Art

Extra! Extra! A Very Midori Thanksgiving! Ticket Giveaway!

midori-299x300Thanksgiving. The word itself seems like an oxy-moron, especially in LA. Here we are used to saying thanks for getting, and any gift we give should rightfully come with its proper reward in return. And this is all well and good for a city that was built on pure opportunism, but when does this type of self-centered thinking—as opposed to communal—hurt us creatively?

Take the ever-growing Mustaches for Kids craze, for instance: it’s a wildly creative organization whereby volunteers grow mustaches in order to raise money for children’s charities. The thing is that the institution, which is now nation-wide (I even saw filmmaker Darren Aronofsky sporting a mustache), was borne out of Los Angeles. It was started by three friends in a reality TV-show production office who all thought it would be fun to grow mustaches for a month (an act of true creativity, in my opinion). However, despite its success, Mustaches for Kids really took off when it hit New York, the city now considered to be the center of the organization. And there’s only one reason for this re-location: creative pursuits (i.e. no profit involved), whether it be growing mustaches for charity or painting pictures or playing music or putting on plays, etc. can only thrive in a community of supporters.

This is not to say that Los Angeles is completely bereft of such support. In fact, one of the most charitable, not to mention talented, violinists working today, Midori, is based out of LA, and she is performing alongside pianist Robert McDonald at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this Sunday, November 21 at 7:30 PM. Only 28-years-old,  Midori was a musical prodigy sprouting from Japan, who quickly rose to international acclaim, and is now widely recognized as one of the top violinists in the world. But it is her incredible charity work that has truly carved her reputation as an artist. Not only an established educator at USC, she personally founded four different community-centered organizations—Midori & Friends, Partners in Performance, Orchestra Residencies Program, and Music Sharing—beginning the first one when she was just 10-years-old and is still actively involved in all four.

So in the spirit of Midori, and to show our thanks for her giving, we are, in turn, giving away a pair of tickets to see her perform on Sunday night. Not only that, but we are adding in the bonus prize of a pair of tickets to see legendary bass-baritone Bryn Terfel the next night, Monday, November 22nd at 8:00 PM, same location. All you have to do is enter your first name, last name and e-mail address into th form below, and you will automatically be entered into the running to receive both pairs of tickets, and be eligible to win our next three ticket giveaways. Happy Thanksgiving, from Fine Arts LA!

- By Joshua Morrison

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Reverse Discovery

44303_429030174317_267386114317_4742142_5663448_nA friend of mine and sometime contributor to this site Helen Kearns recently introduced me to the site, www.whosampled.com, a pretty amazing operation whereby you can look up an artist or title of a song, and the search engine supplies you with a catalog of other recordings that artist/song sampled and vice versa. The site is clearly still growing, and definitely doesn’t have every musician or track you can think of. But it is symbolic of an interesting trend I’m seeing more and more in contemporary music: reverse discovery.

It’s different than nostalgia in that often one reverse-discovers music they’ve never heard before, and instead of the present reminding them of the past, it’s the past reminding them of the present. What I believe this is leading to in the music industry (and entertainment industry) at large is the reissue of old recordings, not ones that were once popular Billboard hits, but ones that may have may have silently slipped through the cliched cracks of mainstream culture.

In fact, this is already happening on a small scale. One of my newest favorite albums, for instance, Air Over Water by Wall Matthews and Rusty Clark was released this year, but all the tracks featured were originally recorded from 1974 to 1986, the year Clark passed away. Chances are you probably haven’t heard of this album or these musicians, unless you reverse-discovered them through the popular British DJ, Four Tet, who illegally sampled their song “Neptune Rising” in his “She Moves She” (a fact not found on whosampled.com).

Matthew’s and Clark’s music is hardly irrelevant or untimely, however. They just happened to be performing and recording a few decades before vocal-less acoustic and “Imagistic”—to use a word from the subtitle of the album, “Imagistic Music for Guitar and Violin”—were readily available outside of coffee shops and experimental dance troupes.

