Celebrating Cesar Chavez at the Los Angeles Public Library

In honor of Cesar Chavez Day and The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, the just-released biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Miriam Pawel, ALOUD will be hosting a program celebrating the famed civil rights leader whose work has impacted the lives of millions across the world, including many artists who have been inspired to tell his story. On April 1 at ALOUD, biographer Pawel will be joined by renowned playwright and director Luis Valdez (Zoot Suit, La Bamba, and Teatro Campesinowhich has been in continuous operation since 1965 when it was founded on the Delano Grape Strike picket lines of Cesar Chavez’s United Farmworkers Union as a means to educate and empower workers). Pawel and Valdez will share their perspectives on the crusades of this unlikely American hero who ignited one of the great social movements of our time. As we get ready for this special evening, here’s a look into the Library’s archives at the myriad ways Chavez’s story has touched us.

Shooting Reflections: Film and Social Change

Actor, filmmaker, and activist Diego Luna visited ALOUD last year to discuss how storytelling can act as an agent for social change. Watch the program above or listen to the podcast. And keep an eye out in theatres for Luna’s latest feature, Cesar Chavez, which is now playing.

The Union of their Dreams: Power, Hope and Struggle in Cesar Chavez’s Farm Worker Movement

In 2010 at ALOUD, Miriam Pawel discussed the rise of the United Farm Workers during the heady days of civil rights struggles, the antiwar movement, and 60s and 70s student activism. Listen to the podcast.

The Los Angeles Public Library has an incredible collection of photos documenting Chavez’s activism around the city.

Cesar Chavez at GM Rally March http://jpg1.lapl.org/pics28/00033790.jpgLocal 645 President Pete Beltran, left, Cesar Chavez and Maxine Waters, march with GM workers, past the GM plant on Van Nuys Boulevard. Photo by Mike Sergieff, 1983.

 Cesar Chavez Pickets Supermarket

Father Luis Olivares (left) chats with Cesar Chavez while picketing in front of the Safeway supermarket at 3rd Street and Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles. Photo by Mike Mullen, 1979.

Brooklyn Avenue Becomes César E. Chávez Avenue
http://jpg1.lapl.org/pics03/00001218.jpgMembers of the Jewish Labor Committee participate in the renaming ceremony for Brooklyn Avenue to become César E. Chávez Avenue in Boyle Heights. The committee was asked to support the changing demographics of the neighborhood by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. 1994.

And of course, many related books for all ages, including Spanish language books, are available at the Los Angeles Public Library:

Cesar Chavez : A Photographic Essay, Cesar Chavez : Autobiography of La Causa, and A Picture Book of Cesar Chavez.

Book Jacket for: Cesar Chavez : a photographic essayBook Jacket for: Cesar Chavez : autobiography of La CausaBook Jacket for: A picture book of Cesar Chavez

Learn more about the upcoming ALOUD program and make your free reservation here. And remember the Los Angeles Public Library will be closed on Monday, March 31 in observance of Cesar Chavez Day.

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.

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

Rebel Music: An “Audiotopia”

Travel the globe through Hisham Aidi’s “Rebel Music” playlist and you’ll find yourself sampling Taqwacore (Islamic punk) from Pakistani-American punk rockers, Randy Weston’s fusion of jazz and Gnawa (African Islamic spiritual music), and poppy Brazilian funk from the soundtrack of a Brazilian telenovela filmed in Turkey. Throughout the extraordinary breadth of his book, Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture, Aidi looks at the bridge between political activism and music through a historic and cultural lens, focusing on youth movements and the trans-Atlantic journey that Muslims, both European and American, are making in their search for freedom and a modern identity.  What might their “audiotopia” sound like?  Aidi previews a few of the tracks on his playlist for us here.  Join Hisham Aidi together with Safa Samiezade’-Yazd, Aslan Media’s art, culture and music editor, for a listening experience and conversation at ALOUD on March 13.

The Kominas, “Tunn”
Pakistani-American punk rockers part of Taqwacore movement, responding to Bush/Blair/Musharaf policy of using Sufism for de-radicalization

Randy Weston, “Blue Moses” (advance to 3:30 min mark)
Weston was one of the earliest American musicians to take an interest in Ganwa, helping bring the music out of the margins and into the mainstream

Koringa, “Dança Sensual”
Funk soundtrack to Brazilian telenovela “Salve Jorge” which addresses relations between Brazil and Turkey, and caused a mania for all Turkish things in Brazil

Hanine Y Son Cubano, “‘Ala Bali” (advance to 1:45 min mark)
Lebanese-Cuban collaboration and example of post-9/11 wave of Tropicalism-Orientalism. Stunning call and response

Outlandish, “Callin’ U”
Danish-Muslim hip-hop/R&B trio, pioneers of European Muslim rap & R&B

The above image featured on the ALOUD spring postcard features a photograph of artist Mohammed Ali’s fusion of street art and Arabic script (“Unity”) on a wall in Birmingham, UK.

