More James Ellroy than La La Land

teacup-2325722_1280Everybody who lives in Los Angeles seems to love it. I have yet to meet an exception. Even my cynical friends confess their undying attachment to it. It’s their everlasting commitment to the Entertainment industry, that abusive boyfriend of careers. Good looking, arrogant, James Dean bad boy, aloof, yet occasionally interested, the Entertainment industry holds people in its spell. No matter how much it rejects them, they run back whenever it calls.

A town too small, yet too big. In love with itself yet too insecure to appreciate anything new borne from its womb. Unless an artist receives approval from New York or other competitors, she does not exist. Sounds like sour grapes, but it’s just an observation. Ask Mark Ruffalo. Nobody worked harder than he to get representation in this town, one man shows, dozens of mailings, tireless networking. Then he goes to New York, has one good show and L.A. clambers over itself to get to him. One agent asked him, “Where have you been? Why haven’t we heard of you?”

As any true narcissist, L.A. gazes upon itself in full loving adoration and calls anything the establishment does as good. The L.A. Times regularly bathes the L.A. Opera, the Mark Taper Forum, and The L.A. Philharmonic with glowing reviews. I often wonder if that dude even goes to see the shows. La La Land swept up awards not because it deserved to, but because it was a love letter to the industry.

Once, as I exited the freeway and stopped at the light I saw a young guy with long brown hair and a stoney expression. He held a sign that read, “Musician. Hate L.A. Trying to get out. Please help.” I don’t know how effective that was, but it was the only time I saw anyone openly admit to hating L.A..

I attended dozens of industry parties when I first arrived here nearly ten years ago. I found I had two things to offer, well one really, fucking. Gross, I know. But this is a gross city and I didn’t have a career or a body of work to offer anyone. Just a body. Once somebody assessed that I wasn’t important enough, sexy enough, or young enough to help them, they’d be on their way, eyes darting around the room, hunting.

I almost dated a gorgeous guy with a million dollar smile until I found out he lived in a bedroom in someone’s house so he could lease a brand new BMW and pay for acting and writing classes. He wasn’t even good.

That’s L.A..

Miranda Frum wrote a piece about how a hypnotist to the stars helped her quit smoking in The Daily Beast this week. She’s a model with a famous journalist father. Frum gets her opportunities the way most people in L.A. get them, nepotism and looks. Just read her pieces in The Beast and you’ll agree. It’s like Tom Hanks’ wife Rita Wilson. I read a piece of her’s in Vogue once and nearly fell asleep four sentences in. Writing isn’t easy folks. Take a course. Oh, but she did. I worked at a screenwriting training facility to the stars 12 years ago where she received private tutoring. Have you seen anything she’s written?

Frum loves L.A.. In the article she writes about cerulean skies and perfect cloudless days. The hypnotist charges $800 for an in person session. There’s the option to stream him online for $9.99. She chose the $9.99 option for obvious reasons, right? Because she doesn’t have $800 to spend on a single session, right? No, she chose it because she didn’t want to drive the 45 minutes from Hollywood to Santa Monica. In the end, however, she makes the drive and visits the dude and is now living a charmed smoke free life writing on her glorious balcony and drinking her Ayurvedic tea.

That’s L.A.

My L.A. is more James Ellroy than La La Land. “You hate it so much, why don’t you leave?” You ask. What’s the alternative, New York? I don’t know the answer. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. No, that’s not true. I want to be a writer. I just don’t know how to be it.

La La Land and The Slaves Who Drank to Forget

Meryl Streep bared her soul while excoriating Donald Trump at the Golden Globes Sunday, January 8th when she received a lifetime achievement award. La La Land, the musical film starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling won seven Golden Globes that night, the most of any film in the history of the Golden Globes.

Streep represents why I came to L.A.: to make a difference, to tell stories that convey something, to find meaning in my work. I soon found out that anyone who’s making art is funding it themselves. Art is poverty. La La Land is business: massive, gorgeous, fun, and thin.

But even as Streep nearly wept for the country from her place on stage, The Globes, as all awards shows, speak for themselves.  Hollywood values entertainment more than truth. La La Land, a love letter to L.A. celebrates, as the L.A. Times observed, “the one thing Hollywood loves, itself.”  Hollywood blusters and preens. It spends sums of money that rival the GDP of most countries on films about nothing. It’s a business that serves, quite self-consciously, as an opioid to the masses, which the masses consume with vigor.

And on the sixth day the slave drank to forget

Slave owners gave their slaves one day off a week. On that day the owner supplied the slave all the alcohol he wanted. In this way, the owner correctly concluded, the slave imprisoned himself. If a slave didn’t have time to think about his plight, he might not develop the imagination to escape it.

I always think about the slave owner and the slave whenever I see billboards advertising movies like La La Land. Inoculate the masses so they don’t develop the imagination to demand movies that feature real life heroes, people who truly inspire the working class to believe in themselves and take back the houses, jobs, and savings they’ve lost. Manchester By The Sea stars a troubled Casey Affleck who’s lost everything. I loved this film. It won one award: Best Actor.

Andy Cohen, architect of the Housewive’s franchise and arguably the father of reality television, told the New York Times he didn’t make people want what he produced, he just gave them what they wanted before they knew they wanted it. He predicted Donald Trump’s win. He understood what Donald Trump knows, entertain the people and they enslave themselves to your programming.

Deep Talk and Shallow Tales

A large portion of the country feels movies and journalism are connected. They feel both enterprises engage in a dance to hypnotize and deceive the country. And that’s not not true. Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen are on tour right now. A mere 330 bucks gets you front and center for,  “AC2: An Intimate Evening with Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen—Deep Talk and Shallow Tales.” What’s more, when news anchors, like Cooper, get paid tens of millions a year, they’re no longer journalists. They’ve sold their souls to the same gods who employ men like Cohen.

I see a different connection between Hollywood and journalism: both have the opportunity to tell the truth, one with facts, one with art.

Journalism began as a way to reveal to voters what politicians did behind closed doors. It’s why politicians hate them and work tirelessly to turn the population against them. Beware of the politicians who rail against journalists the loudest. They’ve got the most to hide. Republicans have been campaigning since Nixon to get the population to turn on journalists. They’ve won. And here we are, with a president who promises to undo journalism itself.

No one is listening. People barely care. They’d rather not think. Because if they did they’d have to turn off The Real Housewives to read things, understand that not all politicians lie, facts are not biased, and there are journalists, Senators, and brave Congressmen and women who want to lead this country, who have a vision to restore it. But they can do nothing without us. They cannot stand against the tidal wave of corruption, naked power, and obscene wealth sitting in highest seats of power. We are facing the final blow to democracy, rule by oligarchy. And we just voted our favorite reality TV star into office.