Yet more bad news from the abattoir better known as the Los Angeles Times newsroom: Film critic Carina Chocano is one of 75 staffers put down today by butchers at the Tribune Co., bringing to 325 the number of LAT employees laid off since last summer and the fourth full-time film critic to vanish from a Tribune daily since July 2007.Chocano, whom we've admired since her days at Salon, broke the news in a brief note to FishbowlLA; her departure leaves veteran Kenneth Turan as the lone full-timer among a growing pool of freelancers (including Kevin Thomas, whose own contract the paper bought out in 2006). Fittingly or not, Chocano's final feature for the Times addressed the portrayal of hard economic times in the movies: "The pendulum seems to be swinging again from the decadent mainstream art of fat times to the scrappy countercultural art of lean times. For a while, at least, anger and unadorned reality may stage a cathartic comeback." We'd like that, too, Carina — just not like this.
Come on, crazies, not the old mysterious white powder gag again. What is it about political psychopaths, abortion freaks, and Anthrax? They've got a fetish for the stuff. Get a new move, terrorists! "I'm told the Los Angeles Times mailroom opened a hand-scrawled letter today that read 'death to Obama' and contained a white powder that triggered a call to the FBI and a city hazardous materials team." "No one was injured and the powder proved to be harmless. My sources say the letter was addressed to staff writers Richard Serrano and Ralph Vartabedian and included a demand for a retraction to their story this week that detailed flying mishaps early in John McCain's Navy flying career. The nut mail was said to carry an upside-down stamp and language about saving babies in addition to the Barack Obama threat." [LA Observed]
While these parts have been known to house a predatory cougar or two, nothing could have prepared us for the family of bobcats who have moved into a foreclosed home in Lake Elsinore. The brood — at least two adult cats and three kittens — have lived in the house for weeks, sunning themselves on an outside wall and hanging out by the koi pond. "They are great neighbors," said local Scott Brown, "and as long as they don't want to baby-sit my kids, it's not a problem." That's how it starts, Scott, but before you know it, you're forced to drag your autistic young brother through the house in a desperate attempt at survival. Be wary. [LAT]
Could the editors at the Los Angeles Times be any more useless? Their newspaper is going down in flames, with cash flow declines ranked worst among the deeply troubled Tribune Company newspapers. Their best hope for salvation is the Web, where the paper is desperately behind upstart competitors like Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood and the Huffington Post. Just last year the paper installed new publishing software that couldn't even handle hyperlinks. And yet newsroom "leaders" just spent 18 months in a fucking (ahem) committee debating what swears LATimes.com bloggers should be allowed to use, and when. The byzantine machinations involved some sort of appeal to a "ruling" of a special committee about some formal guidelines, and of course resulted in a tedious and useless memo that should make anyone who ever cared about the once-great newspaper want to slit his wrists. Its insufferable, self-indulgent stupidity lies after the jump. Oh, and it basically says no one can use "pissed off" because it's crude and might tarnish the LA Times's sterling image in the remaining months before the paper's now-all-but-inevitable collapse.
There's a place and time for discussing the inanity of movie lists — usually early January, right when the radius of critics' annual Top 10 circle jerk is at its widest. But a few prime exhibits pop up throughout the year as well, such as last weekend's Los Angeles Times feature selecting the top 25 Los Angeles films of the last 25 years. While we wouldn't begrudge the contributors' right to close out the late-summer news cycle as energetically as possible (we've all seen what happens when John Horn gets bored), the tactical and intellectual errors that occurred along the way are an unfortunate example of zeal gone horribly wrong. The criteria alone defy rationality: only one film per director, lest "City of Angels specialists such as Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson" overrun the seminal work of, ahem, Michael Ritchie and F. Gary Gray. But even taking the list on its own terms, we just don't get it — Crash? Jackie Brown? Really, LAT? Find our quick, admittedly incomplete corrective after the jump.1. Jackie Brown. Come on. Let's just keep it short: Jackie Brown is not a better film than Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. No point in fighting or meritocratic debate, like the author wants. It's not debatable — there is nothing to see here but an inaccuracy. 2. Collateral owes its life to Heat. Two things: 1) Stuart Beattie's original script for Collateral was set in New York, hence the cab driving protagonist and subway. It's an LA film by convenience, which is to say, not at all. 2) Michael Mann conceived and executed Heat a "Los Angeles crime saga," and its use of locations — over 100, interwoven on-screen like the geography itself — predated and provoked Collateral's more nocturnal survey by almost 10 years. Heat's superiority here isn't really debatable either. 3. This list is in no particular order, right? Because we know nobody listed Charles Burnett's To Sleep With Anger (#21) as sort of a bottom-rung afterthought to everything from Clueless (#7) to L.A. Story (#20). And Mulholland Drive (#11) is beneath Beverly Hills Cop (#5). 4. If you have to include Fletch, you need to condense the list. Or expand it — a 30-year list would have at least featured the added benefit of Blade Runner, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Decline of Western Civilization and E.T. But a 20-year list would have probably been just fine — and you still would been able to keep Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 5. The least obvious omission is the most obvious. Thom Andersen's three-hour 2004 documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself remains an exhaustive, fascinating exploration of LA's history and uses as a big-screen location. As such, considering these selections, we're not surprised it's not included here. So what did we miss?
