Google Isn’t (Necessarily) Making Us Stupid

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Michael Sigman: Contemplative practices like meditation and yoga — the yin to Internet promiscuity’s yang — are also on the rise. But my own meditation practice — which facilitates clarity and focus — has benefited incalculably from Buddhist and other spiritual websites, blogs, lectures, readings, videos and guided meditations. And my meditation group’s email tree has become an interactive source for ideas, links and information about local events members might otherwise never discover.

Princess Kaiulani: A Motion Picture Pretender to the Throne

anka Kilcher as Princess Kaiulani

Ed Rampell: This biopic purports to tell the tale of a fabled beauty who became embroiled in political turmoil, and of her romance with an Englishman. The movie’s press notes assert that, “Princess Kaiulani is the inspiring true story of the Hawaiian princess.” The problem is that this is a dubious claim. The simple fact of the matter is that Kaiulani opens with a historically inaccurate scene that never happened, and much of the movie is likewise historically suspect.

The Great Reckoning of Ragnorak: Wagner, Valhalla, Wall Street and the Twilight of Capitalism’s Gods

Gotterdammerung  » Jennifer Wilson (Gutrune), Alan Held (Gunther), Eric Halfvarson (Hagen). (Photo by: Monika Rittershaus)

Ed Rampell: L.A. Opera’s culmination of Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelungen is not only the fourth, final and finest installment of the four part Ring Cycle, but goddamn, Götterdämmerung is the greatest opera I’ve ever seen in my entire life!!!

I Draw The Line Blues at the Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena

Guitarists Barry Bremer, Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m. Burgers, beer, and blues. Firefly Bistro, 1009 El Centro Street, South Pasadena, 626.441.2443, http://www.eatatfirefly.com

Our House: The Potential to Build Something Beautiful Is Badly Tarnished

Our House

Charley James and Lulu Demaine: A half-dozen former addicts, ex-offenders and homeless people living together in an abandoned Brooklyn building makes for a sad Hot Docs entry in search of a theme – and a purpose.

Mandela’s Ubuntu: We Are Human Only Through the Humanity of Others

Carl Matthes: “Mandela’s Way” is about life and one’s reaction to it. It demonstrates the need for us to understand our own motivations and the need for us to develop and articulate our own sense of Life, Love and Courage. The almost three years it took for Richard Stengel to chronicle Nelson Mandela’s life’s lessons and then condense it to enjoyable readable form, makes this book indispensable.

GasLand Pokes Holes In “Clean” Natural Gas

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Charley James: Almost unnoticed in the haze of big oil’s petro-fumes, GasLand explores how the natural gas industry’s push to drill more wells may be responsible for as much environmental harm to individual people as big oil is to the globe.

Cinephilia: Movie Mania at Hollywood and Divine

Martin Landau and Angelica Huston embrace (Photo: Mark Hill)

Ed Rampell: One of the worst informers of the Blacklist era was Elia Kazan; nevertheless, I went to see a restored version of Kazan’s 1960 New Deal drama Wild River, co-starring Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick and Jo Van Fleet as a stubborn old lady who refuses to vacate her home as the Tennessee Valley Authority prepares to flood the area. Convincingly playing a character 30 years older than her, Van Fleet’s Big Government hating Ella Garth seems like the grandmother of today’s Tea Party activists. TCM is big on film preservation and it aired a short featuring Martin Scorsese, Anthology Film Archives’ Jonas Mekas, etc., on this subject prior to Wild River.

Babies Who Make You Think

Babies Thomas Balmès

Charley James and Lulu Demaine: Thomas Balmès’ film makes a statement about the many possible paths from birth to a happy first birthday, and they have nothing to do with modern medicine – or the lack of it – or the circumstances in which a child is born.

Lenny’s House

Tom Degan: I imagine that it must not have been easy being Lenny Bruce. He was a man who saw the world as it really is – minus the rose-colored lenses that were the fashion rage during the age of Eisenhower and the New Frontier. “People should be taught what is”, he told us, “not what should be”. There had never been a comedian like him before. His humor was real. It could even be bleak. But he was always – to the very end – screamingly funny. That his was a troubled soul there can be no argument. Newsweek once described him as a “self-destructive genius of a dirty time.”

