Critics’ Picks: Aug. 2-8, 2013

Los Angeles Times entertainment, arts and culture critics choose the week’s most noteworthy openings, new releases, ongoing events and places to go in and around Southern California.

See whether you can spot the two Werner Herzog references in the picks (hint: only one of them is movie-related). Also at the movies, director Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” stars Cate Blanchett in what may be an Oscar-winning role. On the small screen, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” is out on DVD.

Click through to explore more and, where applicable, find directions to venues.

Scene from the movie "The Act of Killing." (Drafthouse Films)

The Act of Killing’

The Act of Killing,” one of the most remarkable, most talked about documentaries of the year, is expanding its Los Angeles-area run starting Friday. Director Joshua Oppenheimer accurately calls this “a documentary of the imagination,” and it takes more than a little getting used to. It’s a mind-bending film, devastating and disorienting, that disturbs us in ways we are not used to being disturbed. It is so impressive and unsettling that documentary masters Errol Morris and Werner Herzog both signed on as executive producers. An examination of a massive anti-Communist slaughter in Indonesia, it raises questions about the nature of documentary, the persistence of evil, and the intertwined ways movies function in our culture and in our minds. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

Kenneth Turan

Film critic

Cate Blanchett. (Victoria Will / AP)

Blue Jasmine’

If you haven’t seen ‘Blue Jasmine,” you’ve missed one of the summer’s best performances. Fortunately there is still time to catch Woody Allen’s bleakest drama ever. “She’s Come Undone.” The title of one of my favorite Wally Lamb novels about a woman over the edge kept running through my mind as I watched Woody Allen’s new film, “Blue Jasmine.” There’s just no better way to put it. Jasmine, in such a paralyzing state of denial and played with such broken vulnerability by Cate Blanchett, is coming completely undone. Jasmine’s unraveling becomes the conduit for a stinging ironic jab at the Bernie Madoffs of the world and their particular brand of greed. Jasmine was married to one of them, and the question of how much she knew is significant. Yet for all of “Blue Jasmine’s” darkness, the movie is among the filmmaker’s most emotionally affecting. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more

Betsy Sharkey

Film critic

Other recommendations:

'The Attack'

An Israeli Palestinian surgeon investigates whether his wife could have been a suicide bomber. Alive to the pain everyone feels, this remarkable narrative captures as well as drama can the nuances of a problem that defies solution. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'Before Midnight'

It was a risk for director Richard Linklater to go so dark in “Before Midnight,” the latest round of the romantic musings he began with his stars, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, nearly 20 years ago. The illusions of a young couple’s more pristine love so captivating in “Before Sunrise” have been shelved so that the tipping point in their relationship can be laid bare. A devastating fight is the centerpiece now, the teasing flirtations a distant memory. Though the gauzy beauty of the earlier films remain, as does a sun-drenched European setting, this time Greece, what you will remember, what you will feel compelled to talk about long after, is the fight. It sears with an intensity that rivals another classic battle between the sexes, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Betsy Sharkey) Read more

'Blackfish'

There is a kind of denial we cling to when it comes to wild creatures in captivity. As if the smiling, performing orcas of SeaWorld are content to trade freedom for fish and applause. “Blackfish,” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s excellent new documentary, should change that. The film's focus is on SeaWorld's Tilikum, whose attack on veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau led to her horrific death in front of a theme-park audience (most of that footage isn’t shown). “Blackfish” puts forth a powerful case for leaving these amazingly intelligent mammals in the wild. SeaWorld, which declined to be interviewed, and slammed the film before its release, does not look good. The story is built out of extraordinary footage of orcas — in the wild and in captivity — experts and former SeaWorld trainers. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more

'Despicable Me 2'

The pressures of being a single father. The realization that despite everything, your kids still long for a mom. The difficulties of getting a teenage daughter's attention between texting and a boy. The boy. The treacherous emotional terrain of middle-age dating. This is “Despicable Me 2”? It is. The softhearted villain Gru, so disarmingly voiced by Steve Carell, has gotten a lot more than he bargained for after 2010's “Despicable Me.” Adopting three adorable orphans brought a slew of issues into his life and those modern problems frame the sequel. What a refreshing twist. Also a risk. But I think the filmmakers were smart to try turning the animated kid-flick formula on its head and go for the adults as much as the kids. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more

'Fill the Void'

"Fill the Void" is a transfixing, emotionally complex Israeli drama about arranged marriage in the ultra-Orthodox community that won the Venice Film Festival's lead actress prize for star Hadas Yaron. Back home the film was nominated for 13 Ophirs, the Israeli Academy Awards, and won seven, including best picture and director. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'Frances Ha'

Effortless and effervescent, "Frances Ha" is a small miracle of a movie, honest and funny with an aim that's true. It's both a timeless story of the joys and sorrows of youth and a dead-on portrait of how things are right now for a New York woman who, try as she might, can't quite get her life together. That would be the Frances of the title (the Ha isn't explained until the film's charming final frame), a joint creation of and career high point for both star Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach, who met on the director's "Greenberg" and co-wrote the script. Together they have created an American independent film that feels off the cuff but is in fact exactly made by a filmmaker in total control of his resources. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'Fruitvale Station'

Made with assurance and deep emotion, this Sundance prizewinner is more than a remarkable directing debut for 26-year-old Ryan Coogler. Its story of the last 24 hours of a young man killed by the police is outstanding by any standard. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'The Hunt'

“The Hunt” is a terrifying cautionary tale about the loss of innocence, sexual abuse and children. But in a chilling twist, the innocence lost is that of a single father, a respected member of the community, a beloved kindergarten teacher suddenly pegged as a pedophile by an angry child. Starring Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, “The Hunt” follows the accused teacher through the destruction wrought by a single lie that sparks a wildfire of rumors and recriminations. It is a devastating film to watch and a tragic reminder that the mere whiff of such scandalous behavior is condemnation enough. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more

'Pacific Rim'

A plot of ferocious creatures called Kaiju facing off against massive robots called Jaegers, may not, frankly, sound all that appealing. But director Guillermo del Toro is more than a filmmaker, he's a fantasy visionary with an outsized imagination and a fanatical specificity, and the results are spectacular. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'Turbo'

There are underdogs. And there are underdogs. Then there is "Turbo," a garden snail who dreams of winning the Indy 500. The latest 3-D animation event movie has an all-star cast starting with the ever-charming Ryan Reynolds as Turbo and the often-irritating Paul Giamatti as older brother Chet. Its story is as much about how big brothers can squelch little brothers' dreams as speed. The animation is great. There are taco trucks and other bumps along the way. But honestly, they pretty much had me at racing snails. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more

