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

The infamous pie eating contest returns for another year at Topanga Day. (See: Saturday)
The infamous pie eating contest returns for another year at Topanga Day. (See: Saturday)
Lina Lecaro


A Memorial Day weekend bash in Topanga Canyon, a fest for Sherlock fans, the Five Minutes Game (and a potluck) at Cinefamily, and more fun stuff to do and see in L.A. this week.

fri 3/26

Dance seldom emerges in its completed form the first time out. Rather, it tends to evolve as a choreographer actually sees the work performed, through the filters of real-time dancing and audience reaction. Incubation: A Choreographers' Showcase is L.A. Contemporary Dance Company's chance for choreographers and audiences to test-run several new and in-progress dances before they achieve completion next season. The impressive lineup of dancemakers includes Nathan Makolandra, Rebecca Lemme, Nicholas Heitzeberg and former LACDC director Kate Hutter, plus original compositions by L.A.-based composer Jodie Landau of Wild Up. Diavolo Dance Space, Brewery Arts Complex, 616 Moulton Ave., Lincoln Heights; Fri.-Sat., May 26-27, 8:30 p.m.; $20, $15 student or younger than 18. incubationlacdc.brownpapertickets.com. —Ann Haskins

With her astonishing technique and dazzling speed, Yuja Wang is a virtual rock star in the often-staid world of classical music. The 30-year-old Chinese pianist can easily sell out the Hollywood Bowl, but some critics — usually conservative, older men — still harrumph about the short hem length of her designer dresses and grouse that she shouldn't be able to manipulate the piano's pedals so adroitly in steep, 5-inch heels. Wang can take a quaintly traditional piece such as Mozart's "Turkish March" and infuse it with madcap bursts of jazz, barrelhouse piano and febrile allusions to other composers. But for all of her dexterity, she'll revel in her more moody and expressive side as she unveils all three darkly knotty piano concertos by the ever-morbid Béla Bartók, under the guidance of conductor Gustavo Dudamel and L.A. Phil over the next two weekends. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Fri., May 26, 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., May 27-28, 2 p.m. (also Thu.-Sun., June 1-4); $20-$206. (323) 850-2000, laphil.com/philpedia/yuja-wang. —Falling James

The description of the new production The Tug of War may sound uncomfortably familiar: "With the world on the brink of war, the judgment of an untested president is called into question." But, David Rambo's staged docudrama is about John F. Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis, not Orange Mussolini and whatever near-nuclear catastrophe he's embroiled us in this week. Commissioned by L.A. Theatre Works, the production has a star-laden cast that includes Matthew Arkin and Mad Men's Rich Sommer, and a foley artist will be producing sound effects live onstage. Can't make it to the show? The production will run as a radio broadcast via KPFK, as well as in podcast form. James Bridges Theater, 235 Charles E. Young Drive, Westwood; Fri., May 26, 8 p.m. (also Sat.-Sun., May 27-28); $15-$60. (310) 827-0889, latw.org. —Gwynedd Stuart

Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, the more daring half of the 2007 double feature Grindhouse, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, the New Beverly Cinema is showing the "extended international version" in 35mm. The grungy aesthetics pay homage to the high-octane car flicks of the 1970s (Vanishing Point, Gone in 60 Seconds, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, et al.), but the white-hot revenge plot — in which four women pursue a psychotic, homicidal movie stuntman (Kurt Russell) in an extended bout of road rage—is pure QT. "Buckle your seatbelts," Bette Davis once said in another movie, "it's going to be a bumpy night." New Beverly Cinema, 7165 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax; Fri., May 26, 11:59 p.m.; $8. (323) 938-4038, thenewbev.com. —Nathaniel Bell

sat 5/27

Nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains between the West Valley and Pacific Palisades, Topanga Canyon is home to the eponymous Topanga Community Center, a local nonprofit that hosts the annual Topanga Days celebration. An L.A. institution dating back to 1973, the Memorial Weekend shindig is equal parts music festival, vendor village and carnival-food bonanza. This year's incarnation features headliners Jefferson Starship and L.A.'s own Ozomatli, along with dozens of others playing the fundraiser for the TCC. It all culminates with a parade of animals, humans and colorful floats, transporting guests to the lazy, hazy, hippie-style bliss of SoCal's canyon culture. Topanga Community Center, 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat.-Mon., May 27-29, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Memorial Day Parade is Mon., May 29, 8:30 a.m.-noon; $15, $40 three-day pass. (310) 455-1980, topangadays.com. —Tanja M. Laden

