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Mind Blown: Mozart in the Jungle Goes to Prison

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Well, the holidays are behind us. The time of festive fun and great food, sparkling lights and age-old traditions…families gathering around to spend time together. Perhaps to Netflix and Chill together.  Or in this case, Amazon and Kick It together?  The television is at the top of the list of great time-passers as you wait for your turkeys to roast and/or your latkes to fry.  You can gather ’round and watch some instant classic football games, a classic holiday movie or even experience a bit of completely new and cutting edge mind-mushing, brain-bashing, reality-wrecking episodic television.

This year, I got treated to such an experience when my family decided to forge ahead with their viewing of Amazon’s award-winning Mozart in the Jungle, even though I’m still on Season 1.  I was totally fine with skipping ahead as I’m not terribly invested in the show.  I found it to simply satisfy the need for a half-hour bit of comedy decompression after an intense drama like its Amazonian counterpart The Man in the High Castle. Nevertheless, the episode next up on the queue for my family would change everything.  It was no comedy to me…it wasn’t quite dramatic either…it was odd, dare I say cubist, almost sans-genre, and it has earned itself a coveted spot here in our Mind Blown series.

Episode 7 of Season 3 is titled, “Not Yet Titled” and already the existential crisis-like nature of this episode is established which will hopefully allay your fear of missing out on the previous two and a half seasons. Because what unfolds is a transcendent piece of I-don’t-know-what; a blend of reality as we know it, with the reality and surreality of the show, commenting on the surreality of our reality as we know it.  The episode takes a mocumentary approach without mocking anything but instead revealing the freeing power of music on the mind through an experiment, cleverly crafted by the show’s creatives including Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman.  Schwartzman returns as his on-screen persona, Bradford Sharpe, to lead the charge of this experiment. The subjects? Detainees at Riker’s Island Prison Complex.  A real film crew follows a sort-of-faux film crew capturing the real reactions and interviews of real prisoners after a very real concert performance by real and not-so-real musicians (the orchestra in each episode, including this one, is filled out by actual musicians from The Chelsea Symphony and the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra to add authenticity to the on-screen performances alongside the Mozart in the Jungle cast members). To top this whole brain-bender off, the pieces of music chosen for the performance were by Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen wrote the featured works of the episode (such as “Quartet for the End of Time“) while in prison during World War II.

How are these prisoners going to react to an avant-garde orchestral performance, challenging pieces of classical music, that were born out of a man’s captivity?

“It took me a way from where I’m at, definitely did.”

Do yourself a favor and go check out the results.

Watch Season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Prime here!

The Mozart in the Jungle cast includes Gael Garcia Bernal, Saffron Burrows, Lola Kirke, Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell. Watch out for cameos from all over the music world including Gustavo Dudamel, Joshua Bell and acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax deeply engaged in a game of Dance Dance Revolution.

 

Mind Groan: Ready Player One Open Casting

There are a few things I want to make very clear from the very beginning of this entry.

  1. I loved the book Ready Player One.
  2. I was thrilled to find that the film rights to Ernest Cline’s awesomely geeky and adventurous novel were in the hands of one of (if not, the best) blockbuster film director/producers of all time.  I mean, come on…this has all the makings of a new Goonies kind of journey with a completely fresh and modern source material.
  3. I couldn’t contain my excitement when it was announced that I was up for the lead role of Wade Watts…yup, the casting for the part was open!
  4. When Deadline Hollywood broke the news that Tye Sheridan landed the most coveted young-male role in recent history, I was beyond pleased…I love all of Tye’s past work and I am so excited for his future performances; if I lose the part to anyone, I’m so glad it would be him…

But I gotta call bullshit.

I was cleaning out my email inbox today and found two messages regarding my participation in the open casting call for Ready Player One. One was a confirmation from Cast It Talent (the service that hosted all entries via a website they built) of my video submission, and the other was a free one-month subscription to Cast It’s parent site.  Free subscription, you may ask?  For those unfamiliar with the casting processes for “emerging talent” today (aka “actors starting out”…regardless of their level of passion, training, expertise, connections) there are numerous services we “have to” subscribe to so that we may be considered for acting jobs. Imagine a semi-private social network…each actor has a profile, complete with headshots, video clips, and resumes.  A job listing goes up, actors or their Agents/Mangers click “submit” and their full profile goes through to the casting team for further review.  There are a couple major must-have service providers, and it costs about $15 to $20 per month to maintain a profile on each…this does not include the added cost of uploading new photo/videos which can run anywhere from $15 to $60 for each individual upload. There’s a bit more to this process, but you hopefully get the idea: actors shell out decent portions of their monthly income for the opportunity to have their profile land in a digital pile of headshots that can be at least 3000 deep for a paid gig.  And this isn’t the only area in which actors are “encouraged” to pay-to-play…see the Hollywood Reporter’s Casting Workshops investigation for a whole other side to the shady financial equation of pursuing an acting career in today’s film industry. Anyways, there is a revolving door of new “must-have” services for the modern day actor and it appeared as though Cast It Talent had suddenly become the latest now that they were running the RPO search.

