Category Archives: pop culture

“How Did This Get Made?” and More

Another week goes by and I’m still employed (yay) and the week goes by quick enough for me not to be too dragged down by it all.  Yay, again.  I’ve been trying to figure out what it is I want to do with my life, and yes, I recognize I am 40 and should have figured that out a while ago.  So while I recognize that the career side of things is basically just me finding a niche where I can get stuff done and get paid while doing it, as being a true “professional” in some career has long ago stopped being an option for me, I do think I can figure out hobbies and such that will bring me personal satisfaction.

Writing is certainly up there, and if I can get the discipline to write on a regular basis and also figure out things to write about passionately, that would be a good first step.  Musical instruments are also an interesting thought, but man, you need to take lessons and get the time commitment figured out, and that’s freakin’ tough right now.  But I have this new guitar and I want to get back to it, so we’ll have to make that work out.   Stupid video games are also a bane to my productivity, to be honest.  So many good ones out there.  Anyway, just some random notes from me to you.

How about some pictures?

Barb and I had a nice after-work catch-up at Traxx earlier this week and it was wonderful.  Sometimes, you gotta get a drink at the Art Deco Union Station in your city, amirite?

Larry and I got dinner at a great new restaurant called The Tsujita in the Americana, where the specialty is a weird twist on ramen:  the noodles and pork are served cold and separate from the broth, which is really hot and delicious.  You then dip the noodles/pork into it….and it’s fucking wonderful.  A great addition to the restaurant selection here.

Yesterday was the main event for us though, as Larry had been able to secure tickets to an event called “How Did This Get Made?”  What it is is 3 hilarious people (Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael (who we feel in love with from her role in Grace & Frankie), and Jason Mantzoukas) + a hilarious guest talking about various terrible movies and all the wondrous ways it is terrible.  It’s a podcast you can listen to via iTunes or Earwolf podcast website and you definitely should.  The first one I ever listened to was recommended by Larry and it was all about A View to a Kill, yes, the awesome 80s James Bond movie.  Both Larry & I grew up on it so we’re blinded to its failings, but man, this really long podcast just does a number on it and it is epically hilarious.  Well worth the nearly 2 hours to listen to it if you have time, as they point out so many of the ludicrous plot points and characters.  So funny.  Anyway, Larry’s been addicted to the show ever since, and finally scored tickets to it for this past weekend!  He’s been super excited although I think we all were kind of worried once we learned about the movie that was going to be the topic of our show yesterday:  Chopping Mall…..yes, it’s a craptastic 80’s “horror” movie about “teens” trapped in a high-tech mall with 3 malfunctioning murderous robots.  Holy shit this thing is bad….but don’t take my word for it, here’s the awful trailer for this awful movie:

I can’t be sure this is the real trailer as the description kind of indicates it’s not?  But it captures the sheer cheese of it all.  Anyway, Larry & I ventured over to where Nicki lives in LA to watch the movie on Amazon Video with her as she and Austin were going to go with us for this fun.  The three of us watched it in wonder as the movie truly is just terrible terrible terrible.  And the performances are ridiculous and there’s lots of boobs for no reason and it begs the question, HOW DID THIS GET MADE???  Full circle, people, that’s what just happened.  It’s a truly perfect movie for this show (and podcast).

Anyway, having done our research for the night’s entertainment, we then went over to the Largo Theater, which is on La Cienega Blvd just a block north of the Beverly Center, which hilariously is the exterior for the Chopping Mall.  So of course, after we got our tickets for the show (not too bad of seats – it’s a random draw and we ended up getting 5th row), the three of us went down to the Beverly Center.  Apparently it’s not the interior that was used for the movie as another mall had that distinction, but it was still fun to think about it anyway.  There is a main foyer in the Beverly Center that looks a LOT like the movie though.  It’s still weird to be back in that neighborhood and see the Beverly Connection across the street and consider I spent 5 years working there at the Bookstar which is now gone….like truly gone.  It’s been remodeled into an Old Navy.  🙁

We then met up with Austin at the Largo’s bar once that opened up and we had a few drinks to get into the spirit of things.  Anyway…the show was amazing.  Larry had been bracing for the possibility of June not being there, but as it was the 8pm show, the likelihood is higher that she was going to be present and happily she was.  They of course loved tearing this movie apart as it certainly deserves to be.  I’m looking forward to hearing the podcast once they release it, which we think is going to be in a week or so.  Highly recommended once it is!

