HITS Daily Double
Sun-dappled primary colors, lots of nubile flesh and a quicksilver narrative heat up this delectable film by Francois Ozon (Under the Sand), the most inventive cinematic work of the year thus far (not that there’s much competition) and the discerning moviegoer’s alternative to the bloated blockbusters.


Getting Away for Three Days Under the Sun Is Good for the Soul, Not So Good for the Skin

Our dermatologist, Dr. F., doesn’t go to the beach. With messianic zeal, the good Dr. F. insists that we avoid direct sunlight, while himself sporting an unpersuasive pallor that has far more in common with Six Feet Under than Baywatch. Weighing the various scenarios—and armed with the comforting knowledge that our own PoMo Princess Ivana has a secret jones for the garden isle of Kuaui—we pack up the essential items and head out for the California coastline, performing the seasonal ritual with an ardor undiminished by decades of repetition. Sorry, doc, but we’re gonna worship the Sun God this weekend. Bring it on.

1. Pre-Sun—New Music:
The drive to the Lodge at Torrey Pines, in La Jolla, north of San Diego, could take three hours if we hit traffic Friday morning, but CDs don’t take up much space, so I’m bringing enough music to get us to Ensenada and back. My selections: Steely Dan’s Gaucho (the requisite Cali classic), The Thorns (a new Cali classic), Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, Fountains of Wayne’s Welcome Interstate Managers, Annie Lennox’s Bare, St. Germain's Tourist, my midyear compilation Hit the Ground Running (love this assemblage, if I do say so myself; see last week’s Planner for track listing), Minibar’s Fly Below the Radar (for review), 8 Miles High, a collection of Byrds-inspired tracks that came with the latest issue of Uncut (see below), rough tracks from the solo project by former Taxiride member Dan Hall, the three-song Keane sampler I received from BMI’s Hanna Bolte (see Rumor Mill) and Hall & Oates’s newish Do It for Love (for old time’s sake). That oughta do it. —BS

2. Under Sun—Essential Stuff: Here’s a partial list of the items I’m throwing in my gym bag for my poolside amusement: Michael Chabon’s Pultizer-winning epic page-turner The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (210 pages left; will I finish this weekend?); Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner (Beer loved it—in case I finish the Chabon novel); the August issue of the U.K. music/film mag Uncut, with huge features on the Byrds, Steely Dan (by our pal, and honorary Californian, Barney Hoskyns) and Roxy Music; The July 7 ish of The New Yorker, for cultural anthropologist John Seabrook’s overview of today’s embattled music biz, featuring Lava’s Jason Flom and his 17-year-old discovery Cherie; Speedo corrective-vision goggles and tank suit (you expect me to swim laps in floppy surfer trunks, do you?); Dr. F’s pricey SPF 30 zinc oxide sunscreen (for the face and other sensitive areas) and Coppertone Sport SPF 15 spray (for the rest of the bod); J Crew flip-flops; printout of captions for HITS 17th Anniversary Issue for editing (the tradeoff for taking Friday off); and one Pilot V5 Extra Fine red pen. Conspicuous by their absence: Sony VAIO laptop, piece-of-shit Nokia cell phone (ick—no way), CDs and CD player. —BS

3. Apres Sun—Noxzema: It’s the world's most adaptive substance. It cools when you're burned, calms the skin when it's grumpy, opens your pores and sinuses when necessary and cleans when the grime and what's left of the makeup must go. Buy it in any drugstore, slather it on and tissue or rinse off. Feel the instant ahhhhh…, which, on a hot day, is about the biggest gift from God imaginable. —HG

4. Alterna-Sun—Neutrogena Bronzer: Yes, you could spend three, four, eight times the money on a more expensive alternative. You could go to a tanning bed. You could put iodine in baby oil and flip off all those UV rays. Or you can hit the drugstore, drop down a nominal bit of legal tender and head home. This foamy product is like shaving crème on one's legs—and as it tints while it's tanning, that lovely streaking problem is practically unthinkable, since you can see the stuff going on. So simple it's terrifying, this is the quickest, easiest, most DUH! executed alternative to browning the non-carcinogenic way… then again, it IS Neutrogena we're name-checking. —HG

