Archive for August, 2011

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“THE KILLING”

08/31/2011

the ultimate noir cast…

by CHUCK STEPHENS

Stanley Kubrick’s labyrinthine 1956 heist flick The Killing—an exploded rethink of John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle and eventual template for the narrative convolutions of Reservoir Dog—became an instant facet in the jewel that was film noir, even as it refracted many of the cinematic crime bedazzlements that had preceded it. Much of its pleasure lies purely in its casting of an array of filmdom noir’s familiar faces, the movie’s every heavily shadowed curve and intentionally left-rough spot tricked out with class-act fillies and brick-headed galoots from Hollywood’s brightest galaxies of second- and third-rung heroes. Not even Sterling Hayden—one of the brashest, snarlingest leading men the screen has ever known—could have muted the charisma that surrounded him on The Killing’s set, not even when it came from men like Elisha Cook Jr., who seemed half his size, or frails like Coleen Gray, so meek she threatens to dissolve altogether under pressure of mere proximity to the man she loves. Everyone gets their own ripe mouthful of hard-boiled dialogue in The Killing, much of it supplied by a modern master of the form: Jim Thompson, pulp fiction’s furthest-out practitioner of stream-of-cracked-consciousness and creeps-giving conversation. Thompson had recently relocated to Hollywood after the publication of two of his magnum opera, The Killer Inside Me and Savage Night, when Kubrick hired him to collaborate on a screen adaptation of novelist Lionel White’s racetrack caper, Clean Break. The first product of the reportedly strained, multifilm collaboration between Kubrick and Thompson, their incendiary script for The Killing remains cinematic legend, lightning trapped in a jar—and their cast conspires to breath sulfur and sadness into every line. Could any other group of actors have come together as such a finely calibrated machine of mirth and menace, or imbued the film’s fractured narrative and hell-forged moral nuances with as many scents of poison or shades of existential disarray?

Sterling Hayden (Johnny Clay)

Born Sterling Relyea Walter in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, in 1916, then adopted at the age of nine and renamed Sterling Walter Hayden, the swaggering, six-foot-five-inch leading man once acclaimed as “the most beautiful man in the movies” came to Hollywood from a seafaring background, and returned to the sea repeatedly throughout his career, including sailing supplies from Italy to the Balkans for the OSS during World War II, for which he was multiply decorated. He remained close to the sea throughout his life, penning a lengthy account of his love of sailing in his 1963 memoir, Wanderer, while living in one of the pilothouses of the mighty ferryboat Berkeley, then docked in Sausalito (the North Bay city where he would spend much of the rest of his life.) Both gentle and gigantic, Hayden could easily have dominated any film in which he appeared but always remained a thoughtful and carefully modulated performer, paying tremendous attention to—listening to—the actors who worked with him. No wonder he produced most of his greatest work for directors known for eliciting unsettling, off-kilter performances from their actors: Kubrick (as The Killing’s luckless Johnny Clay, and later as Dr. Strangelove’s loose atomic cannon, General Jack D. Ripper), Nicholas Ray (as Johnny Guitar himself), John Huston (The Asphalt Jungle, where he furiously demands of people, “Don’t bone me!”), Francis Ford Coppola (as the corrupt cop in The Godfather), and Robert Altman (as The Long Goodbye’s outsized, unhinged, and unavoidably Haydenesque fading writer, Roger Wade). One of the greatest of Hollywood’s twentieth-century leading men, Hayden made a number of appearances on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show in the seventies, fascinating—nay, altogether addictive—clips from which can be found scattered on YouTube. Hayden died in Sausalito in 1986.

Coleen Gray (Fay)

Born Doris Jensen in Staplehurst, Nebraska, in 1922, Coleen Gray became a contract player for 20th Century Fox in 1944, stopped acting for a couple of years after having a child in her midtwenties, then rushed back on-screen with a series of standout (if largely underplayed, as was her wont) roles at the forties’ end. Though she shot her scenes as John Wayne’s ill-fated betrothed for Howard Hawks’s Red River in 1946, the film wasn’t released until ’48, by which time Gray had been featured in two 1947 favorites: with Richard Widmark in Henry Hathaway’s snickering Kiss of Death, and with Tyrone Power in the geek noir milestone Nightmare Alley. In the fifties, she continued down noir’s crooked highway in The Sleeping City and Kansas City Confidential, and supported Ronald Reagan in the Allan Dwan western Tennessee’s Partner. By 1960, she was reduced to sucking men’s pineal glands dry in search of eternal youth as The Leech Woman. Though she worked in television for several decades, Gray increasingly turned her attention to her religious and political beliefs in the sixties, testifying before Congress in 1964, as part of “Project Prayer,” in favor of prayer in schools, and later working with born-again Watergate crook Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship; she also appeared in the Reverend Billy Graham’s 1986 production, Cry from the Mountain. Gray currently resides in Los Angeles.

Vince Edwards (Val Cannon)

Though eventually better known as the suave, pensive surgeon Ben Casey (the title character of one of early sixties television’s most popular medical dramas), Vince Edwards—a former national championship swimming star from Ohio State University (born in Brooklyn, 1928)—kicked off his headlining screen career as Hiawatha in Kurt Neumann’s 1953 western of the same name, and could occasionally be found playing handsome, cold-sweat psychopaths in crime thrillers throughout the fifties. The pair of films Edwards made with director Irving Lerner—Murder by Contract and City of Fear—are both masterworks of late-model noir: in the former, Edwards is a contract killer with the pathological patience of Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman and a mortal fear of murdering women; in the latter, he’s a feverish escaped con carrying what he thinks is a container of dope—though it’s actually full of radioactive powder that’s slowly causing his innards to mutate and melt. (Martin Scorsese has professed his fondness for both of these low-budget, stylistically inventive Lerner sleepers.) Ben Casey had been a Bing Crosby television production, and Crosby encouraged Edwards’s singing career throughout the sixties as well. Edwards also directed several episodes of Ben Casey, and later directed episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica. He died in Los Angeles in 1996.

