HAMMER BECKONS

Finally made it to the “Made in L.A, 2018” exhibit at the always engaging, and free, Hammer Museum in accessible Westwood.

 You should, too, for the two words that leapt to mind after my tour: mesmerizing and challenging, and so I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU, happily back on air, and on websites everywhere.

 I must add that the welcomed displays of the no less than 33 artists represented is also daunting, given the range of materials and techniques used, the resulting collages, constructions, paintings and videos, and their effects.

 Because of the space and time constraints of my commentaries, I decided in this instance not to single out select artists and their creations, compelling as some are.

 This being the fourth iteration of the now biennial exhibit of new works by emerging artists, in the words of director Ann Philbin, with the intention of providing insight into a larger moment with our culture. To this I say “yes!”

 Philbin further explained that while the curators –and I quote, “did not setout to define a central theme, the 33 artists in this exhibition –like the rest of us –live in a period of social tumult and political uncertainly.”

 Added was her firm belief that in moments like these, artists help to illuminate our world, whether through nuanced examinations or bold declaration. She concluded, “This year’s Made in in L.A. may not be overtly political, but it nonetheless speaks to our time.”

 So, if you are at all interested in the visual arts, be it casually, as a curiosity, or as a critic, be it for its beauty or emotional impact, or political statement, I strongly urge you make an effort to see the exhibit, which runs through the Summer to September 2d.

 I purposely added “political statement” for this is in part echoes director Philbin’s message. It also is a reply to several comments received from listeners and readers concerning my asides in select recent commentaries lamenting the cruel, greedy, environmentally disastrous policies of the Trump (mis)administration.

 I personally cannot divorce my deep appreciation of art from its inherent politics, and the daily outrages of the neo fascist Republicans. Yes fascism, which me and my family know too well from history witnessed.

 Yet I have hope. Of all endeavors I believe art has the power to free us all, if only for a few hours in a museum, as it was for me at the Hammer, as may it be for you, too.

 Maybe even an epiphany for a Trumpite.

 

 

 

WHY DID THE LA DA RELEASE THE DOGS?

The case still is sealed revealing what and who prompted the county District Attorney to turn loose 22 investigators on a recent morning to search two residences and a business in Malibu linked to long time local resident and present pro tem Mayor Jefferson Wagner.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, who might know is not saying, certainly not now having seen the support for Wagner, guilty of whatever or not, and the questioning of the actions by the DA’s office. We’re not talking here of potential crimes against persons and property, terrorists acts, drug deals and me too entertainment industry incidents, certainly not in our Malibu.

To be sure, DA Jackie Lacey has some explaining to do, and not in a vague press release slipped under the door on Saturday morning of a holiday weekend. It is time for some transparency to counter the paranoia swirling on the local scene.

This is a case that should not disappear, whether the city comes to the defense of Wagner or not, as has been urged by an outpouring of city residents, some of whom have funded a lawyer for Jefferson.

One asks what else does the city council do anyhow, except bark like trained seals in approving the issues and items dutifully prepared for them like fish snacks by the inveterate city manager and city attorney in the bunker that has become City Hall.

Meanwhile, the fumbling governance of Malibu by a sadly neophyte City council continues to exasperate, witness its distressing yielding to a self serving, bloated bureaucracy and well compensated consultants. And for this the council actually congratulates itself. Lost in its hazy, lazy ways is oversight and accountability.

It is no wonder that specious conspiracy theories persist, as well as rumors of past favors and future sinecures. Yes, small town politics, be it middle America or Malibu, stumbles on.

Sustaining it is what can be described as a cult of amiability, cultivated by Malibu’s modest size where most people know who their neighbor are, if not their names, certainly the names of their pets, thanks to social media.

It is this cult that no doubt prompted Wagner to in effect apologize this week for the no vote of confidence by his council colleagues while testifying to their good intentions.

Amiable, yes, and that is what makes Wagner so liked. But it also makes him not as forthright as what is needed now to save Malibu further embarrassment as a slipshod city.

And I say that as a friend, and also as someone concerned about our failing democracy, locally as well as nationally.

 

 

 

 

 

A Haunting “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

As mentioned last week, I timed my return from Mexico so I could attend the West Coast premier on “Long Day ‘s Journey Into Night.” at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills.

To be sure, I did so with some apprehension, as comment on public radio KBU 99.1 and websites everywhere.

I had last seen – perhaps witnessed is a better word — Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece some 50 years ago on Broadway, and had not forgotten the experience It was so raw and riveting, and moving.

I wondered whether it still would have the same dramatic effect on me, being so much older now, and in this day and age where I believe we sadly have become so unfortunately hardened to shock, to mention among other things the school shootings, the pervasive homelessness and the cruelty to children, of the current Republican misadministration.

From a critic’s and personal perspective, the answer is yes. “Long Day’s Journey,” is indeed a drama that will absorb you for 3 plus hours and haunt you after.

There are no stage gimmicks, special effects at the Wallis, no Greek chorus breaking into song and dance, just actors on a striking open set performing with such skill and speaking poignant lines with such convincing feeling you feel transformed, ease dropping a century ago on a dysfunctional Irish Catholic family, the Tyrones, exposing themselves on one long day and night.

