22 May 2012
Some recent films:
Revanche (2008) - An overlong German flick which moved at a glacial pace. There are extended sequences of the bank robber, hiding from the police at his father's country home, sinking an ax into wood. Truly, this was the Citizen Kane of wood chopping films. As a neo-noir - not so successful. I watched most of it in fast forward. Like many artsy European flicks, it stopped rather than ended. Not much of a payoff at the end, either. Very missable.
Grand Hotel (1931) - Greta Garbo thoroughly chews up the scenery in this Thirties groaner. This is the first - and last - Garbo film I have seen. I suppose it takes some skill to display twenty or thirty emotions passing by on one's face, but continually? Unaccountably popular in its day - it even won an Academy Award (tm). O why?
As Young as We Are (1958) - Majel Barrett, Nurse Chapel, Gene Roddenberry's wife and the voice of the U.S.S. Enterprise computer (shown), co-stars in this steamy fifties flick about a fledgling schoolteacher who inadvertently strikes up an affair with one of her students. Amazingly, she is allowed to stay on by the principal once this becomes classroom gossip. Yeah, right, like that would be allowed to happen in 1958! It wasn't bad... in fact, I rather liked it. That's the great thing about old B-films: while they may not always wow you, they often run to no more than just over an hour, so you don't feel your time has been wasted. Unlike modern films, which frequently wear out their welcome.
Majel Barrett IMDb fun fact: "In addition to her voiceover work, she also provided the voice of automated railroad-defect detectors for the Union Pacific and other railroads. Her voice can be heard on railroad radio channels throughout the nation."
Speaking of the fifties... here's a unique Burbankia photo: Glow from 1955 Las Vegas nuclear explosion as seen from Burbank, 275 miles away. According to a contemporary Los Angeles Times article, the light could also be seen from L.A. City Hall. The Fifties were exciting!
I am now reading Tim Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House, a satire on modern architecture, that is, the featureless building-boxes championed by Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson and their ilk. I dislike socialist Euro-modernism intensely, so I am enjoying Wolfe exercise his considerable wit in this book. One of the tenets of modernism is a bare, unadorned exterior. That usually means flat roofs and no roof overhangs. Those would be bourgeois (a favorite all-purpose insult of the modernists). Result? Collapsed roofs from snow loads and stains running down the sides of the exterior walls - hahaha!
A central philosophical belief of modernism is that "less is more." While I frequently agree with this, in architecture, it can all too often be a case of "less is a bore," as described by one anti-modern. Think of a major city and its featureless glass boxes... or, indeed, think of a mirrored box.
An absolute modernist architectural failure I encountered last October in Las Vegas was one bronzed and glassy skyscraper hotel - I forget the name of it. The occasion was my daughter's wedding, and a big collection of families was to meet on the Vegas Strip for lunch. I found parking about a block off the Strip. At that particular time of day, however, the hot desert sun was glinting off the enormous bronzed glass surface and directed (and almost focused) onto the street below, turning a short walk into an endurance march. It felt like ten or fifteen degrees warmer in the glare of that building; the parked cars were all baking. What a disaster! Can you imagine living within death ray striking range of one of those?
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