Jay C. Flippen (Marvin Unger)

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1899, and billing himself as “the Ham What Am” by the midtwenties, the craggy, snaggly-faced Jay C. Flippen—veteran vaudevillian, early radio sportscaster, jazz singer, blackface comedian, and friend of the great African American performer Bert Williams—cut a broad if little-recognized swathe across much of twentieth-century culture. A stage performer infrequently seen on-screen until the late forties, he appeared as “T-Dub” in Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night and soon became a familiar Hollywood face, working with director Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart in Winchester ’73 (where he’s kissed by Shelley Winters), Thunder Bay, and The Far Country. (The palpable homoerotic dimension of Flippen’s love for his former cellmate Sterling Hayden in The Killing lurks only barely beneath the surface of many of those Mann/Stewart films as well.) Flippen shared the screen with Marlon Brando (The Wild One), John Wayne (Jet Pilot, Hellfighters), and Henry Fonda (Firecreek), and sang in Fred Zinnemann’s Oklahoma. He turned up often in early sixties television, on sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show and Ensign O’Toole. A leg amputation left Flippen in a wheelchair in his later years, but he continued acting at the peak of his powers through his final, and perhaps most memorable, role as the Manichean Nixon-era power broker Luther Yerkes, in Russ Meyer’s (woefully undersung) censorship satire The Seven Minutes. Flippen died in 1971.

Ted de Corsia (Policeman Kennan)

As blocky and imposing as an onrushing Mack truck, Ted de Corsia, born in Brooklyn, 1903, began his film career fairly late in life, debuting in 1947 as a sneer from the shadows in Orson Welles’s The Lady from Shanghai, and famously fell to his death from a steel-girdered bridge in Jules Dassin’s The Naked City the following year. He became a regularly featured film noir nightman and frontier badass for the remainder of the fifties. De Corsia worked for directors as varied as Vincente Minnelli (Kismet), Joseph H. Lewis (the same year’s The Big Combo), and John Sturges (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), and had appeared in André de Toth’s Crime Wave along with his Kubrick costars Timothy Carey and Sterling Hayden in 1954; in 1956, the year he appeared in The Killing, he performed in at least six other features and more than half a dozen TV shows. Bat Masterson, Rawhide, Green Acres, I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart, The Monkees—the burly, often comedic but always potentially brutal de Corsia continued to be an omnivore of television guest slots until his death in Encino, California, in 1973.

Marie Windsor (Sherry Peatty)

“I don’t think I’ll have to kill her,” Sterling Hayden muses with a grin over Marie Windsor’s pretending-to-be-sleeping body in The Killing. “Just slap that pretty face into hamburger meat, that’s all.” More than a few film noir fellas have felt that way about the characters that the strikingly big-eyed Marie Windsor specialized in: gold diggers, two-timers, doe-eyed spider women, lethal dolls. (“I know you like a book, you little tramp,” Hayden later snarls at her. “You’d sell out your own mother for a piece of fudge.”) Born Emily Marie Bertelsen in Marysvale, Utah, in 1919, Windsor—a onetime Miss Utah who studied acting with the immortal Maria Ouspenskaya (sayer of The Wolfman’s immortal “Even a man who is pure at heart . . .” sooth and also acting teacher to, among others, Elaine May)—has become one of the legendary figures of film noir, an O.G. queen of the Bs best remembered for films like The Narrow Margin and Force of Evil. In fact, she appeared in genre nuggets of every stripe, from straight-up westerns like R. G. Springsteen’s Hellfire (one of Windsor’s personal favorites) to Preston Sturges’s western farce The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, the 3-D science fiction hokum of Cat-Women of the Moon, old Hollywood wheezers like Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, and Roger Corman no-budget drive-in quickies like Swamp Women. She even played Josephine to Dennis Hopper’s Napoleon in Irwin Allen’s The Story of Mankind; the Marx Brothers and Vincent Price are in it too. Windsor won a Look magazine award for best supporting actress for her part in The Killing, and remains a favorite of noir aficionados everywhere. Though largely retired from screen acting by the midseventies, she stayed busy as a painter and sculptor and was active in the Screen Actors Guild. Windsor died in Beverly Hills in 2000.

Elisha Cook Jr. (George Peatty)

The quintessential American character actor, Elisha Cook Jr. (Cookie to his friends) held center stage at the fringes of Hollywood cinema for decades, appearing as all manner of bug-eyed mugs and heat-packing psycho-sidekicks in hundreds of film and television classics. The word gunsel seems carved to fit Cookie, as John Huston must have seen at a glance when he cast him as the slapped-around pistol punk Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon. Cook got his first big break in theater, anointed by Eugene O’Neill himself for a memorable part in Ah, Wilderness! in 1933. His first picture was shot in New York in 1930, but his film career proper began in Hollywood in 1936: by 1941, the year he appeared in The Maltese Falcon, Cook had already worked for directors Mervyn LeRoy, Robert Florey, Tay Garnett, and John Ford (in Submarine Patrol). Endless inimitable turns in film noir staples ensued: across from Humphrey Bogart again in The Big Sleep, seconding Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill, and perhaps most indelibly as the speed-freak drummer in Robert Siodmak’s extraordinary Phantom Lady. (Cook would later claim Barbara Stanwyck as the foremost influence on his acting.) An encyclopedia would be required to trace Cook’s myriad TV appearances from the sixties to the end of the eighties, and he continued in features nearly as long: slain in Shane and deformed by Boris Karloff in Voodoo Island in the 1950s, back in Rosemary’s Baby, Blacula, Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Robert Aldrich’s Emperor of the North Pole and Wim Wenders’s Hammett. A lifelong outdoorsman, Cook was born in San Francisco in 1903 but for much of his life kept a residence far from the film business, in a cabin in the High Sierras; he died in Big Pine, California, in 1995.