'20 Feet From Stardom'

This irresistible effort has just become this year's top-grossing documentary, and if you haven't seen it yet, this might be a good time to catch up before the deluge of fall films hits. Veteran director Morgan Neville has made a moving and joyous behind-the-scenes film about the world of rock 'n' roll backup singers. It's a universe filled with big, bold personalities and the music they make: When you say names like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer, you are conjuring up entire universes of sound. These women sing in a way that is transformative for us, and, it turns out, for them as well. Director Neville has made that rare endeavor that pretty much everyone is guaranteed to enjoy. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'The Way Way Back'

Readers flooded me with emails over the weekend; they couldn’t say enough about the new indie “The Way Way Back.” So I couldn’t resist saying a bit more too. Don't miss one of this summer’s pure pleasures. Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the film is full of fun, family insights and just enough of a burn to keep things interesting. Its terrific acting ensemble includes Steve Carell, Toni Collette and a deliciously naughty Allison Janney. But go for the heart — Sam Rockwell as Owen, the cool dude who runs the local kid-magnet, a water park. Imagine Peter Pan nearing 40, in board shorts, a day-old scruff and a wicked wit and you’ve got Owen to a T. He’s particularly good with teen strays, and 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) is the wounded cub who becomes his summer project. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more

Dwayne Hickman, left, Bob Denver and Sheila James Kuehl. (Gabi Ro)

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis’ on DVD

One of television’s great comedies, collected completely: 20 discs, 147 episodes, immaculately transferred, compactly packaged. I mean to get around to speaking of its virtues at length in some future piece, but briefly: For all that we are living in a so-called Platinum Age of Television — somebody said that once, and it seems to have stuck — when personal expression is the order of the day, TV has 1) always been a writer’s medium, expressive of individual vision, and 2) never lacked for talent. They may have had narrower lines and stricter rules to deal with in the olden Golden days, the envelopes may have not been the sort you could push very far — as if that in itself were good — but works of pop genius, even crazy pop genius, are not exclusive to the post-“Sopranos” TV era. “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” the 1959-1963 CBS series in which Max Shulman adapted his short story collection of the same name — a movie version, the 1953 “The Affairs of Dobie Gillis,” with Bobby Van is less well remembered — starred Dwayne Hickman as a perennially lovestruck high school (then a junior college) student. (Shout Factory DVD) Read more

Robert Lloyd

Television critic

Other recommendations:

'The Awesomes'

The attack of the streaming networks continues, with two new Hulu series produced in-house: the animated superhero comedy "The Awesomes" and the semi-improvised Western comedy "Quick Draw." Starring and co-created by Seth Myers (with "Saturday Night Live"/"Jimmy Fallon" producer Michael Shoemaker), "The Awesomes" is a cartoon about a team of reject superheroes led by Myers' weak but smart Prock (for "professor doctor") in the wake of his famous superheroic father's leaving Earth to get some reading done. The marquee cast includes "SNL" personnel Taran Killam, Emily Spivey, Paula Pell, Kenan Thompson (as a hero who can embody his thoughts, but only in the form of his smothering mother) and Bill Hader as smooth, Montalbanesque supervillain Dr. Malocchio. As crush object Hotwire, Rashida Jones lights up the soundtrack, if such a synthetic figure may be allowed; that Ann Perkins sweetness comes through. Given the talent, the jokes can be surprisingly creaky, but it's amiable enough. It has an adult bent (bleeped expletives, sexual situations, a planet where everyone has breasts for eyes, some blood). With a little surgery, "The Awesomes" might be Fun for the Whole Family. And might be in any case, of course, depending on your family. (Robert Lloyd) (www.hulu.com)

'Casting By'

To someone who spends his life watching television — professionally, friends, professionally — it seems self-evident that casting is, if not, everything, then ... nah, it's everything. No idea, no matter how clever, no script, no matter how well written or directed, can flourish when the actors are wrong for the parts, or even not sufficiently right. The great casting directors can look into the future; they see before a film or pilot is made what everyone else will see afterward. Tom Donahue's zesty, clip-filled, start-studded documentary focuses on casting genius Marion Dougherty, whose career began in the beginnings of television, when it was a New York enterprise that looked to the theater, and took her eventually to Hollywood and executive positions at Paramount and Warner Bros. She helped start the screen careers of James Dean, Robert Redford, Jack Lemmon, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close and Diane Lane; she suggested Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman for "Midnight Cowboy," sent Gene Wilder in for Willy Wonka and matched Danny Glover with Mel Gibson in "Lethal Weapon." (Robert Lloyd) (HBO, Monday) Read more

'Broadchurch' Premiere

Premiering this week and already announced for an American remake. (This is the proverbial well enough that wants to be left alone.) A detective serial set on the dramatic Dorset coast, it stars David Tennant as a big-city cop in retreat from a previous public failure who winds up in the job Olivia Coleman had thought was hers. Immediately, there is a dead child at the bottom of a beachside cliff. There's much here that's standard for the genre: antagonistic partners learning to work together, ambitious journalists getting in their way, the dour mood that has become de rigueur for prestige crime series. And I have some thoughts about the ending we can discuss privately later. But the sense of place, quality of performance and natural dialog quash most qualms. (The seaside small town setting and richly pictured locals make it kind of like downbeat "Doc Martin.") Tennant, bearded and dark and seemingly thinner and pointier than ever, keeps memories of his beloved Tenth Doctor at bay; Coleman, who has a long history in British comedy (you can watch her now on Hulu as the sparky wife of Tom Huddleston's "Rev"), is wonderful as a policewoman, wife, mother and mourner torn this way and that. (BBC America, Wednesdays) Read more

LynnMarie Rink. (Chelsea Sutton / Falcon Theatre)

Wrap Your Heart Around It’

Nashville singer-songwriter and accordionist LynnMarie Rink lays out her life lessons with abundant humor and heroic honesty, in a biographical account that is potently universal for being pointedly specific. Director Michael Kearns stewards this born storyteller with calm expertise. Prepare to laugh through your tears. Ends Sunday, Aug. 11. Read more

Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank

David C. Nichols

Theater reviewer

Other recommendations:

'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson'