Red-Headed Step-Fox: The cycle of abusive box-office analysis is renewed today at the Los Angeles Times, where John Horn broke out his calculator and a hot wire hanger in assessing this summer's winners (Paramount, Warner Bros.) and losers (Sony, Disney). And, as per recent LAT tradition, 20th Century Fox was carted in for the grand finale, an epic pinata smackdown invoking everything from Meet Dave to Fox films' Rotten Tomatoes ratings while once again completely ignoring the total! phenomenon! that was The Happening; at last glance, Manoj's Mint broke $150 million worldwide, which isn't exactly a flop under the circumstances. Anyway, there's always next year, Horn writes, "when it will have sequels to X-Men and Ice Age and a film version of The A-Team." And don't forget Watchmen! Seriously, John — is this even your regular beat? [LAT]
Former LA Times editor Andres Martinez's new lawsuit is a sad story of betrayal that should convince any journalist never to date a publicist, unless she can somehow find one who is not crafty and constantly scheming to leverage the relationship. Martinez left his job editing the editorial page amid scandal. He tried to have film producer Brian Grazer guest edit his section even though his girlfriend Kelly Mullens was flacking for Grazer. Dirty and stupid and unethical, right? Well, hold one one second: Martinez says in his suit that Mullens promised him she had recused herself from working with Grazer, a client of her firm, at least on this one project. This turned out to be an awful awful lie. Writes Matt Belloni at the Hollywood Reporter:
Outfoxed: Though ticket prices continue to rise and box office records are broken nearly every week, this will be 20th Century Fox's first summer without a $100 million hit since (yikes) 1997. How could anyone have predicted such dire earnings from a blockbuster slate that boasted Space Chimps, an X-Files sequel made a decade too late, and twin bombs from Eddie Murphy and M. Night Shyamalan? As the LAT's Patrick Goldstein notes, Fox toppers Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos have held their position for nine years — will this be the year one (or both) gets the axe? If so, we hear there's a certain toothy mogul who might be looking for work... [LAT]
Dog Days: By August 29, the struggling L.A. Times will have laid off 150 of its employees following job cuts announced last month. Exactly what does the paper plan to do with its diminished resources now that so many of its "non-essential" employees are gone? Why, run a 35-page "Stars With Puppies" slideshow, of course! The Elizabeth Snead-penned feature, entitled, "Do Hollywood stars look cuter with puppies?" (spoiler alert: yes) is full of penetrating insights like, "Ali Simms has never looked cuter than in this photo with a tiny teddy-bear-faced Yorkie puppy." It's enough to drive a terminated employee to drink — or at least eat penis. [Los Angeles Times]
Tribune Company's Los Angeles Times is one of the most hard-pressed big-city newspapers: the parent company is over-leveraged; the local market reeling from a real estate crash; and like all papers the LAT is suffering from competition from the internet. Even so, the 150 newsroom layoffs announced today are shockingly swingeing. Together with buyouts announced at the start of the year, the latest cuts will leave the Los Angeles Times-once one of the fattest papers in the country-with 20% fewer editorial positions than last year and 42% fewer than a decade ago.