Joe Sawyer (Mike O’Reilly)

“Tough-looking, square-faced, fair-haired, large-headed, solidly built American actor who played top sergeants, taxi drivers, crooks, sailors, and sundry denizens of working-class districts” is how David Quinlan’s once-indispensible Illustrated Encyclopedia of Movie Character Actors sums up Joe Sawyer (born Joseph Sauers in 1906 in Guelph, Ontario)—not a bad description at all, never mind that Sawyer was Canadian. My parents’ generation grew up knowing Joe as Sergeant Biff O’Hara in the Rin Tin Tin dog-adventure movies and radio and television shows. John Ford used Sawyer (then still Sauers) often in the thirties and forties, in The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, and many other films; so did Raoul Walsh and Charles Vidor—indeed, it would be difficult to find a major Hollywood director from the Golden Age who didn’t direct Sawyer at one time at or another. IMDb lists more than two hundred film and television appearances, many of them uncredited, and there were probably many more: Sawyer appeared in sixteen films in 1936 alone. Sawyer died in Oregon in 1982.

James Edwards (Parking Attendant)

A forerunner of Sidney Poitier in the struggle to bring dignity to Hollywood roles for African Americans, James Edwards (born in Indiana, 1918) earned a B.S. in dramatics at Northwestern University but turned seriously to acting only after being wounded in combat during World War II; his first big break came from Elia Kazan, who directed him in the controversial Broadway hit Deep Are the Roots, where he costarred with Barbara Bel Geddes. He had a beaming, sometimes glowering countenance and a lush sonority in his delivery that riveted the viewer to whatever he was doing—a talent that led to a standout turn in Mark Robson’s Home of the Brave in 1949, which should have made Edwards a star but instead, after much critical praise, left him feeling embittered and betrayed by Hollywood’s high racial walls. He continued acting—in Sam Fuller’s The Steel Helmet, Douglas Sirk’s Battle Hymn, Anthony Mann’s Men in War, and as one of Lawrence Harvey’s ill-fated platoon buddies in John Frankenheimer’s paranoid masterpiece The Manchurian Candidate—along the way becoming friends with Woody Strode, the athlete turned John Ford mainstay with whom Edwards would share many of his struggles in the industry. Though his final role was as George C. Scott’s valet in Patton, Edwards never lost the poise and bearing he’d carried with him throughout his career—or the intensely human seething that seemed always just below his placid surface, raging to break free. Edwards died in San Diego in 1970, only fifty-one years old.

Timothy Carey (Nikki Arcane)

One of the most gargantuan and adorable scenery chewers the cinema has ever known, the six-foot-four Timothy Agoglia Carey had a growl so loud and a grimace so creepy he could have frightened Beelzebub off a toilet seat—and a warm if slightly warped grin so goofy and infectious he could charm a kitten out of a tree. A beatnik/hepcat/margin dweller before there were terms for such things, Carey was born in Brooklyn (are you sensing a pattern here?) in 1929. He was fired from the set of Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole (for scene-stealing as an extra) almost before his career began; appeared across from Robert Mitchum and Susan Hayward in Henry Hathaway’s White Witch Doctor, with Brando in The Wild One and One-Eyed Jacks, and, uncredited, in André de Toth’s Crime Wave and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden; got mercilessly stomped (for real) by Richard Widmark in a scene for Delmer Daves’s The Last Wagon; and showed up as the face of evil in Bob Rafelson’s Monkees’ trip Head and on a hundred other oddball occasions, from Mermaids of Tiburon (a.k.a. Aqua Sex) to Beach Blanket Bingo and Chesty Anderson U.S. Navy. Carey’s career cornerstones include his work for Kubrick in The Killing and Paths of Glory and for John Cassavetes in Minnie and Moskowitz and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. In 1962, Carey wrote, directed, and starred (as God) in The World’s Greatest Sinner, a monomaniacal vision of scuzzball grandeur with a soundtrack by Frank Zappa; his years-long plans to complete and market a TV sitcom pilot called Tweet’s Ladies of Pasadena never came to fruition. In recent years, outtakes from the photo shoot for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album have revealed an image of Carey, posed holding his rifle in The Killing, positioned directly behind, and entirely occluded by, George Harrison’s head in the finished LP sleeve shot—lurking, once again, in the shadows of the glamorous, at once present and gloriously little-known. Carey died of a stroke in 1994.

