This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

LA WEEKLY'S Los Angeles Web Awards

In January, LA Weekly will be hosting the
Los Angeles Web Awards. Through December 31st, a team of experts will be looking for the best of the web. The pubic is invited to submit their L.A. favorites in a number of categories including 'Blog post of the year,' 'humor site,' 'tweet of the year,' and 'best online video.'

I'd encourage anyone familiar with the web series, It's Always Smoggy In L.A. to submit their favorite Smoggy episode for best online video (category #24)

Submit favorite episode link to LA WEEKLY.COM Los Angeles Web Awards 2009

Deadline is December 31st

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pirates, Ducks, and Swirling Teacups

I recently celebrated a birthday and like many a Southern Californian this year, I spent the day at Disneyland. See, Disneyland is FREE on your birthday [at least for the remainder of 2009.] I decided to give it a go. After all, I hadn't been there since a family trip in...1985 [gulp]

In fact, that little '85 trip, in many ways, changed the course of my life. It was then that I decided I was going to live in California someday. I was just a little girl so I didn't know what I'd do or how I'd get there or how I'd survive, but a seed was planted. I came home and opened a savings account-- not for a Barbie Dream House or even a car, but for California-- something I didn't really mention to my parents at the time.

Returning to Disneyland the other day, as it turned out, was a happy yet also bittersweet sojourn. As I ventured down Main Street, I was elated at times and oddly melancholy at others. I had no idea how many memories would come flooding back to me. I had no clue I'd fight back tears waiting in line for the monorail or that I'd choke up when I saw the submarine ride that my grandfather was gaga for. I was at Disney, not as a little girl or even an adult, but as myself-- the person I've always been, regardless of age. And here I was again, nearly frozen in the same moment, as if no time had passed.

When you're a kid, things are forever-- summers are forever, your parents are forever, people don't seem to age (and neither do you) until before you realize it and those "forever moments" have fluttered away like so many migrating butterflies.

If you were at Disneyland wondering about me, the loon that cried in fits and starts while inside the gates of the happiest place on Earth, I'm really not crazy. I'm fine. The best thing about this 'happiest place on Earth' is that for a brief time, I can revisit a handful of those "forever moments" from childhood.

Things change, and yet so many things remain the same. The duck pond is exactly how it's always been. I still love Pirates of the Caribbean (although it's not nearly as fun as I remember-- since it's been redone.) I was too scared to go on Space Mountain back in '85, but this time around, it rocked! And yes, I positioned myself for a spin in a lavender teacup and relished in the insane delights of the annoying, yet enduring "It's A Small World" ride.

Disney as an adult, minus a stroller and wandering kids, is a delight to be treasured indeed. And to the little "birthday" girl next to me at the Disney Holiday Parade, high-fiving Goofy and gazing with awe at all the princesses, my wish is that you remember those "forever moments" and whirl around in a lavender teacup when you turn my age.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Photos by KLiedle

Monday, November 23, 2009

Elegance In Life And Death: Becoming An Organ Donor

The other day, I left for work later than I would have liked. It was early evening and already darker than dark could be. Given the time, I took my "running late route," criss-crossing the city from the freeway to city streets. Traffic had been moving fine and then unexpectedly slowed to a dead crawl. "Great," I thought. Construction, probably... or an accident-- some moron running a red light. I waited through five traffic lights at the busy intersection, glancing at the clock radio and wondering how much longer??!!

By traffic light cycle #3, I saw that spectators had already gathered onto the sidewalks outside the Walgreens. Definitely, an accident. By the time I crossed the intersection, I'd seen it-- the bright blue SUV that was completely flipped over on its side. I couldn't figure out how that happened, couldn't see any other vehicles. As I drove by, a cluster of people were talking to emergency personnel. Off in the distance, I heard more on the way. I shook my head. Days before Thanksgiving...such a shame. Damnit-- who cares if I'm late.

A few minutes later, on the same street, I saw an ambulance ahead of me. Its lights were off, its siren silent, and for a flicker of a moment, I saw a young woman in the back. She was in her late twenties [maybe thirties], dark hair. Her eyes were closed, her skin was glowing, and she looked eerily peaceful. Flash... the ambulance turned left, the moment was gone, but the image of the woman stuck. I couldn't get her out of my head. What did she do that morning? Where was she going? Where is her family? What was her last image?

"Tomorrow is promised to no one, " I read somewhere recently. Often, we take it for granted. What doesn't get done today can be tackled tomorrow. We can give our friend a call later. We can see the world after we retire. What if tomorrow doesn't come for us? What if we never retire? Flash forward-- What if the world just stops? Sure, there are lots of 'what ifs', but I've learned to accept the mystery. I may not know how much time I have, but whatever it is, it won't be time enough for the things I want to do, the people I'd like to meet, and the places I'd like to see.

Days after seeing the young woman in the ambulance, I had the mundane task of renewing my drivers license. Everything was routine until Question #3. I paused at the checkbox: Give Life! Become an organ and tissue donor.

You see, I've never been an organ or tissue donor. When I was in high school, my dad lost the majority of one of his kidneys to cancer. I was terrified that there would be a day when I'd be asked to surrender a kidney to him. I knew I'd want to say NO! but he's my dad, and there lies the complication. I lived in fear that I'd have to make that choice someday. So, the idea of someone harvesting my organs and my eye tissue in some sterile environment upon my death just weirds me out. My brain can accept the idea of cremation easier than the idea of donating my organs. Why? I don't know. It's one of those things. "You're dead. Why do you care?," people will say. Well, yeah, I'll be dead, but it's the idea of it.

I deliberated, I had an entire conversation about it in my head. And still, there was my pen, hovering above the checkbox on Question #3: Give Life!

Click, click, click... the conflicting thoughts were knocking about in my head like billiard balls. Give Life! After an eternity, my pen made contact with the paper. I checked the box. I've never checked the box and part of me couldn't believe that I had. What was the tipping point, you may wonder? I thought of that young woman in the ambulance and I thought of myself. To save my life, medical personnel might need to cut me open, carve me up, perform surgery-- do whatever it takes to save me. I may even need an organ someday. Who knows? The little pink dot that will appear on my new drivers license says that if I were beyond saving, I can save someone else. I checked the box in black ink: I'm now an organ and tissue donor.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Photo credit: 'elegant death' by Rodrigo Adonis

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Beware The Fan: A Brief History, A Fateful Encounter

As long as there has been a Hollywood, there have been fans. Some are harmless, sure. They're just starry-eyed regular folks whose hearts palpitate whenever they see someone of celebrity status. They might get to talk to that person [i.e. "I love your work," "I'm your biggest fan ever!,"], shake that person's hand or ask for an autograph, but whatever that moment entails, the fan will remember for years to come and the celebrity, will more than likely forget entirely.

Then, there are the crazies. Who can forget John Hinkley, Jr.'s attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster by trying to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981? There are stalkers that fantasize about marrying their favorite celebrity--like 53-year-old Mark McLeod who was convinced that Miley Cyrus was destined to be his bride. Then there are those like Emily Leatherman who apparently dedicated her life to seeking out John Cusack until an unfortunate restraining order and subsequent arrest. [In October 2008, she accepted a plea deal consisting of mandatory psychiatric counseling and 5 years probation.] The "crazed #1 fan" spilled over into fiction in classic fashion with Stephen King's creation of Annie Wilkes in Misery.

