Even if you’re a dedicated gym rat, having a few trusty go-to workout devices at home comes in handy.

“Whether it’s an entire home gym set-up or a few body-weight exercise routines, a go-to home workout is the most important thing for maintaining a fitness regimen — so you don’t have an excuse when you’re out of time,” says Andy Petranek, cofounder of Santa Monica-based WholeLifeChallege.com and CrossFitLA. From a Pilates trampoline to a machine that allows you to row uphill, here’s a sampling of some of the most innovative new home fitness gear we saw at the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Assn. fitness expo held in Los Angeles earlier this year:

1. Full-tilt rowing

Total Gym’s unique Elevate rower is the first to use a slanted slide board and your own body weight as resistance instead of a fan-flywheel or magnetic friction. The steeper you set the tilt, the harder the effort. Unlike traditional row machines, this rower loads up the “eccentric” phase of the movement — the return — adding a strength element to the workout. $1,495. TotalGym.com

2. Bouncing Pilates

Take a Pilates reformer, add a mini-trampoline and you get an intense jumping workout that is still gentle on your joints. (DVDs walk you through it.) Adding cardio to Pilates’ traditional posture and strength benefits, Merrithew’s SPX reformer lets you do non-impact, non-gravity explosive jumping movements that are quite challenging in 30-second and one-minute bursts, and are a boon for older, heavier people with hip and knee limitations. The combo starts around $3,089. Merrithew.com

3. Aquapunch

North Shore Fight’s new torso-shaped Aqua Bruiser Bag fills with tap water, making this punching bag more forgiving on hands, wrists and elbows. $200. AquaTrainingBag.com

4. On a roll

Low-tech and highly effective, these hand-size plastic pads embedded with three roller balls provide challenging omni-directional dynamic stability. Translation: CoreFlyte Sliders let you move every which way across a flat surface while doing plank rollouts, in-motion push-ups and a variety of core-blasting exercises, intensifying the workout. And in a pinch, they’ll help you move heavy boxes. $99.95 for a pair, carry bag, exercise sheet and on-line videos. FlyteFitness.com

5. All-body bike

The classic all-body Schwinn Airdyne, a stationary bike with push-pull arm action and fan-blade air-resistance that gets harder as you go faster, gets even better this year with two new models. The Airdyne Pro has 9 workout and HIIT programs and large LCH screen, vertical and horizontal grips, a quiet belt drive and the ability to use your own bike seat. The Airdyne AD6 lacks the programs but displays watts, time, calories burned, distance and more. AD6 starts at $539 and the Pro starts at $1,299. OctaneFitness.com

6. Good vibrations

Vibration machines are the red-hot workout devices of the moment but have been too large and expensive for the home — until now. The new Personal PowerPlate provides the same enhanced effort and recovery benefits in a compact platform that can be slipped under a bed. A 30/60-second timer and remote control are included. $1,499. PowerPlate.com

7. Swiss Army Knife of ab rollers

Combining an ab-rollout device with stretch bands and snap-on 10- and 5-pound weight-rings, the ingenious Spyder 360 adds resistance for upper and lower body workouts and core work. Rings additionally morph into two 17.5-pound hand weights. (Go to the website and watch the variety of exercises you can do. They actually look kind of fun.) $99. TheSpyder360.com

8. Smart ball

There’s no simpler fitness product than the inflatable exercise ball, but it’s worthless if you don’t know how to use it. That’s not a problem with the 18-inch Smart Ball, which is imprinted with renderings of 13 exercises. Its cousin, the adjustable-height Smart Cube, used for step-ups and box jumps, displays nine exercises. Ball, $29.25; cube $498.95. Enasco.com

9. TRX Duo Trainer

If one strap was good, two is better, says TRX. Its new Duo Trainer lets you do hanging exercises like pull-ups, dips, and muscle-ups in addition to the many others you can do with its standard one-strap/double-handled models. $199.95. TRXTraining.com

10. Two-way rowing

This rower rows back. The harder you pull the VersaRower, designed with a unique inertial-weight flywheel, the more it pulls back on the return portion of the stroke, which means you struggle to stay in control. This “eccentric loading” dramatically increases your effort, so you get a harder workout in less time. $3,800. VersaClimber.com

11. Pool gym

The Boga Fitmat is an 8-by-3-foot floating workout mat with built-in stretch cord handles. Used in your backyard pool (or even in your den), it provides a stable-but-unstable base from which to do yoga and a variety of strengthening exercises, intensifying the workout. $795. BogaBoards.com

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“Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V. Gordon didn’t just collaborate on the screenplay for “The Big Sick,” the Judd Apatow-produced charmer that stole hearts at Sundance: The pair put their own real-life romance on-screen for all the world to see in the semi-autobiographical comedy, which Amazon acquired for $12 million and opens in limited release this weekend.

Directed by Michael Showalter (“Wet Hot American Summer,” “Hello, My Name Is Doris”), “The Big Sick” stars Nanjiani as a slightly fictionalized version of himself opposite Zoe Kazan as Emily, a Chicago grad student who meets cute with the struggling stand-up comedian one night when she heckles him onstage.

