Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Los Angeles versus Portland - Which side are you on?

I just returned from a visit to the Portland area to visit family, and came back to see this Zócalo conversation on the merits of Portland versus Los Angeles. Director Gus Van Sant and architect Brad Clopefil, both based in Portland, spoke at UCLA's Hammer Museum about these West Coast cities and why they live in Portland instead of L.A.

Van Sant said that he lived in Portland because he wanted to avoid some of the ways his work could be influenced by living in L.A., while Clopefil said that the connection between L.A. and film is similar to the connection between New York and architecture, so living in Portland allows him to be outside that insular community. In Portland, "You're just hunkered down, able to do your work. It rains a lot," Van Sant said. "Down here, you feel like you need to go out and play in the sun."

Read More...

'Tower Heist' not coming to a home theater near you; star Eddie Murphy coming to SNL?

HELP HAITI Benefiting The Ben Stiller Foundation And The J/P Haitian Relief Organization - Inside

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Ben Stiller

FILE: Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller attend the HELP HAITI benefiting The Ben Stiller Foundation and The J/P Haitian Relief Organization at the Urban Zen Center At Stephan Weiss Studio on February 11, 2011 in New York City.

Universal Pictures dropped plans Wednesday to offer the new Eddie Murphy/Ben Stiller movie "Tower Heist" for home viewing just three weeks after opening in theaters on Nov. 4. Several theater chains had threatened to not carry the film if Universal went ahead with their plans, expressing concern about the early release leading viewers to decide they should just wait and not go see the film in theaters.

Universal was looking to try out the idea of charging more ($60 in this case) for a chance to view a movie at home far earlier than normal. Get a few friends together and it could start looking like an attractive possibility, much like pay-per-view fight nights. The plan had only called for the film to get an early home release in two cities, but apparently even that was too much for theater owners. There have already been some similar experiments to this with smaller films, but "Tower Heist" would have been the biggest example to date.

Read More...

3 sports without strikes or lockouts

UFC 102: Couture vs. Nogueira

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

UFC fighter Antonio Nogueira (L) battles UFC fighter Randy Couture (R) during their Heavyweight bout at UFC 102: Couture vs. Nogueira at the Rose Garden Arena on August 29, 2009 in Portland, Oregon.

The first two weeks of the NBA's season have been canceled after failed negotiations between owners and players. What's a fan of the Lakers — or any of the NBA's other teams — to do? Here's a look at a few other sports that haven't faced lockouts or strikes.

Soccer

While there have been soccer strikes in other nations, soccer is such an international sport that it's less dependent on any nation's labor laws, so you're likely to be able to watch world class soccer at almost any point. Here in the United States, there is a Major League Soccer players union, but they have yet to strike. Major League Soccer was founded in 1993, with the union founded in 2003, so they haven't been around long. In 2010, contentious negotiations did raise the possibility of a strike, but eventually a 5-year agreement was reached.

Read More...

Netflix: No Qwikster, and the SNL sketch that almost was

Netflix announced Monday that they're canceling their plans to split into two brands, Netflix for streaming and Qwikster for DVDs by mail, though there will still be an internal separation.

"Saturday Night Live" had a Netflix sketch planned that got cut for time, but they put it up online. It takes a shot at Netflix's public apologies, particularly this video. While the show elevates the situation for comedic effect, the setup isn't too far off from reality. SNL's Jason Sudeikis, playing Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, summarized what most see as Netflix's problems. "We raised our rates from $10 a month to $16 a month, but that's not all. We knew you loved Netflix because it was an easy to use website for all your movie needs. To make it better, we split it into two separate, slightly more confusing sites."

Read More...

Improv Lab aims to shake up traditional comedy world

Courtesy Jamie Flam

Improv Lab manager Jamie Flam

The Improv Lab is a 50-seat theater attached to the Hollywood Improv and marks an attempt by one of Los Angeles's traditional comedy clubs to try something different from the standard club formula. In an online editorial, Comedy Store marketing and development VP Alf LaMont wrote that "The Improv Lab is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak landscape."

Improv Lab manager Jamie Flam agrees with LaMont that one of the keys is developing talent. "It really is as simple as talking to people about their shows" and providing resources, Flam says. "Just talking about the show and helping give notes and feedback." Flam says that, as someone who knows other comedians and has produced hundreds of shows, he can recommend other comedians who should be on a show and give feedback on how to promote the show and what would take a show to the next level.

Read More...