“What Are You Reading?” Asked The L.A. Times Festival Of Books

LA Book Festival

Linda Milazzo: Responding to what are you reading? here, at the 15th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, requires finding space on the formerly all-white wall that after just two hours is dense with book titles, ranging from children’s classics to the coming-of-age The Catcher In The Rye, to seemingly equal entries of The Koran and The Bible. In a city known for its Hollywood glitz and climate-friendly outdoor living, what many don’t know about Los Angeles is how much it reveres its book festival; the largest in the nation, attended by 130,000 readers of all ages and ethnicities.

Susan Cowsill Soars with CD Release Lighthouse

Georgianne Nienaber: It has been five years coming, but Susan Cowsill’s second solo CD, Lighthouse (Threadhead), is a triumph over life’s uncertainties in the wake of natural and personal disasters. The album’s lyricism offers hope and inspiration that life indeed goes on if one carries fire in the soul, hope in the heart, and a belief that we are all here for a reason

Many of Us Were Molested Like Monique

K. Danielle Edwards: Unfortunately, getting touched “down there,” inappropriately kissed or suggestively approached by relatives and authority figures is not as uncommon as we probably hope or pretend it is. According to child abuse organization Darkness to Light, one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually molested before the age of 18. Moreover, according to the organization, about 39 million adults who have survived childhood sexual abuse exist today.

Hot Docs Film Festival Flexes Its Muscles

Dish: Women, Waitressing And The Art Of Service

Charley James and Lulu Demaine: Although technically still a teen, Hot Docs is starting to flex its muscles as one of the most mature, all-documentary festivals in North America. It’s become a major clearing house and debut forum for both accomplished and first-time filmmakers, and an increasingly important venue for the voices of less-mainstream directors.

Moist!

Ed Rampell: The audience, which included many African-American women, by and large loved the performances and philosophy. In a kind of “call and response” the performers adroitly riffed with the responsive spectators, incorporating some improv into their show since, as Jimmy Durante wisely noted: “Everyone wants to get into the act!” (Especially the sex act.)

CARS Catalyzes Cultural Community

Michael Sigman: Community Arts Resources’ mission emphasizes the development of public space in Los Angeles, a concept that may seem oxymoronic to Angelenos who have panic attacks when they have to walk more than a few feet to their valet-parked cars. Bergin/Paley helped with the design for the new Grand Avenue Civic Park, slated for 2012 opening, which will feature a fountain plaza, performance lawn, community terrace and event space, along with a children’s garden and an area for community markets.

La Mission

Carl Matthes: Not to be missed is Peter Bratt’s “La Mission,” a film brimming with street and domestic violence, and laced with homophobia, search for ethnic identity and machismo. Starring the talented Benjamin Bratt, Peter’s younger brother, “La Mission” refers to the Mission District in San Francisco, the real-life, growing-up family neighborhood of the Bratt brothers.

L.A. Opera Rescues Conflicted Sexuality from Obscurity and the Nazis

Ed Rampell: The current production of The Stigmatized is the opera’s U.S. premiere and part of L.A. Opera’s “Recovered Voices” series, which, according to press notes, is “a multi-season initiative to revive the works of composers whose lives and careers were cut short by the Nazi regime.” Schreker’s saucy work, set in 16th century Genoa, was originally presented in Germany in 1918, and can be viewed as being part of the edgy postwar culture of the Weimar Republic that included sexually charged works in various cabaret acts and by playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht.

Theatre West: “Acting: The First Six Lessons” and “The Life and Times of A. Einstein”

Ed Rampell: Unlike other thespians, such as Brando who frequently derided acting as an unworthy profession (well, if your father repeatedly put you down during your childhood as a big nothing, even if you later won two Oscars, millions and vast critical acclaim, you’d still hear your father’s voice in your addled head insulting you and belittling whatever you did), it was a joy to see the pleasure that Beau continues to take in his lifelong avocation, and the pleasure Emily also takes in this art and craft, as the latest member of this show biz dynasty. And their clear enchantment in being able to perform together in this family affair.

The Senator and The Truth

Liar

Bob Barber: “I lie because I have to, It takes away the pain of Truth, of complicated thinking, It keeps me safe From competition, from Uncertainties.”

