We went to see the new Anthony Hopkins film The Rite this evening. When we got home we were pretty hungry. Sure, we had bought the large tub of popcorn, but only because it’s easier to carry than the paper bags, and has a stable base so you can set it on the seat next to you with no fears of an avalanche. No way were we going to eat more than 7% of the contents, nor did we, and so, upon returning to our little bungalow on Mulholland Drive, the first stop was the fridge.
Lo and behold! What did we see but the second half of the “Kung Pao Chicken Salad” we’d bought earlier at Gelson’s Deli. Did we make short work of it? And how!
You know what got us most about the salad? The bean sprouts. Yup: bean sprouts! The funny thing is, we don’t normally go for bean sprouts in a big way. They seem a little too health-foody, if you know what we mean. Like hay for cows. But tonight they seemed, instead, fresh and crunchy. Just the thing after seeing a movie about exorcism set in Rome, “the Eternal City,” and starring Anthony Hopkins, a Welsh actor. It was swell to see the great Irish actor, Ciarán Hinds, in a small role as a lecturer on demonic possession. There were many Roman cats in the movie. You’d like them.
After we had polished off the Kung Pao Chicken, we were mighty tempted to nom down on a couple of Eggo toaster waffles spread with lemon curd, but the late hour forbade.
From William Shakespeare’s Life of King Barry I, Act 4, Scene iii
O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men (or women)
That are out of work back in the U.S.!
KING OBAMA the FIRST:
What’s he that wishes so?
My servant McChrystal? Er, no, I mean Petraeus:
If they are mark’d to die, they’re enow
To do your country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men (or women), the easier to sideline and dismiss
As victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.
No, faith, lackey, wish not a man (or woman) or woman (or man) more:
Rather proclaim it, Petraeus, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him be interviewed by the Times.
He that outlives Afghanistan, and comes safe home,
He that ignores the recommendations of our VA deathbook and sees old age,
Will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had in Mazar-i Sharif.’
And the VA Admin will blink and wonder “Who? What? Where’s that?”
Old men (or women) forget: Kabul shall be forgot,
But some Oath Keepers will remember
What feats they did there: then shall our names,
Familiar in his (or her) mouth as barnyard words are in ours:
Barry the king, Gibbs the Jester and Axelrod,
Pelosi and Reid, Barney and Durbin,
Be in their flowing curses freshly remember’d.
Those few, those unlucky few, that band of outsiders;
For he (or she) to-day that sheds his (or her) blood in this
Illegal conflict I inherited from Bad King George
Shall be an outsider — Be he (not she) ne’er so vile,
One of my Czars shall manage to vilify him further:
And Democrat men now a-bed with each other
Shall think them accursed who were there,
And hold each other’s manhoods whiles any speaks
That languished in Afghan upon Saint Crispin’s Day.
For the original version of Henry V’s Saint Crispin’s Day (October 25) speech to the troops before the Battle of Agincourt, go HERE.
Your NiceWork movie reviewer parked his car in the mall lot and walked to the movie theater. That much he remembers.
He bought some treats at the treat stand. A Coke Zero™ and a medium popcorn.
They were good. He found a seat up there near the projector. It was quite a climb because the theater had “stadium seating.”
The movie involved nuns — or guys who look like nuns — who rob banks in Boston. They all live in Charlestown. One of the robbers falls in love with a beautiful girl bank manager that he had kidnapped for a few minutes during a bank robbery at the beginning of the story. His best friend is one of his crew and is very violent. He hits people with guns and disarms Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). He has a “Fightin’ Irish” tattoo on the back of his neck. This is important to the story. Rebecca Hall plays the beautiful girl bank manager.
That’s all your NiceWork reviewer can remember. As the end credits rolled, he carefully descended the stadium stairs, deposited his drink cup and popcorn bag in an appropriate receptacle, and left the theater. He soon found his car and drove home. There was a container of tuna salad in the fridge!
I fully expect a trip to the grocery store to provide a sensory shock or two — the vintage Cap’n Crunch boxes currently on sale for instance — but what could have prepared me for this month’s eye-popping cover of O, the Oprah Magazine? A banner proclaims “The Makeover Issue!” but I would have thought a makeover entailed only a new do, fancy clothes, face paint and a recharged attitude, not the blunking out of one’s eyes as Oprah appears to have undergone.
Why, oh why would she go to such an extreme? Don’t tell me it’s a “new look.” Oprah’s days of looking are no more. Even tattoos are more reversible than eyeball removal. Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge’s seeing eye glasses lie far in the future.
Is Oprah, in these hard times, referencing Lil Orphan Annie, the eyeless Depression era comic strip heroine? If so, big empty white circles — cucumber slices, perhaps, or spray-painted monocles — would work better than hideous cavernous sockets, and would leave her options open when further fashion developments dictate, say, a bug-eyed Marty Feldman thing.
Is she making a Sophoclean statement? Does O now stand for Oedipus? Are we meant to think of the final shot of Ray Milland in X, the Man With the X-ray Eyes? Or of Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah?
We can only hope Oprah’s many fans don’t follow her blindly.
Did you know that today is National Watermelon Day? Well, neither did we until a few minutes ago. In observation of so worthy a vegetable, we at NiceWork bring you this photo of actual bins of actual watermelons at an actual Ralph’s Fine Foods. It was snapped for no reason only yesterday, so the chances are good a quick visit to the Ralph’s at Topanga and Ventura will snag you one of these beauties.
If you prefer your melons shot to pieces with exploding rounds, you might want to CLICK HERE.
Last night, the long line in front of the Calabasian movie theater discouraged us from attending the 7 o’clock showing of Inception. But we did not long remain discouraged. This afternoon, we regrouped and carried out our assault earlier: the 3:40 matinee.
The young lady behind the candy counter wasted not a motion in rushing to fill our order: a small bottled water for Mrs NiceWork, nothing at all for Miss NiceWork, and a popcorn–diet coke combo for me. But even in the short time allowed me by her efficient ingathering of the requested items, I was able to snap this portrait of the sweet treats displayed under glass.
The sight of all those boxes of Junior Mints, Butterfingers and Skittles reminded me of how I was firmly advised as a child, when heading off to the picture show with my limited candy budget, that I should purchase Lemonheads. They were the best buy, my elders insisted, because they lasted the longest of all the candies offered, and wouldn’t make me thirsty, or at least not so thirsty as I’d be made by, say, licorice or chocolate. Young and trusting, I took that advice and always bought Lemonheads rather than the Raisinettes which I greatly preferred, even though they took only few minutes to consume and were sure to cause thirst. I could make a box of Lemonheads last through an entire double feature.
But so what? To this day I resent the unsought advice and regret my having taken it. Why apply logic or good sense to an essentially frivolous decision? I should have bought the Raisinettes just because.
One hundred forty-eight minutes later, after the movie Inception had drawn to a close, I stood in the lobby and looked at near-lifesize cardboard cutouts of the cast of an upcoming action picture, The Expendables. Here is one of the stars, Bruce Willis:
People often say to me, “Thorbjørn…” (Evidently I bear a strong resemblance to a man named “Thorbjørn.”) “Thorbjørn, now that you have lived in Los Angeles for a little over a year, can you tell us what three things make Southern California special to you?”
After a few weeks, I sometimes reply (of course, the questioners are long since departed), “Well, if I had to choose three things that make Southern California — that is, “SoCal” — special, I would first have to say, STEAK TRUCKS.”
Beefsteaks, long associated with cattle drives from Texas to St. Louis, with the stockyards of Chicago and with “good eatin’” in Boston’s famous Palmer Parker House Hotel where Ho Chi Minh once worked, also have a distinguished career in Southern California. Many of the cows who worked as extras in Howard Hawks’ classic film from 1948, Red River, opted to stay on in the area. Their descendents now enjoy special status among the gourmands of L.A. and can often be seen travelling the highways in specially outfitted “Steak Trucks,” as pampered as any NASCAR race-mobile.
Then I might take you to my favorite Starbuck’s Coffee Store, bring you to the back door and draw your attention to the hills just visible in the distance. I would say, “See those hills? See ‘em? Eh? See ‘em? Those hills are the very hills that helicopters come over at the beginning of the 70′s television sitcom M*A*S*H. Radar would point at them.” Yes, that is what makes SoCal special. That “waking dream” feeling you get whenever you stumble across an oft-filmed location or person.
But you know what really really makes people say “Californy is the place you oughta be”? It is living within cannonshot of a city named after a pumpkin:
Posted in Delights, Film, L.A.
