The Weekend in a Nutshell

The Burning Man

One day soon I hope to have a day to relax. I know that that way of thinking is a little antithesis to the direction I normally give here, which is to screw relaxation! After all, I (and probably you) have dreams to realize and the more I delay with indulgent “decompression time,” the farther my dreams are pushed away. Well, I guess I’m going to have to amend my thinking here, because I don’t think it takes into account burn out, which is what is going to happen to me if I don’t take at least a day to just relax. I think the goal here is to build up a kind of endurance that will minimize the relaxation periods.

In any event, I’m going to have to remain The Burning Man for a few more days since I have to be up at 4 a.m. tomorrow in order to prep the set at work for our next video shoot. Who knows? Perhaps it’ll rain tomorrow morning and I can cancel the whole production.

I’ll need to hit the hay here soon, so this post may wrap up quick.

Buzzine Barbecue

On Saturday, Richard Elfman and his wife Lauren held a get-together for the Buzzine staff at his home in Hollywood. Since this was the equivalent of a company picnic and since I’d like to think I have a personal relationship with Richard, I’d be marked lousy if I didn’t make an appearance. Who am I kidding? I also just wanted to go.

The drive to LA, of course, always sucks; however, I did get to see a famous landmark that I’ve never seen before in real life, which is the Hollywood sign. I know, here I am a Southern California native – and trying to break into the entertainment industry, no less – and I hadn’t seen this iconic site until just this weekend, driving up to the barbecue.

What this means is that Richard lives in an old part of Hollywood where the streets are anorexic and running into opposing traffic is a steely game of chicken and careful maneuvering into spaces between parked cars. On the other hand, his home also kicks ass in an old fashioned kind of way, with dated architecture that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe. The top floor room opens up to the roof of the second floor, which is where all of the Buzzine writers had gathered. Richard was grilling up catfish and ribeye and urged me to try my steak with secret Elfman steak sauce from the 1950s. In a word, the meal was delicious.

I did meet two people that I became fast friends with. The first was one of the writers named Parimal. He’s really easy to get along with and he’s one of the few people who genuinely want to converse instead of just try to sound interesting. By the time the party was winding down he and I were discussing doing joint reviews just to have friendly opposing opinions of the same film to spice things up around Buzzine. We’ll see if it flies. The second person I met was an Indian goddess named Avani (I hope I’m spelling that right). Let’s forget her physical side for a moment, like the fact that she’s a great height for me (read: shorter) and has a killer smile, but she’s also opinionated and can articulate her thoughts effectively, which I like. Regrettably, she also likes The Notebook. That might be a deal breaker right there.

Parking in Hell

It is with a small amount of chagrin that I admit my weakness at LA parking. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but parking has always been the bane of my Los Angeles existence. Every time I have a gig in the city, I always have to budget an extra 30 minutes just to find parking, because for some reason it always eludes me. I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t just me. My LA native friend once had to park us a few blocks from The Standard hotel, the bar(s) of which I was reviewing. We had to hoof it through areas we weren’t familiar with. We ended up taking a turn through the scariest street I’ve ever walked through, with run down women asking us how much we were selling our drugs for and dangerous-looking men asking us what we were doing there. I have never since experienced the same adrenaline rush or the sheer will power not to start running as on that night.

Parking garages I do better in. In the worst case scenario, just drive up to the top floor and you’re almost guaranteed an open spot. Not so at the Westfield Century City Shopping Center. The write-up at Citysearch describes the parking as “Byzantine” and I completely agree. A Minotaur could get lost there.

Whatever engineer designed the place probably thought he or she was pretty slick. I have to agree that if someone explained the plans to me, it definitely would look good on paper. When you enter the garage, it splits up into A and B lots with helpful counters hanging over the entrance to let you know how many open spaces there are in either. You have to take the standard parking stub to mark the time you came in and then it’s off to find a spot. The same open space counter technology hanging over the entrance is also available inside the garage, but broken down to specific areas. 10 open spaces if you go straight. 5 if you go right. This marvel of science is made possible by sensors over each spot attached to a light that turns red or green, depending on the occupancy.