This sublimely raucous take on Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman's savage emo rock evisceration of American politics via the seventh president of the United States is an in-your-face triumph. Director Kari Hayter maintains a taut balance between satirical snark and sober intent, her fervent ensemble fronted by the revelatory Keaton Williams. Bloody bloody magnificent. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Sunday, Aug. 11) Read more

Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills

'Dying City'

Christopher Shinn's psychologically acute drama, now having its Los Angeles premiere courtesy of Rogue Machine, offers an intriguing tussle between Kelly, a psychotherapist, and the memory of her husband, Craig, who was killed in the Iraq War under circumstances that leave open the possibility of suicide. This past is brought back in all its anguish and bitterness by the unexpected visit of Peter, Craig's identical twin brother. The acting is as meticulously observed as it is emotionally tense. And though confined to a cramped room, the staging fluidly handles the shifts of time and situation. (Charles McNulty) (Ends Monday, August 5) Read more

Rogue Machine at Theatre Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

'El Grande de Coca-Cola'

Prolifically produced for almost 40 years, this lunatic revue, set in a seedy cabaret somewhere south of the border and delivered mostly in gibberish Spanish, has been directed by Alan Shearman and stars Ron House, both of whom have been with the show, as writers and performers, since its inception. Formerly two acts, the play has been judiciously pared to a breezy 75 minutes — and the comic momentum never flags. Wearing a hairpiece that looks like a small animal in distress, House is the lynchpin of a superlative, marvelously agile cast. If you don't like broad slapstick, give "El Grande" a very wide berth. But if you're in the mood to get goofy and giggle, this could be your ticket. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends Saturday December 14) Read more

Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica

'The Judy Show — My Life as a Sitcom'

Before gay marriage was fashionable — and long before it was legal — the comedian Judy Gold thought there should be a sitcom about her family: two moms raising two sons. Her one-woman show tells the history of her failed network pitches and riffs hilariously on her lifelong desire to be on TV, whether to escape a lonely childhood or to provide a "road map" to future lesbian parents. (Margaret Gray) (Ends Sunday, August 18) Read more

Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood

'One Night in Miami...'

Although this well-appointed dramedy about what might have gone down in the Hampton House the night Cassius Clay became world heavyweight champion slightly overdoes the 20/20 hindsight, that doesn’t stop it from grabbing our imaginations. Director Carl Cofield keeps the action tautly entertaining, and his actors, who express rather than mimic their real-life counterparts, are first-rate. (David C. Nichols) (Ends September 15) Read more

Rogue Machine at Theatre Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

'The Rainmaker'

N. Richard Nash’s 1950s-era chestnut about a “spinster” swept up in romance by a dazzling con man can be laughably archaic. However, director Jack Heller crafts a striking, specific portrait of a bygone time. As for the pitch-perfect performances, they should all be distilled, bottled and preserved for posterity. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends Sunday, Dec. 22) Read more

Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica

'Smoke and Mirrors'

As actor and Magic Castle illusionist Albie Selznick’s superb theatrical magic show explores the connections between his life and art, perhaps his greatest feat is making any trace of boredom completely disappear. (Philip Brandes) (Ends Tuesday, December 31) Read more

The Road Theatre Company, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

'The Taming of the Shrew'

This rip-roaring take on William Shakespeare's romantic comedy opens the 40th anniversary season at Theatricum Botanicum with marvelous forward momentum. Shrewdly trimming text without losing clarity or hilarity, director Ellen Geer achieves a gratifyingly straightforward triumph, and the fearless players embrace some merry passion at every turn, starting with inspired leads Willow Geer and Aaron Hendry. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Sept. 29) Read more

Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga

'A View From the Bridge'

Arthur Miller's durable drama about an Italian American longshoreman's incestuous obsession with his orphaned niece is helmed by co-directors Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson, whose wrenchingly truthful staging, while larger than life, never lapses into overstatement. As for the actors, from Vince Melocchi's towering Eddie, the ill-fated protagonist of the piece, right down to the non-speaking bystanders, you simply won't see any better. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends Sunday) Read more

Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice

'We Are Proud to Present...'

Theodor Adorno's oft-quoted remark, "It is barbaric to write poetry after Auschwitz," raises questions about the ability of artists to represent the Holocaust. How can the cultural tools that were complicit in genocide comment on its barbarity? Jackie Sibblies Drury's spry metatheatrical play (with the full title of "We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915") grapples with just this type of knotty problem. The setting of her drama, ambitiously undertaken by the Matrix Theatre Company, is a rehearsal hall, in which a company of six actors sets out to create a theater piece on the African genocide that took place in Namibia at the beginning of the 20th century. Viewing political reality through the lens of theatrical collaboration is a time-tested dramatic formula. Drury is somewhat better at playfully setting up her conceit than in developing it, but this play (performed with vigorous commitment by a young cast) introduces a sharp sensibility to the American theater, one fearless enough to tackle geopolitical concerns in adventurous theatrical form. (Charles McNulty) (Ends Sunday, Aug. 11) Read more

The Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles

Ernst Reijseger. (Tiago Canhoto / EPA)

Hearsay of the Soul’

If you happen to be at the Getty Center on Aug. 1 or Aug. 2, you might bump into Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger playing a pop-up recital. Times and places will not be announced. Nor should you even try to imagine what kind of music, let alone what music. Reijseger is the most Dutch of cellists. He embodies the range of his country’s forward musical thinking, which means a forward approach to old music as well as new. This kind of building bridges over musical canals is one of the things that makes Amsterdam so very interesting. And that is exactly what Reijseger does in the music he has also contributed to filmmaker Werner Herzog’s new video installation, “Hearsay of the Soul,” that opened at the Getty last week. (Through January 19) Read more

The Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles

Mark Swed

Music critic

Madlib, left; and Peanut Butter Wolf. (Gatling Pictures)

Mixtape: ‘The Blue Flowers: Between Blue and Blue — 54 Madlib Beats’

Sometimes it can take a Greek to remind Angelenos — and the rest of the world — of talent living in our vicinity. Specifically, producer Larry Gus, whose recent work for DFA has been on repeat for nearly the entire year, has collected into one essential mix the fantastic creative output of beat producer Madlib. For those unfamiliar, the artist born Otis Jackson Jr. (but also known as Quasimoto, Beat Konducta and Joe McDuphrey, among dozens of other names) has over nearly 20 years produced countless deep, abstract jazz and soul-inspired grooves. Artists including Mos Def, Erykah Badu, MF Doom, Ghostface Killa, Joey Bada$$ and dozens more have harnessed Madlib’s beats for their rhymes, and Gus examines some of the best in a selection that blends foundational sample material with Madlib’s repurposing to craft what amounts to a sonic docudrama of a master musician. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Randall Roberts

