All posts by Mike Winder

Mike Winder lives in the game grid of Los Angeles, where he's pieced together quality ruminations on pop culture since 2006. His work has appeared in LA Alternative, Los Angeles CityBeat, L.A. Metblogs, and other fine publications. He studied creative writing at UCLA. He shares his life with his wife, his beautiful daughter, and whoever's tapped his landline.

Qapla’ City of Angels; Hello Jewel City!

Yes, it’s true. After 16 years of living in El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula, I’m throwing in the towel. I’ve spent three of those years in Westwood, one in Brentwood, a dozen in Los Feliz, and probably close to two years total commuting.

But weep not, Angelenos, and please don’t start planning a farewell parade. Not only can the city not afford it at this time, but I’m also not going far—I’ll be calling the city of Glendale my new home. (Quick, how do you say “Glendale” in Armenian?)

Wait a second, isn’t Glendale in L.A. County? What’s the big f***ing deal, you ask?

Well, sadly, I’m also leaving L.A. Metblogs.

It’s been a fun ride. It all started with Meanwhile, Back at the Swamp and ended with The Triumphant Return of Fred Rated. (Well, technically, it’s ending with this post, but you get the idea.)

Yup, 101 posts in just over two years. That’s not exactly prolific for a blogger, but it’s been enough to let me live comfortably without sacrificing my creative integrity.

Many thanks to editor extraordinaire Lucinda Michele, who gave me my first writing gig back when she was kicking ass at L.A. Alternative, and to all the other talented scribes and editors here at L.A. Metblogs.

For those of you who have enjoyed my posts on science fiction-related events throughout the city, I’d encourage you to visit my blog cetialpha5, which is being updated (in a “Lost”-like non-linear fashion) as we speak. Also, if you’re into the whole social media thing, you can also “like” me on Facebook.

And since I promised myself I wouldn’t get all sad and weepy-like, let me just leave you with this:

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The Triumphant Return of Fred Rated (UPDATE)

Look, I’m not one to kiss and tell, but I have to share this breaking news from Cinefamily:

Just met with the legendary Shadoe Stevens; we’re almost done booking a tribute night to him and the Federated Group commercials for June. All L.A. locals, rejoice!!

Never seen a Federated Group commercial before?

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Well now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

UPDATE: The date has been set: June 15 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.

L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies Video Games: L.A. Machineguns

L.A. Machineguns: Rage of the Machines

Before L.A. Noire and before True Crime: Streets of LA (but after Police Quest: Open Season), there was L.A. Machineguns: Rage of the Machines.

Gaming site Kotaku has broke the news that Sega is planning on releasing the 1998 arcade light-gun shooter classic (release date TBD) for the Nintendo Wii console, as part of a dual pack with it’s 1996 predecessor, Gunblade NY.

Want to know the plot? Here it is, straight from the promotional poster:

The Story: Year 2025. A militia of androids has suddenly materialized in Los Angeles. Calling themselves the “R.O.M.” – “Rage of the Machines” – the androids launch a fierce offensive against the entire West Coast regions. The federal government responds by mobilizing its ace counterterrorist forces “S.I.F.A.T”. Against the backdrop of the Pacific Coast, a struggle of unparalleled intensity has begun.

So, are you ready to join the Special Independent Force Against Terrorism?

Let the “pew, pew, pew” begin!

Image via The Arcade Flyer Archive.

Get your dream on at the Hammer Museum

Sure, everybody dreams. But that doesn’t mean your subconscious musings aren’t special.

Au contraire, my little Mirabilis jalapa, your dreams are so precious that not one, but three cultural organizations have banded together to help you unlock the mysteries of your nocturnal cognitions.

On May 1st, artSpa and Machine Project are hosting an overnight Dream-In at the Hammer Museum.

According to the Hammer’s website, the evening will feature “experimental dreaming workshops, concerts, and bedtime stories, followed by a waking concert in the morning, all facilitated by a dreamy batch of local artist-psychonauts.”

For the inevitable hangover, the next day, museum visitors may encounter “dream reenactments, workshops, and napping music.”

The experimental dream workshops will be run by Claire Cronin, Ecstatic Energy Consultants Inc., Katie Bachler, Krystal Krunch, Laura Steenberge, and Marc Herbst.

Online registration begins today.

Image: Seaside Unicorn by Steve Read.

L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies: The Omega Man (1971)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When it comes to Los Angeles’ true literary legacy, Ray Bradbury, Charles Bukowski and Raymond Chandler have nothing over Twilight Zone veteran writer Richard Matheson.

Matheson single-handledly kick-started the zombie/vampire/supervirus/apocalypse genre with his 1954 novel I Am Legend. The genre is more popular today than ever (see Seth Grahame-Smith’s ridiculous literary mashup Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and Matheson’s novel has proven just as influential, if not more so, in the cinematic realm.