Around the time of the casting call announcement, I noticed Cast It Talent ads were popping up on my Facebook news feed…a lot.  Banner ads on websites too. It’s as if Cast It Talent paid for a major digital marketing boost targeting Andrew Fromer.  Or perhaps young actors just like him, that displayed a digital interest in being a apart of the Ready Player One movie.  And by the way, when I did submit, I followed their odd video encoding procedures.  What I ended up with was a two minute scene/slate as requested that (in my opinion) was so low resolution it completely distracted from the performance; the video/audio bitrates were so reduced and displayed in an outdated frame size that it felt like I had converted a BluRay to VHS. It is understandable to think that each actor’s entry would have to be limited to a certain amount of data when there are thousands of submissions coming into their servers…but then I asked myself, what’s the point? Now that free one-month subscription starts to seem more and more fishy to me. And as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch…especially in Hollywood. Unless its craft services. But that’s after you book the gig…I digress…

Now, I want you to imagine you are a casting director of a big budget movie directed by Steven Spielberg; you have an incredibly juicy and super cool role to fill.  You could practically pick anyone you want, right? Don’t forget to take into account that you’re in an industry where social media presence is an increasingly important factor (projects are literally casting based off of who has more Instagram/Twitter followers). And the margin for error in filmmaking is slimmer than ever.  You could cast any rising Disney Channel/Nickelodeon star, or an independent film darling.  Now go check out some of the Wade Watts auditions on YouTube and ask yourself…would you and your team comb through thousands of these to find an unknown star from Middle of Nowhere, USA or would you rather start going through your inbox packed with emails from Hollywood, USA’s top agents? Who is really going to sell this movie at the box office?

Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Cast It Talent wasn’t trying to tease thousands of unknown looking-for-stardom-actors and passionate RPO fans into subscribing to their services. Maybe it wasn’t a charade, even though the Tye Sheridan news conspicuously broke one day after the submission deadline for the open call. But it wouldn’t be the worst marketing move by Cast It Talent if their goal was to up their game in the ongoing exploitation of fledgling actors…and the Ready Player One PR team certainly earned a spike in internet traffic for their film.  Do I blame either of them? Absolutely not…I recognize that this is indeed show business.  But I feel Cast It Talent set out to prey on those who believe in the age-old lie of instant success; thousands, maybe even millions of people who believe they can just show up and carry a $100 million dollar movie without putting their nose to the grindstone.  It is no easy task and one I am happy to see Tye Sheridan take on.

I can’t wait for this movie!

Mind Groan: Cam Newton is a Bad Sport

I know…sports. Doesn’t seem like it belongs here but I will save the parallels-between-sports-and-the-arts-discussion for another time.  One thing I will say is that the biggest stages can bring out the greatest performances, while also highlighting incredible shortcomings of our society. And the NFL is a pretty big stage.

When a football game is on, I hear a lot about how great Cam Newton is for the sport.  Even if its not a Panthers game being watched, there would likely be a game-break with Cam Newton highlights of him flipping over linemen or something, the commentators saying how he plays with a smile on his face, an enthusiasm that is welcomed and makes things fun for all…but now the season is over. I kept quiet to see how things would play out and I hope we can all now realize that Cam Newton is a bad sport.  Like in Week 15 of the regular season…oh, did you think I was going to talk about THE Cam Newton press conference walkout of Superbowl L? Not quite…

When the Panthers were playing my NY Giants (who are by no means bastions of sportsmanlike conduct themselves) Carolina was up 35 to 7 towards the end of the third quarter. Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw an errant ball out of bounds towards the Panthers’ sideline and Newton rushed over to grab the ball and feign like he was picking off the play. Everyone had a laugh, commentators said how he plays with a smile on his face, an enthusiasm that is welcomed and makes things fun for all…and then the Giants tied the game 35-35 with 1:51 left in the fourth.  “But Cam wasn’t responsible for the defense’s mistakes that led to the Giants’ 28-point comeback.” You mean to tell me you don’t think a franchise player dropping his focus will cause his teammates to loosen? I will be the first to tell you…the 2015-2016 NY Giants were bad at football.  There was no reason for them to get anywhere near 35 points. As the saying goes, the game ain’t over til its over and that one was a close call that Panthers fans should have been irked by even after Graham Gano’s game-winning kick.