Today there are more celebrities than ever before and more ways to track them-- unfortunate if you happen to be a celebrity. Recently, a posse of celebrity trackers dubbed "The Bling Ring" have been booked on a rash of celebrity burglaries committed in the Hollywood Hills. They used satellite imagery to view the best entrance into stars' homes and used gossip sites and internet resources to track stars' whereabouts. According to CNN, "authorities believe an obsession with celebrity culture could be the motivation for these crimes. "

This is nothing new. People have been obsessed with celebrities and movie stars for quite awhile now. It's just that technology has made it easier for crazed fans whereas the media blitz of the internet has made it more difficult for stars to escape from the spotlight-- unless you're Johnny Depp and rich enough to own your own island in a remote part of the world.

A couple of nights ago, I watched the film noir Laura, directed by Otto Preminger. Laura is a whodunit, murder mystery about a New York career girl named, you guessed it-- Laura, played by actress Gene Tierney. I enjoyed the film, it's not my favorite noir-- but it's worth a whirl. What spawned this post was not the film itself, but my navigation of the special features on the disc which included a biography of Gene Tierney.

For all that she attained in her lifetime, she suffered more than her share of woe. When, the U.S. entered WWII, Gene's then husband, Oleg Cassini, joined the Coast Guard. Shortly thereafter, Gene discovered she was pregnant. During this time, Gene, like many stars during wartime, did her part by serving soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen. One fateful night at the Canteen, she contracted German Measles (also known as rubella.) Alarmed, doctors assured her that her baby would be fine. That said, a few months later, she gave birth to a baby girl, Daria Cassini in 1943. Due to exposure to German measles in early pregnancy, Daria was both deaf and severely retarded. Doctors said that she would never be able to speak and would never progress intellectually beyond that of a small child. Gene Tierney was devastated.

About a year later, Gene was approached by a fan at a party. A former marine, the woman told Gene that they'd met before--at the Hollywood Canteen. The woman had so wanted to meet Gene that evening that she left her quarters where she'd been quarantined for having German Measles. Gene was shocked, but didn't tell the woman what had happened to her daughter. Daria was institutionalized and although, Gene had another daughter, her life and the life of her daughter Daria, had been forever altered by a fan she'd never forget.

More about actress Gene Tierney

If you're feeling sick this holiday season, STAY HOME!

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Photo credit: "Annie Wilkes" theOctopus/flickr, "Gene Tierney" Greenman 2008/flickr

Friday, October 16, 2009

Taking It Slow: How To Digest A Film

Yesterday, I watched a documentary called Cat Dancers about Ron and Joy Holiday and Chuck Lizza-- a trio of former dancers who became one of the first exotic tiger entertainment acts. Overall, it was a love story about people who found each other and connected intimately over their desire to entertain and care for their beloved exotic tigers on their ranch in Florida.

Their lives were happy, fulfilled, and beautiful, but beauty and happiness is never everlasting. Ron Holiday narrates the story of his life, his loves, and the tragedies that rocked the foundation of everything he'd ever known. It's powerful and beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. (In many ways, it reminded me of the richness, beauty, and tragic story of Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa Niemi.)

Film, real and/or imagined is powerful stuff.

Imagine you've been invited to a five-course meal at a classy restaurant. Maybe you don't know what fork to use or what wine to order. You may encounter foods you've never seen (or tasted) before. The whole process may take longer than you expect it to. The conversation will be challenging, yet invigorating-- but you will walk away satiated and better for having had the experience.

Whenever you watch a film, you should embrace the whole of the experience. Notice your senses. Watch the shots, the camera moves, the depth and the textures, the colors, the emotions, and listen to the music. The composition of each shot, each frame, is like a taste, a bite with its own unique flavor and emotion that stands alone but combined with other shots enhances the experience.

We're used to digesting popcorn flicks- the movies that entertain us, fill us up in the moment, and pass the time. We're not as familiar with viewing the films that nourish us, enlighten us, and inform us about the human experience. If we take the time for formalities-- we set the table, we digest our food thoroughly, we slow down, and we take the time to interpret our lives and discuss our experiences. Film should be treated with the same level of respect.

Slow down. Be mindful. Too many times we are distracted, multi-tasking, trying to find way to numb ourselves from the experience of truly living. But we can learn more from experiencing and observing the range of human experience through challenging, intelligent films, foreign films, and documentaries. We may think that the emotional and spiritual journey of another human being (fictional or real) does not affect us. Yet if we are engaged and connected, we learn to be open to all the emotions our minds have given us to experience and we learn to be compassionate as we look at the world. Over time, we learn about ourselves and that is the major purpose of life-- our journey-- how we have affected and touched others, what we left behind, and how we will leave this world a better place in some small way.

Films should be seen like droplets of water. Filmmakers know that no one film is going to change the world. Yet, collectively films of the highest caliber can change your mind, challenge your beliefs, test your emotions, motivate you to act, and encourage you. The next time you watch a film, open your eyes and take a second look.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The September Issue: There's More Than Anna

Fashion is ridiculous, but fashion is a business: a serious, multi-billion dollar business and no one knows this better than Anna Wintour. She's been at the helm of American Vogue magazine for twenty years. Some may view her as "the ice queen, the devil in prada..." but what everyone can agree on is the very truth that she breathes fire into every issue of Vogue magazine.

The new documentary by R.J. Cutler, The September Issue takes viewers inside the editorial offices of Vogue magazine like never before. We can listen in on staff meetings and see the creative teams and editors come up with the spreads and proposals for the gigantic tome of fall fashion: Vogue's September issue.

From the get-go, we learn that Anna Wintour likes color and is never without her Starbucks. While her siblings may be, using her word, "amused" by what she does, Anna damn well knows what she's doing. She lives and breathes her magazine. Her weakness though, she tells the documentary crew, is "her children," namely her daughter, Bee Shaffer, who has no real interest in following her mother's high-heel steps into the fashion world.

However, if you want to see Anna spitting venom, you may be disappointed. In the film, Wintour gives you a peek at who she is and what Vogue's about, but she's not about to reveal too much. She lives by the cardinal rule: Less is more. At Vogue's offices, we see Anna gaze at the layouts and photo spreads of the issue as it comes to fruition like a film in which she has not only creative power, but final cut. She has no problem making up her mind or expressing her disapproval. Her strength, in fact, she says, is her "decisiveness." For her, it's all about business and never about emotions.

Thakoon Panichgul, a young fashion designer and prominent figure in the film, expresses his excitement and fear upon meeting Anna Wintour for the first time. During his presentation, he says that his hands never stopped shaking. At a press event, Wintour comes up to congratulate him [after getting him a gig with The Gap.] There is a sense of genuine warmth in her tone and even a smile and then she's gone. Some of his fashions even make the September issue. I doubt that Wintour reveals a soft spot here. She can recognize talent when she sees it. Again, business is what makes her heart beat.

