I love you, I hate you: you might call it a mixed message, if the message weren’t so unmixed. You’re allowed to love Paris, up to a point, New York, more or less, Dublin and Glasgow, definitely, but loving Los Angeles is just plain wrong. Oxymoronic, in fact – if you promise to go easy on the oxy.
Los Angeles, and especially the abbreviated LA, has become a byword for the shallow, the ephemeral, the vain – and it is the duty of any right-thinking Englishman, properly cask-aged in rainwater, body dysmorphia and sarcasm, to scorn it. And it’s not just the British press who feel this way.
The rest of the world, and much of America, treats Los Angeles with the same weird mixture of envy and snobbery – qualities that ought to contradict each other, but somehow never do.
Well, I warn you now, I’m heading in the other direction. I’m sticking up for the beautiful city of Los Angeles. That’s right. Beautiful…
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Evidence the 1970s were a strange time: ‘Miss Beautiful Ape’
Run as a promotional vehicle for the wildly popular “Planet of the Apes” series, the contest determined who would win a role in the fifth film in the series, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.”
The winner, by the way, was contestant no. 2, Dominique Green.
Photo: Larry Bessel / Los Angeles Times
Orson Welles: Obituary writer
The last written work from the man known for revolutionizing film with features such as “Citizen Kane” and “The Third Man,” wasn’t a script, but an obituary published by the Los Angeles Times back in 1979 for his friend, and legendary director in his own right, Jean Renoir.
The story behind Welles’ foray into posthumous reporting was recently recounted by former deputy editor of the Sunday Opinions section, Steve Wasserman, in a piece for the L.A. Review of Books, which we 100% recommend reading.
A snippet of Welles’ obituary, as it ran in the Sunday paper, is seen below:
As for his conclusion to the piece:
I have not spoken here of the man who I was proud to count as a friend. His friends were without number and we all loved him as Shakespeare was loved, “this side idolatry.” Let’s give him the last word: “To the question ‘Is the cinema an art?’ my answer is ‘What does it matter?’ … You can make films or you can cultivate a garden.
Both have as much claim to being called an art as a poem by Verlaine or a painting by Delacroix… . Art is ‘making.’ The art of love is the art of making love… . My father never talked to me about art. He could not bear the word.”
Photo: Steve Wasserman / L.A. Review of Books
Made-to-order poetry in Los Angeles
Jacqueline Suskin, a writer and former vegetable gardener, has taken to the Hollywood Farmers Market for her latest venture: The Poem Store.
Sitting with her typewriter, Suskin takes requests from curious passersby and regulars, taking requests for poems on back pain to making verse fit the title “Since Wednesday.”
As for the most popular request?
"Everyone is always asking for love poems," she says. "We are all obsessed with love."But love, as a topic, is deeply unspecific. When someone asks her to write a poem about love, she responds by asking what kind of love. That usually leads to a story about a girlfriend living far away, or a person new to Los Angeles desperately missing her family, or the love a mother has for her new baby.
She thinks people ask for poems that help them understand their path or direction in life.
"They want hope, or confidence, or they just need someone to see who they are," she says. "Half the time I feel like I am a therapist or a psychic."
Photos: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times
On August 5, 1962, the 36-year-old actress Marilyn Monroe was found dead at home in Los Angeles. Her death was ruled a “probably suicide” by L.A. police. Widely publicized reports indicated she was found in the nude, face down on her bed with a telephone in hand with empty pill bottles nearby.
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A heightened Hollywood skyline passes the city council
The so-called Millennium plan made it through the L.A. City Council yesterday, opening the doors for New York developer Millennium Partners to build two skyscrapers and more than 1 million square feet of office, hotel and retail space in the area surrounding the Capitol Records building.
Opponents of the proposal have criticized 39 and 35-story-tall buildings for clashing with the preexisting scenery, and predict traffic will become even messier in the immediate area.
And, pouring fuel on the fire, the head of the California Geological Survey, John Parrish penned a letter warning that the skyscrapers would be built within an earthquake fault zone.
