December 2010

Culture(d)—December 2010

Los Angeles Times critics, writers and contributors share their 2010 moment of transcendence  edited by MAYER RUS



“The year’s defining moment was the showing of Alexander McQueen’s fall women’s collection in March, just four weeks after his suicide. No one who was there will ever forget the experience—as solemn as a church service—or the gowns and gilded shoes inspired by Byzantine art, so resplendent with religious iconography McQueen must have been contemplating his own mortality as he created them. The very last look said everything about the tortured genius: It was a magnificent gilded feather shroud.” —Booth Moore, Fashion Critic



“On the first Saturday of summer, German director and visual artist Achim Freyer nervously walked onstage at the Dorothy Chandler. He had been booed with increasing vigor over 17 months, as the Los Angeles Opera mounted his production of Wagner’s Ring tetralogy. But by the time the last of the three cycles came to an end, L.A. got it. Vilification turned to validation. He was wildly, wonderfully cheered.” —Mark Swed, Music Critic



“Every great American actress of a certain age wants her shot at Amanda Wingfield, the indomitable southern matriarch of Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie. But few can balance the character’s eccentric humor and desperate pathos. In the revival directed by Gordon Edelstein earlier this fall at the Mark Taper, Judith Ivey brought to life Amanda’s garish contradictions in all their tragicomic vibrancy. Nudging, needling and nurturing her hobbled adult children, she wasn’t so much a Mommie Dearest as an aging belle who understood only too well how fleeting life-rescuing opportunities can be.” —Charles McNulty, Theater Critic



“My moment was a screening on April 25 of the miraculously rediscovered director’s cut of the silent masterpiece Metropolis. Having this Fritz Lang film come back to life, being able to watch it accompanied by the inspired Alloy Orchestra and experiencing it all with a capacity crowd of 2,200 in the still vibrant Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood let me feel more hope about the future of cinema past than I usually allow myself.” —Kenneth Turan, Film Critic



“By the time we get to the small slice of screen time in 127 Hours that has everyone talking, James Franco has slipped so deeply inside the cocky outdoorsman whose arm is hopelessly pinned by a boulder that we can almost feel the pain. Franco creates not just a moment but an experience as he undertakes the self-amputation required to free himself. Bones snap, tendons are severed, nerves are sliced, blood is everywhere. It’s an extraordinarily intense sequence, with Franco channeling emotion, determination, fear, fight and pain—such pain—with so much force you forget this is just a movie. The performance is destined to be a classic: uplifting, unforgettable, absolutely Franco-fied.” —Betsy Sharkey, Film Critic



“Butchers, long an endangered species, are on the way back. Opened by two chefs who have put in time at some serious restaurants, McCall’s Meat & Fish Company in Los Feliz is the place for Kurobuta pork, dry-aged rib eye or an organic chicken trussed in the French manner. Plus, at this charming little shop, you’ll go home with tips from Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo on how to cook your purchase. You won’t even have to crack a cookbook: Just listen up. Now, home cooks can get their hands on the same quality meats as chefs at L.A.’s top restaurants. And that is a beautiful thing.” —S. Irene Virbila, Restaurant Critic



“After lamenting the state of design at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, I wandered into the shop Matter and came upon the work of Zoe Coombes and David Boira, partners in the firm Commonwealth. Their Truncheon light series and sculptural butcher block were revelations—technically daring, conceptually provocative and, frankly, ravishing. Often, the union of art and design yields mongrel offspring that honor neither parent. Commonwealth’s work inhabits both worlds with a confidence that makes one question antiquated taxonomies.” —Mayer Rus, Design & Culture Editor, L.A. Times Magazine



“The women who attended the Prada show in Milan walked out proud of what nature had given them, happy that the style pendulum had swung from childlike waif to adult. What Miuccia did for the fall 2010 collections was a celebration of curves and cleavage: a silhouette of exaggerated bust and cinched waist, recalling the Brigitte Bardot figure of the ’50s and ’60s. It marked the return of feminine details like ruffles and bows and rendered the printed dirndl a seasonal must-have. And Prada’s coveted classics—oversize cardigans, fitted dresses, smart coats and pointy-toe kitten heels—stood strong in this paean to classic female beauty.”—Hayley Atkin, Contributing Fashion Editor, L.A. Times Magazine



“Prima facie evidence need not be conclusive or irrefutable, but John Baldessari’s 2005 altered-color photograph with text (the work’s full title is Prima Facie (Third State): From Aghast to Upset, 2005) in his great 40-year retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was definitive proof that his stature as America’s leading Conceptual artist does not rest on his early work alone. The jaundiced face of a wide-eyed woman with mouth agape is paired with a list of 16 wholly contradictory adjectives—appalled, enchanted, surprised, etc.—any one of which could convincingly describe the state of mind her expression represents. Worldly knowledge, it turns out, is decided by the prejudices we bring to our human encounters.” —Christopher Knight, Art Critic



“Thom Browne’s spring/summer 2011 runway show—his first during the menswear shows in Paris—was easily the year’s best piece of menswear theater. Set in the domed Oscar Niemeyer–designed headquarters of the French Communist Party, it began to the strains of “The Blue Danube,” ended with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and didn’t just steal the European designers’ thunder, it used the setting—and the space—to pick their pockets, clean their clocks, eat their collective lunches and usher in a menswear era dominated by the American designer.” —Adam Tschorn, Fashion Writer