Critics Picks: May 24-30, 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.
We’re going to need a bigger weekend. For starters we have the 101 best restaurants in Los Angeles to choose from, then the return of “Arrested Development” on Netflix, and HBO’s new Liberace biopic. “Dying City” is a gripping new drama on stage and the independent gem “Before Midnight” is in theaters. There’s also a new Wagner album and a classic novel by John O’Hara.
Click through to explore more and, where applicable, find directions to venues.
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
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
Regard the hands of Ricky Jay. Watch them making cards do things cards never have done before, things cards didn't even know they could do. And for this master of manipulation, cards are just the beginning. Seeing is definitely not believing in the wonderfully titled "'Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay," directed by Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein. This documentary provides an elegant, enthralling peek behind the curtain and into the you-won't-trust-your-eyes world of this celebrated contemporary conjurer. (Kenneth Turan) Read more
'Fast & Furious 6'
This is a popcorn pick. Like steroids on steroids, “Fast & Furious 6” roars down the streets of London with more action, and muscle, than ever. Vin Diesel’s Dom and crew are all there. And Letty’s back. Michelle Rodriguez’s return was teased at the end of “Fast Five,” but there was no clue how pivotal Letty would be. Unfortunately she’s working for the other side now — an international terror type named Shaw. Diesel and Rodriguez made a good pair so it’s a kick to see them back in the trenches even on opposite sides. Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson who signed on as Agent Hobbs in “Five” is back too, and I swear, bigger than ever. He and Dom have teamed up to bring down Shaw, and hopefully reclaim Letty. Plot points are not so important in the “Furious” universe. Action is, and in that “6” has outpaced all the rest. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more
'Love Is All You Need'
This is the time of year when the number of indie movies in theaters shrinks while the big, brassy ones beat the drum loudly. Unless you want to fight the first-weekend crowds for a “Star Trek Into Darkness” ticket, which is definitely worth your dime, consider going small and light with “Love Is All You Need.” It’s the latest from Danish director Susanne Bier, an Oscar-winning specialist in family dramas. So it’s nice to see her go for frothy for a wedding weekend that explores all the ways romance can surprise you at any point in life. The most surprised — and the ones to watch — are Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm. As Philip and Ida, father of the groom and mother of the bride respectively, all the worries they brought with them evaporate in the Italian sunshine. Watching this effervescent love story just might have the same effect on you. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more
"Do you love her?" The question comes early in "Mud" and will haunt the movie until the final frame. The answer — to what loving means, to how urgent it feels the first time, to how easily it can slip away — is wily and willful. With a sprawling cast anchored by Matthew McConaughey and young Tye Sheridan, "Mud" is filled with miscreants, mysteries, a scandalous hero and a couple of boys as headstrong as Huck Finn. It's one of the most creatively rich and emotionally rewarding movies so far this year. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more
'The Reluctant Fundamentalist'
With a potent novel as its starting point and a splendid performance by Riz Ahmed as its focus, this Mira Nair-directed story is rich in complexities. It's able to deal with the geopolitical ramifications of the world we've made, a world where people who should be our friends may have unaccountably become our enemies. (Kenneth Turan) Read more
'Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's'
A lively, clever, fast-moving documentary that goes behind the scenes at the legendary New York department store Bergdorf Goodman. (Kenneth Turan) Read more
'Something in the Air'
There is fire everywhere in Olivier Assayas' scorching new coming-of-age drama. It is in the passions, the politics and the sex roiling through the filmmaker's vision of 1970s-era Paris. For this is a memoir of sorts of Assayas' youth — the forces that pulled at him and the choices that shaped who he would become. His screenplay is so adept at moving between the mood swings of the talented and torn central character, Gilles (Clement Metayer), that you feel as much as watch. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more
'Star Trek Into Darkness'
“Star Trek Into Darkness,” bursting at the seams with enemies, wears its politics, its mettle, its moxie and its heart on its ginormous 3-D sleeve. Director J.J. Abrams and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise try to build a better sequel with action spectacles to get lost in, clever asides to amuse, emotional waves to ride and allusions to terrorism in general and 9/11 specifically. The crew is back and still firmly anchored by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock, respectively. There are new worlds, new villains and new emotions. “Into Darkness” doesn’t quite match Abrams’ 2009 reimagining, but it’s a great deal of fun and also intensely personal. It’s the best of the summer’s biggies so far. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more