Kola Kwariani (Maurice Oboukhoff)

“Kola (Kwariani), 280 [lbs.], was a brutal Georgian who learned wrestling from his mother, a six-foot-three-inch 205-pounder. Kola’s mother learned wrestling from her mother.” So wrote Gay Talese in the New York Times in 1958 of Kola (Nicholas) Kwariani, who was known in New York chess-playing circles simply as Nick the Wrestler. Born in Kutaisi, Georgia, in 1903, Kwariani spoke eight languages and wrestled Gene “Mr. America” Stanlee in a famous golden era match. Though his film career was confined to his work in The Killing and a 1952 episode of Columbia World of Sports entitled “Rasslin’ Rogues,” Kwariani’s outsized presence, innate intelligence, and extraordinary cauliflower ears made a lasting impression. Moreover, Kubrick gave him one of the best speeches in the film, and it’s well worth remembering here: “You know, I have often thought that the gangster and the artist are the same in the eyes of the masses. They are admired and hero-worshipped, but there is always present an underlying wish to see them destroyed at the peak of their glory.” Kwariani died in New York in 1980.

Jay Adler (Leo the shark)

Born in New York City in 1896, Jay Adler—brother of the famous teacher, Stanislavskian, and Group Theater founder Stella Adler—came from an acting dynasty and enjoyed a long and varied career on Broadway, in Hollywood, and on television, with bits and standout small parts in Robert Wise’s Three Secrets, Joseph H. Lewis’s The Big Combo, Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life, Alexander MacKendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success, and Jerry Lewis’s The Family Jewels. He died in Los Angeles in 1978.

Tito Vuolo (Joe Piano)

“Squat, voluble, and Italian-born, Tito Vuolo could not avoid being typecast as the jolly Italian in office,” writes IMDb minibiographer Guy Bellinger of the actor behind The Killing’s motel operator Joe Piano. So thoroughly does Bellinger seem to grasp the Vuolo gestalt that we’ll quote him at greater length: “Vuolo portrayed dozens of Italian barbers, pizza makers, vendors, grocers, waiters, hotel or restaurant proprietors. He played them well, but he was at his best when he was not restricted to stereotypes, particularly in films noirs where his good nature created a powerful contrast with the atmosphere of moral decay prevailing in such films as Kiss of Death, The Web, T-Men, The Racket, and, what is probably the best of them all, The Enforcer, as the taxi driver witnessing the murder at the beginning of the film.” Little more need be added, other than to note that Vuolo was born in 1893 in Gragnano, Italy, worked (often uncredited) for directors Michael Curtiz, Stanley Donen, King Vidor, and Anthony Mann, and died in Los Angeles in 1962.

Joe Turkel (Tiny)

Joe Turkel worked thrice for Stanley Kubrick (tying with Philip Stone for most credited appearances in a Kubrick film): first here, in what amounts to a glorified if pivotal bit as second gun in The Killing’s climactic shoot-out (you’ll glimpse him in one other scene too, if you’re quick), then as Paths of Glory’s Private Arnaud, and finally—and perhaps most famously—as Jack Nicholson’s chimerical bartender Lloyd in The Shining. Born (like so many of his Killing castmates) in Brooklyn, in 1927, Turkel is also intimately familiar to his many fans as Blade Runner’s Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the replicant industry pioneer and power broker who meets a squishy end at the hands of one of his proudest creations: Rutger Hauer. Deep genre divers will also remember Turkel as Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik in Roger Corman’s great 1967 pop art/gangland mashup, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Now retired from acting, Joe Turkel lives in Southern California.

Rodney Dangerfield (Onlooker)

The thirty-five-year-old Rodney Dangerfield (born Jacob Cohen in Babylon, New York, in 1921) received neither respect nor screen credit for his legendary (if peripheral) “role” as an onlooker during Kola Kwariani’s racetrack dustup in The Killing. Fans of the harried-to-the-point-of-hallucinations comic genius’s Easy Money and Back to School—and even hard-core Rodneyists who go all the way back to 1971’s The Projectionist—must, however, now admit that the Dangerfield filmography truly begins here, in these few fleeting frames from The Killing, back in 1956. Dangerfield died in Los Angeles in 2004.

Art Gilmore (Narrator)

You may not know Art Gilmore if you fell over him in the dark, but if you were going to the movies or watching TV in the mid-twentieth century, you’ve heard his voice a hundred times. The narrator of countless coming attractions trailers and educational shorts, and the voice of dozens of unseen radio announcers in movies (Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, for one) and on TV shows, Gilmore (born in 1912 in Tacoma, Washington) finally began to come out from the sound booth and appear on-screen around the time he started working for Dragnet creator and entertainment mogul Jack Webb in the early fifties; in the sixties and seventies, he appeared frequently as police captains and lieutenants on the Webb-produced hits Adam-12 and Emergency. Gilmore’s voice also introduced Ronald Reagan’s career-changing speech “A Time for Choosing,” in support of Barry Goldwater at the 1963 Republican National Convention. Sonically inclined liberal cineastes have been searching for ways to forgive him ever since—even as we admit that classics like The Killing couldn’t possibly have been the same without him. Gilmore died in Irvine, California, in 2010.

(THE CRITERION COLLECTION  2011)

“THE KILLING” 1956 directed by Stanley Kubrick

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MICHAEL JANTZEN…

08/29/2011

three projects…

by MICHAEL JANTZEN

Wind Shaped Pavilion

The Wind Shaped Pavilion is a design proposal for a large fabric structure that can be used as a public or private pavilion. As a lightweight fabric structure, the wind slowly and randomly rotates each of the six segments around a central open support frame. This continually alters the shape of the pavilion, while at the same time generating electrical power for its nighttime illumination. The shape of the structure starts out as a relatively symmetrical form. Then the wind begins to alter that shape randomly, with only a slim chance of ever returning to its original symmetry. If the structure’s scale and the materials were to change, it could become an apartment complex, and or some other commercial building. In this case, the occupants could take control and rotate the segments to adjust to changing desires or needs, such as weather conditions, best views, etc.

