Critics’ Picks: Nov 13 - Nov 19, 2015
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.
This weekend movies featuring Los Angeles are celebrated and theater has some new picks. On TV “Mom” continues breaking new ground and diversity gets a big boost in video games.
Click through to explore more and, where applicable, find directions to venues.
L.A. History in Moving Images
Because it is in the heart of the City of the Angels, the UCLA Film & Television Archive has a fondness for preserving and restoring cinema of all sorts relating to Los Angeles. Now it has taken that love one step further, hosting a symposium and screening series called “This Is the City: Preserving Moving Images of Los Angeles.” Beginning Friday night and continuing all day Saturday at the Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood, the symposium includes panel discussions, illustrated lectures and all manner of intriguing film showings. These programs include a tribute to KNXT’s landmark “Ralph Story’s Los Angeles” television series, glimpses of the city in 1920 newsreel footage, and a rare screening of Franco Rossi’s 1962 “Smog” and its examination of Italian alienation right here in L.A. It’s all open to the public, with a $15 pass ensuring admittance to everything. More information is at www.cinema.ucla.edu .
Impeccably directed by John Crowley, feelingly adapted by Nick Hornby from Colm Tóibín’s fine novel and blessed with heartstopping work from star Saiorse Ronan and the rest of the cast, “Brooklyn” is about love and heartache, loneliness and intimacy, what home means and how we achieve it. Read more
The saga of how the Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for uncovering sexual abuse by Catholic priests, “Spotlight” is mightily impressive not only because of the importance of the story it tells but also because of how much effort and skill went into bringing it to the screen in the best possible way. Read more
'Bridge of Spies'
Steven Spielberg’s superior directing skills and fine acting from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance do the trick in this espionage thriller about a successful insurance lawyer who has to defend a Soviet spy and then attempt to trade him to the Russians for one of ours. Read more
Turning the plight of astronaut Mark Watney, inadvertently abandoned on the planet Mars, into the most polished of crowd-pleasers was the work of many hands, most especially star Matt Damon and experienced director Ridley Scott. Read more
'Meet the Patels'
A documentary that began as a home movie and ended as a warm and funny feature. It turns one man's culturally specific journey into the world of arranged marriages into a lively, engaging, universal story made with an unmistakable sense of fun. Read more
Brie Larson excels in a film able to give full weight to both sides of the emotional equation as it tells the story of a young woman imprisoned for years in a single room in a tiny shed and the young son who was born to her there and knows no other world. Read more
Starring Michael Fassbender as the computer innovator and Kate Winslet as the woman who speaks up to him, this is a smart, hugely entertaining film that all but bristles with crackling creative energy. Read more
With consistently stellar turns by stars Anna Faris, Allison Janney and Mimi Kennedy, this Chuck Lorre comedy remains one of the most touching yet tough-minded comedies on the air. Following the adventures and misadventures of Christy Plunkett (Faris), a single mother and recovering alcoholic/addict as she attempts to better her life and her relationship with similarly challenged mother Bonnie (Janney), “Mom” provides a refreshing contrast to “aspirational” comedies like “Modern Family” and digs deeper than even the comfortably realistic “The Middle.” During the first two seasons, Christy and Bonnie have navigated not only their disease and the angry intricacies of an alcoholic family even in sobriety but also issues including but not limited to cancer, unwanted pregnancy, adoption, homelessness, gambling, domestic violence and death. CBS, Thursdays. Read more
'Master of None'
Though he has all the trappings of an iconic man-child, Dev is also a legitimately nice guy attempting, in his own often quite self-involved way, to lead a meaningful life. This means story lines you expect to go one way quite often go another. An awkward hook-up becomes something more complicated and meaningful, a day spent with a friend's high-octane kids reflects both exasperation and joy, the tension between fathers and sons is shown in terms of history as much as emotion. Ansari is a pleasure to watch, smart and silly and instantly likable, and the supporting cast of friends and family (including his own parents!) is just as strong. (Mary McNamara) (Netflix, anytime) Read more
Don’t bother to look up the definition of the outrageous title of Robert O’Hara’s wild comedy about growing up black and gay. Some words only life itself can explain, as Sutter, the young gay protagonist who grows up to be a playwright, discovers. This Celebration Theatre production, directed by Michael Matthews and featuring the flamboyant drag comedy of Michael A. Shepperd, may seem at times like a reboot of the TV show “In Living Color.” But the play ultimately addresses serious concerns about the intersection of marginalized identities and the challenge of fairly representing such experience. Ends Sunday, Dec. 20. Read more
‘The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek’
At 83, South African playwright Athol Fugard remains a vital chronicler of the political, moral and spiritual damage wreaked by apartheid. His new play picks up on the work of remembering and reconciliation that has occupied him since Nelson Mandela altered the course of his country’s future. The production, capably directed by Simon Levy, catches fire in the second act when Suanne Spoke, playing an embittered Afrikaner, and Gilbert Glenn Brown, playing a black principal who used to work for her as a boy, square off in a post-apartheid reckoning. Ends Monday, Dec. 14. Read more
Although Cris Franco's account of growing up Mexican American in the Valley breaks no new ground, it's a refreshingly unsentimental, hilarious trek, and Culture Clash's Ric Salinas has a field day as all the characters. It's a surefire bet for 47.5% of the city, yet anyone who ever felt at odds with their parents and milieu may well identify with this freewheeling memoir. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Sunday, Dec. 20) Read more
'Strange Eventful History'
Couched in a modern-day play rehearsal, the Independent Shakespeare Co.'s world-premiere production, collaboratively written by and starring company co-founder David Melville, charmingly recapitulates select Shakespearean histories. Those who think that the War of the Roses was a trade dispute between Teleflora and FTD are in for a delightful indoctrination that functions both as historical primer and raucous backstage comedy — a sort of "Noises Off" on a tour of Agincourt. And if by evening's end, you still find yourself struggling to distinguish the Lancastrians from the Yorkists, it won't be for lack of Melville and his stalwart company's inspired efforts. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends Nov. 22)
'Need to Know'
An attractive if unfailingly sarcastic young couple appear to have made an enemy of their new neighbor. Is Jonathan Caren's new play a situation comedy or a Hitchcockian thriller? Tautly directed by Bart DeLorenzo, its surprises keep unfolding until the very end. The cast and design are impeccable. (Daryl H. Miller) (Ends Sun., Jan. 24) Read more
'El Grande Circus de Coca-Cola'
Ron House's follow-up to his, John Neville-Andrews, Alan Shearman and Diz White's 1973 international phenomenon is a knee-slapping festival of broad hilaridad, an un-PC fiesta that is simultaneously a throwback to the Golden Age of live television, a current-day-minded sequel and its own muy histérico entertainment. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Sun., Dec. 13) Read more
‘Awake and Sing!’
