NY

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