Sunset at the Academy

The Academy is worried about the waning relevance of its signature event. Based on the nominees to come and a way-too-early forecast, it may be right. But are the new changes the right fix?

Source: In the Year of ‘Black Panther,’ the Oscars Are in Panic Mode. Should They Be? – The Ringer

My favorite quote from this:

The Oscars are “not a meritocracy, it’s a subjective popularity contest voted on by a private club.”

The reason that the Academy Awards are irrelevant to me, and probably to a growing chunk of the American population, has nothing to do with their selections. It is the very idea of film awards that have to me become offensive. I don’t know about you, but I did not think my way through a liberal arts education and cultivate my own aggressively middlebrow tastes in order to have the grown-up equivalent of the Drama Club tell me what is good and what is not.

My favorite films include (but are not limited to) The Shawshank Redemption, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Big Lebowski, The Postman, Silverado, Blade Runner, Big Fish, Doubt, Thunderheart, Real Genius, The Red Violin, Clerks, Almost Famous, High Fidelity, Silent Running, The Dark Knight, Elizabeth, The Odessa File, The Right Stuff, The Fifth Element, Grosse Pointe Blank, Twister, A Scanner Darkly, and  anything from the  Star Trek, Star Wars, Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Marvel franchises. (Plus the oeuvres of John Malkovich, David Lean, and Stephen Spielberg. There is a healthy mix of stuff in there, but little of Academy fare. But if I were stuck on a desert island with a single hard-drive full of content, I’d happily pick my selections over the last twenty years of Best Picture nominees.

I do not reckon I am alone, and that is unlikely to change. As such, I have to wonder if there is much that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can do within the scope of its charter to arrest the long, slow decline of the Oscars.

Liberty and Conscience

Ashes and Bullets – The New Yorker.

Long after we have (hopefully) forgotten who Christopher Dorner was, I hope we are remembering this Susan Straight story that was inspired by Dorner’s bloody demise and the bloodier acts that preceded it.

Straight writes with unearthly cadence of a day to day world haunted by guns and ghosts. Her cri de cour is not an anti-gun screed. She rejects that temptation to dive into something more elemental: the effect that the proximity of an instrument of death has on our psyches; the changes that such a presence wreaks on us over time; and how those changes drive us into different directions.

Can a man of peace living in a place of strife rise above death while living in an armory? Does the mere presence, visibility, and accessibility of armaments fundamentally alter us? Or are we making more of this than we should? This is the quiet challenge Susan Straight throws at us.

I am neither an advocate for gun control nor a member of the National Rifle Association. I support the Second Amendment as a tripwire for tyrants, yet I am troubled by the havoc wrought by guns. A lifetime of cogitation suggests only that there are no simple solutions, but this does not mean we should stop probing for answers, and Susan Straight nudges us in this direction without preaching, without grandstanding, without vilifying. We could use less political grandstanding on this and the other issues that vex us, and a lot more of her brand of subtle genius.

Bill Graham and the History of Rock and Roll

Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution | Skirball Cultural Center

Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution | Skirball Cultural Center.

In case you missed it, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles (the one on Sepulveda at Mulholland) is hosting, through October 8th, a comprehensive retrospective about Bill Graham, one of the most influential rock impresarios in history.

We tend to see music as guided by the hand of the composer and the talent of the performer, and while that it true, we have been remiss in our study of music history in consigning promotors, publishers, recording executives, and marketers into a giant dustbin marked “suits.”

What we miss in limiting our study to artists and composers is the elephant in the room: being good, being talented, is just not enough anymore, and it probably never was. The road that music has carved through our civilization is lined with the carcasses of talented people who never reached their potential, never made it at all, or who lived and died unappreciated. The difference between success and failure was, all too often, a suit: a patron, a promoter, a third-party capable of recognizing, curating, and cultivating talent.

If that is insufficient evidence for the importance of people like Bill Graham, simply consider the legion of talent-challenged stars you have encountered in your life, the ones that made you wonder how the Hell they made it onto a stage at all. Thank a promoter.

Graham’s personal legacy in the music world is not as easy to assess as someone like Ahmet Ertegün, David Geffen, or Jerry Moss, which is why this exhibition at the Skirball is so important: it is an opportunity for us to better understand, through Graham, whether a great impresario can make a real difference, or whether (as LiveNation might want us to believe) a promoter is just an interchangeable cog in the corporate music machine.

A Goleta Moment


Amid all of the heartbreaking stories coming out of the senseless tragedy in Isla Vista, all of us here at The Golden West Review want to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the victims, their loved ones, to our friends in and around the UCSB campus. You are all in our thoughts and our prayers. I have posted a photograph of one of the places on the grounds of UCSB that we have always found so healing. Sea, sand, sky, and bluff come together, and walking through this simple circular maze of stone is a physical meditation that seems designed to re-center a shaken soul.

May everyone touched by this event find a way to honor those taken from us by turning our horror into something profound and positive. Even as we never forget the departed, may we move forward united in our resolve to spare others from this kind of pain.

Have a blessed week.

Architecture and Alternate Futures

The Coolest Places In Los Angeles That Never Were
David Hochman
December 24, 2012

I spend so much of my time searching for the remnants of California’s history and the green shoots of its future that I’ve completely overlooked an entirely different Golden State: the California that could have been.

Thanks to everything from property developers to city planners to science fiction writers, there is no shortage of what we could call the alternate futures of the Golden West. Of all places in California, Los Angeles is probably best endowed in this area, thanks to the land speculators, railroad barons, and boosters who financed the envisioning of a future City of Angels.

Some of those visions are returning to the light of day, thanks to curators Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin and their exhibition Never Built: Los Angeles, which is scheduled to open at Los Angeles’s A+D Architecture and Design Museum this spring (and which I will miss because I’ll be in China for the duration of the exhibit.)

I can think of a lot of reasons going to an exhibition like this would be hard: nobody likes to look at inspired designs and wonder, in frustration, what forces of unenlightened self-interest put an end to these ideas?

What I hope Lubell and Goldin do instead is focus not on the missed opportunity or the laughable utopianism embodied in the unconstructed Los Angeles, but in how those visions provide grist for a new generation of planners, designers, architects, and developers. As Los Angeles lies perched on the cusp of a new, uncertain future, this is an ideal time for a new vision for the future of the Southland.

Westside ArtWalk | Ventura’s Art Evolution

Westside ArtWalk | Ventura’s Art Evolution.

For the second year in a row, the art community in and around Ventura is uniting to put on an event that is perhaps best described as an evolved art festival.

Starting in 2011, the event is now all volunteer run, with 42 featured artists, 23 venues, 10 restaurants, and a melange of artwork that is unique in California and the world.

We are huge fans of Central Coast arts, and Ventura is the southern outpost of a creative subculture that thrives between the Monterey Bay and the Strawberry Coast. If you haven’t experienced this vibrant community, you owe yourself a trip to Ventura next weekend.

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