The Epic Embarks Across Los Angeles

It’s October, which means The L.A. Odyssey Project will begin its journey into the neighborhoods of Los Angeles to explore the connections between literature, history, science, and the humanities to shine a distinctly Southern California light on Homer’s epic poem. From a Cyclops puppet show, to bike riding with Lotus Eaters, to a marathon public reading, here’s a sample of the many ways you can chart your own voyage into Homer’s The Odyssey across Los Angeles this October. For a full calendar of upcoming events, visit www.lfla.org/odyssey.

Artist engagement: Los Angeles artist Peter Shire is re-imagining a modern day Greek vase with a distinctly Southern California perspective. He has been inspired by the collection at The Getty Villa and by the individual Odyssey of an iconic Los Angeleno.

Ongoing throughout October, Los Angeles Public Library Branch programs in each region: These will be envisioned by some of our greatest resources, the creative and innovative public librarians. There will be more than 90 events in total, spread over 15 branches in the Los Angeles Public Library system.

October 2: ‘Homer… the Rewrite’ ALOUD at Central Library

Madeline Miller and Zachary Mason, in conversation with Molly Pulda
Zachary Mason’s brilliant debut novel, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, reimagines Homer’s epic story of the warrior Odysseus’ long journey home with alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions. Madeline Miller’s retelling of The IliadThe Song of Achilles – offers a fresh take of the Trojan War that was both an homage to Homer and a startlingly original work of art. Together at ALOUD for the first time, these two brilliant young novelists discuss the art of rewriting a classic.

October 4: Commit a Poem to Memory Day. In ancient Greece, oral poets known as rhapsodes, committed epics to memory and recited them for the entertainment of the public.  Because of this tradition, The Odyssey survived for centuries before it was finally written down. On October 4, we will celebrate the oral tradition with “Commit a Poem to Memory Day.”  If The Odyssey seems too daunting, we can recommend Constantine Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka” which is about the odyssey we all undertake to find our own home.

October 5: The L.A. Odyssey Project at CicLAvia

Bicyclists will be invited to decorate their bikes and join along in an Odyssian journey that will include encounters with The Odyssey’s Lotus Eaters, Cyclops and the Sirens in downtown Los Angeles.

October 9: ‘An Odyssey of The Odyssey’ at The HAMMER Museum. In this unique one-night only event, writer/director and media artist Lars Jan brings together the worlds of theater, network science and data visualization to create a trans-disciplinary narrative for the digital age. Collaborating with actor Roger Guenveur Smith, the MAPPR team: ecologist Eric Berlow, data artist/designer David Gurman and computer scientist Kaustuv DeBiswas, and classics researcher Daniel Powazek, Jan will take us on a journey to experience the ripple effect of creative influence which Homer’s Odyssey has inspired across time, space and culture.

October 10: ‘A Strange Thing Happened on the Way to Ithaca’

Lost & Found at the Movies at Central Library. The Odyssey has inspired filmmakers around the world from George Melies in the earliest days of cinema to the Coen brothers in recent years. What is it about the epic poem that entices the cinematic imagination? What did we learn from the ancient Greeks about storytelling? What did we learn about Homer from Hollywood (and is any of it right)? And just how does all that swordplay happen? Celebrate the Library Foundation’s month-long exploration of The Odyssey with this look at the larger-than-life tale on film.

October 15: Alice Oswald at HAMMER Museum. Acclaimed British poet and Classicist Alice Oswald recites – from memory – her epic poem, “Memorial: An Excavation of the Iliad.” Described as “a concentrated, intense, multi-tasking elegy” Memorial is poetry on a grand scale that brings the account of the Trojan War into contemporary focus. Recipient of the inaugural Ted Hughes Award, Alice Oswald has also won the T.S. Elliot Award and the Warwick Prize for Writing.

October 16: Alice Oswald at the Getty Villa. Renowned British poet and Classicist Alice Oswald, whose elegiac “Memorial: An Excavation of the Iliad” won the 2013 Warwick Prize for Writing, shares her thoughts about Light as a character in The Odyssey and reads a poem on the subject.

October 18: Peter Shire in conversation with Mary Hart at the Getty Villa

L.A. artist Peter Shire joins Getty Villa curator Mary Hart for a conversation about ancient and contemporary storytelling through art. The tour features a presentation of Shire’s recent interpretation of a Greek vase, which sets the tale of Odysseus in contemporary Los Angeles. In the galleries, explore the ancient Greek vases that inspired his new work.

