A short time from now in a neighborhood not far, far away… filmmaker extraordinaire George Lucas may land his art and film museum in Chicago. The move comes after the filmmaker's bid to build the museum in San Francisco fell through last year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel formed a task force last week, directing a dozen civic leaders to scout out, as the Sun-Times summarized, “a site ‘accessible’ to all Chicago neighborhoods that’s large enough to host a museum ‘comparable to other major cultural institutions,’ but does not ‘require taxpayer dollars.’” The task force is co-chaired by businessmen Gillian Darlow and Kurt Summers. Emanuel gave the group until mid-May to find a homebase for the Star Wars creator, who last year married Mellody Hobson, president of the Chicago investment firm Ariel. Lucas now lives in Chicago part-time, but Lucasfilm Ltd. and special effects company Industrial Light & Magic are still based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lucas had originally scoped out a spot in the Presidio, but was rejected by the Presidio trust—the nonprofit that oversees the federally owned land at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Lucas' was one of three proposals for The Presidio's 8-acre mid-Crissy Field site, all of which The Presidio Trust rejected earlier this year, saying in a statement "We simply do not believe any of the projects were right for this location." Spokesman David Perry has described the 95,000-square-foot museum as the “history of storytelling” and the “world’s foremost museum dedicated to the power of the visual image.” Chicago is home to many museums, both well-known like the Art Institute and the Field Museum, and a bit more odd—say, the International Museum of Surgical Science. But the Lucas museum, which will include film memorabilia as well as works of art from the likes of Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, would be a big get. San Francisco is still vying for the return of its film Jedi, but we’ll see in one month how Rahm’s empire might strike back.
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Los Angeles-based landscape architect and indie filmmaker Evan Mather is crowd-funding his to way to his first feature-length film. After having produced a series of experimental time-lapse videos about the built environment—including 12 minutes to Vegas— he’s launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund From Sea to Shining Sea, a 105-minute documentary celebrating the diverse American landscape. Moviegoers will be able to cruise the Interstate Highway System from coast to coast through the extensive video collage, which Mather hopes to complete some time next year. Commentaries and factoids will be layered on from noted landscape architects, geographers, journalists, and those Kickstarter supporters who have similar cross-country jaunts to share. Based on the trailer, it looks like the film will be one part simulated science class, one part awe-inspiring imagery and one part epic road trip. So if you don’t have the days/weeks that it would take to drive across, this may be the next best thing.
Norman Foster, who, as writer Mark Lamster has noted, “even in his 70s, has the look of a heavy in a Guy Ritchie film,” skis, sketches, and visits his childhood home in Manchester, England, in the film How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?, a documentary produced by the architect's wife that screened on January 25, at the IFC Center. Directed and dreamily photographed by Norberto Lopez-Amado and Carlos Carcas, the film moves seamlessly between irresistible images of Foster's buildings, and the man himself, dashing between projects, reflecting on his career, and earning praise from scriptwriter Deyan Sudjic on everything from his work ethic to his wardrobe. “Everything inspires me,” says Foster early in the film. “Sometimes I think I see things others don't.”
Chicago has been getting a lot of screentime over the last few years, standing in for Gothman in Batman Begins and enduring the wrath of the Transformers. A blockbuster of a slightly more highbrow sort is in the works, with an adaptation of Erik Larson's bestseller The Devil in the White City. The Sun-Times and others reported this week that Leonardo DiCaprio will portray the serial killer H.H. Holmes. The story is set amid the preparations for 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition, and the story of construction of the fair grounds, one of the major developments in the City Beautiful movement, as well as the growth of Chicago as a whole, forms a parallel narrative. Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted play major parts in the story. Their roles have yet to be cast. Whoever lands the roles had better start growing their facial hair now. Burnham sported an impressive, bushy mustache. Architecture fan and patron Brad Pitt has been growing some questionable whiskers over the last year, but maybe those hooded eyes are more Clooney-esque? Burnham had nothing on the older Olmsted though. Check out that beard! Who has the chops for that? Jeff Bridges, anyone?