To be fair, the name of the album does sound like an Enya-esque meditation soundtrack (though Enya is vastly underrated in my opinion, and has most likely enjoyed some reverse-discovery herself). But the actual music has no electronics, no singing, and with the exception of a few tracks, sticks to just two instruments. It could be dubbed minimalist if it were not for the full and entrenching landscapes these two instruments create.

The first song of the album, “The Two Snails Who Went to the Funeral of a Dead Leaf” is a brash, Indian-inflected violin solo from Rusty Clark, a call to the wild that dances between Philip Glass-like repetitions and something more raw and untamed. The level of musicianship is clearly marked high from the very beginning, and maintains the kind of virtuosic intensity you simply don’t hear that much these days outside of a symphony.

The second track, “Gypsies,” inaugurates the guitar-and-violin duets, which make up most of the album. And they are truly duets. The two instruments trade off positions of melody and landscape many times within a single song, and almost imperceptibly.  Matthews finger-picks his guitar in fast, clear, ringing tones, reminiscent of Nick Drake, but with more complexity and variety. Meanwhile, Clark leads his violin through a veritable wonderland of genres, from medieval-court-like fare to free jazz to pop to what, in “Alabama Sketches” and “The Clowns,” I can only describe as pastoral dread.

It’s tempting to call the songs on Air Over Water cinematic, because they are so visual, but then again, the music is what dominates here, and I’m not sure if would work taken into the soundtrack of a movie. What Wall and Rusty did, instead, and what feels more natural, was use it for dancers—a far more interpretive arena of expression that, like the instrumentation itself, works with (rather than on top of or below) the sounds.

“The Clowns” is a quick favorite for any new listener to Matthews and Clark. It’s ostensibly simple, with a clear, defined structure, and brings to mind a comforting type of rustic domesticity. But there’s also a creeping suspicion in it, and the repetition becomes and integral part of what ultimately makes the piece so haunting.

“The Blue Heart” introduces the first bits of piano into the mix, a welcome addition, especially with its combination of music-box simplicity and dissonant jazz. It a beautiful imbalance dancing with with innocent, would-be major key melody. It borders on the noir—a dangerous and flirtatious seduction between two ballroom waltzers.

Whereas the album began with a triumphant violin solo from Clark, the album ends with an unassuming “Little Piece” by Matthews, just him on guitar, gently leading the listener out of his world, at least for now. I began to realize, then, how the idea of reverse-discovery might be inherent in some music, how even when Wall and Rusty were recording these works back in the 70’s and 80’s, they weren’t just doing it for that specific time. They were inviting an entire future, real or imagined, to experience and discover their unique vibrations.

- By Joshua Morrison

If you wish to reverse-discover more, you should definitely check out Matthews’s Riding Horses, Heart of Winter, Zen Gardens, Color of Dusk, and Gathering the World, as well as the work of the Entourage Music and Theatre Ensemble.

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Extra! Extra! Zacharias! Zacharias! Ticket Giveaway to LA Phil!

WDCH-ImageOccasionally a friend—and even more occasionally, a date—will get in the passenger seat of my car and I’ll turn on the radio. Like most LA commuters, I spend most of my car-time alone, with the windows up, free to listen to whatever cool or un-cool music I  please, and the probability of the radio being tuned into Classical KUSC is quite high. For me, classical music is choice on a long trip down the 10 if only because it’s so unfathomable. Most pop and hip-hop music, though enjoyable and satisfying its own right, I can deconstruct. I can imagine the songwriting process, and in my limited musical ability, fathom the instrumentation. There’s little wonder involved; it’s more nostalgia and/or primal reaction.

But for most friends or dates, the mere sound of strings without vocals or brass without beat incites a confused reaction. They look at me like I’m a pretentious ass, as if just before they entered the car, I had switched the radio station to KUSC, then turned it off so as to trick them into thinking how cultured I really am.

The truth is I am just as confused as they are. Listening to classical music is a slow and constant learning process, at least for me, and I often struggle with what makes these so-called masters—these Beethovens, the Bachs, these Mozarts—what makes them so good. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I went to my first symphony voluntarily, that I realized the answer: you have to see it live.