Twenty years ago, director Elina de Santos staged a landmark production of Clifford Odets' Depression-era classic, which ran for nine months to sell-out houses at the Odyssey Theatre. Now, she revisits the play, once again at the Odyssey, in a superb production that tempers Odets' fervently polemical play with wrenching authenticity and craft. Reprising the role she played 20 years previously, Marilyn Fox spearheads a dream cast as Bessie Berger, the domineering matriarch of a beleaguered Bronx family, who steamrollers on through the wreckage of Depression America. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends Sunday, Oct. 2) Read more
'Carrie: The Musical'
The downtown return of this spectacular immersive production of Dean Pitchford, Michael Gore and Lawrence D. Cohen's legendary Broadway failure triumphs, the material more accomplished than previously perceived. Its creative team and heroic designers maintain their mind-boggling standard, and the fervent cast has grown into a fearless triple-threat unit. It remains Cirque du Soleil meets Disneyland with pig's blood, plus a fresh patina of Old Hollywood grandeur. (David C. Nichols) (Ends this Sunday, Nov. 15) Read more
'A Flea in Her Ear'
Farce is a tricky thing to sustain, especially sex farce. However, playwright David Ives' wittily risqué 1950s update of Georges Feydeau's farcical classic, the grand-père of them all, strikes precisely the right frothy notes. Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott maintains narrative clarity and a deft balance between insouciance and lunacy, her designers exhibiting droll panache and the merveilleux cast keeping this delicious soufflé airborne. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Sun. Nov. 22) Read more
'Hit the Wall'
In its West Coast premiere, Ike Holter's kaleidoscopic study of what led up to the riots that launched the gay liberation movement receives a stunning immersive production, courtesy of director Ken Sawyer, who outdoes himself, a shrewd design team and a selfless cast. It's both an electrifying look back and a trenchant plea for continued progress, and not only to the LGBT community. Don't miss it. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Sun., Jan. 17) Read more
'Jean Anouilh's Antigone'
Those ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about the precarious balancing act between pursuit of personal fulfillment and responsibility to something greater than one's own self-interest. Among the earliest embodiments of this dichotomy was the tragic heroine Antigone, who sacrificed herself in the belief that higher principle trumped her own survival. In an imaginative makeover, "Jean Anouilh's Antigone" at A Noise Within reaffirms the story's timeless relevance, albeit with cautionary contemporary strings attached. This impeccably staged riff on Sophocles' classic drama filters plot and characters through a dual modernist lens: Jean Anouilh's 1944 allegorical retelling, penned in the midst of Nazi-occupied France, has been newly translated and adapted by director Robertson Dean. Pitting moral conviction against political expediency, the play traces the last day in the life of Antigone (Emily James), daughter of Oedipus and hence no stranger to family dysfunction. True to their bloodline, her brothers have recently killed each other in a battle for control of the state. (Philip Brandes) (Ends Fri. Nov. 20) Read more
'Smoke and Mirrors' at the Odyssey
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 Sunday, Dec. 20) Read more
'Man Covets Bird'
The 24th Street Theatre follows up last year's award-winning “Walking the Tightrope” with another play for families that touches on struggle and loss, “Man Covets Bird,” by the Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer. If the storyline is a bit poetic and meandering, the performers are winsome and the production elements (including live music as well as charming, cartoony video projections) are beautifully designed. Both children 7 and up and adults will find something to enjoy in the experience. (Margaret Gray) (Ends Sunday, May 15) Read more
Jake Broder's mash-up of “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Hermann Hesse's “Gertrude” has some post-larval quirks, but a compelling undertow propels its jazz-centric romantic triangle, which the intrepid Broder, a revelatory Will Bradley and the wonderful Devereau Chumrau play to the hilt. Highly specialized, still needing tweaks, this singular, bluesy chamber work nonetheless scores in haunting intensity. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Saturday, Dec. 19) Read more
Album: ‘Bob Dylan — The Cutting Edge’
Among the many things Thomas Edison famously said, he remarked that “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” and he also insisted that “I have not failed once. I have simply found 10,000 ways that do not work.” Both precepts are clearly evident in “1965-1966: Bootleg Series Vol. 12,” the revelatory latest release of Dylan archival recordings that comes out Nov. 6. Culling a mind- and ear-boggling wealth of outtakes, alternate versions and rehearsal snippets during sessions over the 14 months of an astonishingly fertile period for Dylan, which yielded three of the most influential albums in rock history — “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde” — the new set throws open a panoramic window into the creative process of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists. (Randy Lewis) Read more
Album: ‘Crosseyed Heart’
On Keith Richards’ first solo album in more than 20 years the Rolling Stones co-founder crafts songs using the same tools and templates he’s employed throughout his creative life: blues, early rock ‘n’ roll, classic country & western and a pinch of reggae. You will not find a Diplo production credit or guest verse from Chance the Rapper anywhere on this album. But as Richards’ reflexes suggest, the guitarist still possesses the skills to whittle a stick into a rock song if so inclined. That’s a diplomatic way of saying that our hero is a creature of habit who knows what he does and doesn’t like. Recent interviews suggest he’s as dismissive of contemporary music as Frank Sinatra was to the sound of the Stones. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Pop music critic
Album: 'Hall of Records'
Lionel Williams, who makes music and visual art as Vinyl Williams, crafts sparkly electronic beat music that exists in its own curious realm. "Hall of Records" is one of 14 tracks on his new album, "Into," and makes for a good portal. Tinted with the sonic tone of an overused Maxell cassette, rich with humming frequencies that recall German Krautrock and dense with muffle-tone beats suggestive of 1990s label Too Pure, the track swirls with synthesizers and waves of untethered noise. Williams is less skilled as a vocalist, though. He quivers in pitchy falsetto throughout "Into." It hardly matters, though. The stuff is mesmerizing. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Album: 'Heaven's Room'
Guitarist Matt Mondanile is perhaps best known for his work with New Jersey guitar pop band Real Estate, but his solo project Ducktails has generated equally sublime tracks across four albums. The fifth, "St. Catherine," is filled with many languid, jangled guitar lines. Among the best is "Heaven's Room," which features Los Angeles musician Julia Holter. Mondanile, who relocated to Los Angeles, is a master of smooth, shimmering guitar tones, but "Heaven's Room" blossoms through masterful arrangements and a sonic depth courtesy of producer Rob Schnapf. (Randall Roberts) Read more
While most other superstar artists are either on vacation, on tour or otherwise removed from the conversation, Prince is spending the summer focused on protest and injustice. The artist just released the lyric video for "Baltimore," his invective against police brutality that draws attention to the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and others. The track, released earlier this year, is one of the most searing protest songs the Minneapolis artist has recorded, and the video is just as pointed. It documents the protests that followed Gray's death in the back of a Baltimore police van, matching shots of frustrated citizens with the artist's lyrical questions. "Are we going to see another bloody day? We're tired of crying and people dying — let's take all the guns away." (Randall Roberts) Read more
Album: 'The Longest River'
On its surface, the debut album from the British folk singer Olivia Chaney, released in April, is a simple affair. Featuring her graceful hand-picked acoustic guitar and piano work and a small backing band of strings and bass, "The Longest River" highlights an artist with a voice in harmony with rich traditions and eager to add her own pure-toned phrased accents. Below the surface, though, lay grim complications. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Essential albums of 2015
