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Mind Blown: The Dirties

I’m not sure if this next installment is influenced by current events, perhaps its basic coincidence, but I guess that’s another way of saying it was simply meant to be. I recognize that when I watched The Dirties on Sunday night, the timing of seeing it was an important factor but perhaps that is the point.  Shot in a found-footage, documentary-like style (be prepared for some very shaky-cam) this festival darling follows two high school students making a home movie about taking down the bullies at their school, Quentin Tarantino style, guns a-blazin’.  As the film progresses, one of the young men takes the joke to uncomfortable heights.

I first heard about The Dirties during a Kevin Smith interview in which he also gave a shout-out to Blue is the Warmest Color. I mention this because while these two films are so different in so many ways, they have one very important thing in common that makes them fantastic: as Mr. Smith puts it, the feeling of watching a camera being dipped into real life. Two very different stories, two very different styles, one very overwhelming and sometimes physical response.

In The Dirties, writer/director/editor/producer Matt Johnson stars as Matt alongside his best friend Owen, played by Owen Williams; already reality has become a head-scratcher. The film opens with a purely accidental scene between Matt and two real life passerby kids asking about the movie that’s being filmed. There are scenes in which Matt sits down to edit the very movie we are watching.  There are the sudden moments of frighteningly real bullying, the kind that is psychological and paralyzing.  Going into watching the film, I knew there was a mixture of real people and actors partaking in the action and it is absolutely impossible to distinguish who or what is real or fake. Sometimes, catalyzing events happen that I felt like I missed because it wasn’t set up in a way that the camera could catch it perfectly, leaving me to wonder if it was staged or not.  There is a constant changing of mood and tone; one moment Matt is being his usual zany jokester self and the next he is reading Columbine by Dave Cullen; one of several incredibly brilliant and sobering ways Johnson reminds us of the anchor that holds this whole story in the real world.  The never-ending questioning and shifts lead me to feel perpetually unsettled by every person and everything they did, wondering if life is imitating art or vice versa.  Who is going to be the one that pushes this narrative over the edge?  I felt as though the story was going to betray me, that the harsh truths of bullies and school shooters would end up on my screen in a very unsettling way no matter how bad I wanted everyone to get along.  It was a unique feeling I don’t think a film has ever given me before.

The Dirties is a riveting, provocative and bold film made for very little by some very daring people and it brings to light just how bad we can be to each other at our most sensitive and volatile ages.  At a time when school shootings are the source of incredibly heart-breaking frustration, The Dirties offers a no-nonsense view on the matter that feels just too damn important.

 

Episode 33: Sometimes Magic Happens with Naomi Grossman

The latest episode of SideKickBack Radio features the incomparable actress Naomi Grossman, whom you might recognize (with some difficulty) as Pepper from American Horror Story. We chat about her high school reunion, the difference between “making it” and “doing it,” and large Argentinian hats.

Check out Naomi’s website here!

Episode 32: Happy Birthday Mom!

This episode was recorded on September 9th, my wonderful, proud Jewish mama’s birthday!  My gift to her this year was an hour of questioning her cryptic and often times mumble-mouthed son on his life. Eye-rolling was kept to a minimum…Highlights include my experience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006, getting my acting career going as the Cowardly Lion, and what I really learned in high school.

Check out my momma’s own podcast here!

Episode 31: The Power of Belief and the Desire to Belong with Justin Kelly

This week’s episode features Justin Kelly, the writer and director of I Am Michael (starring James Franco and Zachary Quinto). We chat about the years of work it takes to climb the film-world ladder, Michael Glatze’s reaction to a film about his life, and the oddities of airplane gasoline.

Justin’s upcoming projects include King Cobra (also starring James Franco, Christian Slater, and Molly Ringwald), Welcome the Stranger (starring Riley Keough and Abbey Lee) and JT Leroy (starring Kristen Stewart).

Stay up-to-date on all of Justin’s projects by following his IMDb page here!

Episode 30: What’s in his Lungs? with Victor Levin

This week I get to sit down with Victor Levin, writer/director of the marvelous film, 5 to 7 (starring Anton Yelchin and Bérénice Marlohe).  We chat about the lost art of writing letters, the realities of running a TV show and the French view on relationships.  5 to 7 is now available on VOD and iTunes!

Check out the trailer here!

Episode 29: The Meat in the Cotton Candy with Robin Riker

I am joined this week by veteran actress Robin Riker, who appeared in such series as BrothersThe Bold and the Beautiful and my personal fanboy geekout, the Disney Channel Original Movie Brink! We chat about her new book A Survivor’s Guide to Hollywood, steering clear of “soul-eaters” and the necessity of champagne.

