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

Only Lovers Left Alive

"So this is your wilderness...Detroit."  So says Eve to Adam as they drive by night through the moribund Motor City in a white Jaguar.  Only Lovers Left Alive is not, as it happens, an update of the book of Genesis that Jim Jarmusch has overlaid onto the urban wasteland of Detroit.  The action Only Lovers Left Alive occurs by night, as Adam and Eve are vampires.  While they're not the primeval lovers of the Bible, the names do obviously carry significance.  Mr. Jarmusch's eleventh feature is an elegaic one, lamenting not only the tenuous existence of analog recording, lovely old guitars and other beautiful objects, but the looming loss of our very own paradise of a planet.

There would seem a certain inevitability in Detroit if you happen to be a vampire.  What better place to take up residence?  A city built for two million now now home 700,000. It is in significant ways -  figurative and quite literal - a city of night.  Former residential blocks now exist as open…

The Florida Project

Fuuuck you!  Lest we miss these final, flagrant word from Halley (Bria Vinaite) in Sean Baker's The Florida Project, the director practically inserts his camera into roaring mouth of the young woman.   This close close up is both typical of Sean Baker the director and Sean Baker the humanist.  There's arguably not much admirable to be found in Halley, but Baker lets her speak, or shout her piece.  This before The Florida Project at its climax spins off into high and sad irony like a firework into the night sky. 

One of our best and most valuable filmmakers, Mr. Baker continues to present us with the travails of those scrapping at the edges of the American economy and society, or at least those generally beyond the interest of politicians, demographers and the like.  Read many reviews of the The Florida Project and you will regularly be served variations on the word margin.  True enough, many of the characters in Baker's half dozen features operate, in a sense, on the mar…

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three billboards with bold black letters in and an attention-grabbing orange field.  These the work of grieving mother Mildred Hayes, goading local Sheriff Bill Willoughby and his police force to show more initiative in solving the rape and murder of her daughter seven months earlier.

 Three films now for Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, each a kind of blazing billboard in its own right, full of provocation, contrivance, violence, heart and amusement.  Yes, all of that.  Audiences and critics have responded much more enthusiastically to the latest provocation of Mr. McDonagh than most of the residents of the fictional Ebbing, Missouri to those billboards of Mildred.  And yet, skepticism of the film seems even more justified than the disapproval of Ebbing for Mildred's roadside gesture; which is to say - what's the point? 

Accomplished both as a playwright and a filmmaker, Mr. McDonagh is, by his own acknowledgement, more comfortable in the role of the latter. …