October 25: ‘Our Odyssey: A Reading of Homer’s Epic Poem By the People and For the People’ at Central Library. The words of the poet Homer were originally spoken aloud to rapt audiences who sat spellbound by tales of kings and heroes, battles and sorrow. Relive the experience of this oral tradition by taking part in an exciting daylong marathon reading of The Odyssey at the historic Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. Readers of all ages and backgrounds are invited to participate in this unique opportunity to bring this thrilling tale of the voyage of Odysseus to life and to enjoy the experience of reading poetry aloud. This program will be presented in association with The Readers of Homer, an organization that stages public readings of Homer’s epics around the world. During the day-long reading, Central Library will come alive with Odyssey-themed shadow puppet shows, food trucks, Cyclops sightings, arts and crafts, and more.

October 26: Libros Schmibros Book Club at HAMMER Museum. James Joyce scholar Colleen Jaurretche will lead the group in considering the relationship between Homer’s Odyssey and Joyce’s Ulysses.

October 27: ‘The Warrior’s Return: From Surge to Suburbia’ ALOUD at Central Library

David Finkel and Skip Rizzo, in conversation with Tom Curwen
When we ask young men and women to go to war, what are we asking of them? When their deployments end and they return – many of them are changed forever.  How do they recover some facsimile of normalcy? MacArthur award-winning author David Finkel discusses the struggling veterans he chronicled in his deeply affecting book, Thank You for Your Service, with Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Director for Medical Virtual Reality at the Institute for Creative Technologies, who has pioneered the use of virtual reality-based exposure therapy to treat veterans suffering from PTSD.

For more information on these events, and to learn more about The L.A. Odyssey Project, related reading, and more visit the website here.

 

The Library Foundation Celebrates 22 Years

“This is a great Library and it has a wonderful history because it is a Phoenix of a Library. It was reborn from ashes,” said Susan Sontag of the Los Angeles Public Library. On September 20, the Library Foundation of Los Angeles will celebrate its 22nd anniversary with a gala to benefit the great Los Angeles Public Library. Held biannually, the anniversary festivities raise funds for three major program areas supported by the Foundation: Investing in New Readers, Helping Students Succeed, and Creating the Innovative Library of the Future. Over the last two decades, the Foundation has brought together a community of supporters to celebrate the legacy of the Los Angeles Public Library by honoring authors including Susan Sontag, philanthropists, individuals, foundations, and corporations who all share a commitment to the mission of the Los Angeles Public Library and a passion for great literature.


Larry McMurty and Diane Keaton, 2008.

This year, the Library Foundation pays tribute to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz with the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award. Presented to an author for his or her outstanding contribution to literature, the Literary Award has also been given to Salman Rushdie, Walter Mosley, Tom Brokaw, August Wilson, Carlos Fuentes, John Updike, and E.L.Doctorow, among some of the other notable writers below.

Louise Erdrich in 1997.


Tony Kushner (far left) pictured with ALOUD’s Louise Steinman in 2007.
Stephen King (right) in 2010.


Norman Mailer, 2006.


David McCollough (left) in 2002.

During this year’s celebration, bestselling author Judith Krantz will also receive the Foundation’s Light of Learning Award for her devoted advocacy for the Los Angeles Public Library. Former Light of Learning recipients include Sharon and Nelson Rising, The Ahmanson Foundation, the Mark Taper Foundation, Wallis Annenberg, Gary Ross, and other longtime supporters.


Doris Kearns Goodwin (Literary Award Winner in 2000) with Gregory Peck (Light of Learning Recipient in 1996).



Seamus Heaney (on the left, Literary Award Winner in 1998) with Flora Thornton (Light of Learning Recipient in 1998).


Harper Lee (on the right, Literary Award Winner in 2005) with Veronique Peck (Light of Learning Recipient in 2009).

Thanks to all the supporters of the Library Foundation over the years who have contributed to providing free access to ideas and information and the civic, cultural, and educational core of our community.

Fall Stops for The Library Store On Wheels!

The Library Store On Wheels is headed your way this fall!

Saturday 9/20 @ Artists & Fleas in Downtown LA 11am – 6pm

Sunday 9/21 @ Artists & Fleas in Downtown LA 11am – 6pm

Saturday 9/27 @ Fall Into Literacy Book Festival in the City of Wilmington 10am – 3pm

Sunday 10/5 @ CicLAvia at the Broadway Theatre District Hub 9am – 4pm

Wednesday 10/22 @ Lit Crawl LA: NoHo Round 1 and 3 (Stay tuned for details!)

