Screening Room: ‘The Opera House’

 The Opera House is a curiously fascinating documentary about the Metropolitan Opera’s highly fraught move in the 1960s from their old house on Broadway to the brand-new Lincoln Center after an entire immigrant neighborhood was bulldozed to make room.

My review is at Film Journal International.

Here’s the trailer.

Screening Room: ‘Citizen Jane’

In the 1950s, when bulldozing historic downtowns under the flag of “urban renewal” was all the rage, architecture journalist Jane Jacobs was one of the loudest and most eloquent voices of the resistance. A new documentary on her, Citizen Jane: Battle for New York, chronicles her fight against the city planners who dreamed of replacing organic urban chaos with high-rise and parking lot dead zones.

Citizen Jane opens in limited release this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

At the risk of oversimplifying the debate, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City divides the participants into two camps: the “top-down” city planners and the “bottom-up” activists. To illustrate that divide, Tyrnauer handily reaches back to the most famous urbanist debate of the 20th century: the fight between New York planning czar Robert Moses and journalist-turned-activist Jane Jacobs. The struggle wasn’t always easily understood, but the stakes were for the future of the city itself…

Here’s the trailer.

Reader’s Corner: What the President Read

the_power_broker_book_coverRecently, Barry told Wired about the books that have shaped him over the years. They broke down his syllabus in typical efficient-nerd fashion, by how long it would take to read. Predicting one could get through Robert Moses’s 1,300-odd page The Power Broker in 19 hours seems dubious unless you’re a speedreader.

Still, this list is nonetheless a fascinatingly mixed one, jumping from fiction (a surprising Steinbeck selection) to urban studies (Caro, the book that explains New York City) and environmentalism (Kolbert’s terrifying study of climate change and mankind-caused extinctions):

  • The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln
  • Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63, Taylor Branch
  • The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert Caro
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Andy Grove, The Life and Times of an American, Richard S. Tedlow
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kaheman
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert
  • In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo