Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

AFI Fest: Tommy Lee Jones directs haunted, worthy Western 'The Homesman'

Tuesday evening, a new Western directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones premieres at the AFI Film Festival in a gala screening. R. H. Greene, who is filing from AFI Fest for Off-Ramp, saw the movie early so he could give you his thoughts.

We are far enough along in what could be called the Tommy Lee Jones Western Project to know it's an eccentric one.

A passionate amateur historian with a special interest in the history of Texas, Jones' deep knowledge of the Old West seems to drive him toward the margins of the form. With the arguable exception of "Lonesome Dove," Jones simply does not play archetypal Western heroes. Instead, he gives us the half-and-half shaman/cowboy of director Ron Howard's "The Missing," or the fraught and despairing Texas sheriff Ed Tom Bell in the Coen Brothers' downbeat classic "No Country for Old Men."


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SKETCHBOOK: The GOP victory party in OC 'like a high school dance'

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan, the world's only public radio sketch artist, covered election night in Orange County.

I spent election night watching the results at the victory party held by the The Republican Party of Orange County at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel. It was a foregone conclusion that they were going to win seats.

These things always remind me of a high school dance: quickly decorated banquet hall, people dancing and, in this case, even an '80s cover band (they weren't bad). People broke into their respective groups, caught up and have a few cocktails. There was a big screen running Fox News and there were cheers every time a win came in.

RELATED: Orange County, the GOP, and Asian Americans

But I was stuck at how low-key it was. Not the snark fest you usually get on the winning side. Not even a lot of the usual political networking chatter. It felt like what it was: "We got it done so let's hang out and have fun." And there wasn't much anticipation, since it rolled out the way the polls said it would, for the most part.


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Review: Joseph Marcell in a lucid 'King Lear' at the Broad Stage

Joseph Marcell as Lear.
Courtesy of The Broad Stage

Off-Ramp's Marc Haefele reviews Shakespeare's "King Lear," the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre production, at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica through Nov. 16.

The story is a cry out of the darkness of mankind’s deepest mythic past: an old man’s senile judgment and passionate rage destroy all those who love him, and even those who hate him. 

The old English chronicles date the tale of King Lear back to the times of Homer and Elijah. But, in Shakespeare rendering, it remains as modern as tomorrow.

The great critics call "Lear" Shakespeare’s greatest play. It’s certainly his most involving tragedy, dragging the spectator deeply into its emotional and physical horrors. But it is also spiced with little doses of wit and even fun right up to its immensely saddening conclusion.

The Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre production of London’s “Lear” at Santa Monica’a Broad Stage somewhat overdoes the lighter end of things. Joseph Marcell in the title role works mostly in the upper register of his acting range, but then that is where the author places his character. His transition from patronizing indulgence to rage toward his faithful daughter Cordelia is massively unnerving, setting the pattern for his performance’s long descent into loss, utter deprivation and, finally, outright madness, followed by the parent and daughter reconciliation scene that is the mirrored reversal of his terrible rejection. Marcell’s is an intensely physical performance, very much in the spirit of the SGT’s entire production.


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7 cartoons to make your Halloween spook-tacular

Witch Hazel makes her Looney Toons debut in "Bewitched Bunny."

It's not officially Hallowe'en until you've re-watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." But the special only runs a half-hour, so here are some suggestions for additional viewing — laughs and shivers that should help burn off the trick-or-treat sugar rush.

For all ages:

The Skeleton Dance

Walt Disney launched the "Silly Symphonies" in 1929 with this plotless graveyard romp. Eighty-five years later (!), the antics of the rubbery skeletons still get laughs. Disney has issued the film in its first “Silly Symphonies” collection.


Ub Iwerks, who animated "Skeleton Dance" almost single-handedly, returned to bony characters in this eerie 1932 cartoon. The story makes no sense at all, but Flip's awkward tango with a skeletal belle is a hoot. There’s no definitive set of the Iwerks films, but they’re available on various anthologies, like this one on Amazon.


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Remembering Daniel Pearl: Journalist, violinist

This undated photo shows Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal newspaper reporter kidnapped by Islamic militants in Karachi, Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal announced February 21, 2002 that Pearl has been confirmed dead, presumably murdered by his abductors.
Getty Images/Getty Images

Born in New Jersey and raised in Encino, Daniel Pearl would have been 51 years old last week.  But Pearl, a tremendously accomplished journalist and reporter, was murdered 12 years ago in Pakistan by Islamist thugs, the first American journalist to be criminally killed in this century’s unending perfect storm of  Middle Eastern wars and conflict.

His professional admirers knew him as an able and fast-ascending newspaperman whose career had taken him from small town coverage in western Massachusetts to  the chiefdom of the Wall Street Journal’s Asian Bureau.  Along the way, he’d broken major stories and spoke truth to power in former Yugoslavia, Africa, and South Asia, among other places, far and near.  

What many colleagues did not know about him was that Daniel had a strong musical background.  He was an accomplished violinist who had studied with the former concertmaster of  the Los Angeles Philharmonic and, in the course of his travels, made music with people he met all over the world. 


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