Tuesday, June 28, 2016

SS United States Silver Screen Review: 2012 (2009)

Guy: "I mean, I don't know, honey. I just feel like there's something pulling us apart." 
Ground: [Opens up between them]
                                                   - Quote/Scene from 2012

So 2012 was supposed to be the year the world ended. It didn't. Back in 2009, when it was still a possibility, Hollywood decided to capitalize in on the craze/fear. Thus 2012 was born.

The Plot? Everything's alright, then it's not. Worldwide disaster ensues.

Why is this happening? Due to planetary alignments and the sun freaking out, the Earth's core destabilizes and the Earth's crust moves around. Volcanoes, floods, rolling cruise ships, collapsing skyscrapers, crumbling monuments, earthquakes, airplanes, cliffs, floods, human nature, this movie has it all to cater to whatever disaster appeals to you.

This was another movie I had no intention of ever watching. It was better than I thought it would be, I'll give it that. The visuals were good, but crazy to the point of absurdity at points. The CGI is holding up pretty well.

The people and acting were alright. Nothing stood out. John Cusack & Woody Harrelson are in this. The deaths got to a point where it was just senseless, but, hey, it's a disaster movie. It wouldn't be much of a world-ending disaster without a mass human extinction. It was pretty suspenseful/stressful.

So how did the SS United States fare?

The ship cameo comes up pretty early in the movie. The movie starts off in India in 2009. A boy is playing with a toy SS United States in a puddle. A car drives past and hits the puddle. The wave created capsizes the boat. Foreshadowing for what is to come later on????????? Probably.

There is a cruise ship in this movie, the Genesis of the fictitious Azure Cruise Lines. The boat is or is based off of Freedom-class cruise ships. It does not fare well and capsizes, Poseidon Adventure-style. It is assumed it does not recover, but a deleted scene taken out of the final cut depicts the boat and its passengers safe.

Do I think the SS United States could survive, even if it was fully functional? I know there are some who would say so, but I don't think so. The waves depicted in 2012 are super strong and huge. They show the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy at the mercy of the waves, pancaking the White House. That ship was built in the 1960's at Newport News Shipbuilding, where the SS United States was constructed. Two huge ships in this movie, Genesis and JFK, are pushed around like playthings. These craft were built for regular weather, not these freak waves. The Big U wouldn't have done any better than its toy model.

What do you think? Could the SS United States could take on 2012?

The Movie: Disaster movie. Great visuals. 3/4
SS United States: It's a model of the ship. Used for heavy-handed foreshadowing. 1/4

Sources used:
USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) Wikipedia Page
2012 IMDB

Sunday, June 19, 2016

SS United States Silver Screen Review: Sabrina (1954)

"...And you're still reaching for the moon."
"No, father. The moon's reaching for ME."
- Quote from Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina is the story of Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn), the daughter of a chauffeur for a vastly rich Long Island family. Sabrina loves the family's youngest son David Larrabee (William Holden), but he barely acknowledges her existence. Sabrina's father sends her to Paris to go to cooking school for two years. When she returns, she finally is able to catch newly-engaged David's eye. But through mishaps and circumstance, she starts to also catch the attention of the family's older son, Linus Larrabee (Humphrey Bogart). A star-studded love triangle romance ensues. Who knows what will happen??

Sabrina was a pretty fun movie to watch. The person I was watching this with wasn't sure they were going to be able to stay up to watch the whole movie [we started the movie later than we expected], but we were both glued to the television from start to end.

The movie had great little lines throughout. David asks, "Where have you been all my life?" Sabrina coyly responds "Right over the garage." It was fun and witty. 

I didn't really feel any romance between Bogart and Hepburn. Bogart seemed to just be there. According to the movie's IMDB page, Bogart didn't like working with her. Holden and Hepburn had great chemistry, probably due to their off-screen romance.

(I have a great theory on how this movie could have turned out. It's a little long and a big tangent, but if you want to see it, it's below the Final Thoughts.)

Let's go find that ship!

There are four ocean liners seen in this movie.

As soon as I heard Sabrina was going to go to Paris, I thought, Ah, we'll get a nice 'Going to Paris by Boat' montage. Not so. She instantly appears there. Two years later, she says she'll be taking an airplane back home, and a second later instantly appears across the pond. Well okay, Sabrina, someone clearly doesn't understand that getting there is half the fun.

When Linus wants to go to France, he buys tickets for a ship. The SS United States? No, the SS Liberte, a well-known French Line/CGT ship (originally the German SS Europa). This becomes the main ship spoken about in the movie and is featured prominently in the climax & end.

The night before the Liberte sails, Linus and Sabrina are in Linus's office. What do they see out the window? The huge forward funnel of the SS United States!

Still from Sabrina (1954), featuring the SS United States

This was the ship's first cameo in a movie. She is not mentioned, but what needs mentioning when you have the most iconic funnels any ocean liner could have?

