Inspired by reading René Steinke’s new and recently optioned-for-film novel Friendswood, the plot of which centers on the aftermath of the Brio Superfund mess just south of I-45 and the Beltway, Cite magazine’s Allyn West returns to the former chemical waste facility at Dixie Farm Rd. and Beamer Rd. to snap some photos and have a look around: “The first thing you pass is a landfill. And then, incongruously, you pass archetypal subdivisions with bucolic names, much like Southbend must have been. There’s a dedicated bike lane on both sides of Dixie Farm, clearly marked and freshly painted. Then turning toward the site onto Blackhawk Boulevard, you pass Ashley Pointe, a new subdivision. That morning, I saw construction workers milling about around unfinished stick frames. If Southbend still existed, Ashley Pointe would sit right next to it.”
Robocop may have moved on to the real Detroit, but Houston will always have Reality Bites. And today folks around the movie biz are celebrating the movie’s twentieth anniversary. The Winona Ryder-Ben Stiller-Janeane Garofalo-Ethan Hawke pic filmed here and there about Houston (with a few disguised-L.A. settings thrown in for good measure) was released on February 18, 1994. In and around the Gen X coming-of-age coming-out reality-TV disaffection storyline, the movie depicted the overgrown charms of Alden Place, the little North Montrose neighborhood of duplexes and 4-plexes that made living in the shadows of Downtown seem so easy and affordable back then. Twenty years on, how’s it doing?
Almost halfway into their month-long Kickstarter campaign, the producers of a documentary film about the Astrodome are a little less than halfway to their $65,000 goal. Austin and Houston filmmakers Chip Rives and David Karabinas began their movie project in 2009, and claim they could put together a finished project with the footage they already have. But they’re looking for more money to help them secure rights to NFL and Major League Baseball footage. Also needed: a music score (to replace the U2 temp track in the clip below), and money for editing, more interviews, and additional shoots.
Seem familiar? This 1952 mod appeared in the HBO boob-job exposé Breast Men, starring David Schwimmer as Houston’s early-’60s boob pioneer Dr. Kevin Saunders. Or maybe that two-faced fireplace sparks your memory: Last July, the 4-bedroom, 3,558-sq.-ft. home was listed for sale at $1.1 million. (It was the one with the bomb shelter underneath the patio?) Well, in December it was sold for an even $1 million. And it showed up in today’s Daily Demolition Report.
As mods go, this one in Tanglewood is just one of that neighborhood’s thinning pack of mid-century homes. What sets this property apart? Maybe the bomb shelter out back — and the property’s brush with Hollywood as a film set in Breast Men, the 1997 HBO David Schwimmer flick that finally gave Houston its due as the birthplace of the boob job industry. The mid-July listing of this property for $1.1 million calls the 60-year-old property on Sugar Hill Dr. a “wonderful building site” and leaves it at that. But preservation advocates at Houston Mod met with the home’s current, long-term owner and gleaned some tidbits to share about the home’s origins and features:
The director of a recent documentary about the late architect and educator Samuel Mockbee says he’s already received pledges for about half the money he thinks he and his production team will need to raise for his next project: a feature-length film about midcentury modern architecture in Houston — or what’s left of it. Houston native Sam Wainwright Douglas’s Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio has appeared on PBS, in local theaters, and on the museum circuit since its debut at SXSW last year. Douglas says he hasn’t fixed the lineup for his Houston movie, but he’s hoping to profile local architects Harwood Taylor, Hugo Neuhaus, Howard Barnstone, and William Jenkins and their work, as well as buildings by modernist firms such as MacKie and Kamrath and Lloyd & Morgan. (If he wants to capture any portions of MacKie and Kamrath’s Sugar Land oeuvre, he’ll have to hurry.)
SEAN PENNZOIL PLACE ZOMG! Actual footage of actual Houston locations occupied by actual movie stars shows up in short B-roll segments of Terrence Malick’s new square-jaw feature, The Tree of Life. Sorry, no Brad Pitt here, but Sean Penn plays a pensive Houston-ish designer type who mopes around an unattributed Downtown: “A location where the crew spent considerable time was the PageSoutherlandPage office at 1100 Louisiana. ‘Our office is very cool. It’s an old banking lobby about eight stories high, so it’s a pretty dramatic space,’ says Nancy Fleshman, the engineering and architecture firm’s director of research. ‘They made Penn an architect and he’s interacting with people in our office, going over drawings, talking with them. At one point Malick’s assistant asked me to go show Penn how to be an architect, what to do. I thought, “Well, I’m not an architect, but I can do that.”’” [Houston Chronicle] Image: Fox Searchlight
BUT IT WAS WORTH IT “‘…the most miserable place in the world. . . .’ ‘Early reports from Houston said that when people came out on any given morning you could find as many as four bodies lying dead in the streets, victims of the previous night’s mayhem.’ You’d be forgiven if you thought this was the Houston of today.But actually this is Houston in the 1830s.” — Chronicle blogger J.R. Gonzales, discussing Houston: A Nation’s Capitol, Houston Arts & Media’s new feature-length documentary about the early development of this city. [Bayou City History] Trailer: Houston Arts & Media
On second thought, foreclosure is hell. That freaky-eyed lady asking for another extension on her mortgage payment? C’mon, go ahead and give it to her. You won’t feel bad about it. Plus those little in-house exorcisms have a weird way of chewing through the value of the underlying collateral.