27 February 2009

Kurt Naumann in "Die Architekten"

Kurt Naumann as Daniel Brenner

In 1990, the film Die Architekten (for those of you who don't know East German, its "The Architects") was released. This project was planned and filmed in the months right before the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event which most probably diminished its impact. Daniel Brenner is a 38 year old architect who has never built anything. Even with a wife and a child, he considers himself a failure. Early on in the film, I spotted a huge difference between the way American and European architects work. At a meeting with the architect Daniel works under, the modest Daniel admits that he has won first place in two competitions, coming in second a few times and earing an honorable mention in many more. The head architect congradulated Daniel on these achievements, but Daniel will have non of it. These days, you'll be hard pressed to find a firm that is willing to allocate a substantial part of its budget to a time consuming project that might go nowhere, but in other parts of the world, the chase seems to be as important as the catch. Its here that Daniel stands alone, he seems to want to be part of the western world. He values his work as long as it produces something tangent, something that can be used. He is alone, apart from his society, he goes so far as to deny his association to the communinist party even when confronted with the fact that his joining would lead to a number of commissions.

In an odd chance, Daniel is given the opportunity to design a huge building, one that would contain housing, movie theaters, resturants, a bowling alley, parks... A whole city in one block. He accepts on the condition that he can choose his dream team, a team consisting of the best students that he worked with during his days at the university.

The Seven Samuri at the Site

Throughout the movie, the important themes of design and construction are as important to the plot as the relationships the characters have with one another. At every turn, the communist party bureaucrats try to negate the design of the complex, and Daniel tries to find ways to covertly include real, unique ideas into his masterpiece.

This movie is worth much more than I can express in a few paragraphs. No matter where you work, find someone in your office who has Netflix, set up the projector on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, get a few bottles, watch it and discuss amongst yourselves. Then go see Click with Adam Sandler to lighten the mood.

26 February 2009

Tom Selleck in "Three Men and a Baby"

Tom Selleck as Peter Mitchell

Three bachelors live by themselves in this 1980's showcase of absolutely no style and horrible situational comedy. Peter Mitchell is the architect who in the same day gets mixed up both in sudden single parenthood and illegal heroin trafficking. Hilarity ensues.

Like all comedy architects, we see Peter as he:

Deals with a baby on his Construction Documents

Cant find his Construction Documents

Points to something important on the job site

The best line of the whole movie is when Peter is trying to change the baby and he states, "I'm an architect for Christ sake, I build 50 story skyscrapers, I assemble cities of the future, I can certainly put together a goddamn diaper." The 50 story skyscraper in question is located on 56th btw 6th and 7th, as ascertained by the above picture. In the background, we see Phillip Johnson's AT&T building, which lead me to believe that the building he is building is this masterpiece:

18 February 2009

Charles Bronson in "Death Wish"

Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey
William Redfield as Sam Kreutzer
Jack Wallace as Ives

Urban violence reached its peak in the mid 1970's. In New York, people were afraid to walk the streets at night, muggings were a common, and white flight was in full swing. Paul Kersey is an architect who takes to the streets and pursues vigilante justice after his wife is murdered and his daughter is placed in a coma by thugs.

"Bang Pow!"

However, Paul didn't start out as a violent man. He was a Consciencous Objector in the Korean War, a bleeding heart liberal who has finally had enough. As an architect, he is fighting to reclaim the city that he helped design. Charles Bronson has taken on vigilante roles before, most notably as a cowboy in the Magnificent Seven. However, Death Wish is one of the first films to depect an ordinary citizen taking up arms in a modern urban setting.

Early in the film, Paul's boss sends him to a job in Arizona to get his mind off the attack on his family. It is here, where Paul meets Ames, a local developer. Mind you, this conversation takes place a good 20 years before 'sustainability' was a key word for the in-crowd.

Ames: I wanted you to see this country before you see the drawing back at the office. Give you a better idea. I don't want to change these hills. Don't want to bulldoze them flat.
Paul: You waste a lot of building space.
Ames: Wastin' space. Now those are some words you big architects have got to change for something else.
Paul: Such As....
Ames: Well... Space for life! (pointing at a man on horse at the top of a ridge) Like old Judge up there, space for people! Horses! Cows! I got funny ideas about building things.

