22 January 2009

Wesley Snipes in "Jungle Fever"

Wesley Snipes as Flipper Purify
Tim Robbings as Jerry Mast
Brad Dourif as Leslie Covington

In this film, Wesley Snipes plays an Architect who winds up sleeping with his new secretary. Flipper is a hard working, family man who is next in line for the big promotion at Mast & Covington, a New York design firm. He takes pride in his work, as is seen by this line of dialog between Flipper and his boss Leslie, "Leslie, look, Tony's work here is awful. He's got this elevator shaft 6" off where is supposed to be." He also works long hours....


About midway though the movie, Flipper is up for review, where he demands to be made a partner. "Most of the money thats made in this company is because of me, do I have to remind you of how much work I've brought in here! Do you see that design up there, right under the Mast and Covington logo? Thats my design!" After Jerry and Leslie deny him this position, he signs his resignation, and goes to pack up his desk.

In film class I learned how to appear smart by pointing out the mis-en-scene to those less knowledgeable then me. Here, the two partners are standing up while Flipper is below them, and cornered against a wall, he will never make partner.

Planning on working out of his home until his own business gets off the ground, he comes home a few days later to a surprise. His wife just found out about his affair and is throwing all of his possessions out of their second story townhouse window. In an act of desperation, after losing his identity as a family man and a company man he tries to hold onto the only identity he has left by picking up his t-square and a set of drawings.

Its difficult to see, but he is holding onto the t-square and drawing tube

Jeff Bridges in "Fearless"

Jeff Bridges as Max Klein
John de Lancie as Jeff Gordon

Long before Jeff Bridges played a free spirit in The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges played a free spirit in 1993's Fearless. The opening shot of the movie is Max walking through a cornfield, holding a baby, and we soon learn that hes walking away from a plane crash. This crash transforms him into a do as you please, don't give a damn, live life kinda guy. Through out the movie, we learn in a series of flashbacks to the moments right before the hydolics on the airplane go out that Max wasn't always a this person, he used to be a high strung, anxious, nervous wreck on an architect.

It really ties the room together

In these moments before the plane crash, Max and Jeff, his partner in the firm they own, are traveling from San Francisco to Houston to present a pitch to a company named 'Nutty Nick's'.
They are going over the awesome presentation that you see above when the plane goes haywire. After the crash, we really don't see Max do any architectural, other than taking Rosie Perez on a tour of Oakland while pointing out todos los edificios.

I'm debating between:
"Hey! Careful, Man! Theres a beverage here!"
"Oh, The usual. I bowl. Drive Around. Occasional acid flashback."

18 January 2009

William Petersen in "Fear"

William Petersen as Steve Walker
John Oliver as Eddie Clark

Marky Mark terrorizes an architect's family in this thriller that is set in Seattle. Reese Witherspoon is the daughter of workaholic Steve Walker (CSI's Gil Grissom), an architect who is a paranoid about security. Luckily for him, his paranoia pays off, after Marky Mark's gang lays seige to Steve's state-of-the-art, automatic locked, bulletproof glassed, security camera'ed, lake house.

No magical mailboxes at this lake house

A sub-plot of the movie involves Steve's attempt to land the Vancouver account. Steve's coworker Eddie seems pretty fearful of everyone in the office losing there job. But, apparently Steves the best designer in the firm...

Eddie: The Swaggart Project went to the bad guys. We're on thin ice here. So now its the Vancouver job or bust.
Steve: Well, show me the drafts we got, I'll make the presentation myself.
Eddie: That's what I wanted to hear.

Steve does go on to make the presentation himself, and comes up with this...

He stayed up all night for this?

Eddie: Yes! You did it! This is great. This is a work of art! You think you can stay conscience long enough to crunch out the new numbers?
Steve: I've been living on pure adrenaline for 24 hours, why stop now?

Mark Wahlberg Talks to Architects
"You design buildings? I produce Entourage!
Say 'hi' to your mother for me."