For more updates, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

Young Literati Summer Social Heats Up

The kids may be going back to school, but the summer is not over for the Young Literati. This Saturday, the Young Literati are invited to gather in Santa Monica for a proper send-off to the season of long sunsets and frosty cocktails.

Raising their glasses to this past year of incredible support for the Los Angeles Public Library, Members will also get a sneak peek of what’s on the horizon for this dedicated group of engaged and informed Angelenos who believe in and celebrate the principles that public libraries stand for—free and equal access to information and ideas that challenge and inspire. From live music to pop-up poetry, here’s a taste of what this special night will bring:

Performances by L.A.-based soul band John Macy and the Heavy Hand.

 

Pop-up poetry by the Poetry Society of Los Angeles, featuring personalized poetry composed on-the-spot by Young Literati Members.Madam Rose and Butless the ButlerMadam Rose and Butless the Butler from the Poetry Society of Los Angeles. Photo by Matt Miller.

 

Craft cocktails and sophisticated summer fare at the Wilshire Restaurant. Guests are welcome to stay for the restaurant’s nightclub after the party!

 

Click here to learn about becoming a Member of the Young Literati, and click here for more information about attending the Summer Social.

 

Lost & Found at the Movies Explores L.A.’s Greatest Roles

Los Angeles has been a “character” in countless films. On Thursday, July 24, the latest edition of Lost & Found at the Movies, the Library Foundation’s new series celebrating the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture, will explore the myriad ways L.A. has appeared in cinema —from the earliest images of the silent era, through the landscape of noir to visions of the future (with our rendition of a fireworks finale).

Series curator John Nein, along with special guests, film critic Kenneth Turan, and historian Marc Wanamaker, will tour iconic landmarks, long gone places, film classics and archival treasures that shine a light on the great diversity of L.A. As a background prop for the early silent films to the defining setting of “noir” classics, this program will explore what cinema reveals about this city and its communities. The program will also look at Los Angeles as it was documented in early non-fiction reels: rare films from UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Academy Film Archive.

A film historian, archivist and a native of Los Angeles, Marc Wanamaker will bring his expertise on the history of Los Angeles and the motion picture and television industries. Few people know the city as a location as well, which has served many of film seeking to recreate the locations of old. And Los Angeles Times’ and NPR’s Kenneth Turan will discuss some of his favorite L.A. films, including Bombshell (1933), Chinatown (1974), The Exiles (1961) and others – some of which appear in his new book Not to be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film. Take a sneak peek below from these movies to help set the stage for this upcoming retrospect on some of L.A.’s greatest roles.

Learn more about Lost & Found at the Movies: LA on Film.

The Library Store Summer Sale!

The Library Store will be holding its annual sale starting this Friday, May 30! Stop on by The Library Store for a huge selection of items marked down 50% to 75% off. Sale’s on while supplies last, so shop early for the best selection. New items will be added daily. The selection will include jewelry, cards, books, children’s toys, t-shirts, and much much more! See you there!

Questions? Call The Library Store at 213.228.7550.

Exchanging Stories at the Book Drop Bash

This weekend thousands of authors and booklovers will be grabbing their sunhats and hitting the lawns of USC for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. And for participating authors and Library Foundation Members, the festivities will continue long after the sun goes down as the Third Annual Book Drop Bash kicks-off at downtown’s historic Central Library on Saturday night.

Featuring the best book swap in town, Bash-goers will also have the chance to exchange stories with some of today’s most memorable storytellers. Honorary hosts Pico Iyer, Susan Straight, and T.C. Boyle have provided writing prompts for Library Foundation guests to complete throughout the Bash. For those who want extra time to get inspired by the prompts, here’s a sneak peek at the mysterious, the romantic, and the odd:

From Pico Iyer:
As she heard some whispering among the stacks–was that giggling? The sound of some shoes being slipped off?–she started to tiptoe along the section marked 818.2522, only to…

From Susan Straight:
In the library courtyard, the hedges glittering with dew, she sat down beside him on a bench…

From T.C. Boyle:
After they finished eating the last of the dogs, they turned, of necessity, to deep-frying the rats.

So bring your imagination and a book, or two, or three to swap–leftover books at the end of the evening will be donated to our award-winning Library Store where they will be sold to benefit the Los Angeles Public Library.

We look forward to celebrating the literary life of our great city with our Members and participating book festival authors. Members can purchase tickets here. If you would like to attend, but are not a Member, consider joining today!

