Feedback: The coronavirus toll on art, theater and TV
I was a bit taken aback by Josh Rottenberg‘s article about Quibi and its efforts to get Hollywood to start making content specifically for mobile phones [“How Directors Found a New Angle,” April 12].
I would like to point out that starting with our first show in China titled “Hello Hollywood,” Metan Global has been doing this since 2010. Seventy percent of our viewers in China were watching on mobile devices even back then.
We stopped doing final edits on 55-inch studio TV sets and started doing all final edits on a cellphone. That way we could see the shows exactly the same way our audience would experience them.
We shot many more close-ups and fewer wide shots to make things look good to small-screen users.
Larry Namer, Metan Global Entertainment Group
I want to thank Christopher Knight for his articles “A Cultural Loss That Cut Deep” [April 5, on how the bubonic plague changed art] and “He Boldly Insisted: Black Art Matters” [April 9, his appreciation of artist, scholar and curator David Driskell]. Both left me in amazement at what I was learning and being profoundly moved at the same time.
I’ve written to The Times before for having a wonderful music critic in Mark Swed, I now want to thank the L.A. Times for having a wonderful art critic in Christopher Knight.
I am sharing both articles with my family and friends and will carry them in my heart and mind, as I have with the music.
Thank you, Christopher Knight, for always educating us and giving us so much more.
Regarding theater critic Charles McNulty’s letter to his students “The Greeks Still Speak to Us” [April 12]: Reading your wonderful piece, I was back in 8 a.m. Shakespeare, listening to Hamilton College head of theater department Professor Barrett, read Prince Hal’s soliloquy, “I know you all … ,” every sleep-deprived head in the room suddenly attentive, eyes wide, at the deeply affecting display of the immense power of complex language evocatively expressed.
I have long believed in the transformative power of art. Something happens deep within us when we immerse ourselves in the best that the creative world has to offer. It is through our identification with the sufferings, emotions and joys of the characters that we can diminish our feelings of separateness and seek the commonalities of the human condition.
I can do no better than quote from Charles McNulty’s conclusion: “The work continues — especially now.”
I enjoyed reading Charles McNulty’s recent essays (“Is He America’s Oedipus Rex?” [March 29] and “The Greeks Still Speak to Us” [April 12]. They are an enriching mix of literary criticism, our current politics and the medical crisis that confronts us.
These learned, thoughtful and well-written essays have provided intriguing readings on Sunday morning. And their meanings all rest on the shoulders and minds of the Greek playwrights of the 5th century BCE.
Maybe a future piece will add the comic playwright Aristophanes to the discussion.
It’s ‘Saturday Night Not Live’
Regarding television critic Robert Lloyd’s review “‘SNL’ makes do without the ‘L’” [April 13]: Kudos to everyone at “Saturday Night Live” for an amazing effort producing “SNL at Home” remotely. It was a welcome break, and it always looks easier to do than it really is.
Surprisingly, they did not do a cable news network format for the entire show or for at least one segment. The material and characters are endless. Clearly, SNL’s crucial makeup and wardrobe were a tough challenge. This may be socially distant feasible for next weekend, now with more time. Surely, the fact that it would conflict with the regular “Weekend Update” segment could be an opportunity.
Let’s all watch next Saturday.
Julio Rumbaut, co-Founder of Telemundo
Life imitates movies
Regarding “Mom From ‘Jaws’ Speaks for Us All” [April 9]: Thank you for Mary McNamara’s column. So very, very inspiring; so very, very truthful. By the last paragraph, I was in tears! I remembered the scene at the beach. I wanted to smack that mayor myself.
But that was just a movie. Now it’s a reality.
Just as “Mrs. Kintner” of “Jaws” spoke truth to power, we must all now speak out about the unacceptable destruction of lives. Yes, Mr President, you knew. You knew and You. Did. Nothing!
Mary McNamara nails speaking truth to power. Let us hope this message can stir the masses to a strong response against the shark we now face.
The mom from “Jaws” does not speak for us all. President Trumpwas left with faulty tests from the CDC. He cut regulations for the FDA to accelerate investigating drugs and starting trials for vaccines. I know that half of our country really hate the president, but please give him some credit for what he has done to deal with the virus.
McNamara’s column should have run on page one of the newspaper today. It is absolutely on target. Our country would not be in this mess if Trump had acted as any moderately intelligent leader would have acted. Instead, he did nothing and glossed over the facts, telling us it was nothing or a hoax. Every time I read about one more person dying I blame Trump.
McNamara’s column comparing the characters in the movie “Jaws” to Trump made one giant error. McNamara said, “... and admitting his mistake to the grim hero only when it is too late.”
Trump has never admitted his mistake, or any of his multitude of mistakes.
Another clip-and-save article from Mary McNamara. Beautiful writing, and incredibly appropriate for right now.
The trouble with comparing Trump to the rapacious mayor of Amity Island in “Jaws” is the mayor knows he’s violating the community’s trust and ethics of his office, whereas Trump’s excessive narcissism blocks him from knowing right from wrong and any ethics that he should have acted on the coronavirus.
I have been reading voluminous articles regarding the effects of the coronavirus day after day, to the point of emotional numbness. Written words have recently been blending together in my mind, which is spinning from the severity of this crisis.
However, Mary McNamara’s column jolted me out of my malaise and opened my eyes. She drew a scary yet accurate analogy between a scene in the fictional movie “Jaws” and President Trump’s handling of public relations involving this killer virus.
How many lives could have been saved if we knew the facts of the deadly dangers and reacted appropriately months sooner? Trump and his administration should be held responsible, but no doubt there will be no repercussions felt by our Teflon leader.
Remembering Prine time
Regarding “The 10 Best John Prine Songs” [April 9]: It takes someone special to bring the likes of Robert Hilburn out of retirement, and John Prine certainly fits that bill. As I read his remembrance about this remarkable songwriter, I asked Alexa to play his top 10.
“In Spite of Ourselves” has to be the best love song ever written. After listing delightfully funny attributes of each other, two lovers express their commitment in spite of themselves.
What a treat to see another brilliant analysis by Robert Hilburn. Like Jim Murray’s sports columns, his music reviews are in a class by themselves. Like Hilburn, I could not understand why Prine “didn’t become a superstar in the commercial sense.” For those of us who know, love and value the music of John Prine, we can only hope that in death his legacy will continue to grow and be appreciated by those who did not have that pleasure during his lifetime.
Irwin Zeke Warsaw
Marina del Rey
Wonderful to see Robert Hilburn appear again. Sorry it was for such a sad occasion.
I was a teenager who was strongly influenced by Bob’s opinion of John Prine. At the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1972, in the middle of the day, I saw Prine standing alone, holding his guitar case, and I was starstruck. What do I say to him? So I walked up and said, “I’m from L.A., John, and Robert Hilburn really raves about you.”
John smiled, acknowledged he was very aware of Bob’s glowing reviews, thanked me for my words and then had to be on his way. That encounter will never leave my memory.
Great to read a review by Robert Hilburn. His insights, opinions and recollections of John Prine were outstanding.
I had almost forgotten what a torture it was to read Robert Hilburn. An article that purports to commemorate the life and talent of John Prine by giving us a list of Mr. Hilburn’s 10 favorite songs begins with Mr. Hilburn telling us that his article on Elton John’s legendary Troubadour performance was pretty much responsible for Elton’s career. “A point noted in the film ‘Rocketman.’”
Wow, Bob, they mentioned you in a movie. Then he tells us that he called it on Kris Kristofferson too. And that segues into, “I was the first on the block to know how good John was.” (He gets to call him “John” ’cause he knows famous people.)
We used to take bets, my friends and I, on how many paragraphs before the reference to Bruce Springsteen. I guess Hilburn’s a bit out of practice, as the Boss isn’t referenced here until the ninth paragraph.
John Prine was, in my own, I hope, more humble opinion, one of our greatest songwriters. If Dylan taught us, with songs like “Chimes of Freedom,” that you could write about anything, then what Prine (I dIdn’t know him, so I don’t get to call him John) taught us was that it was OK to write songs that made sense. That found their complexity and their truth in a simplicity that none of his contemporaries ever came close to. His work stands out from all the rest because of that simplicity and humility. Mr. Hilburn might be simple, but humility is something that he most certainly lacks.
John Prine was surely one of America’s greatest songwriters. If he had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union address, more people might have listened to his music and the world would be a better place for it.
Also, I can’t believe “Flag Decal” didn’t make the list.
I agree completely with Robert Hilburn’s selections of John Prine’s best songs, but I would add one more that showed the less somber side to Prine’s work.
I still have an LP with a live recording of Prine singing “Dear Abby” where the audience is clearly laughing and Prine himself gives a little chuckle along with well-timed pauses.
Prine will be missed.
Reading Bob Hilburn’s tribute to singer-songwriter John Prine, one of numerous entertainment figures to die of COVID-19 in recent weeks, I couldn’t help but recall a Sunday Calendar cover story published in the late ’80s under the guidance of its then-editor, Irv Letofsky, gauging the impact of AIDS on the performing arts. It featured what seemed like an endless gallery of faces, some famous, others not, of those felled by an epidemic largely ignored by the White House in the crucial early years.
As the COVID-19 obits mount in Calendar, and the current White House vacillates, obfuscates and plays the blame game, one wonders if the editors are archiving photos now for a similar group in memoriam, to be published in the months or years ahead when the novel coronavirus finally subsides, and before the next one comes along.
John M. Wilson
LACMA’s wrecking ball
“LACMA’s Film Theater Demolished” [April 8]: It was with dismay that I read the article about the start of demolition at LACMA. Now that we are undergoing stay-at-home rules, I was hoping that the demolition would be postponed and that the Peter Zumthor design would be modified or scrapped in favor of one that would better suit the needs of the museum and the community.
The photos of the demolished Leo S. Bing Center reminded me of happy times there, of taking my year-old daughter to the Tuesday matinees 30 years ago. She usually ate a cookie during the first 10 minutes of screenings of films such as Preston Sturges’ “The Lady Eve,” then fell asleep. When she wanted to mix movie watching with play, we exited to a hall, which she explored on hands and knees. Once, while distracted by a scolding biddy, my daughter disappeared.
I frantically searched for her, finally finding her by the projection room up two flights of stairs.
I carried her back downstairs. She reached for the stairs and pushed me to let me know that I was to let her crawl. I followed her as she crawled back up the stairs. I carried her back down. She had me let her crawl back up these stairs over and over.
Thirty years later she’s an assistant professor at a major university. In our debates about the latest Almodóvar film, she’s far more sophisticated than I could ever hope to be.
Though the new theater will have about 300 fewer seats than the Bing Theater, I hope there will be flights of stairs.
Throughout my 73 years in Southern California, a constant criticism has been that we have no sense of history. We continually destroy our architectural heritage in search of “the next big thing.”
The sickening photos of the beginning of the destruction of the buildings at LACMA only confirm the truth of this.
Rancho Palos Verdes
On April 7 you published stricter stay-at-home recommendations of the county public health director, “pushing for diligent and persistent social distancing.”
The very next day you published photos of the controversial demolition of LACMA. The timing of this demolition was jaw-droppingly audacious. Scandalous. It’s tough for protesters to link arms and form a human chain to effectively block the wrecking crew when they’ve been ordered to practice social distancing. Ordered to stay at home.
Another Easter movie
Regarding film critic Justin Chang’s “Films to Put Our Faith In” [April 10]: It’s surprising that lists of Easter-appropriate movies never seem to mention one of the best: 1959’s “Ben-Hur.” Subtitled “A Tale of the Christ,” the main character’s journey is subtly intertwined with that of Jesus, and the film ends as Easter is dawning and the main characters have been healed, both physically and spiritually, by their newfound faith.
It’s also a riveting, roundly entertaining and highly watchable film for viewers of any faith. The script is poetry and the chariot race remains one of the most exciting sequences ever filmed. It belongs at the top of the list.
Overlooked coronavirus TV update
Regarding “Nightly News Delivers What’s Needed” by Lorraine Ali [March 31]: If you want to experience a totally different coronavirus update, watch Ohio’s governor, lieutenant governor and state health director give a highly intelligent, compassionate, straightforward response to COVID-19, daily at 2 p.m. (EDT).
Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans are tuning in every day. Many middle Americans find these press conferences more comprehensible than Gov. Cuomo’s. And many of those viewers did not vote for Gov. Mike DeWine are now singing his praises.
Dr. Amy Acton, the state health director, has thousands of fans who are logging onto the Amy Acton Fan Club Facebook page. It has more than 110,000 members.
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