Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?

This is the story of an architect—which I suppose requires me to reference Martin Mull's quote, "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture."

No, it's not really relevant, since there's no dancing in this movie, but I bet you didn't know Martin Mull said that.

So, Norman Foster is the guy who builds these sorts of buildings: Click. Swoopy, glassy, bright, sci-fi-ish looking buildings. Recently, for example, he built the Peking airport for the Olympics.

This is a nice, short movie, that mostly curbs the documentarian's urge to use as much of the dozens of hours of footage he shoots as he can.

The movie veers briefly into politics. Not in a polemic way, but more of a reflective look at Mr. Foster's world view. Which is surprisingly fascist. Communist. Whatever word the kids are using these days to describe a totalitarian world view.

I shouldn't say that: It wasn't all that surprising, on reflection, nor is it necessarily all that statist. Architects basically do with people what computer programmers do with bits, but people are very unruly. And freedom is often ugly and inefficient. So Foster's pining about certain kinds of control is predictably about aesthetics.

I think architects are all trying to play SimCity.

Anyway, fun movie. Perhaps not as interesting as Sydney Pollack's Gehry, but maybe Foster's buildings don't leak as much.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Girl Who Played With Fire

This is the second in the "The Girl..." trilogy, the Swedish series that's become a sensation of sorts over here in America, taking up where The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo left off.

It feels like a lot of "second" movies, in that the first one actually resolved very well, and didn't feel open ended—you know, when they probably weren't sure there were going to be second and third movies?—whereas this one demands the third movie in the trilogy.

That said, the books were a trilogy (with a fourth one being written when the author Stieg Larsson died) so there are a lot of unresolved questions that reveal a lot more of the history of the titular girl.

And there's a lot of history to be learned. How did Lisbeth end up in state care? What's up with her mother? Where's her father? Who's the giant albino who seems to be chasing her? And why?

This movie is generally less well reviewed than the first, and it's certainly less shocking and seamy, but in a lot of ways I liked it better. Lisbeth seems to have more depth to her character.

You may recall that I called the first movie very Swedish? Well, this movie is possibly even more so. Where Lisbeth seems to have more depth and history both ancient and recent, Mikael, our crusading reporter, is a supporting character. And barely supporting at that.

Lisbeth pretty much has to handle everything on her own here, as Mikael frets and broods from a safe distance. He's the epitome of a "beta" in a lot ways. But it really is Lisbeth's story.

I enjoyed this movie, as I said, but I tend to think these movies are being over-estimated. They're really just lurid crime dramas, and while they're well done, they're not that remarkable.

Still we liked it, and—well, the final movie in the trilogy is more legal wrangling than crime drama.