Jeff Koons and John Waters Bring Art to the L.A. Masses

On Monday evening the “king of kitsch” and the “pope of trash” held court at downtown’s Orpheum Theatre. Co-presented by the Library Foundation and The Broad museum as part of the “The Un-Private Collection” series, artist Jeff Koons and filmmaker/author/photographer John Waters took the stage from opposite curtains like two opposing presidential candidates ready to debate—both in formal dark suits and politely shaking hands. The pair swiftly sat down and warmed up for the packed house of nearly 2,000 attendees to discuss Koons’ iconic body of work.

Holding tight to his clipboard of questions, Waters drilled Koons on his early days fishing for some sign of unhinged behavior of the artist as a young man. Undeterred by Waters’ playful prodding, Koons remained calm and upbeat as he spoke about his traditional upbringing in Baltimore—the one scathing story he remembered involved a “sexy” ceramic ashtray that he gravitated towards every time he visited his grandparents. Meanwhile, Waters, more easily inhabiting his outsider-artist status from an early age, confessed that as a child he constantly pretended to be the “nude descending the staircase.”

Waters also grew up in Baltimore and the two flashbacked to local haunts like a gaudy furniture store that either directly (Waters) or indirectly (Koons) inspired their art. They told a touching story about how Koons’ aunt and Waters’ mother, who both recently passed away, had lived in the same retirement home and used to exchange anecdotes about their provocateur nephew and son. Koons credited his aunt for taking him to art classes on the weekends, which helped to foster his early knack for drawing and gave him a sense of self. But he seemed to learn more about expressing feelings from music than art, “I started to become ambitious when I heard Led Zeppelin,” recalled Koons of driving around, cranking up Zeppelin and wanting to take his life in a different direction.

He enrolled in art school and on his first visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art he was humbled by all the great artists he had never heard of. Surviving this moment of realizing he didn’t know anything pushed him to become a disciplined student, and eventually a great artist. He explained how his paintings soon became bigger than the walls, so he naturally moved on to other mediums, producing the body of work that fans are familiar with today.

Waters curated slides of some of his favorite Koon pieces, including The Rabbit and Balloon Dog (Blue). When Waters asked how Koons felt about viewers who became confused or angry over his work, Koons seemed nonplussed. “The art happens inside the viewer,” said Koons. From his famous titillating rendering of Michael Jackson and his monkey Bubbles to a recent Lady Gaga album cover, Koons has been influenced by popular culture as much as he has been influenced by Plato and Kierkegaard. He emphasized how ultimately his art is about acceptance—accepting ideas and the self—and that is why he often incorporates familiar images and objects like garden gazing balls into his work. This accessibility has afforded him a huge following and success, which Waters astutely defined his own barometer of success by two things: “You can buy any book you want without looking at the price tag, and you don’t have to be around assholes.”

If you missed this memorable evening full of witticisms and insights on art, life, and the occasional divergence into sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, then you can watch the video below.

Video streaming by Ustream

–Posted by Bridgette Bates and photos by Gary Leonard

Lost & Found at the Movies with John Nein

Last fall, the Library Foundation launched Lost & Found at the Movies, a new series to celebrate the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture. John Nein, a senior programmer of the Sundance Film Festival and curator of this new series, is focusing on lesser-explored areas of filmmaking to cultivate a conversation around film beyond the buzz of new releases. From unearthing historic photographs and film books from the Los Angeles Public Library’s archives to talking to some of Los Angeles’ biggest film nerds, Nein is combing the whole city for film treasures and bringing them to the stage. Free and open to the public at the downtown Central Library, the next event will take place this Friday, February 28th at 7:30 pm. All the events are built around a theme, so on the heels of Valentine’s Day this upcoming episode, Love is a Many Splendored Things, will explore love at the movies. We talked to Nein about some of his own movie loves and what movie-lovers can look forward to this Friday.
John Nein with Kenneth Turan.

Where did the idea for Lost & Found at the Movies come from?

