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Reviews for the Week of 2/22:

My Architect



Not Rated | 116 mins


     If it were up to Louis Kahn, downtown Philadelphia wouldn’t have contained a single road. Everyone would’ve parked their car outside of the city and walked about its paths. We can be thankful that things didn’t turn out that way, for it would have been a total disaster. Despite this, Kahn, in the eyes of most, was one of the most influential architects to see the light of day. He immigrated to the United States in the early nineteen-hundreds from Estonia, not exactly certain of what he would do in the new country. Later, he would combine traditional and modern architecture to create some of the wackiest buildings in the history of the world. Some of them amazing and some ridiculous, his masterpieces are known to outnumber his failures, and he is famous for exactly this. Kahn’s most acclaimed work is the most fitting one for his story—the capital building in Bangladesh, which was the savior for a dying city.

     However, while Kahn’s artistic skills may’ve been profound, his home life was far from such. He reproduced with three different women and his concept of family was stretched, to say the least. No one ever knew much about his personal life, not even his only wife. My Architect chronicles the journey of one of his sons, Nathaniel Kahn, in trying to discover who Louis really was. At most, Nathaniel received one visit per week from his father, but usually less. He does blame his dad for his undesirable childhood, but that’s not what this documentary is about. My Architect both depicts the life of Louis Kahn and his rationalities (or lack thereof) in life, but it is, more importantly, a piece of discovery. Nathaniel knows just as much about his dad as his audience, and this will allow viewers to accept the picture, and understand the filmmaker behind it.

     Real life has always been more fascinating to me than fiction, but I haven’t fully realized this until as of late. With this film and Touching the Void, which I reviewed last week, I’m seriously considering only seeing documentaries in every January and February I live, from here on out. These two months are responsible for most of the horrors in the world of cinema, but not in this genre. There’s something refreshing about reality; drama is so much less pure, even when it’s at the top of its game. My Architect often comes across as unbelievable, for the mystery surrounding Kahn is so great, even to his immediate family. Every person Nathaniel talks to about his father has something different to add to the story than the previous interviewee. Several documentaries last year, such as the extremely overrated Spellbound, were far too repetitive, ultimately leading to their failures. This one is always captivating, and even though much of it is flawed, Nathaniel’s budding work in film is what Louis’ was to architecture—powerful in its traditional eloquence. This is a basic piece of work, but certainly also a poignant one.

     Nathaniel comes pretty close to discovering why his father did what he chose to, but is also incredibly far away from doing so. He realizes that Louis’ intentions were the right ones, but his motivations were misguided. Was he responsible for this? Of course, but his faults can be forgiven. A fellow architect says that his work was very reflective upon his life, raw and honest, though no one understood why. After viewing My Architect, I most definitely agree. Sadly, however, while Nathaniel may understand why his dad chose to leave the cracks in the plaster of his projects as was, he will most likely, never comprehend why several pieces of the man’s life are completely unknown. By the end of My Architect, he has come to terms with Lou in spirit, though, and this is the next best thing to knowing him. It may be just as inconvenient for Nathaniel as downtown Philly could’ve been for its residents, but it’s good enough for the audience.


Welcome to Mooseport



Rated PG-13 | 107 mins


     With the exception of being a part of the voice cast of Ice Age, Welcome to Mooseport is Ray Romano’s debut in a motion picture, despite his enormous prior success in the medium of television. It is a bit surprising that he didn’t start acting in film sooner, though, considering his fellow primetime-favorites have led successful careers. Take “Friends” star Jennifer Anniston, for example. While I have no question that Romano’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” is much more of a quality program than “Friends,” the two shows have their similarities. Likeable casts, appealing premises, and long runs with big fan bases. The only difference is Anniston first appeared on the big screen over five years ago. Finally, though, Romano has converted to film, to many people’s happiness. The good news is that he delivers a solid performance here, as does his veteran co-star Gene Hackman. The bad news is that their work is stuck in a one-note, dopey little creation that would’ve only worked as a straight-to-video release, intended for Saturday-night viewings which would permit viewers curl up on their couches when watching.

     The writing is actually creative in spurts, but aside from the occasional moment, the script of Welcome to Mooseport has nothing working in its favor. Romano plays Handy Harrison, a small-town plumber, who offers to run for mayor of his city, when the current one, who has consecutively run for years, passes away. Little does Handy know, Mooseport’s new resident, ex-president Monroe Cole (Hackman), has entered the race. When he discovers this, Handy plans on dropping out, but when Monroe makes a move in attempts to win over his long-time girlfriend, he’s suddenly determined to win the election. It’s almost as easy to write a one-sentence synopsis of Welcome to Mooseport as it was for screenwriter Tom Schulman to pen the movie. It is simply a predictable film, a lightweight concoction, comprised of sophisticated potty-humor targeted at adults. This may sound fun, but it’s actually kind of painful, in its own right.

      With each “twist” in the film, I was able to correctly predict one more portion of the plot. There are much less creative directors than Donald Petrie in the industry, but he’s so blatantly obvious in his style, Welcome to Mooseport is almost a depressing experience, which is exactly the opposite of what it should be. Why it is so hard to create an entertaining piece of fluff these days baffles me.


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