Bohemian Rhapsody Will Rock You!

Last night in Hollywood there was a crowd of people dressed as Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock band Queen. These look-alikes entered a contest in the courtyard of the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX, as Halloween festivities swelled along the sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd. Prizes awarded to the contestants included TCL Big Screen TVs, Bohemian Rhapsody-themed Record Players, and collectible purples koozies.

    

“BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY” opens tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 2, yet I was invited on Halloween to a sneak peek screening to learn about how this band “rocked” the world.

The TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX is an ideal movie theatre for watching this biographical film about the British rock band Queen. The massive screen and state of the art sound systems lends to a rock concert atmosphere. This movie focuses on Mercury’s life, leading up to Queen’s final performance together at Wembley Stadium during Live Aid in 1985.

For those who remember this fundraising concert for Africa, Freddie Mercury strutted onto the stage and sent the crowd into frenzies of communal singing. The band was very instrumental in lighting up the phone banks with callers donating money for the worthy cause.

Queen’s music has become anthems at sporting events as the soaring chorus of “We Are the Champions,” is played when a team wins. We all feel the urge to stomp our feet at the heart-stirring beats of the iconic “We Will Rock You.”

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It’s been over 25 years since Mercury’s death to AIDS, yet Queen’s music lives on.  Years later after he died, Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor appeared as guests on the eighth season of American Idol. When they met contestant Adam Lambert while he performed with the eventual winner Kris Allen “We Are the Champions,” it led to a collaboration with Lambert and Queen. Lambert’s vocal range and mannerisms are similar to Mercury.  

Appearances and tours led to a cross-generational, multicultural and global phenomenon. My daughter and I saw Queen with Adam Lambert perform at the Hollywood Bowl two summers ago. It was a phenomenal show. With their success, the band with Lambert created “The Crown Jewels” show and was invited to the Park Theater at the MGM in Las Vegas to perform 10 nights last September.

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Now, Emmy®-winner Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) twirls around in furs and skintight Harlequin catsuits taking on the role of the creative king of pop rock in Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a foot stomping celebration of Queen’s music and lead singer Freddie Mercury’s extraordinary life. The audience doesn’t learn much about the other band members, who with Mercury’s pizzazz rose to meteoric heights as mega-watt rock stars.

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Here’s 5 fun facts you will learn while watching Bohemian Rhapsody:

  1. Mercury was born of Parsi descent in Zanzibar. Her grew up there and in India before moving with his family to Middlesex, England when he was 18.
  2. Freddy Mercury loved his cats.
  3. The song Bohemian Rhapsody was six minutes long, that’s three minutes longer than the standard formula song. It was recorded in a barn on a bucolic farm with the sounds surrounding them, providing inspiration to the mesmerizing operatics. They wanted the song to be an epic poem, with the wit of Shakespeare.
  4. The band encouraged their audience at concerts to sing aloud, stomp and sway to their music. You will find yourself doing this too throughout the movie.
  5. Mercury died from Bronchopneumonia complications from AIDS at the age of 45.

Starring alongside Malek is Lucy Boynton (Murder on the Orient Express) as beautiful, patient and concerned Mary Austin. Gwilym Lee (Jamestown) as guitarist Brian May is excellent, as is Ben Hardy (The Women in White) as drummer Roger Taylor.

Other stars in the movie includeJoe Mazzello (Jurassic Park) as bass guitarist John “Deacy” Deacon; Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) as Queen’s first manager John Reid; Tom Hollander (The Night Manager) as the group’s lawyer-turned-manager Jim “Miami” Beach; Allen Leech (Downton Abbey) as Paul Prenter, who started off as Reid’s assistant and became Freddie Mercury’s personal manager; Aaron McCusker (Shameless) as Freddie’s longtime boyfriend Jim Hutton; and Mike Myers (Austin Powers) as EMI Records’ Ray Foster.

Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything) wrote the screenplay, from a story by McCarten and Peter Morgan (The Crown, The Queen). The film is produced by Graham King (The Departed, The Aviator) and Jim Beach (The Krays, The Hotel New Hampshire) and directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns). Arnon Milchan (The Revenant, Gone Girl), Denis O’Sullivan (Tomb Raider, World War Z), Justin Haythe (Red Sparrow, Snitch), Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle, Wild Bill) and Jane Rosenthal (The Wizard of Lies, About a Boy) are executive producers.

