20 Best Things to Do in L.A. This Week

Stop it, Ship Cat! (See Thursday(
Stop it, Ship Cat! (See Thursday(
Photo by Paul Koudounaris

From a talk about the history of nautical cats to L.A.'s premiere comedy festival, there's lots to do in L.A. this week.

fri 1/29

Eliades Ochoa and Barbarito Torres, a duo of great players from Cuba's famed Buena Vista Social Club, show off their skills across a vast range of Cuban music styles including son montuno, danzon, cha cha cha, bolero and gleefully scorching Cuban jazz. Vocalist-guitarist Ochoa is a master of the three-stringed tres, the main instrument in son, an African-based musical style from Santiago de Cuba; he also plays a mean cuatro, which has two additional strings. Torres flat-out rips on the laúd, a traditional Cuban instrument of the lute family that's associated with the guajiro genre (aka Cuban country music). Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Fri., Jan. 29, 9 p.m.; $49-$99. (818) 243-2539, alextheatre.org. —John Payne

KCRW's Riot L.A. aims to make downtown ground zero for alternative comedy. Back for its fourth year, the festival spreads stand-up, podcasts, storytelling, roasts — even magic and live animation — across three days and eight venues, including the Downtown Independent, the Regent, the Smell and the Theater at Ace Hotel. The lineup features Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Ron Funches, Gilbert Gottfried, Janeane Garofalo, Maria Bamford, Natasha Leggero, Bridget Everett, Paul F. Tompkins, Anthony Jeselnik, Aisling Bea, Jerrod Carmichael, Dana Gould, Eddie Pepitone, T.J. Miller, Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, Baron Vaughn, the Grawlix and the dog-friendly show 2 Girls 1 Pup. Highlights include KCRW's UnFictional Live, a Comics to Watch stage and a talk with the Katydids, co-creators of TV Land series Teachers. Various locations, downtown; Fri., Jan. 29, 7:30-11:30 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 30, 1 p.m.-mid.; Sun., Jan. 31, 3-10 p.m.; $10-$39.50. riotla.com. —Siran Babayan

Nufonia Must Fall was turntablist Kid Koala's 2003 dialogue-free graphic novel that told the story of a headphones-wearing robot that falls in love with an office girl. The Montreal DJ brings his vision to life with help from a dozen artists and technicians, led by Oscar-nominated production designer K.K. Barrett (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Lost in Translation, I Heart Huckabees, Her). Puppets are projected on a screen as they re-create each scene from the book on miniature sets. Kid Koala performs a live score with the Afiara Quartet. Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Westwood; Fri., Jan. 29, 8 p.m.; $19-$49. (310) 825-2101, cap.ucla.edu. —Siran Babayan
Penelope Spheeris probably will always be best known for directing Wayne's World, but her body of work extends far beyond the SNL skit–turned-movie — though much of it is equally musical. UCLA's weekend tribute to the writer-director commences with Dudes on 35mm. The road-trip comedy tells of two city punks trekking westward in a Volkswagen Bug; their mellow is harshed considerably by the murder of their friend, thus launching the eponymous dudes on a quest for revenge. Spheeris will appear in person, as will screenwriter Randall Jahnson and star Jon Cryer. UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Fri., Jan. 29, 7:30 p.m.; $10. (310) 206-8013, cinema.ucla.edu. — Michael Nordine

Acts of murder as seen (and experienced) through the lens of a camera have provided the premise of many a disturbing classic, from Rear Window to Peeping Tom. Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up is another example, and one of the most accomplished. An enormous countercultural success that helped destroy the outdated Production Code, the Italian auteur's English-language debut concerns a British fashion photographer (David Hemmings) who accidentally bears witness to a murder. Antonioni received Oscar nods for his direction and screenplay. Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.; Fri., Jan. 29, 11:59 p.m.; $11. (310) 473-8530, landmarktheatres.com/los-angeles/nuart-theatre— Michael Nordine

sat 1/30

Listen, hockey puck, the most distinguished Don Rickles is real-deal Hollywood royalty. He's the Sultan of Insult, the Merchant of Venom. For more than half a century our Mr. Warmth (Johnny Carson coined that term for cuddly li'l Don) has plied his poison in all your top showrooms and concert halls from here to Vegas to Sheboygan and beyond. Besides which he's been a staple side-splitter on TV shows and movies "too numerous to mention," as they say. They also say that all ethnicities, religions, hairdos and golf scores are fair game for a surreally scabrous skewering by the magnificent Mr. Rickles. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Sat., Jan. 30, 9 p.m.; $79-$150. (888) 645-5006, sabantheatre.org. —John Payne

