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.

Wean yourself off “Avatar” this Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

8starman Hey you! Step away from the 3D glasses. Sure, I liked Avatar as much as the next guy (but maybe not as much as the next guy after him), but does James Cameron really need any more of your money?

Look, I know habits can be hard to break, and that Avatar is very new and very exciting, but if you’re jonesing for some cinematic Sci-Fi, might I recommend instead John Carpenter’s Starman (1984) at the Aero Theatre this Sunday night? The film, which also stars Karen Allen, tells the story of a blue (uh oh!) ball of energy (whew!) who crash-lands on Earth and enlists the help of a grieving widow by taking on the appearance of her deceased husband. Alternatively, if you’d prefer just a sprinkling of Sci-Fi, across town at the Egyptian Theatre the Cinematheque is screening 8 1/2, Federico Fellini’s masterpiece that stars Marcello Mastroianni as a filmmaker whose personal life interferes with his ability to direct a science fiction film. Sigh, imagine if that had happened in real life, say eleven years ago.

And remember, this all takes place Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Images: Stills from
Starman (left) and 8 1/2, courtesy of the American Cinematheque.

God Save the Queen! And her Sexy Regime.

The Young Victoria If there’s any film that deserves to be screened in 3D IMAX, it’s The Young Victoria, a beautiful drama by director Jean-Marc Vallée that showcases the even more beautiful Emily Blunt, star of My Summer of Love, The Devil Wears Prada and Sunshine Cleaning.

But since it’s not possible to see Ms. Blunt gloriously projected on a 60-foot-tall screen (at least not for a few more weeks), we’ll have to settle for seeing her at the Grove.

Yes, the actor will be making an in-the-flesh appearance this Thursday after the 7:15 p.m. screening of The Young Victoria for some hot Q&A action. Purchase tickets here.

What’s the film about, you ask? The official description from Her Majesty’s Facebook page puts it rather succinctly: “The Young Victoria chronicles Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne, focusing on the early turbulent years of her reign and her legendary romance and marriage to Prince Albert.”

Blunt is so alluring as the Queen, that it makes this humble blogger think perhaps a monarchy isn’t really such a bad idea. In fact, a recent story on NPR pretty much confirmed my fear that The Great Experiment has failed.

Think England would take her naughty colonies back?

Image: Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria.

The Fowler is Alive with the Sound of Soundsuits

cave_soundsuit Have you ever owned a pair of noisy pants? Perhaps some corduroy jeans that announced to the world whenever you were approaching? Well, listen up, because the Fowler Museum has an exhibition opening this Sunday (and an opening party Saturday night) that’ll put your pants to shame.

Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth (through May 30) is a travelling exhibition of work by a Chicago-based artist who creates elaborate mixed-media sculptures he’s dubbed “Soundsuits” due to the sounds they make when worn by performers.

Meet Me at the Center of the Earth is making its only Southern California stop at the Fowler and according to the museum’s literature, Los Angeles was important to the genesis of Cave’s Soundsuits. How so? The city’s 1992 civil unrest inspired the African-American artist to create a costume that completely erases the identity of the performer and acts as protection against prejudices.

Since these suits really need to be seen in motion, the museum will be staging a number of “Soundsuit Invasions” around the city, whose locations will be announced via Twitter and Facebook.

You’re going to like the way these suits look and sound. I guarantee it.

Image: Soundsuit, 2007, by Nick Cave.
Courtesy of the Artist and Tiago Ltd./Tiqui Atencio.

See Los Angeles destroyed in less than three minutes

Congratulations, you just saved yourself a sawbuck!

Now, for you nitpickers out there, watch the above 2012 trailer again and try to make geographic sense of the sequence of events.

Oh, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news for believers in the Mayan apocalypse, but the ever-so-useful “No-Frills” calendar from MyBoatClub stretches all the way into 2020.

Congratulations again, you just gained eight more years of life!

Yo, Oren Peli, I’m Happy for You, and I’ma Let You Finish…

… but Ridley Scott’s Alien is the scariest movie of all time!

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People seem to be peeing their pants over Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, and who can blame them for being excited over a movie that’s genuinely scary?

But let’s not forget that 2009 marks the 30th — yes, as in three oh, you dabgum punks — anniversary of Ridley Scott’s Alien, the indisputed monster movie heavyweight champion of the world. To celebrate the occasion, the American Cinematheque is screening a double feature of Alien and it’s inferior-but-pretty-damn-entertaining sequel Aliens (1986) at the Egyptian Theater this Friday at 8:00 p.m..

That’s over four hours of facesucking fun for the entire family!

