There is snow on the palm trees in old L.A.
Even as I write, it is falling in places where it has rarely fallen before, dusting the city of endless summers with a powdery substance that has the natives puzzled.
In West Hollywood, a screenwriter at a Christmas party suffered a severe case of nose frostbite trying to snort it.
In Malibu, they considered it God’s frothy ice and scooped it up by the golden buckets full to mix into their margaritas.
Blizzard conditions have closed I-5 over the Grapevine and Highway 15 to Las Vegas, creating a brotherhood of survivors. Trapped by the weather, real people are leaving their cars and their semis to look around and wonder.
The effete owners of BMWs are talking to hairy-chested truckers. Women whose hands have never touched dishwater are chatting with women who clean houses for a living. We huddle together in bad times. The spirits snuggle.
I am not in all of that snowy, sleety, rainy, windy weather on this particular night of what appears to many in L.A. as apocalyptic weather. I am tucked into a warm room of my house, like a bear in its winter lair, watching free movies.
Each year, studios with hope in their hearts mail out what they consider to be films worthy of one of many awards coming up, including those for the best screenwriting of 2008.
Because I am a Writers Guild member, I receive and have viewed many in the pile. It is better to be inside doing this than outside doing anything. Although I love rain, I am not one to prance about in a blizzard for either ritualistic or entertainment purposes.
What I offer today are brief rundowns on a few of the more notable films in the pot. Do not consider these as reviews. Reviews are written by people like Kenneth Turan who truly know what they’re talking about. These are, well, utterances, that rate the movies on a Dorothy Parker scale of one to five martinis:
“Changeling” -- This stars Angelina Jolie and her lips, with a screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski. Overcoming Jolie’s insistence that he write roles for her 70 or 80 adopted children, he instead turned out the story of a kidnapped kid, a bad substitution, lying L.A. cops . . . the usual. Jolie plays Jolie playing Jolie, and everyone loves her. Charlize Theron could have done it better, but her lips are too thin. One martini and an olive.
“The Visitor” -- Real critics have called this film about a lonely college professor whose life is reanimated by a pair of illegal immigrants “life affirming” and “brilliant” with “nuanced performances,” and many other stock phrases that can be purchased on the Internet. Starring Richard Jenkins, who learns to play bebop on African drums, and written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who could wring laughter from a rhino. Not bad. Two martinis, straight up, hold the fruit.
“Milk” -- I missed portions of this because I turned away during scenes of men kissing. I am not homophobic and I voted no on Proposition 8, but I just don’t like to see men kissing. I personally do not kiss men, and when they seem to want to, as many affectionate liberals do, I back away. The movie starring Sean Penn (and a lot of cute guys) with a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black is about the 1978 murder of gay San Francisco County Supervisor Harvey Milk and straight Mayor George Moscone. Warning: Certain scenes may not be suitable for kindergartners or men from the Midwest. Three cosmopolitans.
“Burn After Reading” -- This is so crazy that I love it. I left it twice to fix a martini and then to fix another martini, this time without olives, and don’t believe that I missed anything. You could start watching it in the middle and go either way and it would still work. Written and directed by the Coen brothers, who were temporarily off their medication, it’s about spies, bumbling conspirators, illicit love and everyone falling down and going boom at the end. Four martinis and a cold shower. “Burn” is not recommended for those with serious emotional disorders. They might be able to figure out the story line and ruin the fun.
“Frost/Nixon” -- This is a love story between a disgraced former American president and an unemployed British television version of Regis Philbin. Peter Morgan wrote the screenplay based on his stage play based on the 1977 televised interviews in which Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) and David Frost (Michael Sheen) go at it. There is no sex in this movie and no pounding score, which means it will probably not appeal to anyone under 25. An animated remake with Brad Pitt as Nixon’s voice and a sober Paris Hilton as a female David Frost voice would probably make it more palatable for those who prefer amusement over history. As is, two straight shots and a joint.
Th-th-th-that’s all, f-f-f-folks!