And fortunately for you, our dear and patient reader, FineArtsLA is giving you that chance—for free, no less—to experience all three of the big names listed above (well, almost) in one night. This Saturday, October 30th, 8:00 PM at Walt Disney Music Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, world-renowned conductor and celebrated pianist Christian Zacharias leads the LA Philharmonic and mega-mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in a program featuring all music composed within 53 years.  Mozart’s “Ch’io mi scordi di te?“, C.P.E Bach’s “Keyboard Concerto in D Minor,” and Beethoven’s “Suite from The Creatures of Prometheus” make up the bill. All you have to do is enter your first name, last name, and e-mail address into the form below, and you will be eligible to receive two free tickets to this event (as well as be automatically entered into the running for our next three ticket giveaways).

This way, when your friend or date gives you that confused look when you turn on the radio to KUSC, you can simply say, “This is Beethoven. The music we’re headed to go see.”

- By Joshua Morrison

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An Accidental Rave

As a wannabe writer  in Los Angeles who also dabbles in critique, it’s hard not to go see a local theatre production of a really good original play by a really good young playwright, and not get jealous—especially when the playwright is sitting directly behind you. It is even harder to try and write about said jealousy of said playwright in a Hollywood coffee house when you just ordered your vegan chicken sandwich and she walks in the front door, causing your fingers to scramble down the touch-pad mouse of your laptop in time to minimize her headshot displayed overtly on your monitor (not kidding). The name of my apparent stalker is Leslye Headland, and her latest play, which she also directed, is called The Accidental Blonde, an IAMA Theatre production that opened at the Elephant Theatre on October 8th and runs until November 7th.

But back to my jealousy—a fine emotion to cradle when by your lonesome in a dark theatre, critic’s writing pad on the ready, but not when you’re within they eye-shot of the object of your jealousy. Self-consciousness, at this point, takes charge. And so it was with me on a Friday night performance of The Accidental Blonde, amidst a generous theatre crowd, as I sat and read about the woman whose eyes I imagined looming over me like the glowing eye-glasses billboard in The Great Gatsby.

Leslye, as I nervously found out, was not only an accomplished playwright but a hard-working and ambitious one (fuck that). The Accidental Blonde is the sixth installment in her “Seven Deadly Plays” series, each one dealing with a different sin, and all within the context of a young, modern-day scenario (honestly, what kind of asshole doesn’t just give up after the first two?) Not only that, but she currently works on the FX show Terriers, and is in the development phase of creating a pilot for HBO based on Julie Klausner’s memoir I Don’t Care About Your Band, as produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (both over-the-hill, if you ask me).

The house-lights dimmed (finally, as I could then efficiently scribble down my biting critiques in relative anonymity), and the stage lights went up on two women, Veronica and Lucy, as played respectively by Katie Lowes and Sarah Utterback. What followed was a tightly-scribed dual monologue scene—Veronica at her therapist and Lucy into the off-stage camera of a reality cooking show starring her. While Veronica complains about her obsessive envy over her one-time roommate’s—Lucy’s—newfound fame, Lucy shoots off take after take of practiced on-screen “confessionals,” each one more falsely modest than the next. What’s interesting about the scene is that the two could almost be responding to one another in their separate speeches, yet not in a forced, showy kind of way. The scene does what, in my mind, all first scenes should do: it establishes the tone and theme of the entire play in a succinct, grabbing fashion. Five minutes in, one could already name the deadly sin to be explored throughout: envy.

I have to admit, at this point, I figured the dual-dialogue was a bit of a gimmick. I’d seen it done before many-a-times—I’d even tried it myself on occasion—and one introductory vignette done in this style would most certainly prove to be unnecessary by the end, right?

Not right. Often what separates a gimmick from a genuine point-of-view is simply commitment. And whether I liked it or not, Leslye committed. The entire play, with minor exceptions, was done in split-screen, or split-stage. It could very well have been two plays, one concerning Lucy and her venture into reality-show stardom; the other dealing with Veronica and her overwhelming dissatisfaction with her “normal” life as mirrored through the paparazzi lens of her ex-roommate.

I hate to go too much into plot detail—you should really see it for yourself—but suffice to say, about halfway through, I completely forgot Leslye was sitting right behind me. The right-brain/left-brain conceit bounced back and forth like a tennis match, and when, later on in the play, the two halves began to mesh, began to share props and glances, I was reminded of David Foster Wallace at his best, when it seems as though multiple thought patterns are coinciding, even reacting against one another.

To pull off this type of stunt requires more than the occasional Juno-style quip—and there were a few. It takes good direction, and even better acting. Katie Lowes, especially, reveals herself to be ugly in the part of Veronica, something not many actors can do with class. Even when Lowes straight-up masturbates on stage, she keeps it quiet (in the grander sense of the word). She plays the reality of the character rather than that of the actress, which is an incredibly difficult task in front of  alive audience. Sarah Utterback, too, aside from the small gripe I have with her on-stage cooking skills (I’ve worked in kitchens), is quite believable as a bewildered fifteen-minute famer coming to grips with the ticking clock on her celebrity. I was also impressed with Dean Cechvala, the slacker Editor of his father’s magazine, who manages to extinguish the superficial outer-layer of Lucy’s personality, at once making her more human, as well as humiliated.

When the house lights came up once again at the end of the play, I was left with an odd sense of nostalgia for my pre-show envy. The show was terrific and more than worthy of the applause it garnered, but when I looked back at Leslye once more before exiting the theatre, I didn’t feel like writing about her. Because I knew I could only really say good job.

- By Joshua Morrison

IAMA Theatre Presents The Accidental Blonde runs until November 7th at the Elephant Theatre in Hollywood. For more information, please visit www.iamatheatre.com.

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Drawing Deanna Petherbridge

Image29Is it absurdly presumptuous to assert that almost all art—at least in the strictest, most conscious sense of the word (after all, breathing and eating and suckling milk from a breast could all be done artistically)—starts with drawing?  The earliest forms of recorded human communication are in the forms of drawings, whether they be in caves or Egyptian tombs, and often the earliest memories of a great artist are with ink and paper. What is drawing? What really distinguishes it from painting? Is the former just the skeleton of the latter, and if so, who decides when the bones give way to flesh?

Author, artist, critic, curator, professor, lecturer, and Brit, Deanna Petherbridge has spent the majority of her professional life—which includes numerous exhibitions all over the world, an enviable list of residencies at prestigious universities, and notable works of criticism in all sorts of major publications—thinking about drawing. Her latest book, The Primacy of Drawing: Histories and Theories of Practice (as published by the Yale University Press with support from LA’s own Metabolic Studio) not only gives an exhaustive account of Western art history through the lens of the drawing, but also examines the art-form as a vital tool toward problem-solving.

Petherbridge is speaking at LACE this Thursday, October 21 at 7 PM, sketching out (bad pun intended?) some of the main concepts that are detailed in her book. Having only read one of her essays before, I, for one, highly recommend hitting Hollywood Blvd. after work to see her. She has a way of coming off as academic and passionate at the same time; like the best of Freud’s works, both extensively thought-out and curious.

I believe this stems from Petherbridge’s dual role as artist and critic, a sometimes paradoxical cast that LACE has been exploring in their on-going Salon Series, in which artists of differing minds and mediums host events in order to connect more directly with their audience. Her essay “Meditations On a Dirty Word,” for instance, takes time to account for the “deskilled” talents of Jean Dubuffet, Cy Twombly, Basquiat or Tracey Emin, while still, in a sense, arguing for the importance of training in art. Basically—if I may perform a brash and inept summary—Petherbridge believes in the co-existence of skill-based education and ‘genius.’ Active audience and artist.

Nowhere is this duality of skill and individuality more relevant than in drawing. Because embedded within drawing is a kind of mimesis. Take those early cave depictions of animals and body parts, or the human-like hieroglyphs. Drawing, even in the word itself, involves some sort of borrowing (or stealing). Does this mean that the best borrowers are also the best drawers? And if so, where does originality fit in? More questions. More questions. Maybe Petherbridge can provide some relief.

