Imagination Vacation

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Maybe you're saving up for your "real" trip this summer to a "real" exotic destination. Maybe you're scraping to pay your rent. Whatever the reason, sometimes traveling on the cheap isn't cheap enough and you've got to face the facts: You're not actually leaving your couch this spring break. That's where your imagination comes in!

Yes, I did just use the word, "imagination." No, I'm not a third-grade teacher.

These may not all be the absolute best movies or music ever created, but they'll definitely take you somewhere else.

It's called "escapism," kids, and it is your friend.

-Jill Cowan

Paris

Ah, Pay-ree. The Champs-Elysees, the Louvre, baguettes, men with tiny moustaches and berets roaming the streets-it doesn't get more iconic than the City of Lights. Who wouldn't want to take a quick jaunt to La France for the price of an illegal BitTorrent download? In terms of sheer efficiency, "Paris, je t'aime" is a straight shot to the vicarious vacationing heart.

The film is a literal love letter to Paris, signed by some of the world's best-known directors, with each of the 18 shorts that make up the movie bearing a different cinematic stamp. From mimes falling in love under the Eiffel Tower, to an older couple having a quiet drink in a bar run by Gerard Depardieu in the Quartier Latin, "Paris, je t'aime" gives each arrondisement (or district) its unique due without the nuisance of plot to distract you from the city. And that's what's really important here, right?

-Jill Cowan

Brazil

It's raining. All you want to do is feel a little sun on your currently vampiric visage, but you're stuck at home working on that paper you have due when you get back from "Spring Break." You decide to lay off the Weber for a bit, but what to do instead?

Run the bath water and put Getz/Gilberto (the 1964 bossa nova joint effort between saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Joao Gilberto) on your iPod. It's the one with "The Girl from Ipanema." Now close your eyes and let the smooth jazz sweep you off to the beach in Rio de Jeneiro. Giselle Bundchen passes your waterfront cafe in the warm twilight as Gilberto's wife, Astrud, croons softly about "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars." You hear the opening chords of "Só danço samba" and suddenly you're dancing with Brazilian footballer Kaka--who is, of course, topless. You're tan. Finally, you can relax.

-Jill Cowan

LA vs. NY

Everyone has to choose between New York and Los Angeles. If you haven't, the best thing to do is visit both cities and make an informed decision. Who the hell's got time for that, though?

Just watch "Annie Hall" and "The Big Lebowski," then decide which one you like more. Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers are the Biggie and Tupac of quirky American cinema, and these films are the most stridently regional entries in their respective canons.

In "Annie Hall", New York is haven for misfits united by prickly sarcasm and a distaste for West Coast vapidity. The Coens' LA is a microcosm of late-capitalist America-a heartless wasteland, sure, but one with more than enough cubbies and hidey-holes for the tricky, the brave, and the defiantly lazy to find solace.

Like the cities they champion, the two are tough not to love, but nearly impossible to love equally.

-Zachary Ritter

India

Don't let your Indian friends fool you. They might say Bollywood movies are not really what India is like, they know that their relatives back home break out into song and dance regularly. A great Bollywood film can be so realistic that it will evoke the same sensations as an auto rickshaw ride, but "Bride & Prejudice" stands above its peers because it perfectly embodies India.

How could a Jane Austen novel parody not capture the intricacies of the subcontinent? Everything in it is spot on: Wealthy American businessmen always come to India completely ignorant of the culture but quickly master traditional drumming; every child is born with the flexibility of Lance Bass; and Indians who come to "Amrika" are as creepy and socially inept as Mr. Kohli. Don't buy the overpriced plane ticket. Hop on the "Bride & Prejudice" express and get the benefit of staring at Aishwarya Rai.

-Rajesh Srinivasan

West Africa

Sure, for awhile it might be cool to actually be on an African savannah, but that's only until a lion and a tiger team up with a rabid zebra to kick the living shit out of you. Instead, opt for a safer choice by listening to Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji's 1959 album Drums of Passion. The recording inspired many artists from all around the world to experiment with polyrhythms, and the music exudes a warm, sunny feel and remains fascinatingly complex.

Drums of Passion is the spirit of Nigeria, compressed into roughly 45 minutes. Bask in the bright chanting of "Akiwowo" and groove to "Odun De! Odun De!" any time you like to get a taste of that West African vibe without ever leaving Berkeley, which is a whole different type of wild.

-Rajesh Srinivasan

Rome

From the moment a helicopter descends on Rome, dangling a statue of Jesus, "La Dolce Vita" confronts us with a dilemma: Where is God? The answer, according to Federico Fellini's 1960 masterpiece, seems to be nowhere-especially not in Rome.

Perhaps this absence is what haunts Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), a jaded journalist who wanders among parties and beautiful, vapid people, waiting for his nights to end. He dances in the street with a laughing woman; he witnesses a fake miracle; he seduces and is seduced and learns of his friend's suicide. Marcello's nocturnal journeys take him to some of Italy's most iconic sites. Most striking is the scene at the Fontana di Trevi, whose waters Marcello and Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) enter at dawn. In Fellini's meditation on the so-called "sweet life," Rome becomes the heart of modernity's contradictions. As one man watches himself decay, the city around him comes achingly alive.

-Stephanie M. Lee

SF

Early in "Vertigo," a man leans into a green Jaguar and addresses the driver: "Don't you think it's kind of a waste for the two of us …?" She fixes her cat-like eyes on him. "To wander separately?" she finishes. "Ah, but only one is a wanderer. Two together are always going somewhere." He, Detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart), is petrified of heights and pursuing a lead; she, Madeleine (Kim Novak), is the wanderer, the riddle, the pursued.

Rendered in rich Technicolor, shrouded in fog, Alfred Hitchcock's psychological thriller is a stunning tribute to the city by the bay. The director chooses his clues with meticulous ease: A haunting portrait at the Legion of Honor, a kiss overlooking Cypress Point, a fortuitous rescue in the waters of the Golden Gate. The mystery and the metropolis become one and the same-and the view is nothing less than dizzying.

-Stephanie M. Lee

Tags: TRAVEL ISSUE 2010






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