Artistic Capital of North America???

la-arts-monthIs Los Angeles really the “arts capital of North America?” How about “the world?” According to Steve Rountree (President of The Music Center), Antonio R. Villaraigosa (Mayor of Los Angeles), Olga Garay (Executive Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs for the city of Los Angeles), and many others in attendance at Wednesday’s kick-off for the 3rd Annual LA Arts Month—which took place outside, between the Music Center and the Ahmanson Theatre—it is. Which brings to mind another question: if you repeat something enough times, and you really believe it in your heart of hearts, does it start to become true?

Los Angeles Arts Month—or January, as most people know it—was put together three years ago in an effort to promote tourism and encourage artistic community engagement. And from what I gather—although it was difficult to ascertain during the afternoon’s strange launch party, which included a Glee-like performance from the Hollywood High School Choir and a body-bending tidbit from this coming summer’s Cirque du Soleil show at the Kodak—it’s essentially a couple ticket give-aways, free museum entries, and of course, lots of media coverage.

Of course, any Angeleno—no matter how prideful—who’s ever been to New York will tell you Los Angeles is not the artistic capital of North America. And anyone who’s ever been to most any major city in Western Europe will scoff at the notion that Los Angeles is the artistic capital of the world. Don’t get me wrong: I spend a lot of time supporting and enjoying LA’s enormous, eclectic, and vibrant arts scene, but I would never claim it to be any more than it is—which, at least on the government-supported side of things, is struggling.

25 full-time positions, between last year and this year, were eliminated in the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA); grants and donations to the DCA decreased significantly from 2009 to 2010; the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), responsible for a quarter of the Department’s entire budget, was decreased by approximately $1.6 million; and the expenses for the coming year are projected to be about $0.7 million more than last year.

And these numbers are not just numbers. They actually do affect our city in a major way. The DCA, through grants, is responsible for producing over 400 free or low-cost exhibitions, classes, performances, film screenings, and festivals each year. So all those times you go out to a cool, free event at LACE or LA Theatre Works or the Echo Park Film Center or even make the trip downtown to MOCA or the LA Philharmonic, you can thank the DCA. Not only that, but they provide grants to over 25 individual artists each year, they uphold historic sites like the Watts Towers, and they make sure those many murals all over town stay in tact.

So, if the DCA is in trouble, why all the bravado? Well, on one hand, there is a significant amount of money coming in through grant awards. These include the Arts and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. stimulus), Pacific Standard Time (an award to fund a massive collaboration of over 50 exhibitions throughout the city designed to show off Los Angeles’s contribution to modern art), and the Mayors’ Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative (a plan to install affordable artist housing in Downtown LA). On the other hand, it may have more to do with what I mentioned before—that the illusion of a thriving artistic capital (much like the illusion of easy weightlessness created by the Cirque du Soleil dancer as she balanced her entire body on top of her chin) is less challenging than the reality of a city that’s come a long way, but must still use every practiced muscle in its body to pull off the act.

- By Joshua Morrison

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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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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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Secrets of Silents

c22_PORTAIT-4Here’s a statistic: approximately 80 percent—maybe more—of all the silent films are lost. This is 80 percent of the early documented history of the predominant art-form of our age. It doesn’t seem that important until you watch some of the few remaining films, or pieces of films, that dedicated archivists have managed to preserve.

There’s a scene, for instance, from the 1923 movie Flaming Youth—which screened at this past weekend’s 46th Annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival in Hollywood—that contains true magic. It takes place at a Gatsby-like get-together, lots of men in tuxes, women in flapper attire, and the host of the party decides to intitiate a skinny-dip session with all the guests. This being 1923, the scene is filmed in pure sillhouette (though it was still too controversial to play in most theatres), and the result is nearly breath-taking, if only because this is the sole existing piece of footage. The shadowy figures of men and women diving into the pool look like ghosts jumping into the abyss of their own fragile mortality.

Film doesn’t last forever—its demise is inherent in the chemical properties that allow it to exist—yet it is still the most assured mode of preservation for the future, even in our digital world (as anyone knows who’s ever had a hard drive crash on them). The people behind Cinecon, and particularly the Saturday afternoon program I attended that was dedicated to lost (or previously lost) films, know this more than anyone. After the screening of what’s left of Flaming Youth, they showed a 1999 documentary called Keepers of the Frame. Highlighting such institutions as the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Library of Congress, and the Museum of Modern Art, the movie takes a ‘Technicolor’ look at the continuing history of film preservation. Along the way, it shows the only surviving footage of President William McKinley two days before he was shot, the sole motion picture record of Alaskan Inuit in the 1930’s, and actual news-reel scenes from the Hindenberg disaster.