Embarking on a mid-year rundown of 2015's best pop albums so far is as much an exercise in mix-and-match diplomacy as it is a definitive truth. Within the various portals of "popular music" in 2015 are so many sounds, approaches, accents, instrumental varieties and ear-popping engineering feats that one tilt of the kaleidoscope yields wildly divergent patterns. I've constrained myself to focus on voices pushing at the edges of so-called popular music. (Randall Roberts) Read more
The San Francisco-based Holly Herndon is a singular artist whose productions blend layers of electronically manipulated voice with beats, noise, sibilant textures and filtered sound to create eardrum-tickling joy. On her second album she manages to sound both futuristic and steeped in history. In her work on "Platform" are echoes of voice-and-sample experimenters from decades past, including Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, Nobukazu Takemura and Bjork. But Herndon explores elsewhere. (Randall Roberts) Read more
It's easy to imagine masses in sold-out arenas bellowing all the words to "Fire Away," the crawling country blues track that's one of many highlights of this debut album from Chris Stapleton. Or, for that matter, most of the album. A sturdy, no-nonsense collection of 14 electrified country songs about empty whiskey bottles, broken hearts, lapses of faith and getting stoned because the whiskey bottle is empty, the record is a straight-talking, unflinching look at trouble and its occasional resolution. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Album: 'California Nights'
Of all the cultural archetypes that Southern California has produced, the loosely defined genre known as "beach music" is one of its most enduring. That sunny, harmony-rich, melodically spirited permutation is the rope connecting artists as varied as the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Fleetwood Mac, the Go-Gos, Snoop Dogg, Mazzy Star and No Doubt. Over the last few years that sound has ridden a wave into the present through the work of Best Coast. The duo of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno move further toward mastering the vibe on their third studio album, "California Nights." (Randall Roberts) Read more
Album: 'Carrie & Lowell'
Over his decade-plus as a working musician, Sufjan Stevens has tackled a range of impressively big-ticket projects, including a series of album-length odes to states in the Union, a giddy, joyous dance-rock record called "The Age of Adz" and multimedia art projects. His roots, though, are as a guitar-based songwriter, the kind searching for beauty amid strummed chords and counterpoint arrangements. "Carrie & Lowell" are the real-life names of Stevens' late mother and stepfather, so these 11 songs have an autobiographical tint to them, even if Stevens has long played with fact and fiction (see his mysterious "Concerning the U.F.O. Sighting Near Highland, Illinois") and avowedly does so throughout. (Randall Roberts) Read more
To describe this Australian artist's new release, "The Double EP: A Split of Peas," as the product of a "singer and songwriter" is to suggest something less menacing than she is. Barnett's got a great way with lyrics and hooks, packing a lot of information, for example, into "Canned Tomatoes (Whole)," about a former neighbor/lover. "David" takes a basic blues pattern and turns it into a bouncy, insistent piece on the many reasons why the titular ex-boyfriend is getting the boot. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Album 'Rebel Heart'
Madonna named her 13th studio album "Rebel Heart." The title fits the Madge mold of past titles: adjectives, a noun or two, perhaps a preposition, combined to suggest a loose theme. "Like a Virgin," "Ray of Light," "Hard Candy," "Bedtime Stories" and her relatively epic "Confessions on a Dance Floor" confirm her long-player branding technique, each connecting a concrete idea with the themes conveyed through the songs, more or less. The outlier, her forgettable last album, "MDNA," was a coy reference to the drug MDMA (a.k.a. molly or ecstasy). It sounded as spent as the Monday following an epic Saturday binge. "Rebel Heart" is a far better album than "MDNA" — cleaner, crisper, more sober, less a flimsy attempt at drawing fickle youth ears and more a sturdy rhythmic platform to showcase some of the most striking tracks she's made in 15 years (specifically, since "Music," her last great album). Featuring production by artists including Avicii, Diplo, Kanye West and Sophie and guests including Chance the Rapper, Nicki Minaj and (in spoken form) Mike Tyson, it has completeness to it rather than the mishmash of could-be stabs at relevance that dots her lesser work. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, 2015
Your next great meal in Southern California is as likely to come from that tiny storefront next to the 7-Eleven as it is from a Beverly Hills gastronomic palace. Los Angeles, which is both where American ideas about food tend to be formulated and where they come back eventually to die, can be a spectacular place to eat. Read more
Best Burritos in Los Angeles
Some small part of me was pleased when the website Daily Meal recently pronounced Tito’s burritos as the best in America – at least the award didn’t go to one of those San Francisco places that wrap vast expanses of dry rice and indifferently grilled chicken into what amount to oversteamed pillowcases. But I believe that I in no way am showing insufficient respect to Tito’s when I say that their burritos, while certainly edible, belong nowhere near any discussion of the best burritos in Los Angeles . . . or of the best burritos in the United States, which I would submit is the same thing. For the best burrito in Los Angeles, you need to try one of these… Read more
Green Zone, visitors to the San Gabriel Valley know, is a pan-Asian restaurant in the sweet spot of Valley Boulevard, known for its light, almost greaseless takes on what I suppose you could call fusion cooking, and an insistence, rare in that part of town, on organic ingredients. Even among people who tend to wind up elsewhere for Cantonese wonton soup or salady Vietnamese-style dishes, Green Zone is generally in the conversation when it came to Hainan chicken rice. Now there is a second Green Zone in Pasadena's Old Town, just down from the Donkey Kong machines at the Neon Retro arcade. The walls are matcha green, almost aggressively so, and the music seems to alternate between Janet Jackson and her brother Michael. People are nice. You can get all kinds of little triangles, a bit like samosas, made from spring roll wrappers folded around salmon or tofu; cigarette-size egg rolls stuffed with a few grams of shrimp; or cold tofu with ponzu sauce and minced scallions like you get at the homier izakaya. Read more
Garlic & Chives by Kristin
Here we are at the Mall of Fortune, the vast strip mall that many people consider the heart of Vietnamese Garden Grove. There are sprawling noodle complexes, a crowded bakery and a seven-courses-of-beef restaurant that seems as large as a soccer field. Interested in bun cha Hanoi (charcoal-grilled pork patties with noodles)? You have your choice. Hidden in the back is Brodard, a nem nuong specialist where waits stretch to hours on weekends. And smack in the middle, marked by a flotilla of shade umbrellas, is Garlic & Chives by Kristin, a recently opened restaurant that is already one of the best dining rooms in Little Saigon. You put your name down on the waiting list. You dart next door for a sea salt coffee from the bakery 85°C — you definitely have time. And when you are finally seated, maybe under the truck-tire-size garlic wreath or perhaps under a chandelier that looks as if it had been harvested from Siegfried and Roy's stage costumes, you will be confronted with a menu that will bewilder you no matter how many times you have dined in Little Saigon: lavishly illustrated and well translated but with the familiar-seeming dishes reconfigured in startling new ways. Read more
Catch & Release
Catch & Release, a big new East Coast-style seafood restaurant in the old Paiche space in Marina del Rey, feels perhaps more like a Sprout-group restaurant than like the natural result of culinary ambition. I do not mean to slight Jason Neroni, a fine chef who has been working in the Los Angeles area for many years. Sprout's formula, honed by its founder, Bill Chait, practically mandates a prominent chef — restaurants in the portfolio include Redbird, Bestia and Republique — as well as decent cocktails, an impeccably schooled staff and a high decibel reading. We've seen mostly Italian cooking from Neroni, at Osteria la Buca and Superba Snack Bar, but he may well have dreamed of opening a New England lobster shack. It's hard to know. The Marina has always been a tough area. You find a seat at the seafood counter, a table in the dining room or a niche in the narrow open-air patio from which you can look out on the chain restaurants in the mall across the street. You settle in with a glass of Oregon Pinot Gris and a peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail, half a dozen oysters or a $150 cold seafood platter actually called the Baller if you're in the mood. And you contemplate digging in. Read more
