Santa Monica

Giselle! Giselle!

616255281On Friday, May 27th, I attended the final weekend for LA Ballet’s performance of Giselle at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The ballet Giselle is near and dear to my heart because it was the first ballet that I performed a leading part in, dancing the role of Myrtha. Also, this marks the third time I have seen Giselle performed professionally. The first was The Royal Ballet in London and the second was ABT at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Both were wonderful, although my nosebleed seats for the Royal Ballet definitely left much to be desired.

What one notices first about the LA Ballet as the lights go down, is that there is no orchestra. You hear murmurs around you whispering, “Is this a recording?” There is something magical about hearing the musicians tune and warm up before the show starts, it sets the tone that something big is about to happen. When LAB has more of a foundation, I very much hope that they put funding into an orchestra, at least for their full length ballets.

When the curtain rose, we found ourselves in the Rhineland of the Middle Ages during the grape harvest. The set consisted of two tudor style houses, one that housed Giselle and her mother, and the other was in possession of the Duke Albrecht, who disguised himself as a peasant in order to sow some wild oats before his marriage to a noblewoman. Giselle and the disguised Duke meet, and of course fall in love, much to the dismay of Hilarion—a gamekeeper who is also in love with Giselle. Giselle’s mother worries for her weak heart as Giselle and others dance for the noblewoman (Albrecht’s betrothed) and her father who have come upon the scene. Hilarion reveals the truth about Albrecht, sending Giselle into a mad fit that her heart cannot handle, and she dies in Albrecht’s arms at the end of the first act.

Like many two or four act ballets, the first half is dedicated more to story set up, and the second half is dedicated more to dancing. I usually can not wait until the second half for the juicy pas de deuxs and sad climaxes that my favorite ballets have in abundance. That being said, I very much enjoyed the entire first act. Allyssa Bross danced the title role to perfection. Bross is a first season dancer at LAB but a huge standout. She also danced the Sugarplum Fairy in 2010′s Nutcracker. What made it so enjoyable to watch, because of the route many first halves have to contain too much set up, was her complete embodiment of Giselle. Bross was so sweet, excited, and in love the way teenagers are. Shy and overreactive in very charming ways. The audience would laugh at her facial expressions because they were so endearing. Opposite Bross was Christopher Revels, also a first season standout. A Tommy Kirk doppelganger, Revels is strong and promising. He did take a fall during a group dance, and you could see him lose momentum on his face after that. There was nothing behind that smile but disappointment, understandably, until enough time has passed to shake it off. Hilarion, danced by Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, was not given much to do in the first act but look discouraged. Unfortunately, Wespi-Tschopp is less of an actor dancer, and his actions did not fill the space, which drew attention to it being a “play,” simply because he did not commit enough.

The high point for me in the first act was the Peasant pas de deux, danced by Allynne Noelle (also a first season dancer) and Kenta Shimizu (Guest Artist from K-Ballet and Miami City Ballet). Noelle had excellent side extensions and was in full control of her body. A series of pirouettes with a preparation from Noelle on one knee were especially impressive. Both Noelle and Shimizu had strong and impressive solos, and the audience was eager to erupt into applause after everything they did. The reason for the solos and pas de deux by the peasants is very much lacking. Giselle leads them forward to dance, and they do, and then we never see them again. But when the dancing is so impressive, who cares why they are doing it? If it were a modern ballet, it would be easier to criticize the choreographer’s plot intentions. But Giselle was first done in 1841, and although the choreography has changed a bit, most of what we see in modern versions is still from the stagings in 1884 and 1903. So even the newest version is over one hundred years old.

The second act takes us to the woods where Giselle has been buried. Giselle is summoned from her grave by the Wilis, the spirits of women who have died before their wedding day and roam the night seeking revenge upon any man they meet, by dancing him to death. Hilarion searches for Giselle but meets his end with the Wilis. Albrecht also searches and finds her, Giselle still loves him and forgives him, and unlike Hilarion who is found by the Wilis and thrown in a lake, Albrecht is protected from them by Giselle. When day breaks, Giselle’s soul is freed because she did not succumb to vengeance and hatred of the Wilis.

