Get a Kluge

Breaking up is hard to do, especially if you’re postwar Germany. LACMA’s survey “Torn Curtain: The Two Germanys on Film” enters its closing weekend with Yesterday Girl, Alexander Kluge’s energetic 1966 portrait of an East German émigré floundering in the West. Buffeted fromone job and affair to the next, the spirited Anita G. becomes a stand-in for the percolating anxieties and upheaval of a prosperous, amnesiac era. But instead of moping, Kluge’s compact, Breathless-style storytelling goes all out to keep up with his agitated young heroine, through hit-and-run plotting, mordant wit, montages, and even time-lapse photography. Anita is resilient and a little reckless, taking potshots against the system (splurging on furs under her boss’s name), and playing fast and loose with rent. Yet she also has to lock horns with a judge who brushes off her travails as the daughter of Jews, and the film rolls out a whole lineup of dismissive authority figures. She’s at peace (like many of us) when in love, as with a caring cultural attaché who warbles opera to her, but her story slides inexorably from manic to depressive. Kluge titled his film Goodbye to Yesterday in the original German, but the filmmaker — a key figure in the New German Cinema and a voluminous public intellectual — knows his way around history’s ironies. Also closing out LACMA’s diverse series is the feminist classic The All-Around Reduced Personality (a kind of 1977 cousin to Anita G.) and two Berlin-set suspense thrillers. The museum’s related art exhibition, “Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures,” continues through April. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri., Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m.; $10. (323) 857-6177. —Nicolas Rapold



Does Anybody Remember Laughter?

There’s a a big comedy festival going on in this town, thanks to humor impresario Lawrin Goulston Salazar. The Los Angeles Comedy Festival Spotlight Series at the Theatre Asylum also shares a stage with separate comedy programming from Patrick Bristow’s Improvatorium, Impro Theatre, Piano Fight (from San Francisco), and Theatre Asylum’s Improv Revolution. Basically, there’s hot-and-cold-running funny shit going on like crazy. Check out Big Game Hunters’ (Fri., Feb. 20) “Gay Chicken” and “Klan-Prov” sketches online (do I really have to explain how to do that?). Other upcoming troupes working their keisters off to make you laugh include Shredding the Envelope, Knight of Comedy, Holler, Attention Deficit Disorder, Tuskegee Freedom! and many others. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed., Feb. 18, Fri.-Sat., Feb. 20-21; $10. (323) 463-2942 or —Libby Molyneaux



The Heim Maneuver

A kid who sees a swing as something to be climbed on, jumped from and swung in using his or her head as well as bottom exasperates cautious parents and delights other children who never before saw a swing in that light. Choreographer Jacques Heim must have been a kid like that, only he never outgrew his knack for seeing new movement potential in unlikely physical objects like stairs and constructs of metal tubes. While many choreographers use physical objects, Heim’s distinctive vision benefits from the ability of the hyperathletic dancers assembled in his Diavolo Dance Theater to fully realize his sometimes elegant, sometimes quirky, never predictable interaction between human movement and the physical objects. The centerpiece of this performance is the reprise of Foreign Bodies, which premiered last summer at the Hollywood Bowl conducted by no less than Esa-Pekka Salonen who composed the score (expect recorded music this time). Also on the bill, a re-created Tête en l’Air and Diavolo’s signature Trajectoire. With a heavy tour schedule and choreographic stints with Cirque du Soleil, L.A. hasn’t seen much of Diavolo lately. Welcome home. The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., Feb. 20-21, 7:30 p.m.; $39-$75. (310) 434-3200 or —Ann Haskins




John Pinette looks for his comedy inspiration from water parks, waiting in line and buffets. His latest special is “I’m Starvin’” — which gives you an idea where he’s coming from after his previous CD, Show Me the Buffet. Yes, he’s trimmed down his size, but not his attitude.

L.A. WEEKLY: You’re from the Boston area. Why are there so many funny people there?

PINETTE: I grew up around a lot of funny characters — funny ha ha, funny strange, funny ridiculous and funny insane. If I didn’t learn to laugh at the absurd, I may not have made it. It seems many of the great Boston comics whom I had the privilege of knowing when I started comedy share this point of view.

