Sunday, September 9, 2012

A movie that could have been great. The best coffee in L.A. And a bar that serves cake...

It's been a weird but in general cool few days. There's been a slightly weird meeting, of which more later. I've been to one of West Hollywood's gayest club, which is saying something, and to Bar Marmont, which is something else.

But first, I saw Lawless, a movie about Prohibition-era moonshiners that should have been so much better than it was. It has a great cast - Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Shia LaBeouf - and a potentially great story of three brothers who were hooch-making outlaws in West Virginia. Based on a real story - the subject of Matt Bondurant's novel "The Wettest County", the siblings are up against Guy Pearce's effete lawman and Oldman pops up - all too infrequently - as Chicago gangster Floyd Banner.

But it all amounts to nothing. Clarke's part as the older brother is criminally underwritten, while Tom Hardy - the film's strongest performer - is frequently sidelined in favour of LaBeouf's far less interesting younger brother. Mia Wasikowska as the local preacher's daughter and Chastain as Hardy's love interest, a former stripper, get some decent moments but again, their characters feel underdeveloped.

I was bored halfway through the film, and I think the main issue I have is that you don't care about the characters. I kept thinking of another Prohibition-era film, The Untouchables, and how it plays on your heartstrings, making you care even about a smaller character like Charles Martin Smith as the forensic accountant turned gunslinger. There's no one to root for in Lawless, apart from maybe Hardy's character Forrest, and even he seems like the best of a bad lot.

The other thing I'll say about Lawless - and it's worth a watch even to see a film that could have been great - is that it feels like a movie where the really exciting stuff is happening off-screen, in Chicago. But we don't get to see it, only hear about it from Pearce and Oldman's characters and to some extent, from Jessica Chastain, whose character has run away from the city. I kept longing to escape the West Virginia setting and see the real action.

I went back to Downtown this week to meet a talented writer-director (who will remain nameless as she's blog-shy ;) for coffee. I took two buses and a cab to reach Handsome Coffee, but it was worth it because it's the BEST COFFEE EVER. If not in the U.S., then in L.A. I can't overestimate how good it was.

I walked back through Little Tokyo, passing a middle-aged man carrying a ghetto blaster. I don't even think he was being ironic. Fittingly, it was blaring We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off by Jermaine Stewart - there's a blast from the past!

I was looking for The Bradbury Building, a setting for Blade Runner, Chinatown and The Artist, and I kind of stumbled across it in the end. It's a seriously cool building that could have been made to be a film location but is, in fact, an office premises. Weird fact - the architect George Wyman only agreed to take on the project by consulting an Ouija board...

I went to a mixer on Friday organised by The Scriptwriters Network, where I met a lot of other writers. It's nice to meet people who are struggling with the same writing/representation/selling scripts issues as you! Afterwards, a friend introduced me to two L.A. institutions - Musso and Franks and In and Out Burger.

Musso and Franks is a complete legend - one of the oldest Hollywood restaurants, opened in 1919. They had the first payphone in Hollywood and many a deal was struck over it, just as many a contract was hammered out here over dinner. EVERYONE has eaten here - and the old-school waiters and bar staff have the pictures and stories to prove it. Stepping into this place is like stepping into a time warp - in the very best sense of the word. I had the strongest - and largest - martini I've ever drunk there and it's on my weekly to-do list from now on.

In and Out Burger is cheap, efficient and serves up amazing burgers and fries. Fortunately, the nearest one is a taxi ride from my apartment, or I'd go home built like a tank. Gordon Ramsey famously ate there and then immediately drove back for another cheeseburger. They're THAT good.

Last night I had more Hollywood culture (ahem) by embarking on a bar crawl with a friend, her sister and her mom, the coolest fifty-something lady in Orange County. We started at the Beverly Hilton (scene of Whitney Houston's demise, John Edward's extramarital affair and a disastrous press conference for Richard Nixon). We had Mai Tais in the bar by the pool, which is not a bad way to spend a few hours. While the drinks are good, the food is AWFUL - don't go there to eat...

From there, we moved on to Bar Marmont, the bar part of the infamous Chateau. No sign of Lindsay Lohan or anyone else famous for that matter, but it's a decent bar full of movers and shakers. Plus the bartender knows his stuff - their drinks are strong and taste great.

And then lastly, it was on to The Abbey. It's a gay hot spot, which obviously meant it was full of very hot men, mostly watching other oiled-up hot men gyrate on a stage in tiny pants.  Good music, though! They also have the best idea ever, which is a coffee and cake stand in a bar! Seriously, who doesn't want cake at midnight after drinking for six hours? Every bar should serve it.

It sounds like I'm doing nothing but touring L.A. but I am getting some writing done too. No TV in the apartment I'm staying in has really helped, but also, being here has a way of encouraging you to write. It's like there's something in the air - and it's not just the smell of Mai Tais...


michelle108 said...

I am really enjoying traveling around the city I have lived in for over 40 years. I've lived in India, UK, Australia, Canada and I always seem to find myself after a year or two away..standing in International at LAX wondering WTF am I doing back here? I'm seeing LA in new lights through your eyes. I'm exhausted just reading your activities. You're doing the right think..I hope you stay longer than November 21st. Send me a link to one of your scripts if you're into others reading them. I've a blog that I post to almost daily. There's a great piece I posted this the sidebar and it will explain a lot.. (The Dairy Farm)..A bit of foul language but I'm sure you can handle it..You're Irish right?
I found you through Stage 32..I just signed on last week and I'm loving it! Met you didn't I?

eilism said...

Thanks Michelle, you're very kind! I have to go home by 14th November unfortunately, due to my visa, but I'm coming back next year. Making sure of that!

I'll drop you an email...