Pop music critic

Other recommendations:

Reissue: 'Total Destruction of Your Mind'

Those not familiar with the iconoclastic soul artist Swamp Dogg might know him through his biggest hit, "Don't Take Her (She's All I've Got)," which hit the top five twice in the 1960s and '70s. If not for that, perhaps you've seen the singer, songwriter, producer, psychedelic soul music purveyor on some of the most surreal album covers of the 1970s. Dogg, born Jerry Williams Jr., also penned gems later recorded by Bob Dylan, Irma Thomas, Patti LaBelle and dozens of others. Williams will make a rare appearance at the Echo on Saturday night, where he’ll perform songs from throughout his career. The impetus? His tripped-out early 1970s albums “Total Destruction to Your Mind,” “Rat On!” and “Gag a Maggot” have just been reissued by label Alive Naturalsound, bringing back to life work that combined lyrics about politics, race and psychedelia through frantic early 1970s soul. (Randall Roberts) Read more

The Proms

The Proms in London is the biggest event in all musicdom. It is advertised as the world's largest music festival, which it is. The first concert is Friday, and it runs nightly (with two programs some days) until Sept. 7. The breadth of this festival is, well, breathtaking in its scope, diversity and importance. All of Britain’s great orchestras and many of the world’s great musicians participate. But what makes the Proms really special is the accessibility, and that is whether you're in London or L.A. or anyplace else. Thanks to the BBC, which sponsors the Proms, every program is broadcast and streamed live, as well as archived for a week. The Beeb offers a player for live streaming. (Mark Swed) Read more

Single: 'Walk Us Uptown'

Elvis Costello has debuted the first song from his forthcoming album with hip-hop band the Roots, "Wise Up Ghost," and, predictably, it's got some funk in its genes. Costello, whose longtime band the Attractions helped propel him to fame, has over his career worked with many unlikely collaborators, including the Brodsky String Quartet, Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney and Costello's wife, vocalist Diana Krall. But when the longtime New York expat announced his work with the Roots -- best known to the public at large as the house band on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" -- even longtime fans were surprised by the juxtaposition. They can relax. The first song, "Walk Us Uptown," sounds like vintage Costello, with a deep, dubby bassline that recalls his classic "Watching the Detectives" and a typically catchy vocal melody that the man known as the Imposter anchors to the rhythm. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Album: 'North Hero'

Never underestimate the power of the Midwest. Continuing a recent run of Minnesota-born jazz talent that includes guitarist Todd Clauser and the Bad Plus, bassist Chris Morrissey offers a snapshot of his inviting way with melody on the wryly titled “North Hero.” The product of a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, the album was also produced by Bad Plus drummer Dave King, a connection that stands to reason given Morrissey also performed with King’s limber Minneapolis-based project Happy Apple. With those kinds of connections you might expect Morrissey to have nimble chops, and he's also been heard backing the intricate indie rock of Andrew Bird along with fellow singer-songwriters Ben Kweller and Sara Bareilles. (Chris Barton) Read more

Album: 'Electric'

A dozen records into a 30-plus-year career and the British synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys sound as vital, catchy and frustrated as ever. Modern without feeling forced and filled with the melodic bounce that typifies their best work, "Electric," in a word, bangs, and sees the Pet Shop Boys at their most celebratory and wittiest. "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct" giddily denounces love with a big thumping dance beat while in the background a men's choir offers majestic harmony. "Shouting in the Evening" builds to a crescendo while Neil Tennant sings of a simple pleasure: "What a feeling, shouting in the evening." (Randall Roberts) Read more

Album: 'Big Sur'

Is there an artist as well-suited to record an album inspired by Big Sur as Bill Frisell? Having spent much of his long career working a fertile seam in the jazz world that shares ground with Americana and folk, Frisell and his often twang-dusted tone seems tailor-made for sweeping vistas and pastoral wonders. Stemming from a 2012 commission by the Monterey Jazz Festival, “Big Sur” is the result of Frisell holing himself up in a cabin at the 860-acre Glen Deven Ranch and writing music for wherever this natural muse took him. (Chris Barton) Read more

Mixtape: 'King of Rock: (Some of) The Best of Rick Rubin (Ruined by Trackstar the DJ)'

Rick Rubin has remained in the public eye for nearly 30 years now, a rare producer/executive/music enthusiast whose ubiquity hasn’t diminished either his consistency or his image. Already in 2013, the co-founder of Def Jam Records, former president of Columbia Records, producer of as many flat-out classics as anyone, has been as present as ever due to his work with both Kanye West and Black Sabbath, and his appearance with Jay-Z in a recent ad campaign for a smartphone company. The sheer volume of contributions is overwhelming, and the evidence is on the mixtape “King of Rock: (Some of) The Best of Rick Rubin (Ruined by Trackstar the DJ),” an unauthorized-but-who-cares 41-minute jam that features key moments from throughout Rubin’s decades helping to steer the musical conversation. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Album: 'Magnetic'

Although it's been almost four years since Terence Blanchard's last album, it's not as if the trumpeter hasn't kept busy. In addition to the Poncho Sanchez collaboration "Chano y Dizzy," he's remained a first-call film composer (with Spike Lee's "If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise" and George Lucas' "Red Tails" among his latest), and in his spare time wrote an opera, which debuts in St. Louis next month. Though Blanchard has no shortage of outlets, he still sounds overflowing with inspiration. Again surrounded by top-tier young talent, Blanchard is equally at home with the unsettled atmospherics of "Hallucinations" as with the hard-swinging "Don't Run," which features stirring guest-turns from Ravi Coltrane on soprano saxophone and bassist Ron Carter. (Chris Barton) Read more

Album reissues: 'Hi Fi Snock Uptown' and 'Armchair Boogie'

The little-known troubadour Michael Hurley released his first record on Folkways in 1964 and over a long, wandering life has crafted melodic acoustic and lightly accented electric music as curious as it is catchy. His best two records, long cult classics, are “Armchair Boogie” (1971) and “Hi Fi Snock Uptown” (1972). They’ve just been reissued, and time hasn’t damaged them at all. Topics include a song about a would-be British nobleman in an insane asylum, an ode to black crows and, his best-known work, “The Werewolf,” a song about mental illness. “Twilight Zone” (embedded below) rages against depression with a desperate melancholy. Haunting and raw with gusts of free-spirited joy — the stellar sex romp of “Open Up,” for example — Hurley’s two records are at times peculiar but in the most human of ways. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Providence's chef Michael Cimarusti. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