Pick up a copy of Robin’s book here!

Episode 28: A Fight Against Boredom with Johnny 3 Tears aka George Regan

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This week George “Johnny 3 Tears” Regan of Hollywood Undead stops by for another Highway to Havasu episode. We chat about the hate/hate relationship between band and record label, his approach to writing lyrics, and how his doomsday preparations are going.

Although known for his music, J3T has got some pretty great acting chops. In the upcoming Spring Break comedy Johnny plays Jonathan/Ronathan, two frighteningly weird unrelated guys, a tow-truck driver and a boat rental shop owner respectively. It was a blast to work with George, errrr Johnny 3 Tears…he’s the kind of guy that cracks open a beer before we go for a take and man can he give one menacing stare down that will make you crap your pants.

Stay up-to-date on all the latest HU news here! I hear they have a new album coming soon…

Episode 27: I’m Sitting Amongst the Best with UTM

This week I chat once again with Urban Theatre Movement, only this time its the cast of their latest play, Replica. We cover the origins of the play, why theater might be losing its edge and what plays inspire them to be the amazing and daring theater group that they are.

Stay up-to-date on all things UTM here!

I Guest Blogged on Wild Prestige!

 

My very first podcast guest on SideKickBack, Leslie Dysart, has a wonderful blog of her own over at www.wildprestige.com and was kind enough to have me write a little post about how I enjoy myself in this odd hometown of ours. Here’s a repost of the article for you all 🙂

 

 

I can’t tell you how strange it is, the looks I get when I tell people I’m from LA.

“No, where are you from before LA?”

“No no,” I say. “I was born in Santa Monica, hung out at the old Sherman Oaks Galleria, the one from Fast Times. I slept through the Northridge ‘quake. I remember a time when downtown LA was not cool, just creepy and hipster-free.”

I am an LA native, and it is weird. This place is weird. Its identity in flux, fractured, and big: Really, really big. “Sprawling” I believe is the word. Some parts of it I love; some parts of it I hate. But here are some of my favorite things to do in and around LA, so maybe you can enjoy it just a little bit more.

 

DRIVING

Surprised? This is probably the most tired and spent topic when it comes to LA.  “The traffic, oy, the traffic!”  It alters the course of people’s days, dictates social gatherings and even business decisions. I’d love to give some home-grown tips but that could take me days because of the case-by-case nature.  I can at least offer my favorite ways to go in the hopes that you will work them into your drive and enjoy your time in the car a little bit more.

Mulholland Drive is my favorite way to go East/West. It is surprisingly efficient and you get stunning views, especially as the sun drops from the sky and the valley is bathed in some epic sidelight. The Santa Monica Mountains on the other side usually get a nice smoky haze going.  The best section is between Laurel Canyon Drive and Roscomare Road, but if you can keep your jealousy intact as you drive past dozens of dream homes heading West, all the way at the end is LA’s Nike Missile Site, a decommissioned missile defense station  from the Cold War Era that offers an unobstructed 360-degree view of the city. It’s a 10-15 minute walk up a dirt road, but if you fancy s’more hiking, there are plenty of trail heads in this area.

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My favorite North/South way to go is Topanga Canyon, including Old Topanga Canyon Rd. It’s another world in there, with twisting creeks, massive boulders, and caves that beg for exploration. What I recommend is bypassing the first part of Topanga, you might be tempted by the overlook at the top, but it’s only a decent, less-interesting view compared to the above mentioned. So, take Mulholland Drive West (Mulholland Drive is not continuous), to Mulholland Hwy and then to Old Topanga Canyon Rd. It’s a much more fun. A virtually empty road that takes you past secluded houses and mini-ranches that joins up with Topanga Canyon after a mix of tight turns and straight-aways.  Keep taking it South and you’ll hit the crest of the canyon, and begin a descent, feeling smaller and smaller until it spits you out into Malibu and the Pacific Ocean. Not too shabby.

EATING

Where to begin?  So much has changed in the last 25 years. A lot of my childhood favorites are actually gone, (rest in peace Weiner Factory) but a couple still stand.

In Santa Monica, you will find Bay Cities Italian Deli and their scrumptious fresh baked bread. A lot of people swear by the Godmother Sandwich, including Susan Feniger on an episode of the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate (a show that has inspired me into a challenge of eating all items that have been featured). Nevertheless, I recommend the chicken salad. But always get the works, always. And don’t be tempted by the avocado spread, you don’t need it.

