Felled trees become art at the L.A. County Arboretum, the Museum of Failure arrives in L.A. from Sweden, Jordan Peele answers questions about his hit movie Get Out at the Hammer, and more fun stuff to do and see in L.A. this week.
Metro Art screens Ava DuVernay's 2008 movie, This Is the Life, at Union Station, the last in a series of documentaries about L.A. directed by women. In 1989, B. Hall and her son launched weekly open-mic nights at the Good Life Café and health-food market in South Central as a safe and creative alternative to gangster rap for up-and-coming MCs. The only rule? No profanity. The open-mic nights ended in 1995, and the café closed in 1999. In her debut film, the Oscar-nominated DuVernay (Selma, 13th, OWN's Queen Sugar) interviews the hosts, regulars, DJs, graffiti artists and noncommercial but influential freestyling rappers who were part of the scene, such as Jurassic 5, Freestyle Fellowship, Abstract Rude, Volume 10, Medusa and Figures of Speech, which included DuVernay. The event features an introduction by B. Hall. Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St., downtown; Fri., Dec. 1, 8-10 p.m.; free. unionstationla.com. —Siran Babayan
The devastating windstorm that whipped through the San Gabriel Valley in 2011 downed trees and caused power outages. The winds also destroyed 235 trees and harmed 1,000 more at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. The following year, the arboretum invited artists to turn the toppled trees into sculpture, furniture, bowls, games, jewelry and other one-of-a-kind of pieces for its exhibit "Forces of Nature." Since then, more trees on the property, including a 150-year-old Tasmanian blue gum, have been ravaged by drought and disease. For the arboretum's follow-up display, "Forces of Nature II," more than 100 artists once again transform the damaged trees into works of art. Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; opening reception with live and silent auctions, Fri., Dec. 1, 6 p.m.; $25; Sat.-Sun., Dec. 2-3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thu.-Fri., Dec. 7-8, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., Dec. 9-10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; $9, $6 seniors & students, $4 kids, free 5 and younger. (626) 821-3222, arboretum.org. —Siran Babayan
Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is the latest, most mature variation on the writer-director's favorite theme: the sublime difficulty of family. (This he shares with his friend and frequent collaborator, Wes Anderson). Distributed by Netflix after a strictly limited theatrical run, the film returns to the big screen for a special engagement at the New Beverly. A scabrous and sometimes sentimental filial drama, it also doubles as an excuse for Baumbach — a preternaturally gifted wordsmith — to sharpen his verbal knives. New Beverly Cinema, 7165 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax; Fri., Dec. 1, 8 p.m. (through Dec. 7, times vary); $8. (323) 938-4038, thenewbev.com. —Nathaniel Bell
Never turned your dream into a million-dollar business? Cheer up. At the Museum of Failure, a touring, pop-up exhibit that first opened in Sweden this summer, success is overrated. Founded by Swedish clinical psychologist Dr. Samuel West, this shrine to lame ideas highlights more than 100 technological, medical and scientific products dating back to the 17th century that had a short shelf life. Items such as the Segway, Google Glass, BIC for Her pens, Harley-Davidson's Hot Road cologne, Colgate's beef lasagna frozen dinner, board game Trump: The Game and Coca-Cola Blak's coffee-infused soda, because apparently you can be too overcaffeinated. A+D Architecture and Design Museum, 900 E. Fourth St., downtown; thru Feb. 4; Wed., 2-6 p.m.; Thu. & Fri., 2-8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., noon-7 p.m.; $7, $5 seniors & students, free children. (213) 346-0734, failuremuseum.com. —Siran Babayan
Comedians Jamie Loftus and Caitlin Durante examine the historical and ongoing problem of female stereotypes in movies in their comedy-meets–film criticism podcast, The Bechdel Cast. Each week for the past year, the two hosts have invited a guest to choose a popular title and analyze the female leads and other topics according to the Bechdel Test, a set of criteria created in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. A piece of fiction passes the test if it features at least two women talking to each other about something other than a man. Past titles have included The Wizard of Oz, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Groundhog Day, Coming to America, Dirty Dancing, Beetlejuice, Titanic, The Matrix and Clueless. Not surprisingly, less than 20 percent of their picks have met the required standards. For their first live taping in L.A., Loftus, Durante and Debra DiGiovanni will discuss that '80s high-rise, terrorist-killing action classic Die Hard. In case you don't remember, nearly all the female characters are hostages. Nerdmelt Showroom, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Sat., Dec. 2, 7-8:30 p.m.; $10. (323) 851-7223, nerdmeltla.com. —Siran Babayan
Havana-based Malpaso Dance Company's visit to the Music Center represents the rare dance event at the Getty's extensive Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative; it's part of the Music Center's island-focused weekend of events dubbed "Cuba: Antes, Ahora/Then, Now." Cuba is known for its brilliant ballet dancers, and this contemporary company made its name blending that fabled ballet technique with modern dance and moves from Cuba's streets and clubs. Leading up to the Saturday dance performance are Thursday's artist conversations, Friday's Afro-Cuban dance and percussion workshop and the late-night Sleepless: The Music Center After-Hours, and Saturday's rumba dance party and jam session. Special activities geared toward high school students include a master class with choreographer Sonya Tayeh. Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Sat., Dec. 2, 2 & 7:30 p.m., $28-$87. musiccenter.org/cuba. —Ann Haskins