A new dance series featuring performances by a trio of L.A.-based companies, helmed by names known as much for film as for dance, opens with L.A. Dance Project. Benjamin Millepied (Black Swan) founded LADP several years back before heading to France, where he now presides over Paris Opera Ballet. Mille­pied's name still brands LADP, and his choreography for Hearts & Arrows joins Harbor Me from Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and New York choreographer-of-the-moment Justin Peck's highly praised Murder Ballades. Up next week, Debbie Allen (Fame) with Freeze Frame, which promises a high-energy conversation about violence in America. April brings Daniel Ezralow (Across the Universe) and his Ezralow Dance. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., Jan. 29-30, 8 p.m.; $25-$117. (310) 746-4000, thewallis.org. —Ann Haskins

Eight years ago, city councilman José Huizar introduced Bringing Back Broadway, his 10-year plan to revitalize the historic downtown theater district. He can declare mission accomplished, at least for an evening, as Night on Broadway descends on the corridor for a second year after its inaugural celebration attracted three times more guests than were projected. Broadway will be closed to traffic from Third to Seventh streets for outdoor activities, and seven of the street's historic theaters open their doors for a variety of performances by local arts and culture organizations, including Reggie Watts at the Tower Theater; a program of short films at the Los Angeles Theater; and performances by Ozomatli and Aloe Blacc on the main festival stage. Broadway between Third Street and Olympic Boulevard, downtown; Sat., Jan. 30, 5-11 p.m.; free. nightonbroadway.la. —Gwynedd Stuart

The American Cinematheque's 70mm series continues with Ben-Hur, though it isn't actually screening in that most glorious of formats. William Wyler's biblical epic, shot in Ultra Panavision and starring Charlton Heston, won a record-setting 11 Oscars (a feat since matched by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) and made beaucoup bucks. It's a sweeping, sometimes overstated saga, and very much the kind of old-school classic everyone should experience at least once. Bonus fact: Ben-Hur premiered at the Egyptian in 1959, making this a homecoming. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.; Sat., Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.; $11. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com. —Michael Nordine

In a widely misconstrued article published last summer, when debate over the Confederate flag reached its tipping point, the New York Post's Lou Lumenick suggested that we start treating Gone With the Wind as a cultural artifact instead of a commercial property — the province of museums rather than movie theaters, and something to be contemplated rather than celebrated. Still the highest-grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation, the David O. Selznick–produced, Victor Fleming–directed antebellum epic from 1939 will always have a place in history — even if future generations don't look back on it as fondly. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Sat., Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.; $11. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com—Michael Nordine

sun 1/31

With tributes to David Bowie still pouring in, Cinefamily celebrates the late performer's other major contribution to pop culture: his films. As part of "Cracked Actor: Bowie on Film," which includes The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hunger, the theater screens Labyrinth, Jim Henson's 1986 puppet fantasy. The movie has become a cult classic and Halloween costume favorite, thanks to Bowie's wig and the bulge in his pants. Follow a young Jennifer Connelly as she tries to save her baby brother from Jareth the Goblin King (Bowie), who juggles crystal balls and rules over a maze of talking-singing-and-dancing monsters, goblins, dogs, worms and door knobs. It's Bowie's world, we just live in it. Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; Sun., Jan. 31, 11:15 p.m.; $12. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org. —Siran Babayan

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast is like that beautiful golden record that was included on the Voyager spaceships — timeless, resonant and full of art that can be equally beautiful and painful. In her one-woman show, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, she continues in that vein, revealing a compilation of cartoons, family photos and documents that unveil her parents' not-so-golden years and what it meant to Chast to lose them both. Much like those Voyagers, plodding along in the far reaches of space, Chast forges ahead with nerve and determination, depths of darkness be damned. Royce Hall, UCLA, Westwood; Sun., Jan. 31, 4 p.m.; $19-$49. (310) 825-2101, cap.ucla.edu. —David Cotner

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The L.A. Taco Takedown is part of a national tour that pits home cooks against one another in a populist showdown. Actor-filmmaker Matt Timms will play host and emcee. Attendees can compete with their best taco filling, or buy a ticket for all-you-can-eat tacos and a ballot to vote. Winers will receive cookware from Cuisinart, Wusthof, Anolon and more. Email matt@thetakedowns.com to enter as a chef-testant. El Cid, 4212 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; Sun., Jan. 31, 1-3 p.m.; $20 (free to compete). (323) 668-0318, thetakedowns.com/los-angeles-taco-takedown. —Garrett Snyder

"Forever and ever." David Bowie's corporeal form may be no more, but he was never as earthbound as the rest of us anyway. Cinefamily pays tribute to the late, great icon throughout the week, including several screenings of the role that most plays into his otherworldly persona: The Man Who Fell to Earth. As the alien of the title, Bowie comes to our planet seeking refuge from his drought-stricken homeland (good thing he didn't land in present-day California). Nic Roeg's enigmatic whatsit gave Ziggy Stardust his first starring role, and many still consider it his best. Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; Sun., Jan. 31, 4:45 & 8 p.m.; Mon., Feb. 1, 10:45 p.m.; Tue., Feb. 2, 10:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org—Michael Nordine

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast speaks at Royce Hall on Sunday.
New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast speaks at Royce Hall on Sunday.
Courtesy of Roz Chast/Bill Franzen

mon 2/1

Lux Alani has cracked the whip so you don't have to. The former dominatrix — she's also been a crisis counselor, model and Roller Derby girl — discusses The Little Vanilla Book: S&M Wisdom to Improve Your Everyday Life, her new BDSM-inspired self-help guide for "vanilla Janes" who are kink-curious and want to take charge of their lives, but don't plan to ever go near a dungeon. (Dungeons, in case you didn't know, "are largely matriarchal societies.") Alani's how-to is less about sex and fetish and more about applying the principles she's learned as a dominatrix to such areas as women's body image, confidence, courage and resilience. If you're really vanilla, her book also features a glossary of terms, including collar, bullwhip, bottom and top. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; Mon., Feb. 1, 7 p.m.; free, book is $15.99. (310) 659-3110, booksoup.com—Siran Babayan

Bowie was a singular talent, so fuck it — head back to Cinefamily and see Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence as well. Less cosmic but just as highly regarded, Nagisa Ôshima's World War II drama stars Bowie as a prisoner of war being held by the Japanese. The camp commandant is drawn to the way Bowie's character defies his strict orders, leading to a number of unusual dynamics forming between inmates and detainees. Ôshima was a masterful, often controversial filmmaker, and this was his first movie shot in English. Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; Mon., Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org—Michael Nordine

tue 2/2

A convocation of conservationists, Greening the Gas Tank brings together tireless Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court, perennially upbeat environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. and veteran automotive journalist Paul Eisenstein to turn us all on to new ways to get even more nonpolluting vehicles out on the roads. Although the hurdles range from the economic to the political to the technological, they'll explain solutions that are more graceful than the continued zero-sum reliance on crude oil. It's all moderated by KPFK voice of reason Ian Masters, no slouch himself when it comes to fighting against entrenched absurdity. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Tue., Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m.; free. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu/programs-events/2016/02/greening-the-gas-tank. —David Cotner

The L.A. Phil's City of Light features conductor David Robertson leading the St. Louis Symphony in Messiaen's Des canyons aux étoiles... The massive work — 12 movements, 92 minutes — is a jaw-dropping thing to behold. It was inspired by the French composer's experience of the natural beauty of Utah's national parks, in particular the towering glories of Bryce Canyon. "Having left the canyons to climb to the stars," Messiaen said of the piece, "I had only to keep going in the same direction to raise myself up to God." This multimedia production includes big-screen cinematography and time-lapse photography, plus custom-crafted sets and lighting design. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Tue., Feb. 2, 8 p.m.; $26.50-$65. (323) 850-2000, laphil.com. —John Payne

If you've yet to tire of LACMA's weekly Hitchcock screening — and really, how could you? — trek to the Bing Theater once more for Rebecca. The master of suspense's first Hollywood production stars Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine as an ultra-wealthy widower and his second wife, respectively. Though never seen, the title character (his first wife) casts a pall over the entire gothic tale, which has the distinction of winning Best Picture (then called Outstanding Production) at the Academy Awards without receiving a single nomination in the writing, directing or acting categories. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Tue., Feb. 2, 1 p.m.; $5. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org. —Michael Nordine

wed 2/3

L.A. comedian Melinda Hill likes to talk about her lousy love life. Based on her stand-up, Hill's 2013 online series Romantic Encounters poked fun at her string of cringe-worthy dates with unsuitable suitors — think three nipples — and featured fellow comedians Dana Gould, T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley), Carlos Alazraqui (Reno 911) and the late Taylor Negron. Since then, Hill has begun hosting UCB's monthly storytelling show Best of Romantic Encounters. (She also co-created, with Maria Bamford, the long-running What's Up, Tiger Lily?) Apparently Hill is still looking for her soulmate, so she's performing a staged reading of a new webisode with help from Alazraqui, Drew Droege, Kent Osborne and others. It's OK to laugh at her pain. Comedy Central Stage at the Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Wed., Feb. 3, 8 p.m.; free. (323) 856-4249, facebook.com/Comedy-Central-Stage-114055165292212/. —Siran Babayan

thu 2/4

Cats aren't known for loving water (unless it's dripping very slowly from a bathtub faucet), but it turns out our feline friends can really hold their own at sea. Author and self-made expert in cat history Paul Koudounaris presents Ship Cats: Adventure, Courage, Betrayal! a lecture and slideshow featuring stories of some of history's most intrepid cat sailors, including an L.A. cat who won four battle stars. Learn something while looking at photos of cats in sailor hats — which, let's face it, is probably what you'd be doing anyway. The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., downtown; Thu., Feb. 4, 7:30 p.m.; free. (213) 488-0599, lastbookstorela.com. —Gwynedd Stuart

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