Reader’s Corner: ‘Rock Me on the Water’ Celebrates and Elegizes Los Angeles in 1974

In Ronald Brownstein’s new book, Rock Me on the Water: 1974 – The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics, he brings together a knot of cultural revolutions (Chinatown, All in the Family, groundbreaking sitcoms) that cross-pollinated a once parochial town on the verge of becoming a global city.

My review is at PopMatters:

Los Angeles was starting to wrest the mantle of cultural dominance away from New York. The city’s close and clubby feel, not to mention the post-hippie haze of friendly experimentation and the boozy musicians’ camaraderie at clubs like the Troubadour, engendered supportive networks for cross-pollination. Sunny California beckoned just as America’s other cultural capital, New York, seemed to be collapsing under grime, rats, and crime. (New York would have its revenge, of course, with punk rock and the Soho art scene, after the Southland scene had imploded in drugged self-indulgence)…

New in Books: ‘Ghettoside’ and the Murder Plague

ghettoside-coverOne of the most surprising entries on the nonfiction bestseller lists now, in between all the diet and self-help and comedy tell-alls and breathless Bill O’Reilly assassination tomes, is Jill Leovy’s gritty Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. It’s a true-crime potboiler and an X-Ray of a dysfunctioning city and a cry for help all at once. Her writing is sharp, her reporting true.

Ghettoside is on sale now and is very worth your seeking out. My review is at PopMatters:

As the Los Angeles Timereporter who created the newspaper’s blog, The Homicide Report, Jill Leovy understands all too well the numbing cycle of violence that typifies most poor minority neighborhoods in America. The Homicide Report was simple in concept but gargantuan in practice: Cover every murder in Los Angeles. That meant finding out who was killed, who they were, how it happened, and if possible why. By the time the blog started in 2007, the country’s early-‘90s homicide peak had passed, but the murders kept coming. Each one was a story; another human life gone, and a space that couldn’t be filled left behind…

New in Theaters: ‘Nobody Walks’

With much less fanfare than greeted her HBO show Girls, Lena Dunham worked on Nobody Walks, a kind of lo-fi hipster / L.A. trash bed-hopping melodrama that gets creepier the closer you look at it. My full review is at PopMatters:

At the start of Nobody Walks, 20something New York artist Martine (Olivia Thirlby) gets off a plane in Los Angeles and promptly gets into a heavy make-out session with the handsome man putting her bags in his car. Right there in the parking garage, he begins unbuckling his belt and she puts her hand on his chest and tells him that it was really great talking to him on the plane, but…. He cocks a “can’t blame a guy for trying” look at her, and then gives her a lift. It’s an innocuous and seemingly funny scene, the kind of fumbling comedy you would expect from cowriter Lena Dunham…

Nobody Walks is already playing in limited release.

You can see the trailer here: