Daily Archives: July 22, 2005

Bad News Bears

Many repeat performances are being sought in this remake of Michael Ritchie’s 1976 comedy about unpromising Little Leaguers with an alcoholic coach and a star female pitcher, with its sound track of four-letter words and themes from Bizet’s Carmen. But this is also a spin-off of Bad Santa (with both that movie’s writers as well as its star, Billy Bob Thornton) and The School of Rock (with Richard Linklater back as hired-hand director). Fortunately almost everyone acquits himself coolly and admirably; only costars Greg Kinnear and Marcia Gay Harden ham it up. PG-13, 111 min. (JR) Read more

Velvet Smooth

Actress Johnnie Hill plays the title role in this 1976 blaxploitation mystery, cowritten by novelist Leonard Michaels (The Men’s Club), of all people. Michael L. Fink directed. R, 93 min. (JR) Read more

Magnificent Obsession: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buildings And Legacy In Japan

One neglected aspect of Frank Lloyd Wright’s career is his involvement with Japanincluding a series of visits that spanned 17 years in the early 20th century, the abiding influence of Japanese art and architecture on his work, and the impact of his own work on Japanese architects. This informative documentary by Chicagoan Karen Severns and her Japanese husband, Koichi Mori, doesn’t give the whole story; it favors the view from Japan and skimps on the Japanese influences on Wright’s American buildings. But it offers fascinating material about Wright assistants Arata Endo (with whom Wright even shared architectural credit on occasion) and Antonin Raymond (who became a leading Japanese modernist), and its account of the now-vanished Imperial Hotel, one of Wright’s masterpieces, is priceless. 128 min. (JR) Read more

Wright in Japan

Magnificent Obsession: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buildings and Legacy in Japan

** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Karen Severns and Koichi Mori

Written by Severns

Narrated by Azby Brown and Donald Richie

Frank Lloyd Wright readily acknowledged the influence of Japanese art–particularly the abstract shapes, lively colors, and unusual perspectives of wood-block prints–on his work. He soft-pedaled or denied the influence of Japanese architecture–but then he was always reluctant to admit any direct architectural influences. Both predilections are examined in Magnificent Obsession: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buildings and Legacy in Japan, a 2004 documentary Chicago native Karen Severns made with her Japanese husband, Koichi Mori. The film also shows that Wright had a profound influence on Japanese architecture. “At one point,” Severns says in her narration, read by Azby Brown, “there were 32 Wright-related terms in the [Japanese] architectural lexicon.”

The story of the two-way cultural traffic between Wright and Japan is so intricate that even a 128-minute film can barely scratch the surface. And the surface that’s scratched is mainly in Japan, not here. Wright’s visits to Japan spanned 17 years, starting with his very first trip abroad–in 1905, when he was 37–and culminating with his work on Tokyo’s awesome Imperial Hotel. They weren’t exactly casual visits. Read more