Mark Ruffalo in "Just Like Heaven"

Mark Ruffalo as David the Landscape Architect

Ok, so its another movie where the architect's wife is dead and he starts to see spirits. But instead of mean ghouls, he sees cute-as-a-basket-of-kittens Reese Witherspoon. And they fall in love. But she's not dead, shes in a coma! So he builds her a garden. Then they kiss at the end. Seriously, if Reese wasn't in this movie I would have turned the movie off. The only way they could have made the movie worse is if they cast Napoleon Dynamite in a role. Whats that? Oh, they did cast Napoleon Dynamite in a role! I do this stuff in the name of research, kids, all for you.

17 January 2009

Keanu Reeves in "The Lake House"

Keanu Reeves as Ted "Theodor" Logan as Alex Wyler
Christopher Plummer as Simon Wyler
Eban Moss-Bachrach as Henry Wyler

Reeves and Bullock team up again in this supernatural story about a mailbox that sends letters though time. Reeves is Alex, a contractor who was trained as an architect under the supervision of his starchitect/professor father Simon. When we first meet the father, he is teaching a design studio at an unknown Chicago school. The professor's youngest son, Henry is in this course and starts to explain his project's concept to his father...

Bowtie? Check.
Drawings of ionic columns? Check.

Henry: Obviously I derived my inspiration from the metophor of The Louvre ...[pauses]...uh, yeah...

They scene abruptly cuts, but they imply through dialog in the next scene that the father stood their for two hours without speaking in order to humiliate his son. Which is what all good architecture professors do when they aren't busy either making students cry, setting models on fire, or speaking only in words that they read in their bedside thesaurus the previous night.

To cool down from the ordeal, the brother goes out to get a beer with his older bro, Alex, who has been absent from the family for a few years. Alex goes on to explain to Henry what hes been doing....

Henry: Condos?
Alex: I don't believe it. I come back after 4 years and I get this infront of me.
Henry: What?
Alex: My little brother thining he's Frank Lloyd Whatever.
Henry: Ah, Come on!
Alex: Dad keeps you hostage in that myth-making factory of his, but you still haven't built so much as a telephone booth or a hamster cage.
Henry: That's funny you say that actually, I have a hamster cage in mind. A development of them actually. Prefab, no foundations, What do you think about that?
Alex: See? That's what I'm talking about! You have visions. Speaking of which, I bought a house...

Its like Speed, but in a house. Over a long drawn out 4 years. And no explosions. But Keanu and Sandra do kiss in the end.

When Alex shows his little brother the house for the first time, a house that their father built for the family in the 70's, before their mom left the father...

Henry: When did he build it?
Alex: You weren't born and I was 8.
Henry: Corbusier meets Frank Lloyd Wright
Alex: Did you know, dad played cards with both of them.

Probably more like Corbusier meets the Victorian era. In truth, the stage that was built as the house had no toilets or running water. Seriously.

Alex: There should be a stairway down to the water, a porch, a deck. Here, you're in a - in a box. A glass box with a view to everything that's around you... but you can't touch it. No interconnection between you and what you're looking at.
Henry: I don't know, you know. He's got this big maple growing right in the middle of the house.
Alex: Containment.
[He pushes a button which opens a glass door]
Alex: Containment and control. This house is about ownership, not connection. I mean, it's beautiful. Seductive, even. But, it's incomplete.
[He pauses]
Alex: It was all about him. Dad knew how to build a house, not a home. But you know... I think he wants us to do what he couldn't. But, admitting that would mean admitting that he came up short in some way... that he could do more. And that tortures him.
Henry: Do you remembering being here with Mom?
Alex: I remember she tried to make it work here... with us... with him.

In this next scene, Ted hatches a plan to travel back in time to nab Core-Bus-Air for his architectural history thesis.

In the series of letters that Alex sends Sandra through the film, they get to know each other. When asked to discribe his favorite things, Alex writes, "For me its this city. On a day when the light is so clear I can touch every detail, every brick and window of the buildings I love..."