For more info on the Book Drop Bash, click here.

 

Meet the Young Literati Toasters

We hope you’ll be raising a glass with us for the Sixth Annual Young Literati Toast this Saturday, March 22 at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. Arguably the Foundation’s most star-studded affair, the evening will celebrate our beloved Los Angeles Public Library with an incredible cast reading and performing selections of our city’s finest literature.

Curated by Amanda and Shepard Fairey, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Moby, and Busy Philipps, the evening will feature readings by Jason Reitman (Labor Day, Up in the Air, Juno), Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, The League), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Gillian Jacobs (Community), comedian Tig Notaro (This American Life), Aaron D. Spears (Being Mary Jane), a musical performance by Jenny and Johnny, and more. Learn more about the event and tickets here, and to tide you over till the big night here’s a look at some of the toasters who will be joining us to support the Library.

Tig Notaro’s Stand-up from “This American Life”:

A clip from “Kroll Show” with Nick Kroll:

Music by Jenny and Johnny:

Stop by the Los Angeles Public Library to check out some DVDs featuring Busy PhilippsCougar Town, Freaks and Geeks, or White Chicks.
Book Jacket for: Cougar town. [videorecording] / The complete third seasonBook Jacket for: Freaks and geeks the complete series / [videorecording] :Book Jacket for: White chicks [videorecording]

Or movies directed by Jason Reitman like Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult.Book Jacket for: Juno [videorecording]Book Jacket for: Up in the air [videorecording].Book Jacket for: Young adult [videorecording]

Don’t miss out on this special night to support the Los Angeles Public Library Summer Reading Clubs, which are offered in all 73 library locations and serve over 40,000 children and teens each year.watch?v=QlDSiFQJN2M

Lost & Found at the Movies: Love Is a Many Splendored Thing

At each Lost & Found at the Movies event we choose a theme to explore. On the heels of Valentine’s Day, during an evening called Love is a Many Splendored Thing, we looked at love in movies and love for movies.

The opening clip reel featured moments from a handful of cinema’s great love stories (too many to list). When Ken Brecher and I first spoke about this series, he encouraged the notion that I make the events ‘personal’ and that was the case with these clips – excerpted from a longer half-hour piece that served as an ‘installation’ at my wedding reception, playing in a loop and projected inside a gazebo on the grounds. In the tradition of reading poetry at weddings, romantic films are part of the way we think (or maybe idealize) love.

In putting together those clips, I noticed a lot of patterns: there’s invariably the first moment the lovers see each other, there’s the first time they meet, a declaration of love (not without some difficulty for many), then tension, discord or even a break up. Often times that leads to running (possibly precipitated by a revelation) and then a speech, and of course the ending, for better or worse.

Show Me Love

On the eve of both the Independent Spirit Awards and Academy Awards, it felt appropriate to look back at the year of film and acknowledge that some of the best films (and some of the most overlooked) were love stories.

I’m not big on superlatives, but if pressed the best film of the year for me was Spike Jonze’s Her, an artful story of loneliness, love and a near future world (drawn in brilliantly evocative detail) in which a romance between man and a computer operating system is not only possible, but seemingly an opiate for a sadly solitary society. There was also Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the third part of his trilogy and, for me, the strongest and most complex; a portrait of mature love and marriage that looks not at falling in love, but staying in love. And of course, Frances Ha, the wonderful collaboration between Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig and what struck me as a truly contemporary story – a woman working her way through a set of identities in a search of a figurative and literal room of her own.

There were also a handful of exceptional films that were overlooked and really deserve attention. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a film that begins as a Bonnie & Clyde outlaw romance, but moves to a deeply moving reflection on love changing over time. Cutie and the Boxer, which although it was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, it was not widely seen and really should be. Not only one of the best verité docs in years, but a richly layered love story between a married couple, two Japanese artists and their lives together in New York over the past 40 years. For completely unique love stories there was Fill the Void, a film that tells the story of love and marriage within an ultraorthodox community in Israel – subtle, moving and unlike any film you’ve ever seen. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who won an Academy Award for The Separation, made The Past in France. It explores the relationship between an estranged couple as they formalize their divorce and is told with the same amazing observation and compassion as his earlier films. A high school love story with real honesty and edge was James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, an adaptation of a Tim Tharp novel. And Shane Carruth’s second feature, Upstream Color, which developed a dedicated following both here and internationally, pushes the boundaries of filmmaking, envisioning love within the framework of poetic, non-narrative and largely non-verbal experience.