Nakedly honest dating ups and downs ensue as she navigates her own priorities and he fields pressure from the Pakistani parents determined to rope him into an arranged marriage, until an unexpected medical crisis forces Kumail to spend time with Emily’s parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter).

So what advice do Nanjiani and Gordon have for staying happy while putting their own real-life relationship on-screen, warts and all? After 11 eleven years together — or 10ten, depending on who you ask — the “Big Sick” couple shared their secrets via phone from New York.

Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick.” (Nicole Rivelli / Sundance Institute)

1. Agree to disagree on the details when you’re mining your shared history for a compelling screen story.

“It’s a fictionalized version of what happened,” said Gordon, a writer, comedy producer, and onetime therapist. “So whenever we were talking through a scene and had disagreements about what happened, we decided that needed to be incorporated into the movie itself. That’s part of what a relationship is; you don’t experience things in the same way.”

“We literally had different emotional experiences of the same events in our lives. Sometimes he would remember more details and sometimes I would remember more because they were more salient to me. But it was always the emotional radius of events that we’d agree or disagree about.”

“And how we experienced them,” added Nanjiani. “Some things, I’d be like, ‘That was such a great memory!’ and she’d say, ‘No — I was miserable!’ There was a lot of that.”

"The Big Sick" gang at Sundance: From left, producer Barry Mendel, actress Holly Hunter, director Michael Showalter, actress Zoe Karan, writer Emily V. Gordon, writer and star Kumail Nanjiani and producer Judd Apatow.
“The Big Sick” gang at Sundance: From left, producer Barry Mendel, actress Holly Hunter, director Michael Showalter, actress Zoe Karan, writer Emily V. Gordon, writer and star Kumail Nanjiani and producer Judd Apatow. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

2. Have Judd Apatow produce the (fictionalized) story of your lives.

“He was fantastic,” said Gordon of comedy superproducer Apatow, who worked with the pair from the script stage. “What he wanted us to do first was to literally write down everything that happened, make it messy — it didn’t matter how long it was. That’s a movie that no one should ever see. It would be very long and not a fun movie.”

When on-screen Emily succumbs to a mystery illness and is hospitalized (a true story), Kumail awkwardly bonds with her visiting parents shortly after breaking things off with her (which didn’t exactly happen).

“The challenge for us was conveying all of the turmoil that me and Emily’s parents were going through,” Nanjiani explained of the dramatic license they took. “If you want other people to feel the weight of it, you kind of have to make it external.”

“We’re sitting in a waiting room feeling like the world is going to end — but that’s not very cinematic. For people to actually feel that you have to heighten certain things, move them around, take some stuff out. Our goal was always to get at the emotional core of that experience, and the changes we made were to serve that goal.”

Zoe Kazan, left, starring with Kumail Nanjiani in "The Big Sick."
Zoe Kazan, left, starring with Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick.” (Amazon Studios)

3. Cast for the movie versions of yourselves (and don’t make it weird).

Kazan landed the role of Emily after an audition process that Gordon opted not to attend “because I thought that might be weird for those actresses,” she said. “But when we watched the tapes, Zoe was just the right fit for the part. She created this version of Emily that was somewhat similar to me but also her own creation.”

“It was quite easy, quite frankly. She clearly did the best job. I just had to put on my grown-up lady pants and say, ‘This is my job, to watch all these ladies flirt with my husband and figure out which one does it the best!’”

Holly Hunter, from left, Ray Romano and Kumail Nanjiani in a scene from, "The Big Sick."
Holly Hunter, from left, Ray Romano and Kumail Nanjiani in a scene from, “The Big Sick.” (Nicole Rivelli / AP)

4. Prepare your relatives for the creative liberties you’ve taken with their on-screen counterparts before they see the film.

Gordon and Nanjiani talked their parents through the scripting process so that they were prepared to see very different versions of themselves in the final film.

“We didn’t want them to be surprised by anything in it,” said Gordon. “They were pretty well informed.! All sets of parents had seen the movie at home and all of them came to the premiere in New York. They’re parents! They love it, and they’re proud, and they’re weirded out and confused by the whole thing.”

For Nanjiani, writing about his relationship with his parents and his resistance to the traditional life they wanted for him brought him a better understanding of their motivations.

“The pressures were very, very intense, and around that time I was feeling like [my parents] were really pushing me to make a decision,” he said. “Writing my parents’ perspective, writing dialogue for them, gave me a new understanding. Just writing what they would say to me made me understand why they would say it to me. It was a challenge for them to be from such a completely different world and to try to bring a piece of that world here with them. I really understood their struggle much more than I had before.”

Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote "The Big Sick" based on their own romance, premiered the film at Sundance.
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote “The Big Sick” based on their own romance, premiered the film at Sundance. (Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

5. Remember that relationships take work — especially when you’re making a movie together — about your own lives.

“We touch on this in the movie and it’s also true of our marriage: No relationship is ever done — like, ‘Well, that’s good, I don’t have to worry about that now,’” said Gordon. “It’s a living thing that you kind of have to prune and take care of and address and realize that it’s always going to be growing on its own, whether or not you’re feeding and nurturing it. It’s a living thing.”

