Thursday, July 23, 2009

Comic Con® 2009

First day of Comic Con, and I'm nowhere near San Diego.

Never thought I'd get twitchy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crazy 4 Cult: 3D

If there's one thing I'm addicted to, it's the influence of movies on American pop culture: the catchphrases, the toys, the homages, and the general love of cinema we have as Americans.

Over the weekend, while making a run to Golden Apple, the wife and I stopped in at Gallery 1988 for the third annual Crazy 4 Cult art show. The show features over 100 pieces of art paying tribute to cult movies and pop culture in general. The Big Lebowski is one of the more common movies being represented here, along with Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Back to the Future, Goonies, Clerks, Army of Darkness, and Edward Scissorhands (and that's just scratching the surface).

But aside from the amazing artwork, a lot of the fun of this show is just picking out and identifying the movies depicted in these scenes. Where else can you go to geek out this hard for free?

Gallery 1988
7020 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 937-7088

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Chemosphere

On a list of great movie houses, this one sits at the top (right near the Sleeper House, and the Ennis-Brown house). Movie audiences were first introduced to the Chemosphere in Brian De Palma's Body Double (easily the movie's best part). But the house was a feat of engineering twenty years before that.

In 1960, John Lautner was commissioned by engineer Leonard Malin to build a house on a piece of land he inherited in the Hollywood Hills. The property offered sweeping views of the San Fernando Valley, but no solid foundation for a house (not much more than dry rock and a steep hill). Lautner's solution was both rushed and technically impressive: an octagonal structure sitting on a concrete post, several hundred feet above the ground. The residence is accessible by either a lengthy stair climb, or rail car.

If you can make the pilgrimage into the hills (although I wouldn't suggest driving on Mulholland at night), it's definitely worth it. Just making the turn onto Torreyson Drive and seeing the space ship hovering in the trees makes this one of the most surreal and amazing sightseeing trips L.A. has to offer. The Chemosphere is located at 7776 Torreyson Drive, just off Mulholland Drive.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Garcia House

Anyone who's seen Lethal Weapon 2 knows this house. Riggs (Mel Gibson) tied his truck to one of the support beams and proceeded to rend the structure from its very perch on the hillside.

Built in 1962, the Garcia House was designed by famed architect John Lautner. Located at 7436 Mulholland Drive, the house hovers over the hillside, using two V-shaped beams planted in the ground. This cantilevered approach is not uncommon in the Hills, where houses literally hang over the edge of the hill, seemingly suspended in space. Along with the Chemosphere (Malin House), this is a great example of California Modern architecture - shaped, in part, by Lautner.

You can see the front of the house while driving on Mulholland Drive, but this picture was taken from La Cuesta Dr., just southwest of the Mulholland.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jeff Bridges' apartment in TRON

In the movie TRON, Jeff Bridges' character, Kevin Flynn, lives in a small apartment over an arcade he runs in his spare time.

Most of the filming locations used in the movie are in Northern California. But for Kevin Flynn's apartment, they used a modest brick building in Culver City. On the commentary, Director Steven Lisberger mentions the building was across the street from the old MGM lot, which is now the Sony Studios.

Not much has changed since 1982. The only thing missing is the 'Flynn's Arcade' sign above the arched windows. The building is located at the corner of Washington Blvd and Watseka Ave (just down the street from Sony).

Monday, July 6, 2009


A little off-topic, I realize, but if you get the chance to see this movie, it is very well worth it.

The film shares thematic similarities with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and RoboCop that are both mesmerizing and heartbreaking.

Sam Rockwell plays astronaut Sam Bell, a technician mining the dark side of the moon for clean fuel to ship back to Earth. Except for a computer named Gerty (the very obvious H.A.L. connection), he is completely alone. The only interaction with humans being pre-recorded messages sent from his wife and baby on Earth. He spends his spare time carving a miniature wooden model of small town, hitting a speed bad, and maintaining his fraying nerves.

After an accident on the lunar surface, Sam is revived by Gerty in the infirmary, only to see a mirror image of himself watching over him. An anomaly that brings with it mystery, and some much-needed human interaction for Sam in his closing days on the Moon.

The movie is remarkable for (if nothing else) Rockwell's performance of Sam. And another Sam. He literally carries the movie on his shoulders. The only other faces we see are on pre-recorded video. The only skin contact he has is with himself (in more ways than one). Rockwell is truly an underrated actor and worth the price of admission.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who Framed Roger Rabbit locations

The first location in the movie is Ren-Mar Studios, standing in for Maroon Cartoons. A more detailed history can be found here, but the studio gained fame in 1953 when it became Desilu Productions. And since then, it's been home to many television productions and music videos. This picture was taken in 2006, and even today, the studio doesn't look much different than it appeared in the film.

After his meeting with R.K. Maroon, Eddie is seen boarding a trolley back to the Valiant Detective Agency. His office building still stands, although much of the street as changed dramatically (and with the fire damage seen in the picture, it's amazing it's still standing, at all). The Terminal Bar across the street is no more. In its place now stands a parking structure. And much of the surrounding area (only a few blocks southeast of The Staples Center) continues redevelopment.

Later in the film, as Eddie and Roger escape from the Weasels, Benny the Cab hops a bridge and speeds off. This is the Hyperion Bridge, in Glendale. As pictured, the bridge hasn't changed much in appearance from 1988.

Rounding out the last of the L.A. locations in the movie is the River Road Tunnel, serving as the entrance to Toontown. The tunnel is located on Vermont Canyon Rd (you'll drive through it on your way up to the Observatory). A little set dressing was used on the mouth of the tunnel for the Toontown entrance, and it still looks like it did when the movie was released.

My directions for getting to the Tunnel were from Los Feliz Blvd. From Los Feliz Blvd, go north on N. Vermont Ave., which will become Vermont Canyon Rd. when you pass the Greek Theater. Stay on this road through a few twists and turns, and you will approach the Tunnel.

The tunnel was also used in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (Peter Weller zooms out the opposite end on a Harley), and again in
Zemeckis' next feature, Back to the Future Part II (this is where Biff tries to run down Marty in the Ford).