Jonathan Franzen had some fascinating things to say about technology and culture last week in his appearance in Claremont. I write about that and present a clutch of short items in Sunday’s column.
Novelist Jonathan Franzen (“The Corrections”) will speak tonight at 385 E. 8th St. in Claremont’s Athenaeum. That and other items — the Magic Lamp sign’s inner workings, the kickoff to Rancho Cucamonga’s Big Read for “The Great Gatsby,” and more — is in my Wednesday column.
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”
7. “The Sessions”
8. “Monsieur Lazhar”
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?
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.”
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.
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.
Wednesday’s column (read it here) compiles three more literary(ish) references to the Inland Valley, the most startling being from Beat writer Jack Kerouac, who name-dropped Cucamonga in unique fashion. There’s also a mention by thriller author David L. Goldman, and another by humorist Dave Barry.
Would you like a little behind-the-scenes info? I wrote this column in February (!) for use during a vacation, but decided to sit on it because it seemed like a perennial. Didn’t need it during my June vacation, though, and decided because of the Thanksgiving angle that I might save it until then. Which I did, after rewriting the ending last Friday. Also, Wendy Leung having left for another newspaper job in April, “colleague” became “former colleague.” Otherwise, it was full steam ahead.
Some James Bond fan went to the trouble of compiling every cameo, fleeting glimpse and voiceover of co-producer Michael G. Wilson in the series, an impressive enough feat that I’m going to the trouble of sharing it here. Wilson is an alumnus of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont.
Fathom Events, the same company that re-presented “Lawrence of Arabia” earlier this month in theaters, on Wednesday will play “Frankenstein” (1931) and “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935). AMC 30 Ontario Mills and AMC 12 Victoria Gardens will show the double feature at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. Information can be found <a href=”http://www.fathomevents.com/classics/event/tcmfrankensteins.aspx”>here</a>.
Next up in the series: “To Kill a Mockingbird” Nov. 15.
In related news, “Nosferatu” will screen Friday at Bridges Auditorium in Claremont at both 7 p.m. and midnight, with live accompaniment. Information is <a href=”http://business.claremontchamber.org/events/details/silent-film-nosferatu-with-hobo-jazz-3451″>here</a>.
The subtitle is “The ’70s Pop Culture Box,” and this seven-disc set, with shag carpeting on the cover and CDs in such ’70s colors as Avocado, Burnt Orange and Harvest Gold, was put out by Rhino (the label) in 1998. It’s got 160 songs from the Me Decade. There are omissions, of course (no Stevie Wonder, no Elton John, etc.), most likely due to licensing costs, but a lot of one-hit wonders are here. It’s dy-no-mite.
I’ve owned this for a decade or so but recently played it through again and thought it was worth a blog post, under the assumption that many of you are in the proper age bracket to appreciate it. If you are, you’ll love it. (It’s out of print, but used copies can be had on Amazon, etc.)
One bonus is that short audio snippets of news or speeches appear now and then, most of them placed ironically. One about the first test tube baby comes before “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship; one in which President Nixon says he’s not a crook is followed by “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt. Bracingly, Ford’s pardon of Nixon segues into “The Payback” by James Brown (“I’m mad!”). Heh.
You can find the complete track listing here. If you lived through the ’70s, reading the list will bring back memories — good or bad. (Rhino also released similar sets for the ’80s (“Like Ohmigod!: The ’80s Pop Culture Box (Totally)”) and ’90s (“Whatever: The ’90s Pop & Culture Box”), which I also own.)