Nanjiani concurred: “It changes as you change. You evolve, and the relationship has to evolve too. For me that’s been the big epiphany of being with Emily for the last 11 years. And for us making this movie has been very exciting, but it’s also been a challenge so we’ve had to evolve our relationship to accommodate for it.”

“I think it’s always good to get into your partner’s mindset,” Gordon said, “or put yourself in their shoes and empathize with how things are for them, and we had the thrill and joy of having to do that professionally. I do highly recommend this as a form of couple’s therapy.”

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Husband and wife Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon relay a fictionalized version of their lives in “The Big Sick.”

Review: Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan brave the hurdles of interracial romance in the delightful ‘The Big Sick’ »

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Justin Chang reviews ‘The Big Sick’, directed by Michael Showalter, starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, Adeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher, Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham, Kurt Braunohler. Video by Jason H. Neubert.

jen.yamato@latimes.com

@jenyamato

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Fifty years on, San Francisco’s Summer of Love has become a glossy flashback to the time young people came to the city’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to start a cultural revolution.

A new kind of flower power tribute begins Wednesday in Golden Gate Park when the plain white Conservatory of Flowers will be bathed in lights featuring boldly colored spinning flower mandalas, animated butterflies and other designs and shapes.

The nonprofit group Illuminate, which supports projects such as the Bay Bridge illumination that began in 2014, partnered with light-based art pros at Obscura Digital to transform the 1879 building.

The show is free and open to the public from sundown to midnight starting Wednesday and continuing until Aug. 21.



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Afeni Shakur was more than just the mother of one of the world’s biggest and, arguably, best, rappers of all time. A leader of the New York chapter of the Black Panthers, she was powerful and influential in her own right. How else does one, while pregnant, successfully defend herself in a 1971 court case, facing a 300-year sentence for allegedly conspiring to bomb department stores and police stations with 20 other Panthers?

Knowing this aspect of Afeni’s story, it is no wonder that her son Tupac Shakur was never one to mince words, always questioning authority and giving voice to his community — through music, acting and poetry. Because, as the old adage goes, behind every great man is an even greater woman.

Playing that woman in the biopic “All Eyez on Me” — which arrived in theaters Friday, what would’ve been Pac’s 46th birthday — is Danai Gurira. It’s a role she said deepened her love for the rapper she discovered when she was growing up in Zimbabwe.

“I’ve always loved the story of Tupac,” Gurira said, “but the more I got to learn of Afeni, the more I was amazed by her and the relationship with her and her son. How she instilled in him something different than the world around him was saying and made him someone who the world was telling him he wouldn’t be and couldn’t be — all that she could, she did. I loved that and I loved Tupac more in learning more about her.”

Danai Gurira plays Afeni Shakur in “All Eyez on Me.” (Todd Williamson / Getty Images for Codeblack Films)

From Afeni’s triumphant legal case to that fateful 1996 drive-by shooting, “All Eyez on Me” charts the rise and fall of the polarizing figure killed at age 25. Titled after the last album Tupac released while alive, the film is being released after nearly 20 years in the making, shepherded by producer L.T. Hutton, a former Death Row Records producer and Tupac confidant.

That two decades has been marked by an Oscar-nominated documentary (“Tupac: Resurrection”), two multimillion-dollar lawsuits, an ever-evolving roster of writers and directors and a noncommittal estate. Oscar-nominated writer-director John Singleton, who directed Tupac in “Poetic Justice” and was once slated to take on the biopic, publicly criticized Hutton and the film after his departure.

Despite the film’s rocky road to production, Gurira was long in mind by those involved to play Afeni. She was approached multiple times through the years before production finally started. For Benny Boom, a former music video director who took on the picture, it was Gurira’s spellbinding performance as Michonne on “The Walking Dead” that made her ripe for the part.

“Her ‘Walking Dead’ character, when she is on the screen, it’s always impactful for me,” he said. “That was something I wanted to make sure we had with the Afeni role. I think she needs to be and should be in Oscar consideration; she brought a caliber of acting that we needed to legitimize this movie.”

We need to speak the truth about what’s happening in our societies.

— Danai Gurira

Jeremy Haft and Eddie Gonzalez, the writing duo who fashioned the final script for the feature, agreed, noting the necessity for someone who could fully embody Afeni’s real-life gravitas. Gurira, a Tony-nominated playwright and noted activist for women’s rights worldwide, was a perfect fit.

“She is such the real deal. You had to get an amazing actress and a strong woman to play a strong woman,” Haft said.

And because “this movie is about how [Tupac] became who he became before those big moments” most people know about — in which his mother was a major influence — Gonzalez said Afeni’s presence throughout is integral to the Tupac story. After all, one of his most notable songs, “Dear Mama,” was an ode to her.

Ahead of the film’s premiere, Gurira spoke with The Times about Afeni Shakur, who died last year, her love of Tupac and what the world can learn from the woman who raised him.


How did you prepare for the role?

