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Brutalism's Bullies

In late April, the city of Baltimore issued a certificate of demolition for the Morris A. Mechanic Theater, prevailing in a lengthy quest to destroy one of its most unique buildings. With a character somewhere between a stone-age helmet and a concrete cog, the nearly fifty-year-old building’s assertive structure has earned the affection of a small number of enthusiasts who embrace its almost oppressively functional style of architecture—and almost no one else. The theater, designed by the revered and often imperiled architect John Johansen, will be replaced by a condo. READ MORE

Phone Home, Astrodome: Inside America's Brave And Crumbling Stadiums

Sheer size is generally a strong guarantee of commercial longevity in American society. Consider Sport Utility Vehicles throughout almost every variation in gas prices. Consider the Big Gulp. But when it comes to some of our largest feats of construction—sporting facilities—immense size won’t usually even guarantee a lifespan as long as the most immemorable ranch home. How old is your house or residence? And how many people live there? The Houston Astrodome has a capacity of 67,925,and is 49 years old. It may not last to see 50. READ MORE

There Are Now Just 357 American Drive-In Theaters

Drive-ins, you may have heard, are in trouble. Their decline has been distinct—and distinctly lamented—for more than 40 years, and yet they somehow never quite die off. Like newspaper comics, they are one of those beleaguered swatches of Americana that never quite give up. And yet there is a new crisis. Those some 360 or so drive-ins remaining, having weathered the rise of the television and the multiplex, declining attendance, and rising suburban real estate costs, face a new dire threat yet—digital projection. READ MORE

The Autobiography Of Luis Buñuel

How to sum up a Surrealist's autobiography? I haven’t the slightest idea. Luis Buñuel's just-republished My Last Sigh contains, as you might expect, few concrete explanations of anything, but countless provisional manifestoes, an index of cinematic inspirations of bewildering range, more anecdotes than any human has a right to own (he narrowly missed that orgy organized by Charlie Chaplin, but did dismantle a Christmas tree at another party attended by Chaplin—other guests were not amused), and a surprisingly elegiac tone of melancholy. This provides a partial overview, but what else? There’s the family’s pet, an "enormous rat" that accompanied them on trips in a birdcage. This was presumably toted by a servant, as the only thing his father, a "man of rank" would carry in the street was "an elegantly wrapped jar of caviar." Or, while discussing a budding awareness of sex, the note that a friend "tried to experiment with a mare, but succeeded only in falling off the ladder." And that’s just before age 10. It is, in any case, a riveting wander in and around Surrealism, cinema and the twentieth century itself. READ MORE

How Tom Stoppard Solves A Problem Like 'Parade's End'

Tom Stoppard has likened screenwriting to writing left-handed, and while by this standard we have plenty of ambidextrous playwrights, few have displayed such a versatile command as he has. Stoppard's screenwriting credits have ranged from prestige adaptations of Nabokov, Graham Greene, and Tolstoy to writing several drafts of Terry Gilliam's Brazil and much of the dialogue in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (Tony Kushner hasn't done that.) READ MORE

David Bowie's Forgotten, Campy Berlin Gigolo Movie

To attempt any ranking of David Bowie's work in movies on a scale of strangeness seems a fool's errand; there's no computer on earth that can tally up respective curiosity points for playing both Nikola Tesla and Pontius Pilate, Andy Warhol and The Snowman, The Man Who Fell To Earth, and The Man Who Would Be Goblin King. That said, it's difficult to find a Bowie performance more abjectly forgotten—and yet so wonderfully bizarre—than the Weimar-set 1978 black comedy Just a Gigolo. Perhaps, you ponder, it was just a cameo? Nope, he's the star and the rest of the cast is filled out by—get this—Kim Novak, David Hemmings, Curt Jurgens, and Marlene Dietrich (in her last film role). It's also alleged to have been the most expensive film made in Germany until that date. Still not ringing any bells? You're not alone. READ MORE

The Sublime Sci-Fi Buildings That Communism Built

The House of Soviets in Kaliningrad. READ MORE

The Ugly-Beauty Of Brutalism

Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago
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