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.

Punk’d by the Feds (or: God Bless America and George W. Bush)

Big Brother

My original intent tonight was to post a tale of two post offices—a compare-and-contrast piece between the always-busy-as-hell-no-matter-what-time-of-day-or-year post office in Los Feliz and the surprisingly efficient and hassle-free experience that is the post office behind the Federal Building in Westwood.

Since I work not that far from Westwood, I often visit that post office and am always impressed with the courteous staff, the absence of long lines, and the ease of sending out a parcel from that location. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone on my lunch break today. Conduct a little research, mail off my package, whoopdee-freakin’-do.

Unfortunately, I also had the bright idea of taking a few photos of the Federal Building.

Continue reading Punk’d by the Feds (or: God Bless America and George W. Bush)

New Beverly Turns Thirty, Maintains Girlish Figure

New Beverly ExteriorHappy birthday, New Beverly!

Wait a second, you’re 30? Get out of here!

Let me take a look at you. Wow, you look really good! No, I mean it.

Thirty? Sheesh. I feel like we just met the other day. That was, what, 14 years ago? I was an 18-year-old freshman at UCLA trying to get into film school, and you must have been sweet sixteen.

Or were you?

Okay, let’s be honest. You’re older than 30, right? It’s alright, Arclight and Cinespace aren’t listening.

Listen, Bev, the “New” in your name may fool some, but most of us know your history. No, I’m not talking about your Slapsie Maxies days, when you hung out with mob boss Mickey Cohen and dabbled in vaudeville. And no, I’m not referring to your cinema society days when you went by the names “Riviera” or “Capri.”

Photo: Thirty years later, and still made out of people! The New Beverly on May 5, 2008. Photo by Mike Winder.

Continue reading New Beverly Turns Thirty, Maintains Girlish Figure

Waterboarding is Not a Crime

Standard Operating Procedure
Think political discourse in this country has turned dumb, dumber, dumberer, and even dumbererer?

Then you owe it to yourself to see documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’ latest Standard Operating Procedure, a movie that fearlessly pulls back the curtain to expose the story (or rather, several stories) behind the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs. The film by the director of The Thin Blue Line, Mr. Death, and The Fog of War opens today in Laemmle’s theaters around town as well as the Westside’s Landmark.

At a special Hammer Screenings preview at the Billy Wilder Theater last week, a packed house sat silently and intently as the film presented profoundly disturbing interviews with several individuals behind the photographs and their subsequent investigation.

Errol Morris’ use of his patented Interrotron—a device he created to make face-to-face interviews possible while his subjects look directly into the camera—allows the audience to peer straight into the eyes (and seemingly the souls) of the army soldiers, military police, and others involved.

Photo: Still from the film Standard Operating Procedure. © 2007 Max Ave Productions. Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading Waterboarding is Not a Crime

64 Worst Quarterfinals: Cost of Buying a House vs. Parking Tards

occidental

Back when times were simpler, Will Rogers recommended, “Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.”

These days we’re inching closer to making a frickin’ black hole, but we haven’t made a single dent in the creation of more land.

With the median price of a house in Los Angeles County currently at $440,000.00 and the average married couple bringing home $58,000.00 a year, is it any wonder that most Angelenos can’t afford to make the American Dream of home ownership a reality? In fact, many of L.A.’s poorest residents end up living with several families all under one roof, packed like sardines in a crushed tin box.

Yes, you heard it here first. The cost of housing in Los Angeles sucks.

But so do parking tards.

You know parking tards, right? They’re those palookas that for reasons unknown—perhaps a deep-seated anger towards the housing market?—feel it’s their God-given right to plant their vehicle on the street any way they damn well please.

Spotting parking tards is a favorite pastime here at L.A. Metblogs. Eagle-eyed authors have discovered that P-tards sometimes travel in three; sometimes they’re idiot savants; and sometimes their unscrupulous behavior can make even the most refined among us utter the single most offensive word ever devised by man.

Which is worse:

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
…poll closes Saturday evening…

Photo of Silver Lake’s Occidental Apartments, courtesy of you-are-here.com.

*** Bonus: Archival photography of history’s most famous parking tard.

Beat the Heat with Some Icy Lesbian Assassins

hit like a girl
I’ll admit it, temperatures approaching the triple digit mark just kick the living snot out of me.

As interested as I am in attending author panels at the Festival of Books, the heat makes staying there for several hours a mental and physical challenge. Yesterday morning, I hung on every word by Jeff Loeb and Mike Mignola as they discussed Heroes and Hellboy in the “Comics: Superheroes of the Page and Screen” panel. But by the time the afternoon’s philosophical “Women of Slipstream” panel with Half Life author Shelley Jackson and Willful Creatures author Aimee Bender rolled around, I was ready to pull my teeth out.

But wait, you’re wondering, what does any of this have to do with lesbian assassins?

