One man is dead and a police investigation is underway after up to nine Los Angeles police officers fired on a tenant armed with a gun inside his Hollywood Hills West apartment, officials said.
Witness video broadcast by local media recorded dozens of gunshots thundering through the neighborhood in the 7200 block of Hillside Avenue about 11 p.m. Thursday after police say a tenant in the building pulled a gun on officers.
Police had gone to the apartment in response to a reported battery and found the man arguing with his roommate, said Officer Irma Mota.
While the police were there, “the suspect at some point produces a handgun and at that point an officer-involved shooting occurred,” Sgt. Frank Preciado said.
At some point after that, the man stepped out onto his fourth floor balcony and a second officer-involved shooting occurred. The man was struck and killed in the second shooting, Preciado said. Up to nine officers fired their weapons during the incident, he said.
“We have witnesses’ accounts saying that they heard officers say, ‘Drop the gun, drop the gun!’” Preciado said.
No officers were injured.
Detectives are speaking with the man’s roommate to see if he knows why the man pulled out a gun.
“Don’t know if he was under the influence, why he would arm himself,” Preciado said.
The man’s body remained at the scene and has not yet been identified as of 6 a.m., the coroner said.
There’s a moment when you sit down with Stanley Tucci where you’re afraid he might yell at you. Not because Tucci is a man prone to yelling, nor because he seems like an unfriendly guy, but because his work on FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” has left a somewhat terrifying mark. Of course, Tucci is nothing like Jack Warner, the fearsome, misogynistic studio executive he portrayed in six episodes of the anthology series. Tucci’s role is seminal, although not necessarily vast, largely because the focus is on the ongoing battle between Hollywood stars Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange). Still, as Warner, Tucci shakes the screen. From the premiere episode, in which Warner uses a crass expletive to refer to Davis, the character gives a memorable impression.
“You go with what is there written on the page, which is really fascinating and brutal,” Tucci explains, sitting in a café in London near the home he shares with his kids and wife, Felicity Blunt. “But he was really funny. He chews the scenery and therefore I do. That’s just very satisfying. It’s so well written and there are really funny jokes in there.”
Tucci mined the Internet for footage of Warner, finding a helpful moment in a series of outtakes filmed in the 1950s when Warner was attempting to promote that year’s slate of films. In the clips, Warner curses and continually messes up, revealing telling ticks that Tucci used in his performance. The actor took on the role without actually seeing any scripts but felt that the most important aspect was following the narrative presented by creator Ryan Murphy rather than the historical truth of Warner.
“You want to be true to the piece, number one, and you want to be true to him,” Tucci says. “Being true to him is just being this outwardly very charming, fast-talking, well-dressed fella — and then behind the scenes he’s a ruthless misogynist.”
The actor pauses. “But look what’s happening now,” he continues. “Look at the Bill O’Reilly thing. Look at the Roger Ailes thing. It’s all the same. They’re just better at covering it up now. Before you didn’t cover it because it was just sort of a given. Unfortunately, a lot of men still behave that way. They get away with it because they’re in positions of power. Look who is running our country. That’s the same kind of person as Warner, but not as good of a businessman.”
Filming “Feud” in late 2016 and early 2017 marked the first time Tucci has returned to shoot a project in Los Angeles for several years. He moved to London nearly four years ago, and he’s found his niche in the city’s cultural landscape, taking in all the theater and art available here. He shot a week on this month’s “Transformers: The Last Knight” in Britain and recently received distribution for a film he wrote and directed called “Final Portrait,” in which Geoffrey Rush plays Italian artist Alberto Giacometti, which he also shot here. He remains mostly out of the loop on any awards chatter (although he acknowledges any Emmy attention for “Feud” “would be great because I think the show’s really good”).
The actor has learned that it’s important to stay open to what comes, both in one’s career and in life. Saying yes to “Feud” gave him an experience he describes as “incredibly fun” and offered him an opportunity to spotlight the sexism that continues to rage through Hollywood and the rest of the world. It may not be a conscious choice that Tucci often appears in projects led by strong women, but it doesn’t necessarily seem like an accident either. He is concerned with what his work says, and in this case “Feud” is proffering a realization that Hollywood still needs to fix a few issues around gender.
“When you read scripts you can have a character who is sexist, but sometimes you feel the script itself is sexist,” Tucci notes. “What’s the point of that movie? I’m not interested in that. If the character is a sexist, like Jack Warner, and there’s an incredibly complex character there, then it’s interesting. Otherwise it’s gratuitous and what’s the point?”
As an actor, he has simple expectations: He’ll take on anything — TV, film or anything else — if it feels interesting and it’s something he hasn’t done before. “To me, if it’s good work it’s good,” he shrugs. “It doesn’t matter where it is. Is the script good? Is the director good? Is it an interesting role? Then do it.”
The news was stunning. Four months into production — and less than a year before it’s due in theaters — the Han Solo “Star Wars” spinoff was losing its directors.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller were being removed from the project because of what Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy was calling a difference in “creative vision” and the directors dubbed “creative differences” — even as no one seemed to want to call it that. A bevy of names, particularly old studio hands like Ron Howard, quickly were thrown into the rumor mill as contenders to take over the young Han movie, set early and apart from the classic “Star Wars” timeline.