I did everything that I could, a lot of research. I read Jasmine Guy’s book [“Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary”] and thanked her in person many times for what she did. She did that thing that we need to do more and more as women, women of color, and people of color, and that is making sure our stories get written down. The information she got from Afeni was invaluable to knowing about her and her story and the story of a black woman going through that era. I also did a ton of research into the Black Panthers and all these people who don’t get celebrated.

Did you get a chance to meet her before her death?

Unfortunately I did not, but I tried desperately. I learned later it was because she was in the last few months of her life.

Was it difficult taking on a role of a real-life woman, especially with a script that doesn’t aim to sanitize her complicated life?

In many ways, no. It’s all about the “how” to me and the spirit of the thing. Are you trying to allow a person to be a full human being or are you trying to degrade them? Her life has redemption in it, and storytelling is about that, allowing a story to be complex. To me, it’s actually damaging to try to sanitize a story. If you tell my story one day, let it have all my issues in it. It is deeply important to step into the uncomfortable, because then is when we give it truth. That is my job. Benny and L.T. were very keen on making it something truthful but not disrespectful.

Danai Gurira as Afeni Shakur in the film "All Eyez On Me."
Danai Gurira as Afeni Shakur in the film “All Eyez On Me.” (Quantrell Colbert / Codeblack Films)

Playing your son was first-timer and Tupac doppelgänger Demetrius Shipp Jr. How was that?

I think he was amazing and does an astounding job. I was really impressed with how he was embodying this man, and coming on as a first-time actor that is no small thing.

Why do you think Tupac and his story are still relevant 21 years after his death?

There was something so powerful growing up in Zimbabwe and seeing the impact of this man across the world, and I saw it when I researched his mother too. It was an era where people spoke what was true whether or not it was safe to say it. That’s something he got from his mother and the Panthers. That is something very powerful that we need to remember: We need to speak the truth about what’s happening in our societies. What’s scary to me in our world and country is that we’re starting to have an odd relationship with the truth sometimes. There’s an integrity [issue], and facts could be getting compromised if we’re not careful.

After researching and playing Afeni, what have you learned and are taking with you after this film?

She was a survivor who struggled to bring truth to the life that she embodied. She used her mind powerfully, and I have so much respect for that. I [leave the role] understanding the power of your mind and what you can do, even though the world says you can’t.

Just days ago, the first trailer for “Black Panther,” in which you star, was released and the world went crazy.

We worked our tails off on that movie and gave it our all. We understood the importance of what we were trying to do, and it was to tell a story on that platform from the African perspective. Growing up as people of color, I know for me, we didn’t see ourselves in that sort of position pretty much ever. So we understood the importance of it and bringing it in a way that is authentic to Africans as well.

That’s a heavy burden to carry.

It was a lot to carry, and it was an honor too. We put all we had into it. [Director] Ryan Coogler and Marvel and the cast — it was a gift and I’m thankful it’s being received as such. Really, it’s for [the fans] and the little kids who need to see brown faces out there doing heroic things.



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“Such a serious thing we are doing, and no one really knows how to do it,” Catherine Lacey declares in her new novel, “The Answers.” She’s talking about love and the way we clumsily master it over the course of our lives, or maybe never figure it out at all. This is Lacey’s specialty: She captures with eerie precision the strangeness of being a person in the world, living alongside other human beings with unknowable thoughts and feelings.

In “The Answers,” her heroine doesn’t narrate her tale so much as expel it, like a blast of air forced out by a hard punch to the stomach. “That’s one of my problems, I’m told, getting ahead of myself, so I’ve been trying to find a way to get behind myself,” explains Mary Parsons at the start of this funny, wildly inventive novel. A twentysomething adrift in New York City, Mary has no romantic entanglements, a dead-end job and a debilitating, undiagnosable illness. The pain has left her feeling like “the use of my body, the only thing I really owned, had somehow been repossessed.” In order to pay for a mysterious, pricey treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia, Mary applies for a job she finds on a health food store bulletin board. It turns out to be an elaborate pseudo-scientific research project funded by world-famous actor-auteur Kurt Sky.

The Girlfriend Experiment (a.k.a. GX) has been designed to document and quantify the act of falling in love. Mary joins a team of women trained to perform specific roles in Kurt’s daily life: The Intimacy Girlfriend team manages his sexual fulfillment; the Maternal Girlfriend prepares meals and cleans; the Intellectual Girlfriend serves as a sparring partner (though he quickly feels undermined by her intelligence); the Anger Girlfriend handles “fighting, nagging and emotional manipulation.”

Mary fills the Emotional Girlfriend role. In exchange for $1,450 a week, she follows strict guidelines and scripted interactions designed to elicit Kurt’s feelings. There is no reciprocity involved; Mary is his mirror and muse, her own desires irrelevant. In some ways, she’s perfect for this wayward experiment. Mary seems numb to romance and sex, which has always felt to her “random, outside my control, like weather.” She is also utterly unimpressed by Kurt’s celebrity, having been raised off the grid by a fanatically religious father who cloistered her from popular culture and made loving God feel more real than loving real people, who are, after all, just “incomprehensible clots of flesh.”