It may be a surprise to even Anna Wintour herself, but The September Issue is not all about her. Instead, it becomes a story about passionate people and the creative process-- with a healthy dose of rivalry thrown in. There is no other magazine that can come close to touching the quality and artistry of Vogue's fashion editorial. Much of this credit goes not just to Wintour, but to Vogue's creative director, Grace Coddington. Grace, a former model herself, has been at Vogue for just as long as Wintour. Coddington and Wintour respect each other immensely, but both are equally stubborn in their own way. When many of Grace's photos are "thrown out," she's not at all afraid to make her opinions well-known, even expertly manipulating the documentary's film crew to get the scoop on Wintour's reactions to her latest photo spread. Coddington may well be one of the only people who can pull her own weight in the room with Wintour.

As Coddington remarked in the September issue of French Vogue: "Anna and I, we've known each other a long time....We have a real mutual respect for each other, even though sometimes I feel like killing her."

This spark, this rivalry, is the spine that holds The September Issue together. Wintour says that fashion is all about moving forward while Coddington looks to the past for inspiration in a markedly more romantic and passionate way. They have a certain understanding-- pushing and pulling and balancing each other. It is a necessary rivalry that, in essence, creates the perfect mix for Vogue.

Even if you have no interest in fashion, couture, or model runways, check out The September Issue. It's not just about spoiled fashion mavens, ex-models turned editors, or luxurious fabrics and couture that no one can afford: It's about quality, artistry, creativity, and the long and often difficult process that brings it all together.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

With Online Entertainment: Your Vote Counts!

Back when studios picked the movies and television networks picked the tv shows, consumers didn't have much of a say in what was presented to them as entertainment.

Pilot season was big business. Money was lavishly spent on producing a good pilot and networks could afford to be choosy. Even so, less than a quarter of all tv pilots ever saw the light of day and even fewer went on to become successful series.

I once worked on a pilot for CBS that had a good premise and script, a known film director, and an excellent cast. It never seemed to have a chance and was gone...completely vanished into the vault of never-to-be-seen-TVLand. Some TV shows, like Judd Apatow's early "Freaks and Geeks" aired, but got jerked around by the network so much that even die-hard fans didn't know when (or what day) to tune in. To the TV shows that never made it and those that didn't make it for long, there never used to be an afterlife. It was all about money, ratings, and advertising dollars. Quality content without a sufficiently large base of viewers just couldn't cut it.

Then, the DVD craze hit big as did the DVD box set. Critical darlings like "My So-Called Life" and "Freaks and Geeks" achieved cult status on DVD. Then the internet went BOOM! And with it came American Idol, Total Request Live, On Demand, Netflix, Cable channels up the wazoo, Youtube, and HBO original programming. On-demand entertainment was suddenly at your beck and call. You there, in your recliner: Who is your American Idol? What's in your Netflix queue?

The internet leveled the playing field and essentially gave the reins directly to audiences. We don't need a network executive to choose our programming line-up. Now, we have seemingly unlimited choices for entertainment. Increasingly we have even become content providers ourselves. Pick up a camera, upload a video, and voila-- you have final cut in the pilot of your own creation and instantaneously, it can be shared with the world. For better or worse.

With this comes an obligation of sorts. There's so much out there right now-- from videos of drunk squirrels to bad celebrity impersonations to funny home videos of peoples' kids that may or may not be funny at all. Then, there's the sheer number of online video sharing sites. Whereas, it started with there's Hulu,, Veoh, Crackle, My Damn Channel, Tubemogul--the list goes on. A quick search brought up over fifty well-known video hosting websites.

It would be impossible for one person to see every Youtube video, let alone everything out there. As entertainment consumers, our obligation is to help the 'cream rise to the top.' If you like a Youtube video, rate it! If you think a Funny or Die video is funny in the truest sense of the word: Click the Funny or Die meter to 'Funny' on the video's page. If it's worthy of forwarding to every one of your Facebook friends, post the link-- give it a Digg. Pass it along. Become a fan.

Because it's not just about getting hits anymore. Now, it's all about the quality. In the new age of online entertainment, reality is slowly being replaced again with original, scripted programming-- much of it independently produced by people who have no known Hollywood connections, but they can write and they can tell a story. They're anxious to hear your comments and get your votes. They're putting in the time for free because they're passionate about what they do and they hope to do it a lot more.

Even Hollywood talent agencies like UTA/Veoh are starting online entertainment divisions and scouring the web themselves. Let's make it easier for them to find the best: VOTE, COMMENT, SHARE, SEND. Entertainment is now a democracy.

Copyright 2009 by Kliedle

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mushroom Cloud: California Wildfires

August wildfires around La Canada Flintridge, CA produce crazy A-bomb mushroom cloud in my neighborhood. Couldn't resist braving the apocalyptic air quality for some pics...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Movie Parallels and Bribes Worth Giving...

I recently directed an episode of It's Always Smoggy In L.A. [Ep."The Straight Line"-- currently in post-production.] Directing is one of those strange things in life that you absolutely, positively don't know about until you're knee deep in the muck of it--and even then, you don't know much. You can read and study all you want, watch the classics, watch the masters...but until it's you out there calling the shots--

It can be mucky and icky and there were times when I felt like I was sinking in quicksand, but it was an adventure and an oddball wad of excitement, elation, creatively-induced hyperactivity, nerve-wracking anxiety, uncertainty, sleeplessness, and utter and complete exhaustion-- at least in my experience. However, the most difficult of adventures yield the biggest rewards and the most overall satisfaction. So, directing for me was a great accomplishment.

The funny thing is that no matter how rewarding and satisfying this accomplishment has been for me personally, the five-year-old kid in me needed a bribe. That kid needed something to get through all the pre-production planning and work of being a director.

I promised that five-year-old kid in me that if she stuck with me through casting, insomnia, the rehearsal, insomnia, the shot list, insomnia, and the shoot date-- we could both collapse and giggle and then [only then] we could get ice cream and go see Julie & Julia. Yes, I'm a big dork in that a chick flick about cooking (French cooking, no less) was the dangling reward at the end of my directing path.

So, two days ago-- I took myself out to Humphrey Yogart, a definite fave, got some chocolate and vanilla swirled and blended with graham cracker and indulged in the creamy goodness of both the icy treat and Julie & Julia.

When Julie Powell poured cascading chocolate into a pie shell in the first few moments of the film, my tummy didn't feel neglected-- I had my own chocolate/vanilla concoction. Meryl Streep's Julia Child made me happy because she was so amazingly happy when she was cooking and eating and dreaming about food and cooking and eating all over again. Streep captured the frothiness of an attitude toward life that I wish to embrace in all I do. Even the cheery music put me in a good mood.

On the other side of things, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) proved that sometimes lofty goals are worth attempting. The path to great things is always steep and little mistakes are bound to happen along the way, but the ending is sure to be sweet and tangy and you will have learned a lot.

It was a very fitting movie for me to christen my first directing experience. Along my path, I felt like Julie Powell much of the time, but I bit my lip and kept going and now, as I'm seeing some of the footage I captured I feel more like Julia Child because now I'm seeing the work was worthwhile and the story I wrote is beginning to take shape and be fun. And now I can't wait because I've learned so much and I know that next time, I'll be better. And I may even be able to sleep.

