Sunday morning woke up to windows rattling. Bad sign. Probably another red flag fire day.
Windy through the morning. Very windy. Santa Anas. Up to 80 mph I later hear.
After noon I take a nap and wake up in near darkness. Red darkness with a pervasive smell of smoke. It’s around 2.30 pm and when I go outside everything looks like these pictures. Building super says there’s a fire somewhere in the county. Fires.
Take these photos. These have not been altered color-wise; this is the way it looked. The snow-like specks in the pictures are flecks of blowing ash being illuminated by the flash that goes off automatically because it’s so dark. But the sky is flaming crimson like the Van Allen belt has caught fire again. Where are Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden when we need them?
Inside again I try to find an AM news station. There is of course nothing in the Sunday papers because the fires started overnight. I find that the biggest blaze is around Malibu. It has (as of this writing, Sunday evening) destroyed several buildings and part of the famous Malibu castle. Pacific Coast Highway is closed.
There are other fires around Ventura County and my section of Ventura seems to be under the path of the various converging streams of smoke and falling ash.
Listeners are warned to stay inside with the windows closed.
I drive downtown anyway. It’s smoky, but without the volcanically lit skies of Montalvo, a section of Ventura which is south of town off the 101 freeway. I stop at the pier; the ocean and sky are leaden, but not red. Crossing the freeway overpass ash ripples across the concrete like gray snow. The sea is ashen and eerie and the high surf has a slight tinge of yellow. A fresh breeze blows in from the Pacific.
On the way home I stop at a major pumpkin patch near the Montalvo exit. A few people are there selecting pumpkins against a vast ashen sky. The guys who man the patch are wearing surgical (breathing) masks. It’s like picking out a pumpkin at the beginning of a contemporary horror movie. I buy a beautiful white squash with green stripes. It looks like a small pumpkin. I have never seen so many different types of squash and pumpkins and they are artistically and profusely displayed over what seems like several acres. The men decide to close the pumpkin patch.
When I get home Montalvo is no longer under hellish skies. Now it’s just smoke. It looks like just before a thunderstorm back east, but of course no storms will come, at least no rainstorms. I take advantage of the dim light and watch DVDs: a wonderful “Knowing the Score” documentary on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. It seems appropriate because Montalvo looked like the opening of FANTASIA’s Rite of Spring sequence just a few hours ago. Then CAT PEOPLE (the original), all cool black-and-white shadows in which I would like to get lost. (And do for the length of the fim).
When I try to tune in the AM station again it has drifted away. Hate TV and I am not connected to any cable service here, so I don’t know what’s happening with the fires but the air is less smoky and there is the pale iodine-colored disc like a ghost sun in the now-pearly pink skies.
But as I get ready for bed the wind is howling and the windows are rattling again and somewhere down the street it sounds like wind chimes are being shredded.
I recently saw the newly restored print of Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER at the state-of-the-art Landmark Cinemas in West Los Angeles. The classic science fiction film has appeared in a number of guises since its original release in 1982. As of 2001 one of Leonard Martin’s movie and video guides commented “at least two alternate versions have been released since the original, followed in 1993 by the ‘director’s cut,’ which the film’s champions hail as a vast improvement.”
This edition is subtitled The Final Cut and is on a limited release in theaters prior to an exhaustive DVD release, allegedly featuring every version of the film. While I am certainly among the film’s champions I had heard a new theatrical version was in the works and so had deliberately abstained from watching any small screen version for some time now. No matter what you may personally feel about the various editions – I personally always liked the original version with what I always felt was a rather haunting and noiresque voice-over – this new version is certainly an optimum experience.
Visually and aurally this film was made for the big screen and the visuals are magnificent, and not having seen any version of it for some time allowed me to experience the sense of wonder, fascination, and horror I felt on my first viewing. There is a sense of scale to the awesome Panavision shots of a futuristic and polluted LA that can simply never come across on video.
Dramatically and conceptually BLADE RUNNER still packs an emotional wallop as well, and the deaths of the replicants remain among the most chilling in genre cinema. Harrison Ford has a kind of goofy, vulnerable charm that is absolutely right for the character and the supporting players are equally distinctive and well realized visually and dramatically.
This limited engagement will run seven more days (according to today’s, Friday, October 19, 2007, LA Times). The Landmark, at W. Pico and Westwood in West LA, is one of the town’s newest luxury screening venues and everything there, projection, sound, ease of access and free parking, seemed practically perfect on the Tuesday afternoon I was there.
Photo:Near the Palm Desert end of the Palms to Pines Highway, nearPalmSprings, California. Note there are NO palms or pines visible here. Looking into the Coachella Vally towards route 10. Photo: by/COPYRIGHT 2007 Ross Care
Took a new route to Palm Springs last week, the Palms to Pines Highway, something I’ve always wanted to do. (Tried this on my last trip but the high winds on the Palm Desert end buffeted the Honda so violently we turned back at about 3,000 feet).
Going east from LA on route 10 you pick up the highway, route 243, at Banning (just before the Cabazon casino and dinosaurs). Palms to Pines quickly winds from low to high desert, soon hitting about 5,000 feet where the pine forests begin. Once in the pines the landscape becomes quite similar to the Sierras and northern California. In the midst of this is Idyllwild, an “Alpine village” and artsy-craftsy stopover in the mountains before the descent into more high desert. (Off-season it was pretty much of a snooze and reminded me of Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania).
On the way to Idyllwild is a beautiful little lake, the name of which I do not recall at the moment. This little gem, nestled in beautiful woods of oak and other deciduous trees, is however also suffering from the current western dry spell. A ranger told us it is a natural lake fed by rain and snow melt and of course we’ve had very little of any of that for many seasons now. The pea green color of the water is due, we were told, to the proliferation of algae, now so pervasive that the lake is being studied by UCLA and cannot even be stocked with fish. Even so it’s one of the prettiest, most tranquil spots I’ve seen in southern California.
Moving on from Idyllwild route 74 and the descent begins. The landscape shifts almost immediately, and moves though a huge flat valley plateau of high desert that is unlike anything you see in the lower Coachella Valley/Palm Springs deserts. Getting closer to the posh town of Palm Desert the landscape takes on almost Biblical proportions. A huge chasm appears on the right side of the road, a kind of mini-Grand Canyon that could easily serve as the backdrop for a film of Jesus (played by Jeffery Hunter, of course) being tempted by Satan.
Stopping a bit to explore the roadside one could look apprehensively into the abyss and on the other side of the road observe the remnants of the flash floods that can rampage through the area. Hard as that may be to believe in this arid environment the evidence is there in the shattered plant life (and unfortunately) the trash – beer cans, bottles, whatever – left in the aftermath of the floods.
Mostly everything about the Palm Springs area is surreal, but nothing more so than coming down from the high desert wilderness heights of this end of the Palms to Pines highway into the posh town of Palm Desert. In the mini-megapolis which runs from Indio and Palm Desert to Palm Springs the Old Testament crags (which grow to look more like barren and forbidding slag heaps as you approach Palm Springs) merely serve as a backdrop for Starbucks, Chuck E Cheeses, and unnaturally green and grassy byways with names like Bob Hope Drive and the Gene Autry Trail.
And then there’s the disarmingly retro Palm Springs itself.
Composer for theater, short films, and concert.
Writer on film, film music, and popular culture for Film Quarterly, Sight and Sound, Cinefantastique, Scarlet Street, and books published by the Library of Congress.