But no matter the ultimate fate of the Solo effort (and given how many were pulling for young Alden Ehrenreich as the iconic character and his Calrissian tale of becoming, this is hardly a small matter) the incident shines a light on a battle contemporary Hollywood can’t seem to find a truce for.
Lord and Miller have been among the hottest directors in the studio system in recent years, shepherding “The Lego Movie” and a “Jump Street” renaissance to unlikely blockbusterdom.
Maybe more important, they were some of the most brazen filmmakers working within that system: “Lego” managed to be a creation of great meta weirdness despite the Warner Bros. imprimatur. And though it could have easily settled into action-comedy genericism, “Jump Street” — particularly “22 Jump Street” — followed an equally quirky template. Fewer directors have found mainstream success by going their own way; few better demonstrated the idea that modern Hollywood can have its auteur cake without eating it at the box office.
The decision to hire the playful pair provided (along with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson) some of the greatest evidence that the franchise’s stewards were willing to gamble in their march toward global box-office supremacy.
And now the decision to fire them is, seemingly, proving the opposite.
Directors part ways with projects all the time, even late in the game (though very rarely this late). The next few days will yield more about what specifically the clash was about, and with whom. (Already dueling trade reports had it with Kennedy or with writer Lawrence Kasdan, a Hollywood juggernaut in his own right.) But the very fact that there was a clash speaks to a tension that’s long been percolating in this franchise era and bubbling up lately with more regularity.
For all the heat the movie business takes, often rightly, about serving up homogenized blandness, the Hollywood hive mind in this franchise era stills wants independent voices. Or at least it thinks it does. Independent voices, it believes, will mean a better movie, or are a little more worth trusting, or maybe can simply help some members of that hive mind ease their creative conscience.
But when it comes to actually bringing a movie to fruition, they’re not so sure they want truly independent voices. Or, more specifically, they’re not sure that they can live with the loss of control those voices tend to require. We’ve already seen this on the two most recent “Star Wars” movies. The industry murmurings of J.J. Abrams clashing with Disney and Lucasfilm on “The Force Awakens” were loud and persistent. A little while later, Gareth Edwards was relieved of his duties during the reshoot portion of “Rogue One.”
And Joshua Trank’s planned spinoff focused on bounty hunter Boba Fett fell apart before it was even officially announced. (We’ve not seen such tumult yet with “Star Wars: Episode IX” director Colin Trevorrow or with Johnson, though after the former’s “Book of Henry” received a critical roasting and bombed at the box office this weekend, a different sort of question has been asked.)
From the first Abrams pin-drop a few years back, the question has loomed over the current crop of “Star Wars” movies: are these director-driven works that happen to come out under a conglomerate banner? Or corporate entertainment with a big name just happening to sit in the director’s chair?
This can be seen well away from “Star Wars” too, of course. Trank became a cautionary tale as he clashed with Fox on the studio’s “Fantastic Four” reboot. Michelle MacLaren didn’t end up directing “Wonder Woman” at DC/WB. And Ben Affleck dropped off directing that studio’s upcoming Batman movie before we could get a glimpse of Gotham City by way of “The Town.” (One intriguing example that did get to the end was Jon Watts’ “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a Marvel-Sony co-production. We’ll see how that worked out soon enough.)
Modern Hollywood generally has competing impulses: the desire at once to be distinctive and commercial. When they truly clash, the latter side wins out. It’s not just Disney.
The battle just takes particularly fraught form at the studio giant, which houses an unusually high ratio of Hollywood’s most important franchises via Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios and Pixar. Often the movies are more expensive; in many cases, they seek a larger global footprint. Frequently and not unrelatedly, they also come in a more sprawling universe, with each piece of an interlocking mythology forcing any one director to play an increasingly tenuous game of Jenga.
Not for nothing has this battle also played out at Marvel, where each subsequent movie seems to add one more block to the tower, deterring freewheeling hands. Edgar Wright, helmer of the upcoming “Baby Driver,” clashed with the studio over “Ant-Man” before leaving, while Ava DuVernay walked away from an offer to direct “Black Panther” before Ryan Coogler took over. Joss Whedon got to the end of two “Avengers” movies, though not necessarily easily.
There are studio franchises and there are studio franchises. Lord and Miller were able to navigate a certain kind of corporate mandate with their previous work. Warner Bros. was not really an animation powerhouse when the pair were making “Lego” there, allowing the film to slip through, especially at a lower budget. Sony in those early “Jump Street” days was run by Amy Pascal, who gave filmmakers (relatively) wide berth given the studio confines (something admittedly made even easier when the intellectual property isn’t already a billion-dollar franchise). But the walls gave way on Disney and “Star Wars.”
That’s not to say this a strict barbarians-at-the-gates narrative. Auteurs can be indulgent, and studio executives in some cases are right to push them in a less personal direction. As with so much in the cultural space, it isn’t always as simple as art-vs.-commerce.