P.S. Like most people who've indulged in Julie & Julia, I've also gone back to cooking [from an actual recipe] a bit more. Yesterday, I made BBQ shrimp and green pepper kabobs with brown rice and today I made stuffed mushrooms and melon sorbet. I'd like to make it more of a habit ~

Copyright KLiedle 2009
Photo/illustration credit: Lovely Art/flickr, Sony Pictures Entertainment (Julie & Julia)
It's Always Smoggy In L.A.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's Always Smoggy In L.A. - "Almost Perfect"

The latest in the Smoggy series, "Almost Perfect."
Written and directed by Scott Vogel, Editing by Kendra Liedle
Starring Daniele Favilli, Justin Vestal, Leesel Boulware

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trashing The Movie Theater

"The sunflower guy's been back again...," I comment as I sweep up shell casings from the floor. He comes like a shadow at night-- this time the evidence is more far flung than usual-- even to the entrance to the womens' restroom. Is 'sunflower guy' [gasp] a woman? I wonder.

This isn't a stadium. We can't just take a giant hose and spray down the aisles-- This is a movie theatre. We have 16 screens and each screen hosts a film an average of five times a day-- that's 80 shows with varying turnaround times that never seem to be long enough. And unlike what you might think, we generally don't have an army of people to clean-- just a handful of us who have to work fast.

I often wonder about human decency. When you put your ABC gum in the cup-holder, do you ever stop to think that another human being will have to clean that up? Are you doing everyone a favor by taking fourteen napkins and kicking your popcorn tub underneath your seat as far as you possibly can? I still haven't forgotten [or forgiven] the guy in the last row of the lengthy "Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" who just couldn't wait and chose to whip it out, pee in a cup, and leave that gift for someone else to find--that someone was me. Humans are nasty, dirty, tasteless creatures.

What happened to etiquette? What happened to class? Does it just not exist anymore outside the fictional world of shows like Mad Men? When did it become okay to trash movie theaters? As I child, the cardinal rules drilled into me were 1) Clean up after yourself and 2) Learn to share. Surely, other people remember those lessons. American 'throw away' culture seems to endorse that it's okay to trash public places-- ah, we're Americans-- so leisurely and privileged. We're exempt from cleaning up after ourselves. That's why they hire help to do it for us.

It wasn't always this way. In the time of movie palaces, vendors hawked their wares outside, but theater owners didn't allow food in. Their palaces were treated as such-- kept as pristine and upscale as possible. However, popcorn kernels and wayward candy-wrappers crept in from the outside world, despite attempts to keep the mess out. The procession continued...and soon, theater-owners, searching for new sources of revenue, began selling snacks themselves. Movie house were built more modestly to accommodate the change and the film exhibition industry began to build an empire that today has concessions linked hand-in-hand with the movie-going experience. Today, concession sales continue to be a lucrative money-maker for theaters [since the highest percentages of ticket sales is money in the studios' pockets.] No fear-- the overpriced movie snack bar is hear to stay.

I know America is not the place to eat consciously or in moderation. Maybe you're thinking that if you leave that large popcorn tub congealed in butter and the caramel treasures, you can convince yourself it never happened. The evidence is there in the dark. You can't see it and no one knows it was you. Maybe you can convince yourself that you didn't eat the whole thing and then another thing. You didn't get butter and the large soda. You were in control.

In a good horror flick, you might get startled... in a good comedy, you might laugh yourself silly as popcorn explodes in your lap. What I'm asking is that you pay a little more attention to not only what you're consuming but also what you're leaving behind-- not just in your local movie theater, but everywhere you grace the planet with your presence. Clean up after yourself. We've all gotta share this country...this planet. And in this economy, it's no stretch of the imagination that you could very well be the one cleaning up after the next show. Think about it.

Movie Genres (from worst to best in cleanliness)
ACTION {especially mindless/plotless action}
COMEDIES {gross-out and stoner comedies are the worst}
HORROR FILMS {the scarier, the better...really scared people don't eat popcorn.}
INDEPENDENT/ART HOUSE FILMS {generally attract film fanatics that respect the art form and the venue.}
DRAMA {older, more mature/sophisticated audiences. Many times, plots don't generate a craving for munchies.}

Above all, BAD FILMS = increased mess. Audiences get bored. They get restless-- especially if it's a incredibly mediocre action film with a long running time. When someone in row G has ripped their ticket into 50 little tiny pieces, it's generally not a good sign for a film.

P.S. The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater does not sell snacks or allow any outside food into the theater. Good for them!

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Have Blockbusters Fallen Flat?

This summer was supposed to be BIG: Star Trek, Transformers, X-men Origins: Wolverine, Angels and Demons, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Movie houses were orgasmic with delight at the summer line-up. The studios had convinced them that this summer was going to explode like a bushel of popcorn kernels and rake in money for both the studios and exhibitors. But now that summer is melting into fall, it's evident that these summer blockbusters have mostly fallen flat-- like a cake without leavening.

For all of these movies, the prospects were good. Young men, teenagers were the prime targets-- hence all the action adventure and guy-oriented flicks. A few family films were thrown into the mix with a chick flick or two-- to keep the girls entertained, as studio executives must've surmised.

There was a certain level of hype for Star Trek (one of the best reviewed of the bunch) and X-men was HUGE for all of 3 days-- until word got out that it wasn't all that good. Even with several different endings attached to prints being viewed across the nation, X-men died a quick death as if by electric chair-- momentarily electrifying then completely unresponsive. A few weeks later, it had shriveled away completely. Transformers leapt into the air and landed back on the ground as scrap metal-- many audiences decided they didn't want to pay cash for that clunker.

These movies made money, but certainly not as much as the advanced hype and forecasting predicted. Even in overseas markets, these films weren't blasting through as much as studios had intended-- especially considering the films' collective costs. The blockbusters were longer-- and oddly less engaging. Transformers hit theatres with a runtime of 147 minutes. It was if Michael Bay was saying: Take that Christopher Nolan, my action pic can be just as long as your Dark Knight. Even Harry Potter was lengthy: 153 minutes (2 hours 33 minutes), topping even that of Transformers.

Is this what audiences want? Increasingly, I don't think so. I know it's not what I want. For one, I can't sit there that long. After the 2 hour mark, I start squirming-- my attention wanders and I'm ready to move on, get up, stretch. I'm also tired of action adventures catering to men and the young when alternatives for other audiences-- namely women and the more sophisticated moviegoers amount to no more than stereotypical chick flicks and independent art films that never get enough distribution to even reach their intended audiences (especially in smaller markets.)

From what I've observed at the film exhibition level, audiences are bored... and far more critical of film fare than they've been in the past. CGI and action-adventure acrobotics are no longer really all that impressive. People seem to be tired with more and bigger and complicated or non-existent plots. They're leaning toward simpler fare with story and character and situations that we could imagine happening to us. Audiences are spending more time thinking about life, the economy, the environment. No marketing, franchising, merchandising or pyrotechnics can boost a movie's box office mojo if audiences just don't give a shit anymore.