Your ideas about porchetta may have been formed in the hills east of Rome or at a truck parked in Umbria or perhaps with the fennel-scented suckling pig they sometimes serve at Sotto, the stuffed roasts in the case at McCall's Meat & Fish Co. or the sandwiches from Mozza2Go. You can find a lot of decent porchetta in Los Angeles now. But I am guessing you have never tried anything like the vindaloo at the new Sambar in Culver City — a shoulder rolled around fiery Indian spices instead of rosemary and fennel, plunked into a hot oven and roasted until the meat becomes tender enough to slice with a pinkie nail and the skin hardens to a crunch that could shatter your teeth. Read more
Pot-au-feu is at the heart of the French kitchen; more than a beef soup, it is the enduring symbol of hearth and home, an emblem of a life well lived. The revolutionary Mirabeau called pot-au-feu the foundation of empires. Anthony Bourdain calls pot-au-feu soul food for socialists. In "Lolita," Humbert compares his ex-wife to a glorified pot-au-feu. There have been extended treatises on the ideology of pot-au-feu. As every classically trained chef knows, Michel Guérard, the standard-bearer for nouvelle cuisine and still one of the best chefs in France, first came of notice with his version at the namesake Le Pot-au-Feu in the 1960s — an elevation of the humble family dish into something worthy of Michelin stars. A good pot-au-feu — clear, nourishing broth, tender meats and vegetables each cooked to its turn — requires a remarkable attention to detail and a good deal of time. So if you were going to tease out the ambitions of Cassia, Bryant Ng's sprawling Santa Monica restaurant, you should probably take a look at his Vietnamese pot-au-feu, which is a statement of purpose written in carrots, broth and beef. Read more
Kinjiro, the most elegant izakaya in Little Tokyo, is in the Honda Plaza at the far end of the neighborhood, in the space most recently inhabited by the offal-intensive izakaya b.o.s., which closed last fall, and to a casual observer it may seem basically unchanged. Owner Jun Isogai still prowls the front of the house, controlling reservations and engaging his customers in long conversations on the provenance of the sake. Yoshizaku Kondo, the sous-chef at b.o.s., is behind the stove. The lines are nowhere near as long as they can be at Sushi Gen or the excellent shabu-shabu parlor Kagaya, also in the plaza, but they don't have to be. If you don't have a reservation, you will most likely not be allowed past the door. Kinjiro may be relatively democratic, but it is also quite small. You are not the only one with wasabi-flavored potato salad on his mind. Read more
Burritos La Palma
We are all familiar with the celebrity chef. What may be more elusive is the concept of the celebrity taco -- a taco so well known that it has managed to work its way into the general consciousness even of people who may have no idea of its form, provenance or location. The galbi taco is one of those -- it managed to bubble its way up into the culture long before most of us had ever seen a Kogi truck -- and so is the crunchy shrimp taco at Mariscos Jalisco in Boyle Heights. Guisados’ tacos toreados probably fall into that camp, as does the B.S. Taqueria taco with lardo and clams. But the celebrity taco of the moment may not even be a taco at all -- it is the burrito de birria at Burritos La Palma in El Monte, a small burrito that is for all intents and purposes a taco. Read more
Have you heard about the taco with lardo and clams? In some circles it seems as if all anybody talks about is the taco with lardo and clams, which is the improbable specialty of B.S. Taqueria, a cocktail-oriented restaurant implanted into the carapace of the former Mo-Chica in downtown L.A. Because from the moment you spot the clam-and-lardo tacos, which at some point will be decorating the table of nearly everyone in the dining room, you know they are unlike anything else in even this taco-obsessed town. (Jonathan Gold) Read more
When you stroll south down Cahuenga from Hollywood Boulevard, you run into tattoo parlors, neat mobs of people gathered outside anonymous velvet ropes, and bad-decision bars not quite decadent enough to make it into Thrillist listicles. A DJ spins dated electrofunk records outside the Jamaican taco truck adjacent to the occult supplies store. Tourists suddenly realize they're not on Vine. It's not a bad block if what you're after happens to be espresso or 24-hour pancakes, but it also may be the last place you might expect to find a sleek new restaurant from a chef with Mélisse on his résumé and a knack for foie gras, a bottle of Alsatian Riesling or a plate of grilled corn with mascarpone and summer truffles. Yet there you'll find Birch: matte gray exterior, blond wood tables and monkfish tikka masala hiding under airy slabs of pappadum. Read more
Tumanyan Khinkali Factory
Meet khinkali, your latest obsession. Khinkali are soup dumplings from the mountains north of Tbilisi, Georgia. When you check Google Maps for the mountain village in which they may have been born, khinkali is the only word you will be able to read on the screen — the location, apparently, of a restaurant. Pasanauri was a center of dumpling tourism in the Soviet era, although it has fallen on hard times. Dumpling tourism is not what it used to be. A proper khinkali is about the size and heft of a lemon, a lump of oniony meat encased in a sturdy pleated wrapper gathered at the top in a thick, doughy knob. If you poke around in old cookbooks, you see khinkali after khinkali lined up on big platters, resembling nothing so much as Eastern European folk-art heads of garlic. Tumanyan Khinkali Factory is a new khinkali specialist hidden in a Glendale shopping complex courtyard, a branch of the most famous khinkali restaurant in Armenia's capital, Yerevan. Its dumplings more closely resemble old-fashioned hot water bottles, or, really, like Claes Oldenburg's Pop art sculpture of a hot water bottle that used to grace the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's courtyard. Read more
Odys + Penelope
Odys + Penelope, the modern-primitive grill from Quinn and Karen Hatfield, feels as if it has been around for decades, all stripped brick, raw wooden rafters, and an open kitchen that dominates the far end of the restaurant like a proscenium stage. The restaurant smells good, like herbs and campfires, meat and liquor. The most emblematic dish here is the well-aged sirloin cap, that star of the Brazilian churrasceria menu; the most unexpected dish, probably the gigantic applewood-smoked short rib, is a close cousin to the beef ribs in the best central Texas barbecue pits. The Hubble telescope studies mysteries less profound than crisp yet friable perfection of the rye crust on Karen Hatfield's chocolate pie. Read more
The Frank Gehry exhibition at LACMA
Has Stephanie Barron pulled off a curatorial miracle? Not quite. In reshaping the Pompidou Center’s major Frank Gehry retrospective for a run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she is senior curator, Barron hasn’t managed to magically solve all the show’s problems. Her version of the exhibition, like the one that appeared in Paris last year, barely scratches the surface of Gehry’s unorthodox working method, which has evolved over the years to combine his intuitive design technique with an increasingly sophisticated use of digital technology. At the same time, the exhibition has shed a good deal of the starched, carefully sealed conservatism that held it in check in Paris. Ends Sun., March 20. Read more
New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic
“New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933” is a powerful show.The movement has always been difficult to describe, perhaps because it is not a pictorial style. Rather, it is an attitude toward art and its relationship to the world. You will clench your jaw as the 14 chaotic years between the cruel aftermath of World War I and Adolf Hitler’s appointment as German chancellor unfolds. After you see it, you may need a stiff drink and a soft chair. (Christopher Knight) (Ends Mon., Jan. 18, 2016) Read more
Reshaping Tradition: Contemporary Ceramics From East Asia
Broad in scope but modest in scale, dense and nutrient-rich, this show features seven artists — three from China, two from Korea, one each from Japan and Vietnam. For each, prescribed methods of the past serve as raw matter for the insistently new (Leah Ollman) (Through Jan. 31) Read more
Richard Hawkins: New Work
