MagicLA Realism

Steve Martin’s “L.A. Story” is a sweet romantic comedy, layered with frequent Bardic references and allusions. That magic should manifest itself in weather seems natural in a city with precious little climatic variation. Positives aside, his love interest Sara never really struck me as all that attractive, indeed, Sarah Jessica Parker’s SanDeE* was much more interesting and full of life, generosity, and energy. Witness this exchange:

“I don’t think we should make love, all right?”

“Okay, we’ll just have sex.”

“But then I’d just be using you to get back at her!”

“I don’t mind!”

And speaking of magic, here’s Steve Martin working in a Disneyland magic shop in the mid-fifties!


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los angeles is what’s happening

Thank you, Jurassic 5 for the title, and whoever it was you sampled in “Contact.”

Since it appears that J and I will be moving to Los Angeles in a few months, I thought that one way to wrap my head around the prospect would be to watch LA movies. Of course, since so many films are produced in LA, inevitably many films will at least ostensibly be set there. However, what I was looking for was not simply LA as backdrop, rather, I desired to see (or in many cases, re-visit) films that said something about the city. My starting point is an LA Times article from a few years back on “The 25 best L.A. films of the last 25 years.” This will inevitably exclude classic LA films such as “The Big Sleep” and “Sunset Boulevard” which are two of my favorite movies, but since we are moving to LA in 2011 and not 1951, films that reflect a more recent LA seemed most appropriate. (However, I suspect I will get to the older LA films soon enough.) Also on the to-view list is “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” a video essay from 2003 which examines the portrayal of the city in films.

Before I get to the films, I’d like to post here a few LA photographs that I came across in my interminable Google Image searches.

I visited my friend T in Koreatown a few years back when J and I were visiting her sister in Santa Barbara. Living in Koreatown is certainly an option for J and I, it seems to have both reasonably priced housing options as well as being a rather soft landing back in the U.S. for us after two years in Seoul.

Aside from the terrible Jjajangmyeon we ate in K-town, I liked the neighborhood. (And J and I both love jjajang, so we’ll have to find a good place or make it ourselves.)

My strongest memory from that trip to LA is Philippe’s, a marvelous French Dip restaurant downtown near Union Station. According to some sources I read online, the pronunciation of the restaurant’s name has transitioned from Anglo-French to Spanish. Fascinating stuff and perhaps not surprising.

These pictures also remind me that I  really enjoyed walking in LA. Although it certainly has the reputation of being very car-centric, it was very agreeable to this inveterate urban hiker.

I’ll close here with a few vintage photos from the 60s and 70s, and one from just a few years ago.

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Its reputation certainly preceding it, J and I watched “Heavy Metal” last night. Now, both of us enjoyed the loving “South Park” tribute to this film…

…and came into it expecting it to be campy, and it was, but it was also sweet in its own way, especially the “Den” story of nerdy wish-fulfillment. Another blog put it well when they wrote that this movie “introduced many a young nerd to the idea that animation could be used for breasts.” One especially nostalgic aspect of the film for both J and I was hearing John Candy’s voice at several points, most memorably as the aforementioned Dan/Den who, due to science and magic transforms from…


He seems to have been transformed from a scrawny (white?) nerd into a muscle-bound stud of unknown but seemingly dusky heritage. That certainly brings up a multitude of questions about the sexual images of darker complected peoples.

The other fun John Candy sequence was “So Beautiful and So Dangerous” where he played the sexually adept robot who agrees to give his lady friend a Jewish wedding. Here are some cells/screenshots from that sequence:

I also particularly enjoyed the “Captain Sternn” sequence, taking the lantern-jawed space opera hero and remaking him as a mass-murdering sociopath. This seems to prefigure Zapp Brannigan in a way, although Sternn is much more of a villain than the cowardly and child-like Brannigan.

In any case, we both enjoyed the film, but perhaps being fans of both sci-fi and animation we were predisposed to be sympathetic.

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somewhat more finite than advertised

J and I continued our foray into the wild world of Michael Cera movies with “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” last night. Not a bad film, and actually has some things to recommend it: Norah’s character seems more sympathetic as the film goes on and we see how she is used by her quasi-boyfriend. The burden of always suspecting people want something from you is sure to lead to strong defenses. Initially she was utterly unsympathetic, but fair enough, in real life people seem unsympathetic at first and then we get to know them and their circumstances and we are willing to cut them more slack. The scene where Nick gives Norah a manual orgasm in the recording studio was particularly sweet, and made me much more sympathetic to the film as a whole. Michael Cera’s character doesn’t seem to exist on his own, however, he seems just a sad sack who plays in a band and pines away for his terrible ex; only with the accumulated characters from his other films is he interesting to watch here, and only with that accumulation does his character make sense. Still, he’s always enjoyable to watch and I remain a fan.

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here is poetry


Heil Hitler and art and music and Leni, we love you! Um, death for me, maybe not, friends, could happen so let’s do this right now, on the ground! We shall see who wins, we shall see who rolls over, we roll over and die, we want to be strong but we can’t. Anyway.

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Ontarian Nerdscape

J and I screened “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” last night, and both thoroughly enjoyed it. A very sweet film–not exactly against type for Michael Cera. It does reinforce social conventions relating to monogamy that I have a problem with (i.e. why couldn’t Scott be with both Knives Chau and Ramona Flowers?), but that’s a minor quibble–I don’t want to be too ideological about it.

What was most notable was a charming amateurishness; it felt like kids pretending to be superheroes, popstars, etc. This was particularly present in Brie Larson’s portrayal of “Envy” Adams, who had a certain make-believe atmosphere about her performance, despite the fact that she is, in fact, a professional musician! Edgar Wright’s other films, “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead”, have a similar feeling of playacting, magical realism, and ironic distance while maintaining a loving connection to genre conventions. And joy.

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Thank you very much

One of the things that takes getting used to, in terms of interacting with Korean people, is their tendency to offer thanks or apologies for things that they are involved with in only the most abstract of collective ways. Two examples spring instantly to mind. The first is the reaction by ROK government officials to the Virginia Tech shootings. The second is the reaction of my Korean language teacher to any praise of things Korean. Do you like doenjang? She will express her thanks, despite the fact that you are not praising her doenjang, and she does not even know how to make it. Do you find the countryside in Gangwondo particularly beautiful? She will be grateful. And on and on. This is not isolated to this particular person, although it may be isolated to Koreans with limited interactions with non-Koreans, or to Koreans with a particularly strong sense of identification with the national/ethnic collective. I have met many Koreans who do not do this, so it is hardly a universal phenomenon, but it is striking when it occurs. I have decided that I shall from now on take credit (which, of course, is not what they are doing, I’m just being a dick) for the mass-produced automobile.

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