Nein: Ken Brecher [President of the Library Foundation] first suggested doing a film culture series. There’s no shortage of great film-related events on upcoming releases, award seasons, and so on, but what excited me was the idea of bringing in anyone who has a passion for film—directors, writers, journalists, cinematographers, costume designers—to talk about personal cinema passions, perhaps even arcane interests that they don’t often have an opportunity or platform to talk about in any real depth. For instance, a filmmaker may get the chance to talk about their current work, but they don’t get the chance to talk about how much they love the Czech New Wave. We’ve imagined the series to be very eclectic in nature. You should feel like you’re flipping through a film magazine, but there’s a thematic connection within each event like an episode of “This American Life.”

You kicked off the first event by talking to film critic Kenneth Turan—a beloved and longtime voice in the film community. What “new” things did he have to say about film?

Nein: Kenneth Turan makes his living talking about films that are coming out, but what we talked about was Miyazaki, Max Ophüls, and how he loves this old 1920s French serialized film called “Fantomas.” We even got a chance to talk about Casablanca. We both appreciated that we could use clips and that’s what makes it engaging and fun for the audience.

Speaking of Casablanca, the upcoming event will take on the love story. What do you plan to explore?

Nein: The idea is to look at different kinds of love in movies and love for movies. Each segment of the night will have a different way of interpreting that. For example, we’ll be showing a couple of home movies of famous Hollywood couples like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. In another segment, I just spent a day driving all over Los Angeles to as many theatrical exhibition venues as I could manage in search of people whose passion is to show movies—places like the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Cinefamily, and the American Cinematheque.

Also, the special guest of the night is Stacie Passon who is the writer/director of Concussion, which I thought was one of the strongest films of last year that was overlooked by many. It’s a film that deals with love in a really sophisticated and difficult way. This is not movie warm and fuzzy, but Passon shows a way of depicting how profound cinema can be about human nature and relationships, and marriage in particular and we’re going to look through film history for the really rigorous takes on mature relationships (Rossellini, Cassavetes, Bergman).

Besides Concussion, what are some of the other movies you loved from last year that maybe we haven’t heard of?

Nein: We’ll talk about some of these on Friday, but Fill the Void is a completely unique love story that takes place in an ultra orthodox community in Israel—by virtue of being set there, I’ve never seen this type of film before and it’s a wrenching love story. The Spectacular Now is one of the most honest portrayals of teenage romance with all the edges. Cutie and the Boxer is one of the best documentaries from last year, and even though it’s nominated for an Oscar, it was overlooked by many. It’s so observant of mature love about a tumultuous marriage between two artists.

You spend the year travelling to film festivals around the world in search of new work to screen at Sundance. What are some great films we should be on the lookout for this upcoming year?

Nein: We’ll also talk about some of these films I’m most excited about this year on Friday, which won’t all be love stories like Calvary, which stars Brendan Gleeson as a good priest tormented by his townspeople. Lunchbox, set in Mumbai, is a love story between an accountant and a housewife that starts when the lunchbox she sends her husband inadvertently goes to the accountant. And Mike Leigh’s new film, which we assume will premiere at Cannes and is about J.M.W. Turner, the British artist.

Where do you see the rest of the series going this year?

Nein: We’re hoping to do an episode called “All About Evil,” which occurred to me when I was thinking about characters in the Coen brothers’ movies, but this will stretch way beyond that. I’m talking to Buck Henry about Shakespeare on film, and I think later this year we’ll do something about documentary portraits.

Last, but not least, the Oscars are this weekend. In your professional opinion, what’s going to win Best Picture?

Nein: Gravity. But I’m always wrong.

Learn more about the upcoming Lost & Found at the Movies. Admission is free and space is limited, so please make your reservations online early.

 

 

Tales from Two Cities

From the gritty drama of noir to the free-spirited poetry of the Beats, how does the literature of California tell us who we are? This Thursday, February 20, ALOUD kicks off the second part of this special home-grown conference in collaboration with The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. Free and open to all at the downtown Central Library, Tales from Two Cities will explore the language, culture, and aesthetic that has helped to shape the writing of California. Here’s the full schedule of events, but for a sneak preview at some of the California voices gathering this week, check out these highlights from past ALOUD programs.

Walter Mosley, Between the Sheets: Sex, Literature, and the Future of Erotic Fiction. Listen to the podcast here.

 

Attica Locke, The Future of African American Literature and the Paradox of Progress. Listen to the podcast here.

 

David Ulin in Conversation with Joan Didion.

 

Poet Gary Snyder. Listen to the podcast here.

Learn more about the other upcoming participants and how you can watch the conference from home.

Tying the Room Together; Highlights from ALOUD

The year brought many unexpected surprises to the ALOUD stage: a first-ever live rap with local hip hop stars backing author MK Asante; Quetzal bringing vintage music from the Los Angeles Public Library sheet music collection to life; Persian short story master Goli Taraghi slyly comparing Tehranian and Parisian cabbies; the late Wanda Coleman delivering one of her last public readings—a passionate poetry tribute to James Weldon Johnson. We sampled sustainable Congolese coffee before a panel on coffee culture, and blissed out when The Dude himself (Jeff Bridges) ruminated on how “love is the rug that ties the room together.”

Please join us once more before the year’s end to laugh, question, savor, and reflect on some of our favorite ALOUD moments from 2013:

Three accomplished short story writers—George Saunders, Bernard Cooper, and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, unpacked the challenges of the short story form explaining how they work through their own daunting personal doubts.

“Language is like a sword that can defend you.” Iranian writer Goli Taraghi shared this wisdom along with other fascinating insights into how creativity and ingenuity can flourish despite censorship, oppression, and the struggles of an exile living far from her home and mother tongue.

MK Asante and Nick Flynn gifted us raw wisdom in their memoirs, both soaring meditations on the power of poetry, writing, and filmmaking as tools for transmitting universal truths, emotional healing, and unlocking individual freedom.

“Is this your first book in a box?,” asked graphic novelist Gene Yang of fellow illustrator Joe Sacco. Yang dove into a fascinating discussion with Sacco on process, while looking at how artists deal with the ethics of converting history into graphic narratives. Far from being contained within the boundaries of a box, these two artists showed how storytelling is illuminated through diverse forms.

The Feminine Mystique, a panel of multi-generational activists, expanded upon Betty Friedan’s seminal book by exploring the evolution of the feminist movement, and why feminism is still considered a “dirty word.” Highlights included learning about the radical and exploratory approaches women took to protect their health in the sixties (the first time anyone produced a speculum on the ALOUD stage!), and consensus from all participants that feminists today are in favor of a more inclusive movement encompassing class and racial equality for both women and men.

The Library jammed to the jazz and world music tunes of Don Cherry in a live tribute honoring an L.A. genius who spread his cosmic musical talent far and wide. In a first-ever hometown tribute, his talented family of fellow musicians—conducted by his son David Ornette Cherry— shared candid stories from his career while also introducing a new generation to his work.

The ALOUD audience was enlightened by a rich bilingual experience about the life of the late poet and novelist Roberto Bolaño. Here’s a gem from an audience member: “Otherness becomes familiar as the magic of unattainable syllables is rendered even more magical with the conveyance of heart pulse, bone and marrow intentions.”


Activists Albie Sachs, Eve Ensler, Jody Williams and artist Shirin Neshat—all by example—showed what we can do as citizens and artists in service of reconciliation, social justice and as agents for positive change in the world: “You cannot not respond to the world around you—culture has to be morally conscious.” —Shirin Neshat (pictured above)

Thank you for spending the year with us! We look forward to seeing you in 2014. Learn more about our 2014 program calendar here.

Looking at the Past and Present; A Year of Special Projects

The Library Foundation has spent the last year envisioning the role of the 21st century library by launching a range of special projects that celebrate the rich history and culture of Los Angeles in today’s world. Before we head into 2014, we wanted to share some highlights from these projects that we hope have offered Angelenos a chance to experience our city in new and unique ways.

Songs in the Key of L.A.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Over the summer, this special project brought to life the Los Angeles Public Library’s sheet music collection, including the publication of Angel City Press’ beautiful anthology curated by USC Professor Josh Kun. The First Floor Galleries of the Central Library also opened an exhibit of 46 pieces of the cover art from the sheet music, and ALOUD hosted Kun and GRAMMY-winning L.A. band Quetzal for a look at L.A.’s musical history. Listen to the podcast here.

The project closed with what Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic Randall Roberts called “a truly memorable moment, one that many in attendance won’t forget.” East L.A. band Ozmatli and fellow artists took the stage at Grand Performances to resurrect the historic songs from the collection. The evening featured special guests Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, and Cheech Marin filling the California Plaza with a new take on its SoCal roots.

Check out KCET’s Artbound special series for short films documenting the new recordings of songs from the collection below, and download some of the songs here.

 

Whatever Happened to Moby Dick?

Raymond Pettibon, No Title (His transformation is), 2009. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles ©Raymond Pettibon

Throughout the fall, the Library Foundation teamed up with the Los Angeles Public Library to invite readers to take a look at Herman Melville’s masterpiece through a Southern California lens. Over 90 librarian-created events across the city offered Angelenos of all ages to chance to interact with the great white whale, including a special reading of Moby Dick by actor, comedian, and Melvillian enthusiast Patton Oswalt.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Over 200 folks took part in the Summarizing Moby Dick Twitter Contest winners, which offered hilarious and thoughtful micro takes on the epic story, including this favorite:

http://lfla.org/mobydick/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Twitter-Winner-1-copy.jpg

The project culminated with “My Moby Dick,” a grand finale of theatrical performance, sea shanties, and cutting-edge science at the Broad Stage, including a special film by the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Watch parts of this video here, including food critic Jonathan Gold’s retelling of eating whale balls.