Had these strains of film not been carefully and pain-stakingly preserved, they would have been lost, much like the prize posession of the program and entire festival was thought to be: Charlie Chaplin’s third appearance in a film, called The Thief Catcher. Found by fortunate accident amidst a pile of old films inside a trunk at an antique show, the Keystone comedy does not feature Chaplin’s patented “Tramp” character; he is instead cast as one of the Keystone cops. He appears on screen for maybe a minute, and despite what they say about hindsight’s vision, his star quality is undeniable. He seems to already understand, even at this early stage in his career, the secret to silent film acting (and it’s still true today), which is that you need a secret. You can’t let your face belie your subtext—that’s representational acting, as Stanislavski would say—only your physical actions. And Chaplin, whether the star or the bit-player, was a master of physical acting for the screen. His face always posessed a certain secret, and it’s up to us as watchers of film, as confidantes, to preserve that secret for future generations of fellow conspirators.

- By Joshua Morrison

For more information in Cinecon, please visit www.cinecon.org, and to pre-order a copy of the upcoming CHAPLIN AT KEYSTONE 4-disc DVD set, which includes The Thief Catcher, please visit www.flickeralley.com.

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deFineArtsLA Exclusive: Now is the NOW!

Picture-1Late July and we’re knee-deep in festival season. You’ve likely hit a few events from the Slamdance, the LA Film Fest, the Fringe Fest, Outfest, Comic-Con, the Middle Eastern Comedy Fest, Lilith Fair…the list goes on and on. The urge to see it all keeps us coming back, but I know, festival fatigue is strong. Hang in there, though—we’re at the home stretch. The REDCAT’s NOW Festival, which kicked off this weekend, should bring festival season to a spectacular end.

The New Original Works Festival features new dance, theater, music, and multimedia performance works by artists who are known for their often radical and unconventional approaches. While Week One (with work from Maureen Huskey and Killsonic) may have past us by, there’s still time to catch Weeks Two and Three, beginning this Thursday, July 29th.

Three artists make up Week Two of NOW: Christine Marie & Ensemble, in the expressionist theater piece “Ground to Cloud,” uses projections, electric light and shadowplay to unfold a multidimensional mythology of nature and human intervention. Systems of Us, from choreographer Rae Shao-Lan Blum & composer Tashi Wada, explores the disruption and transformation of relationships in a dance collaboration that may call to mind those early experiments of Cage and Cunningham. Finally, master of Breaking and hip-hop dance innovater Raphael Xavier’s “Black Canvas” explores the body of the Breaker in relation to the stage and life.

Week Three, beginning August 5th, features theater, dance, and animation. Alexandro Segade’s “Replicant vs. Separatist” depicts Segade himself calling the shots on a live sci-fi film shoot in which two male couples navigate the murky waters of state-mandated marriage. Hana van der Kolk’s “Once More, Again, One (Solo)” uses familiar pop music as the background for her solo dance adaptation of a work originally conceived for four dancers. To close, animator Miwa Matreyek (of Cloud Eye Control) uses animation with live projection to explore fantastical worlds in “Myth and Infrastructure.”

- By Helen Kearns

Each “week” of NOW is really only a Thurs/Fri/Sat, so budget your time accordingly. If you only attend one more festival this summer, consider the power of NOW. For more information, please visit www.redcat.org, or call 213-237-2800.

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The Fringe of Friends

friendsliketheselogoGregory Crafts’s play Friends Like These, which had a brief, successful run at the first-ever Hollywood Fringe Festival, is a smart, brooding possum of a show. I say this because it initially plays dumb and light. When we first meet our small ensemble of characters—Garrett the geek, Diz the freak, Brian the nice guy, Jesse the jock, and Nicole the cheerleader—they cling so tightly to their clichés, one wonders if they had accidentally slipped into a cheesy, eighties high-school movie. But once you start to really listen to the dialogue, you realize something odd: these stock characters can’t stop talking about their own stereotypes. They seem to be self-consciously obsessed with their own roles in life. And that’s when Friends Like These starts to reveal itself as a play less about high-school or petty romance, but about identity and the darkness that often feuls it.

