Sunday, August 22, 2004

Spent Saturday in Los Angeles. A city that absolutely fascinates me.

L.A. traffic is a visceral entity. It becomes a part of your life. If someone asks you if you have a family you could realistically say, "Yeah. I have a wife, three kids, and traffic." It's like having a girfriend. You schedule your life around it. It has a personality that you work diligently to try and understand, but despite all your efforts, it still maintains its sometimes random and mysterious nature. A girl can't reveal all her secrets. In my case, the secret would be that I wouldn't get past third gear driving from Anaheim to Hollywood.

In Studio City, I picked up my friend Shannon, and we headed to Pasadena. We ate lunch at a Spanish restaurant called Bar Celona (say it outloud) located along the downtown Colorado Boulevard strip, and I ate one of my fave foods, seafood paella. Following lunch we visited the Norton Simon Museum. The museum has an astounding collection, both exhaustive and diverse, spanning from the 14th to 20th centuries. Everything from Rembrandt to Van Gogh. One of the interesting aspects of the museum is that it has pieces from early moments in an artist's career, that reflect a different aspect of the artist. I have a love/hate relationship with Renoir. While I love his use of color and subject matter, I question his drawing skills and find fault with the way all of his female faces look identical and even unrealistic with their puffy and balloon shape. But then I see an early painting like The Pont des Arts, Paris, and it makes me rethink my stance. They had an extensive collection of works by Degas, Van Gogh, and Picasso. The placards describing each artwork were enlightening and informative. Especially intriguing was the one sitting beside Modigliani's painting, Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Jeanne Hebuterne. It described how the day after Modigliani's death, his wife was so despondant that she commited suicide. She was nine months pregnant.

In the evening, Shannon and I went to the ArcLight movie theater in Hollywood and bought tickets to see Garden State. The ArcLight theater is an enormous complex offering fancy service. Tickets cost $14, and the seating was reserved. Like attending a concert, you selected your actual seats (there isn't general admission). Before the movie starts, an usher announces the movie, running time, and the fact that there aren't any annoying commercials, just three movie previews. Also, if we encountered any problems with sound or picture, to alert them immediately.

Watching a movie in Hollywood is a unique experience. An alluring aspect of movies is its suspended reality. However, seeing a movie in Hollywood causes fiction and reality to coalesce. The audience contains many people familiar with the industry -- the most (ab)used word in all of L.A. -- and know about Oz hidden behind the curtain. They're familiar with the science behind the trick. The audience laughs in odd and delayed segments, like a high school band where a few people are ahead of the beat and a few people behind. They may have friends who worked on it, or the always popular friend of a friend. Also, the stars of the movie, projected thirty feet high, can potentially live a few blocks from where I sit in the darkened theater. At the end of the movie, the audience applauded. I haven't heard applause after a movie since my fifth grade teacher repremanded us for applauding, adding that it was a useless practice since none of the people responsible for the movie could hear us. In Hollywood, this isn't necessarily the case.

One of the previews was for Ben Affleck's upcoming movie, Surviving Christmas. If Ben's goal was to get people to stop talking about Gigli, it looks like he's succeeded. After the first thirty seconds, I scrounged for a sharp object and prayed it wasn't dull. A painful viewing experience.

I really enjoyed Garden State. I loved its pacing, tone, and intimacy, and found its quirkiness -- disliked by other critics -- to be a welcome asset. I'd rather have a personal yet flawed movie than a perfect and disingenuous one.

When we bought the movie tickets, we had an hour to kill before the movie started, so we walked next door to Amoeba Records. I've been to the original in Berkeley, and the L.A. one has its own unique charm. Based on a friend's recommendation, I bought the Garden State soundtrack, movie unseen, and was really glad I did. I left L.A. after the movie -- around 11pm. I asked Shannon if I should expect problems with traffic on the way back. She said there shouldn't be any. I left Studio City, put the soundtrack in my CD player, and discovered that my girlfriend named Traffic still held another tiny secret. Brake lights from Hollywood to downtown. After that, she blew me a kiss and I floated effortlessly down to San Diego.

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