Mary’s voice is both intimate and dissociated, decoding ordinary experiences as if explaining human rituals to an alien. Of her God-besotted father, she writes, “I wondered if he knew about how, in the real world, sometimes two sad people cry together and the person who is crying a little less grips the person who is crying more, holds them still until their crying lessens … then they bend away from each other but keep their arms around each other and they let their eyes meet and one of them will make this tiny hurt smile.”

Reading Lacey’s fiction feels like walking through a dark apartment in someone’s mind, full of winding hallways and unmarked doors. You never know quite where you are or where you’ll end up. Like the work of Clarice Lispector or Rachel Cusk, Lacey’s novels seem to be on the verge of inventing a new genre somewhere between prose poem and fugue state. Lacey’s 2014 debut novel, “Nobody Is Ever Missing,” revolved around an interior monologue about a woman traveling across New Zealand. “The Answers” is propelled by a surprisingly compelling puzzle of a plot involving the Girlfriend Experiment and the way it manipulates its subjects — but plot is just one of the novel’s many pleasures.

Lacey has great fun with the GX scenario, a pointed and funny dissection of an unspoken male fantasy in which women are distilled to their use value, while they participate in their own erasure. Occasionally it tips a little too far into broad satire, as with the introduction of the Anger Girlfriend. A project designed to suit a man’s needs might instead create a Scapegoat Girlfriend, whose sole purpose is to receive and diffuse his rage.

Kurt raises narcissism to hilarious high art: He commissions a minimalist gamma wave sound installation to stimulate his brain creativity and frequents a bar where a “bespoke cocktail artist” mixes concoctions customized to enhance his psychic needs. He yearns for control over the world but will end up at the mercy of his own research, a meat puppet like the Girlfriends he hires.

The novel ultimately seems to ask whether Kurt’s Girlfriend Experiment is so different from Mary’s father’s quest for holiness or her own pursuit of the mystical PAK treatment. Lacey trails her characters as they search for meaning down rabbit holes of their own making. “[D]oes a person ever wish for instructions on how to best love the other people sleeping in their home — their children or partners, blood and chosen families?” Mary wonders at one point. “Does the person wish they knew, for certain, for absolute certain, what their glances and touches and voices really do to those people? … How to know anything, for certain, in another’s heart?”

In a book called “The Answers,” Catherine Lacey leaves us with a ravishing list of questions.

Press is the author of a forthcoming book about women TV showrunners.

The Answers

Catherine Lacey

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 304 pp., $26



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Sally Hawkins turns a crumpled misfit into an affecting figure of fortitude and optimism in “Maudie,” a portrait of the artist as a hermit wife that overcomes some clunky early brushstrokes to achieve a genuine grace and considerable poignancy.

Though “Maudie” is a decades-spanning biography of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis, who died in 1970, in the hands of Hawkins, screenwriter Sherry White and director Aisling Walsh, it plays more like a fractured fable of fulfillment and unexpected romance. That’s partly because Maud’s insulated existence — spent mostly in a shed-sized cottage with her taciturn husband, Everett (a riveting Ethan Hawke) — hardly lends itself to your typical timeline-hopping Great Lady narrative.

This is quiet portraiture, the story of an unappreciated oddball who found herself by making art and, in doing so, turned a hard-bitten man into a loving partner and drew the outside world to her modest, colorfully decorated door. (Even Richard Nixon, then vice president, bought one of her paintings; she wanted the payment mailed first.)

As it gets going, however, “Maudie” worryingly suggests something saccharine, of the cute-outcast variety. Earning mostly scorn from her beleaguered, caretaker aunt (Gabrielle Rose) and shady brother (Zachary Bennett), Maud is introduced to us as a small-town-isolated bundle of awkwardness, save the occasional burst of wry humor and defiance. Her specific affliction goes unmentioned until later, when rheumatoid arthritis is referenced, but Hawkins’ limping, chinless, shrunken physicality and halting, girlish rasp as a thirtysomething woman-child aching to be independent initially carry the unfortunate overtones of a TV movie.

But then she answers an ad at the general store for a live-in housemaid, and we’re introduced to brutish recluse Everett, a local fisherman and scrap dealer with a cantankerous pride in his self-made, secluded ways, who lives with no electricity or running water. It’s a tense arrangement for a long-pitied woman straining for adulthood and a stony man set in his ways, one made no easier by their sharing the same bed in his cramped attic.

Compromises are made. When his needs get biological, her counteroffer is marriage. When she turns to her self-taught painting — on the walls and on leftover particle board — he reluctantly accepts. And when her brightly colored, simple nature scenes attract a nearby art dealer (Kari Matchett), the extra money (and her bookkeeping skills) adds a further equanimity to their partnership. Eventually, love settles in.

Between Everett’s blunt insistence on traditional gender roles and Maud’s patient long-game to blur those lines and fill the space with who she is — literally too, since their painted house is now on display at an art gallery in Halifax — “Maudie” is like a charmingly cracked domestic play about waiting the other person out. As she blossoms — just enough, not too much — he grunts and softens, just enough, not too much. Unlike the thick directness in Maud’s work, the movie about her is almost pointillist in detailing the tiny steps that make up an enduring marriage.