We also turned toward the future and the abundance of interesting films that will make their way to theaters this year (Indiewire ran a great list of highly-anticipated 2014 films). With Sundance and Berlin having just wrapped, we rushed through a few highlights:

Damien Chazelle’s debut feature was made in a remarkably short period of time, an extension of his short that screened last year at Sundance, Whiplash won both the jury prize and the audience award for US Dramatic Competition. Craig Johnson’s The Skeleton Twins, a poignant, superbly crafted story of a sibling relationship, features outstanding dramatic performances from Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has been anticipated for most of the time it has been shooting – over 12 years! A completely unique film, chronicling the life of a young boy as he grows up (played by the same actor, Ellar Coltrane, over that time), was worth the wait. A few other stories of boyhood (and fathers and son) were Kat Candler’s fabulous Hellion with Aaron Paul and Imperial Dreams from Malik Vitthal. For the best Iranian vampire Western, you could turn to the fantastic genre mish mash of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night from upcoming filmmaker and force of nature Lily Amirpour. Two remarkable films from Ireland were Calvary, a profound, layered reflection of faith and human nature from John Michael McDonagh (The Guard) starring Brendan Gleeson in what one hopes is an Oscar-worthy role as a priest, and Frank, a completely unique and subversive look at creative ambition, bands and belonging from the very talented Lenny Abrahamson.

As always a number of foreign language films stood out, including Blind from Norwegian writer/director Eski Vogt (writing partner of Joachim Trier on Reprise and Oslo, August 31; Difret (a riveting story of tradition and modernity in Ethiopia); To Kill A Man, another fine film to emerge from the burgeoning Chilean film movement, which won the Grand Jury prize; The Lunchbox, a classical romance set in bustle of modern Mumbai and recently released by Sony Pictures Classics; and finally, Ida, a Polish film from Pawel Pawlikowski and perhaps the most beautiful, meditative film you’ll see this year.

On the documentary front there was Steve James’ profile of Roger Ebert, Life Itself; the story of Sepideh a teenage girl in Iran who wants to be an astronaut/astronomer; and Edet Belzberg’s stunning Watchers of the Sky about four people who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of international criminal justice. From Berlin, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel played to rave reviews and has just opened here. Praia di Futuro from Karim Ainouz was a poetic reflection on love, and the jury prize winner was a Chinese crime story, Black Coal, Thin Ice, but the standout for me was the astonishing debut film from Yann Demange, ’71, about a ‘night in the life of’ a British solider caught on the wrong side of Belfast during the Troubles.

And there are so many more things to look forward to this year: Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt), The Cobbler (Tom McCarthy), The Rover (David Michod), Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson), The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos), Far From the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg), Carol (Todd Haynes), Two Days, One Night (Dardennes brothers), Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan), Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh), The Cut (Fatih Akin) and Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien).

True Romance

In a film town like Los Angeles, we’re fortunate to be surrounded by a particular kind of library: film archives. For each Lost & Found at the Movies events, I like to go foraging through a library or archive.

This time, I spoke to May Haduong at the Academy Film Archive, part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. It’s the third largest film archive in the country; they have 222 million feet of film. We took a look at only a couple hundred feet (all 16mm). Appropriately, the footage brought us “true romance”: home movies of notable Hollywood couples. There were three segments:

James Wong Howe and Sanora Babb. Home movies have an edge when shot by renowned cinematographer. James Wong Howe who worked on over 100 films during the golden age and won 2 cinematography Academy Awards for Rose Tattoo and Hud, also made many home movies throughout his career. Probably 1937, this footage features Howe travelling in the San Francisco Bay Area by car with his partner and future wife, Sanora Babb, her sister Dorothy, author James Hilton and his wife Alice, and actor Charles Korvin.

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Shot in the mid-late-1940s this footage shows Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who had been married a few years on their boat, the Santana. Bogart sailed quite often – 40 weekends a year – and taught Bacall, who joined him less after the birth of their first child. Joining them is Richard Brooks who directed Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Lord Jim and Looking for Mr. Goodbar and wrote Key Largo. Bogart was once quoted saying, “The problem with having dames along is you can’t pee over the side.”

And finally, Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Hitchcock and their daughter Patricia. It’s likely that Alfred and Alma Hitchcock, collaborators and husband and wife, acquired a camera when Pat was born in 1928. The bulk of these were shot near London at Shamley Cottage, a country home. Hitchcock shot many of them, handing the camera off to Alma on occasion. This is the earliest known color footage of Alfred Hitchcock – probably shot in 1929. It’s Kodacolor, a process involving a filter and black and white stock to render color – not as vibrant as Kodachrome. Most notable is the playful, quirky side of Hitchcock revealed in these movies.