I have to hand it to LAB; I have never seen the Wilis portrayed in a more unearthly way. I used to watch a VHS of Natalia Makarova’s Giselle with the Kirov Ballet, and even then it did not come close. The Queen of the Wilis-Myrtha (danced by Kate Highstrete) begins the second act with three solos. She did have a little trouble with her ponches, but she made up for it. Her moves were robotic but yet still enchanting. Her looks to the audience were jerky and blank, not fluid and soft which we are so used to knowing as beautiful ballet. I could not take my eyes off her, she was other worldly which is fascinating to see danced. The Corps de Ballet of her Wilis had their own ethereal qualities. They kept their eyes down to the ground and looked very sad. It was haunting. When the Wilis kill Hilarion they come alive and we the audience finally see why Wespi-Tschopp was cast as the unrequited lover. His dancing in the second act is more visceral and exciting than anything else in the entire ballet. Bross and Revels dance the lovers pas de deux and feature some gorgeous lifts to Adolphe Adam’s score. When beautiful dancing meets beautiful music, I cannot think of anything more exquisite.

Giselle marked my sixth LAB production and it was by far the best that I have attended. The company has nailed down some very talented dancers. One can only hope that we get to keep them here in Los Angeles and not lose them to other cities with older and more well known ballet companies. I may be old fashioned but I very much look forward to more full length ballets in the upcoming seasons. The ballets under consideration are Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Onegin, Coppelia, and Romeo and Juliet. LAB is finished for the season, but will open their sixth season in the fall with the tradition of The Nutcracker.

- By Diedre Moore

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Graciela Iturbide’s Private Universe

6a00d8341c630a53ef013485f186c2970c-500wiAn ostrich stares indignantly at me, hip jutting out as though I had ditched its Thanksgiving dinner. “What are you doing in this gallery staring at me?” it seems to say. “Why didn’t you bring the cranberry sauce?” Like an exaggerated cartoon version of an image in National Geographic, the ostrich is one of the more vivid subjects in Graciela Iturbide’s most recent exhibition, Graciela Iturbide: asor, ending this week in the Rose Gallery at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Iturbide once said, “While using my camera I am, above all, an actress participating in the scene taking place at the moment, and the other actors know what role I play.” In “asor,” taken straight from her personal archive, Iturbide creates a fantasy world that explores the terror and joy of childhood solitude. Inspired by her grandchildren and Alice in Wonderland, Iturbide photographed the Southern United States, Italy, India and Mexico, using snippets from each location but nothing identifiable from any of them. Instead, she crafted a new narrative that makes the fantastic pedestrian and the pedestrian fantastic. Clocks and abandoned buildings take on the significance of mythical creatures. In one pair of photographs, two blank eyeholes carved out of rocks peer out at the viewer, observing and saying nothing. Birds gather ominously in the sky like locusts, and in one arresting image, sunflowers are backlit and shot from below, drooping and spiky as Venus Fly Traps. Iturbide plays with perspective: A giant plaster head sits next to a parked car, disorienting any sense of scale. A bell-shaped flower is photographed from the side, grossly distorted, its surface as smooth and shiny as porcelain.

In one remarkable shot, a leopard lunges towards the camera, eyes shut, front legs crumpled in an awkward gait. The leopard looks as clumsy as a cartoon, with a viciously contorted face, like a living stuffed animal about to be killed. Iturbide photographs things with a childlike wonder and innocence, only distorted through a morbid prism. Her minutely crafted universe reveals her fascination with the coexistence of life and death, and the exquisite beauty of violence.

Iturbide came late to photography, influenced by the surrealism and mysticism of Luis Buñuel and the indigenous people photographed by Manuel Alvarez Bravo. The last time I saw Iturbide’s photography was three years ago in a retrospective at the J. Paul Getty Musuem, and the images were grisly: dead pigs, strung-up birds, a woman clutching a knife in her mouth preparing a goat for slaughter. Iturbide is best known for her ethnographic images of the Zapotec people in Oaxaca, including her famed “Mujer Ángel,” in which an indigenous woman faces a fertile valley, casually holding a boombox.