In the shot above, it looks like another night on luxury liner row. On the far right are the funnels of an unknown Cunard liner. In-between the United States and the Cunard ship is the SS Liberte. I didn't catch her here upon first watching because her dark funnels blend in with the background.

That's a great view our your window, right? Well, it's brought to you by the magic of film. From prominent exterior shots taken, Linus's office building is 30 Broad Street in Manhattan, aka the Continental Bank Building. This building is smack dab land-locked in the middle of the financial district. The United States Lines' pier (86, where the USS Intrepid is currently docked) is in Hell's Kitchen, almost in line with Times Square. About five miles away. That's some view without any skyscrapers in the way. Or, his office is actually on a soundstage and the "view" was another film overlaid on the background.

Still from Sabrina (1954), SS Liberte sails off in the distance.

The fourth ocean liner is a model in Linus's office. The Larrabee family is involved in numerous industries, including owning a shipping line. I assume the ship model is either a prominent ship in the line or a future endeavor Linus is planning. The model is never referred to, and the corner it inhabits rarely gets screen time.

The model ship in Linus's office in Sabrina (1954). This is the
best screen-grab, David (Holden) walks in front of it, so two
shots had to be combined.

Movie: It was pretty enjoyable, pacing holds up well for today. 4/4
SS United States: It's the actual ship. It's just there because it was in town the night they filmed. 2/4

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*My crazy tangent: Sabrina's character was kind of creepy at first. If the beginning of the movie was kept and the rest of it was rewritten today, let me tell you, this would be an entirely different movie. It has the whole setup for a crazy thriller. Sabrina spies on David at the family's party from a tree. She's able to be invisible until she wants to be seen. She follows David, and keeps spying on his romance with a random girl. She's so devastated he's going after the random girl, she tries to commit suicide in the most dramatic way possible - turning on the Larrabee family's 8 cars and closing the garage doors. She goes off to Paris for two years, and comes back an entirely new person. She's fine David is engaged... or is she?

Watch the video below of Sabrina's narrating at the 1:36 mark, and watch for her glance up.

It's exactly the moment when someone with a devious revenge plan would look up.

From there, the 1954 movie takes a romance route. A 2016 movie would have Sabrina take revenge and terrorize (possibly murder) David and his fiancee. Sabrina is clearly an unstable person, ready at a moment to explode her fury. 'If I can't have him, no one will!' Madness would ensue.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Return to Windmill Point of Nags Head

Windmill Point, 2016. Just a decade ago, a windmill would have
dominated this view.

Short story short, I went to the Outer Banks for vacation. And I found myself out on Windmill Point, the fabled former SS United States mecca.

For those who didn't read the overview of Windmill Point in my post about the ship's bell, here's a brief recounting: Windmill Point Restaurant was owned by SS United States collector Dr. Sarah E. Forbes. She decorated the whole place with furniture and artwork from the ship. Outside the restaurant was the Point's namesake windmill. Over the decades, both windmill and restaurant became local icons. In 2007, the restaurant closed. The property was bought by the Dare County Tourism Board and the town of Nags Head. In 2011, having found no one to use the building, they let local firefighters purposely burn the building down to practice their fire skills.

I put aside some time during my vacation to find the old point. As the restaurant's still-active website states, it was located at milepost 16.5, 158 on the Bypass in Nags Head.

The property is now called The Soundside. It is "one of the largest event sites on the Outer Banks." The Windmill Point property was combined with an empty northern lot, offering almost 10 acres of outdoor event space. On the morning I was visiting, they were getting ready for the last day of the OBX Brewfest. Luckily for me, the festival was using the other side of the property, with the Point's side as overflow parking.

OBX Brewfest 2016 at The Soundside

Windmill Point is now a grassy field. Nowhere is there any mention of a windmill or a point. There is mention of a restaurant, but only because there is one next door.

Facing the Roanoke Sound, towards what once was
the front of the Windmill Point Restaurant and parking lot.

So what remains?

I'm actually a little proud, I did find something on property. Pieces of the restaurant's parking lot asphalt are still there!

Bits of asphalt in the grass at former Windmill Point

Better known and more exciting than asphalt, the windmill of Windmill Point was saved from destruction. It moved in 2010 to Island Farm, an outdoor living museum on 19th century coastal farming.

Windmill Point's windmill at Island Farm

And, of course, all of the SS United States memorabilia was removed before the building burned. That all exists, with most of the collection going to the SS United States Conservancy.

Visiting the Point, I wish I had gone when the restaurant was still there. It felt like I was trying to find a fleeting glimpse of a ghost. For a place that was/is so revered by Big U aficionados, it felt physically very blank and empty.

(Is it fitting/ironic that once the fireproof ship's artifacts were gone, the wooden restaurant went out in a blaze of glory? Like only the most worthy structure to hold these items can stand the test of time?)

The Windmill Point Restaurant was as much a celebration of the ship's legacy as it was its first museum. It was filled with love, laughs, and lobster. Now, it only exists in the minds and memories of those who visited so long ago. May we toast to the good times that were had on the Windmill Point.

Roanoke Sound from former Windmill Point