Susan Morris sends along her recommendations for the Tribeca Film fest, which ends Sunday, including her favorite, My Queen Karo, above. For those interested in films that include architecture, a number of entries in the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival may be of perplexing interest. Striking, in particular, is the number of films where homes are the sights of hothouse mayhem. Here’s my guide to who did what to whom and, above all, where. It’s moving day in the wry Academy Award-winning short The New Tenants (directed by Joachim Back) for a bickering yet loving gay couple who move into a drab apartment in an outer borough. Unbeknownst to them, a murder has taken place there, and, one-by-one, the oddball characters who reveal the apartment’s grizzly history are the un-welcome wagon that disrupts their lives. Dream Home (directed by Pang Ho-cheung) with the tag line is “What would you do, if someone blocked your view?” takes the greedy building bubble of high-rise apartment blocks in Hong Kong to an extreme. Purportedly based on a true story, a woman whose life has been shaped by the teardowns that destroyed her childhood neighborhood and replaced it with massive high-rises (and where gangs assist the government in ejecting tenants). Her compulsive aspiration is to acquire an apartment in the building that replaced her childhood home with a view of Victoria Harbour. This desire leads to a calculated murderous rampage. The director said she’s “killing astronomical property prices….[in a] bloody protest against the property developers who continuously inflate Hong Kong’s housing market,” only to be thwarted by the subprime mortgage crisis once she acquires her flat. Even the opening title sequence is laced with blueprints in three languages. Open House (directed by Andrew Paquin) begins with a realtor touting the spatial flow of a cold, sterile house to prospective buyers. The house soon becomes a prison for the owner after a psychopathic house hunter hides in the basement during the open house event, and entraps her in the crawl space while he plays house with his girlfriend. The director wanted to explore impulses “even darker than the physical horror of home invasion.” The Disappearance of Alice Creed (directed by J Blakeson) is a DIY guide for converting an abandoned apartment into a soundproof, secure kidnapping lair. Inspiration came from David Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER where lovers borrow a friend’s apartment for a tryst that in turn inspired Billy Wilder’s more cynical THE APARTMENT where a striver lends out his place for multiple flings and films in general, said the director, that are “based around one location – Repulsion, Shallow Grave, The Shining and so on. That sense of growing unease you get from The Shining really inspired me.” My pick is My Queen Karo (directed by Dorothée van den Berghe) that sensitively mines the director’s own experiences growing up in a utopian squat in 1970s Amsterdam. Parents Raven and Dalia with their 10-year old daughter Karo leave Belgium for Holland to start a commune based on shared money, shared ideals, shared sex, and a commitment to a redistribution of realty by ending property ownership. Inside the loft they commandeer, even the space is shared; it is only demarcated, at Karo’s request, by a taped-off outline on the floor delineating her “room.” The squat veers from being a shelter to theater set to fortress. In addition, there’s Please Give (directed by Nicole Holofcener) with its almost mainstream cast including Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt. Kate (Keener) and Alex (Platt) have purchased the next-door apartment in their Lower Fifth Avenue building, which is still inhabited by the crotchety, elderly Andra. While they await the moment they can enlarge their home, the couple work in their 10th Avenue store specializing in mid-century modern furniture purchased from “the children of dead people” who sell off their deceased parents’ possessions. In Every Day (directed by Richard Levine), a television writer who works at the Steiner Studios in the Brookyn Navy Yard, enjoys her lucrative recompense in a penthouse apartment atop the Hotel on Rivington. Short films of interest include Walkway (by Ken Jacobs), an expressionistic rendering of a wooden walkway that throws out the notion of terra firma; Collision of Parts (by Mark Street) a kaleidoscope of New York City and other urban streetscapes with facades set in motion while walking, running and driving; and Berlin (by Martin Laporte), comprised of B&W and color stills of the city depicting symbols of workers on building facades, transportation structures (train and metro stations), graffiti covered doorways, statuary, and spontaneous public art.