Despite the intrigue of Iturbide’s newest exhibition, I was drawn to much of her other work on display in the gallery. In 2006, Iturbide was allowed to photograph inside the estate of Frida Kahlo, and in one image, a pair of tiny, deformed-looking feet rest on the siding of a porcelain bathtub. The bathtub is Kahlo’s and the feet are Iturbide’s, appearing corpse-like. Several other images are more immediately arresting than her newer work, which is more quiet and restrained. But Iturbide’s willingness to explore new artistic territory demonstrates her continued relevance. Perhaps Iturbide deserves more recognition, which is difficult when her newer images are so private. Upon discovering her for the first time, the viewer is free to create a new reality, in which ostriches talk, flowers are monstruous, death is imminent, and life is more vivid than ever.

- By Cassandra McGrath

Graciela Iturbide’s asor ended its run this past weekend at the Rose Gallery in the Santa Monica Museum of Art. For more information on upcoming exhibitions, please visit

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Rohmer’s Moral Flirtations

DRKnight66: Inception comes out today!

RollinWitNolan40: Oh man, it’s gonna be so sweet.

DRKnight66: It’s gonna be like The Dark Knight meets Memento meets awesome!

RollinWitNolan40: Are you taking your girlfriend?

DRKnight66: What girlfriend?

RollinWitNolan40: Oh yeah I forgot. Jenni dumped you after you bought that fully-outfitted Batman morotcycle.

DRKnight66: Still don’t regret the purchase.

RollinWitNolan40: Yeah, screw girls. Emily doesn’t even wanna see Inception. I mean, come on…

Sure, Inception does look cool. But let’s face it: if you’re looking to really impress a girl (or guy), get to know them on an intimate level, there’s better date movies out there than some half-cocked, Joseph Campbell-ian, Matrix mash-up with a stoner philosophy major’s view of the world. In fact, if you’re trying to instill that subtle sense of intellectual, yet sexy flirtation into a budding relationship, that essential, fuckable French-ness, you can’t do much better than Eric Rohmer.

The one-time critic and writer for the French New Wave became best known for his series of films known at the “Six Moral Tales.” But these movies are, at their core, anything but moral. They instead dissect the sub-textual and sub-sexual complexities inherent in male-female relationships—often allowing two actors to discuss mathematical theories at great length—until the primal, erotic tension bubbles to the immediate surface. Rohmer is more than partly influential in the emergence of the “mumblecore” movement, but where many of those movies tend to float in a likable though detached uncertainty, his films are like finely cut incisions into the layers of romantic attraction.

Two of Rohmer’s most famous “Moral Tales,” My Night At Maud’s and Claire’s Knee, as well as a short-film of the series, “The Bakery Girl of Monceau,” are playing for a one-time-only triple-feature at the Aero Theatre this Friday, July 16th at 7:30 PM. My Night at Maud’s, absolutely one of the sexiest movies I’ve ever seen, tells the story of Jean-Louis and his enveloping fascination with a divorcee named Maud, a seductive though prudish woman he spent a night with in deep conversation. Claire’s Knee also explores quiet male obsession, but goes the Lolita route, and follows newly-engaged Jean-Claude as he fixates upon the sight of a young girl’s bare knee. Both films restrain themselves from any graphic sexuality, but opt instead for the Kundera-version of flirtation: “…a behavior leading another to believe that sexual intimacy is possible, while preventing that possibility from becoming a certainty. In other words, flirting is a promise of sexual intercourse without a guarantee.”

I suppose what I’m saying is that if you want to see a movie to g-chat about with your nerdy friend, then see Inception. But if you want to get laid, see some Eric Rohmer, and catch up with the Christopher Nolan piss-contest next weekend.

