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December 26, 2009

Re "Wild Tales of the Brit Booze Brigade," Dec. 18: Absent from Tim Rutten's review -- and possibly from Robert Sellers' "incredibly entertaining" book -- is that alcoholism, practiced by famous actors and others, ruins bodies, minds and lives.

As one who struggled with excessive drinking for many years, I'm appalled to read Richard Harris' pathetic excuse that they "all drank to excess not because we had problems but because we loved it." These actors were hard-core alcoholics who lost touch with reality and eventually destroyed themselves, with three dying.

John Holmstrom


Seen 'Avatar' several times

Re "A Dazzling Revelation," by Kenneth Turan, Dec. 17: Though it is not difficult to see how they spent more than $350 million to produce "Avatar," it is difficult to understand why -- except the obvious motive that they hope it will earn back an even larger fortune, not only from the theater ticket sales, but also from all of the commercial tie-ins it has and will generate.

Remembering H.L. Mencken's quote that "No one ever went broke underestimating the (bad) taste of the American public," they very well might succeed.

However, as for the movie itself, you've probably seen it all before: If you have seen "Jurassic Park," "The Lord of the Rings," "Star Wars," "Apocalypse Now," old "cowboys and Indians" B-movies, and any of a number of other films in all of these genres -- and then throw in a healthy dose of Busby Berkeley kitsch -- there is nothing new in "Avatar." You've also heard it all before, from the cliché-riddled dialogue to the "boom boom" and "screech screech" sound effects; even the score by James Horner channels everyone from Gustav Holst and Edward Elgar to Howard Shore.

Ron Streicher


'Nine' deserves better critique

Re " 'Nine' Less Than Sum of Its Parts" and "To Swoon For," Dec. 18: Well, now it's official: Hedonism is out and romance novels are in! Who knew Tiger Woods' "indiscretions" would suddenly turn this country -- and its arts -- into forthright examples of love, beauty and the pursuit of every girl's right to a happy wedding?

At least, that's the message I got from film critic Betsy Sharkey's snarky review of "Nine" and her glowing tribute to "The Young Victoria."

I fully realize that criticism is a highly subjective form of writing. Still, if you are going to call one of the few serious attempts to continue the musical film art form a "fiasco," you better have some good critical comment up your sleeve.

Sharkey's take on this ambitious film is strictly Monday morning water cooler chatter. None of the dazzling production numbers please her and only two come close. Little or no mention is made of performances, cinematography, costumes (they're "fishnets and bustlers" -- oh mother!) and other vital ingredients. Nor is director Rob Marshall's obvious inventiveness mentioned. (Hey everyone, bring back Susan Stroman's stagebound movie of "The Producers"!)

Let me add that Marshall's film is not perfect. By deleting several important songs, he eliminated some much-needed sentiment from the musical the film is based on. But "a fiasco"?

Hardly. Makers of movies and viewers of movies deserve criticism that goes beyond phone talk on a bad hair day.

Richard Stevens

Los Angeles

Put the park elsewhere

As the director of SPACES (Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments), I would like to express my vehement opposition to the plan currently being floated to add a skateboard park immediately adjacent to the Watts Towers ["Rad Element," by Mike Boehm, Dec. 9].

I understand that there is a dearth of parks in Los Angeles, and how important it is to encourage positive behavior among our youth, but this is not the location to do so. I was in Watts for the 50th anniversary of the Towers' stress test two months ago, and noted much unused or under-used land; surely another local site could be found for the wonderful community park envisioned in the plan without so negatively impacting one of this country's incomparable works of art and an extraordinary National Historic Landmark.

Jo Farb Hernandez


For unto us a turkey is born

After much anticipation of hearing a "professional" performance of Handel's Messiah instead of the usual painful singalong, Wednesday's performance was a disappointment. Les Violons du Roy's disjointed, weak rendition of this most beautiful, inspirational and powerful music was painful ["Labadie freshens 'Messiah,' " Dec. 17].

The most exciting part of the performance was the soprano's plum skirt.

William Terrell

Los Angeles

Fleming's picks are too obscure

We read Chris Pasles' review of Renée Fleming's recital and wondered if he was in the same hall as several hundred music lovers who drove in the rain to hear her ["A Sensitive Exploration of Rare Works," Dec. 14]. We are sophisticated opera fans and enjoy all kinds of opera music, but as is often the case in recitals, the artist chose a program completely consisting of obscure works by many obscure composers.

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