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Showing posts from 2017


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…


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 …


Paterson is everywhere in Jim Jarmusch's twelfth feature film.  There is the title, of course.  It is also the name of the film's bus-driver-by-day-poet-by-night-main character.  The New Jersey City is  the title and subject of the five-volume epic poem by William Carlos Williams, the poet and book(s) mentioned on several occasions in the film.  As Paterson, the man (Adam Driver) walks to and from his bus garage in a warren of old industrial buildings, we see the city name spelled out across some venerable old brick on a clearly visible ghost sign.  The driver's bus flows through the streets of the city as if conveyed through its very blood.  Teem as it might with the real New Jersey City, Jim Jarmusch has, as usual, created a place that is of the world and mainly not.  With this particular piece of work, at this particular time in America, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  
Mr. Jarmusch's films often exist in a kind of reverie, but the dream, the vision, is a…