Eat Drink Vegan is definitely the year's biggest vegetable-forward food event in Los Angeles County — just be sure to note that food is not included in the ticket price. What is included? All the liquids you can dream of. (The bathroom lines will perhaps be crazy.) You'll get a tasting glass upon entry, which you can fill with wine, cider, kombucha, tea, cold-brew coffee, sodas and beer. More than 75 food vendors will also be on hand, some of whom are always vegan, others who are creating vegan dishes just for the event, including Broken Spanish, Badmaash, Donna Jean, Sweetfin Poke, Scoops Westside, Peaceful Provisions, Café Gratitude, Trejo's Tacos and Hanjip. Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena; Sat., May 27, 2-7:30 p.m.; $60. eatdrinkvegan.com. —Katherine Spiers

Seven years after Sherlock premiered on the BBC and turned lanky, pale panty-dropper Benedict Cumberbatch into a star, its official fan convention, Sherlocked, has finally arrived in the United States. Held in the U.K. for the past three years, the three-day fan extravaganza celebrates all things related to the modern TV adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective for hire with Q&As, autograph signings, art displays, cosplay, parties, original costumes and set pieces from Sherlock Holmes and John Watson's famous home on 221B Baker Street. Among the stars scheduled to appear are series actors Andrew Scott, Amanda Abbington, Una Stubbs, Louis Moffat, Alistair Petrie and Cumberbatch's parents, Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, as well as creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, executive producer Sue Vertue and production designer Arwel Wyn Jones. Los Angeles Airport Marriott, 5855 Century Blvd., Westchester; Fri., May 26, 5-8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., May 27-28, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; $75-$2,995. sherlockedusa.com. 0x000A—Siran Babayan

The versatile Jonathan Demme carved out one of the most eclectic careers in the movie business before passing away in April. After cutting his teeth in exploitation, he slalomed between comedy, drama, romance, thriller, and documentary with the dexterity of a natural. In memoriam, the Egyptian Theatre screens Stop Making Sense, Demme's visual record of a 1983 Talking Heads performance at the Pantages Theater. Stripped of the usual concert film tropes (backstage interviews, audience reaction shots, etc.), it's a brilliant yet self-effacing tribute to a joyous musical act. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Sat., May 27, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com. —Nathaniel Bell

Campy sci-fi classic Barbarella screens on Thursday.EXPAND
Campy sci-fi classic Barbarella screens on Thursday.
Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica

sun 5/28

Eli Olsberg watches bad entertainment so you don't have to. Olsberg is a stand-up comic and writer whose credits include the Laugh Factory, Comedy Store and UCB, and hosting the ongoing comedy show Performance Anxiety at the Pleasure Chest. For his first, monthly Insane Movie Hour, Olsberg screens clips from children's movies, TV shows and commercials mostly from the 1980s and early '90s, which were intended for kids but are almost too dark and weird even for adults. He's joined by fellow comedians Gaby Dunn, Allison Raskin, Alexis G. Zall and Julian McCullough, who provide commentary. The evening features films such as 1985's Return to Oz and 1987's The Garbage Pail Kids Movie; a commercial for a kids' toy line for 1990's R-rated Terminator 2: Judgment Day; and a 1988 anti-drug PSA with McGruff the Crime Dog and a 13-year-old Drew Barrymore, just before she entered rehab. Nerdist Showroom at Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Sun., May 28, 9-10:30 p.m.; $10. (323) 851-7223, nerdmeltla.com. —Siran Babayan

In these troubling times, it's all too easy to tilt at windmills about this, that and the other. A more relaxing way to spend the day might be the 28th Annual Holland Festival presented by the Netherlands American Society of Southern California. The fest celebrates the shared cultural heritage of the Netherlands and Indonesia (former Dutch East Indies) with a wide array of tasty Dutch and Indonesian food specialties and plenty of Heineken beer on tap; live music and numerous vendors selling Dutch and Indonesian products and food make for loads of fun for the whole family. Gemmrig Park (Police Park), 7390 E. Carson St., Long Beach; Sun., May 28, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; $10, free 12 and younger. nassocal.org/announcements/holland_festival.html. —John Payne

Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller enjoyed a burst of fame in the United States in the early 1970s for a series of aggressive, lyrical, irreverent comedies, inspiring rapturous comparisons to Fellini. The Cinefamily screens six newly restored films as part of their tribute to Wertmüller, who at 88 is the subject of Behind the White Glasses, a flattering documentary portrait. Seven Beauties, the nervy concentration camp comedy that earned her two Oscar nominations (including one for Best Director — the first ever given to a woman), is the most provocative of the bunch. The climactic scene involves Giancarlo Giannini (wonderful as a bug-eyed Casanova) making agonized love to a porcine Nazi commandant (Shirley Stoler) in order to escape hard labor. "A very special artistic vision," as Martin Scorsese politely offers. Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; Wed. May 31, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org. —Nathaniel Bell

Once or twice a year, the American Cinematheque hauls out a glorious 70mm print of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. The crystalline digital restoration of 2012 looks superb on Blu-ray, but to see this 1962 masterpiece on film, with each pop and scratch suggesting a living entity with a definite shelf life, is a different experience entirely. When the lights go down and the first percussive notes of Maurice Jarre's overture pierce the stadium, a viewer can be truly happy. Lean's deconstruction of WWI officer T.E. Lawrence needs no introduction, except to say that if any film was meant to be seen on the big screen, it's this one. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Sun., May 28, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466 3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com. —Nathaniel Bell

Elaine May is gradually building a cult reputation as one of the great unsung writer-directors, and the New Beverly Cinema knows it. The two films they've selected demonstrate her comedic range, as well as her wonky humanism. A New Leaf, in which she co-stars alongside Walter Matthau, is a painfully funny comedy about a middle-aged playboy who conspires to marry a socially maladroit heiress. The underrated Ishtar, a toothsome sendup of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, is also ripe for reappraisal. A notorious box office bomb, it has gracefully withstood the test of time, thanks to some expert clowning by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman (trying for some Bob Hope/Bing Crosby magic) and Vittorio Storaro's handsome cinematography. New Beverly Cinema, 7165 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax; Sun., May 28, 7:30 p.m.; $8. (323) 938-4038, thenewbev.com. —Nathaniel Bell

mon 5/29

The thrill of the chase meets the heat of the moment in this year's edition of Cinefamily's Five Minutes Game, a cavalcade of obscure films, which screens with the premise that the first five minutes of any film is fascinating. Fifteen five-minute chunks of celluloid — many from works that never made it to DVD — are voted on by the audience, choosing the one that seems interesting enough to watch all the way through. Also, in honor of Memorial Day, there'll be a barbecue on the back patio, a Cinefamily tradition that serves up a world of meat, vegetables and other gustatory joys of summer. Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Beverly Grove; Mon., May 29, 5 p.m.; $12, free for members. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org/films/special-events-may-2017.—David Cotner

Five Came Back, the new Netflix documentary based on Mark Harris's best-selling book, profiles five American directors whose state-sanctioned propaganda helped bolster morale during the darkest days of WWII. As a Memorial Day tribute, the Egyptian is presenting five of these wartime documentaries, one for each featured director: Prelude to War (Frank Capra), How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines (John Ford), The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (William Wyler), Nazi Concentration Camps (George Stevens) and Let There Be Light (John Huston). Huston's was singled out by the National Film Registry as an important contribution to the history of cinema, but the others are no less worthy. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Mon., May 29, 3 p.m.; free with RSVP. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com. —Nathaniel Bell

What the world needs now is ... Burt Bacharach. (See: Thursday)EXPAND
What the world needs now is ... Burt Bacharach. (See: Thursday)
Olaf Heine

tue 5/30

Watch a group of guys bring shame to their gender in host Joe Tower's podcast and bimonthly storytelling hour, Tales of Male Folly. Everyone loves a funny story, and in each show, four comedians, actors and directors recall embarrassing moments they experienced as kids or adults, whether it's being high at the Magic Castle, leading a church youth group, entering a Chinese gang or even surviving testicular cancer. Tonight's holiday-themed Father Knows Best edition features guests who are all dads, including playwright Mark Sitko, film producer Nate Matteson, Emmy-nominated writer/producer Alex Gradet and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Brett Dalton. The Virgil, 4519 Santa Monica Blvd., East Hollywood; Tue., May 30, 7-10 p.m.; free. thevirgil.com. —Siran Babayan

For all those whose parents yelled at them for wasting all those quarters or unplugged the game console after one too many arguments, "Continue?: The Philosophy of Japanese Arcade Culture" is a moment of vindication. Video game enthusiast and artistic director Oliver Payne will discuss Japan's arcade games and culture, including so-called "bullet hell games" like Radiant Silvergun and Batsugun — games that seem deeply, fucking impossible because of all the bullets heading your way. Payne also discusses how arcade culture is wrapped up in issues of labor, identity and artistic expression, concepts that are probably still totally lost on your mean parents. Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Wed., May 31, 7:30 p.m.; free. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu. —David Cotner

wed 5/31

Kurt Vonneguys are Alex Schmidt and Michael Swaim, two comedians and contributors to the humor and video website Cracked, who dedicate their literary podcast to their favorite writer: Kurt Vonnegut. Launched last year, the episodes chronologically break down Vonnegut's entire canon of novels, short stories and plays, beginning with 1952's Player Piano and continuing through such major works as Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions and The Sirens of Titan. On the podcast, Schmidt and Swaim also discuss their favorite quotes, characters and artwork by the author, as well as any Vonnegut-related news, including the upcoming TV version of Cat's Cradle by Noah Hawley, creator of FX's Fargo. For their first live taping, the two will analyze Palm Sunday, Vonnegut's 1981 collection of short stories, essays, letters and speeches, and host an audience Q&A. The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., downtown; Wed., May 31, 7:30 p.m.; free. (213) 488-0599, lastbookstorela.com. —Siran Babayan

thu 6/1

Still Undiscovered stars two actresses who are just that, which is why they create their own sketch comedy. Annie Cavalero and Cammy Brickell are not content with remaining unknowns, so they wrote a show in which they can pursue their dreams while performing various female roles — a Groupon stripper, a wannabe QVC saleswoman — even if Hollywood never takes notice. Cavalero's husband, Tony, a Groundlings main company member, who plays Dewey Finn on Nickelodeon's School of Rock, directs the cast, which features Katierose Donohue and Matt Hobby. Cavalero and Brickell also share some of their professional humiliation, screening video clips of their past failed auditions for movies and TV shows, including 2 Broke Girls and Grey's Anatomy. The Groundlings Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; Thu., June 1, 10 p.m.; $10. (323) 934-4747, groundlings.com. —Siran Babayan

Burt Bacharach is one of the most influential songwriters of the 20th century, responsible for four dozen top 10 hits and nine No. 1 singles, from amongst the hundreds of songs he composed with writing partner Hal David. With his signature brand of jazz-inflected orchestral pop, Bacharach penned such hits as "Walk On By," "Say a Little Prayer" and "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," for a wide range of artists from Dusty Springfield to Tom Jones, and, of course, Dionne Warwick, for whom he wrote 38 chart-topping tracks over the course of their long collaboration. Although he is often associated with the "easy listening" genre, Bacharach elevated the average pop-song format, creating standards that still resonate 50 years after their original release. UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance offers a rare chance to see and hear this 89-year-old living legend when he takes the stage for An Evening with Burt Bacharach. UCLA Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Westwood; Thu., June 1, 8 p.m.; $39-$89. cap.ucla.edu/calendar/details/bacharach_2016. —Matt Stromberg

Laemmle's Throwback Thursday series continues with a screening of Barbarella, the 1968 s-f sex comedy starring Jane Fonda as Jean-Claude Forest's comic strip protagonist, a nubile space traveler with a penchant for erotic misadventures. (Sample dialogue: "Make love? But nobody's done that for centuries!") Emancipated feminist icon or flawless male fantasy? The jury is still out, but meanwhile there are immediate pleasures in Roger Vadim's campy, PG-rated spoof, including some eye-popping production design and a variety of ingenious props. Laemmle NoHo, 5420 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, Thu., June 1, 7:30 p.m.; $11. (310) 478-3836, laemmle.com. —Nathaniel Bell


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