101 Best Restaurants

If you take into account Los Angeles’ superb produce, its breathtaking diversity and its imagination, it can be one of the most pleasurable places to eat on Earth. What follows is a ranking of the best restaurants. How many have you tried? Where would you like to go? Create a list and share it with your friends. Read more

Jonathan Gold

Restaurant critic

Other recommendations:

14 great Mexican restaurants

No places matches the breadth and depth of Mexican restaurants we have in Southern California, except Mexico City itself – and maybe not even there. You can find the cooking of almost every region in the country here, crafted at street-corner taco trucks as well as cutting-edge places like the new Corazon y Miel and Bizarra Capital. Here are Los Angles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s choices for 14 of the most essential places to try. 1. Babita: One of the most serious Mexican restaurants on the Eastside, a casual corner joint whose service is burnished to a white-tablecloth sheen. Chef-owner Roberto Berrelleza is especially gifted at the cuisine of his hometown of Los Mochis on the Sinaloa coast. Read more

Corazon y Miel

"Corazón y miel," your waitress wants it to be known, is the signature dish of Corazón y Miel. Corazón y miel, hearts and honey, is a small bowl of warm, seared chicken hearts in a sweet, honeyed vinaigrette, tossed with a few slivers of onion, like a chicken heart escabeche. The grayish hearts look a little gnarly, organy, probably more than you want to be dealing with before your third margarita. The bowl travels around the table twice. Someone finally spears a heart. She chases it with a shot of tequila. She spears another. She corrals the bowl for herself. Like the restaurant, a dim tuck 'n' roll gastropub in the working-class suburb of Bell, the hearts are an unlikely source of deliciousness. The hearts have won again. Read more

Corazon y Miel, 6626 Atlantic Ave., Bell

M.A.K.E.

If you are the kind of restaurant-goer who gets hung up on first impressions, M.A.K.E., Matthew Kenney’s raw-vegan restaurant in Santa Monica Place, may not be for you. But Kenney, who was a renowned New York chef well before he adopted the raw-food thing, is solidly a creature of the food world, and a lot of his techniques are also found in the famous modernist kitchens where dehydrators and Vege-Mixes are as commonly used as pots and pans. The spray of thinly sliced carrots erupting from a base of cumin-scented nut butter is a dish you might see in any modernist dining room. And if the lasagna, sushi rolls and kimchi dumplings are more raw-vegan riffs than the things themselves, it’s just the way the juice-cleanse generation wishes things to be. Read more

M.A.K.E., 395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica

Muddy Leek

A former underground dining club from Julie Retzlaff and her husband, chef Whitney Flood, Muddy Leek is less an edgy pop-up than a comfortable place to drop in for a glass of grenache and a snack on a Tuesday night. There may be the occasional tiny rabbit kidney garnishing a plate of rabbit hash, a little dish of rillettes made with the shredded remnants of duck confit, or a smear of chicken liver mousse on toast, but you are not here to be challenged, you are here because you want to eat nicely composed small plates, and it is nice. Read more

Muddy Leek, 8631 Washington Blvd., Culver City

Tamarind of London

Is it easy to mistake Tamarind’s careful spicing for blandness or the mild juiciness of its chicken tikka for timidity? Could it be a good thing that the parade of grilled-mushroom salads, coconut-scented vegetable korma, chickpea dal, smoky eggplant curry and hot nan stuffed with coconut and dates tends to complement the scent of a pretty Sonoma Chardonnay? Tamarind, the Newport Beach sibling of the first London Indian restaurant to earn a Michelin star, is Southern California’s most luxurious Indian restaurant. Read more

Tamarind of London, 7862 East Coast Highway, Newport Beach

Littlefork

The new restaurant from Jason Travi, whose Mediterranean-style cooking you may have tried at the late Fraiche in Culver City, is a really good bar with high-concept eats – channeling a 1950s New England seafood joint crossed with grungy Montreal bistro, and almost inexpensive unless you let the cocktails, the maple syrup eggs and the crunchy oyster sliders add up. You would be surprised how quickly you can inhale a plate of chilled oysters, nostalgia-flavored fish sticks or even a half dozen clams casino, whose blanket of crisp, bacony bread crumbs in no way slows you down. And there are freshly fried apple-cider doughnuts for dessert. Read more

Littlefork, 1600 Wilcox Ave., Hollywood

(LACMA)

American landscapes at LACMA

The subject of a yearlong, one-room permanent collection installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is 19th century American landscape art. The west wall has a spare lineup of all five LACMA paintings that show the American West, hung to create a continuous horizon line. The east wall is entirely covered, floor to ceiling and corner to corner, by a salon-style installation of 25 of its East Coast views. The face-off is stark between Eastern profusion and Western scarcity, the East Coast as unfolding history and the West as an elusive border. On the south wall in between, six photographs show Eastern landscapes, while 24 depict the West — a nearly exact reversal of the numbers in the two walls of paintings. Old and new landscapes are identified with old and new technologies: Paintings are “back there,” photographs are “out here.” (Christopher Knight) (Through Dec. 31.) Read more

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles

Christopher Knight

Art critic

Other recommendations:

2013 California-Pacific Triennial

More than 2,000 years ago, the Silk Road emerged as a network of flourishing trade routes between Asia and Europe, as well as parts of North and East Africa. Cultures crossfertilized. Civilizations prospered, others flamed out. Art recorded the complex new entanglements. For the next 41⁄2 months, a modern Silk Road is passing through Southern California. This superhighway runs through the Orange County Museum of Art, where the 2013 California-Pacific Triennial is now on view. A prime difference from its ancient predecessor is that Asia's trading partners here focus on the Americas, not Europe. Enlarging the geographic purview to encompass artists working in countries around the vast Pacific Rim, OCMA has changed its old biennial format, which looked exclusively at California artists. (Christopher Knight) (Ends Sunday, Nov. 17) Read more

Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach

Richard Artschwager

Richard Artschwager, who died in February at 89, was that exceedingly rare artist who made paintings and sculptures of virtually equal merit. The traveling retrospective now at the UCLA Hammer Museum features about 145 works that also include drawings, prints, photographs and ephemera. Some omissions from the early years and a jumble of late work make the show a bit less than satisfactory. But the eye- and mind-bending paintings and sculptures from 1962 to about 1974 cement his reputation as a major artist shaking up a pivotal era. (Christopher Knight) (Through Sept. 1) Read more