Anyway – pictures!

Saturday, Mar 11, 2017: How Did This Get Made @ The Largo

It was just a great night and a fun way to spend most of a Saturday.   Of course, Daylight Savings Time coming around this morning to steal some of our precious sleep time is the worst.  Anyway, we eventually got our act together, watched last night’s SNL (the Ivanka Trump “Complicit” ad was amazing), and then headed out to Target to restock the house supplies and then watch Logan.

Logan (2017) (saw this on Mar 12 @ the Pacific Theaters in Glendale)

Well, the reviews are in and it’s been getting across-the-board raves, and rightfully so.  It’s getting praised for very good things, such as a stripped down story, wonderful performances, and a more serious take on what usually isn’t.  And oh yeah, it’s R-rated and it takes full advantage of that, as Logan is fucking violent as hell.  I mean, it’s REALLY violent.  But I have to say that while I did enjoy the ride, the movie feels too long and I think it needed to have an explanation for some things to help place you in the world.  I get it, you do get enough hints as to what’s happened in the time between the last X-Men movies and 2029, which is when this is set.  But I kind of still wanted to know more – what actually happened that Professor X and Logan keep referring to?  Obviously it resulted in the deaths of pretty much all the mutants, but what was it?  Maybe it doesn’t matter, but the ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake kind of turned me off.  And this movie is bleak, full stop.  There’s very good reasons for that but just know this is not the movie that ends with everyone hugging it out at the end.  Nope.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are of course fantastic, as is the young actress who played Laura / X23.  It’s interesting to think where the “modern” X-Men movies plan to go from here…do they tell the story I’m bitching about missing?  Or are they only going to do the “First Class” X-Men?  OR just reboot the whole damn thing?    Logan is certainly a better movie than the recent Apocalypse though, and for sophistication, it stands pretty much above most of the other recent X-Men movies too.  I guess I’m struggling with liking it but not loving it?  And wanting to have SOME exposition to fill in some of the blanks.

Movies Seen in 2017:

Fantastic / Rave-worthy:

Very Good:

Okay / Wait to See at Home:

Only if You’re Going to “How Did This Get Made?”

  • Chopping Mall (1986)

Catching Up, March 2017

Hi – we’re still kicking here, just haven’t had much motivation to update – but here are some quick bullet points:

First:  I got a chance to see my friend and former coworker Sharon as she was in town for a few days due to work.  That’s not a small thing to consider, as she normally lives and works in Israel!  Speaking of, I think it would be fantastic trip to go there, see the history, enjoy the culture, and see Sharon!   Anyway, we met up in the Silver Lake area and ended up having a late lunch at Hyperion Public.  It’s great to have it be so easy to fall into conversation.

Second:  Yesterday, Larry & I picked up my mom and then we went east to Upland/Ontario to visit with Trent and Stacie and extended family.  Trent was down from college for the weekend and it was quite nice to see him, as well as Stacie.  It’s nuts to think he’s 20, I’m 40, and hi, hello, I’m old.

Third:  This past week has been slightly different for me as my current work engagement was kind of in a “pause”, so I’ve had the chance to breathe a little and remember what it was like to not be stressed.  Don’t you worry about me though – my blood pressure will be cranked back up to Max come Monday and I can look forward to a heart attack by 45, probably.  But hey, it’s only what I deserve.