You used to be an accountant. Were you a funny accountant?

I had no business being an accountant. When I graduated high school, my family told me to get some marketable skills. I was not marketable as an accountant. In my brief stint as an investor-accounting specialist, my job primarily was to distract the auditors with my humor.


You’re an expert on buffets. Who has the best buffet? How much is too much to spend on a buffet?

It’s a tie between the Wynn and the Bellagio in Las Vegas. When I think of these, I can hear the angels singing. I have a different buffet philosophy than I used to. Buffets are for special occasions. Buffets are not an everyday occurrence. I abstain from most buffets, due to health reasons and restraining orders. How much to spend on a buffet? As an individual decision, I prefer quality over quantity. When it comes to buffets, I’m a high roller.

What are your favorite things to do in Los Angeles?

Forty weeks of the year I spend on the road. That’s not a complaint. I just bought a condo in Los Angeles, and so I am just beginning to spend more time here. I will have to get back to you on that question. I haven’t even seen the Getty.

Do you have groupies?

Not in the strictest definition. Unfortunately my life is nothing like the movie Almost Famous, but I have been a comic 23 years and I do have people all over the U.S. and Canada who have been at my show 10, 20, 30 times. They are the wind beneath my wings.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?

This year I’ve been to Tampa, West Palm Beach, Poughkeepsie, Toronto and Ottawa. Most of the shows have been sold out; people need to laugh now more then ever. It is sad to travel around and hear about the struggles of so many. Personally I lost about $40,000 in the stock market. You know things suck when you lose $40,000, and you can say, “Wow! Is that all? Thank God.”

A ticket to your show is $27.50, plus a two-drink minimum. How much does that come out to per laugh?

It varies on the night; I assure you I consistently strive for the most laughs per dollar.  —Libby Molyneaux

John Pinette performs at the Comedy & Magic Store, 1018 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach; Thurs.-Sat., Feb. 19-21; $27.50. (310) 372-1193.



Brazil Nut?

Do Brazilians samba on a daily basis? Do hunky capoeiristas teach kindergarten while shoppers bossa nova down grocery-store aisles? Why does each one that the girl from Ipanema passes go “Ah”? Everything seems bigger and more colorful down in Brazil. Its annual Carnaval is a gigantic street party that only guilt-ridden Catholics could come up with. L.A. is lucky to have the largest carnival on the West Coast (take THAT, San Francisco!), known as the Ninth Annual Brazilian Carnaval 2009, six straight hours of Brazilian entertainment by Katia Moraes & Pure Samba Band, Nation Beat, Flávio Ribeiro and Unidos of California Samba School, acrobatic capoeira by Mestre Amen, and Viver Brasil Dance Company. Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., Feb. 21, 8 p.m.; $48- $75. (818) 566-1111. —L.M.



And All That Class

It was probably George Gershwin who wrote the first crossover concerto, Rhapsody in Blue, where classical music and jazz met and fell in love. So the union of the two genres is nothing new. But world-renowned violist and Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra director Yuri Bashmet and Russian jazz idol Igor Butman — lovingly referred to by former President Bill Clinton as “my favorite living tenor saxophonist” — definitely give it a kick in the pants with Crossover Concerto, a program featuring works from the Soloists’ classical repertoire; some jazzed-up Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, performed by Butman and his Big Band; and the evening’s hot ticket: Igor Raykhelson’s Jazz Suite for Viola, Saxophone, Piano, String Orchestra and Big Band. Moscow wails! Wilshire Theater, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Sat., Feb. 21, 8 p.m.; $30-$125. (323) 655-0111 or —Mary Beth Crain


You Are the Wind in My Rotunda

In the imaginative-to-the-extreme world of L.A. architecture, few buildings are more splendid than City Hall. From the opulent four-story Rotunda to the stately Bradley Tower and the lavishly Romanesque City Council Chambers, this amazing structure, rich in historical allusion, has dominated the cityscape since 1928. This week, the supertalented early-wind-instrument ensemble Ciaramella performs works by Gabrieli, Monteverdi and other Italian Renaissance masters in the Rotunda for Civic Music From the Venetian Republic, part of Chamber Music in Historic Sites’ Antiqua Series. Under the ornate domed ceiling, surrounded by marble columns and the glorious sounds of shawms, sackbuts, trumpets and recorders, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Venice’s great San Marco Basilica. Now, if only you could travel there by gondola instead of the freeway. City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., dwntwn; Sat., Feb. 21, noon, 2:30 & 5 p.m.; $42 & $45. (213) 477-2929 or —MBC