He then goes on to include in his next magical care package for her a map of Chicago with all of his favorite buildings on it in hopes that shes goes on a walking tour of the city and shares in his joys. She does. Along the path he drew for her, he spray painted a note for her (two years in the past, remember the magical timetraveling mailbox?) on the side of a building that reads, "(Sandra), I'm walking with you right now." Really, this seems like a jerk thing to do, defacing the buildings that he loves in the city that he love. I guess that the light wasn't so clear that day.

Customized walking tour maps are like the mixed tape of the architecture world, when you want to tell a girl how special she is.

Steve Martin in "HouseSitter"

Steve Martin as Newton Davis
Roy Cooper as Winston Moseby
Peter MacNicol as Marty

The architect in a comedy is almost always the straight man. The definition of a straight man that comes from the wikipedia entry,

"A double act, also known as a comedy duo, is a comic device in which humor is derived from the uneven relationship between two partners, usually of the same gender, age, ethnic origin, and profession, but drastically different personalities. Often one of them, the straight man, feed or stooge is portrayed as reasonable and serious, and the other one, the funny man or comic is portrayed as funny, unintelligent or unorthodox."

Time in time again in funny movies, the architect takes this role. Matt Dillon was the straight man to Owen Wilson's funny man in You, Me & Dupree. Wilbur (an architect) was the straight man to Mr. Ed's funny horse. Although not usually the straight man (think Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Jerk, The Absent Minded Waiter) in HouseSitter, Steve Martin takes on Goldie Hawn, who as always is playing a free-spirited, fun loving, mischief making sexpot.

Inspired by Corbusier. Notice the piloti?
And Sears aluminum siding?

So, Newton builds the girl of his dreams, his high school sweetheart, a house and suprises her with it while proposing to her. She dumps him, he hops in bed with Goldie, has a one night stand, and then she finds a picture of the house on a napkin sketch that he did and moves in. Hilarity ensues.

Like Newton Davis, sketching on napkins is my preferred method of meeting strange women in bars.

When actors play against type, they usually include a scene where the actor will profess his believes, point of views or whatnot to show their character. Steve Martin does this early in the movie at the opening of a new skyscraper his firm designed. As Newton, he's chatting with his co-worker Marty (played by the guy who was the creepy art restorer from Ghostbusters II) and makes his views on the new building known.

Newton: "I still think its a boring building no matter how you look at it."
Marty: "The absolute best thing about this building in two words: billable hours."
Newton: "But did you have fun making it?"

The Jerk, AIA, is not a fan

Deep, Newton. Deep.
But it doesn't stop there. Soon they run into the head of the office, Winston Moseby. Marty is a seedy little guy who has no problem kissing ass. Newton on the other hand...

Marty: "Well, Mr. Moseby, congratulations on another beautiful job."
Winston: "Thank you Marty. I think everyone has a right to feel proud."
Marty: "Absolutely. You know, I don't know if its the champagne talking, but I want to say your leadership on this has been an inspiration to all of us on the project and... and I hope I haven't embarrasted you."
Winston: "Not at all"
Marty: "I dont know if you know Davis here from the firm..."
Newton and Winston Shake hands.
Newton: "The building...! Huh.... Wow! Its....(thinking)....there!"
Winston: "Yes?"
Newton: "You know that Boston Bank building you designed years ago? I have stood on the sidewalk for hours absorbing that structure. It still suprises me."
Winston: "Thank you Davis"
Newton: "Don't you think we should be going for that kind of originality? Instead of these same designs over and over... this... this cookie cutter architecture? Don't you feel sometimes like were just going through the motions?"
Winston: "We are the largest architecture firm in New England. Evidently some people like what we do (starts to walk away)."

Apparently for all his talk, Newton and Marty aren't that good of architects either. Perhaps its an early phase of design, but some of the one line zingers that are said between plot advancing conversations about women problems are just too good...