Fourth:  So, Movies!  We’ve been seeing quite a few lately…and need to add some thoughts and rankings on them in this ol’ site.

Love & Mercy (2014) (saw it via hulu):  What a life Brian Wilson has lived.  Obviously a Hollywood version of 2 critical points in your life will be overly heightened and dramatized, but even from what you read, it’s kinda crazy.   Love & Mercy takes place during two points in Brian’s life – one is during the Beach Boys’ recording of Pet Sounds, while the other part is during the 90s when Brian Wilson is struggling under the care of his psychiatrist and finds hope and love.   The struggles that Brian endured during the 60s to harness his talent while easily succumbing to drugs is fascinating to watch.  Many moments that Larry & I have learned about from other movies were recreated, especially in the recording studio and at his house.  He was a musical genius but his father was a major muthafucka and he truly does have mental problems.  So flash forward a few decades and Brian has fallen under the sway of a psychiatrist who effectively controls him with drugs and constant supervision.   The movie covers both of these periods and it’s a fascinating tour, albeit quite sad at times.  Spoiler alert – Brian Wilson is mostly fine now, but it wasn’t an easy journey, and he really does have psychological problems that require care.  Anyway, if you like the recordings within Pet Sounds and Good Vibrations, this movie is well worth your time.

Moonlight (2016) (saw it via ITunes): We managed to see this before the Oscars as I had heard quite stellar reviews of it from basically anyone I knew who’d seen it along with all the critical reviews.  I knew that it had to do with being gay and black, but surprisingly enough, that isn’t something that I immediately want to go rush out and see, even though I myself am quite gay.  While us whites have a carefree ride being gay (/Sarcasm), I know that for a black man, being gay is a whole additional level of pressure to deal with.  So yeah, I knew this movie wasn’t going to be a light-hearted gay rom-com.  And I was right.  BUT, I was also quite enthralled by the movie as it tells a very tough story, but obviously one that can be related to regardless.  It’s got at its center a character in 3 points of his life:  as a young boy, a teenager, then finally a man in his 20s.  It’s told chronologically, and we immediately know that while the young Chiron isn’t sexually active, he’s already perceived differently and tormented for it.  He only has his mother as family, and unfortunately, mom is a crackhead, and cares not all that much that Chiron is suffering.  Happily, Chiron finds a father and mother figure in an unlikely source, an empathetic drug dealer (played by now-Academy Award-winning Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Janelle Monae.  They provide a safe space for him as well as a sounding board, as Chiron has a frankly distressing and difficult conversation with them that sometimes hit too close to home.

The next phase is when Chiron is a teenager, and man, this is particularly brutal.  He’s awkward, gawky, and ostracized in high school, and his tormentors are relentless and cruel.  It’s terrible to watch and to empathize.  But he has one friend that ends up being a lifeline for him.    It’s a very emotional section of the movie, and I will avoid too many plot points, but by the end of it, you’re left wondering what the hell is in store for him, and before you can wonder too long, you see that he of course falls into the path that’s open to him and resembles his pseudo father almost identically.  Then a phone call comes and it’s that friend from his teenage years – a voice he likely never expected to ever hear from again, but there he is on the other end of the line and suddenly everything and nothing makes sense.  So they meet.  And it’s an agonizingly long series of scenes in which you want nothing more than for this grown-up Chiron to finally find happiness.  And maybe that’s why I ended up slightly cold towards the movie at the end – as that happy ending isn’t here.  In fact, the ending is almost abrupt…and from what I’ve read, it’s an intentional choice by the director, Barry Jenkins.  I get that it’s probably more realistic of a choice to make, but seriously, the lack of catharsis is a huge element to deal with.  Regardless, Moonlight is a fantastic movie and certainly deserved the Best Picture Oscar.  But as a gay man, those feelings were all too relatable and to not get some kind of happiness you’d likely see in any “straight” movie felt kind of like a reminder that yeah, the stigma is still there that people don’t want to see it.  Feh.

