I first started listening to Bob Dylan in high school on the long road trips with my dad and brother in a Subaru Legacy. During those road trips, I wore out certain Dylan albums: Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Freewhelin’. My favorite songs from Dylan have to be “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Tangled Up In Blue,” or “These Times Are a Changin’.” Like my love for Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan is an artist I admire who has influenced my writing and personal philosophy. But I’ve never seen him play live. I’ve just heard so many bad rumors about his performances being terrible that I never went out my way to make it happen. Then my friend D gave my wife a ring and said she had two tickets to the Dylan concert at the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. I jumped at the opportunity.
The seats were incredible, and we were so close to the stage I could actually give credence to the idea that Bob Dylan actually could see me. The theater was incredible, and the walls were velvet, and the balconies had an elitist feel of a country run by a monarchy. An old man sitting next to me was embarrassing his young daughter by dancing in his seat, and Val Kilmer was somewhere in the audience.
At Bob Dylan at the Dolby in Hollywood because Bob is eternal.
It was starting to hit me that I was about to see one of the greatest artists, poets, and musicians of the 20th century, but I honestly wasn’t holding my breath. I was expecting a skeleton to walk on the stage instead of a great poet. But Stu Kimball, the rhythm guitar player, starting strumming the opening chords, and Dylan sauntered out onto the stage in a wide-brimmed hat followed by his band. I can’t remember what song they played first — I wasn’t actually taking notes like in the old days when I was actually reviewing concerts — but Dylan stood in front of four microphones (he only seemed to ever use one) and the band played behind him like a machine that figured out how to sing. Continue reading “Bob Dylan at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood”→
Griffith Park is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. When I was freelancing and dealing with the highs and lows of full-time journalism, I would often need a break from the city, and I would head over to hike the trail behind the Griffith Observatory in Hollywood to find solace and peace. Sometimes I would go with my friend and fellow writer J. David Gonzalez. We would talk writing, NBA, and literature. Most often I went alone with my dog Hendrix.
It’s part of the reason why I see Griffith Park as a place of serenity in this monstrous city. Hiking in Los Angeles is important to L.A. life, and it’s something Michelle Meyering discusses in a trailer for The Rattling Wall 3. There is just something about being above Los Angeles and having the ability to look at it from a higher vantage point that makes you feel the city isn’t so large, so intimidating and that you’re not lost in it. At the same time, it’s rare that you can see through the haze, the smog, and there is an element of vagueness to the horizon, as if Los Angeles can never truly be seen. I’m thinking about these things as my move to San Diego approaches. I’ve been thinking a lot about how Los Angeles has changed me.
Over the next couple weeks, I plan on reflecting on Los Angeles on this blog. I’ve come to love this city. I’ve come to think about it as a second home, and I feel that I was able to grow as a writer tremendously here. I was able to publish in great publications like the LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Slate, Salon, The Independent, and more while I was living here, and I also published poetry and fiction. On the other hand, I’ve also had a lot of artistic failures with stories, which most people will never see. In the end, I’ve been a part of several fantastic L.A. organizations, and I’ve met so many people who will continue to inspire me. So how has L.A. changed me? Continue reading “Hello Goodbye Los Angeles: From the Griffith Observatory”→
Last Saturday, Heron and I went down to the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood to see The Place Beyond the Pines. It came out the day before, and we really knew nothing about the movie beforehand. I saw that Eva Mendes, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper were in the movie, and I thought that sounds like a terrible mix. The film is pitched as a crime movie, but in the end, it seems to be more about familial relationships, generational feuds and the tension between father and sons. Plus, there is a lot of dirt-bike riding and bank robbing. For the women: Gosling’s abs; for the men: Mendes without a bra. (Let me take that back. There are probably a lot of men interested in Gosling and a lot of women interested in Mendes, too.)
So, what did I think of this movie? Before I tell you my opinion, I want you to listen to what others had to say about this movie.
In the LA Weekly, Scott Fondus writes that he’s unsure if Gosling is parodying masculinity. It seems to me that Fondus is unsure how to read Gosling’s character, Handsome Luke, in the movie. He also calls Mendes disposable. “But the disparate pieces,” Fondus later writes, “never quite jell; the movie is all trees and no forest.”
The LA Times gave the movie a tepid review: “The movie is intimate in its telling, sweeping in its issues and stumbles only occasionally.” The writers riffs on the economic conditions the director, Derek Cianfrance, loves to focus on and how these people are on the fringes of desperation. Cool. I feel yah.
Justin Craig at Fox News, well, he basically calls for an oscar — but not really: “It’s usually far too early to even utter the words “Oscar,” but “The Place Beyond the Pines” is movie gold. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper have never been better than in Derek Cianfrance’s (“Blue Valentine”) brooding, immersive crime drama.” I was generally surprised that someone at Fox News would like this movie, but maybe I shouldn’t be such a stereotyping asshole.
A.O. Scott at the New York Times has this to say: “It goes on too long: the three-part story, spread over nearly two and a half hours, represents a triumph of sympathetic imagination and a failure of narrative economy. But if, in the end, the film can’t quite sustain its epic vision, it does, along the way, achieve the density and momentum of a good novel.” Good for Scott. He’s telling it like he sees it. The movie is long — over two hours — and the story has three parts, and it makes an abrupt shift in point of view in the middle that is shocking and almost absurd. I hear you. Don’t worry though. I’m getting to my point. First, watch the trailer:
Now I’m not a movie critic, and I don’t pretend to be. But I know story. And I’m going to say what all the other critics were too scared to say; The Place Beyond the Pines will be a classic movie, and Gosling’s performance, his character, will become legendary. Gosling as Handsome Luke reminds me of a James Dean. The characters in The Place Beyond the Pines and a move like Rebel Without a Cause — Handsome Luke and Jim Stark — are remarkable and similar, because they are on the edge of desperation (to borrow a term from the NY Times), searching for something to care about, to believe in; once they find that something, there is no letting go. And there is usually violence and an unbridled pursuit of disaster. Gosling captures, in my opinion, this rare energy that goes beyond masculinity and into the realms of madness. A controlled madness poking below the surface. A madness, a failure to fit within certain roles, an inability to accept the rules of society. In Handsome Luke’s case, the rule that he is not allowed to see his child. He’s one of those characters who Kerouac would have wanted to follow down the streets lit by hysterical roman candles.
Of course, there are elements of this movie at first glance that can seem pedantic. Yes, there are a lot of bank robbing scenes, and the main character is robbing banks to provide for his family. Yes, there is a bad-ass dude riding a bike — but it’s a dirt bike. Yes, the movie has another role where Bradley Cooper’s character has a tremendous amount of douchey vibes. And yes, the movie does have segments that shift abruptly and seem to make the movie feel long.
But Alfred Hitchcock was accused of something similar when Psycho came out. The main character, the woman who is killed in the Bates Motel, is suddenly gone from the movie, leaving the story to continue without her. It broke the normal and accepted narrative structure, and the story seems to begin again — though it circles around again at the end.
And without ruining the movie, The Place Beyond the Pines makes a similar move, but this is what I love about the movie. It doesn’t succumb to the normal rules of modern cinema; it doesn’t treat the viewer like an idiot who can’t sit still for over two hours; and it reminds the viewer that stories come in all shapes and sizes. This movie and Gosling and Cooper’s performances will be remembered for a long time. Plus, the two kids at the end are amazing. Go see this movie and let me know what you think. As always, your comments are more than welcome. Love to hear what you thought of the movie.