Hole in the Clouds
Aug 21, 2012
Philadelphia is standing in for New York City this summer during the filming of Paranoia, a thriller starring Harrison Ford and Liam Hemsworth and directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde).
For example: here in Center City Philadelphia, on 16th Street near Locust, is a New York City taxicab, in a line of cars all bearing New York plates. Look closely, and perhaps you can make out the cars' back-up lights all lit up; this line of traffic was in fact moving in reverse, preparing for the filmmakers to take one more take.
A few weeks ago, this same outfit took over the Rittenhouse Square restaurant Twenty Manning for a day of shooting. Our own Joe Stein, who worked there, was told to take the day off but then called in early the next day to help clean up the mess that Hollywood had left behind.
Some of the people in this photo are extras who were supposed to be walking in or around this intersection as the scene was shot and reshot. Others of the people seen here are Philadelphians who just happened by, and who were supposed to be shooed out of camera range. I couldn't tell the two types of people apart, but the bossy folks wearing orange vests seemed very certain who was who. Somebody yelled at me and my mother to get out of the picture, and insulting as that seemed, we left without putting up an argument.
Jul 8, 2013
Philadelphia history is conveniently compressed: Benjamin Franklin flew a kite, then all those guys rang the liberty bell, and then Rocky Balboa ran up the steps of the art museum.
Today, Franklin is easier to find on an oatmeal box than on the city streets, and the liberty bell is cracked and silent. But Rocky? The fighter who never was, except, of course, in the movies? He's big and bronze and easy to find, right by the foot of the museum steps.
Tourists from all over the world seek him out daily, eager to pose for pictures with fists raised triumphantly, just like his. This group included my brother-in-law and his sons, visiting from Israel.
After their moment with the statue, the tourists run up the steps, just the way Sylvester Stallone did in the movies. But you may recall that when Rocky "really" was training for that first fight and running all over town, it was wintertime. He wore a hoodie and sweatpants, and we could see his breath.
This past Fourth of July weekend, the Rocky wannabes among the tourists–and they were legion, as always–were in shirtsleeves, if not shirtless. The sun was unforgiving, and the air was almost too thick and heavy to breathe.
But straight up the 72 steps everybody went, as their friends held up cellphones to record the moment. Entire tour buses emptied out to run up the steps. Children ran up with their grandparents. Dogs ran up with their people. Cyclists ran up with their bikes in their arms. Earbuds or no earbuds, everybody had "Gonna Fly Now" in their heads.
Search for "Rocky steps" on YouTube, and you'll find 86,500 results. Here's a nice short one in Spanish, viewed by more than a quarter of a million people.
The crazy part, of course, is that Rocky isn't real. People all over the world say his story in the movie is inspirational, proving somehow that even a nobody, just another bum from the neighborhood, can beat the best.
"I will do the stairs on my 50. birthday, december 2013," wrote one of the inspired people. "From germany just for one day. It's crazy, but it's a dream since 30 years. In all of us there is a rocky...."
At the top of the steps, some people feel ready to take on the world. Some of them propose marriage. Some of them go on into the museum, eventually. All of them turn around at the top and look out over the city, just like Rocky, and raise their arms high and then . . . probably they start thinking about cheesesteaks.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Feb 23, 2015
We might pause for a look at the real ruby slippers, once worn by a brave girl named Dorothy when she was far from home, now at rest in a glass case in the Smithsonian.
The Wizard of Oz
(Image credit: cellphone)
Feb 28, 2016
This just in: Leonardo DiCaprio has won the first and only Northeastern Siberian Academy Award for best friend of Russia and especially Russia's far northern peoples. His film The Revenant, about survival and revenge in a snowy wilderness, struck a chord with audiences in Yakutia, the Sakha Republic, "the largest and most northern region in the Russian Federation," where admirers contributed their own family silver and gold to honor DiCaprio. They want him to come to Siberia and accept their Oscar statuette in person.
The Yakutian statuette, which is two centimeters shorter than the Hollywood version, is cast of silver and gold melted down from jewelry donated by Siberian DiCaprio fans. The face of the statue has pronounced Asiatic features, in acknowledgment of Siberia's indigeous peoples; when DiCaprio accepted his 2016 Golden Globe award, he dedicated it to First Nations peoples and indigenous communities–"that is, to us, the people of the Far North of Russia," says Tatiana Egarova, who organized the campaign.
According to Egarova, more than 100 Yakutian women donated their jewelry for the statuette; some of them, she said, broke off pieces from what they donated so they could hold onto keepsakes reminding them of DiCaprio. There is a bit of evidence that the warm feelings may extend both ways: in 2010, DiCaprio met with Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg at a conference on the endangered Siberian tiger, and in 2012, he wrote an appreciation of his Russian grandmother, Yelena Smirnova, who came from the Urals city of Perm. "To me," he said, "she was the embodiment of inner strength and integrity."
The Siberian Oscar figurine is holding a gold choron, a Yakutian ritual cup signifying peace, harmony, spiritual unity, and good intentions.
Mar 31, 2016
We noticed the other day that on 9th Street in the Italian Market, they sell pet turtles just like Rocky's turtles in the movies.
What we don't know is which came first, Rocky or the turtles. Did Sylvester Stallone put turtles in the movies because they were a South Philly thing? Or do they sell turtles in the market now because people want to buy Rocky things?
Or, as the cool kidz say nowadays, what people want to buy is Rocky jawn.
(Image credit: Fuji T)