'Stories We Tell'
Don't be fooled by its deceptively simple title or the hesitant, unassuming way it begins. Writer-director Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell" ends up an invigorating powerhouse of a personal documentary, adventurous and absolutely fascinating. Unexpectedly moving in unanticipated ways, this unusual film is a look at the complexities of one specific family's story as well as a broad examination of the interlocking nature of truth, secrecy and memory, not to mention the endless intricacies of human relationships. Five years in the making, "Stories We Tell" reveals its secrets slowly, like an onion being unpeeled layer by unexpected layer, not unlike the way Polley herself discovered what she did about her own background. (Kenneth Turan) Read more
'What Maisie Knew'
It is night in an upscale Manhattan apartment. A child, tucked safely into bed, drifts toward sleep to the sounds of her parents tearing each other apart in the next room. Her eyes close, the fighting rumbles on. We are in Maisie's world and about to find out in uncomfortable detail just “What Maisie Knew.” This smart — and smarting — film based on the Henry James novel brings into the modern age the 19th-century author’s unforgiving examination of the effect of a messy divorce on a child. For all the ugliness that suggests, and there is plenty provided by Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan as vengeful exes, this is a beautifully rendered film. Without slipping into melodrama, we watch the precocious six-year-old witness and weather the break-up of her family. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more
‘Behind the Candelabra’
There’s been so much giggly chatter about Michael Douglas and Matt Damon playing the mink-coat-flapping, crystal-encrusted Liberace and his dutiful young lover that everyone seems to have forgotten that the first two are, you know, actors. And very good ones, as Steven Soderbergh’s purported final film makes clear almost instantly. Once your eyes adjust to the bedazzled opulence of Liberace’s life in ‘70s and ‘80s Las Vegas, “Behind the Candelabra” becomes a darkly moving and provocative look at two lonely men who briefly found something like love before the maelstrom of fame, money and drugs, all churning within the confines of the sexual closet, blew it apart. In a tour de force performance, Douglas captures the opposing desires of a man trapped in a gilded cage. A classically trained pianist and, for decades, the most popular performer in the world, Liberace courted his fans with an over-the-top outrageousness while remaining officially, and necessarily, straight — he famously sued any publication that dared suggest otherwise. HBO, Sunday. Read more
The 15-episode, seven-years-belated fourth season of what was formerly a Fox comedy and now belongs to the Internet is not being offered in advance for critical review, so you know as much as I do. The whole series will become available at once Sunday, and then remain available, to Netflix subscribers, something like forever; new subscriptions will be the only metric that matters. I don’t think for a moment that this coyness disguises any sort of tactical damage control — given that the old team (who are back every man-jack and woman-jill of them) had an unerring sense of how to make this show, I suspect watching the new episodes will be like running into an old friend from whom the longest separation feels like no time at all. The third season ended not at a moment of resolution but of escape — escape is a kind of resolution, I know — with Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) and son George Michael (Michael Cera) and Michael’s father, George (Jeffrey Tambor), sailing off to Mexico; Michael’s mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), hijacking the Queen Mary to evade the SEC; and George Michael’s cousin, Maeby (Alia Shawkat), who turned out not to be his cousin, pitching her family story to “AD” executive producer (and narrator) Ron Howard, who didn’t see it as a TV show. (But maybe a movie.) Some things have no doubt happened in the interim. (Netflix, anytime) Read more
'Sanjay and Craig,' 'LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles'
Toontown has had any number of human-animal dyads getting up to crazy mischief over the years, but the mischief here is crazier (and louder) than usual. There is a "butt transplant," a laughter apocalypse. "The Yoda Chronicles" follows in the tradition of "LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out" and "Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace" is the first of three specials this year. This is how all future "Star Wars" projects should be made, with self-awareness and self-parody, in LEGO-style CGI (though actual animated LEGO pieces would be better still). (Robert Lloyd) ("Sanjay & Craig"Nickelodeon, Saturdays; "The Yoda Chronicles" Cartoon Network, Wednesday) Read more
Following the personal and political machinations of Birgitte Nyborg Christensen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), the fictional first female prime minister of Denmark, "Borgen" nicely fills the gap for those who finished "House of Cards" and are still awaiting Season 2 of "The Newsroom." (Mary McNamara) (Warning: subtitles) (KCET, Friday, 10 p.m.) Read more