Jonathan Gold’s City Shines

Photo: Goro Toshima / Courtesy of Sundance Selects
Photo: Goro Toshima / Courtesy of Sundance Selects

Last night I attended a screening of CITY OF GOLD – a film by Laura Gabbert about the life of Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold. It’s a beautiful love story of a man and his city.

What I learned in the movie is that behind every brilliant man is a talented, loving and supportive family. His wife is Laurie Ochoa, editor of the Los Angeles Times Arts and Entertainment. We see her and their two children interacting with Gold throughout the film.

As a restaurant critic for a smaller Los Angeles newspaper, The Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News (inserted into the Los Angeles Times every Thursday, and delivered to subscribers from Hancock Park to Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills to the Wilshire Corridor) I was eager to watch this movie.

Every Saturday morning I separate the Los Angeles Times to find the Saturday section to read Gold’s latest culinary adventure on the front page. He writes descriptive prose that leaves me wanting more, and many times typing an OpenTable reservation afterwards. Readers want to experience the sensory wonders of each dish he has enjoyed.

The movie opens with Gold gushing about Guerrilla Tacos. Two men created one of Gold’s favorite tacos back in 2012. One of the owners is Wesley Avila, who quit his job as a fork lift operator and went to culinary school. His first job was working with Walter Manske. He also studied at Le Centre de Formation de Alain Ducasse in Paris, France.

In the movie, Gold shares that he became a food writer by accident. His career started as a proofreader at LA Weekly after graduating from UCLA as a music major. He met Ochoa while she was at LA Weekly as the Editor-in-Chief. After their first date, Gold was smitten and sent her a dozen roses. Soon he wrote about the LA music scene, and later the culinary landscape in Los Angeles.

His passion for food began enjoying various dishes at Junior’s Deli on Westwood Blvd. While a student at UCLA, he worked for Steven Speilberg’s mother, Leah Adler, in her upscale Kosher restaurant Milky Way, located in the Jewish section of Pico Blvd. He developed a fascination in discovering every restaurant on the street from mid-city to Santa Monica.

Gold believes the fault lines of Los Angeles are where you find beautiful things about the city. He is an adventurous eater exploring tiny family owned restaurants in strip malls in Boyle Heights, East Hollywood, Thai Town and Koreatown. He tries spicy Thai plates at Jitlada, savory Ethiopian cuisine at Meals by Genet and exotic Sichuan specialities at Chengdu Taste. When Jonathan Gold writes a stellar review, the lines are longer, the phones ring more, and the kitchen is busy.

The movie follows a man enamored with his older pick-up truck, cruising through the streets of Los Angeles taking viewers on a field trip through a big city filled with fascinating and talented people. LA has more Koreans than any place outside of Korea. There are more Japanese than anywhere outside Japan, more Armenians, more Salvadorans and more Mexicans. All of these wonderful people create a cooking culture that is like no other in the world.

After seeing the movie, I have a new appreciation of Gold as a writer. I can picture him with a MacBook Pro on his lap staring into the screen, with his hands on the keyboard, he taps out the nuances of flavor profiles and compositions that leave his readers salivating.

You too can see a screening of  ‘City of Gold’ with L.A. Times columnist Jonathan Gold. He will be at the Wine Bar at the Landmark Theaters Westside Pavilion on March 14 with a reception at 6 p.m. Money raised for the event will go to the nonprofit Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Los Angeles. C-CAP Los Angeles provides food service career opportunities and culinary arts education for underserved youth.

Gold and the film’s director Laura Gabbert partnered with C-CAP Los Angeles to raise awareness and funding.

At the reception there will be tastings from The Wine Exchange and beer from El Segundo Brewery. Some of Gold’s favorite foods will be served, including sliders from West Coast Prime Meats and pork tostadas from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s Border Grill. Crudités and fruit from Melissa’s Produce, and an oyster bar, courtesy of Michael Cimarusti’s new Cape Seafood and Provisions. Spago desserts will be on display to enjoy before the screening.

The movie screens at 7:30 p.m. with gourmet popcorn by chef Sherry Yard. After the film, KCRW Good Food’s Evan Kleiman will moderate a question and answer session with Gold and Gabbert.

The venue is at 10850 West Pico Blvd. Tickets are $101 and can be purchased by visiting ccapinc.org. Call (213)542-1941 for more information.