Corporate Hollywood, after all, is still made up of plenty of people wanting to do good work. Kennedy herself comes with these bona fides: you don’t produce all those Steven Spielberg movies, or “The Sixth Sense,” or “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and not have some serious artistic genes. But it’s also made up increasingly of people who, as they wish to make smart entertainment, need to make movies work on Wall Street first and on the screen second.
With the stakes growing, can they continue balancing the two? In recent years, they have tried to have it both ways — the billion-dollar receipts and $10 indie-ticket cred. Increasingly, it looks like the math doesn’t add up.
Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, June 20, and here’s what’s happening across California:
Carrie Fisher’s final chapter: No Hollywood ending here
Carrie Fisher never said she had conquered her problems. The quintessential child of Tinseltown never expected a Hollywood ending. She talked openly and often about her 45-year-long fight with bipolar disorder, alcoholism and drug addiction, explaining how opioids in particular “dialed down” her manic episodes. Autopsy results Monday on the “Star Wars” star bring a final, very human chapter to her life. Los Angeles Times
Will he or won’t he?
Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s shadow isbeginning to loom large over the 2018 gubernatorial race. The question he’s facing: Is his time and money better spent fighting Trump and the Republican-led Congress, or should he bloody fellow Democrats over the next year and run for the state’s highest office.Los Angeles Times
Skiing in shorts!
Skiers are wearing bikini tops on the slopes as California’s endless winter endures even amid a summer heat wave. For Stev Fagran, a 56-year-old school teacher from Wellington, Nev., the Sierra’s endless winter gives him a chance to build on a personal record of 164 consecutive months skiing, hunting out snow patches until the flakes fall again in September. Los Angeles Times
Get ready! The scorching Southern California heat wave is expected to peak Tuesday. Los Angeles Times
Plus: Here are 25 free and air-conditioned places to beat the heat. Curbed LA
Lawsuit at hand: The city of Los Angeles recently filed a nuisance abatement lawsuit against a church, alleging that the predominantly Latino Playboys gang gathers daily at the Avalon Boulevard property and engages in criminal activity. Los Angeles Times
Beck weighs in: Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beckfor the first time offered his full support for a bill that would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from carrying out immigration laws, calling it an important proposal that protects the trust between his department and the neighborhoods it polices. Los Angeles Times
IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER
ACA’s impact: “Californians of Mexican descent were more likely to see a doctor and take medicine for high blood pressure after the Affordable Care Act was implemented, according a study published this month.” NBC News
A new move: An immigrant rights activist who has said she was detained by Border Patrol agents in retaliation for protesting the arrest of her mother spoke out publicly for the first time Monday, announcing she will apply for protections as a “Dreamer” in the hopes of avoiding deportation. Los Angeles Times
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Brown gets a raise: Gov. Jerry Brown, state legislators and other state elected officials were granted 3% pay raises Monday by a state panel that noted that it is slightly less than the salary increase that was recently given to rank-and-file state workers. Los Angeles Times
Filling in the gaps: A new state bill is aiming at reviving broadband privacy rules that were killed by Trump and Congress. Los Angeles Times
CSU news: California State University will soon offer admission to all qualified applicants. In the past, students who were qualified ended up being turned away because the campus they wanted to go to was full. The Mercury News
Sky-high rents: “Projections show rents will continue to surge, especially for low- and middle-income people in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento.” The Sacramento Bee
CRIME AND COURTS
Hostile campus? Students and Jewish community members filed a lawsuit Monday against San Francisco State University and Cal State’s Board of Trustees, alleging that the San Francisco campus of the largest public university system in the country has long cultivated a hostile environment in which Jewish students are “often afraid to wear Stars of David or yarmulkes on campus, and regularly text their friends to describe potential safety issues.” Los Angeles Times
Teller arrested: Miles Teller isn’t doing much to alleviate his cocky bro rep. The “Fantastic Four” alum spent some time in a San Diego jail on Sunday after being arrested and charged with public intoxication. Los Angeles Times
Out in the O.C.: Despite a grand jury findings, the fallout from O.C. jailhouse snitch scandal is far from over. Los Angeles Times
Abuse case: A former Santa Cruz brain surgeon — still licensed to practice in California — named Dr. James Kohut allegedly sought to impregnate women in order to later have sex with their children. Santa Cruz Sentinel
Innocent or guilty? New York Times columnistNicholas Kristof writes about the saga of Kevin Cooper, a California death row inmate, whose case Kristof calls a national embarrassment. The New York Times
On the bay: An unlikely partnership between local fishermen in Morro Bay and environmental group the Nature Conservancy is leading to a small upswing in the fishing industry, which most people had left for dead. Marketplace
A baby boom: A Riverside County mountain lion sired 11 kittens, but that won’t fix a weak gene pool. Los Angeles Times
Beam me up, Scotty: Infinity “Star Trek” is still living long and prospering with its newest fleet landing on CBS’ streaming service in September. Los Angeles Times
An interesting court case: A Sausalito bookstore owner is suing California over a law regulating autographed items that was initially put in place to prevent counterfeit sports memorabilia. NPR
Restoring access: California is taking steps to seize control of private land leading to a pristine stretch of secluded beach property south of Half Moon Bay, with the hope of restoring public access. Sacramento Bee
All about Eve: Eve Babitz was a Hollywood glamour girl who refused to be dull. Now her account of her time in the city is out, and it’s worth the read. LA Review of Books
Los Angeles area Tuesday: sunny and hot. San Diego: sunny and warm. San Francisco area: partly cloudy and mild. More weather is here.
Today’s California memory comes from T. David Yarnes:
“My memory is not one of a resident, but of a frequent visitor. After retiring in 2006, my wife and I opted to spend much of our summers in Oregon, to ‘beat’ the Arizona heat. Our route would generally take us through parts of northern California, and right by Lake Shasta. Each year we would admire how beautiful that lake was. Then, a few years ago, we drove by Lake Shasta and were absolutely shocked! The lake looked almost like a dry bed! Nothing was more illustrative of the drought and water issues facing California, and other areas as well. Since then I have read extensively about California’s water problems, and particularly about the reliance on particular sources like the Colorado River. This has led to all sorts of revelations, such as San Diego’s almost total reliance on the Colorado, and the serious threat to the Salton Sea, which could conceivably create a ‘dust bowl!’ The Golden State is clearly under siege, and you don’t have to look all that hard to see it on various landmarks!”
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
Carrie Fisher never said she had conquered her problems. The quintessential child of Tinseltown never expected a Hollywood ending. She talked openly and often about her 45-year-long fight with bipolar disorder, alcoholism and drug addiction, explaining how opioids in particular “dialed down” her manic episodes.
She shared, in her distinctive brand of gallows humor, such episodes as Dan Aykroyd performing the Heimlich maneuver on her after she got so wasted she choked on a Brussels sprout. She wrote about getting her stomach pumped and receiving electroconvulsive therapy.
While many young stars who have died from drug abuse became mythologized, stuck in an immortal fast lane, Fisher laid out the much more ragged and tedious reality of a constant struggle that millions of Americans fight.
A coroner’s report released Monday about her death in December said alcohol, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy were found in her system. Although the pathologists could not conclude how toxic the drug levels were or how they affected her death, their use after so much medical intervention and therapy testifies to the sheer relentlessness of Fisher’s battle.
“Unfortunately there are so many Americans and people across the world who are suffering from addiction and mental health problems, and her life truly highlights how devastating addiction and mental health problems can be as a disease,” said Adam Leventhal, director of USC’s Health, Emotion, and Addiction Laboratory.
Fisher’s openness helped others
Carrie Fisher lived in rarefied circles — the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, the actress best known as Princess Leia in the blockbuster “Star Wars” franchise.
Fisher’s willingness to talk about her mental illness helped destigmatize it for many ordinary Americans, and likely led to more people talking to their friends and family about their feelings, and eventually seeking treatment, said Leventhal.
He said the problem is that many mind-altering substances — alcohol, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin — “trick the human brain into believing” they’re needed to feel right.
“Drugs made me feel more normal,” Fisher told Psychology Today in 2001. “They contained me.”
Her drug of choice was Percodan, an opioid medication that became available in the 1970s. At her lowest point, she was popping 30 Percodan a day, she told the magazine. “You don’t even get high. It’s like a job, you punch in,” she recalled. “I was lying to doctors and looking through people’s drawers and medicine cabinets for drugs.”
By 28, she landed in the hospital with a tube down her throat to pump her stomach, because she was not conscious enough to tell doctors what she was on.
Battling bipolar disorder, looking for relief
In recovery, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was the second time in four years. The first time, she ignored it, feeling the diagnosis just gave her an excuse for her moral failings as a privileged child turned drug abuser. This time, she accepted it and got treatment for it and her addictions.
She went on to write about the rehab experience in her bestselling, semiautobiographical novel, “Postcards From the Edge.”
An estimated 6 million Americans have bipolar disorder. At least half of those “have a lifetime alcohol use disorder and about one third have a lifetime drug use disorder,” said Samuel A. Ball, the president and chief executive of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. “Medications for pain, anxiety, and sleep can be often misused in an attempt to self-medicate the emotional pain, agitation, or sleep problems that accompany either the manic phase or the depressive phase of bipolar illness.”
With treatment, Fisher took nearly two dozen pills a day, sometimes reluctantly for fear of stifling a bout of creativity that came with the mania. She also told interviewers that writing gave her a way to channel her hyperactive mind.
She became a prolific author and script doctor, and her comic, self-flagellating tales of excess seemed to be rooted in the past.
“There is treatment and a variety of medications that can alleviate your symptoms if you are manic depressive or depressive,” Fisher told USA Today in 2002. “You can lead a normal life, whatever that is. I have gotten to the point where I can live a normal life, where my daughter can rely on me for predictable behavior, and that’s very important to me.”
‘I’m not alone when times are tough’
Many were inspired by her message. Charlotte Horton, a 20-year-old student at the University of Cincinnati, said she felt isolated as a teenager after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. She didn’t have any friends to talk to about her illness and felt as though she would never achieve anything in life.
Then she found online articles about Fisher and Demi Lovato, a singer and actress who’s also spoken out about living with bipolar disorder.
“Looking at people who had it gave me a sense of I’m not alone when times are tough,” Horton said. “I can become successful. I can make my own story rather than just let my mental illness control my life.”
