GO LA: Lewis Black, German Cinema, Sheryl Crow for the Congo, and more
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13
Great German Cinema
“Let’s pour gasoline on the flowers, they’re in full bloom,” proposes one of the pintsize insurrectionists in Werner Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small, in which an all-dwarf cast runs amok on an otherworldly volcanic island. Pointless havoc descends into total chaos, while cannibalistic chickens, a crucified monkey and cockfighting attest to the director’s customary flair for animal imagery. This extraordinary film — a sort of missing link between Todd Browning’s Freaks and Harmony Korine’s Gummo — has often been interpreted as a grotesque metaphor for the failings of the late-’60s student revolts. A different kind of anomie pervades Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Katzelmacher, a hypnotically shifting tableau of urban ennui in which a group of young malcontents — including a miniskirted Hannah Schygulla — spend their summer afternoons on the railing outside a Munich apartment, bickering about sex and money, and occasionally engaging in sullen, apathetic couplings. Their disaffected idyll is interrupted by the arrival of a Greek laborer, the katzelmacher (cock artist) of the title — played by Fassbinder himself — whose rumored sexual prowess strains tensions to breaking point. In these, their respective second films, Herzog and Fassbinder stake out the turfs they would develop and call their own. In both style and content, these uncompromising filmmakers couldn’t be much further apart, but at this stage in their careers they shared a bracingly bleak and darkly comic view of the human condition, which announced the arrival of the new German cinema of the ’70s. Part of “Torn Curtain: The Two Germanys on Film.” LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri., Feb. 13, 7:30 p.m.; $10. (323) 857-1777. —John Tottenham
What Ever Happened to Pleasant Gehman?
Love is a many-splendored, no-good, rotten thing, making Valentine’s Day the most misery-inducing and suicide-provoking holiday this side of Christmas, so here are two local writers, Iris Berry and Annette Zilinskas, who’ll leaven this weekend’s oppressive gloom with considerable wit and a punk rock–infused perspective. Iris Berry is a former member of the music/poetry troupe the Ringling Sisters and has released several poetry and short-story collections (Two Blocks East of Vine, Bad Blood & Bittersweets) and spoken-word CDs (Collect Calls, Life on the Edge in Stilettos). While she’s not a particularly lavish stylist, Berry captures the essence of the true, vanishing old Los Angeles in such poems as “The Garden of Allah” and “Hollywood & Blind,” and charts the ups and downs of modern romance with deceptively simple, diarylike phrases (“My specialty/dramatic exits”). Her fellow Ringling Sisters alum Zilinskas might be better known as a fiery Linda Ronstadt/Wanda Jackson–style country-pop singer who was an early member of the Bangles, but she’s also an intriguingly talented, if frustratingly unprolific spoken-word performer. Zilinskas’ short story “Grounded for the Summer” (from a 1993 Ringling Sisters single) is a funny yet casually insightful character sketch that deftly evokes the hazy daze of the late ’70s by recounting her crush on a popular stoner dude at Mulholland Junior High School. “Yeah,” she confesses, “I was a Val but with Huntington Beach potential.” Stories Books & Café, 1716 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; Fri., Feb. 13, 8 p.m. (213) 413-3733. —Falling James
Saint Talkin’ ’Bout Love
Any press release that promotes an event that “gives the finger to Valentine’s Day and introduces saints that never existed” gets our attention. Oh, hell, let’s quote the whole thing: “World-famous rock & roll outfitter the Congregation of Forgotten Saints, will host The Congregation of Forgotten Saints Hosts Forgotten Saints: Reinterpreting Sainthood at the Altar of Rock, a gathering of artists and connoisseurs, to pay homage to saints that never existed, but deserve the title.” A black carpet and reception kick off an exhibit by Art Core — 40 sculptors, graffiti artists, tattoo artists and other fine artists (you know, like flesh-branders). It goes on, “These won’t be the saints you learned about in Catholic school but rather a reinterpretation of what sainthood means, what people worship today, and the effigies people identify with and revere.” Like Snoopy? Maybe not. Also on the bill: music, cocktails, interactive confessional and live painting, gift bags, attitude. The Congregation of Forgotten Saints, 7569 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; Fri., Feb. 13, 8 p.m.; free, resv. required. (818) 264-6479. —Libby Molyneaux
Revenge of the Lesbians
With Valentine’s Day arriving on Saturday, gay-rights activists thought it would be a good idea to remind the public — and the more aloof segments of the gay community — that legalized same-sex marriage in California is still kaput . . . thanks to the passage of Proposition 8, of course. So on Friday, February 13, Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, the plaintiffs in the California Supreme Court case initially legalizing gay marriage in the Golden State, on May 15, 2008, will repeat their vows on the steps of the Beverly Hills Courthouse at Beverly Hills Marriage Action, sponsored by the Equality Campaign, MCC Church, Marriage Equality USA, 10, Equal Roots, and GetToKnowUsFirst.org. There has been talk that from the courthouse, people will be marching in the streets again. Local and national TV news crews will probably cover the event, and the anti-gay-marriage crowd will probably be on-site waving their hate posters for the cameras, so pro-gay visibility is important. Show up and be counted! Beverly Hills Courthouse, 9355 Burton Way, Beverly Hills; Fri., Feb. 13, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; firstname.lastname@example.org. —Patrick Range McDonald
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14
Journalism’s Dead — Let’s Leave Town!
