CULTURE WATCH — Privacy? Or liberty? No matter where you come down on the question of whether whistleblower Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor, the documentary “Citizenfour” will affect you. It opens tonight at the Landmark Theatres in West L.A.

Filmmaker Laura Poitras takes us inside eight game-changing days in Hong Kong, where Snowden took refuge as his damaging revelations about surveillance of potential terrorists were coming to world attention through journalist Glenn Greenwald. We’re in Greenwald’s Brazilian home, review news footage from Congressional hearings, and see a little of life in Moscow where Snowden sought diplomatic shelter.

We spend many claustrophobic and tense moments in the Hong Kong hotel room where Snowden and Greenwald holed up to make decisions about how and when to reveal the document dump, and how to protect Snowden after releasing these secrets.

We’re privy to highly encrypted emails between the three principals in preparation for launching his vast cache of stolen classified material, which proves to belie statements made by government authorities confronted with public inquiries about data mining of U.S. citizens.

The film is gripping from beginning to end and builds its case well. The revelations about how deeply government surveillance goes are shocking. Sometimes paranoia isn’t just imagined; encryption of the communications between Poitras, Greenwald and Snowden proves to be more than justified.

But—and this is the kind of admission that gets people permanently banned from the liberal Westside—here goes anyway. While the privacy issues raised by this film are far more pervasive than our government has led us to believe, I am still unconvinced about Edward Snowden’s motives.

His stated rationale and political idealism feel cerebral, cold and well-rehearsed and despite his denials, self-serving and I just don’t believe him. I don’t think he’s motivated to save his fellow citizens from needless security intrusions, even though I am alarmed by what he has revealed.

This is the very definition of a thought-provoking, must-see film, no matter where you come down on the issue of Snowden’s guilt or innocence. Go see it at Landmark, tickets and details atwww.landmarktheatres.com.

 

THE GOSPEL OF DISCORD

The premise is promising and characters relatively well drawn, but words alone cannot turn this battle of wits into a compelling stage drama. There really is no action in three guys locked in a room talking about their various visions of what Jesus Christ had to say.

The three are Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin and Count Leo Tolstoy, each of who wrote books about what Jesus’s writings and sayings really meant, based on their individual attitudes and close readings of the Bible.

I was reminded, slightly, of Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” a play in which Einstein and Picasso argue about genius versus talent. But this production doesn’t feel nearly as engaging.

Jefferson, Darwin and Tolstoy in their afterlives come together in a kind of judgmental-limbo holding cell, where they are to iron out their differences before settling in for their eternities in…wherever.

Of course, the books they’ve written are based on their own selective editing of the holy book and line up with their world-views. The men diverge philosophically, with each trying to defend his own while deflating the others’ perspective.

As the characters are being introduced, we can chuckle at the antics and egotism of outsized Darwin (David Melville), the boisterous peasantry of Count Tolstoy (Armin Shimerman) and the conflicted egalitarianism (and confusing accents) of Thomas Jefferson (Larry Cedar).

But about midway through the play, all we have are these arguments, which for a bible scholar may make for fascinating fodder but fall flat with nothing else happening onstage.

It started out well, but by the time Scott Carter’s “The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolsoy: Discord” ended I remained unenlightened and a little weary.

“Discord” was extended before it even opened at The Audrey Kenis Theater, the black box theatre at Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. However if gospel is your actual goal, try “Choir Boy” in the main theatre instead.

For more information, visitwww.geffenplayhouse.comor call 310.208.5454.

 

ANAIS, HENRY AND BARBARA

Santa Monica Public Library presents “Barbara Kraft: Ana√Øs Nin and Henry Miller Revisited” on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. in the Main Library’s MLK, Jr. Auditorium.

Author of “Ana√Øs Nin: The Last Days,” Kraft was a friend to both writers and is uniquely positioned to talk about these towering 20th-century literary figures’ lives, art and relationship. Free to the public, more info atsmpl.orgor call (310) 458-8600.

 

WESTEDGE DESIGN FAIR

I dream of new kitchen but the chances of making this happen are pretty slim. At the WestEdge Design Fair last week, I lusted after the Jenn-Air kitchen installations, Bosch’s prototype high-BTU mini-cooktop, La Cornue’s French country style ranges, and home barista equipment with a high-tech edge operated by iPhone. That wood burning turquoise Caliber outdoor grill, with its cone shape and domed head would fit perfectly on my patio.

But I fell head over heels in love with, and dragged people over to see, the most inventive and versatile kitchen workspace design product ever, by an Oklahoma based company called The Galley.

Their 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6- and 7-foot configurations provide the perfect way to maximize any size kitchen space. Use it for prepping, cooking, serving, entertaining and more. They include a double-tiered sink, faucet and drain space with sliding cutting boards, solid serving surfaces, fitted holders for colanders and other accessories, and attractive cabinet storage spaces. The price of $2000 to $7000 strikes me as uniquely reasonable in the high-end design setting.

A girl can dream, can’t she? Visithttp://thegalleysink.comand you’ll dream too.

 

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also reviewed theatre forLAOpeningNights.com.

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