- By Joshua Morrison

Note: If you do score off of the first two “Moral Tales,” make sure to see the rest at the next night’s triple-feature, Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse and Chloe in the Afternoon, along with the short, “Suzzane’s Career.” All at the Aero Theatre, Saturday, July 7th starting at 7:30 PM. For more information, please visit

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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






                      (valid email required)

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Wish Fulfillment

1207582406_c456cce5d6On an overcast Tuesday afternoon, when the traffic from the nearby 10 and 405 freeways is just starting to pack in, Bergamot Station in Santa Monica looks and feels more like an industrial depot center than one of Los Angeles’s prime gallery  hubbubs, and local art-dealer hot-spot of international acclaim. The parking lot if half-empty. Lonesome employees rumble by with crates full of water-cooler jugs. Sporadic patrons drift in and out of massive gallery spaces. On the whole, the place seems cold, even uninviting.

That is unless you accidentally stumble into the hallway of the Santa Monica Museum of Art—denoted only by a metallic sign that says “Museum”—and find yourself wondering what all the small, clay objects are doing strung up on the wall, as if hanging from massive, marker sketches of keys, backpacks, doorknobs, and necklaces. It’s this quaint collection of colorful figurines which, from first sight, breathes humanity into an otherwise blue atmosphere. For good reason too: every ornament on the wall is made by an artist below the age of 18—mainly ranging from 5-years-old to 10.

It’s called Wall Works: Project Icons and is the brainchild of clay and found-object artist Anna Sew Hoy. In collaboration with SMMA and six participating schools from around the Los Angeles area, Hoy asked children from kindergarten through 12th grade to describe their personal wishes, and transform them into pocket-sized “talismans” to help visualize their fulfillment. The wishes themselves, as written in the kids’ own handwriting, and paired with photographs of their corresponding talismans, can be viewed in conjunction with the exhibition. And all it takes is a quick glance at one or two of these wishes to get you digging through them like a treasure chest filled with jewels of innocent brilliance.

“I wish for a talking star to play with me,” writes Karina, who’s  yellow clay star sports sunglasses and a full rack of teeth.

“I had a limen tree so I can have limen juice,” says Megan. And no, this is not simply poor spelling, because Megan’s talisman is neither a lemon nor a lime. Not yellow nor green. It’s in between. It’s a limen. Why no sports drink has come up with this word combination before is beyond me.

It’s interesting: most of the younger kids’ wishes have to deal with fruit, or animals, mice in particular. And the pocket icons they create to represent these wishes are all courageously distorted versions of reality—imperfect, and yet lovely. Only when the children and their respective handwriting grow older, more refined, do the wishes become more realistic and abstract at the same time. Earnestness and anxiety replace playfulness.

“To be good at soccer,” one boy announces. “To be a better basketball player.” “To have a bigger garden.” “To be an architect.” Most all are sports and career related, with the occasional plea for world peace thrown in the mix. The older kids’ clay talismans also become more defined and mimetic, while losing some of the accidental whimsy of of their younger counterparts.

Extrapolating the results—or at least my observations—of Hoy’s project into the greater art-world, I can see how a place like Bergamot Station can seem so cold, the warm humor of its art lost in the jumble of warehouses and parking spaces. It’s the fulfillment of those older childens’ wishes for bigger and better things taking over the goofy vitality of those younger, fruit-and-mouse wishes.

And yet still, when you look at the wall of hanging talismans, they all pretty much look alike, old and young together. Each one the subject of natural distortion—due to the imperfect nature of clay-work—and each one something more than just a good luck charm. They are tactile. You can feel the wishes with your fingers. You can see it. It’s not just an airy idea. It’s a creation.

Anna Sew Hoy’s Wall Works: Project Icons can be viewed at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in Bergamot Station until May 31. For more information, please visit, or call (310) 586-6488.

Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Galleries, Mixed media, Museums, Neighborhoods, Santa Monica No Comments »

The ‘It’s Not To You’ Syndrome

I recently found myself sitting on a couch in a dark room inside the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts at USC watching a play-test of a brand-new interactive video game.  I use the term ‘interactive,’ because it was less like your typical Nintendo or PlayStation proceeding, and more akin to one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ movies, only digitalized, intricately detailed, and not a little influenced by the likes of Spielberg or Christopher Nolan.  The game takes place in a slightly futuristic society, and at one point, the protagonist, a detective, is sitting in his beat-down, windowless office going over clues, when he puts on a pair of special sunglasses.  These sunglasses allow him, and by proxy, us, the audience, to perceive his spacial environment as a pristine mountain-top, or a Redwood forest.  The effect is novel, and provokes a round of ‘wouldn’t-that-be-cool’ comments from anybody who’s watching, yet it also brings up an interesting, modern phenomenon.  I call it the ‘it’s not to you’ syndrome, and it works like this: you’re sitting in a beat-down, windowless office, but…it’s not to you.

Don’t get me wrong, this syndrome is hardly new or original, although it is intensifying in our digital age.  And one person who’s exploring this intensification is artist Jeffrey Wells with his newest exhibit Seeing While Seeing at the Bergamont Station Arts Center, a part of the Santa Monica Museum of Art.  Wells attempts to recreate the optical illusions of everyday life—the after-image of an exit sign, the undulating intersection of two vertical walls that meet at a right-angle—using video projections.  Thus the viewer is left questioning whether or not an illusion is physical or digital.  Both are percepts, separate from what some would call “objective reality,” but only one is an intentionally manipulated percept.

What Wells—along with the interactive video game, to a certain extent—may be attempting to illustrate is the danger of the ‘it’s not to you’ syndrome.  Because how do you really know what is?  Or who’s presenting what to you, for that matter?  And as the line between what is and what is to you gets smaller and smaller, what becomes of you?

Jeffrey Wells’s Seeing While Seeing is on view until April 17th at Project Room 1 in the Bergamont Station Arts Center, a part of the Santa Monica Museum of Arts.  Bergamont Station is located at 2525 Michigan Ave, Building G-1.  For more information, please call (310) 586-6488, or visit

Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Galleries, High Brow, Installation, Mixed media, Museums, Neighborhoods, Santa Monica, Save + Misbehave, Video Art No Comments »

Pop Art For A New Generation

artwork_images_140033_500092_kadir-lopezWhat does pop culture mean to you? The first thing anyone might think is Andy Warhol – largely considered the father of pop art – and his Marilyn Monroe, Campbell’s soup, and Mickey Mouse prints.  On now through February 20 at the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot Station is your chance to redefine pop art for our generation.  Large-scale, colorful prints by two artists, Mikel Alatza and Kadir Lopez are full of color, texture, and familiar faces and things.

Mikel Alatza’s works range from a skull with the Mastercard logo to a clowned, vibrant, contorted painting of Julia Roberts.  Angelina Jolie has been given fire engine red hair and a bright red clown nose next to Paris Hilton whose tan looks even more fiercely dangerous than usual.

Kadir Lopez takes a more muted and almost vintage approach to the pop art world.  His Shell print features a river and skyline fitted within a Shell gasoline sign while his Wrigley’s piece has a distinctly political, textural feel.

Andy Warhol had his finger on the pulse of popular culture in the 70s (we still use the phrase he coined “fifteen minutes of fame” with great frequency) and perhaps its time we find an artist who knows how to transform our current pop culture icons into wild, vivacious prints that speak to us today.  Are you team Alatza, team Lopez, or both?

Mikel Alatza and Kadir Lopez’ exhibits will be up at William Turner Gallery through February 20.  Please call (310) 453-0909 or click here.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Galleries, High Brow, Installation, Low Brow, Painting, Personalities, Santa Monica No Comments »

New Year, New Art

The way you start off a new year is very important to the way the new year ends up going for you.  At least that’s what they say.  Put their theory into practice with some of January’s most promising arts events in our fair city – would you like your 2010 to look a little more Bond-like? Would you rather it looked a little more experimental than your 2009?  It’s so tempting to answer those questions with: there’s an app for that, but really your city has got what it takes to kick off your new year just the way you’d like.