Millennium Partners stand by the structural stability of their designs, regardless of the fault line, and the city council didn’t seem particularly worried, passing the proposal unanimously.
For more info, head over to L.A. Now.
Photos: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times, Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
Is a bigger screen always better?
There may still be plenty of box office successes, with recent summer releases like “Iron Man 3” and “Fast & Furious 6” raking in tons of cash, but theaters nonetheless are feeling the squeeze from online streaming services, digital purchases, improving hardware at home and other non-cinematic media.
From Terrell Mayton, marketing director for Carmike Cinemas Inc. of Columbus, Ga.:
"It’s all about the sizzle, it’s all about the showmanship. When you’ve got an experience that you can’t duplicate in the home setting, that’s going to encourage more people to come to the theaters more often."
So do you agree, is it all about the “sizzle,” or is, perhaps the movie on the screen more important?
Photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
Echo Park Lake circa 1920
Above is a panorama view of Echo Park Lake, as seen from Temple Street. If you look closely off into the distance, you can see Edendale, a former district of Los Angeles that was home to pre-Hollywood movie studios.
Photo: Los Angeles Times
Benedict Cumberbatch and the joy in playing the villain
The Times’ Gina McIntyre recently sat down with rising star Benedict Cumberbatch to discuss his sudden ascendance and his role in his first major blockbuster, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
Though the film debuted last week, we won’t spoil Cumberbatch’s long-hidden role (how long the secret remained hidden surprised even him). But he has won acclaim for his performance in the film.
As put by New York Times critic A.O. Scott:
“Mr. Cumberbatch, pale and intense, has become the object of a global fan cult, and it’s easy to see why. He fuses Byronic charisma with an impatient, imperious intelligence that seems to raise the ambient I.Q. whenever he’s on screen.”
And, as one would imagine, that “fan cult” extends to Tumblr.
For the full chat with Cumberbatch, head over to Hero Complex.
Photos: Jennifer S. Altman, Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times, Zade Rosenthal / Paramount Pictures
Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally: Together on and off the stage
The comedic duo have been married for nearly 10 years, something that makes perfect sense given that the two have shared the screen on a number of projects, from “Will & Grace,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Parks and Recreation” and the upcoming films “Kings of Summer,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me” and “Townies.”
Bart DeLorenzo about their new play “Annapurna.”
Mullally applauded the experience acting exclusively with her husband:
"It’s a lot of alone time together. It’s great. There are no annoying others."
Read more on the play, and the origins of Offerman and Mullally’s adorable courtship, over at Culture Monster.
Photos: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times
Trying to crack Reddit’s AMA magic
Hollywood, always looking for a new way to promote its latest offerings, has turned to Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” threads to allow stars to interact directly with fans.
But in the case of a recent AMA with Morgan Freeman, the whole thing blew up over allegations that the whole thing was a robotic, PR-driven falsehood.
Redditors immediately swarmed the thread, and by the end of it, Freeman and the film he was promoting, “Oblivion,” looked worse for wear.
Freeman and his team insisted to Reddit administrators that the actor was answering the questions orally, while his publicity people transcribed what he said. By that point, however, it was too late. Once the hive mind sets its mind to something, it’s difficult to shift gears and the damage can linger.
Read more about the machinations behind Hollywood’s efforts to seize grassroots momentum over at Company Town.
Scouting the Sierra for movie backdrops
There are birdwatchers, urban explorers and Instagram-centric photo hounds - but some people take their time to explore the barren expanses of California’s backcountry to find the iconic backdrops used in many Hollywood films.
From one couple with a particular penchant for finding famous backgrounds:
At one point, Carol held up a photograph of a campfire scene in “Django Unchained,” which is set in the South just before the Civil War. She moved the photo to the left, then to the right. She squinted, then broke into a smile.
Pointing to a nearby rock, she said that actor Jamie Foxx “stood right there.”
Read more, and see more scenic vistas, over at Framework.
Photos: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times