The Bluths are are on Netflix with cast that includes Jason Bateman, Michael Cera and Jeffrey Tambor. All 15 episodes are available now. Netflix, Anytime. Read more
While big-time cable series like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" manage to stick in the cultural and personal consciousness through all the long months of their absence, others stay out of mind as they stay out of sight. I had forgotten you, "Longmire," as much as I enjoyed your first season — and here you are suddenly back again, picking up seemingly where we left off, with the election pitting rural Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) against the deputy seeking to replace him in progress. Walt, who mourns a late wife and has issues with his daughter, is still sad. "You don't say much," a villain tells him in the Season 2 premiere, "but you have an unquiet mind." Taylor has something of the taciturn appeal of late-period Wayne, Cooper, Stewart and McCrea — old dogs who won't be put down, which is mirrored in the landscape and the weather, which are players here too. Lou Diamond Phillips as Walt's best friend, a barkeep and sometime tracker, is well used; ditto Katee Sackhoff, whom you loved or should have on "Battlestar Galactica," as the more faithful of Walt's deputies. Her work here gives you no reason to long for Starbuck. (Robert Lloyd) (A&E, Mondays) Read more
'Behind the Candelabra,' 'Ring of Fire'
I feel about biopics a little the way Joan Crawford did about wire hangers, but people will make them, and they do have their pleasures. "Behind the Candelabra" is Steven Soderbergh's lavish, star-studded Liberace study, through the eyes of companion Scott Thorson, on whose 1988 memoir it's based. Richard LaGravenese's screenplay, which does not attempt to place Liberace's music in any sort of cultural context, is unusually smart and unhurried for this sort of picture. With Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as excellent leads, much of it plays like a kind of a slightly drugged screwball comedy, though things turn serious, though not judgmental, at the end. (It is a kindly film, overall.) The supporting cast includes a mustachioed Scott Bakula, bespectacled Dan Aykroyd and long-haired Rob Lowe, hilarious as a cosmetic surgeon who has taken too much of his own medicine. The less expensive "Ring of Fire," directed by Allison Anders, takes the rocky yet durable romance of June Carter and Johnny Cash, previously re-created in "Walk the Line," from Carter's point of view — and it does have the woman-triumphant spine of a Lifetime movie. Jewel, the Alaskan songbird, plays Carter, whom she resembles from certain angles, and acquits herself admirably. She can sing too. (Robert Lloyd) ("Behind the Candelabra" HBO, Sunday; "Ring of Fire" Lifetime, Monday) Read more
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
Sharr White's remarkable two-person play about a dying poet's reunion with the wife who abandoned him 20 years previously stars husband-and-wife acting team Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, best known as comedic performers on “Will and Grace” and “Parks and Recreation,” respectively. Director Bart DeLorenzo elicits achingly slice-of-life turns from his superb performers in a play that builds masterfully from the hilarious to the tragic. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends Sunday) Read more
'The Beaux' Stratagem'
How often do you get to see a classic bawdy Restoration comedy by George Farquahar, a long-lost Thornton Wilder meditation on marriage and other human foibles, and a frenzied Ken Ludwig farce — all for the price of a single ticket? Granted, they happen to be the same play, but this hilariously staged post-modern adaptation is a great deal nonetheless. (Philip Brandes) (Ends Sunday) Read more
The Crucible Co-directors Armin Shimerman and Geoffrey Wade's risky, even outlandish staging works beautifully with the polemical nature of Arthur Miller's arguably over-produced masterwork, a denunciation of the McCarthy hearings set during the Salem witch trials. By having the characters address the audience, preacher-like, the proceedings take on the immediacy of a Chautauqua tent revival. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends Sunday) Read more
By some contrarian alchemy, director Amanda Dehnert's rethink of the world's longest-running musical refreshes this oftentimes cloying classic's evanescent charm. Set in an abandoned amusement park, the magical overlay generally supports the whimsical book and evergreen score, thanks to an ace technical effort and a dream cast. Purists may howl, but ultimately it's enchanting. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Sunday) Read more
'Heart of Darkness'
Actors' Gang stalwart Brian T. Finney invites us to venture deep into the interior of the African Congo in his adaptation of Joseph Conrad's classic novella. This stripped-down production zooms in on Finney's intensely contained performance as Marlow, the seaman who tells the story of his obsessive pursuit of the mysterious Kurtz, an ivory trader who has come to symbolize, among other things, the insatiable greed of imperial conquest. Flanked by two performers, Finney gives himself over to Conrad's words, the production's true star. (Charles McNulty) (Ends Saturday) Read more
'Joe Turner's Come and Gone'
The setting for this August Wilson classic is a boardinghouse in 1911 Pittsburgh, but the spiritual location is a crossroads between the ghostly past and the forbidding future, slavery and freedom, despair and hope. This powerfully acted revival, directed by Phylicia Rashad, is a gift for audiences hungering for theatrical nourishment after being fed a steady diet of snacks. Fortified with history, politics and religion, the play bursts with the rituals of communal life. John Douglas Thompson’s profoundly moving performance as Herald Loomis, the wanderer searching for his wife after years of bondage, is key to this production's success. (Charles McNulty) (Ends Sunday) Read more
'Last of the Knotts'
Raw, fluid and eloquently quirky, Doug Knott's unsparingly honest solo treatise on his avoidance of fatherhood conjoins vintage performance art tactics to the sort of descriptive specifics usually associated with classic short stories. The result is a tickling, touching portrait of considerable reach and impact. (David C. Nichols) (Saturday) Read more
Exceptional integrity distinguishes “Parade” in Fullerton. The company 3-D Theatricals attains a rarefied level of artistry with this arresting, beautifully appointed take on Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Tony-winning 1998 account of the notorious Leo Frank trial in 1913 Atlanta. Combining the intimately revised 2007 Donmar Warehouse version (seen at the Mark Taper Forum in 2009) with the larger scope of Harold Prince’s epic Vivian Beaumont staging, director T.J. Dawson, choreographer Dana Solimando and musical director David Lamoureux approach the fact-based property and its complex themes — anti-Semitism, legal malfeasance and political expediency among them — with uncompromising conviction. (David C. Nichols) (Ends Sunday) Read more
'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 Sunday, March 15) Read more
Album: ‘Die Walküre’
May 22 marked Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday, and Bayreuth’s big dude is bigger than ever, which is saying something. Record companies have been releasing and re-releasing Wagner recordings this year to an endlessly excessive extent. But the one that thus far stands out most, which is also really saying something, is a performance of Wagner’s most popular “Ring” cycle opera, “Die Walküre,” from the Mariinsky Orchestra in St. Petersburg and conducted by Valery Gergiev. This new recording, the first of a forthcoming “Ring” set from the Mariinsky was made as a concert performance over two occasions in the company’s concert hall and features a dream international cast. But what brings this all together with such moving eloquence is Gergiev’s deeply penetrating conducting. (Mark Swed) Read more
Album: ‘Random Access Memories’
For a sense of the random oddities that dot Daft Punk’s strange, funky, cosmic new album, “Random Access Memories,” consider a partial discography of the musicians employed by the two Frenchmen in service of its creation. The duo, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, are best known for their use of robot helmets to mask their physical identities but employed prominent men whose résumé includes work for, among others, Michael Jackson, Jim Henson and Miles Davis. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Pop music critic
Guitarist Anthony Wilson has long been a local favorite, whether in his invigorating month-long residency last year (complete with wine pairing) or his work backing Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, and his own father in bandleader Gerald Wilson. Here he presents his ambitious Seasons project, a four-piece celebration of the guitar that came together in a 2011 performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a resulting live album. On Saturday, Wilson teams with guitarists Julian Lage, Chico Pinheiro and Larry Koonse to perform the quartet’s intricate originals as well as songs by Thelonious Monk. Read more
'The Marriage of Figaro'
For the Los Angeles Philharmonic production of “Marriage of Figaro,” the second in Gustavo Dudamel’s cycle of the Mozart operas with librettos by Lorenzo Da Ponte, the famed French architect Jean Nouvel will design installations as a set for the Walt Disney Concert Hall stage. What will the Paris-based Tunisian avant-garde clothes designer Azzedine Alaïa come up with for the costumes? What will the L.A. Phil do about where to place the orchestra given that behind the stage didn’t work out so well for “Giovanni”? What edgy concept will Christopher Alden find for the staging this time after his stately yet emotionally intense “Giovanni”? And what about Dudamel? (Mark Swed) (Ends Saturday) Read more
One of the most magnetic and boundary-pushing trumpeters working today, 27-year-old New Orleans native Christian Scott continues to turn heads, most recently with last year’s sprawling double-album “Christian Atunde Adjuah.” The album incorporates elements of rock, R&B and funk into an at times searing mix suffused with the social consciousness befitting the jazz tradition, and here he performs with his nimble quintet. (Chris Barton) (Friday through Sunday)
Album: 'Modern Vampires of the City'
At some point, every enduring musician has to prove his or her worth and silence the doubters. The Beatles first succeeded with "Revolver," the Beastie Boys with "Paul's Boutique," Wilco on "Summer Teeth." Talking Heads raised the bar with "Fear of Music," Lauryn Hill with "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." New York band Vampire Weekend's "Modern Vampires of the City" is one of those records, a brave, surprising third effort that's both challenging and confident, catchy but progressive, expertly imagined and executed. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Album: 'My Garden State'