Mr. Bond

Friday, January 1 is not likely to be your most shining and perky day.  That doesn’t mean you can’t start on a sleek, technologically advanced, Bond-like bend – from 7:30pm at the Egyptian Theatre there’s a double feature of Dr. No and You Only Live Twice.  You may not be at your sharpest on Friday, but you’ll soon make a better Bond than Mr. Connery.  If you’re less than interested in leaving your house that day, worry not.  Saturday evening (January 2) from 7:00pm, they’ll be screening Goldfinger and Thunderball – if you don’t have a love/hate relationship with villains after a weekend like that, you’re not cut out to be the next Mr. Bond.  And that’s no way to start a new year.

Please click here for the Egyptian Theatre’s full January 2010 calendar.

Barely There

At Sam Lee Gallery, just near Dodger Stadium, you’ll find local artist Jeff Gambill’s exhibit “Barely There,” on through January 23.  His paintings have this generally zen, colorful feeling that convey the transient, transitional message he’s going for.  Fresh from a trip to Japan, you’ll definitely see an East Asian influence in each of his works.  They don’t scream out at you, but they definitely make you want to look closer.  And what better message than looking closer at something that doesn’t shock and awe for a new year?  Time to delve a little deeper, kids.

The Sam Lee Gallery is located at 990 N. Hill Street #190.  Please call (323) 227-0275 or click here for more information.

New Year, New Music

It’s so easy to fall into an all-Mozart (or all-Beyonce) rut.  Take some time in January 2010 to break out of it.  It may not last the whole year, but at least you can say you tried.  On Saturday, January 16 at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica,Jacaranda invites you to discover Thomas Ades, Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell Davies, George Benjamin, and others.  The concert, called Licorice and Rosin (“licorice” is a slang term for clarinet and rosin is a solid form of resin used on string instruments), will present some of Britain’s more exciting contemporary music from the last twenty-five years.

If a church is the last place you’d like to be, Monday Evening Concerts at the Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School kicks off 2010 on January 11 at 8:00pm with a concert called “Mostly Californian.”  Featuring compositions by Clint McCallum, Luciano Chessa, Michael Pisaro, and others, you will hear sounds of contemporary California.  (No, that doesn’t include woeful cries for our current economic situation.) The composers in question present lyrical, theatrical works that won’t sound like anything else you’ve heard before.

Please click here for more information about Jacaranda.  Alternatively, click here for information about Monday Evening Concerts.

Soundtrack for a Revolution

The Grammy Museum just celebrated their first birthday – still haven’t been? Monday, January 11 at 7:00pm they’re presenting Reel to Reel: Soundtrack for a Revolution, a documentary that looks at the American civil rights movement and the unparalleled soundtrack that went along with it.  Filled with archive footage, interviews with civil rights leaders, and a soundtrack of freedom songs sung by modern day R&B, Hip Hop, and Soul legends like Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, The Roots, and John Legend.  Monday’s screening will be followed by a panel discussion chock full of everyone you’d like to get advice from for a soulful 2010 – Danny Glover, filmmakers Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, producer Dylan Nelson, and music producer Corey Smyth.

For more information, please click here.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Classical Music, Contemporary Art, Downtown, Exhibitions, Film, Galleries, High Brow, Hollywood, Jazz, Low Brow, Museums, Music, Old School, Santa Monica, Silverlake/Los Feliz, World Music No Comments »

Who Says You Need Money To Have A Good Night in LA?

