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WHAT'S HAPPENING : FILM.

`Element'-ary: Sometimes insanity can be a good thing. Like with ``The Fifth Element,'' the hyper-nutty new science-fiction spectacular that's the craziest effects extravaganza since, well, Bruce Willis' last futuristic freakout, ``12 Monkeys.''

Only ``Element,'' directed by French style maniac Luc Besson (``La Femme Nikita''), is campy instead of grim. Willis plays a 23rd-century cab driver who joins with a barely clad perfect being (Milla Jovovich), a spaced-out priest (Ian Holm) and some unholy, future descendant of Dennis Rodman and Little Richard (Chris Tucker) to save the universe from Gary Oldman and an extra-dimensional force of sheer darkness.

Or something. Frankly, Besson's scenario makes little narrative sense. But the movie is so fully packed with clever designs, witty details and breakneck energy that you hardly miss anything as mundane as a plot.

?13- Bob Strauss

dining

Studio sip 'n' munch fests: Wine and food fanciers can enjoy a range of tastes Saturday night at a famous studio, when the annual Share Our Strength Taste of the Nation fund-raiser against hunger takes place at Universal Studios and the California Winemasters for cystic fibrosis research occurs at the Paramount studio.

The event at Universal runs from 7:30 to midnight, the winemasters' Culinary Evening is from 6 to 11 p.m.

Tickets to the SOS event are $65 in advance or $75 at the door: Call (213) 848-5100 or (310) 288-3663.

Tickets to the cystic fibrosis event are $175 per person and are often sold out by the opening: Call (818) 988-8002 or (310) 479-8585.

Food and wine samples are included in the admission prices. The SOS admission also includes free rides on Back to the Future - the Ride.

Some 75 restaurants, chefs, specialty food companies and beverage firms participate in the SOS festival, including Bombay Cafe, Border Grill, Ca' del Sole, Daily Grill, Fenix, Gypsy Grill, JiRaffe, JoeJoe's, Michael's, Parkway Grill, Posto, Primi, Rick Royce Premier BBQ, Twin Palms, Valentino and Water Grill.

Thirty-six major wineries pouring at the cystic fibrosis event include Au Bon Climat, Caymus, Chateau Montelena, Duckhorn, Far Niente, Ferrari-Carano, Grgich Hills, Joseph Phelps, Pahlmeyer, Ridge, Roederer, Rosenthal, Schramsberg, Simi, Trefethen and Williams & Selyem.

Restaurants there include Bistro 45, Maple Drive, Matsuhisa, Drago, 72 Market Street, Yujean Kang's and Saddle Peak Lodge plus out-of-town celebrity chefs Thomas Keller, Gray Kunz, Christopher Gross, Todd English, Didier Lenders, Doug Margerum, Cal Stamenov and Brian Whitmer.

?13- Larry Lipson

theater

Scaling new heights: So many good acting roles, so few of them written for African-American actors.

When Kevin Arkadie discovered that grim reality, he decided to start writing good parts for African-Americans himself. He hasn't stopped writing since.

Today, Arkadie's resume includes episodes of ``Law & Order,'' the TV movie ``The Vernon Johns Story'' (with James Earl Jones) and a stint as story editor on NBC's critically lauded ``I'll Fly Away.'' The New York transplant also scored big as creator of Fox TV's Gotham-based ``New York Undercover.'' Now he's turning his hand once again to theater, with a new drama playing at Hollywood's Theatre Geo. And, once again, he's made sure it has several prime parts for African-Americans. Arkadie's ``Up the Mountain'' involves three estranged sisters who battle the memory of their dead parents as they fight for possession of the West Virginia home where they were raised. Valley resident Hattie Winston is part of the ensemble cast that includes Iona Morris (``Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored''), Veronica Redd Forrest (``The Young and the Restless'') and Willie Carpenter (``Hard Target'').

``Up the Mountain'' will be performed through June 22, Thursday through Sunday. For information, call Theatix at (213) 466-1767.

?13- Reed Johnson

art

Grandeur revisited: From just past the shadow of downtown L.A., to a plateau above the Rose Bowl, sit five of the East Valley's cultural landmarks. For years, the Arroyo Seco area has attracted the curious and the talented, which explains why visitors still are drawn to these sites: The Gamble House, Heritage Square Museum, Lummis Home, the Pasadena Historical Museum and the Southwest Museum.

Collectively, they indicate the wealth of artifacts, architectural marvels, social customs and craftsmanship that made the Arroyo Seco one of the West's most dynamic communities between 1860 and 1910.

Sunday, you can get a feel for that still-pulsating heritage, as all five Museums of the Arroyo (MOTA) open their doors free to visitors between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. All you need to do is hop on one of the free shuttles running between Pasadena and Highland Park and prepare to sail back into the turn of the century as you work your way from site to site.

Family oriented activities will be going on throughout the day at several sites, including storytelling at the Southwest Museum and woodcarving and quilting demonstrations.

One tip: At the Gamble House, be sure to wear flat, broad-heeled shoes to protect the floors. And don't miss the two-acre water-efficient garden, currently in full bloom, that Charles Lummis built around his home.

For information, call (213) 740-8687.

?13- Reed Johnson

music

Pickin' and fiddlin': It's time for the 37th annual Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest, a daylong music, crafts and arts festival Sunday at Agoura's Paramount Ranch.

The event was created in 1961 in order to raise money for the Santa Monica Friends Meeting House building fund. That first festival attracted 26 five-string banjo pickers, five fiddlers, four judges and more than 500 others.

Through the years, big-name musicians such as David Lindley, Taj Mahal, John Hartford and Byron Berline have taken part in the contest.

Sunday, expect old-time and bluegrass music from 115 instrumental and singing contestants, including the bands Crossroads, Copperline and the Topanga Cajun Quartet.

The fiddle playoffs take place on the Pavilion Stage, where banjo styles, cowboy poetry and children's crafts will be displayed.

Country dances break out on the Dance Stage; Celtic music and environmental songs get the spotlight on the Railroad Stage.

In addition, there will be plenty of jamming, so bring your instruments. Folk art and food booths also available.

The Banjo-Fiddle Contest takes place at Paramount Ranch near Agoura. Admission is $7 (ages 18 to 64), $4 (ages 10-17; 65 and up) and free for kids younger than 10. The event starts at 9 a.m., and organizers suggest patrons bring blankets or low-back chairs.

Information: (818) 382-4819.

?13- Fred Shuster

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

Photo: (1) The 37th annual Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest takes place Sunday at Agoura's Paramount Ranch.

(2) Playwright Kevin Arkadie turns his hand once again to theater, with ``Up the Mountain,'' playing at Hollywood's Theatre Geo.

(3) Zorg (Gary Oldman) leads an extra-dimensional force of sheer darkness in the science-fiction spectacular ``The Fifth Element.''
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review; L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 16, 1997
Words:1109
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