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Showing posts from 2017

Baby Driver

B-A-B-Y-DRI-VER!  Edgar Wright's sixth film has arrived in the summer of 2017 with all the insistence and irresistibility of a great pop song.  Already in his splashy career the Englishman has written better tunes than this. And yet Baby Driver pulses with more precision and originality of expression than most of his contemporaries can approach at their best.   Resist if you dare.  As summer fare goes, fast, furious and not lobotomized is hard to pass up.
Wright has apparently had the notion for Baby Driver bouncing around in that energetic mind of his since the 1990s.  You can see a version of the film's first scene in a music video for Mint Royale's "Blue Song" Wright directed in 2003.  The super kinetic action is certainly a perfect fit for the writer/director's crisp editing, wit and inimitable unison of sound and action.
Baby Driver both charges from the start line and yet saves it feeling for character and emotion for a bit later.  Here one of the way t…

Cinerama

If you find yourself in Los Angeles with no more pressing decisions than where you shall take your first meal of the day, which film you will see and where...if you are the beneficiary of this unaccountable good fortune, you better get out there and try to live the day as well as you can.

So you trail along the controlled jungle of your motel's courtyard, various of the guests placed about a metal patio table or contentedly prostrate in pool deck chairs beneath the strengthening sun.  You pass through the vestibule of this establishment that could write pulp novels with what it has seen and emerge through the motel's curiously plantation-like facade (the face whitewashed, a broad expanse of porch and a row of imposing, unfluted columns).  Into the the Los Angeles morning!  Well, the late morning at least.  
You emerge again from the Hollywood and Vine Metro station and decide as the day's voyage is beginning you will seek augury in the stars set into the walkway beneath y…

Palace

You buy a "Tap" card and proceed down into the Hollywood/Western Metro station.  And you can't help thinking that sardined New York commuters would swoon to have this much room as they go about their rounds about Manhattan.  
Yes, it's all quite tidy and comfortable as you take the Red Line downtown, emerging into the gentle light of early evening at Pershing Square.  You walk down 5th street, a gentle serpentine through the homeless, or those that would appear to be homeless, lingering or drifting on the sidewalk.  Like them, you gape briefly at the requisite film shoot taking place in an alley of the north side of the street.  And then, across Main Street and into Skid Row - in Los Angeles, this is actually a legally defined area.  Despite the city's decades-long attempts to clear the inhabitants of Skid Row like so much rubbish, a homeless population in the thousands persists.  But where sanitizing government has failed, economics might well succeed.  Downtow…

Los Feliz

A perfectly natural first outing when on vacation in Los Angeles is to explore the abandoned zoo in Griffith Park.  Just as your first morning in the city some 15 years ago included an initial stop at the gift shop of the L.A. County Morgue.  As the morning's tide of traffic relentlessly sweeps west on Los Feliz Boulevard, you're happy to be moving against the tide, up Crystal Springs Drive and into the arid, hilly expanse of Griffith Park.   
The Griffith Park Zoo was closed in 1966 in favor of the Los Angeles Zoo, a bit farther north in the park.  The animal enclosures, built right into the hillsides, were left behind, bars now (mainly) keeping humans out and not keeping animals in, a far more humane arrangement as it happens.  
Now the abandoned zoo is a good place to hike a bit, pic-a-nic, or leave your graffiti mark.



And while you're winding your way back to Los Feliz and Hollywood, why not loop around Silverlake, the actual reservoir that gives the neighborhood its n…

Cinefamily

Yes, the California Days.  An endless parade of perfection, replete with brilliant azure, served up almost daily.  And the sunsets, of course.  The twilights.  Rendered by all manner of artist, most of whom, alas, might deserve to be starving.  But rather less is said about night in the Los Angeles basin.

It's simply darker.  Perhaps they just don't have as many streetlights as we do in Chicago, as are planted in Manhattan.  But it's more than that.  Darkness lurks and envelopes this place when you get clear of the klieg lights, actual and mainly figurative.  Here where everything ever done by man and woman to defy age, gravity, climate...where the reversal of every unpleasant manifestation of life has been assayed.  The desert night waits and crashes down, rendering all that hopeful, well-lit striving particularly futile, nightmarishly false.  All of which makes fertile ground indeed for the poet that is David Lynch.  That particularly American clash of darkness and ligh…

New Beverly

If you land at LAX bleary-eyed, intensely sleep deprived and - to maintain this overheated tone - ravenously hungry after a jarringly early flight from Chicago, it might be your temptation to jump in your rental car and make a beeline to points north, Hollywood or wherever you might be bound.  It might well be your temptation in such a state to throw your arms around the first drive-thru you encounter.  Heaven knows your arms and your stomach are all too familiar with such dubious embraces (and yet if to love the drive-thru is wrong, perhaps we do not want to be right, a part of your mind stubbornly contends).
But if you proceed instead east and a couple of miles south through some of the working class neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, you might come on a Googie vision called Chips.

To sit in this impeccably operated joint of a weekday morning and have a large breakfast served to you, nary a hipster in sight amongst the clientele going quietly and happily about their business, to g…

Toni Erdmann

The man hardly needs face paint.  Or a wig.  Or fake teeth.  He certainly doesn't need to appear as a nine-foot mountain of hair to make a strong impression.  The shaggy bear that is Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is singular enough in appearance, in overall presence, to do without props.  But what fun would that be?  When an opportunity for mischief presents itself, when faced with an expression of bullshit, a moment of boredom or uncertainty, out come the antic teeth.  At such times, the man's already considerable visage, replete with expressive potential - jutting jaw lines that sweep down to his emphatic chin like the prow of a great ship, dark eyebrows beneath the mop of grey hair of such variable and indicating personality that they should probably be credited among the cast of Toni Erdmann - at such times, that great face can be rendered comic, demonic, or any number of shades between. 
Long though she has known him, Ines (Sandra Huller) isn't at all sure what…

Personal Shopper

Not so easy living meaningfully in this material world. Harder still if you're alternately seeking out and haunted by restless spirits of whatever realms that might exist beyond our apparent everyday reality. Such is the quandary of Maureen (Kristen Stewart), going about Paris by motor scooter, given access to nether worlds of high fashion and spirits in limbo - each shimmering, alluring its way, each gaping with emptiness, even menace.
This is the second consecutive film from Olivier Assays - himself something of a restless, shifting spirit - in which which a drifting, nebulous presence draws its main character. In Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) it was the "Maloja Snake," a cloud formation meandering its sublime way through an Alps mountain pass by morning that draws a visiting actress (Juliette Binoche) to its presence. Both "Sils Maria" and Personal Shopper feature Ms. Stewart as a personal assistant to exalted women. Just as the former was written with La…