Monthly Archives: July 2011

An internet break

To all who have ventured into the realm of my blog I just wanted to let you know that I am forced to take a break from blogging due to an always exhausting and time-consuming move to a new place, a lack of internet access at said place (for the time being) and the daily hassle of work.

I will be coming back as soon as I can with the end of my Clint Eastwood cycle as I continue with my IMDB top 250 films challenge. Upcoming reviews of movies I’ve already seen will be “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” to finish with the top-rated Eastwood film, then the horror classic “The Thing” and the romantic classic “Casablanca”.

I will also look to continue my new series: Best Moments in Film History, and my first series of this blog of mine: Searching for the Perfect Chicago Skyscraper.

From now on, I will also be splitting my time with a second blog that will be entirely devoted to the greatest of my hobbies: soccer. For that reason, my time spent towards this blog might be reduced although I will continue to try my best to keep this blog as fresh and updated as possible even though it might be harder than it used to be.  

Until we meet again…

Niels

Advertisements

IMDB Top 250: Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

I continue my IMDB challenge with another Clint Eastwood film, the third I review after Unforgiven and Gran Torino. Having already watched other masterworks like Mystic River (4 out of 5) and Million Dollar Baby (4 out of 5) before I started the challenge, I will close my analysis of the great Clint with what is the highest-rated of all his films: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in an upcoming post. Today though, it is time for his underrated Letters from Iwo Jima.

There are two sides to every story. For Clint Eastwood “Iwo Jima” was a chance to tell the Japanese story during WWII. The film was to stand in direct contrast to his other motion-picture release in 2006: “Flag of Our Fathers” which elegantly portrayed the American side of the conflict.

A great deal of credit should go to Mr. Eastwood for crafting a movie that delicately meanders through sensitive material that attempts to show us that war is as equally tragic and raw for both sides of a conflict. It is a testament to Eastwood’s sensibility that such a movie got the go-ahead from a Hollywood establishment that knew, as do we, that if a movie that is sensitive to the Japanese during the war was ever to be made, there could have hardly found anyone better that the detailed-oriented and mild-mannered Clint Eastwood to direct it.

Having said that, no one could expect “Letters from Iwo Jima” to be a factual representation of the events that transpired on the island. In fact, most of the artistic licenses taken probably made the film more effective as it help show that it was not a movie about the specifics of the war, but about the tragic human conflict that transpired on the ground. Once again, Eastwood makes a film that is elegantly embedded with layers of meaning that try to tackle the complexities of the human spirit in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. Eastwood does not take sides. His statement is to simply show that war is a calamity no matter what side you are on and that most of the soldiers are simply victims of higher powers.

There are aspects within “Iwo Jima” that are rather commonplace in a film touching upon WWII. There are the cowards, the fanatics of war, the patriots, the courageous leaders of men and, of course, the followers. In fact, the film suffers a bit when it relies on these typologies a bit too much. However, Iwo Jima has a dramatic power that comes from its realist feel of the struggle. Some of the merit for the effectiveness of this film should go to the casting director who assembled a very talented group of Japanese actors led by Ken Watanabe as General Kuribayashi.

The manner of the direction immerses us as one of the soldiers. The proximity to the men in the caves and their struggle to survive speaks about a film that is more interested in exploring the battered spirit of the Japanese soldiers, many of whom knew they had come to the island to die, leaving their families and lives behind, away from the mainland. In this context, the harshness and austere quality of the terrain where the movie was shot helps to bring out the sense of solitude and helplessness that the Japanese soldier must have felt while patiently waiting inside make-shift caves, as the grand fleet of American forces was deployed on the shores.

Overall, Iwo Jima deserves some praise, but when compared to other war-time films like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler List, Iwo Jima appears to be a bit too modest and a bit too careful to equal some of the modern masterpieces that tried to capture the tragedy of WWII.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (very good)

Niels

Searching for the perfect Chicago skyscraper (part 4): The Reliance Building

It is of no surprise to me that this study has gotten to its fourth post barely having scratched the surface of my search for the perfect Chicago skyscraper. In case you missed them, please check them out on the category tab under “Architecture”.
In this part I will continue analyzing skyscrapers grouped under the title “Tall and Wise” which refers to buildings built before WWII and the rise of Modernism.

Tall and Wise (…continued)

The Reliance Building

Like The Home Insurance Building before it, The Reliance is widely considered, with good reason, one of the most important steps in the development of the skyscraper. To the untrained eye, The Reliance nowadays might seem like one of many “old looking buildings” in downtown Chicago clad in stone and heavily ornamented. However, The Reliance’s greatness becomes clear given the epoch in which it was built.
For decades, neo-classicism had taken architecture hostage to ancient tradition, forcing buildings to be clad in heavy masonry. The development of steel frame construction allowed designers to call for fully glazed enclosures, which would not appear until well into the 20th century due to the stylistic and technological resistance of an always conservative construction industry.
It is within this context that The Reliance stands tall as it was a step away from the typical neo-classical high-rise of small windows and ornamented stone-clad facades, and a step toward the “steel and glass modernist skyscrapers”.
Designed by Burnham and Root, The Reliance was a happy accident. Changes in budget, technology and in the approach toward the initial design gave us a building with the highest ratio of glass to stone ever built. The overall weight and heaviness of a more typical neoclassical building was replaced by a more simple, slender and economical structure. The Reliance was not, however, a complete departure from tradition since the architects still opted to clad it in terra-cotta with ornamental motifs.
With the Reliance, Root as the head designer of the firm showed his willingness towards a more austere kind of architecture. Root was also able to adapt to a very problematic construction (the project was halted for nearly 3 years) and his ability to offer original and sophisticated solutions for projects immersed in difficulty made him a true innovator. Had it not been for his premature death, the firm of Burnham & Root might have continued to move closer towards modernism, even before the arrival of the great Mies van der Rohe to the shores of Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, Burnham had to carry the load of the partnership by himself, resulting in a step back towards neoclassicism that halted the development of architecture for years to come.
This is not to say the first couple of decades of the 20th century was void of good ideas (I have already covered great skyscrapers completed then) but it certainly represented, in the bigger picture, a transitional period of limited advancement in the evolution of the skyscraper in America.

Niels