Category: Film

Trinity Place sendoff

Thursday, August 24th, 2006 | All Things, Film, Friends, NYC History

Another night at Trinity Place — this time for B’s send-off.

I wrote about this space two weeks ago, but did want to add a few notes about the building’s architect, Francis Hatch Kimball. Kimball was one of the most prolific architects of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the early 1890’s, he pioneered a technique for constructing foundations with mechanically sunken concrete cylinders on which builders could erect full iron and steel frames — a design which Kimball later employed for the Trinity and U.S. Realty buildings, in which the bar now sits. Kimball’s technique served as a precursor to the method of bridge and building foundation construction still in use today. For these and other innovations, the New York Times dubbed Kimball “the father of the skyscraper” in their December 1919 obituary.

Trinity Place rests on the very spot where New York City’s first office building once stood. And if the legend is to be believed: atop the railroad tracks which were built to transport the bank vault to its location in the cellar of 115 Broadway.

Here, the repurposed elevator bank — now wine storage:

Trinity Place Wine

And I noticed for the first time this evening, an actual pile of shredded money encased in one of the rear dining room walls.

A good turnout for B, I thought, and I was pleased to meet the co-workers, particularly JF, about whom I’d heard so much this past year. I was put on the spot when he quizzed me about my favorite movies, and I didn’t have a ready answer. Since then, I’ve had time to ponder it, and although I am hesitant to make lists of this kind, I’ve come up with these ten as a starting point. In order of release:

Duck Soup, Casablanca, The Godfather (Part II — but of course, the original is also great), The Decalogue (if I had to pick one of the ten: One ), Say Anything, GoodFellas, The Wrong Trousers, The Shawshank Redemption, The English Patient and In the Mood for Love.

We also had a pretty amusing conversation about dating dealbreakers. I remember having a similar discussion with KD back in his single days. At the time, one of his was: “lacking a rudimentary sense of irony.” I offered “picky eater,” which JF found to be unnecessarily harsh. Is it really?

What can I say? I love the food. And I love New York — hence this blog. So “hating New York” would have to be another one.

[Edited to add: How could I forget The Princess Bride and The Matrix ? Oh, and I always watch When Harry Met Sally whenever I catch it on TV… which is not that infrequently — thanks TBS. Hmmm… I’m sure there are more that I’m omitting…]

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Factotum at The W

Monday, August 7th, 2006 | All Things, Film, NYC History

Attended a screening of Bent Hamer’s Factotum tonight at the W – Union Square hotel’s Grand Ballroom.

In its previous life, the 20-story in Beaux Arts–style building now housing the W New York – Union Square was known to 20th century New Yorkers as the Guardian Life Insurance Building. Originally named The Germania Life Insurance Company (after its founding by German immigrants), the company was renamed to “Guardian” after the German association became a liability during World War I. And not coincidentally, the name change did not require changing any of the decorative “GLIC” masonry carved throughout the building.

The company headquarters was built in 1911, and boasted one of the early versions of neon signage on their distinctive four-story mansard roof. The current “W Union Square” sign is a tribute and close style reproduction of the old sign.

In 1998, the Related Companies, LP paid $45 million for the landmarked tower at Park Avenue South and 17th Street when Guardian decided to move its operations downtown to Hanover Square. The company spent an additional $100 million to transform the Union Square building into a boutique hotel, while maintaining some of the original old–New York charm, including the marble stairwells and moldings, original tiled elevator landings and a spectacular marble-columned, plaster flower ceilinged, double-height ballroom on the second floor that once had been Guardian’s bank hall, then employee cafeteria.

Here, the ornate white marbled grand arcade, with elaborately scrolled arches and overhead domes (with “GLIC” detail):

W Grand Hall

The Rockwell Group designed the space to accommodate old and new. The modern main staircase emerges from the sleek lobby, following the arch of the original one, which was removed during the years-long renovation.

W Staircase

At the pre-screening reception, CS and I were treated to an open concessions bar: funky glassed Voss water (Norwegian water in honor of the Norwegian director?), sodas, Twizzlers, M&Ms, Junior Mints, Red Hots, Pirate’s Booty, popcorn – the works. Also some tasty Crème de Cassis-concoctions in martini glasses, but those seemed like potential trouble, so we demurred after just one each.

As the title frame informs: “Factotum” means “man of many jobs.” The film is an adaptation of prolific cult author Charles Bukowski‘s 1975 novel and incorporates elements from his many short stories. A portrait of the artist as a young drunk, the film is a series of booze-soaked vignettes revolving around the debauched misadventures of Bukowski’s alter ego, Henry (Hank) Chinaski (played by Matt Dillon) — a self-destructive, self-proclaimed story writer who burns through a series of menial jobs in his quest for the fleeting satisfactions of gambling, women and drink. For a time, he maintains a relationship of sorts with Jan, another hard-living, vulnerable soul, played to raspy effect by Lili Taylor (who is in my mind indelibly associated with her role as would-be folk singer Corey Flood in one of my favorite movies, Say Anything. “The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.”) Hank and Jan’s rushed coupling seems doomed from the start, yet despite being fueled by mutual drunkenness, loneliness and brutality, there are surprising flashes of tenderness, such as when Hank stops in the street to place his own shoes on Jan’s feet when she can no longer walk in her high heels. The movie as a whole was like that, too, and despite suffering through repeated indignities and failures, Hank seemed to view his life with bemusement rather than rage or desperation, while making no apologies for his degeneration.

After the film, we enjoyed tasty chicken salads, al fresco at Republic on Union Square.

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World Trade Center screening

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006 | All Things, Film

Brooklyn’s Borough Hall is a four-story marble Greek revival building that currently houses the borough president’s office. Before January 1898, when the independent City of Brooklyn was consolidated into the City of New York, it served as the City Hall of Brooklyn.

Borough Hall

Nearby on Court Street, I attended an advance screening of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. In contrast to yesterday’s screening attempt, this was a more orderly, lower key affair: RSVP required, and the Paramount representatives were checking names at the door, which cut down on the whole cattle-call feel these events tend to have. We arrived about 45 minutes before show time, and were among the first inside; at start time, the theatre was only two-thirds full — perhaps understandable given the still sensitive subject matter. The subdued atmosphere may also have been in keeping with the studio’s careful marketing of the film; the producers are planning no outdoor advertising in New York and New Jersey. In addition, 10% of the first five days’ grosses will be donated to September 11 charities.

What to say about the film itself, which unavoidably recalls all the emotions of that most terrible day? The natural comparison will be to the other recent September 11 movie, Universal Picture’s United 93, which I screened in film class earlier this year. From a purely cinematic standpoint, both films faithfully recreate events and characters, while offering little commentary. Even Stone, one of our more controversial working filmmakers, mostly shies from his usual editorializing. United 93, where most of the action was confined to the close plane cabin, may have been more viscerally “exciting,” but World Trade Center is broader in scale, and perhaps more emotional in its focus on the two Port Authority Police Officers and their families who are the film’s subjects. Of particular note was the startling accuracy and scale of the sets: I vividly remember roaming those very corridors of the World Trade Center concourse; the collapse — as seen from the perspective of the trapped officers — is terrifying. A few sequences had audience members quietly sobbing in their seats; particularly difficult to watch was the shot of the lone tower jumper.

Feeling drained after the movie, we wandered around the corner to Atlantic Avenue for dinner at Waterfalls Cafe. Wonderfully fresh, flavorful Middle Eastern fare — friendly owner, and their smokey Babaghanouj was I think the best I’ve had in New York City, or anywhere else.

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