“But Cam is young, still learning and growing.” OK. To take the heat off him for a sec, when Richard Sherman trash-talked his way to fame after the 2013 NFC Championship, a lot of people rushed to his defense, claiming he was speaking his mind and reacting off the heat of battle. A year and a Superbowl ring later, I vividly recall Sherman on the sideline celebrating to camera after a seemingly key turnover against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX as if the game was virtually out of reach for the Patriots. It awoke within me a stirring feeling, and then came odd satisfaction when I saw Sherman’s reaction to, you know…that play. And let me be clear I categorically hate the Patriots.

Now these two men are not all bad. I’ve seen Newton celebrate touchdowns with terminally ill kids. I’ve seen Sherman shake the hands of his adversary even after a loss.  But I’ve also seen a growing acceptance of their bad sportsmanship, writing it off as “Cam will be Cam” or “Sherman will be Sherman” as if success can justify showboating yet a loss brings little accountability, all in the name of passion.  As the pundits discuss the aftermath of an unsporting act, its an actual debate as to whether or not what they did was justified. There is no justification for bad sportsmanship, no matter how passionate an athlete may be.  Sure, mistakes can be made, players can go overboard but they should be acknowledged as mistakes and then we move on.

Now…where do we draw the line between genuine celebration and showboating? How can we distinguish hyping up one’s teammates vs. trash-talking? What is the acceptable limit of passion a professional athlete can display? Maybe this is a good guide…if a kid who looks up to these athletes did the exact same behavior, would it be OK for them to say to their coach “who are you to say that your way is right? I know who I am.”

Highway to Havasu Trailer

Today is a very special day…so special that I decided to cancel my trip to the Sundance Film Festival so as to better serve this gem of a film that myself and countless others (mainly Jeff Janke and Amber Goetz) have poured thousands and thousands of pounds of heart, soul and radass humor into.  Not only do we release our trailer today, but it has been announced that we were awarded Best Comedy at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival and it will screen February 18th at 10:45pm at LA Live. I can’t wait for you all to experience the film when the time comes and if you can’t make the festival, don’t you worry, it’ll come out somehow in a theater near you or direct to your streaming devices. But for now, thank you for your support friends new and old, family, podcast listeners, total strangers, hearing me go on and on about the innumerable stories and experiences that this film has brought into my life…and this is only the beginning. Please enjoy:

Mind Blown: 99 Homes

For those who know me, I am not a fan of New Year’s Eve.  A night usually filled with grand plans later supplanted by disappointment (I knew I was not alone!), I decided to take it easy and watch a New Year’s Eve movie or two with one of my roommates.  After Bridge of Spies, a solid film starring one of my favorite actors, we still had a few hours to kill before midnight and I was running out of options in my collection of SAG screeners.  Despite its not so festive nature, Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes was sitting there intriguing as hell and featuring one of my other favorite actors, Michael Shannon (especially after his little surprise turn in The Night Before, the Gatsby moment being one of the top comedy movies moment in recent memory). Grim looking vibe aside, we went for it agreeing that if we weren’t feeling it we would turn it off. But this film is just too damn provocative.

It follows blue-collar, single-father handyman Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) who loses his house to foreclosure and attempts to get it back by making a deal with the possibly sociopathic real estate broker Rick Carver (Shannon), an accomplice in the eviction that took Nash’s family home. Nash’s end of the deal? He only has to evict people from their own family homes.

Despite some moments of a-little-too-forced improvisation and “just because emotion” shouting, the film buzzes with a gut-wrenching authenticity, especially evident in the expected montage of Nash having his first run-ins with his prey.  Casting Directors Douglas Aibel and Tracy Kilpatrick did an incredible job in finding hauntingly real-seeming actors and combined with Bahrani’s scintillating direction, their woes pack so much gravitas onto this film.  The feeling it gives reminds me of what beachgoers feel after Jaws.  Owning a home today seems absolutely terrifying, especially for this generation, and as the fallout of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis settles, stories like 99 Homes and The Big Short have emerged, making it clear that there are far more dangerous sharks than great whites.  Without giving too much away (but still, just in case, slight spoiler alert) the ending is rather vague and doesn’t give much of an explanation as to where the hell we should go from here. There is one thing though…

“Don’t get emotional about real estate.”