The Conscientious Objector and the Cowboy

Later on, Paul is working late at night in the Arizona office. Ames is about to take Paul to the gun club where. A brief conversation about all-nighters takes place.

Ames: When do I get a look-see?
Paul: In a couple days.
Ames: Guard said you were here till after midnight last night.
Paul: Yeah, thats the way I work.
Ames: Somebody once said, I forget who, that he never looked back because something might be gaining on him. Whats gaining on you Paul?
Paul: 20 million dollar investment. What else?

Woody Harrelson in "Indecent Proposal"

Woody Harrelson as David Murphy

In 1991, a recession hit America. As a result, architect David Murphy and his wife Diana, a realtor, both loose their job. They are $50,000 in debt because the architect is in the middle of constructing his 'dream house', a structure that "sums up everything he believes about architecture." After a trip to Vegas, David makes a deal with a billionaire: one night with Diana for one million dollars.

This is the house that sums up everything Woody Harrelson believes about architecture.

The movie starts out with dual voice over narrations, David and Diana desribe their love for each other, their past, the whole set up for the movie. In one scene, Diana says of her husband...

"We never had much money, so for entertainment David would show me architecture that moved him. But sometimes I'd have to ask, 'Why are we looking at a stupid car wash.' And he'd reply, 'No, not stupid. Don't just use your eyes.' He made me look at things differently."

The writing is on the wall

After the breakup, with the recession in full swing, David goes back to USC to interview for a job as a professor. Here, it seems like the dean really doesn't want good, experienced teachers to shape the minds of the future of architecture:
Dean: You've done alot since USC. First in your class. AIA award. Why would you want this job?
David: Well, I want to work.
Dean: Overqualified.
David: Fine, exploit me.

Woody and brick.

The scene quickly moves on to David giving a lecture to a group of students:
David: Great architecture is only going to come from your passion. And even that won't assure you a job. Louie Kahn, died in a men's room in Penn Station for days noone claimed the body. (slide shows the Salk Institute) Look at that, is that beautiful? The money men did not weep, because the great ones are impossible to deal with, they're a pain in the ass because they know that if they do their jobs properly, if they just once get it right they can actually lift the human spirit, take it to a higher place. (holds up a brick) What is this?
Student #1: A brick!
David: Good. What else?
Student #2: A weapon.
David: Louie Kahn said that even a brick wants to be something. A brick wants to be something. It aspires. Even a common, ordinary brick wants to be something more than it is. Wants to be better than what it is. And that is what we must be. See ya on Friday.

During the lecture, David shows slides of some pretty iconic architecture. The complete list is: Guggenheim New York Interior, Barragan House, Guggenheim exterior, A house that looks like Ghery's moms house, but isnt, Salk Institute, Phillip Exetor Library, Salk Courtyard, Salk again, Gaudi's Casa Mila rooftop, Eygptian Pyramids, Panthenon, Notre Dame, Ronchamp, Sagrada Familia, Chryster Building

Interesting not, today we get our first crossover, two time architect...
Student #2, played by Art Ghudabala, also played an employee of the firm in Life as a House.

I know alot of you out there are worried about the economy, some of you may have been laid off, some might be worried about mortages... I'm not saying that selling your spouse out is a surefire way to make it through the next year, but, its always an option.

Michelle Pfeiffer in "One Fine Day"

Michelle Pfeiffer as Melanie Parker
George Martin as Smith Leland

A day in the life of two single parents, George Clooney is a writer, Michelle Pfeiffer is an architect, both of whom didnt make it to drop off their kid at a field trip, so now they have to trade off kids while they do their business. Inbetween work and falling in love, George has to expose a political scandal and Melanie (Pfeiffer) has the biggest presentation of her life. As she lands the big account, the empowered woman learns that she can't do it all on her own. This film runs like a golden age romantic comedy and has some great, memorable dialoge between the two leads. Hilarity ensues and they kiss in the end.