Around the World in 86 Films

With all due respect to Ring of Bright Water and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, children’s films of today are far superior to the kiddie flicks of yesterday. But it’s not all due to mighty studios like Pixar and DreamWorks. Witness the Fourth Annual REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival. This year, 86 films from 25 countries are featured. Those in the kid-movie loop are especially looking forward to seeing JUMP!, Helen Hood’s documentary on the World Rope Skipping Championship, and The Red Jacket, shot with locals in the remote Miao Mountains of Southern China. Of course, the fest features plenty of the latest in animation, and there’s also a Nickelodeon Family Fun Day with previews of upcoming series to give that SpongeBob guy a run for his money. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., dwntwn.; Sat.-Sun., Feb. 21-March 8; $5. (213) 237-2800. —L.M.



The Devil Made Him Write It

Robert Johnson, the mesmerizing 1930s-era Delta-blues shaman, famed for having sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the skills he so effectively brought to the music, remains an unusually compelling figure — so much so that one can’t help but wonder if Beelzebub indeed took an interest in the singer. How else to account for his seemingly eternal fame? When Columbia reissued all his recordings in a box set some years back, it actually made the upper reaches of the Billboard chart. More recently, he was the subject of an affectionate tribute disc by Brit blues head Eric Clapton, and now Johnson, a full 70 years after his mysterious, untimely death, turns up as the subject of this midday reassessment presented by author-musician Elijah Wald, whose 2006 book Escaping The Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues broke some startling new ground. Wald will conduct a multimedia presentation probing Johnson’s background, history and music, and considering the painstakingly researched arguments and conclusions that the book makes, it should be a fascinating affair. Wald’s questioning of the accepted view of the blues’ socio-cultural, post-slavery role (versus its more likely rise through the far less romantic reality of record sales) and his depiction of Johnson as a regular dude with conventional tastes (remember, he logged many hours singing Jimmie Rodgers’ Blue Yodels for coppers on the street corner) is refreshingly contrary. To stone fans, it may seem heretical, but Wald knows his stuff, and he’ll be demonstrating this not just through discussion, but also with live musical performance, recordings and photographs. Considering Johnson’s pervasive influence on British and American popular music, this is a proposition fraught not with musty veneration, but with provocative, thoughtful exploration. West Los Angeles Library, 11360 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.; Sun., Feb. 22, 2 p.m.; free. (310) 575-8379. —Jonny Whiteside




Let’s Get Small

“The smallest variety show in L.A. raises money for a BIG cause,” boasts 826LA’s Tiny Vaudeville. Yep, if it’s the last Monday of the month, it must be time to raise money for writing and tutoring programs for students ages 6 to 18. Joel Spence and Marc Evan Jackson host the Dan Bern Orchestra with Common Rotation, singer Maria Taylor, Jeremy Konner and his Melodius Cutlery, Laraine Newman, Samm Levine, Eddie Pepitone, Bhama Roget and Lauren Rogers. Wait — did that just say Laraine Newman? Gotta love her. Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park; Mon., Feb. 23, 8 p.m.; $14, $12 in advance. (213) 413-3388 or —L.M.



Luxury: It’s What’s for Breakfast

Snow could be falling outside and Angelenos will still walk around in flip-flops. And most Americans couldn’t tell the difference between Kmart and Karl Lagerfeld. But Sally Singer, fashion-news and features director of Vogue, heads the panel discussion Conscientious Consumption: Sustainability and the Future of Luxury, on how fashion has been bitten by the recession, with four local tastemakers. Panelists include jewelry maker Tom Binns; denim king Adriano Goldschmied; clothes and home-furnishings designer Christina Kim; and one-half of the Rodarte line, Kate Mulleavy. A Q&A follows. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Mon., Feb. 23, 7 p.m.; $7, $5 seniors, students and under 17 free. (310) 443-7000.—Siran Babayan




It's Not Fat Tuesday — It's Just Big-Boned

Amoeba Music has kept its promise to help rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans for three-and-a-half years. Come join in an afternoon Amoeba Mardi Gras celebration, including a goofy parade led by the Amoeba Town Musicians down the streets and aisles. DJ Flash Gordon will spin New Orleans sounds, which should get you in the mood to spend some money, with a portion of the profits going to the Tipitina’s Foundation and the New Orleans Music Clinic. Only one question remains: Where can you get good Cajun grub in Hollywood? Jonathan Gold? Jonnnnnn-aaaaaaa-than!!!!! Help! Amoeba Music, 6400 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues., Feb. 24, 4 p.m.; free, but have a heart and buy something. (323) 245-6400. —L.M.





Sophie's Voice

Richard Lucas found himself living next to a neighbor with a dog that barked all day and night. He got mad. “I was told by the Sheriff’s Department to complete a six-month barking-dog log before they would step in,” Lucas says. “That dog log unfolds the torment of living next to incessant barking and the comically cruel effects it has had on my life. It’s a classic tale of man vs. beast, of one man’s fight to resolve neighbor’s inhumanity to neighbor, as well as a journey of self-discovery in a time of nearly unendurable domestic duress at the hands of a 2.5-pound Yorkshire terrier named Sophie. Who will win the ultimate test of wills?” What’s an actor to do but turn the saga into a one-man show and call it Buried in Sophie’s Tomb: My Barking Dog Log to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Dept. Comedy Central Stage, 6439 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed., Feb. 25, 8 p.m.; free, resv. required. (323) 960-5519. —L.M.



Get Screwed

There are few experiences in life as flat-out rousing as the roar of a true fine reggae sound system, that crazy quilt stack of speakers and electrical equipment painstakingly Frankensteined together with an aim to blast at volumes audible for miles and deliver rumbling bass tones so punishingly powerful you can feel them vibrating throughout the fabric of your clothing. Head-to-toe kicks these are, and when the revered NYC underground selector Tony Screw unleashes his Downbeat the Ruler system, he’s likely to pin you against the wall. For the better part of 40 years, Screw has been scrambling brains with his audio alchemy, and along the way he has assembled a profoundly deep collection of dubplates, the tricked-out instrumental tracks that revolutionized reggae in the early ’70s. Many of those in Screw’s stash are exclusive to Downbeat the Ruler, custom-made discs with rhythms you’ll hear nowhere else. Microphone-mauling talent like U-Roy, Brigadier Jerry, Michigan and Smiley have been magnetically drawn to his side, and Screw has bested numerous system competitors in the soundclash arena — all-out pride wars of hyper-amplified reggae rarities. In the realm of the sound system, it’s all about those 50,000 watts of dig-in-and-sway voltage, and Screw’s Coxsone-inspired methodology is certain to roil your soul, shake your bones and light up your synapses like the fireworks at a royal jubilee. Dub Club at the Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park; Wed., Feb. 25, 9 p.m.; $10 cover; “Special guests are to be expected.”—Jonny Whiteside




Jumpin’ Jack Black and the Gass Gass Gass

Tenacious D’s Jack Black and Kyle Gass are living proof that mock-rocking can lead to a lucrative career as a big movie star. Well, that’s true in Black’s case at least. I remember seeing the two at the Viper Room while waiting for headliner Joey Cheezee to perform, thinking, “These guys aren’t that funny.” Boy, was I wrong. That Jack Black guy can wail like Geddy Lee, and the duo has really catchy, original songs, like “The Search for Inspirado” and “The Greatest Song in the World,” but I still think they is making fun of the music I love. That’s why I can’t totally endorse them. Besides, Gass wears socks with flip-flops, which I also see as a direct personal insult for some reason. They’re good guys, though, doing this benefit for the 24th Street Theatre with comedian Nick Swardson and Craig Robinson and the Nasty Delicious (he’s Darryl on The Office). Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., dwntwn.; Thurs., Feb. 26, 8:30 p.m.; $50-$150; —L.M.

LA Weekly