'Sicily: Art and Invention' at the Getty Villa

There are at least three great reasons to see “Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome” at the Getty Villa. Chronologically, the first is a straightforward male torso, his finely chiseled marble body quietly brimming with latent energy. Second comes a preening charioteer, physically just larger than life but expressively very much so. And third is a depiction of a minor god with major fertility on his mind, his powerful physicality an embodiment of the contortions of carnal lust, both corporeal and psychological. These major sculptures together tell an accelerating story of artistic and social power on the ancient Mediterranean island. (Christopher Knight) (Ends Monday, August 19) Read more

Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades

Maxwell Hendler: All Summer Long

Perfection and aesthetics do not usually go together, but Hendler’s deliciously mysterious monochromes make their pairing seem natural, part of a cycle that is bigger than any of us and sublime to contemplate. (David Pagel) (Ends Saturday, Aug. 17) Read more

Manny Silverman Gallery, 619 N. Almont Drive, West Hollywood

James Turrell: A Retrospective

Light, the essential ingredient for sight, is Turrell's principal medium. Spiritual perception is his art's aim. The ancient metaphor of light as the engine of enlightenment is conjured in a modern way. (Christopher Knight) (Through April 6) Read more

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

Lawrence Osborne. (Ine Gundersveen / Crown; MCT)

The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey’

He who makes a beast of himself,” Samuel Johnson famously observed about inebriation, “gets rid of the pain of being a man.” And yet, if Lawrence Osborne’s new book, “The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey,” has anything to tell us, it’s that there is more to drinking than derangement, that it may lead to a transcendence more profound. “The Wet and the Dry” is a paean to drinking, but it is also a travelogue unfolding largely through the Islamic states of the Middle East and a memoir of sorts, in which Osborne’s upbringing, in “a steadfast English suburb” during the 1970s, becomes a lens through which to read his life. “The drinker knows that life is not mental and not a matter of control and demarcation,” he argues. “The teetotaler, on the other hand, knows full well how even a molecule of alcohol changes body and mind. The Muslim, the Protestant puritan, and the teetotaler are kin; they understand the world in a very similar way, despite all their enormous differences, while the drinkers know that the parameters that contain us are not all human, let alone divine.” Read more

David Ulin

Book critic

Other recommendations:

'Men in Miami Hotels'

Charlie Smith's terrific new novel, "Men in Miami Hotels," walks a line between genre and something considerably wilder, a fictional territory where a character might lose his or her soul. The story of a Miami hoodlum named Cotland Sims, on the run from a brutal mob boss, it is both existential thriller and a book of homecoming, as Cot returns to Key West, where he was born and raised, to confront the living ghosts of his past. These include his on-again-off-again girlfriend Marcella and her husband Ordell (the county prosecutor), as well as his mother and his oldest friend from high school, a drag queen named CJ. To this mix, Smith adds an army of hired killers out to wreak vengeance on Cot, although their violence, while pervasive, ends up seeming almost incidental. Read more

'Return to Oakpine'

Ron Carlson's new novel "Return to Oakpine" revolves around a group of high school friends 30 years after graduation, in the small Wyoming town where they were raised. The book begins with a simple errand: A man named Craig Ralston is called upon to refurbish a garage apartment for his old compatriot Jimmy Brand, who is coming home to die. The year is 1999 and Jimmy is nearing 50, a writer who left home after high school, in the wake of a family tragedy. And yet, Carlson wants us to understand, we never escape the past, not even a little bit of it. In a town such as Oakpine, that can't help but bleed into the present, reminding us of old hurts, old longings, of who we were and who we never will become. This is the tension that drives "Return to Oakpine," between what we want to do and what we need to do, between our dreams and our responsibilities. Or, as Carlson observes late in this elegant and moving novel, "There was a vague lump in his throat that he had thought was excitement but now felt like an urgent sadness; actually it felt like both." Read more

'Genius'

Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen’s haunting graphic novel “Genius” revolves around a physicist named Ted who was once a prodigy, before his priorities became realigned. Ted has two kids, and a wife who may be dying; do we need to say that he feels trapped, that his pressures have become too much for him? Still, Ted has one saving grace, which is his love for Einstein, who holds a place in his life akin to God. “I mean, I’m an atheist —” Ted explains, “most thinking people are — But Einstein is the pinnacle of a thinking man.” As “Genius” progresses, this relationship becomes increasingly prominent, until Einstein himself is animated in these pages, discussing the nature of the universe, the nature of discovery, and the essential notion that our lives are always in constant evolution, just waiting for that one idea, that one revelation, for everything to “start anew.” Read more

'The Faraway Nearby'

Rebecca Solnit's latest book, "The Faraway Nearby," began with a delivery of 100 pounds of apricots to her San Francisco home. The apricots came from her brother, who had collected them from a tree in their mother's yard. At the time, the older woman was in the throes of Alzheimer's; she had been moved into an assisted care facility, making the fruit a metaphor, an allegory, for everything that she had lost. First and foremost, this meant stories, which are at the center of "The Faraway Nearby," a book about narrative and empathy that moves between a dizzying array of tales — including "Frankenstein," the Arabian Nights and that of Solnit's own breast cancer scare — to look at the way stories bind us, allowing us to inhabit each other's lives with unexpected depth. Read more

'Science Fiction'

Joe Ollmann's graphic novel “Science Fiction” is a minutely observed account of a relationship in crisis, from which there is (or might be) no way out. The setup is simple: Mark, a high school science teacher, and his girlfriend Susan, who works in a convenience store, rent an alien abduction movie that triggers what Mark decides are repressed memories of his own abduction years before. If this is difficult for Mark, it’s even harder for Susan because she can’t believe what he is telling her. Here we see the central conflict of “Science Fiction”: What happens when a loved one goes through an experience that is, in every way that matters, life-changing, and yet, we can’t go along for the ride? Read more

'Joyland'

What makes Stephen King resonate for me is the way he can get inside the most mundane of situations and animate it, revealing in the process something of how we live. His new novel, "Joyland," operates very much from this territory: It's a drama that unfolds in miniature. The story of a college student named Devin Jones who spends the summer and fall of 1973 working at a North Carolina amusement park, "Joyland" is a thriller but it's also a homage to the disposable culture of the early 1970s, a time when "oil sold for eleven dollars a barrel." What King is getting at is what he's always getting at, that life is inexplicable, that joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy, are all bound up and can assert themselves at any time. Read more