The novel has been adapted for the screen three times so far: As The Last Man on Earth (1964), starring Vincent Price; as The Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston; and as I Am Legend (2007), starring Will Smith.

Of the three iterations, The Last Man on Earth is probably my favorite. But if I were stuck on a desert island? I’d choose The Omega Man.

Why? Well, for starters, it’s the only version that, like Matheson’s novel, is set in Los Angeles.

Which isn’t exactly a trivial point.
Continue reading L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies: The Omega Man (1971)

Talking points for Mayor Villaraigosa

You know, Sarah, this whole LA Plays Itself in the Movies series makes me wonder if Angelenos think more in cinematic terms.”

“Could very well be, Antonio. We are the creative capital of the world.”

“Exactly. And last night, as I was looking for inspiration for the tough job ahead of us, I dusted off one of my favorite DVDs. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

“Oh yes, I love Johnny Depp.”

“And you know, I’m thinking of incorporating some dialogue from my favorite scene on our next stop. Wanna hear it?”


The Mayor grabs a nearby mop head and places it on his face, effecting a makeshift beard. Then, in his best Scottish accent:

“‘Let no joyful voice be heard! Let no man look up in the sky with hope! And let this day be cursed by we who ready to wake … the Kraken!’

“Well, what do you think?”

“Not really sure. Could use finessing.”

LA Plays Itself in the Movies: The Limey (1999)

(This post is part of the series LA Plays Itself in the Movies – a big sandshoe to Julia for organizing!)

A tattooed Luis Guzman answers the door to his house and is greeted by Wilson, a gray-haired Cockney, played by Terrence Stamp.

“Edward Roll?,” asks Wilson.

Guzman rolls his eyes, and says, “Eduardo Roo-el.”

It’s a fun exchange in the Lem Dobbs-written and Steven Soderbergh-directed late-’90s neo-noir The Limey (trailer), a film of understated performances, contemplative characters capable of brutal violence, and masterful editing that packs in more character development than seems possible in 90 minutes.

And, oh yeah, it’s set in Los Angeles.

Wilson, a career criminal who just finished a nine-year sentence for armed robbery, has come to L.A. to avenge the death of his daughter, Jenny.

Jenny had been dating Terry Valentine, a smarmy rock promoter (Peter Fonda, playing against character) who “took the whole ’60s California zeitgeist and ran with it.”

When Jenny died in a suspicious car accident on Mulholland Drive, her acting class friend, Eduardo, sent a newspaper clipping to Wilson.

Can you see where this is going?

Continue reading LA Plays Itself in the Movies: The Limey (1999)

The Living Sisters: Humanity’s Last Hope?

If martians invaded L.A. and demanded we turn over our top three musical talents, we’d hand over Becky Stark, Inara George and Eleni Mandell.

No doubt about it.

I’m not saying it’d be an easy thing to do, but what if the fate of the human race depended on it?

Hopefully this nightmare scenario won’t occur until after they’ve performed as The Living Sisters at the Getty Center on March 13.

Tickets are free; but you’ll need a reservation (get one at 9:00 am today).

That is all, human.

Photo: Lauren Dukoff

Tonight, See the Shocking Destruction of City Hall!

What does the world need now? Love? Ha, that’s rich! How about a good old-fashioned ass-kicking by alien invaders a la War of the Worlds?

Yeah, that would shake us out of our complacency! Or would it?

See, not only were we attacked by H.G. Wells’ little green men in 1898 in a pre-iPad medium, but also in 1938 courtesy of Mercury Theatre on the Air. Then our fair city was attacked in 1953, in Technicolor no less. Most recently we were attacked in 2005, no thanks to the heroics of Thomas Cruise Mapother IV.

And what have we learned as a society? Not much.

But don’t let that stop you from heading to Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre tonight to see the 1953 filmed version of War of the Worlds, part of the American Cinematheque’s Gene Barry memorial double feature.

Los Angeles’ comeuppance begins at 7:30 p.m., Sam Fuller’s China Gate (1957) follows.

Two (times two) more opportunities to get your Tarkovsky fix

2xtarkovsky As LACMA wraps up its terrific The Apocalyptic Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky film series (which I covered earlier) you may be asking yourself, how else can I immerse myself in the life and work of this Russian cinematic master? Well, comrade, the film gods have smiled upon you today.

Moscow-born and Los Angeles-bred filmmaker Dmitri Trakovsky has arranged for a pair of additional screenings for both this weekend and next of his documentary Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky (see the schedule for exact times and locations), which explores Tarkovsky’s enigmatic declaration that death doesn’t exist.

Yes, you read that right: Death. Doesn’t. Exist.

Chew on that during Super Bowl halftime.

Image: A laughing Tarkovsky. Relax your eyes to see him in 3D.

Oscar Nominations Turn Ugly; Zac Efron “Spiderman” Debate Rages

duplicity_battleIn case you didn’t watch this morning’s spectacle, here’s the breakdown: At approximately 5:30 a.m., Devil Wears Prada star Anne Hathaway and Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak stood atop the U.S. Bank Tower, megaphones in hand, and announced the nominees for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. Seventy-three floors below, the National Guard used teargas and rubber bullets to keep the angry mobs at bay.

Why was the assembled crowd so upset? Despite the Academy’s attempt to reach a wider audience by opening up the Best Picture category to ten nominations, many in the crowd, which police estimated at north of 50,000, felt their favorite actors weren’t represented. Many cited the absence of nominations such as Emily Blunt for The Young Victoria, Anthony Mackie for The Hurt Locker, Paul Giamatti (pictured above, with actor Tom Wilkinson) for Duplicity and, most suprising of all, Sam Rockwell for Moon.

Continue reading Oscar Nominations Turn Ugly; Zac Efron “Spiderman” Debate Rages

Explore the Hidden World at the Natural History Museum

artandscience Remember that movie poster for THEM! with the giant ants crushing Los Angeles? And the woman screaming, “Kill one and two take its place?” And the cop all agitated and yelling, “This city is under martial law until we annihilate Them!?”

Remember that?

Yeah, that was awesome!

This Saturday, as part of it’s Art+Science series for families, the Natural History Museum (NHM) is doing something pretty awesome too. It’s presenting “The Hidden World,” a day-long (10 am – 4 pm) opportunity for visitors to “view a variety of photographs of life forms taken by a high powered SEM (scanning electron microcscope) and get acquainted with the microscopic world.”

So, “Science?” Check. But where’s the “Art?”

That’s courtesy of Jason Hackenwerth and his large-scale megamite sculptures made entirely of balloons. If you haven’t seen his work before, you need to put down the bunsen burner, son, and get over to the NHM to see him in action.

(With apologies to Chris Farley.)

Images: A playful megamite (top) © Jason Heckenworth; An ant under an SEM, via the NHM.

Who Says Drum Machines Have No Soul?

karmetic Until there’s a Robot Coachella, the best way to see virtuoso percussionists MahaDeviBot (pictured, left), Tammy (center) and GanaPatiBot (right) will be to attend tomorrow night’s Scream Festival at REDCAT, where the KarmetiK Machine Orchestra will be making their world premiere.

The brainchild of Ajay Kapur, director of the Music Technology: Interaction, Intelligence & Design Program at CalArts, the KarmetiK Machine Orchestra describes itself as bringing together “custom-built robotic musical instruments and human performers with modified instruments, unique musical interfaces, and hemispherical speaker-pods” and promises “a night of new compositions and robotics.”

The Orchestra will also feature performances by humans: North Indian sarodist Ustad Aashish Kahn, electronic artist Curtis Bahn, Balinese gamelan master Nyoman Wenten and vocal synthesis innovator Perry Cook will be on hand for the evening. And if they’re smart, they’ll heed the relatively unknown Fourth Law of Robotics: “A robot shall not let an inferior biological life form upstage him at a concert.”

Tarkovsky’s Own Private Apocalypse

tarkovsky_600 In America, you watch movies at museums. In Soviet Russia, museums watch movies of you!

No, Yakov Smirnoff isn’t back on the road. This is even better.

Starting tonight, LACMA begins a weekend film series titled The Apocalyptic Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. The series includes tonight’s screening of the Russian director’s science fiction masterpiece Solaris (1972); Ivan’s Childhood (1962) and Stalker (1979) on Saturday; The Mirror (1974) and Nostalghia (1984) on Friday, Jan. 29; Andrei Rubelev (1966) on Saturday, Jan. 30; and The Sacrifice (1986) on Friday, Feb. 5.

Also included as part of the fun beautiful-yet-devastating experience are the documentaries Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky (2008), an examination of various individuals touched by Tarkovsky’s legacy, screening on Saturday, Jan. 30; and One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (2000), French filmmaker Chris Marker’s homage to his friend Tarkovsky, screening on Friday, Feb. 5.

And for those not prone to Vertigo and looking for a Soviet-era-inspired appetizer, click here.

Images: Stills from Andrei Rubelev (left) and Solaris (right), courtesy Kino International.

Accept your Destiny and Kneel before Zod

Kneel_before_Zod_300 Hey Angelenos, you think this rain sucks? Just wait until General Zod unleashes his justly wrath upon those who fail to worship his Zodliness!

How best to pledge your allegiance, you ask?

First, forget all about the son of Jor-El! “Superman,” as you call him, wasn’t there to stop Prop 8, he didn’t do a damn thing about Haiti and he sure as hell wasn’t there yesterday in Massachusetts.

Second, make your way to the Egyptian Theatre this weekend, where the American Cinematheque is presenting a digital restoration retrospective that features classic films that have undergone digital facelifts. Why? Because among the films being screened are a double feature of Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) on Sunday. I don’t think I have to tell you who to root for in the latter.

And finally, go out and buy a dozen of these suckers.

That is all, humans.

Image: Zod, by Earth-based artist P5YCHIC.