"The only entrance you have here is through the air conditioning duct."
"You have people exiting into a wall here."

Perhaps one of the lines that most stands out in the film isn't Newton proclaiming his thoughts and theories on the built environment, but on Goldie stating her thoughts on Newton. Perhaps its a fate Newton doesn't want to be condemned to, something that as a student he feared would happen to him. When they first get back to Goldie's apartment before said one night stand...

Goldie: "Well, this is my place."
Newton: "Cozy. I like what you did with the drape...thing."
Goldie: "Well, I'm no architect."
Newton: "Its nice. I like how you used...the negative...space."
Goldie: "I like you. You're just so.... average."

11 January 2009

Henry Fonda in "12 Angry Men"

Henry Fonda as Juror #8

Sidney Lummet directed this 1957 drama about a dozen jurors. The sole voice of opposition against the Guilty verdict is an Architect, who uses his power of deduction and intellect to convince the other 11 men that the boy on trial.

The man in white

During a break of deliberation, #7, a salesmen, says to #8, "Hey, you a salesman or something? You sure got that soft sale down. Me, I'm really agressive, with jokes, tricks, stories..."
"No, I'm an architect," #8 replies.

The architect critics the circulation & flow of the crime scene

Michael J. Fox in "The Frighteners"

Michael J. Fox as Frank Bannister

Before Peter Jackson made Kong and the Lord of the Rings trilogy he wrote, produced and directed this horror/supernatural comedy. Frank Bannister is an architect who is involved in a car accident that results in a) his wife dying and 2) he sees spirits.

Years of all nighters produce strange side effects

Years later, when the movie begins, he is a supernatural investigator/conman who uses his ghost friends to earn a quick buck. While the movie focuses mostly on his second job, there is a subplot that involved Bannister's unfinished house. The movie is supposed to take place in the midwest, but was actually filmed in New Zealand.

Alex P. Keaton, AIA

10 January 2009

Paul Newman in "The Towering Inferno"

Paul Newman as Doug Roberts

In 1974, Doug Roberts builds the tallest skyscraper in the world in San Francisco. At a total of 136 stories, I really don't want to do the math as to how tall this sky scraper is. I'm guessing well over a mile high though, judging by the ego's of the film's two stars, Newman and McQueen.

The opening credits: The Jetseting Architect

One hero is the Architect that must navigate the complicated plans and systems of this building for the film's second hero, McQueen's Fire Chief, to fulfill his job description. To those of you in the business out there, you'll be happy to learn that the film's villains are the contractor and the electrical engineer. These two skip on costs, use shoddy building material and 'only' build to code, which of course, is not what the architect spec'ed. In the end, the two heroes must blow up the water tanks above the penthouse of the tower to drown the conflagration.

The 136 story 'Glass Tower'

By Far, the best part of the movie is the brief encounters between Newman and McQueen.

Chief O'Hallorhan: [sighs] Architects.
Doug Roberts: Yeah, it's all our fault.
Chief O'Hallorhan: Now, you know there's no sure way for us to fight a fire in anything over the seventh floor, but you guys just keep building 'em as high as you can.
Doug Roberts: Hey. Are you here to take me on, or the fire?

Newman pretends to look at drawrings

Doug Roberts: [picks up ringing phone] Roberts.
Chief O'Hallorhan: It's out of control, and it's coming your way. You got about fifteen minutes. Now, they wanna try somethin'. They wanna blow those water tanks two floors above you. They think it might kill the fire.
Doug Roberts: How're they gonna get the explosives up here?
Chief O'Hallorhan: [after already having been given the task] Oh, they'll find some dumb son of a bitch to bring it up.

Breaking the rules:
Riding elevators while the building is on fire

Doug Roberts: I don't know. Maybe they just oughta leave it the way it is. Kind of a shrine to all the bullshit in the world.