Orbiting Eco-House

The Orbiting Eco-House is a conceptual design that explores ways in which the movement of certain segments of a house relative to one another and the surrounding landscape can improve its eco and aesthetic functionality. The house consists of two separate structures, the lower structure contains space for general living, bath /laundry, food preparation, and dinning. The upper level structure contains space for sleeping, studio/office, and bathing. Each of these two structures can be rotated in any direction relative to one another around a center stationary utility core, which also contains a staircase.

On top of the center utility core structure is a large funnel shaped rainwater collection ring that catches and directs the water down into a series of holding tanks for use in and around the house. At the center of the rainwater collection ring, there is a large vertical axis wind turbine. Around the wind turbine there is a series of photovoltaic solar cells and a solar domestic water-heating panel. The wind turbine and the solar cells are used to generate electricity, which is stored in batteries and used to power the house.

Since the two separate structures are movable around the center utility core, each can be continually reoriented for the optimal position relative to the sun and wind. As an example, each segment of the house can face the sun at the appropriate time of day or year, and/or face away from the sun. Each segment can be turned to catch the prevailing winds and/or turned away, and of course each segment can easily be turned toward the most desirable view.

Each segment of the house has a large skylight built into the center of the roof. These skylights have insulated panels built in underneath that can be closed or opened to control heat loss and/or heat gain. They can also be used to exhaust hot air through perimeter vents, which draw in cooler air from under the elevated floors. All of the windows in the house and the large series of sliding glass doors, have built-in insulated panels that can be closed or opened over them from the inside in order to control heat loss and/or heat gain.

Lightweight phase change materials can be installed in the floors of each segment in order to store passive solar heat in the winter. In addition, earth pipes can be installed at the site to aid in the heating and cooling of the house through the center utility core. Waterless toilets are to be used, and all plumbing and electrical hook-ups are controlled through specially designed rotatable connections. The primary construction technique would investigate the use of structural insulated foam panels, with an appropriate monolithic coating of a lightweight concrete composite.

Malibu Video Beach House

This conceptual proposal for a weekend beach house would be constructed on a vacant lot sandwiched in-between two existing houses along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu California. Here the houses line up side by side along the road with only a thin sliver of the ocean and beach visible between them.

The facade of the Malibu video beach house facing the highway is covered with thin gas-plasma television screens that create a full-size video interface with the real world. These screens display images and sounds of the real beach that is obscured by the house itself. The beach can be shown in real or recorded time. Day recordings can be played back at night; sunny day recordings can be played on cloudy days; summer days can be shown in winter. Over scaled detailed images of the beach and ocean can be shown as well as digitally altered images.

A board walk leads guests up to the video beach wall where they can walk in through a mirrored doorway. The interior of the video wall is partially covered with a grid of mirrors that reflect the real beach back into the house. Some of the mirrors are actually plasma TV screens that can display real-time full sized or detailed images and sounds from the outside. Again, some may be prerecorded and some may be of the previous occupants.

Three walls of the house are made of structural concrete, surfaced with beach sand. This sand texture inside and outside, suggests that the house may have been formed from the beach like a child’s sand castle. Real beach sand also covers much of the interior floor area and all of the open deck on top of the house adjacent to a shallow wading pool. The rest of the floor area inside the house is covered with weathered wood planks.

The design of all of the facilities inside the house that accommodate basic living functions like, bathing, sleeping, eating, working and entertaining are symbolically based on images of objects associated with the beach environment. The food preparation module refers to food carts seen at the beach. The bath, toilet, storage and closet modules suggest the portable toilets use at the beach. All of the furniture suggests beach furniture. The upper level office loft structure looks as though it might be part of a lifeguard stand. A replica of a concrete beach fire pit sits on the lower level on the sand. Instead of a real fire, the pit contains various plasma TV screens showing fire images and sounds along with some real fire word and a bit of heat available on demand from a hidden electric heater. A smaller second video fire place sits on the sand in the upper level sleeping and office space.

The two side walls of the house are fitted with various sized thin flat plane plasma TV screens that are hinged to fold flat against the wall or swing out. These screens could be considered video “windows” to view the local environment (and the rest of the world). They create a real time interface with the beach as seen through the atrium. Cameras would be installed at various locations around the house and would send real time images and sounds to the video “windows”. Selections could be made for display from an ever changing menu including information from other parts of the world via the Internet. They could be used for security and for conducting business, teleconferencing , etc.

The house would have its own Web sight on the Internet and could be accessed in real time to , among other things, share the ocean view and sounds. Various audio environments could be created within and around the house by way of strategically planted microphones. These would record sounds from the local environment and play them back in various forms to create the desired effects. A large screen mounted on a roller near the top of the atrium can be lowered for sun shading or privacy. It can also be used as a video screen showing prerecorded images of the beach providing a beach view at night. Four thin plasma screens displaying images and sounds of various birds as they fly over the beach are hung from the top of the glass atrium.  Some images and sounds are shown in real time, some are prerecorded.

At the base of the atrium is a small water pool with a wave machine. It produces real waves that wash up onto the real sand inside the house. A bridge spanning it is made of glass covered video monitors displaying images of fish swimming in the ocean. Sometimes the images are sent in real time from cameras mounted in the ocean in front of the house, and sometimes they are prerecorded.