Who needs LACMA? Not “Los Angeles Plays Itself” nor “Reptilicus”

cinema_kerfuffleNot to be a fashionably-late party pooper, but I don’t get the ongoing cinematic kerfuffle concerning LACMA’s weekend film series. LACMA canned their program due to a shrinking audience, and then thousands of individuals, including director Martin Scorcese, expressed dismay at the decision by the County-run museum to slight its hometown’s heritage. I understand that argument on a symbolic level, and I’m glad the museum plans to relaunch a revived series, but even without LACMA, Los Angeles would still have a plethora of venues to see screen gems, rarities and oddities. Which may partly account for some of that shrinking audience.

Some of my favorite venues include the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Silent Movie Theatre, the New Beverly Cinema and the American Cinematheque (which is screening the any-self-respecting-Angeleno-and-cinema-lover-must-see Los Angeles Plays Itself this weekend at the Aero Theatre, with director Thom Anderson in person on Sunday). People literally line up around the block to see screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. And let’s not forget the screenings that the American Film Institute, the Academy, the Los Angeles Film Festival and heck, even the Natural History Museum (which is screening Reptilicus this Sunday as the final film in its B-Movies and Bad Science summer series) offer every year.

Images: Title screen of Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) and a poster (detail) for Repticilus (1961).

It’s not too late to blame the dragons.

A few short hours ago it looked like my gut reaction that the Angeles National Forest fire had been caused by a fiendish rapscallion (I’m no longer using the word “terrorist”) wasn’t far off the mark.

But wait, what’s this? A new report on KNX 1070 says that the U.S. Forest Service has retracted its earlier “human caused” statement about the fire.

What does this mean? It means my two-year-old daughter’s assertion that dragons are behind the blaze may still be a valid theory.

You can run, Puff, but you can’t hide.

Image: A Michael Martchenko illustration from Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess.

Time to declare a war on arson?

Out with the old...
Out with the old...

Enough is enough. How many fires must we endure before we start treating arsonists as terrorists?

I know the jury’s still out on the exact cause of these most recent fires, but just consider all the endangered lives, wasted resources, interrupted commerce, health hazards, environmental damage, destroyed property and the psychological damage that one arsonist creates when he ignites a forest.

If it turns out that somebody did indeed purposely start one of these blazes, doesn’t he deserve an all-expense paid trip to Guantanamo Bay?

Or at least somewhere where he can chill out?

The Traffic Nightmare Before Christmas

ladwp_lightsThere are very few things in Los Angeles that make idling in traffic for hours tolerable. Seeing a positively giddy Yo Yo Ma play with the LA Philharmonic as conducted by Placido Domingo last night certainly counts as one of them. But alas, dear reader, I’m not writing to provide an account of how the virtuoso bent his cello like Beckham in front of an attentive sold-out Hollywood Bowl audience. No, I’m here to help bring light to a form of entertainment on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

If you haven’t already guessed by the photo and title of this post, I’m talking about the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Festival of Lights display it mounts in Griffith Park every holiday season. For the uninitiated, for two nearly six weeks out of the year, the LADWP strings together an absolutely third-rate series of displays on Griffith Park’s Crystal Springs Drive that, for some bizarre reason, attracts thousands of visitors every year. Nearly all of the visitors drive through the light display, which means they idle in their vehicles for up to two hours on Interstate 5 and Los Feliz Boulevard as they wait to get to the main event. Not only are the displays amateurish and the resulting traffic congestion nightmarish for nearby residents, but the event also seems highly inappropriate for a municipal utility that claims it has “an obligation to take a leading role in the fight against global warming.”

Thankfully, somebody is trying to remedy the situation. As mentioned in an article in the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood City Council’s latest newsletter, the Council is advocating for the event to be turned into a pedestrian-only event. Huzzah! And the Council wants your feedback. If you have a thought or two (yes, even if you don’t agree with me), write to them at GGPN[email protected] and give them your two cents. I’ll scan the newsletter’s article and post updates in the months to come.

UPDATE (8/27/09): Scanned the article. Here it is.

Photo by Lisa Newton via a Flickr Creative Commons license.

Got a Rash, Man? St. Anthony and Machine Project Feel Your Pain.

stanthony One of the many pleasures of living in Los Angeles is that on any given night there are countless ways to divert your membrane from the mundane.

Tonight at 8:00 pm, Machine Project presents a lecture on a guy intimately familiar with diversions — St. Anthony, “the 4th century desert ascetic who was tortured by hordes of demons and would go on to become the patron saint of skin diseases.”

But wait, there’s more! According to the ephemera, the lecture, titled “Tempting St. Anthony: Epilepsy, Masturbation and Iconophobia,” will cover various depictions of St. Anthony during the Renaissance (including one by Heironymous Bosch, right); French novelist Gustave Flaubert’s lifelong obsession to retell the saint’s story; and topics as varied as, “epilepsy, ergotism, demonic posession, madness, [and] the scourge of masturbation and its relationship to capitalism.”

Hell, yes! And, remember, scratching will only make it worse.

Crumbling infrastructure? All in a day’s work for Godzilla.


With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
He pulls the spitting high tension wires down

Hey, Angelenos! Put down that copy of G-Fan, take the needle off that Blue Oyster Cult LP, and put on your favorite pair of Pumas.

Why? Because American Cinematheque is screening Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) tonight at 7:30 pm at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

Not only is the film, in this humble writer’s opinion, the very best Godzilla flick after Ishirō Honda’s original from 1954, but it’s also being followed by Honda’s Battle in Outer Space (1959), a rarely-screened Toho gem that partially inspired Star Wars.

That is all. And now, back to California’s regularly scheduled budget cuts.

Image: Poster art for Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. Courtesy of the American Cinematheque.

¿No hablas Iglesia? Spanish auteur brings “Oxford Murders” to L.A.

iglesia_300 You may not know the name Alex de la Iglesia. But any self-respecting fan of black comedy or horror films should. And yes, I’m pointing squarely at you, Mr. I’ve-Seen-Shaun-of-the-Dead-Over-42-Times.

For his latest film, The Oxford Murders, the Spanish director of Day of the Beast (El Dia de la Bestia), Common Wealth (La Communidad) and The Perfect Crime (El Crimen Ferpecto) has decided to do things a little differently. The movie, which stars Elijah Wood and John Hurt, is not only a straight-up thriller, but it was also shot in the Queen’s English.

Oxford Murders is finally being screened in L.A. tomorrow night (Saturday, June 6) as part of the 15th annual Recent Spanish Cinema film series. As a special treat, Alex de la Iglesia will be at the Aero Theatre in person to introduce the movie. Please note the film is playing with Agustín Díaz Yanes’ Just Walking (Solo Quiere Caminar), a crime drama starring Diego Luna, that also looks pretty badass.

Image: Alex de la Iglesia. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Local Weatherman Takes Photos, May Have A Career Ahead of Him

dnots_300wLook, I’m not trying to steal the title from anybody, but this post is going to be short and sweet. Why?

Because when David Lynch, Dangermouse and Sparklehorse collaborate on an exhibition together, what else is there to say but this.

Dark Night of the Soul opens tomorrow at the Michael Kohn Gallery–with a reception from 5 to 7 pm–and runs through July 11. The exhibition features photographs by visionary filmmaker David Lynch and a soundtrack by Dangermouse and Sparklehorse. A limited edition book of over 100 photographs, bundled with a blank CD-R, will be available for purchase at the gallery and online.

Why the blank CD? The show’s site says, “Due to an ongoing dispute with EMI, Danger Mouse is unable to include music on the CD without fear of legal entanglement. Therefore, he has included a blank CD-R as an artifact to use however you see fit.”

If you want to sample the soundtrack before you visit the gallery, you can hear tracks here. And if you’re looking for something to do with that blank CD, well, what’s a seven letter word that starts with “T” and rhymes with “warrant?”

Eh? Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Know what I mean?

Image: (L-R) Lynch, Sparklehorse and Dangermouse.

Straight Outta Horrorwood, Karloffornia: “Famous Monsters” Returns

horrorwood_600 Guess who’s back? Back again. Guess who’s back. Tell a fiend.

Famous Monsters of Filmland, that pioneering fanboy magazine that focused like a frickin’ laser beam on Hollywood’s old school movie monsters, and the acting legends–Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney–-who brought them to death, er, life, is back and wants to suck your blood.

It’s comforting to know that even though its founder, Uncle Forry (pictured far right), now spends his nights haunting the Ackermansion, his lifelong passion carries on from beyond the grave.

Famous Monsters–which now appears to be a digital-only resource–is celebrating this weekend with a special film series. They’ve joined forces with the American Cinematheque to present two double features: Son of Frankenstein (1939) and Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) on Saturday night; and Dracula (1931) and House of Dracula (1945) on Sunday night. To help introduce the films, Bela Lugosi Jr., Sara Karloff, Carla Laemmle, Janet Ann Gallow and Jane Adams will be on hand. Full details here.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear my mummy calling.