Tuesday night.  Hollywood Boulevard.  AFI Fest 2009: while standing in the rush line to see Werner Herzog’s remake of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, I half-jokingly propose to a German girl I barely know.  She laughs and says I should have asked two months ago.  The movie’s filled to capacity so we dash across Hollywood Boulevard, dodging behind an illuminated red carpet and lots of star-struck tourists to make the rush line for the latest Cormac McCarthy adaptation, The Road. Thanks to a friendly AFI attendant named Leonard—who thinks the German girl looks like Natalie Portman—we get into the movie last minute, just in time to catch a pre-film tribute and live interview with Viggo Mortensen, star of The Road.  Viggo chats it up, the German girl takes pictures, the director John Hillcoat introduces the film, it’s every bit as bleak and beautiful as the novel, the movie ends and we’re about to get up when we notice that a good portion of the cast and crew is sitting in the row directly behind us.  Oh, and did I mention this entire night was free?

In case you missed the first eight days of the alarmingly stacked 2009 AFI Fest—which included the premieres of such films as the final Heath Ledger vehicle, The Imagnarium of Dr. Parnassus, Wes Andersen’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Oren Moverman’s The Messenger, and Kirk Jones’ Everybody’s Fine—you’ve got one last day of free movies, courtesy of AFI.

This Saturday November 7th, at the Laemmle Theatre in Santa Monica, start off your morning with an 11:00am screening of A Town Called Panic, the absurdist, Belgian, stop-motion animation picture about the misadventures of Cowboy, Indian, and Horse.  Immediately following that, at 1:00pm, the Harvard University duo of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Lisa Barbash bring you their poetic, observational documentary about sheep-herders in Montanta, entitled Sweetgrass.  At 3:00pm: a tribute to veteran actor Christopher Plummer, along with a second chance to catch his incredible performance in Michael Hoffman’s The Last Station, a look at the dying days of novelist Leo Tolstoy, also starring James McAvoy, Paul Giammati, and Helen Mirren.  Finally, at 5:00 PM, the 2009 Fest comes to a close with the world premiere of After.Life, newby director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s creepy throwback to 1950s horror films, starring Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci, and the ever-present Justin Long who’s sure to be in attendance.

Which reminds me: at the end of my AFI night on Tuesday, I ask the German girl if she had fun and this time she proposes…that we go again this weekend.

The 2009 AFI Fest ends on Saturday, November 7th at the Laemelle Theatre in Santa Monica.  For more information, please visit or call 866-AFI-FEST.

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This Halloween, It’s Different — Round Two

hallThe countdown is truly on to throw together your Halloween costume and plans for the evening.  Time’s ticking!  We have a few last minute ideas to point you in the right direction in case you have left it to the absolute last minute.  Tsk, tsk, tsk…

If you really want to be scared without the fake blood or sound effects, the Natural History Museum presents the Spider Pavilion until the beginning of November.  The enclosed habitat that was once the Butterfly Pavilion is transformed into an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare with different species of spiders roaming around for your creeping, crawling pleasure, including the golden silk spider and jewel garden spider.  Please know that all spiders are not poisonous and shy away from leaving their webs, but there is no guarantee that they won’t give you a solid case of the willies.

Playing it low key, probably the most frightening of locales for tonight’s festivities includes a romp through a graveyard at night.  Interested?  Cinespia presents another screening at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and will be showing John Carpenter’s Halloween.  A psychotic slasher film at a cemetery on Halloween?  This is nothing short than traumatic.  Prepare to have someone tuck you in tonight.

Feeling like playing dress-up?  LACMA, Santa Monica Museum of Art, KCRW, and the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre are throwing their own versions of a costume party.  LACMA’s Muse Costume Ball is inspired by the exhibition Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comic and will be including a lot of art, projections, and music throughout the night while patrons dress up as their favorite hero…or villain.  I’m looking at you, Cruella Deville.  The Santa Monica Museum of Art’s Halla Gala requires a costume or a mask at the very least.  Dress as your secret self, or perhaps another personality from a past life.  KCRW’s Masquerade Ball at the Park Plaza Hotel includes live performances by Sea Wolf and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros as well as DJs spinning all night long.  And finally, there’s only one word that can describe the festivities that will ensue at Cinefamily’s party: Bollywood.  Take that and run with it there and all the way home.  Happy Halloween!!

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