Carver repeats this as a sort of demi-mantra for Nash and his devilish nature is frequently slightly outweighed by Shannon’s inherent likability as a very smart actor; he fools you for a second or two into thinking these and some other great quotes he rattles off are sage words as to how to stay afloat in the fraudulent system that ruined the lives of millions (that system fascinatingly portrayed in the already mentioned The Big Short by the way…seriously check that one out too). As far as 99 Homes is concerned, many families became homeless by trying to hold onto unaffordable real estate because of emotional attachment. But of course these poor people were being completely and utterly dicked over.  And therein lies the conflict that holds you steady for the entirety of this movie, that those responsible for the crisis are kind of smart men and women who took advantage as a means to succeed and survive.  Sometimes they seem right, most of the time they are completely wrong but trying to survive financially in a society led by the morally f**ked up while maintaining a healthy/happy life is an increasingly immense balancing act, isn’t it?

Mind Groan: Steve Jobs Pulled from 2,072 Theaters

It is upsetting. Frustrating. So much so that I feel an obligation to begin an entirely new section of this site, one that contrasts my usually positive “Mind Blown” series. I don’t like to be negative but I cannot sit idly by whilst an injustice must be brought to light.  Thus we have our first “Mind Groan.”

When I saw Steve Jobs a couple weeks ago, I instantly understood why it got an awkward release despite the all-star cast, commercially successful writer/director duo, and the fact that it is just a damn good movie.  Everyone, including and especially Universal Pictures, was taking a huge risk by putting this film out there. It is not a standard biopic. In fact, writer Aaron Sorkin dislikes the association with that word…understandably so.  It is a magnificently written, superbly acted play that was filmed like a movie, that is based on real life people/events, combining Sorkin’s signature high-speed dialogue with a Chekhovian structure. And this is why it was pulled from over 2,000 theaters on Monday; it’s just too refined, too smart for the masses to handle.

“America is getting dumber.”

I’ve heard a lot of filmmakers from all sides of the camera, from each type of office chime this sad statement. And it’s just getting truer.  In a world of poorly written comic book movies and uninspired remakes, Universal tried to challenge audiences to reach a little higher for an intellectually stimulating experience centering around the man who touched the lives of every single person in the computer-using world and beyond.  I applaud their efforts, avoiding a straightforward rise-to-power story and opting for a unique structure in which the messages of the film are morally challenging and not spoon-fed. They tried to break the negative feedback loop we appear to be trapped in, a growing gap between the filmmaking community and the audiences for whom they create; as we try to make smarter and emotionally richer content, the masses demand less thoughtful work, at least according to the numbers.  There was hope in Straight Outta Compton, a film Universal distributed with Circle of Confusion as the production company.  But Steve Jobs was their earnest attempt to bridge this gap, and it backfired; costing $30 million to make, it has only drawn around $17 million according to the most recent box office results.  Universal has called retreat.  Making matters worse will be the enabling numbers of another Universal film, Jurassic World, which has pulled over $650 million domestic. Don’t even get me started…

 

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.

 

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!

The Sidekicks of Havasu (and Beyond)

For those of you whose first experience with SideKickBack is this post, welcome! And thanks for reading 🙂 I just want to take a moment to set up the forthcoming gratitude by explaining one of the founding principles of the main squeeze here, SideKickBack Radio, the podcast in which I interview friends and colleagues who are doing really amazing stuff. I strongly believe in altruism, in people helping people. I wanted to provide a platform for my friends and colleagues to talk passionately about their various endeavors and record it for you fine folks to hear about. As they promote themselves, new points of view are shared, great stories are told, and there is a guaranteed educational experience with each new guest. As corny as it sounds, it is the SideKickBack way. Everybody wins.

During a recent phone call with Amber Goetz, one of the producers of the forthcoming mega-hit comedy film Highway to Havasu, we brought up how simply amazing some of the citizens of Havasu (and some beyond its city limits) were in helping us achieve our dreams of making an iconic movie. Food, boats, private residences and businesses, even a golf course and hovercraft were offered to us, all by people looking for little or nothing in return. Perhaps the smallest of financial compensations and/or a shout-out in the credits of what could very well be a major breakthrough independent film sensation. People helping people.

I’ll never forget riding around on Gary Meyers’ hovercraft. He emailed our producer Amber, offering  up his awesome little vehicle. We had no place for it in the story, so we made one.  Three hours later I was gliding across Lake Havasu, with cool and fresh Colorado River water spraying in my face as we spun a couple 360’s; all whilst sporting a sweet Jet Tribe life jacket. I’ll never forget the delicious tacos of Javelina Cantina or Vinnie’s Pizza, a lot of Vinnie’s pizza. The fellas and their Commander Boats, whose intimidating rides flanked our Backyard Beauty as we pulled into the channel to celebrate spring break Lake Havasu style.  And then the other fellas of Sea Tow, who helped out with our water shots. And let’s not forget SWAT for letting us partake in the partiest of parties.