A few months back at Sonos Studio in West Hollywood, guitarist Glenn Jones performed solo work in conjunction with a recently completed documentary on the late guitarist John Fahey. Fahey's ability at crafting what he called "American primitive" guitar music resulted in some of the great six-string compositions of the 1960s and '70s. Jones, best known for his Boston instrumental project Cul de Sac, his work with former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki and as the curator of the excellent Fahey box set, "Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You: The Fonotone Years," was stunning at Sonos, and during a pre-performance conversation suggested I keep an eye out for his new record, "My Garden State," put out by the respected Chicago label Thrill Jockey. [Disclosure: I served as an unpaid moderator during a Q&A session that evening.] The record's now out, and Pop & Hiss is premiering a humble clip that captures Jones on banjo performing "Across the Tappan Zee," a self-penned song that already has the feel of a standard. (Randall Roberts) Read more
Mixtape: 'Acid Rap'
An infinite jest, Chicago lyricist Chance the Rapper's stellar new mixtape "Acid Rap" begins with a woman's seductive voice -- chanteuse Lili K. -- uttering, "Even better than I was the last time, baby, ooh oooh oooh, we back, we back, we back." Over the following 13 songs the assured voice of Chance runs through a surreal tale of pills, rap, a Chicago high school for gifted students, cigarette stink, "chauffeurs with road rage," cocoa butter kisses, Chuck E. Cheese and LSD. "I think we're all addicted," he sings on "Cocoa Butter Kisses," adding that "if I sip any Henny my belly might just be outie." (Randall Roberts) Read more
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
‘War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath’
“War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath” includes several pictures that have become icons. But the steady flow of images both arresting and conventional is in some ways more revealing, since they conspire to tell stories far larger and more complex than single images might convey. It makes sense. A military, in order to function effectively, must subsume the individual into the cohesive and uniform mass. (There’s a reason the U.S. army turns every soldier into a G.I.— short for government issue.) Photographers, on the other hand, strive for intimacy – for the closeness and familiarity that cuts through the undifferentiated aggregate. That tension — between disappearance and exposure, the many and the one — emerges as perhaps the most compelling constant throughout the 150-plus photographs in the exhibition, whether the photojournalist takes us to battle-weary Nicaragua, Korea, Italy or America. Ends Sunday. Read more
Marco Breuer: Now and a Half
Breuer asserts, in the most exciting and expansive ways, the objecthood and materiality of the photograph. His enterprise is defiant and liberating. His work abounds in both beauty and bite. (Leah Ollman) (Ends Saturday) Read more
'Ming Masterpieces From the Shanghai Museum'
A new exhibition of Chinese Ming dynasty paintings includes just 10 works, but it’s more absorbing than many shows two or three times its size. These 15th and early-16th century paintings are high-wire acts of aesthetic dexterity, fusing philosophical perception with formal persuasion. (Christopher Knight) (Ends Sunday) Read more
In a mind-blowing, eye-opening, soul-searching exhibition the 51-year-old Japanese artist makes globalism look provincial — not quite quaint, but too limited a way of thinking about the big picture. (David Pagel) (Ends Saturday) 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
Stephen Prina's sculptures at LACMA
The top floor of BCAM at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art looks a bit like a gallery of painted sculpture crossed with a thrift shop for salvaged furniture. Artist Stephen Prina filled the big room with roughly two dozen sculptures based on famous modern furniture designs. They copy inventive furniture designs for two Hollywood houses from the 1940s, now razed, by ground-breaking Modernist architect R.M. Schindler (1887-1953). In that, the installation is like most of the art in LACMA's collection - say, a 17th century altarpiece that once would have been encountered in the solemn precinct of a European church, or a painted scroll that would be an alcove's solitary focal point in an 18th century Japanese house. "As He Remembered It" establishes a self-conscious kinship with the art of the past. (Christoper Knight) (Through August 4) Read more
Alexis Smith The artist's newest works are among the best she has made. Leaner and sharper and stripped to the basics, none suffers fools, seeks easy answers or includes inessentials. (David Pagel) (Ends Saturday) Read more
Architecture: Dodger Stadium revamp
The new owners of the Dodgers didn’t just go on a spending spree to sign new players during the offseason; they also opened their wallets for a $100-million project to revamp 51-year-old Dodger Stadium. Many of the upgrades are invisible (such as improved wireless coverage), others buried into the hillside at the base of the stadium. The most noticeable changes, aside from new high-def scoreboards, have come near the entry gates, where several dozen parking spots have been replaced with new landscaping, souvenir shops, life-sized bobble-heads and even playgrounds. The goal is to make one of the most privatized stadiums in the majors, one designed near the height of L.A.’s love affair with the car, a little more public. (Christopher Hawthorne) 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