Newman saves children

[last Lines ]
Chief O'Hallorhan: You know we were pretty lucky tonight, body count's less then 200. You know, one of these days, you're gonna kill ten-thousand in one of these firetraps, and I'm gonna keep eating smoke and carrying out bodies until someone asks us... how to build them.
Doug Roberts: Ok, I'm asking.
Chief O'Hallorhan: You know where to reach me. Goodbye, Architect.

Setting the C-4, Doug Roberts does his
best Howard Roark impression.

08 January 2009

Adam Sandler in "Click"

Adam Sander as Michael Newman
David Hasselhoff as John Ammer
Jake Hoffman as Ben Newman

Michael Newman stands in front of the only semi-decent design in this piece of crap film.

Michael Newman is the typical workaholic architect in this comedy film. After a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond, Newman finds himself in the possession of a remote that controls the universe. The film starts out with Newman late for a meeting with the Arab Prince Habeeboo (played by Rob "Dwerp" Schnieder), who commissioned a new resturant from Newman's firm, Ammer Architects, headed by John Ammer (David Haselhoff). Newman has the opportunity to present the design concept to the Prince

The Prince Habeeboo and John Ammer discuss high design.

"Prince Haboobie, when Mr. Ammer explained to me the type of man you are, a visionary who prides himself on originality, I said to myself 'Let's smash the mold and redefine elegance'. I present to you, your resturant!"

The awesomeness of it all.

The first question the prince asks, "Where is bar?". Then the prince demands that the bar be bigger, taking over the Atrium/Garden/Pond area. "No atrium, longer bar. And put drain in floor for wet T-shirt contest."
"You're kidding me!?!?" Michael responds.
"Well, he's right, water has to go somewhere Mike," Ammer says as he rips the model apart and pokes a drain into the foamcore with his pencil.
"I love it! It's Awesome!" exclaims the prince.
For those of you students out there, slaving away in studio, don't forget this very important lesson: Water does have to go somewhere.

Later, a chance to design a new hotel for a group of Japenese investors come up, Associate Michael Newman jumps at the chance thinking it will make him a partner. Taking the design home over fourth of July weekend, Michael works late into the night on this:

Angled walls always never a bad choice for good design.

As Michael tires of working, he decides to use the remote to fast forward through the weekend. Keep in mind, that in the movie they show that Michael acts like a braindead fool when he's on "Autopilot", so its no suprise that on Monday morning Mike shows up at the office with this plan:

"Its actually pretty good. Look, a river in the lobby! Cool"

However, Michael is actually suprised that his design is good. I guess he's also a bumbling idiot in real life. However, the Japanese investors don't give a damn. Once again, Mike is forced to sell out to maximize rooms and profit.

The Hoff debating the aesthetic qualities of his secretaries' toenail colors

Who would have guessed, but the remote control starts to develop a mind of its own, and forwards Michael 10 years into the future. How do we know its the future?

In the future, architects still love Barcelona chairs and the Eames chairs.

In the future, all architects will ride segways around the office while carrying brightly colored drawing tube on their back. Why can't this future be now?

Michael Newman now holds the title of "Architect of the Year". I can only assume that the Prizker foundation decides to alter their prize of have been completely wiped out of existence.

In the future, the success of the Freedom Tower leads to the construction of a second, identical Freedom Tower.

In some movies, the architect is supposed to be a cultivated man, a thoughtful man, someone who thinks through problems, is a romantic, or creative. In Click, Sandler's role as an architect is used for two main purposes. The first, as a workaholic, he seems like a great candidate for the Angle of Death (played great by Walken) to give his time remote control to. The second, we get a reminder of how the future is represented by the built environment. If a hospital door opens like a door from the USS Enterprise, it must be the future. Unfortuanly, Newman plays the architect not as the sophisticate, but as the common man who kicks people in the balls and farts in their face. But hey! Who doesn't enjoy a good laugh at a dog banging a stuffed duck?

The aesthetics of the furniture and decor of this frame serve as a reminder that the setting is the present day.