Picture above courtesy of the Alfred Hitchcock Collection at the Academy Film Archive. Special thanks to the Academy Film Archive and the estates of James Wong Howe, Alfred Hitchcock and Richard Brooks for allowing these home movies to be used in the collection.

Where’s the Love?

We shifted gears from love in the movies to love for the movies.

In the first Lost & Found at the Movies event, I had rummaged through the Los Angeles Public Library’s breathtaking photography collection to find a number of images of Los Angeles’ movie palaces over the years, beginning with the openings of famous theaters like Grauman’s Chinese and the El Capitan all the way through the construction and opening of the Cinerama Dome. You can’t help but feel struck by the majesty of those spaces and what that brought to the experiences itself. And with that grandeur in mind, it’s tough to survey the city’s theater landscape today – the countless defunct theaters and empty marquees – without a certain sadness. That is until you look a little closer….

There’s a thriving culture of theatrical exhibition across Los Angeles and vibrant community waiting for you to be part of it. So I decided to spend a day trekking across town and talking to people whose passion is for showing movies. The day trip was chronicled by filmmaker Michael Bodie in this 8 minute piece “Where’s the Love?”

Where’s the Love? from Library Foundation of Los Angeles on Vimeo.

So in addition to great first-run venues that feature interesting films (Landmark’s venues, Laemmle Theaters, Sundance Sunset, and others), we can take hope in places like the Academy Film Archive, American Cinemateque at the Aero and Egyptian theaters, Billy Wilder Theater (UCLA Film & Television Archive), Cinefamily, Cinespia, Downtown Independent, LACMA, New Beverly, Redcat and occasionally the Getty and Skirball. Also both UCLA’s Melnitz Movies and USC Stark Family Theater can be counted on for interesting specialty films.

Some highlights: the Academy Film Archive has several programs in the works, from a Jim Jarmusch retrospective to Penelope Spheeris’ Decline of Western Civilization trilogy (with special guests) and some not-to-be missed live events including Ennio Morricone in conversation with Quentin Tarantino. Shannon Kelly and the UCLA Film & Television Archive will be presenting a Robert Altman retrospective from April to June. The American Cinemateque has just started a Jean-Luc Godard series and will offer their famed Film Noir series again this spring. And in addition to Cinefamily’s upcoming runs of Alan Resnais’ Je t’aime, je t’aime, you can find their long running series like Friday Night Frights, The Silent Treatment, Lost and Found Film Club and The Doug Benson Movie Interruption.

The Happiness Quotient

Love makes us feel good, maybe it’s the only thing that mitigates the world we live in. But does cinema show us real love – or just movies love. Is it all just warm and fuzzy? We break for statistics….

I used three sample sets: AFI’s 100 Greatest Love Stories, Sight & Sound’s Top 100 films, and all the winners of the Best Picture Academy Award.

What percentage of the great romances actually have a happy ending? In a non-scientific statistical analysis, I found the following:

AFI 100: 62% of the couples in these films end up together in the end, 38% do not (and for 26% it’s because one or both are dead). Noteworthy is that in seven of the top 10 films the couple does not end up together.

Sight & Sound. I considered 26 of the Top 100 films to be veritable love stories. Of those 12 end happily (46%), 11 unhappily (42%), of those 5 are a result of death. That leaves 3 in the murky Gray Zone – although the couple is together, whether they are happy is debatable (e.g. L’avventura).

Best Picture. Subjectively, 30 Best Picture winners are love stories.  Of those, 16 end happily, 11 unhappily including 8 deaths. 2 I put in a fourth category in which the female object of affection dies at the beginning in order for the male protagonist to grow as a person (usually by exacting bloody revenge).

Dark Side of the Human Heart

In our final segment with writer/director Stacie Passon the conversation about love stories explored the depths of human nature, mature relationships and marriage. We looked at clips from Passon’s Concussion, Rossellini’s devastating Journey to Italy, which Cahiers du Cinema called the first modern film, Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage and Godard’s A Woman is a Woman, at which point we ran out of time before getting to Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons and Linklater’s Before Midnight.

So, moving from the most romantic moments of cinema to the more profound and dark contours of the human heart, I think it’s fair to say we found quite a lot of “splendor”.

–Posted by John Nein, Senior Programmer at the Sundance Film Festival and Curator of Lost & Found at the Movies