2012 Best in Blogging: My Favorite Posts

One of the best things I did last year was start All That Glitters. I think of it as a mixture of both a guide to and celebration of life in Los Angeles. I love this city and while I am always struggling with what’s next and how to get there, I love my life too. I love this blog. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

Today, as we enter the last week of January 2013 (which is pretty hard to believe), I want to take a step back and officially close out all things 2012 with my top 10 personal favorite blog posts from the year. Each of these were not only fun to write, but I was also happy with how they turned out both in content and my somewhat mediocre photography skills. Within each of the ten posts also lies some my happiest memories of 2012.

{TEN.} Graffiti Coffee Bar – Perhaps it’s a sentimental choice because this was my first real blog post, but I think it’s also because this set the tone for how I wanted my blog to be: topical, sharply written, while saluting and celebrating my love of all things L.A.. However, even I found it completely ridiculous to even think lattes and valet parking should ever go in the same sentence. (Oh! A latte sounds so good right now! I’ll be right back…)

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{NINE.}  Making Arrangements  Me as Martha Stewart for a day (okay, maybe more like 30 minutes) trying to make my own floral arrangement with a little help from Lauren Conrad (of all people). My favorite D.I.Y. post of 2012. I was so proud of my little creation.

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{EIGHT.}  Dirty Dancing in the Cemetery – A look at my first time experiencing the super popular young L.A. thing to do on a hot summer Saturday night, a Cinespia film screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This post reflects on how I had the time of my life and the first time I’d ever seen a shooting star in the night sky. Hey, like the post says – I live in L.A.! Shout out to myself on what has to be my most cleverly titled post.

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{SEVEN.} How I Spent 100 Years in Hollywood – My night at the Hollywood Bowl celebrating Paramount Studios 100 years in the movie making  business, told with the help of George Costanza and the most notable movie music in all of cinema. A night to remember and a post that I always look back on fondly.

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{SIX.} Farmers For A Day – The day I left the city behind and headed out to the country (ok, not literally the country but it wasn’t too far from it) and spent some time on an apple farm picking fruit and hanging with the native country folk. This was a day of trying something new and it being oh so fun!

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{FIVE.} Food To Die For: El Coyote Mexican Cafe – My account of what happens when you eat at my favorite Mexican Restaurant in L.A., El Coyote. Please read carefully, you’ve been warned of the side effects of food consumption on these premises. Oh! And God bless re-fried beans!

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{FOUR.} Snow in L.A. – Psst! Hey you. Yeah, you! I’ve got a little secret to tell you. It snows in Los Angeles. No, really. Seriously! It snows right in the middle of LA and I’m letting the cat out of the bag. I loved this post because it meant that festive time of year was finally here. It was officially Christmas!

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{THREE.} Cupcakes and Cashmere L.A. Book Signing – A treat to stop by and say hello to my favorite blogger, Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere fame, at her L.A. book signing. Cheers to the art of blogging!

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{TWO.}  2012: Best in Books, Guilty Pleasure – My delicious account of the book(s) that rocked my world during the summer of 2012. It was so much fun writing this post and reliving all the delectable moments between Anastasia Steele and our dark friend, Christian Grey. (Insert mischievousness voice here) Happy reading and laters baby!

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{ONE.} Mission San Juan Capistrano – Admittedly, I like this post more because of the crisp stunning images that bring me back to such a relaxing and happy day spent on boyfriend’s birthday. This is not my wittiest post when it comes to writing (see #2 and #4 above for that fix) but I think of this day as my most memorable from 2012 and in the end, it’s these types of posts that stick with you.

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Thank you for reading All That Glitters!  I hope you enjoy the posts as much I enjoy writing them. I promise you 2013 will be filled with even more sparkle! 🙂

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2012 Best in Cinema: The Documentary

A personal favorite of mine in the art of film-making, are the true to life narratives examined in feature length documentaries. It’s a mosaic of genuine consciousness and authentic storytelling while exploring real people and learning about a world outside our own everyday experiences that make this such a powerful genre. I had the pleasure of spending some time with many of these types of films in 2012.

Here the top 10 documentaries I watched this past year that enlightened, entertained, and even at times enraged me about the world around me (in alphabetical order):

Bad 25 – BY FAR, this was the was most entertaining feature length documentary I saw last year. A great subject matter and a behind the scenes look at the development of one of the most celebrated albums of all time make this film an undeniable accomplishment. Hardcore Michael Jackson fans or mere on-lookers cannot help but tap their feet and bounce in their seat to the beat of this fascinating look marking the 25th anniversary of the Bad album. Accompanied by personal reflections from those who worked closely with Jackson to those who openly pay homage to the man who inspired their now famous careers, Bad 25 is nothing short of a party. You can read more about this music-filled night here.