Tagged Calabasas, California, Ho Chi Minh, L.A., MASH, Parker House, SoCal, Southern California, steak
All on my own, I caught the limited release independent film, The Hurt Locker, last Saturday at a nearby “art house” cinema. Had to go it alone because the womenfolk balked at going to what they thought would be a Die Hard style blood and guts guy film. This was fair considering I’d drawn the line at Julie and Julia, from a screening of which I was certain I’d never emerge alive.
But the ladies missed a good movie by ducking The Hurt Locker. The subject, an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit in Iraq, certainly entails the shedding of some blood and the rapid dispersion of internal organs, but this was no gung-ho, over-the-top-men, CGI robot-suited, Bruce Willis, thrill-a-minute extravaganza. And if you were to call it a guy film you would astonish the female director and producer, Kathryn Bigelow (Blue Steel, Point Break).
The film is about work. How work absorbs the minds, emotions and souls of men who let it. Unexploded “improvised explosive devices” make for pretty absorbing work, of course. These guys stay really, really focused. But if the focus is a bit sharper than that of the barista serving lattes at your local Starbuck’s, espresso machine detonations being mercifully rare, still anyone who has had the good fortune to work at something he loves and who has experienced what pyschologists’ call “flow” — that self-forgetting immersion in activity — will recognize what these bomb-defusers are about.
Especially the primary bomb guy, Sgt. James, (played by Jeremy Renner who ought to, but won’t, get an Oscar). Sgt. James is nuts. Or you may prefer the word “wildman” as he is called by a Captain expressing amazement at his 800+ IED defusings. Sgt. James’ risk-taking earns him a lot of respect, yes, but it also inspires a fellow NCO to seriously consider pushing the plunger on a shell James is standing next to. His only real equals are his opponents, the bomb makers themselves, whose more ingenious fuses and timers he respectfully saves in a memory box underneath his bunk.
There’s some rough stuff — how could there not be? — but Hurt Locker is not another tough-guy flick featuring actors wearing impassive faces in front of green-screen demolition. It’s a convincingly realistic story about unusually dedicated men doing unusually grippy jobs in an unusually fried part of the world. A well told tale, and — this must be emphasized — despite the Iraq War setting Hurt Locker is NOT AT ALL POLITICAL. The mistake of sermonizing about geopolitics that has sunk all other war film offerings of the last few years (Lions for Lambs, anyone?) does not sink Bigelow.
Four stars and a danger sign: ☆☆☆☆⚠
Los Angeles is well-known for its tolerance of eccentricity. Dress however you want. Act however you want. Screech, burble, drool however you want. S’cool.
That tolerance is a double-edged sword, though, if you are actually trying to stand out.
Dog Star Man, for instance. You can see him performing in this goofy way almost every day right there in public on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana, but does he ever gain the stardom he’s seeking? No. Not so much as a lifted eyebrow though he’s daubed both of his with mustard and ketchup. Your heart should break for him. But it doesn’t.
Why so flinty? Because it’s nothing new. Nathanael West wrote all about the peculiar sorrows of L.A. 70 years ago in Day of the Locust. You can read that bitter, depressing novella about human vanity if you want to become bitter and depressed about human vanity.
Or you can visit Dog Star Man on Ventura and ignore him like everyone else.
Miss Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust
by Nathanael West
(New Directions Publishing Corporation, Paperback, 191pp.)
Look what I found attached to my mail box moments ago: A “Notice of Filming.” This quiet little portion of the street where we live is going to serve as the location for a film shoot next week.
Movies were shot all around our little Chicago pad back in the days – the producers of The Color of Money, for instance, needing a really nasty, dangerous, nitty-gritty sordid urban backdrop for their nitty-gritty sordid film, thought our neighborhood looked about right — but this is the first time we’ve ever been given advance warning. Must be an L.A. thing.
I do appreciate the heads up. Wouldn’t want to wake up to the hoarse cries of gaffers, the piping voices of the best boys, the roar of generators and later, blinded by the movie lights, to stumble over miles of cable snaking and sparking all over Mulholland Drive. Foreknowledge allows mental adjustment to the impending invasion. So thanks, film people. It’s just that I’m beginning to worry about what I should wear.
Among the promised diversions listed on the back of the notice were “camera on sticks” and “scissor lifts.”
Cameras on sticks? I can hardly wait!