This is the first film ArchitExploitation reviews with a woman as an architect. Quite an important point in a field that is mostly male, mostly white, and very control oriented. Watch Melanie as she ...

Sketches infront of clients at a bar!

Puts Hilariously out of scale toy cars in a model!

Awkwardly carries the model! I hope she doesn't drop it!

The best lines from One Fine Day come from the scene where the architect takes a model to be repaired at the model shop her firm runs. The model was damaged after Melanie was carrying the model, steped on a dinosaur her son was playing with and smashed the whole thing.

Melanie:How bad is it?
Model Shop Guy: Well, it modulal, so its concievable that I could life out the damaged portion and replace it with the same piece from the mock up so i wouldn't have to start from scratch. It wont be perfect. I know you Melanie, you won't be happy with less than perfect.
Melanie: Today, I will.

That today should be everyday for us all.

In life, I mean. Perfect your work you lazy fuckers.

13 February 2009

Helmut Bakaitis in "The Matrix Reloaded"

Helmut Bakaitis as The Architect

Hello Neo, Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah. Blah Blah. Ergo, Blah Blah Blah. Blah blah...blah. Blah blah. Blah, Ergo, Blah blah blah. Blah ... blah blah, Vis-à-vis: blah.

Its my guess that hes a posh retail architect.

Kevin Kline in "Life as a House"

Kevin Kline as George Monroe
John Pankow as Bryan Burke

This 2001 emotion-fest is about an architectural drafter/model maker who finds out he has cancer and is given a few months to live. He quits his job, decides to build the house he always wanted to build and reconnects with his troubled son, ex-wife, nosy neighbors, and anyone else who is willing to give him a hug. The story is predictable, the acting is mediocre, and the architecture is craftsman, but dammit, they got me. I did cry, but only a little bit, I swear.

George is about to find out he has ill. The rumors are true: zap-a-gap and accelerant do give you cancer.

After production ended, they had to demolish the house and restore the site to its natural habitat. One LEED pt achieved.

12 February 2009

Anthony LaPaglia in "The Architect"

Anthony La Paglia as Leo Waters

The Architect tells a tale of two families, one poor black family living in a southside Chicago project and the upper-middle class white family of the architect who designed the projects. It is great in that it deals with a many number of issues, cause and effect, HUD housing, and the ability of architecture and architects to create effective public housing, but not so great in the writing, acting, pacing and 'wtf' subplots.

Tonya Neely is the matriarch of the family living in the projects, where she is campaigning to get the buildings demolished. She shows up one day to confront that architect, Leo, who designed the building, an architecture professor at Northwestern University (false), and gets the runaround. Eventually, Leo takes it upon himself to make some architectural modifications to the buildings in hope that Tonya will quit her crusade to demolish his work.

Leo: I think you're going to be excited about what I've done here. OK, now this represents part of the problem. Each building is going to be resurfaced with the same glass facing. And then I'm going to open up the apartments, and use the glass atrium as a community porch. See, that way the residents have a place where they can interact and relax. Now, the sculpture in the middle unifies the whole design. Its a bekon, for the community. Aside from the external design, there are internal modifications and repairs than need to be taken care of...
Tonya: This doesn't solve anything, Mr Waters. There are systymic problems that go beyond repair.
Leo: Well, its not the design, it may be the excecution, but its not the design. Tanya, I was hired to build cheap homes. This was a state funded program. These are not luxury homes, Architecturally, this is a good design.
Tonya: People are lining up to leave. They are unhappy, they get sick.
Leo: Its mass housing. Mass housing does not cater to the individual needs of people. Look, you can redesign it, you can tear it down, but the problems are still going to be there. There will always be unemployment, there will always be drugs.
Tonya: Mr. Waters, they did not hire you to build houses, they hired you to house people. Can't you see this isn't about you, this is about so much more than you. We're not blaming you, clearly you put alot of work into this, but couldnt' you see from the state of the projects that they were beyond repair?
Leo: I redesigned this from my own original plans.
Leo's Wife: (butting in) You haven't seen them?
Leo: What?
Leo's Wife: You didnt visit them? I mean, things must have changed since you designed it. Did you want to see?
Leo: I didnt think it was necessary. I didn't want to cloud my perspective.
Leo's Wife: (who previously was infavor of the redesign) I think you should knock them down.