'This Is Water'
May is graduation season, which makes it only fitting that the folks over at the Glossary should produce a video of the most resonant commencement speech in recent years, David Foster Wallace's "This Is Water," delivered at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, in 2005. "This Is Water" achieved viral fame in September 2008 after Wallace committed suicide; in it, he argues for remaining conscious, suggesting that our salvation (if such a thing exists) is a matter of empathy, of compassion, of making decisions every day about how we want to act and react. The video captures this precisely, using audio of Wallace's address, while dramatizing the mundane interactions — driving through traffic, waiting in a supermarket checkout line — he describes. Read more
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" 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
Rachel Kushner’s second novel, “The Flamethrowers,” is a white-hot ember of a book. Taking place in Manhattan and Italy in the late 1970s, a time when each was awash in turmoil, the novel traces the experience of one woman, a young conceptual artist, as she navigates these disparate landscapes, a part of the action and yet always on the outside. For Kushner, the point is displacement – that, and the way art is, or should be, a provocation, with even the most abstract expression existing in (sometimes) violent reaction to the world. The result is a work of fiction that illustrates both character and culture, as well as the uneasy ways they intersect. Read more
'The Book of My Lives'
There’s a tendency to look askance at essay collections, to see them as incidental, as if they had no urgency of their own. I defy anyone to make such an argument after reading Aleksandar Hemon’s “The Book of My Lives.” Ranging from his youth in Sarajevo to his present-day life in Chicago, this suite of 15 essays never looks away or pulls its punches — portraying if not a life exactly, then a life in collage. Particularly affecting is the heartbreaking “The Aquarium,” originally published in the New Yorker in 2011, which details the death of Hemon’s 1-year-old daughter Isabel from a rare cancer of the brain. Read more
'A Tale for the Time Being'
Ozeki’s third novel is constructed around a pair of interlocking narratives — the first that of Nao, a 16-year-old Japanese girl, and the second that of Ruth, a novelist who finds Nao’s diary when it washes up on the beach in Vancouver Island. Together, they make for a stunning meditation on meaning, narrative and our place in the universe. Written from something of a Buddhist perspective (the author is, among other things, a Zen priest), “A Tale for the Time Being” covers everything from the vagaries of love to the paradox of quantum physics, finding its resolution in an unflinching resistance to being resolved. Read more
Part game/part graphic novel, “Year Walk” from experimental Swedish studio Simogo is first-person but not in the format most common to gamers. The cold, fantastical world is navigated by swiping left, right or up and down (drawing a map is suggested) and the look is inspired by the work of Yuri Norstein, much of it appearing to be hand-drawn paper cutouts long lost to Nordic winters. The protagonist Daniel insists on setting forth on a year-long journey, one that will inspire hallucinations and supposedly allow him to see his future. It begins with a warning. “We are not supposed to know what happens in the future.” Proceed with caution. Read more
Video game critic
'Toki Tori 2'
Players are blessed with only two controls — jumping and singing — and this means tasks are nominally solved by stomping and chirping the young chicken known as Toki Tori around the screen. Toki Tori can at once scare a fuzzy bug into the mouth of a frog or sing a crab-like creature to its side to help the chick move across dangerous terrain. Plenty of time, however, will be spent alone in the dark, trying to find a way to lead a disinterested light-shining bug to a gaggle of scared-of-the-nighttime frogs. Navigating through the game, it felt as if Toki Tori was begging for help rather than singing for it. Read more
'Thomas Was Alone'
'Thomas Was Alone' Few of the people and places we’ve met via games this year have the ability to break your heart in the way that Chris and Laura can. They are boxes. They don’t ever speak — none of the main characters in “Thomas Was Alone” will do any typical communicating — and their thoughts are relayed to players via a narrator. It’s as if someone is reading aloud a book and player actions — in this case, moving a series of boxes around the innards of what is described as code for a computer program — dictate when a page is turned. Never before have tiny boxes felt so lonely. Read more
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
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
'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
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
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
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
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