Fisher was in a highly productive period of her life before she died. She just finished filming the “Star Wars” sequel “The Last Jedi.” HBO released a documentary about her relationship with her mother, “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.” And she was touring to promote her latest bestseller, “The Princess Diarist.”
Fisher stopped breathing Dec. 23 on a flight from London to Los Angeles. Her assistant told authorities that Fisher slept most of the flight and had a few episodes of sleep apnea during the journey, which was usual, the coroner’s report said. Toward the end of the flight, Fisher could not be stirred awake, the report said. A few minutes later, she began vomiting profusely and slumped over, the report said.
She was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where she was placed on a ventilator and died four days later.
The urge to self-medicate
Steve Sussman, professor of preventive medicine, psychology and social work at USC, said it’s hard to know what pushed Fisher toward drug use in the few days before her death, but the decision to use is often a response to stress. The mind associates positive feelings with a drug, and then seeks out that drug to self-medicate.
“Everything is moment by moment with addicts,” he said.
Natasha Tracy, who blogs about mental illness and wrote the book “Lost Marbles: Insights Into My Life With Depression & Bipolar,” called Fisher “a bright light” for people who struggle with mental illness.
More than just opening up about it, Fisher showed that she could have a family and a career, and write books and do stand-up comedy.
“I think it makes it easier to come out with your own struggles. Look, people with mental illness aren’t just crazy people…. People with mental illnesses have lives and can in fact achieve great things,” she said.
Tracy said that since she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder nearly two decades ago, she’s found comfort in others speaking out about their illnesses. She recalled reading about Fisher having a manic episode while performing stand-up on a cruise.
“That moment alone is such a teachable moment because it says that no matter how badly your mental illness screws up your life and it can be very, very, very, bad you can come back from it and you can continue on with the life that you want.”
Tracy said the fact that Fisher died with drugs in her system doesn’t tarnish her legacy of resilience and tenacity in battling mental illness.
“You can fight and fight and fight and fight and fight and sometimes you lose,” she said. “If anything it shows how much pain and how much struggle she had that she had overcome for such a long time. … The end is really unfortunate but all of the in between is amazing.”
Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.
Justin Hayward wasn’t worried about showing his back to the audience.
Standing onstage Saturday night before a full house at the Hollywood Bowl, the Moody Blues’ frontman had just finished singing “The Morning: Another Morning” — a bouncy pop pastorale from the British band’s 1967 album “Days of Future Passed” — when he turned around and stayed that way for a minute or so, enthralled by the sound of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra as it moved through the song’s lush instrumental coda.
At least he was enjoying himself.
In keeping with recent tradition at Los Angeles’ most iconic venue, Saturday’s opening-night concert paired the formally attired orchestra (under the direction of conductor Thomas Wilkins) with a veteran classic-rock act to kick off the Bowl’s summer season.
Last year the act was Steely Dan; the year before that, it was Journey. You can see why someone thought the Moody Blues would make a good fit, but that person was woefully mistaken.
Featuring three members from the band’s late-’60s heyday — singer-guitarist Hayward, bassist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge — the group is on tour this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Days of Future Passed.” The album included the hits “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin,” and is widely regarded as a landmark in the development of progressive rock.
The way the band tells it, the Moody Blues — initially one of countless young English groups aping American R&B — were asked by its record company to come up with an LP combining rock and classical elements that would show off the hi-fi possibilities of the company’s new record player.
What was created was an elaborate concept piece, complete with lengthy interludes and ponderous spoken bits, tracking the progression of a single day into night. “Days of Future Passed” made stars of the dreamy-eyed Hayward and his mates, and if the album never earned the acclaim of other totems of the Summer of Love — “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” springs to mind — it’s clear that it went on to inspire further explorations of symphonic rock by the likes of Electric Light Orchestra and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
The members of the Moody Blues themselves stuck with that idea through the early ’70s before going more commercial in the ’80s (not unlike Yes and Genesis) with slick pop hits such as “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere.”
At the Bowl, though, the main attraction was a full rendition of “Days of Future Passed,” which the band said it was performing for the first time with live orchestral accompaniment. (Elsewhere on its tour the group is playing along to pre-recorded arrangements.)
As Hayward’s reaction to “Another Morning” suggested, the sound was impressive — full-bodied but nimble, with a lively rhythmic energy that kept the strings from getting too soupy. In “Evening: The Sunset,” the orchestra added a touch of romantic mystery to the band’s spooky depiction of that moment, “when the sun goes down and the clouds all frown.”
No wonder Hayward swiveled his body several more times throughout the night to take in what Wilkins and his players were doing. This was probably the closest the Moody Blues have come to their experience recording “Days of Future Passed” with the London Festival Orchestra half a century ago.
Yet most of the album’s songs have not aged well, especially the ersatz psychedelia of “Tuesday Afternoon,” which felt far cornier than other willfully trippy visions from its era. “I’m looking at myself / Reflections of my mind,” Hayward sang, “It’s just the kind of day to leave myself behind.”
Cheap-looking visuals on the Bowl’s large screens didn’t help the music seem any less dated. It actively took away from one’s ability to enjoy the sumptuous sonics of “Another Morning.”