Over the last 10 years, clay has become the go-to material for artists who want to be in on trends. This has led to loads of mediocre work, much of it made by artists who should know better. In contrast, Hawkins' foray into clay has resulted in a body of work perfectly suited to the material's malleability as well as to his uncanny ability to work with just about anything. (David Pagel) (Ends Sat., Dec. 12) Read more
A long time ago, abstract painters talked freely about freedom. They went into the studio to find it. Then it seemed they needed some freedom from freedom. That word disappeared from discussions, replaced by ideas less burdensome, less portentous, less ambitious. At Acme, 23 new paintings by Tomory Dodge sneak freedom back into the picture (David Pagel) (Ends Sat., Nov. 14) Read more
Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows and the New Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography
The first major show in the U.S. for Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako is a deeply affecting event. It begins with her grainy, unsettling images from the '70s of Yokosuka, a port city with a major American naval base, where Ishiuchi moved when she was 6. The show ends with her recent series on artifacts from Hiroshima, clothing worn by women on the day of the blast. For Ishiuchi, every subject is a scar of sorts, a story of damage and its visible residue. Ishiuchi's show is thoughtfully paired with an engaging exhibition of five younger Japanese photographers, women who owe much to Ishiuchi for their place in a field she greatly expanded. (Leah Ollman) (Ends Sun., Feb. 21) Read more
‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’
Stephen King, I’ve come to think, is at his most adept when writing in the midlength range. His big novels — “The Stand,” “It,” “11/22/63” — have always felt a little baggy to me, while his shortest work (he has published more than 200 stories, gathered in a number of collections) can feel sketchy, more idea than nuanced narrative. That middle zone, however: His finest efforts emerge from this territory, shorter novels “Misery,” “Joyland” and “The Shining,” novellas such as “The Body” or the chilling “A Good Marriage.” In this material, King has the breadth to do what he does best, which is to evoke the very human underpinnings of terror, while also remaining constrained by certain limitations of space. As he explains in “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams,” which gathers 20 pieces of fiction, along with brief reflections on their composition, “Only through fiction can we think about the unthinkable, and perhaps obtain some sort of closure.” The key word there is not the unthinkable in which King traffics but “closure,” the closure of the midrange form. Read more
'Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink'
New wave rocker, country crooner, balladeer, collaborator and showman: Elvis Costello has been all of these and more in the course of what is now a 40-year run. Of all the first-generation punkers, he remains (with Patti Smith and possibly David Byrne) among the few who can claim the longevity and diversity of, say, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell, both of whom appear in this book. Like minds, perhaps, or water seeking its level. Either way, this is the company to which Costello belongs. And yet, if "Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink" has anything to tell us, it is that its author remains a fan. Here he is, for instance, on his first experience singing with Paul McCartney, a rehearsal duet on "All My Loving": "I locked on to the vocal harmony the second time around, as I'd done a thousand times before while singing along to the record. It never really occurred to me that learning to sing either vocal part on a Beatles record was any kind of musical education. I was just a kid singing along with the radio in our front room." Or this, recalling a good-natured cutting contest, trading lyrics with Bob Dylan: "It was just fun to be in the ring with the champ for a minute or two." Read more
'City on Fire'
A long book represents an act of faith. On the writer's part, to be sure: The faith that he or she has something to say that's worth all the hours it will take for us to hear it, that it won't dissolve in ephemera and flash. But on the reader's part, also: The faith that we can trust the writer, that there will be a payoff, that it will add up. Certainly, this is the challenge faced by Garth Risk Hallberg's first novel, "City on Fire," which, clocking in at more than 900 pages, seeks to re-create, in panoramic fashion, the New York City of the late 1970s. Hallberg's book, of course, is much anticipated, for its length, its scope and its deal (he sold the book for $2 million) — but all of that is beside the point. The only criteria worth considering is whether, or how, the narrative works, the extent to which it draws us in. Read more
First, let's clear up a misconception: Patti Smith's "M Train" is not a sequel to her 2010 National Book Award-winning memoir "Just Kids." In fact, "M Train" is not a memoir at all, except in the loosest sense — a book of days, a year in the life, a series of reflections, more vignettes than sustained narrative. By saying that, I don't mean to be critical, for vignettes are what Smith does best. Read more
'So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood'
Patrick Modiano opens his most recent novel, "So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood," with an epigraph from Stendhal: "I cannot provide the reality of events, I can only convey their shadow." It's an almost perfect evocation of the book, not to mention Modiano's career. The French writer, who won the Nobel Prize last year for a body of work as deft and beautiful as any in postwar European literature, is an excavator of memory — not only his own or those of his characters (many of whom bear, as J.D. Salinger once observed of his fictional alter ego Seymour Glass, "a striking resemblance to — alley oop, I'm afraid — myself"), but also that of Paris. That's why his fiction resonates so deeply; it occupies an elusive middle ground between place and personality. Read more
Among my favorite aspects of Clancy Martin's second novel, "Bad Sex," is that it is not about bad sex; in fact, the sex is relentless, passionate. Rather, it is about all the bad stuff sex — or sexual obsession — can make us do. Narrated by Brett, a recovering alcoholic who betrays her sobriety, and her marriage, for a yearlong affair with her husband's banker Eduard, the book records the spiral, the ripple effect, of transgressive behavior, the way that once we slip the bounds of propriety, it can be ever more difficult to find a passage back. Read more
On the acknowledgments page of his third novel, "Undermajordomo Minor," Patrick deWitt cites as inspiration a variety of writers, including Thomas Bernhard, Italo Calvino, Roald Dahl, Shirley Jackson and Jean Rhys. This tells us something important about his intent. Like DeWitt's last book, "The Sisters Brothers," which was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, "Undermajordomo Minor" is a work of fiction with its roots in literature, a response to other books more than to any interaction with the world. That's not a criticism, just an observation; DeWitt is not interested in straight naturalism so much as in the mechanics of a particular kind of story, narrative as fairy tale. In "The Sisters Brothers," it was the western, which he deconstructed as neatly as Charles Portis and E.L. Doctorow did. This time, it's the fable, as DeWitt tells the story of a young man, Lucien — also known as Lucy — Minor, who travels from his home village of Bury to become the Undermajordomo (or assistant to the assistant) "of one Baron Von Aux's estate in the remote wilderness of the eastern mountain range." Read more
Jonathan Franzen's career offers a cautionary narrative — for us as much as him. As far back as 1996, with "Perchance to Dream," his long essay published in Harper's on the state of contemporary fiction, he has filled the role of both avatar and scapegoat, an ambitious writer who can't (or won't) steer clear of controversy. Such a process began in earnest with "The Corrections," his masterful 2001 portrait of a Midwestern family, that led to an infamous tiff with Oprah Winfrey after he objected to her book club logo on the cover. More than a decade later, "Freedom," a moving meditation on marriage and friendship, provoked a campaign on Twitter, under the hashtag "franzenfreude," protesting the attention Franzen had received. By now, Franzen is often regarded less as writer than as cultural signifier, emblem of white male hegemony. That this has little if anything to do with the substance of his novels is (perhaps) the point and the tragedy; when it comes to Franzen, the writing is where we go last. Just consider the recent uproar over his remarks about wanting to adopt an Iraqi war orphan — tone-deaf, yes, but irrelevant to the success or failure of his work. This is the culture into which Franzen is releasing his fifth novel, "Purity," with its admonition that one "could either ignore the haters and suffer the consequences, or he could accept the premises of the system, however sophomoric he found them, and increase its power and pervasiveness by participating in it." Such a line captures almost perfectly the key conundrum of the Digital Age, with its easy (and dangerous) sanctimony. Read more
'Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii'
"The task of understanding the past is never-ending," Susanna Moore observes late in "Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii," her fascinating account of the "short 120 years from the arrival of Captain Cook in 1777 to the annexation of the Islands in 1898 by the United States." Such a point of view — imbued as it is with a sense of story as malleable, dependent on teller as much as character — belongs as much to the novelist as to the historian. That, of course, is as it should be, for Moore is best known for her fiction. Author of seven novels, including "In the Cut" and "The Whiteness of Bones," she has staked out a territory in which women must find a place for themselves in a world where history conspires against them and identity is a shifting sea of codes. Small wonder, then, that she would bring an equivalent perspective to Hawaii, where she grew up and about which she has written two earlier nonfiction books, "I Myself Have Seen It" and "Light Years." For Moore, Hawaii is where it all begins (it permeates her fiction too), a template of fantasy and hard truths, opportunities lost and found. As she writes, "It will be the obvious view of most readers that the Hawaiians should have been left to work out their own history." Read more
'Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother's Story'
On Nov. 8, 2000, David Payne's younger brother, George A., died in a car wreck north of Roanoke, Va. Payne, the lead driver in an impromptu two-vehicle caravan, watched the whole thing unfold in his rearview mirror. His brother was helping him transport belongings from Vermont to North Carolina as part of a move. This is the impetus for "Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother's Story," Payne's first book of nonfiction after five novels, including "Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street." To say "Barefoot to Avalon" is about the accident, however, is to underestimate what Payne has achieved. George A., who was 42 when he died, suffered from bipolar I disorder and had been through multiple breakdowns and hospitalizations; he had lost his job, his marriage, his self-sufficiency, living with his mother for the last nine years of his life. Payne, for his part, had "failed to see what had happened to George A. and had let things shutter down till there was almost no light left between us." The brothers' trip together, then, was meant to be a reclamation project, a way of bringing them back into proximity again. That it ended as it did is just one of the many tragedies that permeate this piercing book. Read more
'Poetry Is Useless'
Anders Nilsen is called a comics artist, but that's not exactly what he does. Yes, his books are visual, but Nilsen seems at times to be about the deconstruction of form itself in favor of a purer style of storytelling, gathering evidence: images, correspondence, notes from the author to himself.... It's a vivid approach to narrative, immediate and unexpected, and it encourages — no, requires — us to engage. On the one hand, a stunning, apparently unfiltered humanity, and on the other, a sense of form as malleable, as less straitjacket than structure, a way of piercing the surfaces to get at all the uncontrolled or uncontrollable material underneath. And yet, filtering is what an artist does — the shaping of perception, of experience — and this creates the tension at the heart of Nilsen's work. How to make order out of chaos and still give the chaos its due? The question echoes through Nilsen's new book, "Poetry Is Useless," which reproduces seven years of his sketchbooks; much of the work here originally appeared on his blog "The Monologuist." Read more
'The Meursault Investigation'
Give Kamel Daoud credit for audacity. In his debut novel, "The Meursault Investigation," the Algerian journalist goes head-to-head with a pillar of 20th century literature: Albert Camus' existential masterpiece "The Stranger." First published in France in 1942, Camus' novel tells the story of Meursault — like the author, a French Algerian, or pied-noir — who under the influence of heat or fate kills an Arab on the beach at the peak of a summer afternoon. "I shook off the sweat and sun," Meursault informs us. "… Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness." "The Meursault Investigation" takes place on the other side of that door, offering a glimpse of the fallout from Meursault's futile violence. Read more
'Maintenance of Headway'
Partway through Magnus Mills' "The Maintenance of Headway," the narrator, a bus driver in a city that must be London, is stuck on a crowded road behind a truck with a warning reading, "If you can't see my mirrors I can't see you." Bored and frustrated, the driver starts to frame a song. "If you can't see my mirrors," he sings to himself, "I can't see you anymore / I can't see you … anymore." The logic is inescapable: "Sitting in a bus composing songs might seem pointless, but there was nothing else to do." The same might be said of this strange and lovely novel, published in the U.K. in 2009 and now available in the United States for the first time. Read more
‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’
The “Call of Duty” franchise has had players (as soldiers) do battle underwater, shoot in outer space, wear jet packs and even attack zombies. But for all the series’ fantasy warfare over the past dozen or so years, the game never imagined women as equal players on the battlefield. “Call of Duty,” instead, has long been considered a game for dudes who love their digital guns. But that may be changing. The release this week of “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3” marks a gender milestone for the Activision-published blockbuster series, one of the video game industry’s few household names. A female character is, for the first time, playable in the game’s core story. Read more
Video game critic
Michael Frith spent the bulk of his career working with the Muppets. Today, the latest project from the semiretired artist has him reimagining history and bringing his flair for expressive, handcrafted characters to the mobile game space. "Leonardo's Cat" is the master of puppetry's first venture into the game space. But he downplays the shift to the digital world. You see, Frith has always been tinkering with technology. "One of the things that's always driven the work that we do is experimentation, trying to see what we can do in and with media we had not worked with before," Frith says. "With 'The Muppets,' we pioneered things like motion capture." Whether he is working with games or puppets, the questions Frith asks himself are the same: "How do you take the place that you are in, the tools that you are given, and find new and interesting and exciting and hopefully beneficial ways to use those tools?" "Leonardo's Cat," scheduled for release Thursday to Apple's app store, is a child-friendly game with an educational bent and grownup-worthy brainteasers. It imagines an alternate history, one where Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were thieving rivals and a cat was a muse. Read more
'Minecraft: Story Mode'
"Minecraft," the video game that can essentially be anything you want it to be, is everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except in my home. Even though it's the world's most popular game, with global sales that long ago rocketed past the 50-million mark (more than 21 million people have bought the game for home computers alone), I was reluctant to buy in because there was one terrain the Mojang-created "Minecraft" had yet to conquer: the narrative space. The Bay Area's Telltale Games wants to change that. The company this past week released "Minecraft: Story Mode," available now for most major platforms, and it attempts to do the very thing "Minecraft" was created to avoid: construct a linear plot. It's a "Minecraft" for the rest of us, or at least those of us who prefer our games to feel a little more defined from the start. Read more
'The Beginner's Guide'
"The Beginner's Guide" is a video game that opens with an existential question rather than an objective: Is it possible to get to know someone by analyzing his art? Play the game, and over the course of its two or so hours a number of even more compelling inquires arise, all of them relating to the difficulty of maintaining friendships, fostering intimacy and recognizing selfishness. It's an odd, thoughtful and beautifully surreal game, and its images — a door floating in space, a wormhole that opens during a self-help talk and a country café that turns into a prison — linger long after it comes to a conclusion. Read more