Walsh’s greatest asset is her two leads, and she knows it, her usually fixed camera as attendant to their performance needs as the Lewises’ front window was for Maud’s inspiration. (“The whole of life already framed, right there,” she says.) The years have conditioned us to expect Hawkins to bring an eccentric to vivid life, and she does here with precision and soul.

The trickier role is Hawke’s. But with a gardener’s sensitivity he nurtures Everett through bitter, occasionally abusive masculinity toward a place of surprising care and love. Though Hawkins and Hawke look nothing like the people they’re playing — as unfortunately shown at the end with archival footage, the kind of documentary gilding in biopics I always feel is a disservice to the actors — they live inside the movie with unforced authority.

The later years bring with them the inevitable ache of age, regret and loss — and even a heartbreaking revelation regarding a tragedy from Maud’s early life — but the burnished glow of a hard-earned comfort still remains. “Maudie” takes the gnarled hand of its subject, and the deep satisfaction of created art, and finds more to connect the two than just a dipped paintbrush.

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‘Maudie’

Rated: PG-13 for some thematic content and brief sexuality

Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

Playing: The Landmark, West L.A.; and ArcLight Hollywood

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Number of days since last fall: 15. 16. 17. 18.

I would casually glance at the dry-erase board hanging in the hall of the inpatient rehabilitation hospital on the way to my dad’s room. I did not think about it much. My dad was in such bad shape that we were far more concerned with him breathing than falling.

It had been a freak accident. He was 50. I was 20. He suffered a traumatic brain injury in a freak accident on a go-karts course. Even though he was wearing a helmet, he was ultimately paralyzed on the left side of his body. It was remarkable that he survived, according to the neurosurgeon.

This happened in March 2010, one week before spring break in my second year of college. I spent my summer with my mom and sister in and out of hospital rooms. He came home, a grueling six months later, but it was never “home” again, not really — just like it was never him again, not really.

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I rearranged my schedule, stacked my classes, and graduated a semester early. My mom was heroic in her advocacy and efforts with him, but living at home full time was exhausting and depressing. My sister was already there, having moved back after finishing her degree and helping as much as she could. My brother flew back and forth between L.A. and San Francisco. I was applying for jobs and trying to make sense of my new family structure, one that didn’t feel like a family, let alone my family, at all.

Now, I am a shy person, always have been. So I knew online dating would be the way for me. I made an online profile and the dates, or rather the online “conversations” that I would try to convince myself would turn into dates, began. I messaged guys. And they responded. And then I responded. And then… nothing. Or we went back and forth for days, weeks, a month and then … nothing. We exchanged numbers and I learned not to bother putting their real names in my phone.

But every once in a while lightning would strike. I love history, books, art, museums and theater. I had to get out of the house and these were the activities I gravitated toward. I will be honest: a lot of the things I go to skew older (I am often tempted to ask the gentleman sitting next to me if he might have an eligible grandson, but even that is generally impossible as said gentleman is sound asleep 80% of the time), but I do see some couples, and I think: One day, that’s going to be me. Here. Exactly where I am. With someone who wants to be here with me. Holding my hand.

And I got what I wanted, more than once, with more than one guy: Screenings at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Enjoying a picnic under the stars while taking in a free outdoor Shakespeare play in Griffith Park. Closing down the Cheesecake Factory in Old Town Pasadena. Taking in concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. Exploring the Norton Simon at ArtNight Pasadena. Viewing the space shuttle at the California Science Center. Lectures from luminaries at Caltech.

Are you a veteran of L.A.’s current dating scene? We want to publish your story

Alas, most of the guys I dated turned out to be less than ideal. But it was heartening nonetheless. A number of articles talk about how this generation does not know how to date, only cares about the easy hookup. Well, judging from the number of guys who confirmed plans, brought blankets, lit candles, secured tickets and braved traffic, I disagree. Maybe it didn’t work with me, but we’re all growing and I felt hopeful.

But willing to take a real risk? To actually fall?

One guy was an exceptional catch. He was outrageously smart and remains one of the best talkers I have yet encountered. Our connection was instant. But I was terrified of how much I liked him.

I see my mom care for my dad every single day. He is unable to work, drive a car, dress himself or wash himself. He spends his days watching TV, and talking about his dire, urgent, overwhelming need to go to the bathroom, every 30 minutes. I watch my mom — my vibrant, generous, capable, resilient mom — loving him, cleaning him, answering him, often while on the phone with the insurance company, and the lawyer, and the rehab doctor, and the neurologist, and the eye doctor, and the physical and occupational therapists, and the pharmacists….

I witness this love between my parents and, in the midst of such profound tragedy, I am amazed that such a fragile, hopeful thing can continue to be.

I am not sure I could promise anything remotely close to that level of devotion. How can love possibly encompass so much? How can anyone bear it?

And how to explain this to the guy in front of me? I couldn’t find the words. So I pulled back. It ended badly. We were together for six months, my longest relationship to date. Which is barely anything, I know, but not nothing. It took longer to get over than it lasted. I avoided dating altogether, took a break. I felt scraped out. I felt like I had nothing to offer because my dad takes so much energy, so much of my emotional allotment that I can’t be there, be fully present, for a romantic relationship in a way that it deserves.