For a group of men in their 70s who performed hunched over their instruments, a video of balloons and little kids at play was probably a sadder, more jarring image than the band intended.
There was also the band’s lack of chemistry. Trading off vocals, Hayward and Lodge barely interacted onstage; behind them, Edge looked like he was merely pretending to play drums while the group’s hired-hand drummer, Billy Ashbaugh, did the actual job of driving the music.
A sense of real-time spontaneity might’ve prevented the concert from feeling as overblown as it did. That quality certainly did wonders last year for Steely Dan, whose members spoke to each other (and to the crowd) in a manner that made them appear in on the joke of their own grandiosity.
Not that we should’ve expected laughs from a band with a song called “Isn’t Life Strange,” to name one of several leaden ditties the Moody Blues played from albums other than “Days of Future Passed.”
Self-seriousness is one thing. Quite another is the self-parody this group flirted with by having the actor Jeremy Irons show up in yet another video to deliver those painful spoken passages from 1967.
“Coldhearted orb that rules the night removes the colors from our sight,” Irons intoned in one laughably pretentious sequence. “Red is gray and yellow white, but we decide which is right — and which is an illusion.”
It was bad enough to make you hope the Hollywood Bowl looks somewhere beyond classic rock for next year’s opening night.
Never mind what the calendar tells us about the seasons. In this city, according to Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. Board Chairman Jay Rasulo, summer starts on opening night at the Hollywood Bowl.
“It’s truly the official start of summer in Los Angeles,” Rasulo said, adding, “other than that, it’s a wonderful night for music education.”
A fundraiser for the L.A. Phil’s education and community programs, the Moody Blues concert Saturday celebrated the 50th anniversary of the rock band’s groundbreaking album, “Days of Future Passed.” The evening also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and raised $1.5 million.
Seated in his front-row box, director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino said that he’d been to the Hollywood Bowl four or fives times before and that this time he’d come to see the Moody Blues and because “[the opening] is a fun event.”
There too were Los Angeles County board supervisors Kathryn Barger, Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis and Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu. Title sponsor Kaiser Permanente was represented by Greg Adams and Julie Miller-Phipps, while Teena Hostovich, Doug Martinet and Michael Martinet served as gala co-chairs.
VIP guests mingled over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the Hollywood Bowl’s Box Office Terrace (above the newly renovated Main Plaza), before adjourning to their tables for dinner. In keeping with the Bowl’s tradition of elegant dining, guests enjoyed Moroccan chicken tagine on tables covered in linens, topped by centerpieces of rosemary, mint or lavender plants.
As the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra’s Thomas Wilkins conducted Peter Boyer’s “Silver Fanfare,” the big screens facing the audience showed off 17 years of opening nights with clips of Reba McEntire, John Legend, Josh Groban, Jack Black, Kristin Chenoweth, Liza Minnelli, Plácido Domingo, John Williams and other past headliners.
Members of the YOLA All-Stars then performed “Festive Overture” by Shostakovich, followed by a set of Moody Blues hits, including “Say It With Love,” from what lead singer Justin Hayward jokingly called the “pretentiously named” album “Keys of the Kingdom.”
After intermission, the band performed its entire “Days of Future Passed” album, accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and at evening’s end, by a dazzling display of fireworks.
“What’s really cool about the Moody Blues,” said Wilkins, “is that those guys get it,” meaning an understanding of music education as a “gift that can be life-altering … the endeavor to give [YOLA members] a voice through music …”
He later added, “We have to be in the business of painting doors onto brick walls, and that’s what YOLA is all about.”
Said Hayward, “It’s a special night for us because it’s the first time we’ll be doing our very first album, ‘Days of Future Passed,’ live in such esteemed company with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the fabulous, gorgeous Thomas Wilkins.”
Tickets for the 1,200 guests in the VIP sections sold from $2,600 for a four-person garden box to $15,750 for a six-person pool circle box.
Another day, another Jo Malone London event, or so it would seem in Los Angeles, where the fragrance brand teamed with model-actresses Poppy Delevingne yet again in her adopted hometown. Delevingne, who just made her big screen debut in Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur” remake, was overheard telling friends Rachel Zoe and Jaime King that she just bought a house in L.A.
The latter cohosted a lunch at Verlaine in West Hollywood with Jacqui Getty and Rochelle Gores Fredston to celebrate the new “Poptastic” fragrance. The outdoor restaurant featured a confetti-strewn photo booth and plenty of colorful summer cocktails. Among those enjoying the sips were Rachel Zoe, Sally Perrin, Shea Marie and Julia Sorkin.
“I’m going to send this dress to your house today,” Zoe told Delevingne of the Rachel Zoe frock that she wearing. Most guests stuck to the summer dress code of white and blue, giving the party at very Montauk-meets-Malibu vibe.
Delevingne herself has hosted her share of Jo Malone events with fellow model-turned-singer Karen Elson, but there never can be too many al fresco lunches during the slow summer season. In fact, energy drinks, rosé wines and other spirits seem to take over the event calendars in the summer here between blockbuster movie premieres and comic book conventions.
