SF talk at RC library

With the news about the sudden demise of Ramon’s Cactus Patch, I had to forego the usual items column for Sunday. This left a couple of items orphaned that involved activities happening in the early part of this week. Selflessly, one even involves me. To wit:

Novelist Jonathan Lethem will discuss science fiction, popular culture and his 2003 novel “The Fortress of Solitude” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Biane Library at Rancho Cucamonga’s Victoria Gardens. Yours truly will moderate — but don’t let that stop you from attending.

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‘Saboteur’

My Alfred Hitchcock film festival at the Ontario library kicks off Thursday with “Saboteur.” Read about the movie on its Wikipedia page, but don’t read too far into the overly detailed plot synopsis. The movie screens at 6:30 p.m. at the library, 215 E. C St. (When they say 6:30, they mean 6:30, so hustle.) Admission is free.

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Paul Williams was a critic, but a kind one

Paul Williams, who died March 27 at age 64 in Encinitas, is being called the father of rock criticism. We were casual friends for two decades. He’s the subject of Wednesday’s column because, after some second-guessing, I concluded there were things I could say about him besides that we knew each other. After all, some of those writing his obituary (and doing a fine job) never met him. And if a column by me helps spread the word about a writer who should have been more widely known, then it’s worth doing.

If you’d like to know more, an appreciation by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and the obituary from the New York Times are good places to start, and this NPR piece includes the video for “Give Peace a Chance,” in which Williams can be seen in the foreground, back to the camera, in glasses, long hair and green sweater.

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Alfred Hitchcock film choices won’t make you psycho

Friday’s column plugs my film series at Ontario’s public library during April, consisting of four Hitchcock classics. The schedule: “Saboteur” April 4, “Notorious” April 11, “North by Northwest” April 18 and “Psycho” April 25, all screening at 6:30 p.m. at the library, 215 E. C St. Admission is free.

Have you seen any of the above? Do you quibble with my choices? (See the end of the column for my rationale.) Any thoughts on Hitchcock or his movies?

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Favorite films of 2012

I saw 29 first-run movies in 2012, a little more than my average. I wasn’t consistent about it; I would go weeks letting stuff pass me by, then go on a tear and see two per week for a month before again sinking into a moviegoing torpor. I say this as prelude to my annual list of my favorites of the year.

There are plenty of movies I didn’t see, “The Master” being one of the more acclaimed ones that didn’t interest me. Consider the following merely a conversation-starter. “The Artist” and “The Iron Lady” came out at the end of 2011, but like most of the public, I saw them in 2012. Biggest puzzler of the year: the acclaim for “The Avengers,” a perfectly serviceable entertainment but one that didn’t excite me, and I’m a fan of the comics. What average folks saw in it is beyond me. It and “Amazing Spider-Man” didn’t quite make my Top 20. My least favorites were “Prometheus,” “Hitchcock” and “To Rome With Love.”

1. “Take This Waltz”

2. “Searching for Sugar Man”

3. ”Silver Linings Playbook”

4. “Moonrise Kingdom”

5. “Safety Not Guaranteed”

6. “Lincoln”

7. “The Sessions”

8. “Monsieur Lazhar”

9. “Bernie”

10. “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”

From there, 11 to 20 would go something like this: ”Skyfall,” ”The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” ”Les Miserables,” ”The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” ”The Dark Knight Rises,” ”Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” “Argo,” ”Looper,” ”The Artist” and “The Iron Lady.”

What were your favorites and least favorites?

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Joel McCrea

On a recent visit to Camarillo’s Old Town, I came across this life-sized bronze of actor Joel McCrea, a  longtime area resident and benefactor prior to his 1990 death. Recollecting that McCrea attended Pomona College, I took a photo. A check of his Wikipedia page confirms that McCrea, a South Pasadena native, did attend the school:

“McCrea graduated from Hollywood High School and then Pomona College (class of 1928), where he had acted on stage and took courses in drama and public speaking, and appeared regularly at the Pasadena Playhouse. Even as a high school student, he was working as a stunt double and held horses for cowboy stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix. He worked as an extra, stunt man and bit player from 1927 to 1928, when he signed a contract with MGM, where he was cast in a major role in The Jazz Age (1929), and got his first leading role that same year, in The Silver Horde.”

He’s most famous for starring roles in “Sullivan’s Travels,” “The Palm Beach Story,” “The More the Merrier,” “Foreign Correspondent,” “The Virginian” and “Ride the High Country.”

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Music we liked in 2012

A few of us on the Bulletin staff who listen to a lot of music, myself among them, compiled lists of our favorite releases of 2012. The lists can be found on the Music Now blog here. I stretched my top 10 list to include five runners-up. There’s not much overlap between our lists, which is part of the fun; that’s due in part to differing tastes and in part to not having heard many of each others’ choices. (We all listen to music, but we don’t do it for a living.)

I’ll add that one of my favorites this year wasn’t really eligible for inclusion, since it’s a 1970 album that was released on CD in 2008, although most people wouldn’t have heard it until this year: Rodriguez’ “Cold Fact,” popularized due to the “Searching for Sugar Man” documentary. Highly recommended.

Feel free to agree or disagree with any of my choices, or suggest your own favorites of 2012, either here or on Music Now.

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Ray Bradbury Square

The intersection of 5th and Flower streets in downtown L.A. was designated Ray Bradbury Square in a ceremony Thursday. Fittingly, because Bradbury was a tireless advocate for libraries and often said he attended the library as if it were his university, this is near the Central Library.

John Clifford of Pomona was there and contributes the photo of the sign. “Author-Angeleno” pretty much sums it up. Bradbury moved to Los Angeles at age 14 — he was born in Waukegan, Ill., and lived briefly in Arizona before his family settled in L.A. — and stayed here for almost eight decades. He died in June at age 91.

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