At the end of the film, Leo does visit the project and changes his mind. He signs Tonya's petition, only to be told that the vote was already passed, the building is scheduled to die.

Two interesting notes on the movie:
1) This is the second movie that I've reviewed in which Isabella Rosalleni plays the emotionally distant wife of an architect, the first being Fearless with Jeff Bridges
2) While the movie takes place in Chicago, the situation reminds me of Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, a housing project that was built in 1956 and demolished in 1972.

Matt Dillon in "Something About Mary"

Matt Dillon as Pat Healy as Pat Healy the Architect
Lee Evans as Norm the Pizza Guy as Tucker the Architect

Although there are no real architects in this movie, two of the characters pretend to be architects to win the affections of Mary, a woman who thinks architects are sexy. Hilarity ensues.

Pat Healy the PI as Pat Healy the Architect

One of the best lines occurs when Mary drags Pat to the architecture exhibit. After Pat tries repeatedly to hurry things up and leave the place fearing that he may be found out, they run into Tucker, who exacerbates the Pat's anxiety.

Tucker: Where have I seen your work?
Pat: Well, have you been to, uh well, let me see... Santiago, Chile?
Tucker: Twice last year. Which building's yours?
Pat: Are you familiar with the soccer stadium?
Tucker: Did you build the Estadio Olimpico?
Pat: No, just down the street the Celinto Catayente Towers. It's quite a fine example, in fact. I recommend that next time you're up that way that you drop in and take a gander at it yourself.

Norm the Pizza Guy as Tucker the Architect

Dennis Akayama in "Welcome to Mooseport"

Dennis Akayama as Izuki Nami

On November 18th of 2004, The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library opened to the public. In February of the same year, Welcome to Mooseport opened in a theater nowhere near you, in fact I think it went direct to video, anyhow....

The plot of this movie involves an Ex-President (Gene Hackman) running for mayor against a small town handi-man. A subplot of the movie involves the President's contact with the architect that is designing his legacy, the Monroe "Eagle" Cole Presidential Library. This subplot involves three interactions, at the first interaction, the architect presents this piece of shit:

The Ex-President walks into the architect's studio.
Architect: I present to you the Monroe 'Eagle' Cole Presidential Library! European rationalism inter-woven with American Modernism, a metophor of organic growth, a man made mountain over which soars the Eagle!
Ex-President: Its fantastic! Is it big enough?
Architect: Its 40,000 square ft. sir
Ex-President: (to aide) Ben?
Ben: Clinton's is 20,000 sir.
Ex-President: Excellent!

Midway through the mayoral campaign, the president needs more cash to pay for his ads, posters and whatnot. This moneys for this endeavor are taken from the budget for the library, which doesn't get redesigned so much as subtracted...

Architect: Wha-la!
Ex-President: (nonchalantly) Thats it?
Architect: Nothing to it. You save 3 million dollars and look, still beautiful!
Ex-President: Excellent, excellent. I don't even miss it. (ex-pres leaves the office)
Architect: Son-of-a-bitch!

Towards the very end of the flick, the library takes some more cuts, and nobody cares but the architect. He sits at the model, crying, sobbing to himself, "It was so beautiful!"

Sorry architect, but it really wasn't.

Matthew Broderick in "The Cable Guy"

Matthew Broderick as Steven M. Kovacs

Steven M. Kovacs is an architect that does all the things we expect an architect to do when the job is just a means to show that a movie character is smart, hardworking and respectable. Once again, the job serves as the straight man to Jim Carrey's stooge (see post on Steve Martin in house sitter).

Steven Makes a Presentation that Everyone Loves!

Steven takes a Personal Call while at a Job Site!

Steven Takes his T-Square with him when he gets fired (see post on Jungle Fever)!