It’s all ice now, this place. It’s raining, but it freezes instantly. So I put down the “paw-safe” ice melter, which is slightly less effective than strewing ball bearings on the steps. End result: dog fell down the stairs. Just a few flights. When he went back up the stairs he did so with such care it was like watching someone in an adventure movie walk across a rope bridge whose deck is nothing but rotten boards.

Had a gloriously unproductive Monday, and regretted not a moment of it. Well, I handed in a column, which I wrote Sunday night, and wrote another Monday late at night, but in between? Bupkis.

In the "nothing" sense, not the "Goat Droppings" sense.

I saw La La Land this weekend, and liked it. You’re supposed to love it, though. You’re supposed to be entranced and besotted and lifted up into a whole new world. There were a few moments of lift and whimsy and delight, and it never annoyed me, which is crucial. The opening sequence, had the possibility of putting one’s teeth permanently on edge with its show-off caroming and preening and face-making and hooray-for-us attitude, but I thought: well, it is that kind of a film, and I’m pretty sure the scene will slam shut with everyone back in their cars, stuck in traffic, as if to say Real Life isn’t Like That After All!

A few problems:

1. it’s the sort of movie that assumes you’re just going to fall in love with Emma Stone, and I didn’t; there are scenes where she looks like a shaved Furby. ENOUGH EYEBROWS? YES I THINK SO

2. Neither principal could sing well enough, which was probably intentional - the film wants to be an old musical but knows it isn’t and tells you it isn’t, but hopes you appreciate how much it knows that it could be an old musical, but it isn’t. It has Realism! Depressing lighting! Water stains on the ceiling!

3. The songs were B+. Which, for a musical, can be a handicap.

4. The plot was an homage, right? By being every other plot ever written? Except for the ending, which left you feeling like you felt at the end of Annie Hall.

5. There’s a dream sequence of sorts, when we see a stylized Parisian jazz club, and I remember thinking I’d seen that interior before. It’s from the Broadway Melody sequence of Singin’ in the Rain. And so it was:

They copied the painted lamp exactly. There are many other references, of course; it's that kind of movie.

6. When it ended- with THE END in classic script, which was nice, and also nice because it was the end and everything was okay because the piano player made some gesture that let the actress think “oh, whew, he’s okay, it’s okay, back to my glamorous, fulfilling life” - I thought hmm. Am I just dead inside?

Possibly. There were a moment I just loved. There’s a moment when actors you don’t associate with dancing start to dance, and do it well enough, as in Gosling’s case, or spectacularly well, as with Cagney or Walken. The defining moment in the movie is probably the Planetarium scene; if you think I can accept this, I suppose, or oh my god this is the most wonderful thing ever, then you're good. Otherwise the film probably lost you, right there.

I don’t know. I watched Cafe Society the other night, which had been described as “not Woody Allen’s worst movie,” WHICH REMINDS ME, sorry, have to go back to LLL:

7. Both La La Land and Cafe Society feature protagonists who really love jazz and of course really understand what makes it different, and in both instances they take a date to a club where Black artists are playing, and then talk over every note they play.

Anyway. I always have to fight to like a Woody Allen movie because I’m mad at him. I’ve been mad at him for decades. For making it difficult to enjoy his work as much as we did in the 70s and early 80s. For Stardust Memories. For hours and hours of bad dialogue (which would seem worse if he didn’t have such talented actors to save it). For being a creep. For being so humorless in all his interviews. But then he makes something that has moments of sweetness and humor, and I’m pushing it over to the “plus” side of the 46 movie ledger. Not hard when the movie is so beautiful - it’s has the same palette and saturation as a Maxfield Parrish painting.

And in the end, nothing comes to anything. Roll credits!

From a 1920s movie magazine, a look back to the early days of flickers.

Because the 20s had Good Old Days, too.

Good thing kids behave today.

The cartoonist had a delighful style, common to many artists of the day - very simple and distinctive faces, accomplished with minimal lines.





This week it's 1922. A lovely scene of domestic contentment:

That must have been an improvement on whatever came before; it looks as if it's supposed to be modern and new, the sign of taste and affluence.

But it's just a sink.

Here's something you might not know they had back in the 20s. I didn't know.

It did have a hand-held option, but from the sound of it, that thing weighed a ton.

120 Liberty Street was a 13-story office tower finished in 1897; it's the 9/11 Memorial Center now. Designed by Oswald Wirz, a Swiss immigrant who designed buildings all over New York. It's an ordinary building, but still interesting. Much more so than just another glass sliver.

Zoom around; lots of Romanesque details.

Eight weeks of bread, 30 pounds shed:

It was quite popular: shows up on lots of New York menus. But what was it? Bread, more or less. It came with a plan, you see. You ate the bread, and also cut out starches, oils, and sugars. This 1918 medical journal was on to it: "Dr. Wiley wel summed up the case when he wrote: 'There is one way in which Basy Bread will reduce, that is, don't eat any of it nor much of any other kind."

Trust the Skinner System:

Water Street! Of course.

"Just as sure as preaching." I love how the old gardener reveals his secrets: watering your plants.

But what happens when you walk in the house after fixing your Skinner system? Don't worry:


Oil of Sheep's Flesh doesn't really sound like something I want to think about when I look at the floor. But note: other varnishes turned white when dampened. There was a reason Mom told you to wipe your feet.

How many conveniences could there possibly be?

I WANT TO SEE THEM IN ACTION, you shout. Okay! Okay! Jeez

You can surely tell it's the 20s: the bird cage has a tassle.

The company is still around. As for the name:

Francis Henry Crittall (1860-1935) was an English businessman and philanthropist who in 1884 in the Essex town of Braintree instigated the manufacture of metal-framed windows by the Crittall Manufacturing Company Ltd. This company, now known as Crittall Windows Ltd, became the world's leading manufacturer of steel-framed windows. Crittall also funded the development of the model village of Silver End in Essex.

Another one of those philanthropic bosses with a utopian streak. It seems unremarkable now, and the factories are gone.


No! Well, yes, at the moment; the gazebo collapsed, and it's ugly. But at least it's not heaped with rotten filth:



That'll do for today. Don't miss my MONDAY newspaper column! Just click on the big green Startribune Star.


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