- By Joshua Morrison

LACE is located at  6522 Hollywood Blvd. For more information on Deanna Petherbridge and the Salon Series, please visit www.welcometolace.org.

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Phantom Disappears Into the Night

Phantom-and-ChristineThe idea of life without Phantom of the Opera is almost as unbelievable as a deformed miscreant in a 19th Century English opera house teaching classical vocal technique to one of the ballet’s mediocre but beautiful dancers.  Yet, that is what makes it a thrilling fantasy. The Phantom of the Opera can’t go anywhere. It can’t say goodbye—that’s impossible.  It is one of the most beloved and celebrated musicals of all time.  Its eerily haunting music, dramatic 19th Century set design, and iconic romance story can’t possible bid us farewell.  Phantom is to the theater what hot dogs are to baseball.  It’s a classic. It’s a staple. It’s so much a part of musical theater that it has become a part of our mainstream sonic culture.  It is blasted out of elevator speakers and played at so many people’s weddings that most of us tend to roll our eyes and classify it as cheeseball.  But that’s not Phantom’s fault! We are to blame for taking something captivating and special and playing it ad nauseum. I have always defended Phantom and will continue to go to bat for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s most successful musical until the day I die.   When I saw the “Farewell” posters flanking Wilshire Blvd, I got excited rather than sad, and I toted my boyfriend (a Phantom virgin) with me to Hollywood’s Pantages Theater.Ever since its 1986 debut in London’s West End, the story about a brilliant, disfigured, and mysterious musical genius’ obsession with a young, gorgeous and recently sexually awakened soprano has mesmerized and shocked audiences.  The combination of the story (drawn from Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra), Charles Hart’s sexy and sensitive lyrics, and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s gorgeous compositions, have made Phantom Broadway’s longest running musical ever. If you have never seen this show (like my opening night companion), do yourself a favor and experience it for the first time. Seeing it again through my boyfriend’s eyes brought me back to the first time that I fell head over heels for this mother of all musicals.

The show begins with an auction of opera house antiques—residual evidence of something traumatic from the past.  The action begins when the auctioneer calls out Lot #666, the house’s signature chandelier.  Something supernatural sparks the lamp into light, and the elegantly oppressive chandelier rises into the air, above the audience, in its original, breathtaking glory.  The constraints of time are removed, and as a collective whole, the audience is transported back to when innocence was lost, hearts were broken, and the unbelievable happened.

As soon as the chandelier lights up the stage, the show moves at breakneck speed, and the action doesn’t stop until curtain call.  This may be one of the quickest-moving shows I’ve ever seen.  Even if you’re one of those people that think of the theater as a good napping place, you can be assured that the non-stop entertainment will keep you awake.

Christine Daae (Trista Moldovan), the heroine of the musical, makes her singing debut in the signature song “Think of Me” after the opera’s lead soprano, Carolotta (Kim Stengel), becomes emotionally distressed when the stage backdrop mysteriously collapses.  Christine, we learn, has a vocal coach she’s never met that she calls “the Angel of Music”—but who she knows is indeed the storied Phantom.  She sings, and everyone is so impressed with her talent that nobody misses Carlotta—except for me, the real person, in the real audience, in the real world. Christine’s voice should be crystal clear and pitch perfect in the world of Phantom, but Trista Moldovan was often airy, flat, or sharp when she needed to be perfection. The Angel of Music is her coach for pete’s sake.

The best voice in this production belongs to Christine’s amour, Raoul (Sean MacLaughlin). Every note he sang was pure beauty, and there were many times that I wished that he had been cast as the Phantom (unfortunately played by word-slurring Tim Martin Gleason).  A voice like MacLaughlin’s should be heard more.  Raoul was my angel of music, and the ladies I talked to in the bathroom line during intermission unanimously agreed.  No wonder Christine fell in love with him. I almost did too.