The cast of the English Bristol Old Vic production is, in a word, magnificent, particularly the alcoholic patriarch Tyrone, played by Oscar, Tony and Emmy award winner Jeremy Irons, and the Morphine addicted matriarch, Lesley Manville, a recent Oscar nominee. The twisted relationship between the two crackles.

Her venomous delivery of the line, “I love you dear, in spite of everything,” is echoed by her husband in every aside and gesture, witnessed with an ebb and flow of emotion by their sons drifting in and out of the living room.

The performances of the sons played by Matthew Beard and Rory Keenan are equally emotional and convincing, in their love and hate for each other, and their tortured parents. You ache for them.

Eugene O’Neill once described the play as having been written in tears and blood”, a play of old sorrow, and was so baldly autobiographical that he left instructions that it not be performed for 25 years after his death, which came in 1953. His widow disobeyed. I saw it in 1956, and last week.

If you love theatre, you should, too, before the limited engagement ends July 1.

 

 

 

MALIBU ROILING

Returned from abroad to find the weather in Malibu cloudy, local governance foggy, and politics menacing. Lots of “sturm und drang“ among the city’s concerned citizens. Good. A sign of life, and so I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.

Paramount is a concern for long term resident, mayor pro tem, Jefferson Wagner, a personal friend of mine, and it seems scores of others in Malibu. At present, he is a councilperson and the persevering member of a “reform” slate, whose other members are figuratively out to lunch, probably on someone elses nickel, no doubt.

An ever smiling surf shop owner on the fringes of the film industry, to many Jefferson personifies an amiable Malibu local, so I was shocked as others to learn he had been questionably criminalized in an early AM raid orchestrated by the county District Attorney.

He and his companion Candace Brown, also a prized friend, were handcuffed for a short time while the house was searched by a full dress squad of a dozen DA office investigators. All that was taken was a cell phone, and no doubt many photos.

That the house lies just beyond the city limits may have been the reason for the raid — you have to be a legal resident to serve on the council. But this issue has been raised before involving Wagner, and he long since purchased another residence, within the city, from which he votes.

Whatever, the D.A.’s office is not disclosing who prompted the raid and why; the warrant is sealed. And nobody involved is saying anything because the questionable case is still open. There has been much local speculation, some of it specious, long on accusations and allegations of conspiracy, and short on evidence. Malicious persecution? A mistake? There are many questions to be eventually answered by the DA’s office, and other persons of interest.

In the meantime, a fund has been established for Wagner’s defense, if he needs one. And reflecting as it might on his council status, still to be heard from is the city.

For the record, and for what is worth, we were told the warrant was signed before Wagner cast the lone vote against awarding wily city manager Reva Feldman a generous new contract.

I for one am hopeful Wagner will be able to serve as mayor as scheduled next year, and raises the issue of the need for better transparency and accountability at City Hall.

And I would add also needed is an improved competency within its bloated bureaucracy, which I have commented previously appears to be preoccupied more with padding payrolls, pensions and perks, and less with public service.

Then there is the outsourcing of city work to select, well compensated, consultants, and the acquiescence of a neophyte council.

This is something I hope that candidates for the two open council seats will address, in the local elections this Fall, that, with the national elections, cannot come soon enough for me.

 

 

 

LONG DAYS IN MEXICO, LONG NIGHTS IN BEVERLY HILLS

For me these the last few weeks it has been arts and entertainment in Mexico, in particular its rich archeology, displayed in museums and historic sites.

Foremost was Teotihuacan, the largest city in the Americas nearly two thousand years ago, and today still very impressive, if not exhausting under a hot sun.

I had been turned on to this site just outside Mexico City by an enthralling exhibit now on display at the L.A. County Museum of Art, until July 15th. It is a must go.

I also spent a week in the Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, justly known for its culinary and craft traditions, its Spanish colonial architecture, and engaging street scenes.

Blessed by benign weather, witnessed in the plazas and pedestrian promenades was a colorful wedding reception, a graduation celebration and a salutation to a saint. And then there was the shopping. All combined to make time to slip by.

But I had to be back in L.A. in time for an opening night performance of a not-to-be missed “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The Pulitzer-Prize masterpiece by Eugene O’Neill , arguable America’s greatest playwright, will be at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills for just three-weeks, beginning tomorrow through July 1.

It’s a limited engagement of the acclaimed Bristol Old Vic production, coming to the west coast after sold out runs in New York and London. And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU, and websites everywhere, score a big one for the Wallis.

Directed by the honored Sir Richard Eyre, its has an all-star cast, headed by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons and recent nominee Lesley Manville. She is known for playing the cold sister in “Phantom Thread;” Irons for many roles, and is one of a few actors to have won an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy.

The play briefly portrays a family whose matriarch is addicted on morphine since the birth of child. Take it from there as the sons attack each other with brutal honesty, while the father wallows in whiskey – all exposed in a long night.

It is harrowing experience, and one I still remember with heartache 50 years ago when I saw it in its initial Broadway run, starring, among others, Florence Eldridge, Jason Robards, and Katherine Ross. The production won a host of awards, and turned me on to live theatre. It has been a joy since.