'Angel Baby'

Richard Lange's third book, "Angel Baby," is a thriller that makes its own terms. Beautifully paced, deftly written, it's a novel of moral compromise, in which we have empathy for everyone (or almost everyone) and no one at once. The story of Luz, who runs away from her husband, a Mexican drug cartel leader, and heads for Los Angeles, "Angel Baby" takes us into uncomfortable territory -- only partly because of its brutality. Rather, Lange effectively upends our sympathies by drawing us close to not just Luz but also Jerónimo, the reluctant enforcer sent to find her, as well as Malone, a San Diego County burnout who makes his money ferrying illegals across the border, and Thacker, a corrupt border cop. Read more

'Appointment in Samarra'

Fran Lebowitz has called him “the real F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Ernest Hemingway said he was “a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well.” But mention John O’Hara today — 43 years after his death — and you’re likely to draw a look as blank as an unwritten book. Why? In part, perhaps, it’s because he was, by all accounts, difficult to get along with, a social climber, a bully, a vicious drunk. And yet, he also wrote three of the finest novels of the 1930s — “Appointment in Samarra,” “BUtterfield 8” and “Hope of Heaven.” Now, the first of these books is back in print: a tale of social success and social failure observed in precise miniature. Originally published in 1934, it unfolds over two days during Christmas 1930 and involves a socialite named Julian English, who is caught in a death spiral of alcoholism and bad behavior, as he loses everything he has ever held dear. Read more

'Little Green'

When last we saw Walter Mosley’s detective Easy Rawlins, he had just lost control of a car he was driving on the Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu. This was in the closing pages of the 11th (and seemingly final) Rawlins book, “Blonde Faith,” published in 2007. Yet six years later, Easy is back, narrating a new novel, “Little Green” that picks up where “Blonde Faith” left off. It's 1967, and Easy must navigate a Los Angeles he barely recognizes in the wake of both the Watts riots and the Summer of Love. Read more

'Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers'

Janet Malcolm may end up best known for the line that opens her 1990 book “The Journalist and the Murderer”: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.” The indictment is more powerful because Malcolm never renders herself immune. This sense — of the moral ambiguity of journalism — weaves through Malcolm’s new “Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers,” a collection of pieces, most originally published in the New York Review of Books or the New Yorker, that looks at both art and how art is received in the culture, which, in Malcolm’s view, is often less a matter of aesthetics than of style. Read more

'Fox 8'

"Fox 8" offers an unexpected twist on George Saunders’ darkly comic sensibility. Narrated by a fox who has learned human language, it’s a taut little tale in which the protagonist and other members of his skulk are driven away from their habitat by the construction of a new shopping mall. Saunders writes in an idiosyncratic dialect full of phonetic misspellings (“First may I say, sorry for any werds I spel rong. Because I am a fox! So don’t rite or spel perfect. But here is how I learned to rite and spel as gud as I do!”), structuring the story as a letter to the reader (or “Reeder”) that turns increasingly pointed and bleak. Originally, Saunders intended "Fox 8" for his collection "Tenth of December," but he felt it was an outlier, even for him. So he decided to release it as an e-book original, his first. Read more

'The Best of the Best American Poetry'

Normally, I’m wary of “best of” designations, but the annual “Best American Poetry” collections recognize the limitations of the game they’re playing, the idea that any group of poems can encapsulate the breadth of poetry written in America in a given year. “The Best of the Best American Poetry” features 100 poems of the 1,875 that have thus far been published in the series. My favorite stuff here is the most direct, or, maybe, the most interior: Margaret Atwood’s “Bored,” which traces how childhood ennui can lead to adult curiosity; the long excerpt from A.R. Ammons’ “Garbage”; and Denise Duhamel’s magnificent “How It Will End,” in which a husband and wife watch another couple fighting, only to take sides themselves. Read more

Joel and Ellie in "The Last of Us." (Naughty Dog / SCEA)

The Last of Us’

The Last of Us” is not your typical doomsday narrative. Zombie-like attacks aside, tension here comes from an underutilized game-play tactic: conversation. Dialogue is almost as plentiful as weapons in this patiently cinematic tale of a smuggler and the reluctant bond he forms with the 14-year-old girl he’s hired to protect. Developed by Sony-owned Naughty Dog, responsible for the hit “Indiana Jones”-inspired “Uncharted” series, “The Last of Us” acknowledges gaming clichés and then skillfully avoids them by keeping its focus on the relationship between Joel (the smuggler) and Ellie (the teen he watches over). It’s an action game, but one with characters worth fighting for. Read more

Todd Martens

Video game critic

Other recommendations:

‘The Dark Sorcerer’

A short film and not a game, but one designed to show what next-gen console the PS4 may be capable of. Quanitic Dream, the Paris-based developer working on the patient narrative "Beyond Two Souls," concocted this fantasy-comedy as a way to illustrate that character depth and detail can be sustained over long scenes filled with gameplay. But forget the technical stuff — it's a cute little video about a film shoot gone wrong, with goblins. Though there are no plans to turn "The Dark Sorcerer" into a game, director David Cage said fan response may inspire him to change his mind. Read more

'Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move'

The minis are diminutive, wind-up figurines that represent well-known Nintendo characters. They walk forward, they don't stop and it's up to the player to control and tinker with the cubic paths in front of them. That about covers the basics, but not the details. Every couple of puzzles a new element is added, be it cubes that rotate, bombs that can blow up cubes, cubes that come equipped with springs that will send the characters flying over spikes, cubes with hammers or cubes that can generate all-purpose, multi-use cubes. With 240 stages, there are a lot cubes. Read more

‘Guacamelee!’

Games are wonderful at creating crazy, colorful universes full of whip-cracking vampire killers and interstellar space pirates, but they are less good at crafting ones inspired by more earth-bound cultural traditions. "Guacamelee!” is an exception. Perhaps not since LucasArts’ 1998 “Day of the Dead” noir title “Grim Fandango” has a game so lovingly draped itself in Mexican folklore. "Guacamelee!” is a colorfully humorous game centered almost entirely on the customs surrounding Day of the Dead. It’s a simple stylistic conceit that seems so obvious that it’s almost confusing it hasn’t been done with any regularity. Who needs zombies and vampires when there’s an entire holiday steeped in calavera imagery? Read more

Left and right, styles from the Natalie Martin Collection; center, L.A. designer Natalie Martin.