Dear L.A. Times: I know you’ve been going through some rough times, making some hard decisions in this tough economic climate and all. But does this really seem like a good idea? L.A. Times Travel & Adventure Show? Really? When people are canceling their subscriptions in droves? Your advertisers are fleeing? And now your local news section got “absorbed”? True, you’re bringing in 550 exhibitors “from Louisiana to Greece and from Africa to Alaska.” Some sound pretty pertinent, like father-and-daughter bargain-travel gurus Arthur and Pauline Frommer. The workshop on foreign-home exchange should prove useful. And who can resist adventure tales from National Geographic Adventure Magazine? Maybe it’s not such a misguided (ha!) idea after all — as long as there’s a booth where you can cancel your Times subscription while booking a long weekend at an RV park in Oceanside. Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., West Hall, downtown; Sat.-Sun., Feb. 14-15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; $10, $8 in advance online. (800) LATIMES, Ext. 7SHOW; www.latimestravelshow.com. —L.M.
We’re That Into Catherine Deneuve
When the best Hollywood can offer as a VDay–themed date movie is He’s Just Not That Into You, the work of a true dreamer like Jacques Demy tugs at the heart even more. Demy’s extraordinary The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) is a heartbreaking love story in which every syllable is sung, with the director’s dialogue set to the music of frequent collaborator Michel Legrand. This opulent feast for the eyes and ears — romantic but never maudlin — might be best described as a lollipop-hued melodrama darkened by the loss of youthful ideals. The hopeful lovers of the story are Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), a mechanic who lives with his ailing godmother, and Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve), a proper jeune fille, who helps her widowed mother run her pastel-striped-umbrella shop. When their plans for marriage are thwarted by Guy’s summons for military duty in Algeria, Geneviève croons the film’s best-known song, “I Will Wait for You,” one of the most wrenching accounts of heartache set to music. But she can wait only so long: Pregnant with Guy’s child but feeling forgotten by him, Geneviève succumbs to her mother’s wishes and marries a financially secure merchant. Guy returns to Cherbourg bitter and angry, but finds some happiness with his aunt’s caretaker. Years later, Guy and Geneviève see each other by chance at his snow-blanketed Esso station, their youthful exuberance now supplanted by adult resignation. Cherbourg was Demy’s greatest success: It won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1964 and made Catherine Deneuve, only 20 at the time of the film’s release, an international star. “He was the first real filmmaker that I met,” Deneuve once said of Demy, who would make three more films with the actress. But Demy was more than a filmmaker — he was a creator of an inimitable cinematic world of sumptuous colors, exquisite music and ever-flowing tears.
For those who prefer to remain dry-eyed on St. Valentine’s Day, check out the Thelma Ritter comedy double-bill at the UCLA Film and Television Archive: George Cukor’s The Model and the Marriage Broker and Mitchell Leisen’s The Mating Season (both from 1951). One year after her indelible performance as the wisecracking Birdie in All About Eve, Ritter shows in both films why she’s one of American cinema’s greatest character actresses, delivering zingers that pierce like Cupid’s arrow. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: New Beverly, 7156 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., Feb. 13-14; $7, $6 students; $4 seniors & children; www.newbevcinema.com; Thelma Ritter films: Billy Wilder Theater, Courtyard Level, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Sat., Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.; $9. (310) 206-8013. —Melissa Anderson
Born to Rant: Lewis Black
Lewis Black has escaped Comedy Central’s The Daily Show studio for a little road standup action. Don’t worry, he may seem like he wants to punch somebody out, but he’s really pretty well-behaved.