If you want to go a little fancier Italian, Fabrocini’s in the Beverly Glen Center is a great option. It’s tucked in the corner offering a nice secluded feel, and everything on the menu just tastes great! I recommend the Chicken Fabrocini; it is sautéed chicken topped with eggplant parmesan. Yes!

If lighter fare is what you’re feeling, Hugo’s will satisfy you for sure!  Located in, both, West Hollywood and Studio City there are tons of options for every diet imaginable, including a ‘nomnivore’ like me. Get the Pasta Mama if you want to partake in another item from The Best Thing I Ever Ate challenge.

Lastly, I’ll finish off this incredibly difficult list to keep small with one of my favorite new spots:Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks. Great beers, great food, especially the Good Karma Burger, topped with pulled pork, caramelized onions, double cheddar and coleslaw. Enough said.

GOING OUT

Let me warn you: I am not your average ‘night-outter.’  When I join friends at places, it’s usually a bar that’s overpriced and way too loud with jerk bartenders; I have to fork over a day’s salary and end up with a sore throat from the simple challenge of trying to talk.  Call me old, call me lame, but I just don’t enjoy that experience that seems to be oh so popular these days.  I am sure there are dozens of places that break this mold and I have been to some of them too, so I know they exist.  But I most enjoy slightly more unique approaches to a night out on the town, such as grabbing some wine, cheese and crackers (or any favorite picnicking items) and heading to Griffith Park Observatory just before sunset. You can watch the city change colors and light up as the sun goes down and then head into the free museum when you’re done.  On certain days, there are observatory workers with high powered telescopes on the lawn showing people the various beauties of the night sky.

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If your budget can handle it, a night at the Hollywood Bowl is a must. It’s far and away my favorite venue I’ve ever been to with so many gorgeous memories. I’ll never forget watching a brilliant sea of neon wristbands light up as Coldplay took the stage.  Or seeing John Williams on July 4th conduct the LA Philharmonic as they performed his classic film scores with fireworks exploding above our heads.  Grab your favorite picnicking items once again, sneak in some booze and get ready for a guaranteed evening of magic.

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GETTING OUT

One of my favorite things to do in LA is to leave. Harsh, I know, but there are so many wonderful spots that lie just beyond its borders, that it’s almost like LA knows it can be a pain in the butt to live in. So it offers some nice escapes as a concession.

I went to UC Santa Barbara for college, I have done that drive so many times, but it never gets old.  Just 90 minutes (without traffic) partially alongside the Pacific and you are in a picturesque, perfectly sized town that has great eats, wonderful weather, and good vibes all around. As a bonus favor to yourself, hop over the mountains for some wine-tasting and finish with dinner at the Vineyard House in Santa Ynez, one of my favorite eateries in the entire world.

If you’d like something a little closer, Lake Castaic offers up an interesting opportunity.  Grab some delicious Bay Cities or Mendocino Farms sandwiches, some lawn chairs, head up the I-5 past Magic Mountain, and take Lake Hughes Rd. East up the hill. You can park the car, then your keister and enjoy a really nice sunset while overlooking the lake and the hills behind it. Stay long enough and you’ll get to do some great star-gazing as this spot is just out of reach of the ambient light of the city.

If you want a lengthier escape, camping in the Lake Arrowhead area is so nice. And you might even find some old carvings of mine in and around the Dogwood campground that I and some campers made back in the day. If you find yourself struggling to muster the energy to cook up your own meal, try the Cedar Glen Malt Shop for some peachy keen shakes, burgers and fries.

Well…that’s all I got for now. I’m sure I will be kicking myself as I come to realize all of the options that I left off the list but I hope I provided you with some unique spots and ways to experience the City of Angels, whether you’re a newbie, a transplant going on their third year, or a native like myself.

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It’s been a pleasure guest blogging for you here on Wild Prestige.Please check out my own blog and podcast at www.sidekickback.com and feel free to contact me andrewfromer@gmail.com if you’d like specific directions/tips/escapes.

Happy trails everybody!

Episode 26: Go at Your Own Pace with Tony Lovato

This week my guest is Highway to Havasu producer and music supervisor Tony Lovato of the pop punk band MEST.  We chat about growing up on the south side of Chicago, the challenges of life on tour, and I get his opinion on cheetahs.  MEST is hitting the road with Hawthorne Heights and The Ataris! Check out the dates here!