Before any actors even enter stage, a montage of semi-hysterical newscasts can be heard over blackness; reports of a school shooting, four victims, lots of questions. The incident is not brought up again for some time, but serves as what a high-school English teacher would dub as foreshadowing. Images of Columbine-like violence are conjured up in the minds of the audience, only to lay dormant for the majority of a seemingly harmless production. You have Garrett, who meets up with the much more popular Nicole. The two go on a date, hit it off, and before you know it, they’re attracting the jealous attention of Nicole’s ex-boyfriend, Jesse, as well as Garrett’s female partner in crime, Diz. We, as watchers of this John Hughes-esque tale of geek-meets-girl, are left to wonder how such events can lead to the something so extreme.

Along this journey, we are introduced to the world of LARP-ing (aka Live Action Role Play). It’s where Garrett and his geeky friends go to act like they’re characters in World of Warcraft, and it provides a nice break from the high-school hum-drum, but also serves a much deeper function. It’s an update of Shakespeare’s woods, where lovers’ identities are jumbled and proven false, where truth reveals itself in strange ways. One of my favorite moments from these LARP-ing scenes is when Nicole (who Garrett brought to the event) is suddenly attacked by black-hooded, enemy figures called “Darknesses.” They surround her menacingly, until Garrett steps in and fights them off.

The reason I like this bit so much is because I feel it is representative of Garrett’s personal test in this play. He has to fight off the Darknesses in order to get the girl. And in Crafts’s vision, as brought to life by directors Sean Fitzgerald and Vance Roi Reyes, the Darknesses are all-encompassing. There’s so much hate in high-school, so much raw anger, rage, and cruelty. It’s hard to fend it off.  And everything about the production reiterates this theme loud and clear. The set: five colored pillars (symbolic of the five characters) enshrouded by looming blackness. The music: mid-90’s grunge and pop-metal, emlematic of the post-Cobain struggle to compromise between 80’s mindlessness and early-90’s self destruction. The costumes: Garrett, for instance, swims in the customary black attire of goth kids, his hands constantly squirming in their pockets, dying to break out.

Despite a few technical snafus and a couple missed moments acting-wise (though Ryan J. Hill and Sarah Smick were consistently on their game), Friends Like These does what it sets out to do: it questions the identities we wear, whether in high-school or older. And it asks an important question for our time, which is whether or not these identities are just heavy defense pads against something brighter within us. According to Crafts, you can fight the darknesses, but in order to do so, you have to first realize that they’re really just other geeks like you wearing black-hooded robes. Otherwise, you’ll get smothered.

- By Joshua Morrison

For more information on Friends Like These, please visit www.theatreunleashed.com/friendslikethese.

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Extra! Extra! Tickets to See Shakespeare Gone Wicked and Wilde!

wicked05011010Why Shakespeare? Why read him in high school, and teach him in college, and perform him in the park? Why not Marlowe? Or Chekhov? Ibsen? Why not go back further, and read Euripides or Sophocles? Why Shakespeare?

Some would say it’s due to his undeniable talent as a playwright and illuminator of the  human soul. Others might simply attribute his omnipresence to the best marketing team in the history of the world. Me—in case you were wondering—I think it’s the elasticity inherent in his work. Pretty much anyone could read his best plays, and get anything they want out of them. Othello, for example, could easily be read as a neo-Nazi call to arms. And I won’t even get into The Merchant of Venice.

But seriously, Shakespeare is, if nothing else, adaptable—and on every level, from script to cast. This is why we see mix-gendered versions of Romeo and Juliet, and high school-set films of The Taming of the Shrew. And this seems to be the impetus behind actress, director, and producer Lisa Wolpe’s newest venture, The Wicked Wilde Shakespeare Festival. It’s a five-week long summer theatre extravaganza of adapted Shakespeare works (with one Oscar Wilde piece thrown into the mix), playing at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica from May 29th through June 7th.

Wolpe is the founder and artistic director of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, an outfit dedicated to reversing the tradition of the old Globe Theatre, and casting all women. For this festival, however, Wolpe has included the male persuasion in her own adapted and directed material, while still maintaining her playful sense of gender confusion that already runs deep in much of Shakespeare.

The fest opens with A Tyrant’s Tale, Wolpe’s abbreviated take on A Winter’s Tale, with only seven actors (the original Shakespeare version has seventeen characters and spans sixteen years). Much like Othello (but funnier), the play concerns a jealous leader—King Leontes—and the borderline paranoia he suffers over his wife’s possible infidelity. The part I’m looking forward to, though, is how Wolpe interprets one of the most famous stage directions in all of theatre: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”

Macbeth3, the next in the wicked, wilde lineup, is Wolpe’s highly acclaimed post-apocalyptic adaptation of Macbeth. This reworking incorporates a whiff of Hamlet into the mix as well, with the character of Satan visiting Macbeth, and leading him into his tragic torment. Why the number 3 added to the title? You’ll just have to find out.