Since the plagues of the Old Testament, we have contemplated the Apocalypse, the world rising in vengeance as men, women and children scurry across the brutal landscape of a lost paradise. Skies rain hail, locusts swarm, rivers turn to blood, darkness falls.
Our doomsday stories and how they scroll and flash before us have changed since the parchment days of the Bible. But we remain fascinated by the specter of our demise, whether the end is wrought by deities, our own folly or imposed by outside forces like monsters, asteroids and aliens that have haunted us since Orson Welles’ 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast.
Few of our dystopias, however, are as frightening as the planet gone asunder, polluted and destroyed by humanity’s amorality, recklessness and greed. Film and literature — to say nothing of our private insecurities — resound with a world that freezes, boils, chokes, cracks with earthquakes, dwindles with resources and succumbs to pestilence and disease.
Images of glacier walls crashing into oceans, arid lands, smudged skies and Hollywood disaster scenarios have reverberated across social media since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. The president said the pact, signed by 195 nations to reduce carbon emissions, would undercut business, hurt American workers and “weaken our sovereignty.”
“The Paris Agreement handicaps the United States’ economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” said Trump. “They don’t put America first. I do. And I always will.”
Perhaps more than any other moment in his presidency, Trump’s action highlighted a Darwinian world view in which the planet is less a community than an unforgiving marketplace for countries to compete and barter. Terrorism, Russia’s cyber meddling in the U.S. election and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un taunts like a despot in an end-of-days movie, have unsettled Americans. But exiting the climate pact has raised larger existential questions at a time of rising seas, droughts and melting ice caps.
Hollywood for decades has spun science fiction and horror out of environmental calamity. In 1973, the thriller “Soylent Green” ventured to the year 2022, when the Earth was endangered by pollution and the greenhouse effect. Natural disaster movies related to climate change and pollution became a staple, including “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), about storms raging across the globe in a new ice age, and the Mad Max series going through “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), where roving clans fight over gasoline and water on a crazed and poisoned Earth.
These stories foreshadowed and articulated the anxieties of a new century marked by wars and multiplying images of environmental degradation. The planet seemed to be shrinking, and every click of the screen — every YouTube rant, beheading, cyclone and story uttered — made us intimate with the ills that for so long seemed foreign and safely beyond our borders.
The world in these films is dark and unredemptive, a landscape of memory and rage where pictures of beaches and fields of green are eerie artifacts of humanity’s hubris and capacity to imperil what gives it life. Man becomes cast against himself in a cruel struggle for survival, such as the father and son who roam, scavenge and hide beneath slate skies in “The Road” (2009). The mood and tone are similar in “Children of Men” (2006), set in a desolate and violent London after pollution and other evils, which prove just as devastating as an asteroid strike, have rendered humanity infertile.
As the science of global warming has matured, and documentaries like Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) have explored its devastating consequences, the planet’s frailty has come into sharper focus, even as many Republicans, including Trump, question the causes that could spell our undoing. That dilemma and Trump’s decision on the Paris treaty will figure in Gore’s upcoming follow-up: “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”
The preoccupation over the planet’s future and its increasing interconnectedness have, according to novelist Junot Diaz, made dystopian themes “the default narrative of the generation.”
“The steady drum beat of reports from our best and brightest scientists has made it explicitly clear that, whether we like or whether we want to admit it or not, we have damaged our planet in ways that have transformed us into a dystopian topos,” he said in a podcast with the Boston Review. “We are making the genre in which we are living, and we are making it at such an extraordinary rate.”
Trump’s election and the bitter political and societal chasms it revealed has brought back into vogue a number of dystopian novels, including George Orwell’s “1984,” Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the story of infertility and turning women into slaves, which has been adapted for a heralded Hulu series. As in “The Road,” the exact cause of cataclysm in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is nebulous, a frightening, creeping concoction that plays with our imagination.
There is little doubt about the cause of ruin in “Chasing Coral,” a Netflix documentary on climate change and the death of coral reefs. The film, which opens in July, focuses on how warming waters around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia are bleaching the reef’s colors — imagine a rainbow turning to ash — and ability to sustain life.
“Our oceans are dramatically changing and we are losing coral reefs on a global scale,” director Jeff Orlowski said. “We spent three years with divers, underwater photographers and experts to reveal the majesty of our oceans and the rapidly changing reality of our world. What we witnessed while making this film reshaped my understanding of the world.”
The film is likely to intensify the debate around global warming and how filmmaking and other arts challenge and speak to conflicting agendas. A timely, if seemingly satirical, blurring of the lines between our fictions, politics and realities comes to mind in “Dystopian Visions,” a new class former presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul will teach at George Washington University.
Such visions haunt and often remind us of nature’s splendor and fragility, and what happens when species go extinct and winds howl arid and foul. They also leave us (and Hollywood) with questions: How does one generation explain to the next that their birthright is jeopardy? That chaos sprung from folly or chance is irreparable, and that destiny is bound in dereliction?
In her 1826 post-apocalyptic novel about a plague, “The Last Man,” Mary Shelley, who also gave us “Frankenstein,” pondered: “What is there in our nature that is forever urging us on towards pain and misery?”