But, at the same time, I have watched love endure. I still believe in it.

So a little hesitant, a little more cautious, I decided to try again. And I met someone. We followed the acceptable pattern of some light back-and-forth and then came the initial meet-up offer, I said yes and picked Old Town Pasadena, my tried and true. I got there early and literally met him in a semidark alley … and it was the start of a great evening. We walked the blocks over and over, stopping for dinner, for dessert, for a photo, for arcade games.

We revealed to each other only later, on our second date, that we’d both developed blisters, but neither of us had wanted the night to end. We laughed, and invested in footwear. For the adventures yet to come.

It’s early yet, probably too early to write this, but all I know is: Last night, at the play, he was holding my hand.

He is someone I wouldn’t mind falling for.

The author lives in Pasadena and works as a library assistant. Her Instagram is @mollybunderwood.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments, or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.



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Tonight the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts opens Alexi Kaye Campbell’s “The Pride,” a drama about a complex love triangle of sorts that toggles between 1958 and 2008 as it explores identity, intimacy, shame and desire.

The play, co-starring Neal Bledsoe (“The Man in the High Castle”) and directed by Wallis artist-in-residence Michael Arden (2016 Tony nominee for “Spring Awakening”), coincides with Pride Month and addresses society’s changing attitudes toward love and sexuality over five decades. “What it means to be a man has changed,” Bledsoe says of his character, Phillip, “but just because societies change, doesn’t mean they always change for the better.” The actor fielded questions by email about the play and about his move to L.A. for this edited conversation.

When you first moved here from New York, you didn’t much care for L.A. But moving to downtown was a game-changer. How so?

L.A. can be conflict-averse, something that’s reflected in its neighborhoods. They can be segregated and somewhat tribal, while the dual forces of gentrification and the search for authenticity can make them feel like theme parks of themselves.

Downtown felt vital, true and full of conflict to me. Everywhere else in the city you can lock your doors and drive away from problems and people, but downtown forces you to navigate the human element. And for all of L.A.’s beauty, beaches, mountains, it is the chance human encounters, the history, the challenges of its past and present, its hope for the future, the spectral imprint of storytellers who came before me that I could find there and nowhere else that made me feel at home.

How does the L.A. landscape inspire you as a storyteller?

There’s space and time to create here, two things that I need as a storyteller, things I didn’t always get in New York. But also, its people fascinate me. L.A. still has a Ragged Dick meets Lana Turner siren song that calls people from all over the world to it. It’s the one place, at least that I know of, where someone short on talent and long on ambition can come and make a success of themselves. In all fields. Actors, writers, directors, dancers, athletes, models, artists, dreamers and people living out their lives on the outskirts of the dream factories, aware that if it’s happening to other people, maybe, just maybe, it could happen to them too. It’s hard to not be inspired by them.

What are your favorite DTLA haunts?

Yuko Kitchen, Nickel Diner, KazuNori, Wolf & Crane Bar, the Varnish, Ledlow, Chicas Tacos, Daikokuya, G & B Coffee, Bluewhale jazz club, Chego, Mignon.

Langer’s or Wexler’s pastrami?

Wexler’s (I’ve not been to Langer’s yet, a sin, I know).

Last Bookstore or Book Soup?

Last Bookstore

Grand Central Market stall?

Rahul Khopkar’s Ramen Hood

Favorite L.A. hiking trail?

The Bridge to Nowhere [San Gabriel Mountains]. If you keep going past the bridge into the nowhere, you can see everything from gold panners to bighorn sheep.

You’ve appeared on Broadway (“Impressionism”) as well as on the big screen (“Sex and the City 2”) and TV. Where do you feel most at home as an actor?

I’d say on stage. Night after night, it’s entirely up to you, the actor. The live experience is like nothing else. The stakes are raised. You can’t yell cut and hope that the editor will splice multiple performances together to make something that works. Also, the amount of time spent in rehearsal, the hours and hours diving into a single text to discover its secrets is not a luxury I get in film or television. There’s something special in the connection that can only happen when human beings are in the same room with each other. Despite all of their fancy CGI, it’s something that film and TV hasn’t figured out how to do yet.

Much has happened in the world since “The Pride” premiered in 2008. What makes the play relevant today?

The main two events of the year this play premiered were the election of Barack Obama and the global recession. Obama, even though he had to famously evolve on the issue, represented a hopeful sense that social progress toward equality was inevitable. The recession was the start to the pushback, against what many of us know as progress toward something more euphemistically “traditional,” a conservative 1950s golden age, which is the other period of this play.

We have seen the rise of nationalists and an erosion of our faith in globalism. It felt like we were going to be given the country and the world we had always been promised. What we assumed was inevitable has been called back into question, even as some other rights have been assured. I think this play serves as a clarion call to remind us that we mustn’t go on autopilot, that we can never just assume that the work is done. I think we had a hopeful sense that in 2008 we had or were about to take two steps forward; since then that fear, I think, has forced us to take a step back. It perhaps makes the play even timelier now than when it was written.