As the story progresses, we start to realize that the Phantom is completely insane. We learn that Phantom is a musical prodigy and brilliant magician who was born with a disgustingly deformed face and escaped from a traveling freak show where he was abused and ridiculed most of his life.  Phantom’s attempts to woo Christine by kidnapping her and holding her captive in his sewer-lair prove fruitless.  Phantom’s life-size doll of Christine in a wedding gown is a major no-no in getting a girl to like you.  Perhaps in Victorian England people were a bit more forward, but good grief that was creepy.  As Christine’s youthful curiosity takes hold of her, she rips off the Phantom’s mask, and the audience learns that to call the Phantom emotionally unstable would be a gross understatement.  As he lies on the floor, reaching out to Christine for compassion and acceptance, you realize that Phantom just yearns to look normal and be loved, and Lloyd Weber’s beautiful music demands that your heartstrings be panged.

Christine longs for a life with a man that can give her a future, a man who lives among other men, a path that is more accepted: she wants the pretty boy, not the Phantom.  Trista Moldovan’s duet with Sean MacLaughlin in “All I Ask of You”  is a highlight of the show—not because of the song, which of course is stunning, but because of MacLaughlin’s flawless performance.  The omnipresent Phantom learns that his flame is hot for another.  Of course, being a total psychopath and outcast, he is unable to deal with feelings in any rational or productive way, so he goes batshit crazy and wills the chandelier to plunge dangerously over the audience.  It’s on.

The second act moves so quickly that your head whirls. Traps are laid, deceptions are had, and the conflict builds to a subterranean showdown between Christine, Raoul, Phantom, and the Victorian equivalent of a SWAT team. In the end, surrounded by police and with capture apparently inevitable, Phantom fools us again, disappearing into the night and leaving only his ivory mask.

I went to the Pantages Theater with every intention but to say farewell to this passionate, spirited, and deeply layered show.  Go fall in love all over again, but don’t ever say goodbye. Phantom should not—and will not—go anywhere.  As long as musicals are playing and people are attending the theater, there will be a place for Phantom. It is indeed the angel of musical theater.

-By Brittany Krasner

The Phantom of the Opera is playing at the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd. through Halloween (October 31st).  For tickets and more information, please visit www.pantages-theater.com.

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Extra! Extra! An Angel Spreads His Wings and You Win Tickets!

Corella-GKPD-logoI once read somewhere that the job of the ballet dancer was to create the illusion of weightless-ness—an earthly angel floating and spinning above the ground, free from gravity’s shackles.

Fortunately for the Corella Ballet Castilla Y León, a young but internationally acclaimed ballet company from Spain, they have an Angel looking after them. Ángel Corella that is. A principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Corella returned to his home country in 2001 to start the kind of institution that simply did not exist when he was growing up: a classical dance school, and more importantly, an affiliated Spanish-based company for the students to aspire to. The school, called La Foundación Ángel Corella, is now almost ten-year-old and teaches everything from technique to history to lighting design. The company, however, is only about three years old, as it took Ángel (a legitimate star in the ballet world), along with his family, approximately eight years of “extremely hard work” to get it off the ground. Initial auditions were held back in 2007 before the company even had the money the support themselves.

Many were dubious of Angel’s ability to sustain a successful ballet company, especially out of Spain, and amidst a tanking global economy. But today, the Corella Ballet Castilla Y León has 45 dancers, most of them Spanish in origin, and is widely considered to be one of the most exciting troupes performing in the world. In a sense, Angel is just doing his job by providing the illusion of weightless-ness.

So to show our support, FineArtsLA is giving away two tickets to see the West Coast debut of the Corella Ballet Castilla Y León, only their second appearance in North America on Saturday, November 6th at 7:30 PM at the Ahmanson Theatre. Among the pieces to be performed are Soleá—a pas de deux choreographed by flamenco legend María Pagés, which stars Ángel and his sister Carmen—a couple of contemporary works by Christopher Wheeldon, Stanton Welch’s Clear, and the Bruch Violín Concerto Nº1 as choreographed by the award-winning Clark Tippet. All you have to do is enter your first and last name into the form below, along with your e-mail address, and you will automatically be in the running to win not only these tickets, but also our next three give-aways (not bad). Just consider us your guardian Ángels (okay, that was bad).

- By Joshua Morrison

The Corella Ballet Castilla Y León performs at the Ahmanson from November 5-7. For more information, please visit www.musiccenter.org.

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Night of the Demons, Fest of the Scream’ns

If downtown Hollywood wasn’t a horror show already, now it is. The 10th annual Screamfest began this past weekend at the Hollywood and Highland Center, and for once, the homeless Michael Jackson impersonators weren’t the only ones in costume. The goths, the geeks, the girls with dragon tatoos…they came out in droves on Friday night for the premiere film of the fest, Night of the Demons, a remake of the 1988 Kevin S. Tenney horror flick, this one directed by Adam Gierasch.

I too made my may to the Mann Chinese Theatre on Friday, not just to leer at the bursting bosoms of B-movie scream-queens, but to see the kinds of cinematic staples any good cult horror film demands: irrational plot-lines, flash-cuts of demonic puppets, a gluttony of gore and fake boobs, and of course, at least one spooky mirror scene. Night of the Demons did not disappoint on any of these counts.

If the plot could be summed up in a semi-logical manner (which it can’t), this is maybe how it would sound: Loopy, goth-chick Angela (Shannon Elizabeth) rents out a haunted New Orleans mansion and throws a massive Halloween bash. Party gets broken up by cops, but seven random stragglers (four of whom happen to have past romantic entanglements) remain behind. It’s only when this horny crew of attractive 20-somethings—with the exception of a rather bloated Edward Furlong—realize the gates have mysteriously been locked that things get weird. Angela and Colin (Furlong) stumble upon a coterie of decayed skeletons in the basement (seven to be exact), and as is wont to happen anytime anyone sticks a digit in the jaw of a skeleton, Angela gets her finger bitten. It’s not long before the skeleton bite takes its toll and Angela transforms into a demon, complete with jaundiced eyes, horns, pasty skin, and worms for vomit. (Note: to morph temporarily back into human form, a demon hast only to wobble their head like a baffled Looney Tunes character). Angela gets the hang of her demonization, and quickly goes on the hunt for converts. Her method of seduction: sex, sex and more sex. One make-out session, one lesbian  tryst, and one uncomfortable insertion later, all but three of the house-mates are demons.

The remainder of the movie is basically a string of punk-fueled demon fights with brief interludes of non-sensical back-story (basically, the demons need seven souls to effectively destroy the WORLD). That is not to say the viewing experience was anything less than a blast though. The filmmakers are quite familiar with their territory, and often exploit their own narrative pitfalls in the name of comedy. Action-sequences are filmed with the chaotic energy of a mosh-pit, and Furlong, despite his girth, delivers a great performance.

To me, Night of the Demons, and Screamfest in general, represent an important part of cinema. It’s the fun part, the visceral part, the part that makes you clap out loud in the middle of a scene, the part that knows something gross is going to pop out of that mirror any second but still gets scared when it happens. It’s the part that wants to share the experience with another person, even if it’s a dark theatre full of curious outcasts like you.

- By Joshua Morrison

The 10th Annual Screamfest runs until the 17th. For more information on Screamfest and the upcoming films on schedule, please visit www.screamfestla.com, or call 310-358-3273.

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The Man-Child, All Grown Up

After a stunted Lothario gets his testicles hacked off by a trumpet, will he ever find happiness? Barry Munday, directed by Chris D’Arienzo, is the latest entry into the “manchild grows up when he has a baby” genre, and is unremarkable, except for Barry himself. Played by an excellent Patrick Wilson, Barry is the kind of loser whom you’ve probably met before. He has a girlfriend who hates him, works in a depressing office where he hits on his secretary, and still gets wasted with his best and only real friend, Donald (Shea Whigham). Despite his general failure at life, Barry Munday still thinks he’s pretty great, until he literally loses his cojones.