The festival also includes a gender-bending variation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as the anthologized Lovers and Madmen, an all-female grab-bag of Shakespeare scenes. But for now, FineArtsLA is giving away a pair of tickets to just the first two shows: A Tyrant’s Tale and Macbeth3 for this Sunday, May 30th. The double-bill begins at 2 PM at Miles Memorial Playhouse.

If you’re a regular viewer of the site, you know the rules: simply enter your first name, last name, and e-mail address into the form below, and you will eligible to receive tickets to the first half of The Wicked Wilde Shakespeare Festival, and as an added bonus, you will be automatically entered into the running for our next three ticket giveaways (hint: The Importance of Being Earnest is on the list). Why Shakespeare? Why not? Especially if it’s free.

For more information about The Wicked Wilde Shakespeare Festival, or to find out how to buy the tickets on your own, please visit their site at www.lawsc.net.






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Open Your Eyes & Enjoy the Ride…To Watts, with “Meet Me @ Metro”

IMG_2841_1I am one of the few lucky Angelenos to live near a metro stop, so I was able to catch the Red Line straight down to Union Station to attend the Watts Village Theater Company’s site-specific performance piece: “Meet Me @ Metro” last Sunday. In the first car I took while going to the performance a crazed woman with a suitcase was dancing and babbling unintelligibly for three fascinated children and their terrified mother. I changed cars and found myself surrounded by a group of long-haired jubilant tourists, cracking jokes at the top of their lungs about Los Angeles to anyone who would listen. Through both of these experiences I avoided all eye contact, set my face in an uninviting frown, and shrank into my chair: tricks I’d learned from four years riding the NYC subway.

At Union Station I joined the throng of expectant “Meet me @ Metro” audience members at the west entrance. We were quickly wrangled into a circle by a company of horn-honking cops circling us on tiny red tricycles and handing out yellow sticky-note tickets. With so many characters riding the subway on any normal day, it took me a minute to realize that the faux cops were part of the show and not just a bunch of lunatics. I perked up out of my guarded public transit shell as soon as I knew the show had begun.

At the center of the circle, the Watts Village Theater artistic director, Guillermo Avilés-Rodríguez, explained that the mission of this show was to redefine the Watts community as a welcoming place and to literally bring people there by using theatre. And that is what they did.

Over the next two and a half hours, twenty or so performers lead fifty audience members through the bowels of the metro, on and off of trains, out into neighborhoods, and finally to a field at the feet of the Watts Towers. We were like a mob of Hansel and Gretels following bread crumbs of narrative, history, poetry, and dance, scattered along our route through an unknown wilderness. If theatre is supposed to take you to places you’ve never been, then this show did. Physically.

More than the performances themselves, we were motivated on by the encouraging smiles and sheer effort the performers put into this undertaking. “The most amazing thing about this show is that we’re doing it,” said Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez when we began, and he was right.

The actual performances at each location were confusing, hard to hear, and underwhelming in quality. The 7th and Metro Center stop just seemed to be an excuse for the MooDoo Puppet Theater to have a man on stilts hand out postcards for their show. In Pershing Square I was struck by the irony that the audience was huddled around a performer ranting like a homeless person about loving ShangriL.A., while we turned our backs to several actual homeless people on the edge of the circle who were asking what was going on.

But whether the performances were ‘Broadway quality’ or not was beside the point. Back at Union Station I had let my guard down and allowed myself to see more than just where I was headed. As we traveled from station to station, I saw more art in the world around me than I had ever noticed before. Los Angeles, and the Metro specifically, is full of murals, statues, and installation art that I had always walked by with indifference. Now each piece was a part of a show, and it was if a spotlight was shining on everything from Joyce Kozloff ‘s film mural at the 7th & Metro stop to the music of the Watts ice cream truck playing behind the performers song. And maybe I wouldn’t have seen the inhabitants of Pershing square or their plight to participate in the show if I hadn’t been brought there with more open eyes.

There is so much beauty, humor, art and humanity around us every day here in the second largest city in the United States, and it took a troupe of intrepid performers taking their spectacle out of the theater and onto the street to help me see it. I thought back to my experiences on the metro before the show began and wondered how I would have experienced them differently if I had approached them with curiosity rather than fear.