Attention Studios: Perhaps the era of blockbusters have gone the way of supersizing.

Now, G.I. Joe: Rise Of The Cobra is set to open 8/7. Today, the Los Angeles Times reported that Paramount has decided not to screen the film for critics. Only time will tell-- but this is usually a bad sign especially for an expensive film that's supposed to launch a new franchise. If G.I. Joe, too, falls flat perhaps there is hope that the cake will rise with Julie & Julia. For if there's anyone who knows about leavening and the ingredients for success, it would be Julia Child. And with that, there's potential for a sleeper hit as we approach the downslope of the 2009 film slate.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Poetically Moving Forward

There are days, weeks, months when nothing goes wrong. Every day unfolds like the one before it and tomorrows awaken as they always have. Nothing miraculous, nothing disastrous.

We all have luck-- I believe in it-- but luck comes in waves that are both good and bad-- yin and yang, positive and negative. The good luck and the bad luck interact with each other to bless me with experiences that make me as I am.

This has been a hectic and emotional roller-coaster of a week. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by work and the prospects of finding another job in this "blast-off-bottle rocket"economy. I've been moving forward with our show, "It's Always Smoggy In L.A." working in post on a couple of episodes, developing marketing/publicity ideas and beginning pre-production on another episode slated to shoot next month.

Then, an external hard drive failed. "Grrreeattt....," I thought-- "less than a year old" with video files, raw footage, the works. We were able to recover some files and put the data onto another hard drive that awesomely failed two days later for no reason whatsoever. It just no longer "mounted" onto my desktop and seemed corrupted in some way. I left it alone. I just didn't want to deal with it. Whatever. Pissy mood.

Then, Saturday, July 18-- as I wished one friend a happy birthday I learned I'd lost another friend: Christine Niemi. Just 32, she'd been diagnosed with colon cancer only a handful of years ago. She'd been feisty against it, doing all she could to fight her illness while spreading the word about cancer prevention and cancer research through her blog and her activism with C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition

Suddenly, stupid little annoyances didn't seem like much anymore. Christine in life [and in death] taught me a lot: Seize the moment. Reach toward your goals-- what have you got to lose? Keep a positive attitude. Find yourself and be yourself. Don't compromise. Never take your health or body for granted. Laugh whenever you can. Cry when you need to. And above all, be kind to yourself and to others.

Sure, the external hard drive crashes still piss me off and I'm still figuring that out. Disk Warrior?? I don't know. I have a job--though it may not be the most ideal one for now. I've got other challenging projects on the horizon that are sometimes stressful, yet always rewarding and helping me to develop as a person. Life will go on. Things will fall into place.

That day [Saturday], thoughts started circulating, words started formulating. I put other things aside and allowed myself to think. I wrote a poem called No Longer Of This World (and though I'm a writer, I don't normally write poetry. I stopped at the library and got a book called Meditation For Beginners and another one on how to write a living will. Because there will always be things in life that are difficult, but necessary. And though I don't look forward to those things, when faced with them, I want to be prepared and calm and know that I did the best I could.

No Longer Of This World
Christine Niemi's Blog: Colon Cancer Sucks Ass

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Flower photo credit: Ban Mae Raem

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thespian Jesus-- "Sure I enjoy the craft and lunching with Tom Hanks..."

Here is one of our latest episodes of "It's Always Smoggy In L.A."

Check out all other episodes and vote for your favorites on Funny or Die.

It's Always Smoggy In L.A.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Creative Commons Licensing

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Neverland Best Left To Imagination

A week ago, I was sitting as I am today when the news broke that Michael Jackson had been rushed to UCLA Medical Center and then pronounced dead.

News spread like a California wildfire. In the next several hours, I heard dozens of helicopters overhead-- enough that I had to close my windows to block out the noise. Media outlets and fans from all over Los Angeles and the world descended on the scene. They came by land and by air and even by foot.

I remembered my 1984 Michael Jackson AM/FM radio-- still sitting on a shelf at my parents' house. With two AA batteries, it still catches some stations, but mostly it's static. And that's how things are right now: static-- as the Jackson family tries to figure out how to honorably and respectfully memorialize Michael. Michael's family and friends are mourning privately. Yet, fans have a connection to Michael and a collective need to express themselves and commemorate him in a public way. In that, lies the complication.

Two or three days ago, the plan had been to have a 30-car motorcade escort the body to Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, CA for a public memorial this coming Friday.

"Authorities in Santa Barbara County had been preparing for tens of thousands of fans to descend on the 2,500-acre ranch after media reports that a public viewing would take place later this week." (AP)

Today those plans have been dismissed and I'm relieved-- totally and completely. Helicopters overhead is one thing, but a media circus following a motorcade to a sleepy little town called Los Olivos is quite another. The area is not prepared for a public event of this magnitude. And in a word, it would be hellish.

I spent some time living in the area not too far from Neverland Ranch. It was a world away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and that's what I appreciated most about it. Locals in Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and surrounding areas enjoy simplicity, rolling hills, vineyards, and the overall serenity they garner from the sun and the air and the beauty around them. I suspect that Michael relished many of the same things about the area.

As a private residence, Neverland Ranch is tucked away on a rather isolated country road. Of course, it has its mystique and sometimes people whisper about its existence. A few years back, a friend of mine was commissioned to do some mural artwork there. She never saw Michael yet she spoke of the experience of being there and the high level of security-- a necessity for an estate associated with someone like Michael Jackson.

I'd driven past the wrought-iron gates before. Along the road to Neverland, there are narrow, winding views of fields and pastures and an occasional horse or two. It's glowing and peaceful and private there. It's not for tourists or prepared for mass processions of people.

In 2005, when child molestation allegations rose once again, half a dozen satellite news vans and a mini-Michael Jackson circus of fans camped outside the gates. There they waited persistently for a news break or a Michael sighting. I don't have the patience for such things. And I found them annoying because I, too, was a local myself at that time. I just wanted the attention to pass so life could get back to normal.

I believe a place like Neverland should remain mystical. Michael wouldn't want Neverland to be stampeded by fans on the occasion of his death or thereafter if it were to become a museum like Graceland. To locals, a public memorial or worse, a Neverland Ranch Museum, would change their serene lifestyle and the landscape of the area dramatically. Cars would be piled up for miles along the little road... or lands of great beauty would be cleared for acres of parking and concrete. The area would become commercialized as Michael Jackson County and that's the least that would happen.

If Neverland is sold, so be it. When an era is over, we mourn and move on. We have our memories and our own ideas of what Neverland, Michael Jackson, and the Land of Oz means to us personally. We hold on to what we can and let go of the rest.

Thankfully, the Neverland memorial plans have been dropped. However, if a public memorial is still sought, and the idea has not been completely scrapped, plan it at a venue that can withstand such an event.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Photo credits: susanneleasure/flickr and svanes/flickr

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Green Peace

Back in the not-so-distant past, I had an apartment. It was a junior one bedroom, meaning it didn't really have a bedroom at all. It was just an open landscape of space with a big, red floppy IKEA sofa-bed in the middle.

The apartment complex was huge... and like shadows, my neighbors and I passed each other on our way to and from work. I never knew any of them. I rarely saw anyone else and even when I did, they avoided eye contact and scurried down the long corridors until they disappeared behind a closed door.

