Movies Till Dawn: International House of Action

Versus” (2000, Arrow Video) To their chagrin, escaped convict Tak Sakaguchi and his Yakuza confederates discover that the remote location chosen for their meet-up is called the Forest of Resurrection for a reason: it’s a portal of Hell that causes the dead to return to life. A head-swirling Japanese mash-up of horror, “Matrix”-style meta-science fiction, samurai swordplay, and other genres and styles favored by cult film devotees, diehard critics, and teenaged boys (and combinations of all three), all deeply saturated in a broth of French New Wave cool and unchecked overacting, “Versus” might be interminable, were it not for director Ryuhei Kitamura‘s relentless pace and frenetic editing. The technical proficiency lends considerable energy and innovation to the endless battles and bloodshed, which should please fanboy and first-timer alike. Arrow’s 2-Disc special edition Blu-ray offers both the theatrical and expanded “Ultimate” 2004 versions (more blood, more zombies) and bundles them with commentaries by Kitamura and cast and crew, multiple making-of docs, deleted scenes, two short films with characters from “Versus,” and even a 20-minute edit for those who want just the salient points (who kills who).

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The Mysteries and Bonuses of Lent: Fish on Fridays

Grilled Oysters at Saso, Pasadena. Photo credit: Fried Chicken Sandwich Studios

Most people have heard of Mardi Gras, the last big bash before Lent, but not everybody knows what Lent is really about. Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter when Catholics do penance to purify themselves for the coming of Christ through the resurrection. In the olden days, many foods were forbidden during Lent, including flour, sugar, and dairy, which is why Mardi Gras is sometimes called “Pancake Tuesday.” Pancakes were one way to use up the excess sugar, eggs, butter, and flour.

Nowadays Lent is usually observed by “fasting and abstinence.” The fasting is pretty easy compared to some other religions; it just means no snacking between meals (or for some people a single meal a day). Abstinence refers to abstaining from meat on Fridays and holy days like Ash Wednesday. This practice fostered the rise of Friday fish frys and gave Catholics the nickname “Mackerel Snappers.”

In the spirit of Lent, see below for our list of some standout fish and seafood dishes from LA restaurants.

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Black Artists Honoring Black Icons — A Free Virtual Art Roundtable

Celebrate Black History Month during a free Zoom event focused on black artists paying homage to black icons on Thursday, February 25.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Muhammad Ali, Kobe Bryant, and Nipsey Hustle are just a few of the legendary figures honored in the work of artists TAJ and Tiffanie Anderson. TAJ and Anderson will join moderator Nausicaa, art curator for the Sofitel Los Angeles’ art gallery, #TheCoolHeART, for this Zoom conversation, titled “Art From the Heart.”  

The art they’ll discuss can be viewed in the Sofitel hotel’s lobby. A tribute to Los Angeles, the works were inspired by the pandemic and current social movements.

The artists will discuss their stories, their inspirations, BLM, and more. This conversation is open to the public, and you can register here.

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Movies Till Dawn: More Biographies, Real and Imagined

Jazz on a Summer’s Day” (1959, Kino Lorber) I wrote about this exceptional concert film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival when Kino Lorber Repertory reissued it virtually to theaters in 2020 (which only feels like a million years ago); now Kino has released it on Blu-ray, which features the reissue’s stellar 4K restoration (a joint effort between IndieCollect and the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress), as well as informative commentary by journalist Natalie Weiner (she knows the ins and outs of the performers) and a feature-length documentary on director Bert Stern, who’s also featured on a short interview featurette. Required viewing for any traditional jazz fan for the sheer quality of players and selections, including Thelonious Monk on “Blue Monk,” Anita O’Day, Louis Armstrong, Sonny Stitt, Big Maybelle, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington, George Shearing, Chuck Berry and Mahalia Jackson (among many others).

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watt’s picture of the week – saturday, february 20, 2021

olde-timey coche dodge brothers series 126 yesterday in my pedro town…

photo by mike watt

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mike watt’s hoot page

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Ellen Reid’s SOUNDWALK at Griffith Park Now Through 2023

Ellen Reid is a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer whose opera p r i s m was performed here in 2018  at Redcat to great reception.  We can now enjoy another of her works, pandemic-style, with SOUNDWALK.

SOUNDWALK is enjoyed via a free app that enables music (performed by the Kronos Quartet) to connect you with your surroundings – in this case, Griffith Park.  You pick a trail, which dictates the music you hear on the app; no trip is the same twice.  The work opened Thursday; you can go any day from now through 2023 when presumably things will be back to some level of normal and we will remember how important music and surroundings are to our well-being.