L.A. WEEKLY: So, how optimistic are you about having Obama in office?
BLACK: I have to say that after eight years with George Bush as president, if there were no one in the White House, I’d feel like we were ahead. Optimism isn’t my strongest suit. Although I must say, it’s overwhelming to have a president who speaks to us — and in paragraphs. However, even though he’s not a Republican, he’s still a Democrat. Democrats speak in more dulcet tones while they are screwing us.
What kind of change will he have to implement in order to win Republicans over?
The kind of change that isn’t really change at all. It just looks like change.
Proustian question, à la Vanity Fair: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A world in which everyone is fed, has a proper standard of income, superb health care, exceptional education, and there is no war — because there is no reason to fight. If you’re just talking about me, perfect happiness would be when I could be perfectly happy without it upsetting me.
Does your act have a “Satisfaction” or “Born to Run” — any greatest hits your audience demands you perform?
There are a few — the water rant, the milk rant — but the one they seem to want to hear the most is an incident that happened in Los Angeles. I was out at an International House of Pancakes when a woman sitting behind me uttered the following: “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” It’s the kind of statement that when you think about it too long, blood shoots out your nose. It actually brings thought to a screeching halt, and the inside of your head begins to resemble an Escher painting as you think about it. It’s a much longer tale, but that’s the gist of it.
When on tour, what do you do all day?
I am extremely lucky in that I have a tour bus that I lease. I generally try to catch up with e-mails, the news and whatever movie I haven’t seen. I’ll watch sports if there’s a game I want to see. Or just stare out the window of the tour bus and drift away. When we get to the next town I’ll usually walk around and check it out or wander into a mall. Strangely, and for reasons that escape me, I find malls to be soothing.
Last book read?
A terrific book by Bill Scheft called Everything Hurts.
If there was a sitcom about your life, what would it be about, and what would it be called?
It would be about me dealing with life’s everyday occurrences, with which I never seem able to deal. Much of it would dwell on me wandering around my apartment yelling at myself over my own incompetence or screaming at someone on the phone about theirs. It would be called Incompetence or The Mr. Stupid Show.
What do you like/dislike about being in L.A.? Ever had a great meal here?
There are two things that make me crazy about Los Angeles — the traffic, which has reached epically insane proportions since I began coming here 20 years ago, and the fact that the business of the town is show business. It permeates everything. And so, oddly enough, I like the Sunset Marquis. I love my friends who live there. I have had some great meals in L.A. and I can’t remember the names of the restaurants.
Given our economic times, what have you cut back on? What was your last splurge?
I don’t eat. I don’t sleep. I don’t use electricity. I don’t jog. My last splurge was buying an apartment where I live in New York. I did it just before all hell broke loose.
You’re performing on Valentine’s Day — why is your show a good choice for lovebirds?
It’s an excellent choice for lovebirds to discover if they really are lovebirds. If one of you isn’t laughing, I would say the ball game is over.