To keep me company, I had my cats-- kittens at the time--and a couple of potted plants. I kept the green plants on the gray concrete just outside my door. There, they happily soaked up the golden L.A. sun amid the colorless expanse of SoCal apartment living.

Not a week had gone by when I got a knock on my door. It was my apartment manager.

"The plants have to go inside," he said. "Each unit has to appear uniform from the outside."

I spoke up-- fought for my plants' sake-- but ultimately, I trudged inside with my green plants, afraid maintenance would steal them in the dead of night. I placed them in the windowsill, in front of the blinds so they could still see the sun. Life went on. Then, days later, another knock. It was you-know-who:

"Tenants cannot place decals, flags, or personal items in the windowsills."

"These aren't flags. I'm not protesting war or advocating abortion-- they're just a couple of freakin' plants!" But I lost the battle. The plants came down. In the days that followed, they only saw glimmers of sunlight in the shadows of despair. Their leaves were partially eaten by my cats. They wilted with sadness.

I moved...

... this time into a townhouse with more than one room. There was a little sliver of green space just outside the door. We had a shrub and a little tree and just enough room for my plants to rejuvenate. And there was even a patio for my cats to frolic and bathe in the sun. We planted grass and aloe vera and laid decorative brick. We had a little garden oasis in the midst of this urban jungle called L.A. Things were peachy for a good, long while.

Then about a month ago, the HOA decided to utilize money from a recent legal settlement to redo the landscaping on the grounds. Loads of perfectly good trees and thriving plants were hacked and unceremoniously thrown into dumpsters and replaced. Three-lane highways of sod were unravelled. Things looked streamlined and manicured, but the old plants were just as good.

A week ago, we got a notice from the current HOA board. It said that any extraneous plants, home decor, decorative bricks, etc. on the little sliver of green space just outside the door would have to be removed by 8 a.m. Thursday-- two days later!

This little sliver of green space, that pathetically represents more "yard" than many Southern Californians get, was apparently not ours after all. To HOA, it is considered a "common area" and therefore, each homeowners' green space would have to look identical. The old landscaping was being torn up and replaced by new landscaping-- chosen by the HOA board.

We grumbled as we tore up the dirt and dug up our plants-- picking out each slab of brick that I felt like throwing at them. A few doors down, one of our neighbors was in mourning. She had an entire rose garden outside her door. Each day, bright red and peach-colored roses greeted her. Even on bad days, she'd marvel at their beauty. In two days, it was gone-- vanished. Not a rose petal in sight.

Power. Stupidity. All the land on the Earth is a "common area."Can't we all just enjoy some green space? Why does an HOA have to spend time putting ridiculous restrictions on it?

Today, as I peered through the blinds, I saw them. Four people from the HOA board standing outside our door, clutching their little clipboards.

"They're making the rounds again," I thought, as I watched.

One woman counted the plants and made note of their types. The four of them scribbled on their legal pads. They shook their heads and talked amongst themselves. They stood in front of our place for an eternity. I know they saw the decorative bricks. It had been four days since the 8 a.m. deadline and we'd failed to tear all of them up. Even the lady with the roses had sadly done her duty.

California is bankrupt. It hasn't rained for months. We have mandatory water restrictions. Unemployment is among the highest in the nation. And with corporations destroying humans and humans destroying the Earth, why should anyone give a flying f**k whether we all have identical plants outside our door?

Send the roses to the landfill-- the thorns will come for you later.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Monday, June 15, 2009

In Excess

In some ways, I wouldn't mind being younger. It's not that I'm even old, but I feel so far removed from the youngest generations of today that it makes me feel so much older than I actually am. I enjoyed growing up in the '80s-- it all seems so simplistic now. It was just a hiccup in time just before technology really started to take over.

I remember when my dad brought home our first home computer. It was a hand-me-down from the school where he worked as a guidance counselor. It looked like a black-and-white TV with a keyboard attached and that's pretty much what it was.

It had the amazing capabilities to do just about nothing, but I thought it was one of the greatest things in the world. I could sit there and type, type, type as the letters appeared like magic on the screen. God only knows what I wrote [or if I wrote anything intelligible at all.] I couldn't send my messages anywhere. Hell, I couldn't even print them out. But I'd sit there and type, type, type for hours at a time. It was so fun to hear the clippity-clop of my fingerprints and see those letters on the screen.

Around the same time, after begging and pleading, my mom finally let us get a Nintendo Entertainment System. Like the computer, it was a hand-me-down. Our babysitter was selling it so they could get the upgrade. [They also had the Disney Channel which my mom wouldn't let us get because it cost more than cable. Grr. But that's another story.] Anyway, the used Nintendo came with the now-classic controllers and one video game: Super Mario Bros. I loved Super
Mario Bros. and over time, I got pretty good. I even got to Level 8 to slay the dragon, as shown on the left. That was a great day--- for my kid self anyway.

In fact, I don't recall owning any other game... maybe we did, maybe we didn't, but what I do remember is the thrill my brother and I had when we'd earned our right to rent a new video game at Blockbuster. My mom created this point system based on our list of chores. A certain number of chores gave us points that eventually earned us a video game. Of course we hated the system at the time [ i.e. "I cleaned the bathrooms every weekend for a month so I could get Donkey Kong Jr."] but now that I look back-- there was something about earning it that made me appreciate it all the more.

Although it would be nice to re-live certain times in my life [while skipping others entirely], I don't envy the kids growing up in today's world. They've grown up to believe that they have the best things in life... that nothing is too good for them... What they don't know is how much they're missing. In Western culture, they've learned that money and fame along with the newest and most upgraded cell phone/ipod/game system is what counts. Most of them are bored (or unaware) of the act of living. They never look up from texting long enough to see the streaks of color in the sky after the sun sets. Nothing gets their full attention because they are so adept at multi-tasking that they have no ability to uni-task. At the movies, the newest and best CGI technology in the world doesn't faze them. It's just like everything else they've ever seen{ yawn }

They're trapped in the middle of an infinite black hole that eventually will collapse. Bigger and better is no longer the name of the game. The time of excess is coming to a close. Pull the plug and the youngest of us would struggle the most. Globally, the internet would blackout. Texts would go unsent. IMs would go missing. Cell phones would go dead. Facebook statuses would be frozen in time. We might have to actually venture outside or resort to the the type, type, type of words in books to entertain us. And horror of horrors, when the darkness comes, we'll only have live human beings to comfort us.

Yet, those of us who can still remember how to engage our minds with our own thoughts, our imaginations, and the nature of the great world around us will do just fine.

Plus, I'm pretty sure that old Nintendo Game System still works.

** For more about relics of computers past, check out: oldcomputers
** To play old school video games like Super Mario Bros, Pac Man, and Donkey Kong for FREE, check out Game Ninja

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Up, UP, and AWAY!

Early Friday, I threaded Pixar's new movie, UP, for a midnight screening. As the film spun, twisted, and turned, I thought:

"A midnight screening of a kid's movie? Are they crazy?"