 

Lost & Found at the Movies

This fall, we debuted a new series celebrating the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture. Curated by John Nein, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, the program is eclectic in theme and varies in form, exploring how we lose ourselves and find ourselves at the movies. The first installment unearthed some historic photos of theaters from the Library’s archive and featured Los Angeles Times and NPR Film Critic Kenneth Turan talking about how and where we watch films in L.A.

Check back with us in the new year for upcoming special projects, including the next installment of Lost & Found at the Movies.

Making History Graphic

Over the past two years, ALOUD has featured two separate programs that have explored the graphic novel as a unique form of storytelling. First, Alison Bechdel amazed us with her unique use of the graphic novel format for her memoir Fun Home; then we saw how great works of literature could be reinterpreted by illustrators, cartoonists and graphic novelists to create The Graphic Canon, a new visual way of experiencing the classics.

On November 12, ALOUD will present acclaimed graphic novelists Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese; Avatar) and Joe Sacco (Journalism; Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt) in a discussion exploring their innovative approaches toward “Making History Graphic” – both will be joined in conversation by Charles Hatfield, Professor of English at California State University, Northridge (Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature; The Superhero Reader).  Both authors have newly released books that tell historically accurate stories in beautifully illustrated comic form, to create an altogether new and exciting way to experience and learn about events of the past. In advance of this program, we wanted to give you a better idea of just how special and inventive these new books by Yang and Sacco are. Read more below, and join us at ALOUD on November 12th!

Joe Sacco’s The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme 

This stunningly illustrated panorama by Joe Sacco can be difficult to describe, because we have never quite seen anything like it. Unfolding all 24 panels of Sacco’s exceedingly detailed masterpiece reveals a complete re-telling of the events on the first day of the Battle of the Somme during World War I. The accompanying booklet, On The Great War, includes an authors’ note explaining the importance of the WW 1on Sacco’s life and psyche, a forward by author Adam Hochschild which includes excerpts of his acclaimed book, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (which he discussed at ALOUD in 2011)  and a fully annotated version of the whole illustrated panorama, which allows the reader to visually experience every step of the battle by explaining and contextualizing exactly what you are seeing, giving real insight into the lives and conditions of the soldiers. Examples of Sacco’s annotations:

Plate 9, #15: Breakfast arrives though not all the troops get a chance to eat”

“Plate 11, #23: At precisely 7:30 am, the attack commences.”

“Plate 21, #42: A battery of 6-inch howitzers fires at German positions.”

The detail in this book must really be seen in person, as photos cannot do it justice- but we’ve included a few for you below, as well as a short video that shows the unfolding of all 24 panels of The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints

Gene Yang has written a number of successful graphic novels, including the award-wining Avatar which became a popular television series on Nickelodeon, but his newest work, Boxers & Saints, for which he was just nominated as a 2013 National Book Award Finalist, is his historic depiction of China’s Great Boxer Rebellion from perspectives on both sides of the battle. Not only does Boxers & Saints teach about real events of the Boxer Rebellion, it also makes both sides of the story relatable because the reader experiences each story through the eyes of  the main character.

Boxers, the first volume of this series follows the main character Little Bao- a young Chinese boy living in the countryside, whose life drastically changes after the arrival of western missionaries who try to insert their beliefs by force and intimidation. After witnessing a series of injustices on his village and his own family, we see Little Bao change from a boy to a warrior determined to set things right. Bao joins a group of vigilantes called The Righteous and Harmonious Fist, and together they set out to banish the “foreign devils” in order to reunite China, showing no mercy along the way. Storytelling and the importance of cultural history plays a huge role in Boxers & Saints, and there are even a few scenes that take place inside a library (which we loved of course!)

Images from Boxers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Saints, the second part of this two-volume set, we witness the other side of the Boxer Rebellion by following the story of an impoverished young girl who has converted to Christianity, by giving up her family and her past as an outcast,for the prospect of starting over with a new life and a new name. We see her struggling along the way- battling her own confusion over religion, family, and searching for meaning in her life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re sure you’ll enjoy hearing more about the process behind these stunning works as much as we’ve enjoyed reading them.  See you on Tuesday, November 12th as we explore “Making History Graphic.”

 

By Sarah Charleton, Cultural Programs Coordinator