The play spans 1958 and 2008. How is your character’s fate determined by the era he lives in?

Phillip is a man who is trying to live as well as he can in the circumstances provided to him. In London of 1958, we would have just come out of the existential threat of the Second World War and into a rapidly modernizing world where Britain lost its empire and its place in the world, faced the Cold War, American rock ’n’ roll, movies, television and a society struggling to maintain a social order it thought made them great. Homosexuality was a crime and a disease. That fear of being found out for who Phillip really is, and the people he has to support, keep his desires buried deep within him.

Also, media had not fully connected us yet. In 2008, Phillip has not had to deal with many of those social pressures. Progress brings unintended regression in other ways, such as the current hyper-sexuality of our society. What was repressed has now become culture and what was culture has now been repressed. In 2008, I long for the structure, fidelity, trust, something that in 1958 I might’ve had some form of, but the choice and a society telling me what I am inhibits that.

You collaborated on artist Jon Kessler’s “The Web,” a 2013 immersive installation shown in New York and Basel, Switzerland, that addresses mobile devices in our lives while also examining the role of the viewer. Can you tell us about this?

Jon asked me to come on board and give a phony TED talk about the launch of his new app. He’d started a rumor that he’d sold this app for millions of dollars and was retiring from the art world. I was the CTO of the company that bought it, GVI, or Global Village Idiot. My speech was written by Josh Cohen and the whole thing devolved into an Emperor’s New Clothes-like madness. We were essentially selling the audience back their own lives. The jokes played well in New York, but I don’t think our Swiss audience appreciated the puns.

Most people may not know: You’re also a sports journalist.

It’s true. The MMQB over at Sports Illustrated has given me a bit of a home the last few years. I’m fascinated about what our obsession with football says about us as a culture. Most of what I like to write about is the intersection of sports and culture. I’m not a stat guy or a hot-take artist. I try to write things in the vein of Frank Deford, George Plimpton and WC Heinz, writers who were able to tell the stories behind the story.

Favorite sport to play? Or watch?

If I were any good at it, I’d like to say surfing, but I’m not, so I think I have to say football or boxing to actually do, and October baseball or World Cup soccer to watch. But if Seattle sports are on TV, my natural homer instinct kicks in and I watch that obsessively.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘The Pride’

Where: Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; ends July 9

Tickets: $40-$75 (subject to change)

Information: (310) 746-4000, TheWallis.org

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin

Also:

Five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman to revive ‘Crazy for You’ in L.A.

The secrets for Tony winner Laurie Metcalf? Brilliance and a whole lot of hard work

Her opera helps a Pakistani rape survivor find a louder voice



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“Today is the first day I’ve been back at this house since last summer and I was thinking— I really like it,” explained Calvin Klein of his sleek modern home in Southampton. On Saturday, the designer welcomed 300 ticketed guests to his exclusive oceanfront property for the annual God’s Love We Deliver Midsummer Night Drinks fundraiser.

Attendees basked in the setting sun spilling over the angular black structure’s Atlantic Ocean-facing facade while raising money for the organization, which cooks and delivers freshly prepared meals to people in the NYC metropolitan area living with severe illness.



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Inequality is a brute fact of American life and Broadway, increasingly divided between blockbuster hits and struggling also-rans, is hardly immune. But the Tony Awards tried to impose some justice on Sunday night by widely distributing the statuettes as though they were loaves of bread in a socialist state.

In a ceremony that was defiantly clubbish, hosted by Kevin Spacey in a manner that seemed targeted to the demographic that hasn’t missed a musical in the last 50 years, the Tonys accepted the reality of a post-“Hamilton” hangover and took pride in a Broadway year in which fine work was accomplished even if not many people watching across the country could tell you much about what was being feted.

Naturally, a few shows separated themselves from the pack. The evening’s big winner, “Dear Evan Hansen,” took home the prize for best musical along with five other awards, including lead actor in a musical for the 23-year-old Los Angeles native Ben Platt, who became an overnight Broadway star in the title role.

An article last week in Slate sparked debate over whether “Dear Evan Hansen,” which tells the story of a vulnerable high school student who becomes a social-media sensation under false pretenses, lionizes a liar. But nothing could slow the musical’s momentum. Fake news may be bedeviling our democracy, but fiction fabricates for a higher purpose, and audiences have embraced a flawed protagonist who helps us empathetically understand his brokenness.

Director Jerry Zaks’ exuberant revival of “Hello, Dolly!,” the pricey ticket that has baby boomers draining their retirement accounts, was also lavished with love. The production picked up four awards, including best musical revival. As expected, Bette Midler won for her delicious performance as Dolly Levi, one of the highlights not just of last season but of recent Broadway history.

The Divine Miss M’s win was such a fait accompli that it hardly mattered that she refused to perform on the telecast. Not even the orchestra music trying to curtail her lengthy acceptance speech could tell her what to do, but who would be foolish enough to complain? After squeezing out every drop of modern vaudeville wisdom from her brilliant career for the role, she has earned the right to enjoy this victory lap on her own terms.



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