Well, don't listen to me. It sold out... and we added another midnight show. And show after show after show, things got crazier... and messier. But for every popcorn kernel, smushed milk dud, and trail of M&Ms, there was a smile, a laugh, and a whisper of adventure and imagination in the hearts and minds of kids, adults, and even the most hard-nosed critic.

Multi-colored balloons are happy things. If a kid is crying at glass-breaking decibels in a restaurant, what do they give them? Why, a brightly colored balloon. Balloons are like a brand new box of 64 crayons or a bag of colorful M&Ms, but they float and as they go Up, Up, And Away... they encounter a whole new world and curious adventures that humans rarely see. And in that, lies potential for a cinematic journey.

In 1956, French filmmaker, Albert Lamorisse, made a classic 34-minute short called Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon,) a simple little story about a balloon and a little boy. It won many awards, including an Oscar for best original screenplay and the Palm d'Or [for short film] at Cannes. Years later, another ballloon idea saw its beginnings. A few years ago, Director Pete Docter and co-director/writer Bob Peterson were talking and started hashing out a kernel of an idea: What if you tied a bunch of balloons together and were whisked far, far away? You'd instantly be on a deserted island in the sky and a guest on an adventure of your own making.

Needless to say, that kernel of an idea expanded with helium and blew up-- but unlike many blockbusters, this blow-up didn't come from a series of CGI explosions. It came from imagination, lots of balloons, well-drawn characters, and a good, solid adventure.

The weekend was an UPward fury of kids and parents and adults all stampeding to see the latest from Disney/Pixar. You'd think it was Christmas--which it was for movie theaters across the country. Over the weekend, UP raked in $68, 108, 790 blasting Night At The Museum and even the Terminator.

Can you imagine the initial pitch?

I want to make a movie about a craggy old guy who ties a zillion balloons to his house until it floats away to South America. Then, I'll give him a roly-poly Boy Scout as an uninvited companion.

Somewhere along the line, that pitch was made and luckily, it fell to Pixar to bring it to fruition. As simple as the storyline is, preparation and research took time...lots and lots of time. Just how many balloons would it take to lift a house? According to production notes, technical dire
ctors for the film calculated that Carl Fredricksen would have to tie twenty to thirty million balloons to even have hopes of lifting off. Now, THAT's a lot of hot air-- or helium, I guess I should say.

Steve May, the film's supervising technical director noted:

"We ended up using 10, 297 for most of the floating scenes, and 20,622 when it actually lifts off. The number varies from shot to shot depending on the angle, distance, and fine-tuning the size so that it feels interesting, believable and visually simple. " [UP official website]

When I was younger, I used to daydream about flight: flapping my arms, lifting off and flying around the world like a bird. I know it's not a dream unique to me, as much as I'd like it to be.
But take that dream, throw in interesting characters, an adventurous setting right out of Indiana Jones, and lots of lots of colorful balloons and people will come.

UP presented many complications for the filmmakers, animators, and technical teams. But now that the hard parts are over, the celebration can begin. The film's not only in the can, it's on the screen [ many, many screens] and certifiably another slam dunk for Pixar-- its 10th film overall, AND it's 1st available in Digital 3-D [at select theaters.]

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

UP Synopsis: From Disney•Pixar comes Up, a comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. [ Disney/Pixar]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"May I Put My Hand In Your Pocket?..."

I must've been five years old the first time I saw Gone With The Wind. On TV. Even on the small screen I was swept off my feet by the epic story, the cinematography, and the spirited charms of both Scarlett O'Hara (Viven Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable.)

Since then, I've seen the film countless times. I have an original paperback copy of the novel from 1939, sealed in a plastic bag. I've unconsciously memorized entire passages from the film--purely from seeing it so, so many times over the years.

But it was only three days ago, seventy years after its release, that I finally had the opportunity to see the film in its full glory-- in 35mm, on the big screen, with a sold-out audience. I saw the film Monday night in the William Goldwyn Theatre at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, CA.

The evening began with newsreels from the year 1939 and a Buck Rogers serial. Following that, the audience was given a rare opportunity to hear anecdotes from several of the remaining cast members, including Cammie King (Bonnie Blue Butler), Ann Rutherford (Carreen O'Hara), and Mickey Kuhn (Beau Wilkes). Even a firefighter who had been on-set during the historic "burning of Atlanta" sequence was in the audience. Moments before the curtains parted, Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Hamilton) offered a greeting recorded earlier in the day from her home in Paris. Then, we were off... to the the land of Tara...

On the big screen, bookmarked by large Oscar statuettes, Scarlett's world was an altogether new place. It was as fresh as the first time I'd ever seen it, yet more true, more real, more vibrant. On the big screen, I noticed things I'd never seen before... like parrots. I in two different scenes that I never recall seeing before. At the Atlanta bazaar, I was able to read a sign in the background: "Buy a hanky. Beat a Yankee." In the jailhouse scene, I could see the callouses on Scarlett's hands at the same time Rhett notices them. So much of the GWTW experience and so many details had escaped me by seeing the film on TV and VHS-- the only way I'd been able to see it up until now. I relished sharing the film with fellow audience members and cast members in attendance who were watching along with us.

During intermission, I had the opportunity to meet Ann Rutherford (Carreen O'Hara,) seated two rows behind me. I never thought I'd ever be in the position to meet anyone directly involved in the film, yet here I was, in Beverly Hills CA (at the Academy, no less) meeting Ms. Rutherford herself-- seventy years after her appearance in one of my favorite films. Ms. Rutherford is delightful-- one of the most spirited women I've ever met. I looked into her face and saw the glow that she still has after all these years. As I grow older, I want to keep ahold of that spirit within myself. So many of us lose it, over time. Ms. Rutherford says Gone With The Wind was one of the best things that ever happened to her-- as it's made her "golden years... platinum."
It's also one of the best things that's happened to me and to many people around the world.

It's a testament to the film's power that so many of us in the U.S. and around the world can become connected by our mutual affinity for such a classic film. Although many of the original cast members are no longer with us, in Gone With The Wind they vibrantly live on. For those cast members left, their GWTW experience seventy years ago is now 'no more than a dream remembered...' but oh what a glorious dream it must've been!

**I'd like to thank the Academy for offering this superb event-- especially for younger generations like me, who have very little opportunity to see classics like this on the big screen-- as they were intended to be seen.**


Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Might I Suggest...

It's happenend many times. I call up a friend:

"Let's do lunch or coffee or something," I say.

When they get back to me, they inevitably say:

"Sounds good. Where do you want to meet?"

Great. I have absolutely no clue...
In Los Angeles, there are so many places and yet my mind blanks out. All I can think of are chain restaurants and coffee shops that are safe and predictable and yet have no personality whatsoever.

"Let's meet at Starbucks.... no, not Starbucks. T.G.I.Fridays.... did I say that aloud? No, not there...

In many parts of the country, all that exists are chain restaurants and cookie-cutter storefronts. You got your Red Lobster and Applebee's and Sizzler and Outback Steakhouse plus all the fast-food places. If you drive far enough-- everything repeats itself eventually.

I should consider myself lucky to be in Los Angeles where we've got that and icky strip malls, but we also have tons and tons of one-of-a-kind shops and independently-owned places that have a pulse, a personality, and a uniqueness to their offerings.