Kevin Costner’s interminable “Waterworld” (1995) imagined a planet where the polar ice caps melted and everyone lived on ships and floating outposts, hoarding jars of dirt like relics while searching for mythical dry land. In “Blade Runner” (1982), a revolutionary work by director Ridley Scott, Los Angeles of 2019 is a garish and desolate landscape where cops battle synthetic humans known as “replicants.” Earth has become shades of grays and neon, tree-less and shadowed by Orwellian industrial towers. Not surprisingly, a sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” will open this year.
But man is a creature of hope, cunning and delusion. Waste a planet, find an escape; or in biblical terms, endure banishment from the Garden of Eden. That is the theme of “Interstellar” (2014), when a team of astronauts seeks a wormhole in space to deliver humanity from the shriveled crops, blowing dust and the environmental catastrophe Earth has become. It seems our ingenuity to find someplace new is stronger and more fierce than it is in fixing the place we are.
“We didn’t run out of planes and television sets,” says one character, “we ran out of food.”
That is too pessimistic an epitaph for many Hollywood films, where even in demise there’s a promise of resurrection. A scientist played by Michael Caine, whose soothing voice can make a lie sound like the truth, adds: “We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it.”
Apple Inc. has lured two Sony television studio veterans to lead its push into original programming, the clearest sign yet of the tech giant’s ambitions to become a force in television and a potential rival to the Hollywood establishment.
Outgoing Sony Pictures Television presidents Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg will join Apple in newly created positions overseeing its nascent original programming business, the Cupertino, Calif.-based iPhone maker said Friday. They will report to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services.
The hires represent a coup for Apple after nearly two years of speculation about how the company would leverage its clout and wide audience to compete with rivals including Netflix and Amazon that have already made aggressive moves in the film and TV business. Apple’s Hollywood ambitions have been a source of mystery for years in the television industry, where there has been much anxiety about how the tech colossus might eventually shake things up. Its TV projects to date have been modest knockoffs of television shows.
Now Apple may be stepping up its game. In Erlicht and Van Amburg, Apple has secured a pair of well-respected leaders who have overseen programming and production at a major studio for more than a decade. The studio vastly increased its television output, producing hits including “The Blacklist” and “The Goldbergs.” Erlicht and Van Amburg are also known for shepherding Emmy winners “Breaking Bad” on AMC and “Rescue Me” on FX.
“Jamie and Zack are two of the most talented TV executives in the world and have been instrumental in making this the golden age of television,” Cue said in a statement. “There is much more to come.”
Apple has been taking pitches from entertainment producers for months, but its moves into television have been incremental. The company this month premiered the tech contest-reality show “Planet of the Apps” and later this year will debut “Carpool Karaoke” — a spinoff of a segment on CBS’ “Late, Late Show.” Apple distributes its shows through Apple Music, the music streaming service spearheaded by music mogul Jimmy Iovine.
It has remained unclear, however, how Apple will ramp up its programming business, and whether it wants to compete directly with the likes of HBO or just give people an additional incentive to sign up for Apple Music. The streaming service has gained an impressive 27 million subscribers since it launched two years ago, but is still trying to catch up with Spotify’s 50 million.
Apple has long toyed with becoming a bigger player in Tinseltown but has encountered roadblocks. A plan to stream broadcast and cable television to Apple TV never materialized. Cue tried to downplay expectations at the recent Code Media conference in Dana Point.
“Look, we are just starting out,” Cue said. ““These shows bring something to customers that they haven’t seen before. … We are trying to do things that are unique and cultural.”
Speculation has swirled that Apple would eventually buy a full-fledged studio, with the Walt Disney Co. cited by analysts as a potential target. But the recent hires suggest the company is more interested in building its content business in-house.
“We want to bring to video what Apple has been so successful with in their other services and consumer products — unparalleled quality, ” Erlicht said in a statement.
Creating a video production business from the ground up is a big challenge, but Apple has ample cash and motivation to make a significant play, analysts say.
Still, Netflix has a significant head start and is spending billions of dollars a year to make and acquire original content such as “Stranger Things” and “Orange Is the New Black” that fuels subscription growth.
“Just because Apple spends on content and makes perceived ‘big’ hires does not ensure success,” said Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG Research, in a blog post. “Netflix has spent years singularly focused on the video experience and infrastructure. There will be a long catch-up period for any potential competitor.”
The departure of two major television executives is another setback for Sony Pictures Entertainment. Tokyo-based parent company Sony Corp. recently took a nearly $1-billion write-down on the studio, primarily related to its movie business that has struggled to make hits. Sony’s TV production arm, in contrast, has been a strong performer. Erlicht and Van Amburg have been in charge of the TV studio since Sony Pictures Television chairman Steve Mosko left last year.
Replacing Erlicht and Van Amburg will be one of the many tasks facing Sony Pictures Entertainment’s newly installed Chief Executive Tony Vinciquerra, who replaced Michael Lynton this month. Lynton in January announced that he would leave the company to focus on his role as chairman of Snapchat maker Snap Inc.
Vinciquerra on Thursday announced Erlicht and Van Amburg were leaving, but did not say where they would be going. Their contracts were set to expire in September; they were appointed as presidents in 2005.