The Central Park Five – In terms of storytelling and bringing to light one of the most unjust cases of the past 20 years, The Central Park Five brilliantly delves into how 5 unknowing and unrelated minorities became public enemy number one in 1989 over the brutal rape and near murder of a Caucasian woman taking her nightly New York jog. This was a maddening film to sit through last year as a viewer. The treatment of these young boys by the N.Y.P.D. and the prosecution’s blatant disregard of key evidence and points in this case is astounding. The film not only exposes the corrupt nature of our judicial system, but how some 2 decades later, these 5 men have forever been shaped by this experience in ways that are inexplicable. They’ve each lost years of their youth, without so much as an apology from any of the players who wrongly accused them. This is unforgivable and the type of narrative that documentaries were made for.

First Position – This film takes us into the intriguing, competitive, and disciplined sphere of ballet dancing. It captures a moment in time of young dreams in a field that rewards very few. What a treat to see these dreamers maneuver through their everyday world dedicated to their passion, while following their successes and failures, and its effects on their young lives. What most impressed me about this film was how interesting and diverse all the subjects are. You couldn’t have picked a better group of dancers to follow to get a sense of the commitment and attitude it takes to make it. You rooted for each and every one of them.

Hell and Back Again – This film was released in the U.S. in October 2011, but I saw it in February of 2012 (so it counts!) as the film vied for best documentary feature at last year’s Academy Awards ceremony.  The story follows Nathan Harris when he returns home from war scarred physically and emotionally. I was completely engrossed in how intimately we were allowed into his life. The film takes us both on his expeditions while in actual battle and shifts to his struggles to survive back at home with his very supportive wife, Ashley. This movie challenges the viewer to see what it’s really like to be a war hero beyond the accolades, but to see that if you do survive war, you never really leave the battlefield.

The House I Live In – Of all the documentary films I’d seen in 2012, The House I Live In educated me in the most in your face way possible, from the use of personal anecdotes to the rawest video footage. I learned about the complicated and oftentimes screwy nature of our judicial system when it comes to narcotics cases in this country. This film does an excellent job at explaining how the American criminal justice system is dedicated more to making money off our inmates than rehabilitating them, and how the War on Drugs was never about solving public health issues nor helping those who have fallen into the depths of addiction and trafficking, but to punish them to the fullest extent of the law while never addressing or taking a serious look at the underlying causes for these problems. The takeaway? We must get to the cause before we can ever address the problem.

How to Survive a Plague – Structurally, this film did something special. We spend most of the film engaged in the battle against HIV and AIDS through the use of archived footage of old TAG and ACT UP activism meetings and protests against the American government and healthcare system’s’ lack of action towards this growing epidemic. We get close to our protagonists, leaders within the revolution struggling with the disease, fighting the big fight. Since we all knew the devastating numbers from the epidemic that eventually killed millions, we knew not all of our protagonists would make it through. In an inspiring manner, revealed with minutes to spare toward the end of the film, we learn of those who survived the HIV/AIDS plague and lived to tell their story. Please see my full review here.

The Imposter – The tagline: “There are two sides to every lie.” The Imposter was the most stylized, unique, and alluring piece of non-fiction I’d seen this past year. The situation alone is extremely unfathomable. A grown Frenchman assumes the identity of a missing teenager and subsequently moves in and lives with his family for some time before his true identity is revealed. The beauty of this film is that it’s so objective in its approach that you don’t know and will NEVER know who to believe. Recreations of events are often cheesy and weaken the effectiveness in trying to relive aspects of a story for weighted emphasis, but this was done so impeccably it added to the bizarreness of the circumstances.  I’m not a fan of re-watching or owning many documentaries, but this was so well executed that I might reconsider. An excellent use of the genre and taking the viewer into the depths of a very complicated world.

The Invisible War – Easily one of the most infuriating documentaries of 2012, yet one of the most persuasive in bringing about change. We have a war going on in this country and it’s within our own military system. Women are being attacked, raped, beaten and outright mistreated by the same male soldiers who have taken the oath to protect ALL American citizens against terrorist threats. What’s worse is that it’s being done with little to no consequences for the accused. The hypocrisy of this film is upsetting, yet the silver lining is that because of this film and its recent screenings to officials high up in the military system and the U.S. government, action is seemingly being taken to better protect our female soldiers.

The Queen of Versailles – a fascinating look at how the other side lives. When the very wealthy Siegel family have to cut back on their extravagant lifestyle due to the economic climate – it’s pretty absorbing how even the richest of people have a hard time with the adjustment and how they choose to deal with it. Furthermore, this film brings to the forefront the issue of American capitalism and consumption. Basically, when is enough, ENOUGH? What more can you possibly need when you’re already a billionaire? An entertaining, insightful, and engaging study of the lifestyles of the rich and not so famous. You can read my full take on the Siegel family here.

Side by Side – Keanu Reeves and the Hollywood film-making elite take us on a journey and a debate about the state of how to tell stories. Should we progress with the ease and forward moving nature of shooting cinematic narratives digitally, or stick with the tried and true method of honoring how this art form was born on a physical reel of film?  An interesting exploration of how today’s masters feel about this ever-growing battle to get their stories told. Please see my full review here.

How I Spent 100 Years in Hollywood

Location: 2301 North Highland Avenue, Hollywood

Unquestionably, if I had to pick one of my absolute favorite places in all of Los Angeles, it would be The Hollywood Bowl. The open sky, a perfect view of the Hollywood Sign right in front of you, and the unique vibe of “Bowl-goers” picnicking and hanging out on the grounds before the start of a live musical show. It’s an exciting place to be, and while the nearly 18,000 seat venue would be intimidating, I always found it to be one of the most intimate places you can possibly be in LA. There isn’t a bad seat in the house (and trust me, our seats were about as high up as you can go). I spent my second night in a row over the holiday weekend under the stars. This time, celebrating a century of movie music with Paramount Pictures.

{Making our way to the high, high (read: cheap) seats} 🙂

{“Bowlers” hanging out before the big show}

{View just as we arrived to the amphitheater}

Host, Jason Alexander; conductor, David Newman; and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, took us on a journey through the best musical scores of our time as Paramount Pictures turned 100 years old. An opening montage comprising 174 feature film clips from their library kicked-off the night. What a treat to look back over some of the most famous movie sequences scored with live orchestral music. After George Costanza Jason Alexander took the stage for a short opening monologue, the night took a turn to highlight those films that are particularly memorable not only in picture, but most importantly, in sound; touching every decade since the 1920’s. The great scenes from Sunset Boulevard, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Godfather Trilogy, Titanic, and Mission: Impossible (among others) projected on the big screen as the full orchestra below brought each frame and line of dialogue alive with the recognizable melody that made the film iconic.

It was a night filled with humor, music, film, and the best tuna on wheat Subway sandwich I’ve ever had (my personal happy point). What a wonderful way to celebrate Hollywood’s only remaining and oldest film studio. Happy Birthday Paramount Pictures! Thank you for your part in cultivating my love and life filled with cinema. Here’s to another 100 years of movie magic and making it to Mission: Impossible 33 (where yes, Tom Cruise will still be alive to star in the film, looking exactly the same, and doing his own stunt work).

Who Shot Rock & Roll?

Location: 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City

I always get excited with the changing of the museum banners along many of Los Angeles’s city streets. It means there’s something new to learn about, something new to explore.

If you haven’t been to the Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography, you’re missing out. It’s a blend of two of the greatest loves of my life: music and film. Admittedly, I’ll always be more partial to moving film over still photography because of my greatest love in cinema.

I spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon, about 6 weeks ago, exploring the show which highlights photographers who captured the moments of some of the greatest artists of our time behind the scenes. Be sure to check out the engaging documentary film produced for the exhibition that plays in the main gallery space to hear more from the artists whose work hangs on the museum walls. Watching the 30 minute film brings the photographs around you to life. I knew I’d be back before the close of the exhibition because I wanted to know more.

Another wonderful thing about the Annenberg is their dedication to their IRIS Nights lecture series, which compliments the exhibition one step further by offering free public panel talks  and discussions from the artists themselves or distinguished guests in the field.

Last Thursday night, I attended the IRIS Nights Lecture series and had a front row seat (okay, more like 5 rows back actually) where I listened in as 3 women who pioneered the music video industry and the rise of MTV itself, where the topics of discussion. What a treat to hear the stories of Penelope Speeris, Gale Sparrow and Liz Heller. From the conception of one of the first music videos, to the struggles of building the empire that MTV would become, to learning of how the power of “fake it until you make it” truly works when you’re trying to make something out of nothing.

I sat there completely absorbed in hearing how a recent college graduate, Penelope Speeris, got a call one day from a record label executive to shoot an artist and then lace their music to the sequence, creating what would become the music video genre. It was interesting to explore the financial turmoil MTV went through, nearly shutting their doors before a great marketing scheme saved them as portrayed in the words of Gale Sparrow. I was impressed with Liz Heller, who somehow fell into music video production without any experience and had to figure out how to shoot a music video and create a budget to do so.

Unfortunately, MTV has lost the “music,” so to speak, and replaced much of its programming with reality TV. I remember those times when I’d come home from school and turn on TRL while I did my homework, or sat and watched VJ’s take us through the top  10 music videos of the time. Those were the days. So long MTV.