Mid-August Lunch: Buon Appetito!

midaugustlunch.photo01

Ed Rampell: Mid-August Lunch may be out of step with the movie mainstream (all the more reason to feast your eyes on it), but it is very much in the Italian cinematic tradition of Neo-Realism. Like his motion picture predecessors such as Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Federico Fellini, Di Gregorio has cast a number of non-professional actors in the roles of the Italian mamas, and a couple of the director’s real life friends to play versions of themselves. This “amateur” casting – as the term “Neo-Realist” implies – often gives performances a more true-to-life, if less polished, quality, and it works very well onscreen here.

Cuba See, Junkies No

Brandon Alter (Photo: Ricardo Mamood-Vega)

Ed Rampell: Cuba and the Teddy Bear reminds us of the all-important father-son, parent-child bond and relationship. Break that, and all hell can break loose. I have observed that the children I know for him that link has been torn of asunder often don’t fare well. Despite being an illiterate drug dealer, to his everlasting credit Cuba still tries his best to be a good dad, despite it all.

City Island: What a Tangled Web We Weave

Dominik Garcia-Lorido and Andy Garcia, in City Island

Ed Rampell: I highly recommend the filmic City Island, a delightful family comedy with a superb ensemble cast with an uplifting message. More than any other movie in recent memory it reminded me of William Shakespeare’s wise words ironically uttered by the foolish Polonius in Hamlet: “This above all else, to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Creating Community in LA: A Safety Net for Singers

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Michael Sigman: Community can be created in many ways — geographically, electronically, or around a shared interest or cause. The community of singers which has formed around SOS and its sister organizations needs help from another community: us listeners, whose lives have been so enriched by the wonderful singers — past and present — performing in Los Angeles and around the world.

Political Underpinnings of Film Noir

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Randy Shaw: Since film noir was rediscovered in the 1960’s, there have been many books analyzing the genre. One could understandably ask what Dennis Broe’s new work, Film Noir, American Workers, and Postwar Hollywood could possibly add to the subject. The answer is: quite a bit.

Lone Star State History Books and Bumper Sticker “History”

confederate-flag

Berry Craig: Just in time for next year’s sesquicentennial observance of the start of the Civil War, the Texas Board of Education apparently wants new Lone Star State history books that favorably compare Jefferson Davis to Abraham Lincoln.

Six Degrees of Fornication: That Crazy, Kinky, Wacky Little Thing Called Sex

Carolyn Ratteray (l.) and Kalimba Bennett in "Six Degrees of Fornication" at the Whitefire Theatre. Credit: Jennifer May of Reel Sessions.

Ed Rampell: If the performers are under the covers and covered up in a play about sex, and the show’s not willing to show skin, it makes one wonder: why do a story about that particular topic in the first place? If you don’t want to show naked people and depict sex acts, why not do a play about something else?

Black Motherhood Lost at the Oscars

Mo’Nique in "Precious"

Rev. Irene Monroe: The historical legacy of the devaluation and demonization of black motherhood was both applauded and rewarded at this year’s Oscars. And the point was clearly illustrated with Mo’Nique, capturing the gold statue for best supporting actress in the movie “Precious,” based on the novel Push by Sapphire, as a ghetto welfare mom who demeans and demoralizes her child every chance she can.

Oscar Ceremony Shows Hollywood’s Rightward, Militaristic Shift

Hurt Lockher director Katherine Bigelow, Barbra Striesand

Randy Shaw: While conservatives love bashing “Hollywood liberals,” Sunday night’s Oscar telecast showed how little this description applies. From Kathryn Bigelow’s promoting George W. Bush’s argument that the U.S. invaded Iraq to protect Americans, to the disproportionate acclaim given to films exalting the military, to the exclusion of Michael Moore’sCapitalism, A Love Story from the documentary nominees, Hollywood now largely avoids any hint of progressive social analysis.

The Ballad of Emmett Till: Till We Meet Again

Rico E. Anderson, Adenrele Ojo, Bernard Addison, Lorenz Arnell, and Karen Malina White

Ed Rampell: But in a country still troubled by racism, where hate crimes are on the rise — from nooses and KKK hoods at the University of California San Diego to death threats against the first African American president — any month is appropriate for this engaging interpretation of the life and death of Emmett Till, the martyr who launched the Civil Rights movement. Three months after Till’s murder, Rosa Parks stood up by sitting down in a segregated Southern bus.

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