Natalie Martin

Designer Natalie Martin has mastered the art of gypset dressing, L.A.-style. In two years, the Aussie transplant has emerged as a go-to for boho-chic styles, including breezy kurtas, tunics, wrap skirts and maxi dresses, all priced under $300, and all crafted out of colorful, Balinese block print silks. Martin has a background in fashion marketing, putting in years at Italian leather goods brands Tod’s and Hogan. Her namesake collection, which is sold at Barneys New York, Calypso St. Barth and other boutiques, as well and on her own website, brings a touch of Bali to L.A. Read more

Booth Moore

Fashion critic

Other recommendations:

Charlotte Olympia opens in Beverly Hills

London-based accessories designer extraordinaire Charlotte Dellal has opened her first L.A. Charlotte Olympia store, a glamorous, Art Deco-feeling boutique at the top of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The decor is an ode to Old Hollywood glamour from the moment you step inside the door, where Dellal (who has the curves and finger-wave blond hairstyle of a 1940s starlet herself) has her own pink marble Hollywood Walk of Fame star set into the ground, with "Charlotte Olympia" etched inside. "It's celebrating Los Angeles from an outsider's point of view," said Dellal, who launched her whimsical line in 2006. "I guess it's not all about Hollywood and film, but I'm a nostalgic person and I have always loved Old Hollywood." Read more

Charlotte Olympia, 474 North Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills

Malibu Barbie gets a makeover

With her beach blond hair, cheeky tan lines and chic shades, Malibu Barbie has been a style icon for many a young girl, including this one. Now, more than 40 years after she first hit the pop culture wave, Malibu Barbie is getting a makeover, from Los Angeles designer Trina Turk. The mythical Malibu icon is the perfect canvas for Turk’s cheerful 1960s and '70s-inspired SoCal aesthetic. Turk dresses the doll in a printed bandeau bikini and hexagon white lace cover-up and accessorizes her head-to-toe with a beach tote, pink shades, short-shorts, a peasant blouse, floppy sun hat and white wedge sandals. She’s even got a chunky cocktail ring, pink cuff bracelet and a bottle of sunscreen. To add to the fun, Turk’s June 2013 fashion collection, titled “Malibu Summer,” features the same items for women, so life-size Barbies can dress like their miniature muses. Read more

Tadashi Shoji

2013 marks 30 years that L.A.-based designer Tadashi Shoji has been making elegant formal wear for the rest of us. He got his start in the glitzy world of Hollywood, creating costumes for Stevie Wonder and Elton John, and more elaborate gowns for the red carpet for Florence Welch and Octavia Spencer. But the bulk of Shoji's $50-million namesake business is in department store sales of tasteful, figure-flattering and wallet-friendly cocktail dresses and evening gowns ranging in price from $198 to $508 for women who want to feel like celebrities in their own lives -- prom queens, mothers of the bride and the brides themselves. I recently sat down with the designer to discuss his favorite career moments, his new focus on selling in Asia, and what's next.n with the designer to discuss his favorite career moments, his new focus on selling in Asia, and what’s next. Read more

Aviator Nation

In just seven years, Paige Mycoskie has turned a passion for 1970s nostalgia into the next California lifestyle brand. Walking into her Aviator Nation store on Abbot Kinney in Venice is like stumbling into a frat house with a feminine influence. Steely Dan, Doors and Grateful Dead album covers and vintage skate decks nailed to the walls, a record player spinning Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," a 720 Degrees arcade game in the corner, stacks and stacks of foam trucker hats, T-shirts and hoodies spreading good vibes like "Pray for Surf" and "California Is for Lovers."... It's such a sensory experience, you half expect your shoes to be sticking to the floor from last night's kegger. Read more

Aviator Nation, 1224 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice

'The Great Gatsby'

Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" is the fashion film of the year. The big-screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic book features stellar costumes by Catherine Martin, who collaborated with Miuccia Prada on chandelier crystal cocktail dresses adapted from her runway archives, Tiffany & Co. on Art Deco-inspired jewelry and Brooks Bros. on striped regatta blazers and suits. It adds up to a dazzling slice of the high life in the Roaring Twenties, "a period in which fashion itself became the fashion we know today," Luhrmann told my colleague Adam Tschorn in his must-read story about the look of the film. Read more

Wear LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has released its second Wear LACMA collection of fashion accessories created by local designers and inspired by the museum’s permanent collection. Custom perfumier Haley Alexander van Oosten of L’Oeil du Vert, accessories mavens Maryam and Marjan Malakpour of NewbarK and women’s clothing designer Juan Carlos Obando were tapped for the collection, which is for sale at the LACMA store and online, with all proceeds benefiting the museum. They had the run of the museum and could choose any piece as a starting point. What they came up with offers insight into who they are as designers and a chance to see a distinct part of their brand vision distilled. Read more

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

Paloma Picasso

Style icon Paloma Picasso has been creating jewelry for Tiffany & Co. since 1980, famously reinterpreting Xs and O’s in bold silver and gold and celebrating the raw beauty of colorful stones in her modern-looking Sugar Stacks rings. Her newest collection for the jeweler, Olive Leaf, is more naturalistic than what has come before, with prices ranging from $150 for a thin silver ring band to $975 for a silver cuff to $100,000 for a diamond and white-gold bib. Picasso, 64, is married to French osteopathic doctor Eric Thevenet and splits her time between Lausanne, Switzerland, and Marrakech, Morocco. Read more

Jennifer Nicholson

Designer, retailer and Hollywood royalty Jennifer Nicholson, who once headlined Los Angeles Fashion Week and showed her collections in New York and Paris, has returned to fashion after a nearly five-year hiatus. Her new venture is Pearl Drop, a Venice boutique with a “boho goddess festival vibe,” opened just in time to dress customers for this month’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival, one of Nicholson’s favorite springtime excursions. Read more

Pearl Drop, 328 S. Lincoln Blvd., Venice

Celine

The Rodeo Drive shopping scene heats up with the opening of the new boutique from Celine, the LVMH-owned brand that helped usher minimalism back into style under the direction of designer Phoebe Philo. What can you find inside? We'll start with Celine’s spring runway collection and tailored classics, must-have handbags, and the fur-lined, Birkenstock-like sandals and fur-covered high heels that have fashion followers buzzing. Read more

Celine, 319 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills