Calendar Letters: Neil Simon’s legacy and ‘Dark Knight’s’ influence
Neil Simon, the smile guy
Regarding Charles McNulty’s “Curtain Falls for a Broadway King” [Aug. 27]: To borrow a well-worn theatrical aphorism: Neil Simon spent the bulk of his professional life in the difficult, often painful, crafting and recrafting of comedic gems. He finally got to the easy part.
John H. Mayer
McNulty’s appreciation of Neil Simon made mention of Simon’s early television work on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” but let’s not forget that that he wrote 20 episodes of “The Phil Silvers Show” between 1958 and 1959, a fact that Silvers often mentioned in later interviews.
As a longtime theater writer for a community newspaper in Long Beach, I am blessed to see and review live stage productions on a regular basis.
Remembering some of Simon’s comedy conceits can easily bring a smile to my face. One shining example of a perfect Simon comedy moment is the bit in “The Odd Couple” where Felix has brought the sisters, Cecily and Gwendolyn, to tears with the sad story of his recent divorce, just as Oscar enters the room, champagne in hand, and asks, “Is everybody happy?” only to realize the buzzkill effect Felix has had on the evening’s possibilities.
So much seems politicized now
Toward the end of his excellent piece on “The Dark Knight” [“‘Dark Knight’ Haunts our Days,” Aug. 28], film critic Justin Chang indicates that he has little interest in “feeding Nolan’s movie through a contemporary partisan filter.”
He already has. Earlier in the article he makes this prescient observation: “When something stands out as boldly on the horizon as ‘The Dark Knight,’ there is an excellent chance that it will bring imitators, trolls and jokers out of the woodwork, destabilizing the culture to such an extent that some will begin to regret the existence of that original something to begin with.”
The analogy, while perhaps unintended, is inescapable. As the current political process, driven by a truly “original something,” continues to draw pointless battle lines between opposing points of view, between winning and losing, let’s hope that, like Mr. Chang’s hope for the movie, the country will outlive the traumas of the present and will rise to the challenges of the future.
Somewhere in Chang’s article on the 10th anniversary of “The Dark Knight” there should have been a mention of director Christopher Nolan stating that his vision of a chaos-driven Joker (Heath Ledger) was directly inspired by the title character of Fritz Lang’s 1933 film “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.”
Where are the 99-seat listings?
Did I miss something? The 99-Seat Beat, one of the best things The Times has done for its readers in a long, long time, seems to have gone AWOL. I’ve attended several excellent productions recently as a result of reading about them in 99-Seat-Beat every week, and its absence has been noted, with great regret.
Perhaps this is just a summer hiatus and 99-Seat Beat will return in a few weeks, if so, no worries. If not — bring it back.
Editor’s note: The 99-Seat Beat has indeed been on a brief hiatus. It returns next week.
Curiosity piqued by a vault film
Regarding Akiva Gottlieb’s “Chasing a Classic of Chicano Cinema” [Aug. 25]: Please follow up when “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” is released back in theaters. Maybe moviemakers took more chances back then.
What was the “one word” that was mistranslated that triggered the incident. Also, what was the outcome of the trial?
Editor’s note: The word was “caballo.” Gregorio Cortez was asked if he had obtained a “caballo” (male horse) and answered “no” because he had obtained a “yegua” (mare). After multiple trials, Cortez was found not guilty for the death of Sheriff Morris and guilty for the death of Sheriff Glover. He was sentenced to life but pardoned after eight years.
Popularity is a losing contest
Regarding: “Underrated / Overrated: The Oscar’s Pandering” [Aug. 19]: This is a discussion we shouldn’t have. The popular film category shouldn’t exist. After all, hasn’t a popular film, by definition, already won by being popular? Aside from the redundancy all this category does is marginalize popular film.
It’s worse for “Black Panther.” At a time when the academy has faced such strong criticism for its lack of diversity, it now runs the risk of placing “Black Panther” in a ghetto. Here’s a film with a largely African American cast and African American director and writers, and the academy opens the possibility of segregating it.
Physician offers different review
Regarding Daryl H. Miller’s review “Sweet Offerings From This ‘Waitress’” [Aug. 6]: Last week I saw the musical “Waitress” at the Pantages. I was mortified by a script that has a gynecologist engaging in repeated sexual liaisons with a patient. In California and in most U.S. states that is felonious behavior, even with the consent of the patient. This musical does harm to the public’s understanding of an important “red line” in the doctor-patient relationship that should not be crossed. I don’t care how many Tony Awards the show won. The plot line is seriously flawed.
William I. Brenner, MD
An architect designs for life
I read Carolina Miranda’s article about architect Lorcan O’Herlihy [“A New Vision of L.A.,” Aug. 21] and I want to thank him for what he doing with nonprofit housing developers, giving the homeless in Los Angeles safe and healthy living spaces. The structures are innovative and efficient, taking into consideration sunlight, cross ventilation, open courtyards and even the best placement of windows.
Thank you to O’Herlihy for doing the right and decent thing and not getting lost in the greed of catering to just the very wealthy.
Let’s remember ‘Panther’ origins
Glenn Whipp’s article about the Oscar campaign of “Black Panther” [“Ready to Rule,” Aug. 24] claimed that the movie was a “celebration of black culture.” A closer look casts serious doubt on this claim.
“The Black Panther” character was created by two white men in an effort to capitalize on black consumers. They also created a black character who dresses up as a gorilla and is named “Man-Ape.” The Afrofuturist nation of Wakanda acquired its technology not through hard work and ingenuity but through sheer luck when it fell out of the sky.
Wakanda chose not to use this technology to save millions of their African brothers and sisters from the slave trade. Settling political disputes [is] … accomplished through ritualistic fights to the death. Finally, the black women that make up the Dora Milaje are subservient to their monarchical male ruler and were originally created as concubines. This all sounds more like the perpetuation of racist stereotypes than a “celebration of black culture.”
Grand Junction, Colo.
Still going after all these years
I see in The Times’ style section that Charo remains venerable as ever [“Delivering for a Meal Charity,” Image, Aug. 26] some half-century after her Las Vegas performance that I was privileged to once attend.
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