L.A.-based artist Patrick Martinez mines elements of pop culture, graffiti, hip-hop and the urban environment to focus on urgent social issues, both on a local and national level. These have included his series of colorful Pee-Chee folders adorned with scenes of police brutality and outrage, as well as corner store–style neon signs emblazoned with evocative rap lyrics or political phrases, one of which was purchased by Drake. It said: "Less Drake, More Tupac." For his first solo museum show in L.A., "America Is for Dreamers," Martinez will be exhibiting paintings that incorporate stucco, tile, ceramic and neon, as if layered sections of the L.A. streetscape were hung on the wall. Eschewing sanitized Hollywood domesticity for a more realistic vision of L.A. life, Martinez questions to whom the "American dream" is really available. Vincent Price Art Museum, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park; Sat., Dec. 2, 5-7 p.m.; thru April 7; free. (323) 265-8841, vincentpriceartmuseum.org. —Matt Stromberg
A provocative, politically engaged satirist whose beat was the grindhouse circuit, Larry Cohen was equally comfortable working inside and outside the Hollywood system. King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen, Steve Mitchell's generous cinematic portrait, explores the director's career from the vantage of his fans and colleagues. The American Cinematheque will premiere the new documentary to West Coast audiences followed by two of the director's quintessential 1980s pictures: The Stuff, about a yogurt that kills, and Q: The Winged Serpent, about an Aztec deity that lives atop the Chrysler Building, picking off nude sunbathers at will. Cohen and Mitchell will appear for a discussion following the first feature. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Sat., Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.; $15. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com. —Nathaniel Bell
There are a few ways to take the stress out of holiday shopping. You can say "fuck it" and buy everyone you know Amazon gift cards from the comfort of your underpants/own home. Or you can casually peruse groovy works by local artists while a surf-rock band plays Christmas music and you sip a mai tai. The Tonga Hut hosts Tiki Wonderland 12, a holiday market with a Polynesian twist. Artists including Clee Sobieski, Ron Monster, Eric October, Stilettoed Devil and loads more display their wares, while beachy cover band High Tide plays The Ventures' Christmas album. Durangos Tacos will be on hand serving classic Mexican fare. Way more fun than buying gift cards from bed. Tonga Hut Tiki Lounge, 12808 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., Dec. 3, 2-10 p.m.; free. (818) 769-0708, tongahut.com. —Gwynedd Stuart
Why can't it be A John Waters Christmas every damn day of the year? The film director, screenwriter, artist and stand-up comedian hits the road with his staged monologue on everything he loves and finds most curious about the merriest and most bizarre aspects of the Yuletide season. Waters will tell you that, in fact, he loves Xmas and that there's nothing "ironic" about his consumerist's celebration of the best and the worst of it. He also shares personal stories and sage advice on how to get through the Christmas ordeal relatively unscathed and hopefully with a huge pile of presents. 21 and up. The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; Sun., Dec. 3, 9 p.m.; $55-$125. (323) 650-6268, thecomedystore.com. —John Payne
At 86, former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather is enjoying an unlikely second act, thanks in part to his popularity on social media. Well, "enjoying" might not be the correct word. Rather, who recently founded the online news outlet News & Guts, frequently takes to Facebook to lament the state of politics and political discourse in the age of Trump and to offer doses of common sense at a time when it seems to be in short supply. In his new book, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism — co-authored with fellow journalist Elliot Kirschner — Rather expands on those musings; subdivided sections titled Freedom, Community, Exploration, Responsibility and Character explore what it means to be American, particularly when it feels like those ideals are being shaken to their foundations. At An Evening With Dan Rather, the veteran newsman and much-needed voice of reason discusses What Unites Us. The Novo by Microsoft, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., downtown; Mon., Dec. 4, 8 p.m.; $47-$76. (213) 765-7000, thenovodtla.com. —Gwynedd Stuart
New music isn't a new thing in L.A. The Monday Evening Concerts series has been presenting adventurous contemporary music — that avant-garde spinoff of classical music that's more about exploring the physical, cerebral, spatial and temporal possibilities of experimental sounds than reviving schmaltzy waltzes from ancient centuries — since 1939. Back then, the salon was led by European exiles Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, and later it hosted the U.S. debut of Pierre Boulez. Artistic director Jonathan Hepfer instigates MEC's new season by welcoming shape-shifting Italian composer Pierluigi Billone, Ensemble Vocatrix, soprano Anna Hauf and NYC's Talea Ensemble for "Fossil Voices," a program that contrasts excerpts from Hildegard von Bingen's reverential 12th-century incantation Ordo Virtutum with the West Coast premiere of Billone's Face. Zipper Concert Hall, 200 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Mon., Dec. 4, 8 p.m.; $27. (213) 260-1632, mondayeveningconcerts.org. —Falling James
The long and distinguished career of Mexico's Arturo Ripstein is ripe for rediscovery. His classic Western Tiempo de Morir — made when the director was only 21 — was given a weeklong run at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts before premiering on Blu-ray and DVD. Now, AMPAS has programmed an evening dedicated to one of Ripstein's finest films, Deep Crimson, as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a series of screenings and conversations exploring the work of Latino and Latin American filmmakers over the last half-century. A true-crime saga told in elegant long takes, this pitch-black comedy displays the director's formidable poker face in full view of the sordidness of life. Ripstein and writer Paz Alicia Garcíadiego are scheduled to appear for a discussion following the screening. Samuel Goldwyn Theater, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Mon., Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m.; $5. (310) 247-3000, oscars.org. —Nathaniel Bell
To most people he's Doogie Howser or Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, but Tony-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Neil Patrick Harris is also a magic enthusiast, having served as president of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle. Today, Harris introduces his new middle-grade novel, The Magic Misfits, the first in a series that includes illustrations by Lissy Marlin. The story centers on Carter Locke, an orphan boy and street magician raised by a thief uncle, who joins a band of other illusionists to fight the bad guys in a small New England town called Mineral Wells. Harris discusses his book with Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler), whose Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix stars Harris as the devious Count Olaf. Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Aratani Theater, 244 S. San Pedro St., downtown; Tue., Dec. 5, 7 p.m.; $24, $32 with child. (213) 628-2725, jaccc.org. —Siran Babayan
Phantom Lady, one of the key works of film noir, plays as part of LACMA's Tuesday Matinees series. Apart from the densely shadowed camerawork courtesy of director Robert Siodmak and cinematographer Elwood Bredell, the film also features a fiendishly clever plot hatched by Cornell Woolrich (the Edgar Allan Poe of postwar pulp fiction), on whose novel it's based. A man is accused of killing his wife and his sole alibi is a mysterious lady he met in a saloon. But no one ever saw her. Or so they claim. That's only the opening act of this twisty B-movie treasure. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Tue., Dec. 5, 1 p.m.; $4. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org. —Nathaniel Bell
Point Blank's cubist style shows the creeping influence of European art-house technique — especially that of Alain Resnais — on 1960s American cinema. But its director, the English-born John Boorman, has a style and agenda all his own, marrying frigid violence and noir trappings with bright pop color. Based on a Donald E. Westlake (writing as Richard Stark) novel, the vaguely defined plot concerns a gangster (Lee Marvin) seeking vengeance against his betrayers in the San Francisco underworld. The material also formed the basis of Brian Helgeland's Payback, filmed three decades later. Laemmle's Ahrya will show it as part of its Anniversary Classics series, with co-star Angie Dickinson slated to appear for a post-screening Q&A. Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre, 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Tue., Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m.; $15. (310) 478-3836, laemmle.com. —Nathaniel Bell
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As George St. Geegland, half of the cantankerous aging duo from the sketch-turned–Broadway show Oh, Hello, John Mulaney has racked up loads of experience on how to best conduct himself during his golden years. For the time being, he is still young and adorable and funny, and he's rubbing it in on stages throughout the country on his current Kid Gorgeous tour. An SNL writer for six years before helming his own short-lived eponymous sitcom, Mulaney has retained a lot of good will in the comedy world despite his show being named a "worst of 2014" by Entertainment Weekly. Everyone's a critic, but not everyone can make a comedy comeback like Mulaney can. His five-night stand at the Orpheum is close to sold out. Orpheum Theatre, 842 S. Broadway, downtown; Wed., Dec. 6-Sun., Dec. 10, 7 p.m.; $25-$35. (877) 677-4386, laorpheum.com. —Gwynedd Stuart
Incisive and insightful, comedian Jen Kirkman has committed to joke Valhalla some of our finest comedic observations about relationships — and now Jen Kirkman's Sixth Annual Dysfunctional Christmas Show is your chance to see her and other comedians putting our holiday woes into perspective with stories and jokes about the terrors they've distilled from Christmases past. For those wishing for something, anything, to mitigate the psychic agony of all this naked truth, there'll also be candy, Christmas music and decorations, and proceeds donated to a charity like Cats Without Whiskers or some such. Hollywood Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., Beverly Grove; Thu., Dec. 7, 8 p.m.; $20. (323) 651-2583, hollywood.improv.com. —David Cotner
When Jordan Peele's first film, Get Out, was released earlier this year, it garnered praise from critics and audiences alike, becoming both the first film from an African-American writer-director to gross more than $100 million as well as the highest-grossing debut from a writer-director based on an original screenplay. Part racial horror film, part social satire, the genre-bending thriller takes aim at systems of white supremacy that lie just under the surface of supposedly liberal America; the woke college student who takes her African-American boyfriend home to her parents, or her dad, who would have voted for Obama a third time if he had the chance. Although the Golden Globes categorized it as a comedy, Peele more accurately describes it as a documentary, presumably not because it depicts actual events but because it reflects reality. The Hammer Museum's screening of Get Out is part of its Contenders series, organized with MoMA, and featuring notable films from the past year; the screening will be followed by a not-to-be-missed Q&A with Peele himself. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Thu., Dec. 7, 7:30p.m.; $20, $10 Hammer members. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu. —Matt Stromberg