5. Celluloid Sun—Swimming Pool (Focus Features): Sun-dappled primary colors, lots of nubile flesh and a quicksilver narrative heat up this delectable film by Francois Ozon (Under the Sand), the most inventive cinematic work of the year thus far (not that there’s much competition) and the discerning moviegoer’s alternative to the bloated blockbusters. Watching Charlotte Rampling’s uptight “crime fiction writer” progressively let herself go under the French summer sun is one of the movie’s great joys; Rampling’s tumultuous interaction with ultra-hedonist Ludivine Sagnier is another, as the two gifted actresses provide a solid center around which the storyline’s ambiguities ebb and flow. And when you walk out of the theater, you’ll have plenty to ponder, as Ozon puts a French spin on his Hitchcock hommage. Escargot see it. —BS

6. Another Getaway Option: Southern California is filled with fantastic weekend getaways, all reachable within a day by car, but one of the best is a simple trip up the 101 through Santa Barbara to the picturesque burg of Cambria. The town’s nestled on the Pacific Coast Highway just five miles below the Hearst Castle in San Simeon and exactly 250 miles from both L.A. and San Francisco. At the Fogcatcher Inn (www.fogcatcherinn.com), nestled right on Moonstone Beach Drive, across from the ocean, you feel like you could be on the coast of Scotland in a quaint village like the one in Local Hero. The town itself is filled with lush gardens, art galleries and a deli that prepares customized, to-order sandwiches with all the fixings for $3.99. We spent the Fourth of July on a driftwood-strewn beach watching fireworks explode in our faces, chilled and invigorated by the encroaching tide. Sometimes, you really do have to get away.

7. Still Another Getaway Option: A shorter ride from L.A.—about 30 minutes north on the 23 out of Thousand Oaks—will take you to the newly refurbished Theater on High Street (www.theateronhighstreet.com) in downtown Moorpark. The 200-seat venue, originally built in 1927 for silent movies and vaudeville, has undergone a $1.5 million renovation and has begun booking a variety of acts for the summer. We caught a recent Monday night performance by the famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans that ended with the entire audience circling the seats in a conga line to “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Afterward, the band hung out in the lobby giving out autographs and greeting the crowd personally. It’s the kind of place that used to be on every Main Street in every small town in the U.S., but is now an increasingly endangered species in this era of the multiplex. Featured acts scheduled to appear include John Sebastian (7/17), Elvis Bishop (7/25), Elvis impersonator Mark W. Curran (7/26) and a rare performance by Leon Russell (9/26). —RT

8. Takeout Dinner After the Drive Home: Poquito Mas, Cahuenga West near Lankershim, L.A.: Tucked into a little L-shaped shopping corner (not even a strip mall!), the original Poquito Mas is as funky as it gets. But so clean, you can only feel good about getting some authentic Mexican food in a clean, well-lighted place (apologies to Hemingway). The counters are veneer, the outside tables run-of-the-mill picnic—but the food is out of this world. I always get the carne asada burrito—grilled strips of meat marinated in lime, garlic and heaven knows what all else—with salsa fresca, rice and some cheese. As a non-seafood eater, I've never gone for the grilled shrimp variety, but I know Texans who will ONLY go to this Poquito Mas (and DON'T fall for the chain of the same name) when they travel to the City of Angels from the Lone Star State. —HG

9. Summer Blonde—Reese Witherspoon: She’s perhaps the world's cutest girl, and definitely the smartest. She makes good career choices, has strong sense of a great script and the guts to accept that walking away from a winning franchise isn't necessary if one has the moxie to step up and say, "I'll stay, but I'm the one who'll produce it." Reese Witherspoon brings us Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde, which does more than update Jane Austen, as her flesh-and-blood Barbie doll turns Capitol Hill into her own personal Southern morality play. It posits that being nice is currency enough, that being cute and concerned about accessories doesn’t preclude or negate the ability to get it done. The movie boasts far better writing than the original issue, which has spawned a franchise. The notion of a sequel outstripping the original for content is practically unheard of—so listen up. —HG

10. New York Minute: If you’re broiling in the Big Apple rather than sunning in SoCal this weekend, certain forms of outdoor amusement are available to you as well: Ex-Black Crowes frontman and current Kate Hudson hubby Chris Robinson joins Elvis Costello at Central Park SummerStage (72nd and Fifth Ave.) Friday night… On Saturday and Sunday, NBA Rhythm ’N Rims featuring Cee-Lo and MC Lyte dribbles into the South Street Seaport (89 South St. Pier 17). —VN

Spellbound (THINKfilm): Who would have thought one of the best movies of the year would be this Oscar-nominated documentary about the 1999 version of the annual Scripps Howard spelling bee? Filmmakers Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch examine the competition as a microcosm of what makes this country a continuing source of hope for everyone willing to put in the hard work to achieve their version of the American dream. And while spelling may have lost its currency in this age of short-cut Instant Message communication set against the general decline of the U.S. education system’s much-promulgated “three R’s,” the bee still manages to attract participants from a wide variety of economic and ethnic backgrounds for its $12,000 first prize. The film follows its competitors into the ESPN-televised final round, where violin-playing Indian A-type Nupur Lala takes the championship. The compelling cast ranges from a small-town Texas border girl whose Mexican parents speak no English to a privileged upper-middle-class young lady from Connecticut who laments that the au pair won’t be accompanying her to the finals. There’s also a hard-working Indian kid with a father as intensely overbearing as any Little League dad and a wonderfully hyper Jewish boy from New Jersey named Harry Altman whose facial tics and contortions give the film its comic edge. The competition takes on its own momentum as the hotel desk bell tolls, eliminating each contestant until a champion is crowned. That this All-American pastime still holds resonance today is a tribute to the durability of the tenets our country is based on…though the unwavering earnestness of both contestants and parents cries out for a Christopher Guest-styled parody. Roy Trakin

Bleu, Redhead (Aware/Columbia):
The owner of a pair of “cartoon sideburns” (his description) and a voice that is operatic in range and power, William James McCauley III of the Boston McCauleys is no shrinking violet. Bleu’s major-label debut may well be the most open-throttled guitar-pop album since Jellyfish revealed its love for Queen on 1993’s Spilt Milk, with all due grandiosity. And that parallel is more than coincidental; Jellyfish auteur/frontman Andy Sturmer shows up for two tracks, the bouncy “Could Be worse,” which he co-wrote with McCauley, and explosive opener/first single “Get Up,” on which Sturmer is credited, cryptically but tellingly, as “the king of Queen.” Fellow popmeister Dan Wilson (Semisonic, Trip Shakespear) also drops by to co-write and sing on “Somethin’s Gotta Give,” one of the soaring mini-symphonies that dominate the album. Not that Bleu is a hot dog (or a Meatloaf, for that matter)—but when he swings for the fences, as he does on “We’ll Do It All Again,” “Somebody Else” and “Trust Me,” as well as the aforementioned cuts, he puts everything behind it; fortunately, he invariably connects. And when McCauley goes for understatement, as in “You Know, I Know, You Know,” he does so with the languid grace of the young Todd Rundgren. If any of these reference points resonate for you, McCauley’s your guy, and Bleu’s your color.
Bud Scoppa

Sam Cooke, Portrait of a Legend: 1951-1964 (ABKCO): The man could commit to a vocal, embrace gospel to good-times and wrote a canon of pop music that is both staggering and unrecognized. Sam Cooke, silk-voiced gospel man and R&B shouter on cayenne could embrace "Twistin' the Night Away" and celebrate "Havin' a Party," rue young love's futility "Only 16," warmly wrap his arms around the wonder of "Whatta Wonderful World" and "You Send Me" and be as holy as Jennifer Jones in "Song for Bernadette" when he enfolds around "Touch the Hem of His Garment" and "A Change Is Gonna Come." As smooth as duchesse satin, as pungent as a good curry cooking, as flesh and blood and tore up as the depths of Saturday night, but also as settling as the sense of knowing a truth that's always been so, Sam Cooke's voice is the fiber of everything good about want and desire and deliverance and arrival. To put this on is to both go back in time and propel forward into the place you'd like to be at your very best…and this is the soundtrack to those moments. Holly Gleason

Mogwai, Happy Music for Happy People (Matador): This influential Glaswegian instrumental art-rock combine here take their rarefied, moody aural sprawl to the next level, refining their subtext-driven themes into subtly shape-shifting waves of meaning. Packed with guitars, organs, Mellotrons, strings and plenty of sweet analog fuzz, the record, which occasionally recalls Tindersticks’ more expansive moments in its monumental sweep, is hypnosis waiting to happen. Opener “Hunted by a Freak” fades up like a long-lost outtake from Dark Side of the Moon, while “Boring Machines Disturb Sleep” and “Ratts of the Capital” are shot through with the Celtic spirit, two-minute crescendos building to such fury, one can almost hear the winds of Thor blowing through the runes, or smell the funereal smoke as another fallen warrior approaches Valhalla. Jon O’Hara

S.T.U.N. Evolution of Energy (Geffen): Bristling with anger and ideas, this L.A. foursome’s debut harnesses the insurrectionary fervor of Rage and the Clash to the ambitious, sensual explorations of Jane’s Addiction—and kicks out the jams, hardcore-style. Veteran producer Sean Slade, meanwhile, who also mixed several tracks with longtime partner Paul Q. Kolderie, has helped the band create a recording with the urgency of a humid club show. Singer Christiane J. has the pipes and authority to match the storming assault of guitarist Neil Spies, bassist Nick S. and drummer Bobby Alt, and the collective has a flair for efficient, propulsive hooks. Just check out the furious bounce of “Annihilation of the Generations,” the tension/release of “Movement” and the infectious “Watch the Rebellion Grow.”
Simon Glickman

Guster, Keep It Together (Palm/Reprise): The first album from the trio of Tufts classmates and perennial Boston college student faves since ‘99’s Lost and Gone Forever (Sire) suggests that the time away has been well-spent. Like a stateside Coldplay, the band nods to ’80s new wavesters the Smiths and New Order on songs like “Careful,” and to R.E.M. on the single “Amsterdam,” a break-up song that references fellow New England cult icons the Shaggs. With the title track as his rallying cry, singer/songwriter Ryan Miller embraces the future in “Come Downstairs and Say Hello”: “I look straight at what’s coming ahead/and soon it’s going to change in a new direction.” From the Brian Wilson homage “Ramona” to the unlikely mix of Indian raga and country harp in “Backyard,” these savvy PoMo survivors refuse to allow irony or disappointment to cloud their sunny pop dreams. —RT

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Walt Disney Pictures)
Film based upon the Disney amusement park ride. A gentleman pirate (Johnny Depp says he based the character on Keith Richards) who teams up with a blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) to retrieve a childhood girlfriend (Bend It Like Beckham’s Keira Knightly) kidnapped by an evil Captain (Geoffrey Rush) and his band of ghostly buccaneers.
Stars: Depp, Rush, Bloom, Jonathan Pryce
Director: Gore Verbinski
(Disney hack who worked on Mouse Hunt and The Ring as well as The Mexican)
Thumbs Up: Depp’s quirky portrayal has been drawing the critical kudos, and the trailers looked entertaining in a hot-weather, popcorn-munching sorta way.
Thumbs Down: The reviews have been pretty scathing as the curse of the pirate movies continues, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
Soundtrack: Disney Records album includes original score composed by Klaus Badelt, but remarkably, not the tune that plays inside the ride.
Website: pirates.movies.go.com offers the works, mate, with movie information, a gallery of photos, behind the scenes, previews & clips, downloads, conceptual art sketches and games, including a search for the cursed treasure and “Rogue’s Battleship.”

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (20th Century Fox)
Premise: No, not Robert Fripp’s band, but based on the comic book series which featured hundreds of 19th century literary characters, including Dr. Jekyll, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, a character from Dracula, Dorian Gray, Thomas Sawyer and Allan Quatermain, famed for discovering King Solomon’s Mines. The band of unusual figures is brought together to (what else) foil The Fantom’s evil plans for domination by turning the nations of the world against each other.
Stars: Sean Connery, Tony Curran, Jason Flemyng, David Hemmings, Shane West
Director: Stephen Norrington
Thumbs Up: The coming attractions made the graphic effects look pretty cool, and the understated Connery always brings a measure of dignity to the proceedings.
Thumbs Down: Being referred to as this year’s Wild Wild West, which is no recommendation.
Soundtrack: None
Website: www.LXGMovie.com includes previews, movie information, backgrounds to each of the characters, the technology involved in the movie, and more.

Northfork (Paramount Classics)
Premise: Final third of Polish Brothers trilogy named after towns that included Twin Falls Idaho and Jackpot. Set in 1955 in Montana, where a small town is threatened with extinction as a newly built dam will flood it out.
Stars: Nick Nolte, Anthony Edwards, Peter Coyote, Clarie Forlani, Daryl Hannah, Kyle MacLachlan, James Woods
Michael Polish (who also stars with brother/screenwriter Michael).
Thumbs Up: Impressive cast, pre-apocalyptic theme may have resonance in these nervous times.
Thumbs Down: Looks like it has a languid, art-house pace.
Soundtrack: None.
http://www.paramountclassics.com/northfork gives a plot synopsis, cast and filmmaker info, a trailer, news and reviews, a chat room and a place to join “Classics Club.”

Britney Spears
confesses she is not a virgin in the August issue of W magazine. “I've only slept with one person my whole life," she says. "It was two years into my relationship with Justin, and I thought he was the one... But I was wrong! I didn't think he was gonna go on Barbara Walters and sell me out." Asserting that breaking up with Timberlake was the most painful thing she has ever experienced, Spears admits she misses the love of her former flame. "Seriously, I haven't had a boy in a really long time, and I'm really craving...just a kiss, man. Just a kiss would be nice." —Valerie Nome

God bless America! I think I need to say that again. God bless America! My great week started on the Fourth of July. Yippee! I know, it’s very strange for me to start off my column with anything but bitterness, but the tables have turned—at least for the time being. I’m almost all the way moved into my new place and, since my birthday is Sunday, I’m having a Sex (and the City) filled birthday/housewarming bash. I’ve also come to the conclusion that giving my digits to that smokin’-hot dark-haired stranger I encountered a few weeks back, while pissing off the guy I was with, is definitely proving to be one of the better decisions I’ve made lately. But what if I hadn’t chanced it? I’d still be kissing the frog I was on the date with and praying the sexual attraction would kick in. Instead, I’m tempted to throw out my whole three-date rule and give into the hormones of woman in her thirties. Who says we have to wait until date three—oh yeah, I did—shit! This has left me wondering about all of those missed opportunities we face daily in the dating world. As singles, must we take risks in order to get what we want—is all fair in love and war? My cocktail of the week is the jackpot that makes all of the war games worth while.

1 oz. vodka
1 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/2 oz. crème de cacao
Shake with ice, strain into a martini glass and garnish with a cherry.

So, is it okay to burn one bridge in order to take a stroll across another? One of my loyal fans—we’ll call him “Joe”—wrote me with a similar type of question. Joe writes: “Is it wrong to hit on a girl your friend is interested in, even if she’s showing interest in you?” This is a sticky situation—almost as sticky as the one I was in. If Joe makes his move, it could jeopardize his friendship, and if he doesn’t, he could miss out on great opportunity. As a general rule of thumb, friends are forever, but love interests come and go. Don’t screw over the one who always has your back—your wing man. Some bridges aren’t worth burning, but if you don’t value the friendship, then go for it. There are some opportunities all of us need to stop letting walk right past us: the hot guy pumping gas next to you, the cute gal walking her dog or the hottie in the supermarket. Stop being afraid. Walk up and introduce yourself—but please, no cheesy lines. If I’ve learned anything in all of my single years, it’s that confidence is the sexiest attribute a person can have. Walking up to someone you’re attracted to and expressing your interest shows off your self-esteem, making you very desirable. The person would be an idiot not to pick up the phone and dial your digits, and you don’t want to date an idiot anyway. Take a chance—you’ll never know if you don’t try and you might end up pleasantly surprised—just like me.

De’s L.A. bar pick of the week: You took a chance and met a hot stranger, and now you need a place to go to heat things up. The Lava Lounge on La Brea in Hollywood is intimate and dark, so nobody will notice just how close you’re getting with that sexy someone. The red walls and cozy booths lend themselves to the “Your place or mine?” conversation, which might follow a couple of Lava’s potent martinis. Every Sunday they have Kinky Karaoke, which could quite possibly be the start of your own very kinky evening.

As always, thanks to all of you who keep supporting this crap. I hope all of you have as much fun as I plan on having Sunday. Until next week—hugs and kisses. Denise Bayles

Contributors: Denise Bayles, Darren Cava, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman, Valerie Nomes, Jon O'Hara and Roy Trakin

Edited by Bud Scoppa