The Watts Village Theater Company and their collaborators hope to make “Meet me @ Metro” an annual performance festival. If they are lucky enough to make this happen, I encourage you to take the trip. Until then, as you make your daily commute around town, imagine a spotlight once in a while showing you art where you least expected it. I promise you it will make for a much more enjoyable ride.

- By Stephanie Carrie

For more information about The Watts Village Theater Company, please visit www.wattsvillagetheatercompany.com.

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deFineArtsLA Exclusive: Girl Flower!

00_triplexselectsthebestoflezsploitation_expresionencorto2008_mC’mon ladies, admit it—if you’re not a lesbian already, you’ve definitely given the idea some thought. I don’t want to make any assumptions about our readership here at FineArtsLA, but I know at least half of you have at least made out with a chick in some dimly lit back room—I mean, what are our 20s for? We all wonder what the other side of the lip gloss is like, right?

For those of you who haven’t yet adventured to the other side—and for those of you who have—this Friday affords a great opportunity for the voyeuresse in us all. In conjunction with Outfest, LA’s famous gay and lesbian film festival taking place in July, the UCLA Film and Television Archive will showcase the documentary montage film Triple X Selects: The Best of Lezsploitation. Director Michelle Johnson puts the “appropriate” back in appropriation, splicing spicy scenes from 60’s and 70’s lesberotica films—movies made by men, for men—into a romping 48 minutes of camp and cunts (don’t worry, nothing too explicit) that any woman is sure to enjoy. An open discussion with Johnson (aka Triple X) will immediately follow—so you can find out where to get the full versions of the films for later viewing.

Proceeding the discussion, you’ll have the chance to stick around and check out a classic lezsploitation flick, Just The Two of Us (1970), director Barbara Peters’ peek into the secret lives of housewives whose husbands are out of town.

So let that dirty little old man inside of you step out for a night, girls. And fellows—just, bring a date.

By Helen Kearns

The movie will screen at The Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer, 7:30pm, Friday April 20th. Visit the UCLA Film & Television website for ticket information.

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What’s What in the Art World at Large (And What To Do in LA)

yves_saint_laurentWe may be geographically far from, well, everywhere in the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep up with all the arts endeavors across every which pond.  So here’s a bit of news (for the very serious and elite readers) and a bonus round of what’s going on in LA that really deserves your attention (for those who care about little outside LA county).

First, a stop in Paris at the Petit Palais.  The Parisian museum brings to the fore the artistic achievements of none other than Yves Saint Laurent.  Curated by Florence Muller and Farid Chenoune, the exhibit, called Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective features gowns, menswear, some of the designer’s treasured personal items used in creative pursuits, and it highlight themes used throughout the many collections in Saint Laurent’s illustrious career.  One ticket to France, please! {Global Post}

Onto Italy.  In Milan, our very own Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition has commenced.  Founded in 1993, Domingo’s opera competition is meant to find the cream of the crop amongst new talent in opera.  The singers represent not only a range of vocal categories (from coloratura soprano to the lowest bass), but also an array of countries around the world.  The competition ends May 2 (this Saturday), so you’ll have a new vocalist’s career to follow starting Sunday, May 3rd.  We have a feeling it will be meteoric.  {Culture Monster}

Not to shower the French with too much attention, though they don’t mind, Sotheby’s has made quite the announcement prior to the upcoming auction season.  The storied (and once thought lost) private collection of legendary Parisian art dealer Amrboise Vollard is set to meet the auction block.  His career was spent promoting such up-and-comers as Picasso, Cezanne, and Renoir and Vollard’s collection includes not only paintings, but such enticing items as prints, drawings, and artist books.  The sale will be held in London on June 22, so brush up on your British colloquialisms.  {ArtInfo}

Back at home, there is much to celebrate.  Dig into your pockets just a bit to buy yourself a ticket to the Architecture and Design Museum’s official Grand Opening!  For $75, you’ll mingle with a veritable who’s who of the architecture and design world in LA at the reception tomorrow night (April 27), (hint: you can also find them anywhere from Father’s Office to Tar Pit on weeknights), check out the first exhibit, and bid on things at the silent auction.  {A+D Museum}  Also, if you haven’t uploaded his schedule into your iCal already, Gustavo Dudamel has returned to the LA Phil – he’s conducting pretty regularly from now through May 8 on a number of concerts all worthy of splurging for tickets.  {LA Phil} This is your last chance to see LACMA’s exhibit Renoir in the 20th Century.  The exhibit closes May 9. {LACMA} Last, but certainly not least, turns out that parodies of Wagner and his Ring Cycle abound.  LA Times’ Culture Monster shows us the best of the best. {Culture Monster}

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