The top of the atrium is covered with photo voltaic cells that supply most of the electrical needs of the house. They also heat the water. Solar heat is also passively stored in the thermal mass of the floor and walls during the winter for space heating. Heat is vented to the outside during the summer.

The house’s ceilings are made of curved, translucent, back lit fiberglass panels and are punctured by three skylights. One skylight is built in under the top deck level pool, so the light is diffracted through the water. The other two (one on each level) are made of video screens. The screens are showing views and sounds of the sky, (either real-time or prerecorded) and sometimes show fish swimming in the ocean, viewed from underneath looking toward the sky.

(MICHAEL JANTZEN 2010)

see HUMAN SHELTER for lots more…

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MICHAEL JACKSON, artist…

08/27/2011

secret talents revealed…

by SOPHIE DUVERNOY  photos by SHANNON COTTRELL

Until now, Michael Jackson’s art collection was shrouded in mystery. It was said to be stuck in a legal dispute over possession. Then, people speculated that buyers such as Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberté were interested. It’s been valued at the staggering (and slightly unbelievable) sum of $900 million.

One crucial fact: Jackson’s art collection isn’t art by other people — it’s mainly drawings and paintings that he created himself. So what does that art look like?

Yesterday, LA Weekly was the first to visit the (until now) top-secret Santa Monica Airport hangar that Jackson used as his studio and art storehouse. The collection is currently owned by Brett-Livingstone Strong, the Australian monument builder and Jackson’s art mentor through the years, in conjunction with the Jackson estate.

Though the entire art collection has been mired in disputes and battles for rights, Strong claims that he is working with everybody — the family, the estate, as well as others — to exhibit and publish as much of Jackson’s work as possible.

According to Strong, he and Jackson formed an incorporated business partnership in 1989, known as the Jackson-Strong alliance. This gave each partner a fifty-percent stake in the other’s art. In 2008, Strong says, Jackson requested that his attorney sign the rights to Jackson’s portion of the art over to Strong. Now, Strong is beginning to reveal more and more of the art as he goes ahead with Jackson’s dream of organizing a museum exhibit.

Strong gave us a tour of the hangar, beginning with the Michael Jackson monument that Strong and Jackson co-designed several years ago. It’s perhaps bombastic, but designed with good intentions and the rabid Jackson fan in mind. Strong explains, “He wanted his fans to be able to get married at a monument that would have all of his music [in an archive, and playing on speakers], to inspire some of his fans.”

the studio...

The current design is still in the works, but it’s conceived as an interactive monument — fans who buy a print by Jackson will receive a card in the mail. They can scan this card at the monument, and then have a computer organize a personal greeting for them, or allow them to book it for weddings. Jackson initially thought it would be perfect for Las Vegas, but Strong says that Los Angeles might have the honor of hosting it — apparently, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently paid a visit and made a few oblique promises.

As for Jackson’s art, the contents of the hangar barely scratched the surface of the collection, as Strong estimates Jackson’s total output at 150 to 160 pieces. A few large pieces hanging on the walls had been donated as reproductions to the L.A. Children’s Hospital last Monday, along with other sketches and poems.

In all of his art, certain motifs kept cropping up: chairs (usually quite baroque), gates, keys and the number 7. His portrait of Bubbles, his pet chimpanzee, shows a monkey-like face vanishing into a cushy, ornate lounge chair. “He loved chairs,” says Strong. “He thought chairs were the thrones of most men, women and children, where they made their decisions for their daily activity. He was inspired by chairs. Rather than just do a portrait of the monkey, he put it in the chair. And you see, there are a few sevens — because he’s the seventh child.”

Jackson, who was a technically talented artist — and completely self-taught — fixated on these motifs, elevating everyday objects into cult symbols. Strong added that Jackson’s sketchbooks are completely filled with studies of his favorite objects, in endless permutations.

But Jackson also created portraits: a small sketch of Paul McCartney, and a large drawing of George Washington, created as Strong was working with the White House to commemorate the bicentennial of the Constitution back in 1987. He also sketched self-portraits — one as a humorous four-panel drawing charting his growing-up process, and a darker one that depicts him as a child cowering in a corner, inscribed with a sentence reflecting on his fragility.

one of an unfinished series of the U.S. presidents...

As an artist, Jackson preferred using wax pencils, though Strong adds, “He did do a lot of watercolors but he gave them away. He was a little intimidated by mixing colors.” Some surviving pencils are archived in the hangar; Strong moves over to a cabinet on the far wall of the hangar and pulls out a ziploc bag containing a blue wax pencil, a white feathered quill and a white glove that Jackson used for drawing.

Jackson turned to art as times got hard for him. “His interest in art, in drawing it, was just another level of his creativity that went on over a long period of time,” Strong says. “It was quite private to him. I think he retreated into it when he was being attacked by those accusations against him.” The sketches and drawings certainly reveal an extremely sensitive creator, though it’s clear that Jackson also had a sense of humor.

Jackson’s art was kept under wraps for such a long time simply because of the pedophilia scandal, which erupted right around the time that he was looking for a way to publicize the works. “A lot of his art was going to be exhibited 18 years ago. Here’s one of his tour books, where he talks about exhibiting art. He didn’t want it to be a secret,” Strong says, pointing at a leaflet from the 1992 Dangerous World Tour.

Prior to that period, Jackson and Strong had met and become fast friends. This marked the beginning of Strong’s mentorship, in which he encouraged Jackson to create bigger paintings and drawings, and exhibit his work. The idea behind their Jackson-Strong Alliance was that Strong would help Jackson manage and exhibit his art. Notably, the alliance birthed Strong’s infamous $2 million portrait of Michael Jackson entitled The Book, the only known portrait Jackson ever sat for.