Get Out (saw this at Pacific Theaters today):   Alright, so you need to know that this is definitely a scary movie.  It’s got a whole slew of tense scenes, eventual violence, and a few jump scares – but it’s not a gross-out film, and with horror movies, I can only take so  much before I’m a mess.  The last horror movie I saw in the theater was The Conjuring and that shit was scary as hell.   Get Out is not like that movie – but it is certainly a fucked up experience that definitely is made for these fucked up times we’re living in.  So what’s the movie about, you ask?  Chris, the black guy, is dating Rose, the white girl, and they’re headed upstate to meet her parents.  It’s 2017, so of course Chris is slightly anxious about the whole situation as it’s not even clear if she’s warned her parents what to expect.  Rose reassures him constantly that they’re the nicest people around.   So once they finally get up there and meet the parents, it’s actually not so terrible and he tries to relax.  But then he observes the various servants around the isolated house and grounds, and of course they’re all black.  And strangely….off.    But we’re reassured that it’s not like that….and of course, things get ever more tense and strange as Chris learns and observes more.  And yeah, it’s all fucked up and holy shit it’s a good movie.  Whether it’s the fact that this is a movie from a distinctly 2016/2017 point of view or just that it’s an expertly done horror/thriller movie….just damn.  Obviously to continue talking about it means I ruin the plot, so just know that it’s quite a well-told story and if you hear the sound of a stirred tea cup…fucking run.

Movies Seen in 2017:

Fantastic / Rave-worthy:

Very Good:

Okay / Wait to See at Home:

The Jeopardy! Circle is Complete

Happy days – after our fun Downtown Day yesterday, when I checked the mail, only one thing was in there, and it was a beauty:  I got my prize money from Jeopardy! finally!!!!  That $2k doesn’t have any immediate destinations, but it’s awesome nonetheless to get the money.  My experience is now complete, which is a touch bittersweet.    Damn you, Netherlands!!!

http://www.hobiebarnes.com/?p=11708

Some Movies, Some Drinks, Some Videos

Well, that past week of time just went by and there were no interludes at all by me on this here website.  I pledge to do better, as I really do enjoy posting.  But last week was a little busy and rough, and I hope that there is good news ahead.  If not, I continue trudging forward and looking to make sure that good news does end up coming my way.

So maybe I’ll go in reverse chronological order and post the videos I just made this evening while Larry was making dinner.  I had realized that while I take lots and lots of pictures, there’s rarely much in the way of video of us together.  Or even by ourselves.  Not that I need to be in video (my Jeopardy! appearance attests to that), but hey, it’d be nice for posterity.  So here are some videos:

Apparently my voice is very high still.  One day puberty will come.  This next video is an instructional one as Larry demonstrates how to effectively drop hard pasta into boiling water while also being a very scenic display.

The Grammys were fun this year, and I loved that Adele, Beyonce, and Bruno Mars performed a lot.  I think Beyonce was robbed in either Record or Album of the Year – Adele could have taken one and Beyonce the other, but what can you do.  I liked that Adele recognized that too.  Beyonce’s video for “Hold Up” is still ridiculously awesome, as is the rest of Lemonade.

Last night was a lot of fun.  Larry & I were invited by our friend Amy, who we had met on our 2011 Mediterranean cruise, to meet her in LA with some friends to celebrate her birthday.   We Uber’d there and had a fun time catching up and talking with her friends, who quickly became our friends too, as they were huge fans of the movie Spy too, so yeah, good people.

We also went and saw 2 movies this weekend – on Saturday we saw John Wick: Chapter 2 and today we saw The LEGO Batman Movie.  Happily, both were great!

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Well, if you enjoyed the first John Wick, then by all means, go see this movie as it effectively picks up shortly after that first one ended.  The mayhem awoken by the events in the first movie don’t let up and Keanu Reeves’ John Wick only has more and more hell unleashed upon his world which he handles in gorgeous, stunning scenes.  Plot points that could take up a whole movie on their own get resolved in short, violent order and lead to the next epic takedown.  Happily, no dog gets killed in this one – but that poor little puppy in the first one really is the catalyst that changes John Wick’s life forever nonetheless.  If you haven’t seen the first movie, go and do so.  It’s insanely good.  But alas, if you don’t have the time, just know that John Wick is a retired assassin who gets dragged back into this underworld and effectively declares all-out war on it.  There are allies all around, and one of the best parts is the Continental Hotel and its status as a safe haven, but for how long and for whom is a question this movie wrestles with…  Honestly, this movie just kicks so much ass and needs to be seen to be believed.

Then today, we saw a much lighter movie!

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

If you saw The LEGO Movie from a few years ago, then you’ll appreciate where this year’s LEGO movie is coming from in terms of humor and creativity.  Will Arnett again voices our caped crusader Batman in this movie, which deals with Batman’s predicament in being unable to form lasting bonds with anyone due to the scars from losing his family.  Enter the endlessly charming Dick Grayson (Robin), the new Commissioner Gordon (Barbara Gordon), and his trustworthy butler, Alfred.  Don’t discount the importance of having a life-long nemesis in the Joker either!  Oh yeah, EVERY single DC character shows up in this, along with a very great number of surprise villains.  The movie is very cute, very funny, and has a lot of references that’ll make you chuckle if you catch on to them.   It’s a movie worth seeing, that’s for sure – although be warned it’s over 100 minutes, so don’t be like me and drink a medium soda and think you can hold it since the end must be coming soon.  The end is not coming right then – the movie has a surprisingly long Act 3.

Movies Seen in 2017:

Fantastic / Rave-worthy:

Very Good:

  • The LEGO Batman Movie

Okay / Wait to See at Home:

A Lady Gaga day

After yesterday’s amazing Super Bowl performance by  Lady Gaga, I of course had her on repeat today.  She does have a great catalog of fun songs to pick from now that she’s a few albums deep…in fact, I just bought something from her official store so I could get access to buy early tickets to her upcoming tour.  She announced her “Joanne” World Tour after the performance and I am finally ready to go to her show.  There’s a performance at the Forum on Aug 8, so here’s hoping I get some of those tickets!

Anyway, here’s hoping this video lasts a while of her performance at the Super Bowl – pretty damn great.

In the meantime…my favorite Lady Gaga tracks – not coincidentally, she certainly put most of these in the show, as they really are freakin great:

POKER FACE:  The song I first loved from her, and which made me a fan.  So great.

BAD ROMANCE:  This song is unbelievably great.  The video is just as fantastic.  Eminently singable and makes you wanna scream and dance and all of it.  A quite enjoyable song to play on Rock Band too.

BORN THIS WAY:  Fucking great LGBTQ anthem and very strange video, gotta say.  And even though it’s compared to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” for musical reasons, I still say, “Girls, you’re both pretty”.

TELEPHONE:  Her and Beyonce kill it on this track.   I really really really thought Beyonce was going to make a surprise appearance at the Super Bowl when Lady Gaga started singing this song.

AMERICANO:  By far the song that is so not a hit but I fucking love the shit out of this song.  I still wish I knew choreographers and had the motivation and time to have figured out a flash mob dance to this song at our wedding last year.  It would’ve been epic.  Could have then led into the Hava Nagila horah dance.  Le sigh.

Anyway, there are so many great songs in her catalog, although I will say I think my favorites are from her first albums, The Fame, The Fame Monster, and Born This Way.  I can listen to those albums all the way through and be wildly entertained.  Joanne is growing on me, while ARTPOP is really disappointing.

In other random news, Larry bought me a Christmas present that just couldn’t get here on time due to supply issues: a signed copy of La La Land‘s soundtrack on vinyl (signed by the composer, Justin Hurwitz!).  Sooooo lucky to have a wonderful husband as him!