Skip to main content

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 gaze out the ample plate glass onto Hawthorne Boulevard on one of those fine California mornings,  sitting among the brash, jutting to be very happy and have greeted the sprawling city on the best of terms.

To continue this relatively gentle ingress into Los Angeles, you might also avoid the clogging artery of the 405 expressway and instead proceed north on La Cienega Boulevard, much as it will throw other culinary and aesthetic temptations before you, like Randy's Donuts.

Something went terribly wrong in this country when we stopped erecting giant roadside figures and foodstuffs.  God bless America!  Randy's Donuts - La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles.

Up La Cienega, along ravines east and west of the sinuous thoroughfare, you'll also see derricks going about their work, one of the many iconic cliches of the city and decades past, which has favored many a film set in Los Angeles as a shorthand of place and usually time.  And yet there they are, like so much about the city - past and present, the real and the unreal superimposed upon one another.  The derricks slowly plying their trade like those toy birds of perpetual motion set to plunge and return from some little reservoir of water, slowly and inexorably dipping, rising, dipping again.


If you find your place of sleep through all the traffic and infinite calls to the already overburdened senses, if you then sleep most of the late afternoon away, how better to enhance the sense of unreality, the heady cocktail of fatigue, displacement and, well, Los Angeles,  then to venture back out for a night of film?

Even better that the strangeness be turbo-charged by an odd East German/Polish sci-fi extravaganza  entitled  First Spaceship on Venus.  The discovery that Earth was visited and nearly destroyed by malicious Venusians in the early 20th century, prompting and international team of eggheads to zoom off to Venus in a ship called the Cosomostrator, which looks more like a pointy, souped-up candelabra than a spacecraft.

All of this occurring at the New Beverly Cinema.  Charmingly stuck in a 60's/70's theater wardrobe of coarse, fairly tacky fabric draped over (presumably) cinder block walls in its broad auditorium.  The New Beverly was saved from redevelopment by none other than Quentin Tarantino in 2007.  In 2014, he took over the programming.  Hence, the generally wondrous parade of nightly double features, projected from actual 35mm film.

Tarrantino's own film output might have veered yet again toward the masturbatory - Hateful Eight offered the seamy prospect of a flasher whipping it out and then sadly unable to get it up - but you have to hand it to the man for his advocacy of film, interesting careers salvaged from the Hollywood scrap heap and the extended life he has granted The New Beverly.

The mission to Venus mainly a success - some good men lost to the hostile environment - the Cosmostrator settles back to Earth. Each of the surviving scientists offer their words of wisdom.   Some are too overcome to say much.  Some impressive shocks of Eastern European hair bounce off into the sunset.  A happy crowd of film geeks is discharged onto Beverly Boulevard and into the Los Angeles night.



Popular posts from this blog

A Most Violent Year

The camelhair coat worn by Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) shines as brilliantly as anything seen in J.C. Chador's A Most Violent Year.  The coat is merely the golden tan of most such garments.  The New York of A Most Violent Year - interior and exterior - pales by comparison.  It's 1981, and a most violent year indeed in and around the great metropolis.  Almost none of  filth of Abel's world - the fuel oil of his business, the frowning elements, dirt kicked up by a vehicle chase - seem to adhere to the impeccable coat.  But as he tries to make a major expansion of his business while attempting to fend off the grip and violence of gangsterism one one side and encroaching law enforcment on the other, the poised, well dressed man is sorely pressed to keep himself clean in the most profound of respects.

A Most Violent Year is a sprawling American story told revealing small.  The canvas is certainly large, even if spread with muted color.  Much of the action of the film takes place…

The Babadook

"I'll soon take off my funny disguise....And once you see what's're going to wish you were dead!"  And hello to you, too!  The rather dire warning comes from "Mr. Babadook" through the agency of a very persistent children's book that bears name of the monster.  Thus, The Babadook, writer and director Jennifer Kent's creepy and assured feature film debut.  Is the Babadook real? Merely a projection, a top-hatted fiend from a children's book that sets off a couple of already febrile minds?  Or perhaps...we have seen the monster and it is us?   
Ms. Kent demonstrates a very sure hand and supple knowledge of film history, the latter manifesting itself in  the action of The Babadook, the film's set design and a particular channel to which the television of Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis) seems permanently tuned, showing everything from the fantastical early cinema of George Melies to the more colorful exploits of Italian horror …


After a less than rousing speaking engagement at a local elementary school, Olympic gold medal wrestler Mark Schultz returns to his compact car and heads home, first stopping at a fast food restaurant, one of whose greasy offerings we seem him greedily scarf.  Home is a second floor apartment in one those mock Tudor apartment buildings whose fooling nobody pretense of exposed timbers against whitewashed walls herald the flimsy construction and dreary rooms to be found within.  Mark Schultz occupies one such ill-lit dwelling, a wall of which is dominated by a shelving unit devoted to the wrestler's many ribbons, medals and trophies.  The most prized, of course, being that Olympic gold that he returns to a central place of honor in its box, almost petting the memento as if to apologize for the affront it faced at school.  
Despite his lofty position in the sport of wrestling, Mark Schultz's life could hardly involve less fanfare, less luxury, as seen early on in Foxcatcher.  It …