Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Devilishly Smart look at The City of Angels

The stockiest of stock L.A. photos.

As I continue to drown in a sea of composition essays, Nat continues to take up my slack with another awesome reading list, this time based on her Southland stomping grounds. 

It seems no one likes LA but there sure is a lot of interest in what we do here. Movies abound about the city paved with gold (the streets are actually sparkly—different asphalt and all) and just turn on the TV to see a skewed “reality” version of how this slice of the left coast lives. Books are a tad more difficult to come by.

See the Sights!
            A LOT of what happens in LA is sightseeing. Seriously. I have to dodge sightseers to get fish from my Whole Foods. No lie. There was a group with cameras as I waited for my tilapia Monday. Luckily for the movies, LA has more interesting things to see than fish carcasses.
            The LA River: Or, rather, aqueduct which might actually contain a fish carcass or three. See Chinatown, Grease, and, amusingly, the latest season of America’s Next Top Model for a trip down the river without banjos.
The Griffith Observatory: This place is all kinds of awesome and newly re-opened after wild fire damage and general renovation. Rebel without a Cause features this shrine to geekiness prominently.
Hollywood Blvd.: The 2011 The Muppets centers on the re-furb of “The Muppet Theater” or, as we like to call it, El Capitan. Opened in 1926 by the same dude who opened The Egyptian and The Chinese (both within walking distance of El Capitan) it’s currently decked out with a giant Wurlitzer organ on which Disney songs are played before shows. Only Disney films show now but each is often accompanied by an exhibit with props/costumes and some sort of pre-show. I saw The Muppets here and was treated to a sing-a-long with Kermit and Miss Piggy (80s kid geek-out!). The Muppets also gives a glance into the nearby sights on Hollywood Blvd. as well as Jim Henson Studios which is just around the corner on La Brea.
Chinatown: For the best Chinese food go to Yang Chow posthaste. To see the silliest pop-culture “sight” ever, look on the side of the Foo Chow restaurant.

Get Your PoMo Cred On: Thomas Pynchon isn’t known for being what might be called “readable” but his latest is the closest you’re going to get. Inherent Vice is set in and around LA and is surprisingly (to me, at least) accessible, fun, and at least partially responsible for the advent of the “book trailer.”

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch This Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice. But, James M. Cain also wrote Mildred Pierce which was recently a passable mini-series for HBO and was an Oscar winning film for Joan Crawford.

Because Everyone Expects It: Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locusts is the LA novel with literary cred. It’s short. Give it a read and toss in Miss Lonelyhearts while you’re at it (they’re probably packaged in the same physical book anyway) even though it’s an NYC book.

Because No One Has Heard of It: As the girl who never read Brave New World but has read Chrome Yellow, I prefer an oddball Aldous Huxley and his After Many Summer Dies a Swan seems the perfect retort for “You haven’t read Brave New World?!?!.”

Creepy McCreepiness: James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia is a true crime/fiction hybrid novel. If you want to up the creep factor, check out the first season of American Horror Story and see Mena Suvari as the (in)famous actress. See also: Ellroy’s LA Confidential and the film that garnered Kim Basinger an Oscar. Meanwhile, did you know that the LA County Coroner’s Office has a gift shop? Skeletons in the Closet. Hee.

“I got friends in East LA”: For a look at the not-so-shiny side of Los Angeles, try The Revolt of the Cockroach People. Hunter S. Thompson wrote the intro because his Dr. Gonzo character is based on the author, Oscar Zeta Acosta, who mysteriously disappeared and likely died in 1971. True crime, indeed.

80s Flashback: Robert Downey Jr. brings the fabled LA drug habit and party sensibility in Less Than Zero based on Bret Easton Ellis’s book or, as I like to call it, “Less Disturbing than American Psycho.”

Hardboiled: Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep is an excellent example of  LA Noir (literature and film) but I prefer White Heat which basically gives you a car chase tour of old-town Los Angeles. See also: High Sierra, most of Chandler’s other books, and a million other noirs.

As if: LA is notorious for the air-head blonde stereotype and there isn’t a more fun film about such things (while being quite substantive, actually Kato) than Clueless.

Dude’s Got a Lady’s Name: I’ve never read any Evelyn Waugh but he wrote The Loved Ones about LA people.

Just ‘Cause She’s Awesome: You should read Anna Deavere Smith’s play Twilight Los Angeles.

The American Gangster’s Dream: The setting for Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard isn’t exclusively Los Angeles but the journey cross country makes it more of a Hollywood story. Read the book on the beach (I did, forever ago) and give the movie with a resurrected John Travolta a watch. Give the celluloid sequel, Be Cool, a skip (though the book may be worth it) and then go straight to whatever DVD/Blu Ray/streaming service you prefer and watch all of Justified. Immediately. Timothy Olyphant is yummy and says shit like “I got mad ninja skills, buddy” in a drawl slower than honey. Shut up about it not being about LA. They totally film it here.

McCool: They Shoot Horses Don’t They is a novel by Horace McCoy and a film directed by Sydney Pollack about an 879 hour dance marathon during the Depression. What?! Apparently Alexander McQueen recreated the dance marathon for a 2004 collection

Drive You to Distraction: Want to feel better about your city’s real estate prices? Or just snoop in homes of the wannabe famous (and sometimes the actually famous)? Curbed LA is all that and more of a time waster/what you might do if you won the lottery game. You’re welcome.

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