Imagine a bar with an indoor lagoon. Now imagine that it rains, indoors every half hour. It’s not just a flight of fancy, it’s the Tonga Room, a classic restaurant and tiki bar in the Fairmont San Francisco hotel. Named after the South Pacific nation of Tonga, it is an eye-popping example of high-style Tiki that has been igniting the imaginations of customers for more than seventy five years.
Designed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s leading set director, it is the tropical paradise Anthony Bourdain called, “the greatest place in the history of the world.”
Learn about the invention of Tiki, the California Gold Rush and the Tonga Room HERE!
Aubrey Plaza, star of the new zombie rom com Life After Beth, is a liar.
When asked if it is possible to overthink her approach to a character she says, “I’m not very smart to begin with so I can’t overthink anything. If I’m thinking about something, that’s a big deal for me.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Actually, the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts graduate, best known as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation, is a secret smarty-pants with a well thought out career path.
“Most scripts I read feel wrong to me just because they’re not good,” she says. “I tend to try and do things that are scary to me because otherwise I’ll just get offered the same thing over and over again, and who wants to see that… except for everyone.”
Life After Beth offered up something different and a little scary. Plaza says the story of Zack (Dane DeHaan) and his recently deceased girlfriend Beth (Plaza) who refuses to stay dead is a metaphor “for a break up and how when you break up with someone it’s like they die. Then you try to get back together with them and you only remember the good things. Or you turn that person into a monster. There’s all kinds of ways you can look at the movie.”
The thirty-year-old actress says, “I like make-believe which is why I like movies and like making them and making people believe that I am good at that,” adding that she always had “grand delusions” of a career in film.
“I had really weird taste when I was little,” she says. “I was really into Judy Garland and Bette Midler. I had a sophisticated gay man’s taste at an early age.”
Plaza was also obsessed with Saturday Night Live, particularly with the female cast members like Molly Shannon, Tina Fey and her current Parks and Rec co-star Amy Poehler, a person she now calls a “close friend” and the nicest and funniest person in the room. “She is like a glowing orb of light.”
Her take on Poehler is believable, but when asked about her movie’s message, she lies again.
“I want people to see zombies in a whole new light and think before they shoot them in the brains,” she says. “If the zombie apocalypse happens I want the world to remember, ‘These were humans at one point…’ No, I think they should just shoot them. Immediately.”
You might imagine that horror maestro George A. Romero’s favorite film is The Exorcist. Or maybe Cannibal Holocaust. Or even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s easy to picture the twisted mind behind Night of the Living Dead curled up in his Toronto home with the Saw marathon unspooling on his blood splattered DVD player. Easy to imagine, but far from the reality. Most nights you’ll find him rewatching a classic. Maybe The Brothers Karamazov, Casablanca or Dr. Strangelove. Nary a decapitated head or disembowelment in the bunch! He also loves The Quiet Man, High Noon and King Solomon’s Mines but his all time favorite is an obscure 1951 Michael Powell film called The Tales of Hoffman.
“It’s the movie that made me want to make movies,” he says.
“I was dragged kicking and screaming by an aunt and uncle. I wanted to go see the new Tarzan; the new Lex Barker movie to see how he stacked up against Weissmuller and they said, ‘No! We’re going to see this,’ and I fell in love with it. It’s just beautiful. Completley captivating. It’s all sung. It’s all opera. It’s not like The Red Shoes where there is a story running through it and then Léonide Massine does a ballet at the end. I just fell in love with it from the pop.
“He did it on a low budget. You could see the techniques he was using; he was reversing action, doing overprints, double exposures and it seemed accessible. I think at that age if I had seen Jurassic Park I would have said ‘Forget about it, I don’t know how to do this dinosaur thing’ but I could see how Powell made the film and it was accessible to me. It made me think that maybe someday I could do something like this.”
All these years later Hoffman and other films of that vintage still move him—“I’m a sucker for the old movies I loved as a kid,” he says. “I put them on and I get a tear in my eye when the overture starts.”—but don’t think he’s getting soft. The man known to fans as the “Grandfather of the Zombie” has a new gut wrenching (literally) movie called Survival of the Dead in theatres this weekend.
Like his previous movies it works on a couple of levels. “Goremets” will appreciate his signature style with the blood and guts but wipe away some of the red stuff and the social commentary of his work becomes clear. “I bring the zombies out of the closet when I have something I want to talk about,” he says.
His classic Night of the Living Dead touches on Cold War politics and domestic racism, while others in the Living Dead series shine a light on consumerism, the conflict between science and the military and class conflict. The new one, the sixth in the series, is a lesson in the futility of war. Inserting these ideas into the films is very important to Romero whether audiences get it or not. He says he knows most people are “there either to just take the ride or watch the gore, chuckle at the gore, and don’t care about the other stuff,” but his work has had a profound effect on a couple of generations of filmmakers.
Quentin Tarantino, who says the “A” in George A. Romero stands for “A f**king genius,” cites the director’s fierce independent style as an influence and Romero’s blend of speculative fiction and social comment is particularly apparent in the work of Guillermo del Toro.
When I mention this to Romero he says, “Guillermo is my man! He runs a close second to Michael Powell in my mind.”