In 1993, everything blew up. At the time, Jackson and Strong were both on the board of Big Brothers of Los Angeles (now known as Big Brothers Big Sisters), a chapter of the national youth mentoring organization established in L.A. by Walt Disney and Meredith Willson. They had planned out a fundraising campaign involving Jackson’s art. Strong explains, “We thought that if we would market [his art] in limited edition prints to his fans, he could support the charities that he wanted to, rather than have everybody think that he was so wealthy he could afford to finance everybody.” When the pedophilia scandal erupted, Disney put a freeze on the project. The artwork stayed put, packed away from public eyes in storage crates.

As for the spectacular appraisal of $900 million for Jackson’s art collection, Strong says that it derives from the idea of reproducing prints as well. The figure was originally quoted by Eric Finzi, of Belgo Fine Art Appraisers. “The reason somebody came out with that was because there was an appraisal on if all of his originals were reproduced — he wanted to do limited editions of 777 — and he would sell them to his fan base in order to build his monument, support kids and do other things. You multiply that by 150 originals, and if they sold for a few thousand dollars each, then you would end up with 900 million dollars.” Fair enough, though now Strong says he has gone to an appraiser in Chicago to get that value double-checked, and they arrived at an even higher estimate.

The story of Jackson’s art ends up being quite a simple one, though confused by so much hearsay and rumor. Strong and the Jackson estate will slowly reveal more works as time passes, and an exhibit is tentatively planned for L.A.’s City Hall. Negotiations with museums for a posthumous Jackson retrospective are still underway, but Strong has high hopes. He’s even talking of building a Michael Jackson museum that would house all of Jackson’s artwork.

We’ll leave you with Strong’s own description of Jackson at work, during the time where they shared a studio in a house in Pacific Palisades:

He was in a very light and happy mood most of the time. He would have the oldies on, and sometimes he’d hear some of his Jackson Five songs. He’d kind of move along to that, but most of the time he would change it and listen to a variety of songs. He liked classical music. His inspiration to create was that he loved life, and wanted to express his love of life in some of these simple compositions.

I came to the studio one day, and we had a Malamute. I came into the house, and I heard this dog barking and thought, Wow, I wonder what that is. I go into the kitchen, and I couldn’t help but laugh when I see Michael up in the pots and pans in the middle of the center island. He’s holding a pen and paper and the dog is running around the island and barking at him, and he says, “He wants to play! He wants to play!” He’s laughing, and I’m laughing about it as I’m thinking to myself, “I’m wondering how long he’s been up there.”

Michael Jackson’s dedication to art: so strong that he’ll end up perched on a kitchen island.

(LA WEEKLY  8.17.11)

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“THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER”

08/25/2011

one of Scorsese’s favorite rock-n-roll films ever….

by JEFF STAFFORD

You might not know the name but you know the face. One of the most eccentric character actors in American cinema, he has had the rare distinction of working with everyone from James Dean and Elia Kazan (in East of Eden) to Marlon Brando (on The Wild One & One-Eyed Jacks) to Stanley Kubrick (on The Killing & Paths of Glory) to John Cassavetes (on Minnie and Moskowitz & The Killing of a Chinese Bookie) to The Monkees (on their feature debut Head, co-written by Jack Nicholson and directed by Bob Rafelson) to Mr. T, Bill Maher and Gary Busey in D.C. Cab…and I’m leaving out Clark Gable (Across the Wide Missouri), Francis the Talking Mule (Francis in the Navy), director Curtis Harrington (What’s the Matter With Helen?) and god knows who else. We’re talking about Timothy Carey and probably his greatest role is the one you’ve never seen – The World’s Greatest Sinner.

Written, directed and starring Timothy Carey, The World’s Greatest Sinner truly qualifies as an underground movie in more ways than one. Not only did it never receive an official theatrical release, making it practically impossible to see unless it was at one-off screenings organized by Carey, but the film defies practically every convention of commercial filmmaking, inventing its own film language as it goes along. Is it a Dadaist prank? (Carey was a huge fan of Salvador Dali) Is it an allegory about American culture and society? Is it a Beat Generation rejection of conformity? Or is it some kind of crackpot masterpiece about self-actualization? It’s probably all of the above and then some.

Here’s the basic concept of The World’s Greatest Sinner in a nutshell. An insurance agent named Clarence Hilliard suddenly has a revelation at work and discards his nine-to-five existence for streetcorner sermonizing. But he doesn’t preach the gospel. Instead he espouses his own spiritual beliefs after making a pact with the Devil (the voice of Paul Frees in the guise of a snake) - “There’s only one God, and that’s Man.” Soon, he changes his name to God and begins to attract a following of new converts through his live rockabilly performances and impassioned rabble-rousing. His promise to make everyone a “superhuman being” brings him into the political arena where he runs as an independent for President of the United States. As his power and influence grows, so does his delusion that he is invincible. He seduces 80-year-old women and 14-year-old girls alike in his blatant flaunting of taboos, incites riots, and eventually challenges the real God to a showdown.

As audacious as it sounds, the execution is decidedly un-Hollywood in presentation. The film, featuring a cast of non-professional actors with few exceptions, has a home movie feel to it, with scenes shot in Carey’s home, his neighborhood, in and around Los Angeles and on cheap interior, low-budget sets. The sound recording is inferior and some of the dialogue is hard to hear, the cinematography (by Ray Dennis Steckler of The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living… fame, among others) is wildly uneven from poorly lit scenes to an obvious fondness for the odd detail,  and the editing is haphazard, resulting in occasional incoherence that is closer to stream-of-consciousness musings than a conventional linear approach to narrative.