Lewis Black performs at the Wilshire Theater, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Sat., Feb. 14, 8 p.m.; $47.50-$65.50. (213) 480-3232.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Boyfriend Stories: The Questionably Good, The Hideously Bad, the Devilishly Haunting
You’re sitting across from your tight-lipped, cynical, out-of-shape screenwriter boyfriend, who is licking his fingers and grunting at every forkful of penne that enters his mouth. Of course, Mr. Wrong has not yet been paid this month so you’ll be paying the tab. “This is not what I signed up for three months ago,” you think while wondering whether your backside might squeeze through the bathroom-window frame if you made your escape. Looking hopefully at the chatty couple at the next table, you wish that you could share this frightful experience with someone who can honestly feel your pain. Join other traumatized femmes at an interactive book signing for What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories, where you can partake in a contest and giveaways. Many of us wish we had beat authors Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman to the punch line, but let’s face it, ladies, we are still in the thick of it, plunging into bad date after bad date, attempting to catch Mr. Right, but only finding (and sometimes settling for) Mr. Right Now. Borders, 1360 Westwood Blvd., L.A.; Sun., Feb. 15, 2 p.m.; free, book is $19.95. (310) 475-3444. —Celia Soudry
Degrading Pick of the Week
The Bulldog Beauty Contest is so wrong on so many levels. Sure, the scholarship money is a compelling reason for a bulldog to enter a beauty contest, but the award is based strictly on looks — and what kind of message does that send to young girl bulldogs? That if they don’t live up to the impossible standard of clean, upswept jaw, clear eyes and class-A wrinkles, they’re not important? And let’s just say that last year, a certain French bitch was clearly lip-synching to “Nine to Five.” These organizers should be ashamed. North side of Marine Stadium, 5225 E. Paoli Way, Long Beach; Sun., Feb. 15, 10 a.m.; free, $5 reserved front-row seating along the runway; www.bulldogbeauty.com. —L.M.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16
Happy Birthday, Misters Presidents
Today is Presidents’ Day. Unless you work for L.A. Weekly, you probably get the day off. Well, bully for you. Do something fun for the rest of us schmucks. Like this — Norman Jones & His Rhythm Child Band at LACMA. Norman is joined by his boys Bailey, age 8, and Andre, age 3, in a show to celebrate our new president. This is an interactive gig — so all you kids, big and small, are gonna drum your little hearts out. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Mon., Feb. 16, 1 & 2 p.m.; free. (310) 575-9372. —L.M.
And Really, Who Doesn’t Love French Attitude?
Gerard Grisey’s Acoustic Spaces is an evening devoted to two early works of the late French composer, who died at only 52 in 1998, but who left an indelible mark on new music. Known as one of the founders of spectralism, or “musique spectrale,” best described as the exploration of the spectrum of tone colors between harmonic overtones and noise, Grisey composed fascinating works that came out of an obsession with sound — what it was, how it could be used and, especially, how it can shape time. When asked in an interview to define the system of spectralism, Grisey grew slightly irritated. “Spectralism is not a system,” he coolly replied. “It is an attitude. It considers sounds not as dead objects that you can easily and arbitrarily permutate in all directions, but as being like living objects with a birth, lifetime and death.” Which is why his compositions pulsate with a life that transcends time, place and categorization. The percussion ensemble Red Fish, Blue Fish (the internationally acclaimed San Diego–based laboratory for the development of new percussion techniques, sounds and music) performs Grisey’s “Tempus ex Machina,” a complex work whose gorgeous organic structure culminates in soaring climaxes; the Argento Chamber Ensemble performs Part I of “Les Espaces Acoustiques,” regarded by many as one of the most important compositions in European music since 1970. Colburn School of Music, Zipper Concert Hall, 200 S. Grand Ave., L.A.; Mon., Feb. 16, 8 p.m.; $25, $10 students. (310) 836-6632. —Mary Beth Crain
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17
I Was a Geek Before You Were a Geek
What is a Geek Dinner? “Geek Dinners are a monthly gathering of Microsoft geeks in Los Angeles. The dinners are for anyone who has an interest in Microsoft technologies, coding, the Internet, technology, databases, software design, testing, servers, networking, anything ‘dot net.’ Come LINQ in!” Translated: Come eat food with other geeks like us — I mean, you. Uwink, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Tues., Feb. 17, 8 p.m. Resv: http://g33kd1nner.com/. —L.M.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18
Dancers Go Drape Shit!
Bringing their own spin to the environmental art popularized by Christo, choreographer Heidi Duckler and Her Collage Dance Theatre have spent the past six weeks exploring the potential for 200 feet of blue fabric, 10 dancers, and the glass-and-marble environs of 7+Fig. But while Christo would have wrapped the downtown shopping complex in the fabric, Duckler and her collaborator painter/multimedia artist H.K. Zamani, have been exploring the possibilities of what they describe as “liquid architecture,” with dancers employing the fabric to lead visitors on a public-art/performance project dubbed “A Material World.” Shoppers and other visitors have encountered the artistic expedition for the past six weeks, many returning specifically to view the developing performance. Rehearsals will remain open to view. Check www.CollageDanceTheatre.org or the Art Space icon at www.7Fig.com for info. But don’t miss the two culminating performances, a final and more formal opportunity to experience the latest from L.A.’s reigning doyenne of site-specific performance. 7+Fig Art Space, 735 S. Figueroa St., downtown, Wed., Feb. 18, 12:30 & 5:30 p.m.; free. (213) 955-7150. —Ann Haskins
Ladies and Gentlemen — the Longest Event Title in the History of L.A. Weekly!