'Slam City Oracles' and 'Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime'
Video games can get dark quick, what with all the guns, military ops and monster-like creatures in space. The big games of fall and winter are no exception. Franchises such as "Metal Gear," "Halo," "Destiny" and "Call of Duty" provide plenty of wars to be waged on consoles and home computers. So where's the love? Two newer games put forth the theory that interactive entertainment can be a little bright and cuddly, and do so without losing their edge. "Slam City Oracles," in fact, turns to punk rock's riot grrl movement of the 1990s for inspiration, while "Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime" laces its high-intensity action with themes of adoration. "At least in games, it's so much more acceptable to be gray and serious and dark, so I really feel like it's rebellious to be happy and exuberant and cheerful," says Jane Friedhoff, creator of "Slam City Oracles." "Those are somewhat more vulnerable emotions than anger, or whatever emotion you'd want to call shooting." Both games necessitate cooperation yet take a different tack in their quests to be nice. Read more
"Until Dawn" appears to be the horror genre at its most recognizable. There's a cabin in the woods, of course, and a cast of good-looking actors playing a type rather than a character — the jock, the blond, the class goof. Most of them are really quite horrible people, in fact. There are scary movie tropes aplenty. Yes, there's a clown mask, and there's even a scene involving a Ouija board. One extended sequence has actress Hayden Panettiere in a towel. Open a cabinet, and out will come a rat, launching directly at you as if a spring board were built under the bathroom sink. Yet amid all these cliched ideas are rather ambitious ones. This silly B-movie of a video game may hint at the future interactive entertainment. Read more
'Lara Croft Go'
When "Tomb Raider" was rebooted in 2013, the game ushered in a number of changes for its main character, Lara Croft. Gone were the short-shorts and oversized chest, and in their place was a young, attractive archaeologist who actually looked like a young, attractive archaeologist. What's more, Croft talked and acted like a real human — curious when it came to adventuring, trepidatious, at least at first, when it came to weaponry. While "Lara Croft Go" brings back the shorts, the new mobile game from Square Enix one-ups the re-imagined "Tomb Raider" on at least one level: It requires the constant use of your brain. Read more
Here's a premise for a plot that's sure to bring out the tears: A blind girl can't find her best friend, a neighboring cat. If "Beyond Eyes" were a movie, it would come with a giant red warning light: Here be sadness. Thankfully, it's a video game. That's not to say "Beyond Eyes" doesn't tug on the heartstrings — it absolutely does — but the uniqueness of the interactive medium allows for a potentially sad experience to turn into a journey of discovery. That's because the relationship between player and controller can temper the heightened emotions of losing a pet. The act of moving a joystick, even in a nondemanding game such as "Beyond Eyes," immediately gives the player a task that must be completed. The cat must be found. Read more
Take the myth of Robin Hood, add a cyber-punk look and mix in some hacker sensibility. Welcome to "Volume," which just so happens to be one of the most subversive video games released this year. On the surface, "Volume" is a game of stealth and thieving. Yet these are clandestine operations that reflect a YouTube generation and an economically depressed climate. "Things are brilliant," says our hero, Rob, "if you're born into the right role." Available now for Sony's PlayStation 4, "Volume" imagines a world where hackers are less interested in exposing adultery and movie studio secrets than they are class parity. That may not sound as sexy as attacking Ashley Madison, the married people's online dating site, but "Volume" makes it all feel pretty slick. Neon-hued corridors and luminescent walls create a future-set world in which our working-class hero is to sneak around undetected. Read more
Some of the best games — and some of the most difficult — create their own language. It's a dialect born out of patterns, of habits and of good ol' fashioned trial and error. They speak in code. Their digital renderings are passed from generation to generation — interactive signifiers of where to go, what to avoid and how to slay. Staying out of space lava may be the obvious thing to do, but what about those gelatinous bubbles that slurp out of the rocks? Maybe those are good? Maybe they're healing? After all, they make a goopy sound that's slightly comforting when my spaceship passes through them, so they must be good, right? No, turns out they're not healing. But at least another piece of "Galak-Z's" speech patterns was unraveled. "Galak-Z" is certainly difficult, and it's also quite good. Its dialect reveals itself patiently and often contradicts itself. Read more
'Decisions That Matter'
"Decisions That Matter" is a video game that comes with a "trigger button." No, not the gun kind. It's more of an instant-quit button, providing players with a safe way to exit the game in case it starts to hit a little too close to home. And "Decisions That Matter" can get uncomfortable quick. The game tackles sexual assault, and it asks players to witness disturbing situations that test their moral fortitude. Read more
Not too long ago Joel McDonald was working on video games in which players could pummel bullets into trees. Today, he's crafted a puzzle game in which players nurture trees. The result? This former "Call of Duty" designer has one of the hottest games on the market. His mobile game "Prune" was near the top of Apple's paid App Store charts for much of last week. Not bad for a game in which the goal is to watch a tree sprout flowers. With swipes of the hand, players in "Prune" trim or guide a tree around barren, light-starved atmospheres. The more precise the direction, the more flowers the trees will grow. Described as a "love letter" to nature, the $3.99 game brings with it an abstract look and a meditative sound to plant life. Read more
Too much thinking, argues a blacksmith in the new "King's Quest," leads to inaction. She says this as if thought was a lamentable trait. Let's be thankful she's a fictional blacksmith and not a video game publisher. Conventional game design wisdom often puts forth the theory that the new, the technologically advanced and the action-packed are greater than something with a lived-in feel and many a conversation. Conventional game design wisdom is sometimes wrong. It's the difference between, say, the personal and the mechanically sound — a watch with slick, up-to-the-minute tech versus the clock with old-time appeal. With history come stories to tell, and occasionally some bad puns. This brings us to "King's Quest." Read more
‘Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe’
Ladies, the next time you are teetering on high heels, you can blame men. But not for the reason you think. In Western fashion, high heels were popularized by men, starting in the court of Louis XIV where a talon rouge (red heel), identified a member of the privileged class centuries before Christian Louboutin made red soles the calling card of his luxury shoe brand. That’s just one of the tasty tidbits in “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe,” an exhibition scheduled to run through Dec. 13 at the Palm Springs Art Museum that examines the fashion accessory we all love to hate, including its history, its relation to gender identity, sex appeal and power. Read more
The thinking man's sex symbol. That's the woman Los Angeles designer Maria Korovilas is catering to with her label, Korovilas, launched through the Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion show in 2012. Korovilas and her business partner, Katie Bernhisel, who met at USC, have developed a growing business out of their downtown Los Angeles studio, selling their lace-and-beaded dresses to Neiman Marcus online, Nordstrom Via C, Anthropologie and Satine at prices ranging from $395 to $1,800. And the label's collections, inspired by chalky marble, Romanian peasant dresses, Edwardian laces, Deco jewelry, rustic vistas, 1990s granny boots and more, have caught the attention of Blake Lively and Sophia Bush. The designer decided to show her spring 2016 collection during Los Angeles Fashion Week but away from the fray, hosting a cocktail party poolside at the Mondrian Hotel with models posed against the glittering skyline. The collection took inspiration from "La Nouvelle Vague," or French New Wave cinema, in particular, Jean-Luc Godard's lesser known film "Pierrot le Fou" (1965). "It's the one no one ever knows," Korovilas joked, adding that the pastel color palette and dilapidated grandeur of France portrayed in Godard's films were what intrigued her. Read more