Tonight is the final night of the Silent Movie Theatre’s You Hit Like a Girl: The Ladies of Kung Fu, a film series that “celebrates the shattering of the glass ceiling” for female Asian action stars. It’s part of the Cinefamily’s larger Asian Sundays programming and the perfect cure for Festival of Books fatigue.

Tonight’s 9:30 p.m. double bill begins with Billy Chan Wui-Ngai’s License to Steal (1990). Starring Joyce Gadenzi and Agnes Aurelio as dueling thieves determined to swipe the coveted Napoleon Mask, the film was produced by the legendary Sammo Hung and is full of the elaborate and blazingly fast fight sequences the king of Hong Kong action film is known for.

But the real draw of the evening is Clarence Fok’s ultraviolent and hypersexual Naked Killer (1992), a film as close to David Lynch territory as Hong Kong action gets. The movie stars Simon Yam as a Hong Kong detective in the Anti-Triad Bureau who, since accidentally and fatally shooting his brother, can’t sustain an erection and pukes every time he brandishes a handgun.

The story begins when Yam falls for Kitty (Chingmy Yao), the prime supect in a string of all-male homicides. Kitty is soon recruited by Sister Cindy, a feminist kung-fu master and assassin (Kelly Yao, in the film’s best performance), and adopts the new persona of Susie. Things kick into high gear when Princess (Carrie Ng), the lesbian assassin responsibe for the homicides and also trained by Sister Cindy, decides to overthrow her mentor and recruit/seduce Susie to her side.

Full of slinky neon outfits, heavy groping in the rain, and ferocious fights on a set straight out of Beetlejuice, Naked Killer is the perfect way to escape the heat .

And you’ll forget about all those high-falutin’ author panels faster than Chun Li can say, “Spinning star kick!”

Stills from Naked Killer (top and bottom left) and License to Steal (right) courtesy of the Silent Movie Theatre.

“We are all interested in the future…”

criswell

“…for that is where you and I will be spending the rest of our lives.”

With every passing year, that line from Ed Wood’s camp classic Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) rings truer. Why? Because in an era where the medium is the message, this particular message was delivered by a medium.

Of course I’m talking about Los Angeles television psychic Jeron Criswell Konig, better known as The Amazing Criswell, whose status as a cult legend was sealed by becoming a member of Wood’s posse. In addition to narrating and appearing in Plan 9, Criswell also appeared in Wood’s Night of the Ghouls (1959) and had the starring role in Orgy of the Dead (1963).

But Criswell was also a star in his own right. He gained notoriety in the ’50s and ’60s for making outlandish predictions of the future, first locally on channel 13, and eventually nationally through appearances on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. He was also an eccentric soul whose many claims to fame included wearing heavy cake makeup in public, sleeping in a coffin (allegedly), and having his very own song, recorded by his friend, actress Mae West.

Heading into a very literary weekend with the Festival of Books, it’s as good a time as any to re-explore Criswell Predicts: From Now to the Year 2000! (Droke House, 1968). Now celebrating it’s 40th anniversary, Criswell’s first book made astonishingly innacurate predictions that range from the government-sanctioned rise of homosexual cities in the U.S. (1970), the assassination of Fidel Castro (also 1970), the very first interplanetary meeting (1990 in Las Vegas), and the destruction of Earth itself in 1999.

A few choice predictions from Criswell’s book after the jump.

Continue reading “We are all interested in the future…”

Lost in Legowood

LegowoodNobody in their right mind would mistake Miniland U.S.A. in Carlsbad’s Legoland for an encyclopedic catalog of America’s most important cities. Yes, New York is predictably well represented with every one of its major landmark buildings recreated in miniature using Lego’s trademark bricks. Heck, the skyline even includes Daniel Libeskind’s original design for the Freedom Tower.

And while there are also tiny versions of Washington DC, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Las Vegas for tourists to ogle over, other major cities are completely left out of the picture. Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis, and Cleveland are among the many cities who don’t even get a shout out.

But what about that major metropolis sitting just 90 minutes north of Carlsbad? You know, the second largest city in the nation?

Oh yes, Los Angeles is in the house.

Well, actually, make that Hollywood.

Um, oh boy, this is awkward, how ’bout “Legowood?”

More pictures and insult to injury after the jump.

Continue reading Lost in Legowood

Are You Scared Yet, Sicko?

Scanners
When you read news about gangs, fires, earthquakes, or the possible creation of a black hole 300 feet below the Franco-Swiss border, do you just laugh and say, “Ha! Is that all you got?”

If so, consider stopping by the Steve Allen Theater at the Center For Inquiry in Hollywood for their continuing David Cronenberg retrospective.

Long before he shot Viggo Mortensen fighting in his birthday suit, the Canadian film director earned widespread critical acclaim and a cult following for bringing nightmare-inducing imagery and narratives of the primal fear variety to the silver screen.

The Center for Inquiry is showing one Cronenberg film each Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. through the end of May. The retrospective kicked off last Saturday with Dead Ringers, a gruesome little tale of twin sex- and drug-addicted gynecologists. If you missed it, don’t worry. It’s still not too late to see a dude’s head explode.