Center for the Art of Performance UCLA


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Glamour Ghoul: The Story of Maila Nurmi and Vampira

Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi” is an absorbing look at the woman behind the enduring character of Vampira. Based on journal entries, letters and oral testimony gathered by Nurmi’s niece, Sandra Neimi, the book reveals a passionate, flamboyant individual who struggled with fierce insecurities, difficult relationships, and the (often) heartless machine that is the movie/TV industry.

Desperate to escape a self-involved father and alcoholic mother, as well as an unglamorous cannery career in Astoria, OR, young Elizabeth Maila Syrjäniemi ran off to L.A. with dreams of becoming a voice actress. Naive and pretty, she was taken advantage of almost the moment she arrived. She unwittingly became Orson Welles’s mistress, ending up pregnant and giving the baby up for adoption. (The story of her mother finding him and telling him off is priceless.)

But she also formed a new family of likeminded oddballs, dubbed the Night Watch, that gathered at Googies near Sunset & Crescent Heights, and shared their dreams and struggles. Among them was James Dean who remained a friend — albeit a flaky one — until his death. They goofed around in cemeteries and sneaked into morgues; they were Goth to the bone before the subculture truly existed. Nurmi may have been a pretty blonde, but she idolized fierce characters like The Dragon Lady from the comic strip, “Terry and The Pirates.”

Proud and hot-blooded, she sometimes burned bridges and lost one major gig with Howard Hughes; she also refused to stick to a practical job and spent most of her life on the very edge of poverty. While the men in her life frequently took advantage of her, she often took advantage of her mother, who supported her by working menial jobs while she ran around town with her friends. Her sometime lover, Marlon Brando, also helped her out financially. Yet she had a kind heart and adored animals; she often helped out friends despite having no money herself. With every relationship, she invested her whole heart and soul.

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Where Mardi Gras is 365

Mardi Gras World at Kern Studios along the Mississippi River, New Orleans, Louisiana, September 16, 2019. (Photos by Monique A. LeBleu)

Mardi Gras World, located in New Orleans and opened in 1984 to the public, is a 300,000 square foot “working” warehouse where Kern Studios has made floats for the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans since 1947.

The enormous warehouse rests alongside the Mississippi River where guests can view various vintage floats, float characters, and unique pieces that are on display year-round.

A most special feature of a tour of Mardi Gras World is the studios’ adjacent boardwalk which affords not only an up-close and personal view of the river but also the cantilever Crescent City Connection bridge that straddles it. Continue reading

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Movie Review: Woman In Motion – Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek, and The Remaking of NASA

Here’s a great film to make you feel good about where we are all going as a race, the human race.  “Woman In Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek, and The Remaking of NASA,” released yesterday, is a close look at the role that Nichelle “Uhura” Nichols played in humanity’s quest for space, and America’s unfinished quest for racial equality, a quest that is more important now than ever.  If you’re a fan of “Star Trek”, whether you call yourself a “Trekker” or a “Trekkie,” you know we all believe in a future where everyone on our planet has put racial injustices behind them, a future that holds promise for everyone.

Star Trek,” which ran on NBC for three seasons starting in 1966, was science fiction to most, but if you look closely, it’s really more science fact than fiction. It predicted so many things we take for granted in our day-to-day life. Do you remember Captain Kirk and his crew on a planet that suspiciously looked like a backlot, flipping open his communicator, instructing Scotty to “beam me up”? We’ve already lived that, it was the flip-phone.  Scenes where they fed small plastic squares into the computer?  Three-and-a-half inch floppy discs.  The little thing that Dr. McCoy waved near a patient to get vital signs?  Infrared thermometers, which sadly are a common sight today.  The universal translator, a device a crewmember spoke into, which translated what they were saying into a language that could be understood by an alien who didn’t speak English?  Google Speak.

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Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler: Mardi Gras in Los Angeles – 2021 Quarantine Edition

New Orleans Gumbo. Photo by Elise Thompson.

Yes, everything is canceled, but you can still enjoy Mardi Gras in Los Angeles. Here are our recommendations so you can get your Ya Yas out!


Unfortunately, like everything else, the annual Mardi Gras event at Original Farmer’s Market is canceled this year. But the outdoor market is fairly safe, and luckily, The Gumbo Pot is once again up and running. The Cajun take-out stand will be offering the “Le Grande Mardi Gras Family Feast” and “Le Petite Mardi Gras Family Feast” — available to serve 4-6 ($65) or 2-4 ($40), featuring classics like jambalaya, seafood gumbo, cornbread and more.

Bar 326 will be offering New Orleans’ craft brews like Abita Amber and Purple Haze for $5 each, or as a four-pack for $18.

You can pick up a traditional King Cake at Michelina Artisan Boulanger. This French bakery will also be stocked with traditional King Galettes, a French take on a classic NOLA holiday treat.  The almond-filled cakes are also available for home delivery on Mercato for $49 for a 10-inch cake or $9 by the slice.

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