From Fred Cole to Rose Marie Reid and beyond, Los Angeles has a long history of producing fashionable swim and resort wear with a celebrity angle that sells it to the wider world. And today, Hale Bob is one of the L.A. labels carrying on the tradition. Founded 14 years ago by Paris transplant Daniel Bohbot, the brand's name is plastered on several billboards around town, including one currently on Sunset Boulevard about a mile from the Beverly Hills manse Bohbot moved into six weeks ago. Cindy Crawford, Sofia Vergara and Amal Alamuddin are just a few of the Hollywood celebs who have worn the swim cover-ups at the beach, where the paparazzi capture them in high style. It's been a winning formula that has propelled sales to the $40-million mark, Bohbot says. For Bohbot's Los Angeles Fashion Week debut Thursday, he chose to show his spring 2016 collection poolside at his new digs, to hit home the L.A. lifestyle element of his print-tastic caftans, bikinis, flip-flops and beach towels. Read more
From Chanel's couture sneakers in 2014 to track pants on Chloe's Paris runway earlier this month, sports attire is permeating high fashion in a major way. And so-called athleisure, as offered by Lululemon, Rebecca Minkoff and countless others, is one of the fastest-growing categories in clothing sales. Tory Burch has introduced her own take on the look: Tory Sport, the first standalone apparel collection created by the designer since she launched her namesake brand in 2004. Tory Sport offers a mix of performance and "coming and going" wear to take you from the court to the club, with offerings that include moisture-wicking leggings and jog bras in her signature peppy prints; ribbed-knit polo sweaters; drapey, wide-legged track pants and pearl-encrusted, slip-on sneakers. Available online at www.torysport.com and in New York. Read more
New York Fashion Week
Designers put the "show" in fashion show at New York Fashion Week this season. The unveiling of the Spring 2016 collections wrapped up Thursday night, with Marc Jacobs' staging his presentation as a premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater, beginning with the models walking the red carpet outside, in front of passersby who held their camera phones high to catch the edgy, Americana-inspired looks. Inside, guests watched the first few arrivals on a movie screen. And after the models wound their way up the escalators and into the theater, they walked the runway to the sounds of a rootin', tootin' live orchestra. It was a reminder not only of the power of the red carpet but of how closely fashion has become tied to entertainment and performance. This fashion week, the public was drawn into the action like never before, with ticket lotteries for some show seats, glimpses of the runways at outdoor venues and via screens broadcasting some of the action. Read more
Have you ever camped out overnight to buy a pair of kicks — or wondered why the heck anyone would? Then the new documentary “Sneakerheadz” is for you. Directed by David T. Friendly (Academy Award-nominated producer of “Little Miss Sunshine”), the film — which opens in limited release Friday — looks into sneaker collecting from the Fairfax corridor in Los Angeles to the Ginza district in Tokyo. And it comes at a time when sneakers seem to be everywhere: on Paris fashion runways, Hollywood red carpets and at New York City’s Brooklyn Museum, where an exhibition on “The Rise of Sneaker Culture” is scheduled to run through Oct. 4. Read more
The Aussie fashion footprint in L.A. just got a whole lot bigger with the opening of the 3,000-square-foot Zimmermann flagship on tony Melrose Place. Australian model Miranda Kerr, model-actress Chanel Iman, and actresses January Jones and Minka Kelly were among those who turned out for cocktails Wednesday night to fete the brand and its fun-loving cofounders, sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann. The boutique is airy and open with racks full of Zimmermann's boho-romantic printed sun dresses and jumpsuits with lattice stitching or sexy cutouts, lace peasant tops and skirts, and sculpted swimwear. Prices range from $150 to $600 for swimwear and $350 to $2,000 for ready-to-wear. Read more
Long before Jay Z was rapping about fashion designer Tom Ford, Pharrell Williams was pitching for Chanel or Kanye West was a front-row fixture at Givenchy, kids were customizing jean jackets with spray paint and accessorizing shell-toed Adidas shoes with starched laces. Hip-hop fashion, born from the music scene, has evolved into a global business and pop culture phenomenon that is explored in "Fresh Dressed," a new film by Sacha Jenkins. Read more
Lizzie Garrett Mettler
L.A.-based blogger and “Tomboy Style” author Lizzie Garrett Mettler has entered the world of retail. She’s launched The-Reed.com, an online destination that is part travel guide, part shop featuring clothing and accessories for traveling well. “I didn’t feel like there was a store for me that could provide items to go car camping two hours away from home or to wear while sightseeing during the day and to dress up at night,” Mettler says. “Travel items are either really masculine or if they’re for women are really jet-setter feminine. I wanted to bring some balance to the space.” Mettler launched her Tomboy Style blog in 2010 (it’s had 6.8 million views since its inception), which inspired a book by the same name published by Rizzoli in 2012, covering 80 years of women who mix masculine and feminine elements in their wardrobe. Read more
One Day Without Shoes
This week, L.A.-based Toms Shoes kicked off its eighth annual One Day Without Shoes campaign with a new social media twist. Through May 21, if you Instagram a pair of bare feet and tag the photo with the hashtag #withoutshoes, Toms will donate a new pair of shoes to a child in need — no purchase necessary. The social media campaign is good for up to 1 million posts, with a limit of one post per person. But considering Toms has given away 35 million pairs of shoes since the company started, it's a significant gesture. Toms was founded by Blake Mycoskie in 2006. A former contestant on the reality show "The Amazing Race," he discovered the comfy canvas, espadrille-like alpargatas shoes when he traveled to Argentina after the show wrapped up, to play polo, relax and volunteer. Read more
The Apple Watch
The Apple Watch has landed in stores for "try-on visits" and pre-orders ahead of the April 24 ship date. It's a pretty genius retail tactic akin to a fashion trunk show — a tease to create demand for the tech giant's first foray into wearable technology. And it seems to have worked; many models of the watches are already back-ordered. I wasn't sure what to wear to my "try-on visit." Jeans, a skirt, long sleeves or short? I went with short sleeves, a skirt and heels because I wanted to see if the watch felt right with a somewhat formal, "on-duty" outfit. It turns out it didn't much matter what I wore, because no mirrors have been installed in Apple stores for the rollout. No mirrors for a product that is supposed to be a personal style statement — are you kidding me? It was a big fashion fail, but one that I got around by taking pictures of myself on, what else, my iPhone! Read more
'Mad Men' Fashions
With the seven final episodes of "Mad Men," the most fashion-influential TV show since "Sex and the City," is coming to an end. AMC's 1960s period drama about slick ad men and curvy women has been an aesthetic gold mine, influencing the slim silhouette of men's suits, the beauty ideal for women's bodies and more, particularly during the first five years of the show's 2007 to 2015 run. It brought the worlds of fashion and costume design ever closer in the process. From the first season, I — like most viewers — was seduced by the show's post-1950s innocence. I dreamed about living in an era before surgeon general warnings, when cigarettes and booze were a given at lunchtime and the polished glamour and propriety of opera gloves and pillbox hats were the norm. "I don't think you would have liked it," said my baby boomer mother, shattering the spell. "It wasn't much of a place for women." Of course she was right, as we've seen in episodes since, but they did dress fine. Read more
When Tory Burch wants centerpieces for a rooftop dinner at her Rodeo Drive boutique, Louis Vuitton executives need gifts for VIPs or Tom Ford wants to say "thank you," they call Eric Buterbaugh. For 17 years, Buterbaugh has been the go-to floral designer for L.A.'s stylish set. And after he dresses up the tables for dinners hosted by Jessica Alba, jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer or super-stylist Rachel Zoe, Buterbaugh joins the party as one of the most-sought-after guests in town. Now he's bottling the essence of what he does into his first fragrance collection, Eric Buterbaugh Florals. Read more