Yes, tonight’s film is Scanners (1981), a story of dueling telepaths and the pharmaceutical companies who love them. The film features nosebleeds a plenty, a melting telephone receiver, and a chilling performance by Michael Ironside as a ruthless baddie “scanner” whose drill-bit-to-the-forehead scar tissue practically steals the show.

See it before next year’s remake forever taints your memory.

Other highlights of the series include Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly (1986); his masterpiece about the dangers of lowest-common-denominator television programming, Videodrome (1983); and the American premiere of his short film At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World (2007).

Click the image below to see the complete schedule. Artwork: Travis Millard.

cronenberg

[UPDATE: Corrected start time. Each film begins at 8:00 p.m.)

There Will Be Blood

Genghis Tron
Does the recent news of a Smurf Village setting up shop near Coachella make you blue in the face? Do you want to experience exhaustion, dehydration, and claustrophobia, but don’t necessarily want to spend three days prancing around Indio? Well, if you’ve got the guts, stop by the Knitting Factory in Hollywood this weekend as they once again play host to the Los Angeles Murderfest.

With the slogan “2 Stages + 3 Days = Total Brutality,” the fourth annual Murderfest is a metal music festival that pulls no punches. It will kick your ass hard, fast, and with extreme prejudice. The festival offers a hearty selection of bands (over 60 are scheduled to perform) from around the world playing death metal, grindcore, thrash, and, for more sensitive types, melodic death metal.

And then there’s the far more difficult to categorize Genghis Tron, Friday evening’s “Warm-Up Show” opening act on the Main Stage. This Philadelphia-based trio—Mookie Singerman (vocals), Michael Sochynysky (keyboards), and Hamilton Jordan (guitars)—has a sound that leap-frogs between electronic ambiance, epic blip-bloop melodies, merciless shredding, and piercing vocals. Imagine System of a Down stuck inside your Nintendo DS. On second thought, don’t. That’s a stupid analogy. Just see them.

Also performing: Massachusetts’ metalcore pioneers Converge, Birmingham’s inventors of grindcore Napalm Death, spooky San Diego vegetarians Cattle Decapitation, and Stockholm’s kings of death metal Entombed. Check Murderfest’s website for more bands and a complete schedule.

Photo and illustration: Genghis Tron.

Super-Toys Last All Summer Long

Toys_1of3

Or, in this case, they last until April 25 at Gallery Nineteen Eighty Eight’s current exhibition Toys!

The gallery describes Toys! as an exhibition “celebrating the childhood items we cherished” and featuring “over 50 pieces inspired by gems from our youth, before video games did all the work for us.”

Considering this is the same gallery that puts on the excellent annual I Am 8-Bit show of video game-inspired art, one has to assume that last statement is firmly tongue-in-cheek.

After all, many of the childhood toys that inspired these works—He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Care Bears, My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—are better examples of the dizzying heights that marketing to kids reached in the ‘80s than they are of playthings that stirred the imagination.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t stunning artistic works on display in the exhibition. Au contraire, my bitter friends.

Camilla D’Errico’s gentle portrait of He-Man’s magical ally The Sorceress (above) runs aesthetic loops around anything ever produced by Filmation Studios for their half-hour He-Man toy commercial animated TV show (1983-85).

More pics and pontification after the jump.

Continue reading Super-Toys Last All Summer Long

Meanwhile, Back at the Swamp

Cry of the Hunted take 2
One of the many frustrations of living in Los Angeles is its lack of a good-old-fashioned swamp. Sure, you can visit every imaginable climate within a few hours—scorching deserts, snow-capped mountains, the Beverly Center—but when life bogs you down, nothing hits the spot better than soaking your scaly skin in some murky algae-infested water. Just ask Reggie.

If a drive down La Cienega (Spanish for “marsh” or “swamp”) doesn’t quite cut it, you may want to check out the swamp noir double feature playing at the Egyptian Theater this Sunday evening.

Part of the American Cinematheque’s and the Film Noir Foundation’s continuing Return to Noir City: The 10th Annual Festival of Film Noir, this double bill brings two extremely rare (and, God willing, ultra-violent) films back to the big screen.

First up at 7:30 p.m. is Cry of the Hunted (1953), a fugitive-on-the-run flick set in the Louisiana bayou. Barry Sullivan, William Conrad, Vittorio Gassman, and Polly Bergen star in what the Cinematheque describes as a tale of “fiery personalites” sucked into a “vortex of brutality.”

Hunted is followed by the even rarer Lure of the Swamp (1957), whose tagline screams, “Destination … HELL! Greed led them into the misty depths of a strange land!” Starring Marshall Thompson, Joan Vohs (as a swamp vixen!), Jack Elam, and Leo Gordon, the film follows a Florida swamp guide who discovers a recently deceased bank-robbing client’s loot has been stashed away in the marshland.

I’ll bet you dollars to donuts most these cats wind up wearing wooden kimonos.

Photo: Still from Cry of the Hunted (1953), courtesy of The Film Noir Foundation.