Slick, right? Wrong. Somehow, all of the help is actually a distraction that destroys the normal way human beings find parking. Normally, people will drive up and down the aisles in a methodological manner to ensure they didn’t miss an area. With signs directing you with the promise of open spaces, however, people are sent chasing mirages as other drivers that read the sign a few moments earlier snag the once open spots. So it’s very possible to drive around this maze and watch the electronic open spaces signs fluctuate like commodity prices. Even worse, since you’re focused on these bright electronic signs, you’re not noticing the dark, earth-toned STOP signs painted on the cement or the “watch for cross traffic” signs attached to the walls.

Getting out is no easy task either. There’s no ubiquitous parking attendant to take your parking stub and tell you how much to pay. Instead, you have to use one of only two ticket-reading machines by the escalators and feed it money. I was fortunate enough to get to it without a giant crowd around, but I shuddered at the thought of having only dollar bills that had been through the laundry and trying to get the machine to take them after flattening out the creases on my knee with impatient Angelinos’s eyes boring into the back of my skull.

The plan for physically driving out was also ill-conceived. All of the exit signs simply say “exit” and have an arrow pointing in a direction. Sometimes the exit signs inexplicably state what shops are directly above. I think some of the exit signs actually send you in circles. Adding to the frustration is the fact that everything in every direction looks exactly the same. I almost wanted to get out and mark the walls with my blood just so I knew that I’d been there before. When I finally found an exit, it had been closed and a helpful sign directed me to use another exit. So it was back to being bumped around from place to place by soulless exit signs that pointed to nowhere. In the end, the maze had beaten me and I just followed someone else until we somehow got out.

If the Westfield Century City Shopping Center ever wants to make a killing, they should have concession stands, impulse items and map vendors in the garage since that is arguably where shoppers spend the most time. Fish where the fish are.

Press junket giveaway. Last time I got pajamas.
Press junket giveaway. Last time I got pajamas.

Anyway, the whole reason I was there was for a screening of Confessions of a Shopaholic. Look for my review at Buzzine when the film is released on February 13. I’d give you my brief opinion of the film, but the studios typically have review embargoes until the premiere.

Junk Junkets

The Shopaholic junket was today at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. I’ve been there before. It’s a nice place. It’s also the only place I know of where they set up the press conference table backwards, so that the talent has their backs to the entrance, making it really awkward for latecomers.

The hotel is obviously a spot for a lot of Hollywood talent and I saw Mark Wahlberg drive off shortly after I pulled up to valet. After checking in and with some time to kill, I went up to the hospitality suite, riding in an elevator with one of the stars from Shopaholic Hugh Dancy and his entourage. When we got off on the wrong floor, I made a heroic effort to leap back towards the elevator and keep the shutting doors from completely closing. I only half succeeded. I managed to pull the outer doors apart, revealing the rarely seen guts of the inner doors that were now firmly sealed. Hugh gently persuaded me to let the doors close, especially since the elevator was beeping angrily. Later, after eating breakfast as fast as I could, on the way down I shared an elevator with Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock. At least I think it was him. He didn’t appear to be in the mood to talk so I didn’t bother him.

Anyway, junkets haven’t lost their luster for me yet. My one criticism, however, is that no one seems to ask any substantial questions. One journalist griped, “They never let us ask real questions,” at the last junket I was at. So when someone asked Jerry Bruckheimer: “There aren’t any explosions in this film. Is this a new direction for you in terms of what kinds of movies you’ll produce?” I had to inwardly roll my eyes. I mean, what do you expect the man to say? Sure, I’m going to stop making action movies altogether, because producers are only allowed to focus on one genre at a time. Hardly. So, of course, he says something eloquent about “producing solid stories and interesting characters” which is the obvious answer.

One day, I hope to be the kind of journalist that’s known for asking substantive-sometimes-uncomfortable questions. When that day comes, I’ll probably stop being invited to cover junkets.