Then there’s simply the good individual people who dedicated their time and support to us. The students of Lake Havasu High School who hung around WELL AFTER SCHOOL LET OUT to be background actors. The people walking by set who asked us what was going on, and then left as a new Twitter/Instagram/Facebook follower. Whether it was one minute of time, a whole day, or its still going, your support in our endeavor is so much appreciated.

I’m sure my list is incomplete, and that’s what’s so great about all this. So many folks offered a helping hand in so many ways, big and small. To you all I can only say, a very big thank you. Lake Havasu City was my home for two crazy months and it will always have a special place in my heart, because of all your kindness and generosity. Can’t wait to see you all again soon and eat your food.

SideKickBack blog post…WA-CHA!!!

SideKickBack Radio’s Sundance 2015 Review!

Last Days in the Desert: Ewan McGregor masterfully plays a humanized version of Jesus (and a demon alter-ego) in an imagined chapter of his life in which he encounters a family that has fallen on hard times. It is an incredibly beautiful film, shot by Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, the genius cinematographer behind Birdman. The scene-work in writer/director Rodrigo Garcia’s true work of art is a joy to watch, one fireside scene in particular, where McGregor tries to outwit his own self.

Brooklyn: Saoirse Ronan plays a young Irish immigrant who comes to America in the 1950’s. The acting is stellar in this truly touching and delightful tale directed by John Crowley. It has some of the funniest of laughs, some of the sweetest of moments, with heartbreak and suspense throughout. Bring tissues.

Slow West: A throwback Western tale of a boy in search of his lost love with a little help from Michael Fassbender.  While it was not one of my favorites, there are some uniquely hilarious, stylized bits in this one and it most certainly does not lack in freshness. It did win the Grand Jury Prize of the World Cinema category after all, so it is definitely worth a gander.

Don Verdean: Sam Rockwell is a Biblical Archeologist in search of the next big discovery for the Christian people. This Jared Hess film is a charming and funny commentary on religion as we see it today.  Also, Jemaine Clement’s portrayal of an Israeli artifact smuggler is a must-see…the best I can do is to call him an Israeli Borat.

The D Train: An eternally dorky Jack Black tries to wrangle former high school royalty turned “Hollywood” actor James Marsden into attending their high school reunion.  Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel have written and directed one of the most unique and fun comedies of the last decade. With a fantastic cast and great writing, it really all comes together perfectly in this “late-bloomer coming of age tale.”

Results: Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders play personal trainers who try to handle a difficult yet endearing new, recently divorced client, an oddly brilliant Kevin Corrigan.  I’ve never seen a love story quite told like this and writer/director Andrew Bujalski wonderfully applies his avant guarde roots to the romance genre and what we get are characters so uniquely flawed and complex that I wanted to watch them all day.

The Stanford Prison Experiment: A dramatic portrayal of the famous experiment carried out by Dr. Philip Zimbardo. This was my favorite of the festival. It was extraordinarily fascinating as this intensely psychological event provided such rich terrain for all of the fantastic young actors to explore and director Kyle Patrick Alvarez puts together an incredibly deep experience.  Michael Angarano was a standout as the infamous “John Wayne Guard.”

I Smile Back: Sarah Silverman plays a housewife struggling to maintain normalcy as she battles her own demons with drugs, alcohol and adultery.  It is provocative in all the right ways. This was one of the more anticipated performances of the festival and while I may not be the biggest Sarah Silverman fan, she does a wonderful job in director Adam Salky’s sophomore Sundance film.

Stockholm, Pennsylvania: Saoirse Ronan returns home to her birth parents after being held captive by a child kidnapper for most of her young life. The family attempts to readjust to a normal life as Stockholm Syndrome lurks around every corner. It is a true work of fiction as writer/director Nikole Beckwith did not draw from a single real-life case and for this reason the story is exceptionally captivating with quite an unexpected turn.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Thomas Mann is a high school senior who strives for social neutrality in the hopes of surviving high school.  His mother, Connie Britton, forces him to spend time with a family friend who was diagnosed with Leukemia.  It is a remarkably well-made, unique movie by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, as clearly evidenced by its taking of both the Audience and Grand Jury Prizes.  It is a fresh new look at coping with high school angst, fitting well into its deserved place in the Pantheon of high school films.  Bring tissues.

By: Andrew Fromer