Not everyone is broke, right? (Please, someone stand up and say, “I have cash to spare.”) Do you see that little cutie in the photo around here somewhere? He and his country need our help. The death toll in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is estimated at 5.4 million. This God-awful situation must be stopped. A small step toward that is Children Mending Hearts Help International Medical Corps Provide Emergency Health Care to Women & Children Victimized by the War. There will be celebs a-poppin’ and photographs for sale, plus performances by Sheryl Crow, Vusi Mahlasela, Timothy Mitchum and Carol Woods (from Across the Universe), among others, but surprisingly, not Jackson Browne. House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; Wed., Feb. 18, 6:30 p.m.; $300-$10,000; imcworldwide.org. —L.M.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19
Name That Cartoon!
The Skirball chronicles “the quintessential American art form” in its latest exhibit, ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950, guest-curated by Jerry Robinson, a cartoonist who’s worked with Batman co-curators Bob Kane and Bill Finger, and who co-created the Joker. The display features never-before-seen artwork and books, as well as interactive areas, including a drawing studio, newsstand, Batmobile ride and costume stations for kids. The museum has also organized a companion exhibit that explores the relationship between superheroes and film, with objects on view such as the 1966 Batcycle. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; opens Thurs., Feb. 19; through Aug. 9. Tues.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. (till 9 p.m. Thurs.); Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; $10 general, $7 seniors & students; $5 children 2-12; free under age 2. (310) 440-4500. —Siran Babayan
Zarzuela of a Time
An ebullient combination of musical theater and light opera in which various elements — all the way from refined classical arias to spoken dialogue and lowbrow slapstick — intermingle with wit and zest, zarzuela is probably the only musical genre to be named after a bramble bush. The first zarzuela was written for King Philip IV of Spain in 1657 and performed at his hunting lodge, La Zarzuela, which was surrounded by zarzas, or brambles. A couple of years back, L.A. Opera took the plunge into this colorful, flamboyant realm with Federico Moreno Torroba’s 1932 zarzuela, Luisa Fernanda, a love triangle set in 1868, in revolutionary Spain. This week, Pacific Lyric Association presents its own production of the passionate story of love, death and the fight for political freedom during Spain’s Glorious Revolution (“La Gloriosa”), in which Queen Isabella II was deposed. Federico Moreno-Torroba Larregla, the son of the composer, has flown in especially for the occasion to conduct his father’s famous score, and recalls, “My father was close friends with the librettists Federico Romero and Guillermo Fernandez Shaw. They met at the café every day to drink, eat and talk about art and politics. When Romero and Shaw showed him their libretto for Luisa Fernanda and asked him to compose the music, he was struck by the parallels between the Spanish political climate of 1868 and the current one in 1932.” Gabriel Oliva directs; choreographed by Lindsay Martin; cast includes Teresa Hughes-Oliva in the title role; Gabriel Reoyo-Pazos and Vincent Solbes alternating as Javier; Renée Rulon Cortez as Duchess Carolina; and Carlos Oliva as Don Vidal Hernando. Ricardo Montalban Theatre, 1615 Vine St., Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., Feb. 19-20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 21, 3 & 8 p.m.; $20-$75. (323) 960-1057. —MBC
Who’s Skinny Now?
If Carol Lay’s Web site is to be believed, her worst job was “helping to make copper-enamel pins of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Hey — I LOVED that book. Anyway, Lay is a longtime comics contributor to this here paper (sadly, on forced hiatus because of Village Voice Media budget-cutting, grrrrr). Her new book, The Big Skinny, tackles her personal journey to thinness, one panel at a time, with lots of helpful recipes and even George Clooney thrown in. For this appearance, she says, “I will be yakking through 45 minutes of cartoon PowerPoint presentation and maybe 15 minutes of Q&A, then signing some books.” Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; Thurs., Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m.; free, book is $18. (323) 660-1175. —L.M.
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