There aren't many left and I'm sure it's struggling times for those that are, but I try to support them whenever possible. So, I started keeping a list of places to meet... places I'd been to or heard positive things about. I keep the list in my car, along with take-out menus, so that whenever the question comes up, I can whip out the "list" and make a suggestion.

One of those places is Pane Dolce. It's a cute little coffee shop/cafe on Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks, CA (1 blk. East of Woodman.) It's small and comfortably quiet yet abuzz with neighborhood friendliness.

They have a generous amount of breakfast and lunch offerings along with smoothies, bakery treats, coffee and tea. I don't expect much from the food offerings at most coffee places, but Pane Dolce is different. The food is good, surprisingly so... and fresh. Recently, I went there for a turkey panino and I wondered why I don't go there more often. They have both indoor and outdoor seating which makes it a perfect place to meet someone, dine solo, or grab a drink or snack while you're writing or studying. The staff is super-friendly [as though they actually want to be there-- something that shouldn't be rare, but is.]

My friend and I tried toffee samples and the cashier informed us that the baker was sitting at the table by the window. It's not often these days to be able to give compliments to the baker. Most places have bakery items shipped from commercial bakeries. This woman started out on her own--out of her enjoyment of baking. It's refreshing to meet people who are still passionate for what they do.

In the past, Pane Dolce wasn't open on Sundays. I made an assumption that they were-- I don't know... Sunday paper = Coffee, why wouldn't they be open? Well, they didn't used to be and I once had someone meet me there on a Sunday. We ended up at some sushi bar down the street which was passable, but not preferable. Luckily Pane Dolce caught on-- not only are they OPEN ON SUNDAYS but they're now also OPEN LATE... well, later than they used to be which is 8 P.M. some days-- a definite improvement.

Apparently, the owner isn't sure if the later hours are going to work for them. It's up to the community to decide. So, support this little place with the European flair in the midst of Sherman Oaks. It would be a shame for them to have to cut their hours back to the way they were.

13608 Ventura Blvd (1 blk. East of Woodman Avenue)
Sherman Oaks CA 91423
(818) 783-1384


Friday, May 1, 2009

More Smog To Go Around!

Episodes of the web series: It's Always Smoggy In L.A. are now available on and

Also check out the official website:

Let us know what you think!

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Official Logo: It's Always Smoggy In L.A.
Photo by KLiedle

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Picture Perfect

As anyone who reads this blog knows: I believe in learning new things ~ things that are both fascinating and frightening at the same time. Film projection is one of those things.

TCM and AMC were my film "discovery" channels. Like a big dork, I used to watch documentaries about film preservation and the digitally remastering process for old films. It was a painstaking process, sometimes taking years-- as was the case with The Wizard Of Oz, but it was fascinating that it could be done and there were people willing to do it. Seventy years later, the technicolor in The Wizard Of Oz is now as rich and layered as it was upon its first viewing-- enough that I can actually see the texture of the burlap on the scarecrow's face!

In concept, I'd love to have a hand in film preservation-- but in reality, I'd go bat-crazy if I just sat in a little room, digitally removing dust for hours. Instead, I turned to the "fascinating and frightening" prospect of film projection. Since the rest of the industry has been slow, I'm now working part-time as a projectionist. After some spits and starts (and lots and lots of threading practice,) my projectionist status became official.

Doing projection for a larger movie house takes patience, attention to detail, time management, and a lot of hustling from projector to projector. When you're sitting in the movie theatre, do you ever think about the little person behind the theatre? No, it's not the Wizard Of Oz, it's me: the projectionist. Your movie doesn't just magically show up on the screen-- I have to put it up there.

Where I work, we have 16 screens which I split up with another working projectionist. During a typical shift, I thread up and start anywhere from 24 to 32 films. The fascinating part is that from this LONG stream of individual photographs, the projector and I can make your movie happen like magic. The frightening part is that a lot can go wrong very easily: If I don't thread the film with the soundtrack facing a certain way, your movie won't have audio. It could also jump off its sprockets, be out of frame, out of focus, get scratched, have garbled or muffled sound, or somehow end up spilled onto the floor like spaghetti. The movie could get also get tangled up at the source (aka a "brain wrap,") at which point an alarm goes off {hopefully}, all hell breaks lose... and your movie stops dead in its tracks.

And then, for a few moments I'm no longer fascinated, I'm just plain frightened, but at the end of the day, the show will go on. And as you settle into your chair with a popcorn tub on your lap, magic will appear to happen.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Photo credits: flickr/the42ndfl00r, flickr/maraid, flickr/vemsteroo

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dreaming and Awakening

Too many times, my day off evaporates like a droplet of oil on a hot griddle. I know I should've planned something, but before I know it, time's up. Likewise, time was almost up for other things, too...

It was closing this week... last chance to get my butt into gear to see The Academy's landmark Fellini exhibit, Fellini: Book Of Dreams. A showcase of Federico Fellini's massive dream notebooks, this is the exhibit's first appearance in the United States. With the cooperation of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Fondazione Federico Fellini and the Fondazione Cinema per Roma, it is available for viewing and astonishingly enough-- free. Two days before the close of the exhibit, I finally made it!

Well worth the wait (and the drive) the Fellini exhibit was more expansive than I'd imagined. Fellini kept records-- sketchbooks, really-- of his dreams for the better part of thirty years (1960-1990.) He not only wrote out the details as he remembered them, but he illustrated his dreams whenever possible. His illustrations are vivid, fantastical, colorful, imaginative, and often circus-like. Many of Fellini's illustrated dreams seem familiar-- as a number of the images and/or themes later appeared in some of his films.

Fellini's actual "dream notebooks" are housed in a glass display, meaning the general public (for obvious reasons) cannot flip through them. Alternatively though, there is a computer touch screen that allows you to scroll through as many as 250 pages of Fellini dreams. The sheer volume is daunting, but extraordinarily intoxicating.

After viewing many of the articles on display, I scrolled through a handful of the digital notebook pages as well. Fellini's dreams ran the gamut from men on stilts to elephants, big-busted women, and firebursts of exploding blimps. I laughed aloud after reading Fellini's expressions of an erotic and wildly humorous, imagined romp with Sophia Loren. Men will be men... On the other side of the spectrum, I snickered at an illustration of a rather mundane dream: a horribly plugged toilet. There stands Fellini in front of the constipated throne-- overflowing with toilet paper and feces and "even a little Fiat!," as Fellini proclaims. Indeed, a little car is zooming its way out.

For Fellini, this expansive Book Of Dreams brought about a better understanding of his own subconscious as well as ideas for his films. For us today, it's also an incredible and inspiring look into the intimate workings of a vastly creative mind.

GO >> Fellini's Book Of Dreams-- through April 19, 2009 in the Academy's Grand Lobby Gallery: 8949 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills CA 90211

*Also through April 19 in the Academy's 4th floor Gallery:
GO >> Douglas Fairbanks: The First King Of Hollywood exhibit displays rare costumes, props, articles, and correspondence from the actor's career-- including his commemorative Oscar and a telegram from Charlie Chaplin.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle