COVID-19 took away movie theaters and threatens our most challenging films

Challenging films such as "I Was at Home, But ... " with Maren Eggert, center, are endangered by the pandemic. <span class="copyright">(Cinema Guild)</span>
Challenging films such as “I Was at Home, But … ” with Maren Eggert, center, are endangered by the pandemic. (Cinema Guild)

Save our cinemas

Thank you to Justin Chang for his moving and heartfelt article about seeing poignant movies on the big screen [“Cinematic Power Outage,” July 26]. My family has been in business for 90 years (Metropolitan Theaters). We think there is enough quality content for all mediums but the theatrical experience has to be preserved and nourished.

See it on the big screen surrounded by other people even at a distance.

Bruce Corwin

Los Angeles

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Justin Chang’s valuable discussion of the ways in which international cinema will be affected by the shuttering of movie theaters brings to mind another important absence that cinephiles are experiencing in the time of COVID-19: screenings of silent films with live musical accompaniment. Live music brings the cinematic past alive for audiences of today.

International festivals, like the Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy, have long featured live performers who accompany screenings of movies from the silent era, from pianists to vocalists to full symphony orchestras.

Here in L.A. we enjoy a film culture that has supported many similar events. Cinecon, the TCM Classic Film Festival, the Los Angeles Opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the UCLA Film and Television Archives, the Los Angeles Conservancy, REDCAT and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are among the many organizations that have mounted imaginative programming featuring screenings of silent films with live soundscapes.

Are such events doomed to oblivion? And, if so, at what cost to our appreciation of movie history?

Virginia Wright Wexman

Los Angeles

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Prior to the pandemic, residents of the South Bay area of Los Angeles have enjoyed art films at our local AMC. The very popular South Bay Film Society, organized by Randy Berler,brought a wide variety to Torrance. Some of the films had not even been released when we saw them. Currently, anyone worldwide can enjoy a wonderful selection of foreign and art films by logging on to the site and purchasing the ability to watch from home.

Sarah E. Adams

Rancho Palos Verdes

A storied musical instrument

I thoroughly enjoyed and devoured Stacy Perman’s front-page article about the history of a cello [“Tying Up a Mystery’s Loose Strings,” July 26]

I was a creative nonfiction writing instructor at UCLA for 12 years until I retired in 2010 and have read, edited, critiqued and evaluated thousands of nonfiction articles. This article was one of the best I have ever read.

One of my courses was titled “Creating, Pitching and Writing Awesome Feature Articles for Newspapers and Magazines.” I love well-researched and well-written articles such as Perman’s awesome creation.

She is obviously a talented thinker and writer. She knows what a reader wants and needs to hear and plays the story out to tickle the reader’s mind … her story and her writing delivers satisfaction. As I always stressed to my thousands of students, your writing must deliver reading satisfaction.

My praise and appreciation to the L.A. Times editorial staff for allowing Perman to create this beautiful article and for editing and laying it out with appropriate photos for the readers to enjoy. Perman is an astounding writer and obviously a fantastic member of your writing staff and a great asset to the L.A. Times.

Bravo to Perman, she gets an A++ from this professor.

Bill Bush

Lake Arrowhead

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I was enthralled by Stacy Perman’s article. What a remarkable journey, with so many unique characters and a happy ending on top of it.

This story was just the momentary escape I needed right now.

Korby Siamis

Pacific Palisades

An ear for classical music

I have loved Mark Swed’s “How to Listen” columns. Swed’s approach has resonant qualities of being both critically clear and practically accessible. His “starting points” are brilliant: the focus upon both the music and the politics of pianist-composer Rzewski appeals and the concentration upon Bach’s Cantata #82 really works.

As a former choir member, choir director for 10 years and an undergraduate piano major, I appreciate Swed’s reflective writing about music and his invitations to lead us more deeply.

Stanford Searl

Culver City

Contemplating the end

Regarding “Turning 80 With a Memoir in Tow” [July 20]: I celebrate Alex Trebek’s determination to overcome his dark moments of discouragement caused by Stage IV pancreatic cancer. My late wife, Brittany Maynard, had similar moments as she navigated the chaos of an incurable brain tumor that was ending her life.

However, it’s important to make a point of distinction about the reporter’s characterization “that suicidal thoughts have crossed his mind” and Trebek’s remark: “‘What happened to Trebek?’ ‘Oh, he killed himself.’”

Brittany endured horrific symptoms. They forced us to move from California to Oregon, so she could utilize its medical aid-in-dying law that allows terminally ill adults to obtain prescription medication to peacefully end that suffering.

Thanks in part to Brittany’s advocacy, California passed its own legislation, so terminally ill Californians can die gently, as she did, in her sleep, surrounded by loved ones. It’s a stark contrast to the isolated, often violent act of suicide referenced by Mr. Trebek.

Dan Diaz

Alamo

Editor’s note: Brittany Maynard was a prominent right-to-die activist.

Does not belong on comics page

Aren’t comics supposed to be comical, not soft porn as “9 Chickweed Lane” has become?

Last week my 10-year-old granddaughter asked, “Why are they putting naked fat men in the comics when that isn’t funny?”

True, that. Too true. Not funny.

Ah, for the days when “9 Chickweed Lane” had my grandkids going to the dictionary to look up words like “bricolage” and “hebetudinous.”

Clean up the comics.

Therese H.E. Whitney

Sherman Oaks

TV is one of the few forms of arts and entertainment left

If the goal of newspapers is to find and distribute information, then with all of us sitting home watching TV, I don’t for the life of me understand why you have cut back on the TV section. Why hasn’t it been quadrupled? Why isn’t there a column for what’s new on Netflix? Hulu?

You have entire pages on specific athletic teams — what is the problem with there being columns on all the networks? What’s new this week? 10 Great Shows for Elementary School Ages? Five Great Family Series?

Joan Lutz

Newport Beach

‘From California to the New York Island’

Regarding “Feedback: It’s Time for a New National Anthem” [July 26]: Three readers suggested good candidates to replace “The Star Spangled Banner” as our national anthem, but each one is politically fraught.

“America the Beautiful” references God and would be unacceptable to most atheists.

“This Land Is Your Land” confines the “land” to the lower 48 states, excluding Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and other territories.

“The House I Live in” refers to the U.S. as “America” in a recurring line, which would be somewhat offensive to most of our southern neighbors from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego. Of course, “America the Beautiful” is similarly challenged.

Any attempt to beat these ditties into submission by revising them would only demonstrate the futility of changing anything without offending some people.

Thomas A. Butterworth

Tustin

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I somewhat agree with the letter writers suggesting a change of our national anthem and their interesting alternatives.

Might I suggest a more inclusive idea? What if we created a National Anthem Songbook that included “The Star Spangled Banner,” “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Lean on Me” and any other songs that may be deemed appropriate?

The organizers of any event could choose any one of the selections. Any one of these anthems could be substituted or rotated as desired. This would eliminate the one-size-fits-all option and symbolize the diversity in our country and our acceptable anthem choices.

Fred Manna

Manhattan Beach

Coming of age during a pandemic

Regarding Mary McNamara’s column “Mom’s Powers Hit a Brutal Reality” [July 21]: Even we who are “fully enfranchised” adults (speaking from the perspective of a 72-year-old) may find ourselves wanting to rage and cry, fall into depression and anxiety, because we are “caged animals.” And the nearer we are to the end of life, the more we resent losing the relatively little time and fewer opportunities left to us. On the bright side, I keep reading that it’s normal to feel every emotion on the spectrum. It’s what you do with those emotions that matters.

Remind your kids that a big part of becoming an adult is developing coping skills. This is one such opportunity, and as an adult you will have many more opportunities to hone those skills. You want to be an adult? Well, here’s your chance.

That’s why, regardless of age or circumstances, we really are all in this together. This is not an interruption on your way to becoming an adult but a lesson in how to be an adult.

Catherine Cate

Irvine

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Mary McNamara’s column, and The Times’ decision to devote more than 45 column inches to it, left me feeling troubled and disappointed. I’m troubled because her concern that she is unable to ameliorate the inconvenience and interruption or allay the fears that the pandemic has visited on her college student daughter smacks of white privilege at its most obtuse — and disappointed because I thought that she, someone who has written insightfully about television and the way it reflects contemporary life, was more thoughtful and more aware of context than today’s column would suggest.

While I understand the impulse to want to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of our children and their desires, I thought we also knew that past the age of 6, that was no longer possible — or even healthy — for them or us. I’m also rather amazed that the pandemic seems to be the first real problem her family and her children have encountered — for which I would think she must feel especially blessed. McNamara’s inability to even acknowledge that fact — particularly within the context of what is happening in the country today and the social and economic inequities that the pandemic has brought to light — is inexcusable.

I wonder if it has ever occurred to her what parents who can’t afford to send their children to college say to their disappointed kids — or what mothers of Black children feel every day when their sons and daughters leave home — risking their safety and their lives in an inhospitable world.

What about all the kids (of any color) who have had their worlds disrupted by the inconvenience of the death of a parent — or have faced a medical diagnosis that put their education plans on hold? What about the kids and families of frontline workers who have lost their lives battling the ravages of the pandemic?

Reading McNamara’s column, I couldn’t help but feel that the heartbreak of taking a sword-fighting class remotely from one’s bedroom or recording a soliloquy from “Hamlet” in the safety and luxury of one’s suburban backyard pales embarrassingly in light of the everyday challenges that life presents to many kids.

Isn’t one of the great lessons of this pandemic — and of the social injustices that have become front and center since George Floyd’s death — that life isn’t fair, but it is our job to be brave in the face of uncertainty and to try to right the inequities that we can affect?

As a college professor and the single parent of a young adult only slightly older than McNamara’s daughter, I disagree with her conclusion that there is nothing she can say when her child “rages and sobs” over the unfairness of it all.

I expected better from her. I don’t believe there is nothing we can say to the young people who feel fear and frustration right now. I think of my mother and her mother — and the generations of young people who persevered during the Great Depression and World War II (interruptions, I’m sure, for all of them) — and I am inspired by their courage and resiliency. What I would like to model for my students and my daughter – what I want to tell them — is that while I don’t know exactly when or how this will all end, I have faith and hope in the human spirit. I believe that we are all in this together (none of us has been singled out) and this pause in life as we have known it can afford us an opportunity to be more thoughtful, more caring, more aware of the world beyond our bubble. I want to tell them that they will be stronger for having lived through this experience — and remind them of the Buddhist proverb that says we are all like stones in a stream who at times find ourselves tumbled by the rocks — but life’s impediments don’t erode us, they polish us. I want to tell them that during this hiatus we can learn patience and sacrifice; we can become more aware of the suffering and the joy around us — lessons as valuable as honing their sword-fighting skills or building their résumés.

Cathryn Boxberger

Los Angeles

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