Friday, November 14, 2008

The little house I used to live in

Via Secondtino, this rather cool video of an attempt (by Dutch designer Piet Schreuders) to digitally recreate Laurel-and-Hardy-era downtown Culver City.

The setting in the clip is minutes from where we lived during our last four years in southern California. We meandered down those very streets many times. And from our current vantage point, all the way up the coast, the filmic history / mythology that suffuses not only Culver City, but all of LA, is indeed compelling. So I get why a European would be fascinated enough to want to undertake this project.

Of course, when that history / mythology was right in front of me all the time I found it irritating beyond belief.

I considered myself an avid film buff before moving to LA. My last job before heading off to grad school (back in 1995) was working in the AV department of a local library -- and one of the perks of that job was that I had direct access to a pretty extensive collection of the very flicks that are usually included in the typical "canon." I watched most of them -- hundreds of movies -- during the year I had that job. (I had to geek it up, of course, by forcing myself to take notes on most of what I saw.)

And I brought that enthusiasm with me to USC. I took every film class I could. I took advantage of the school's impressive film library (which was, needless to say, much more extensive than my old job's), back when doing so as a non-cinema major was pretty hassle-free. And I'll admit it: I naively thought it was the coolest thing in the world that there was a building on campus named after George Lucas.

And then, at some point, I slowly but ineluctably became impatient with the whole culture. I grew tired of getting stuck in traffic at random because some film production had decided to take over an entire city block (or more). I grew tired of randomly but repeatedly meeting people who were "in the business," each of whom was driven by that "special idea" that would be the "next big thing." (I grew tired, in other words, of dodging pitches.) I grew tired of the way Hollywood -- a concept more complex than the stereotype, but certainly rooted in it -- put its style-over-substance stamp on everything. (I'm sure the academic star system is a national phenomenon, but to me it made perfect sense that such a thing would thrive at a place like USC.)

And because I found less and less to like about the way movies are made, or the people who make them, I (unfairly, I admit) found myself generally unable to enjoy the art form at all anymore.

Crazy, huh?

In a weird way, maybe it was a good phase for me to go through -- it ultimately (and radically) helped me affirm my commitment to the ear (not the eye) as the superior human sense organ.

And all is not lost: now that I've escaped from LA, I'm happy to report that I'm slowly learning to dig film again. Of course, now I'm getting off on stupid shit like War of the Colossal Beast and The Crawling Eye. But it's a start, right?

Anyway, context is everything.

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BTW, this is awesome:

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