The musical segments, in particular, are especially memorable because Carey recruited a young, unknown-at-the-time Frank Zappa to compose the score – and it’s one reason for the movie’s cult fame. Zappa would later dismiss the movie, according to Carey, stating that The World’s Greatest Sinner was “the world’s worst film and all the actors were from skid row.” But the same accusations would later be leveled at the films of John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Multiple Maniacs) which shares so many sensibilities and renegade filmmaking tactics with Carey’s opus.

Of course, the main reason to see The World’s Greatest Sinner is to observe Timothy Carey with the brakes removed. He’s mesmerizing in every scene but subtlety is not his speciality. Some critics have accused him of being a total ham and his scene chewing has an excessive, bigger-than-life quality. But just try to tear your eyes away from the screen. Watch him shake like a bowl of radioactive jello as his Elvis-like alter ego dressed in gold lamé (There’s a little James Brown thrown in as well – “Please! Please! Please! Please! Please! Take My Hand!” –  and maybe even some Tiny Tim). See him transform before your eyes into a hell and brimstone evangelist or play it sweet and low-key as an insurance salesman who’s just “seem the light.”

Carey has always had his own “style” of acting and when you start to consider all of the parts he’s played, he stands out in every movie, even in films where a director like Stanley Kubrick tightly controls every detail right down to an actor’s performance. Among some of my favorite Carey performances are his scary whorehouse bouncer in East of Eden, the shellshocked, emotionally damaged soldier facing execution in Paths of Glory, the creepy gangster assigned to watch over hostage Phyllis Kirk in Andre de Toth’s Crime Wave, one of the hell-raising motorcycle gang members in The Wild One and his racetrack marksman in The Killing. Now you can add God Hilliard in The World’s Greatest Sinner to your list of favorite Carey roles. If you want to know more about Carey, there are countless web sites about him on the internet but I recommend you start with his son Romeo Carey’s site – Absolute Films.

(MOVIE MORLOCKS.COM  9.20.08)

“THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER” 1962 directed by Timothy Carey

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the ARCHIGRAM GROUP…

08/23/2011

Peter CookMichael Webb, David Greene, Ron HerronWarren Chalk and Dennis Crompton…

from ARCHIGRAM

The Archigram Group came together in the early 1960s.  Peter Cook’s cartoons in the Archigram Story tell something of how it happened.  There was only a short period of about two years between 1962 and 1964, when we were all in the same place at the same time.  This was when we produced our first major exhibition, “Living City” (shown at the ICA in London in 1963).

(ARCHIGRAM)

see the Archigram Archival Project for an incredible collection of images relating to the group’s magazines and projects…

an index of Archigram projects here

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the BOOK OF THE CONSTELLATIONS…

08/21/2011

the art of ancient astronomy…

from WORLD DIGITAL LIBRARY

The astronomer ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Umar al-Sufi, commonly known as al-Sufi, was born in Persia (present-day Iran) in 903 A.D. and died in 986. He worked in Isfahan and in Baghdad, and is known for his translation from Greek into Arabic of the Almagest by the ancient astronomer Ptolemy. Al-Sufi’s most famous work is Kitab suwar al-kawakib (Book of the constellations of the fixed stars), which he published around 964. In this work, al-Sufi describes the 48 constellations that were established by Ptolemy and adds criticisms and corrections of his own. For each of the constellations, he provides the indigenous Arab names for their stars, drawings of the constellations, and a table of stars showing their locations and magnitude. Al-Sufi’s book spurred further work on astronomy in the Arabic and Islamic worlds, and exercised a huge influence on the development of science in Europe. The work was frequently copied and translated. This copy, from the collections of the Library of Congress, was produced somewhere in south or central Asia, circa 1730, and is an exact copy of a manuscript, now lost, prepared for Ulug Beg of Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan) in 1417 [820 A.H.]. The Bibliothèque nationale de France has a manuscript of the Kitab suwar al-kawakib that was prepared for Ulug Beg in 1436.

(WORLD DIGITAL LIBRARY)

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“TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE”

08/19/2011

BOOKS TO (OBSCURE) FILM: PART 3

author as director…

by PAUL BRENNER

Norman Mailer wrote and directed this demented film noir, which takes place in a Provincetown of perpetual twilight. Most of the tale, based on his best-selling novel, is told in flashback as Dougy Madden (Lawrence Tierney) pays a visit to his son Tim (Ryan O’Neal). Dougy, a tough ex-bartender, is ravaged by cancer and decides to see Tim one last time in order. But Tim is suffering both from writer’s block and from the effects of too many years of drink, drugs, and sex. His sexy wife Patty Lariene (Debra Sandlund) has recently left him and disappeared. Even worse, one morning he awakens from his stupor to find the front seat of his car covered with blood and a severed head inside his drug stash. He tries to rekindle a relationship with his ex-wife Madeleine (Isabella Rossellini), now married to the psychotic Provincetown police chief, Alvin Luther Regency (Wings Hauser), and he re-acquaints himself with old prep school friend Wardley Meeks III (John Bedford Lloyd), who was also married to the missing Patty Lareine. As the murders pile up and Tim’s psyche takes a beating, Dougy decides to help Tim put an end to this chaotic mess of murders.

(ROTTEN TOMATOES)

“TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE” 1987 directed by Norman Mailer

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