“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
Everywhere else is Cleveland.”
The above is courtesy of the late, great Tennessee Williams. Y’know, the cat who wrote Sweet Bird of Youth
, Night of the Iguana
, and, that most American of plays, A Streetcar Named Desire
. I could list his entire list of works, but that should suffice. I could add in The Glass Menagerie
and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
for good measure, but that might seem overkill.
I would substitute Chicago for New York personally, but taken at its most basic level it’s hard to argue with the playwright. In a country that is striving for architectural and cultural homogeneity very, very few places stand apart from the crowd. Albuquerque looks like Dallas which looks like Houston, and they all share strong similarities with Dubuque, Kansas City, and Phoenix. Rapid City is a kissing cousin of Atlanta; Boston vomited up Los Angeles, with just enough left over for Honolulu. You could almost be mistaken for confusing one with the other as they’ve replaced their regional identity for the same glass-and-steel monstrosities, a Gap, and a Super Wal-Mart or Target.
Despite whatever problems Frisco, NYC, & NOLA have, and they do have them, it’s virtually impossible to forget where you are. Not only do they scream at you architecturally & aesthetically, but they’ve cultivated a cultural identity that’s hard to ignore. Sure, the money-minded tech-set are actively trying to kill San Francisco’s sense of egalitarianism, but it’s still there rapidly boiling beneath the surface. Hurricane Katrina tried to wipe New Orleans from the map, but its sense of community and spirit* brought it roaring back.
*- Won’t kneel. Won’t bow. Don’t know how.
Yeah, so? What does this have to do anything?! In The Oscars thread, Attila and I touched upon a subject worthy of further discussion: The cinematic representation of place. In a sense, film acts as the document of record in chronicling the changes of a place. Take the excellent Thieves Highway.
Set in San Francisco’s now razed produce markets (today: a park, a teevee station, and a tennis club), it would be a bit of history lost to the curious and the concerned. But does film contribute to a city’s cultural preservation and its evolution? Feel free to start that thread, but I wanted to focus on one upcoming flick in particular.
Welcome to San Fransokyo.
San Fransokyo is the setting of Disney Animation's Big Hero 6
. Set to debut in November of 2014, the high-tech city is the home of Hiro Hamada, robotics wunderkind, and his team of first time heroes.
Full sized image here
The angle doesn't quite look like, but I would put money on that being the view from Nob Hill looking back at the California Street cable car and the western span of the Bay Bridge. The mokoshi
-style and hipped roofs common throughout Japanese architecture are a wonderful touch. What's really interesting are the amount of vertical highrises, the blend of Chinese and Japanese characters with the normative English, and the Victorian-like architecture typically associated with San Francisco. It all works quite well together. Neon is fairly common in the Bay Area -- it's still visible in heavy fog -- but the coupling with the digital billboards and the incoming fog give it a touch of film noir
as well, a 'classic' San Francisco element.
Check it out in motion. Watch it a few times.
Did you see the taco menu? How about Wreck-it Ralph playing on the big screen? Did you notice the bridge? How about the fog horn? Disney Animation has really, really created a solid sense of place in just those thirty seconds of footage. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, this is my must see movie of 2014. It also helps that Disney Animation is branching out from their staple, the animated musical. Oh, and that whole kaiju