Tuesday, December 26, 2006

When the world is running down

The year is 2027. It has been 18 years since a new human being has been born on Earth. Infertility in the population is 100% Human evolution is no longer marked by the world's oldest person, but celebrity is reserved for "Baby Diego," the youngest one on the planet. And he's been stabbed to death on New Year's Day (prompting a Princess Di-like outpouring of public grief). Everyone is just marking time now until the species dies out. That's the premise of Children of Men, which opened yesterday here in L.A. But even that simple premise doesn't fully describe the breadth of social and political commentary that the bold film encompasses.

Although the plot is not much more than a straightforward chase story -- Clive Owen's character, Theo, must run the gauntlet of a London on the verge of apocalypse to deliver what could be the key to mankind's salvation -- the getting there is amazing. The U.K. is beset by terrorist attacks within and waves of immigration from without. Everything from 9/11 to Guantanamo Bay/Abu Ghraib to the Iraq war itself is grist for director Alfonso Cuarón's bleak vision of a world without hope. "Men" also represents a paradigm shift in the sci-fi genre away from landmarks such as Blade Runner and the Mad Max series. Where those dealt with the fear that technology (replicants, computers, nuclear weapons) would ultimately be the downfall of society, now it is nature (global warming, overpopulation, *de*population) and man's own reaction to these crises that brings on the doomsday.

Also unlike Blade Runner, there are no massively-constructed indoor sets standing in for London. Excellent production design coupled with CGI-addtions to existing locations combine to create a gritty realism (the fact that the city today can seem not so far off from the 2027 we see onscreen makes it all the more believable). Similarly, Cuarón's style is 180 degrees from the glossy '80s-commercials look of Ridley Scott. This is the end of the world as seen through Saving Private Ryan's handheld, documentary lens. The seven-minute continuous take as Theo makes his final push through the Bexhill ghetto will both keep you riveted and take your breath away. Everything about it feels like what V for Vendetta should have been but wasn't. I don't know if Children of Men is the best picture I've seen this year (it never quite answers all the interesting questions it poses at the outset) but I would not be surprised to find it regarded as influential in 2027 as 1982's Blade Runner is today.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Complications ensue

Contrary to Alvy Singer's assertion that L.A.'s "only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light," there are plenty of shows and events to remind her residents that they aren't living in Peoria. For the time being, it remains the entertainment capital of the world and the destination of choice for many of the world's most talented people. Thus, where I previously found myself enjoying Mary Lynn Rajskub's portrayal of uber-geek Chloe O'Brien in 60-minute weekly chunks on a television in Baltimore, now I am able to catch her various performances live in and around Hollywood. Not as Chloe, but doing her stand-up routine at Upright Citizens Brigade's Tuesday night Comedy Death Ray. Or, as last week, her new one-woman show "Complications of Buying a Poodle Pillow" at the Comedy Central Stage down on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Ostensibly about Mary Lynn's search for something tangible to replace her poodle after an unfortunate encounter with a coyote -- namely, a a pillow with an embroidered representation of a poodle on it -- the hour-long show covers a range of topics in her improvisational style of humor. A large part dedicated to debunking the rumors that started last year when Rush Limbaugh planted one on her lips during a seminar on 24 at the Heritage Foundation. They aren't and never were an item. But she also trains her eye on the media and people who reflexively took her to task for the possibility that she would even entertain the notion of dating the conservative mouthpiece. Fair, balanced, and very funny.

Other subjects include: meeting Justice Clarence Thomas during the trip to D.C. for the seminar; how to handle things when your entertainment lawyer (and ex-boyfriend) text messages you that he has some coke and wants to hang out; and a hilarious deconstruction of the Morongo Casino billboards that are seen on the roads here. Fliers handed out when the show was over said that Mary Lynn will be reprising it at the Stage on January 24, 2007 (for free even).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tis the season

Well, there aren't really seasons per se out here. Although it's gotten noticeably cooler at night (and even rained the other night, for the first time I can recall since spring), it's hard to complain about sunny and 70something in December. It does, however, make it more difficult to get into the spirit of things in the same way that the coming of winter does back east. A couple Hollywood-related Christmas items of note:

A Charlie Brown Christmas as performed by the cast of Scrubs.

And some behind-the-scenes pictures of the Paramount holiday party (courtesy of davecobb). Not the typical office get-together. And which also caused something of a stir when CBS employees in the big Viacom corporate family were apparently disinvited from the studio merriment. Just further evidence of possibly the most dysfunctional lot in town at the moment.

Although for real showbiz holiday spirit, it's hard to top UTA's Wonka-esque assistant gift of a "lucky" bar. With their big hunk of chocolate, some "lucky" assistants could find a golden ticket worth between $100 and $5000 dollars . . . or they could find a couple of passes to an AMC theater of their choice! Ho ho ho. Nothing says giving, after all, like randomly-bestowed largesse to a select few persons.