But not to worry. Right after Barry’s crisis, he conveniently realizes he has fathered a baby with a shrewish woman named Ginger Farley, who hates Barry’s guts and wants nothing to do with him. Played by Judy Greer, usually typecast in Hollywood as the lovable and kooky assistant (see The Wedding Planner, 27 Dresses), Ginger often edges toward the hysteria of an SNL character. Wearing oversized jumpsuits and 80’s glasses, she crinkles her forehead and grunts and grumbles through pregnancy, directing all of her antipathy and anxiety towards Barry. “You’re not the one who has to feel like your breasts are two bags of wet sand!” she hisses at him when he tries to show his support. Ginger is a caricature of an undesirable woman, so it’s puzzling as to why the sexist Barry would suddenly pursue her. Barry’s quick change of tune, from hapless narcissist to doting father, doesn’t completely make sense, and he doesn’t thoroughly explain himself.

The real problem with “Barry Munday” is that it feels like a mash-up of several different movies, while not achieving the continuity of any of them: the lost manchild theme from Knocked Up, the low production value and 70’s nostalgia of Napoleon Dynamite, the schlock of Meet the Parents and slapstick cheese of Father of the Bride. There are too many characters with half-baked subplots: Chloë Sevigny as Ginger’s blonde stripper sister; Jean Smart as Barry’s half-baked hippie mother; Shea Whigham as Barry’s best friend who enters air-guitar contests and wins trophies; a support group for men with unusual private parts, including one who pees out of his anus.

But thankfully, the movie really belongs to Patrick Wilson. Looking pudgy in striped polo shirts, with stringy brown hair and a receding hairline, he disappears into the role, showing a knack for physical comedy while being empathetic and believable. His performance compensates for several holes in the plot and pacing of the film. Tonally, the movie has an identity crisis, but at the center of it all is Barry Munday, who is so adorable and pathetic, you can’t help but root for him to end up happy, even if you don’t care what happens to anyone else.

- By Cassandra McGrath

Barry Munday opened in selected theatres on October 1st. For more information, please visit www.barrymundayfilm.com.

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Extra! Extra! Win Tickets to See Angel City Jazz Festival!

Wadada_Leo_SmithThere’s a famous quote from Miles Davis addressed to the younger, dynastic, neo-traditionalist jazz musician/composer Wynton Marsalis; he simply asked, “Didn’t we do it right the first time?”

Davis was referring to the newest movement in jazz at the time (the 1980’s), neo-traditionalism, which was exalted more by critics and record companies than musicians and fans, and was dedicated to a strict, backwards-thinking definition of the genre. Essentially, musical virtuosos like Marsalis were limiting the scope of their instruments to “swing” only, ruling out borderline off-shoots like “Dixieland” and “free jazz.”

These days, though, the great Davis has officially been vindicated. Establishments such as the Angel City Jazz Festival—which commences its 3rd annual live-concert series tomorrow, Saturday October 2nd, and lasts an entire week, hitting various spots around Los Angeles—has committed themselves to “rethinking jazz.”

The eye of this Angel City Jazz storm takes place on Sunday, October 3rd, at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood, spotlighting five future-thinking, jazz-influenced musicians beyond category.

The first is a name most anybody in or out of the jazz world has heard of: Coltrane. Not John, of course, but his second son, Ravi—named after the famous sitar player. Ravi, though steeped in the tradition of his father, studied under Steve Coleman, founder of the M-Base movement, which goes beyond definition in its own definition, but often combines looping rhythmic patterns with free improvisation, creating an unpredictable and complex sound.

Also joining Ravi on Sunday night are avante-garde composer, multi-instrumentalist, and philosopher Wadada Leo Smith; improvising trio Sons of Champignon (with Wilco guitarist Nels Cline); multi-woodwind performer Vinny Golia; and Kneebody, a wild, post-modern jolt of free jazz, post-rock, and the avante-garde.

To win two free tickets to this amazing night of experimental jazz, simply enter your first name, last name, and e-mail address into the form below, and not only will you be put in the running for Sunday night’s 5:00 PM show, but also our next three ticket give-aways as well. Jazz is important for a reason, and to continue to support its on-going evolution is to continue to support American music. That’s what Miles really meant.

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