Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Sets World Record for Most Selfies in 3 Minutes

23 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Battle of Los Angeles: San Andreas just the latest film to kick the crap out of LA.

While at the London premiere of San Andreas, Dwayne Johnson attempted to set the Guinness World Record for taking the most selfies in under three minutes. The 43-year-old actor, who rose to fame as a WWE wrestling star, achieved his latest victory in London at the premiere of his newest movie, ‘San Andreas,’ reported E! Within a month of my arrival, Los Angeles was in flames in the horrifying and bloody aftermath of the Rodney King verdict, and I stood on the roof of my six-storey apartment building in Koreatown that evening and watched the fires jump northwards towards me at the staggering rate of 20 blocks per hour. By midnight, if I imagined myself standing at the centre of a flat clock-face, I could turn 360 degrees on the spot and count one or more fires for every minute of the hour: north, south, east and west. I was familiar with Joan Didion’s notion of LA as haunted by the ghosts of fire, uprising and an earth that assuredly does not stand still, because as hard as nature has tried to level Los Angeles, it tends to take a decade or two off here and there (small comfort: we’re well overdue for another huge earthquake).

Hollywood screenwriters and film-makers, on the other hand, never rest and do not stint in their efforts to pound, pulverize, flatten, flood, burn, boil, bloody and batter the city they have chosen as their home, partly for laughs, but also partly out of that mysterious sense of civic self-loathing that grips anyone who lives or moves here. Earthquake and its less familiar little sister, tsunami, are unleashed upon Los Angeles and San Francisco and soon enough the landscape is in flames, skyscraper-sized waves are washing away bridges, shorelines, tall buildings, as ocean liners are rolled head over heels, and even The Rock is at a loss to face down nature in all its fury. In 1936, Hollywood staged one of its earliest – and creakiest – onscreen apocalypses in San Francisco, a melodrama about the city-leveling 1906 earthquake. The same story then moved westwards again in 1953, by which time Haskin and Pal had found their perfect municipal victim and staging ground: Los Angeles.

In the decades since, writers, film-makers and LA city planners have followed parallel paths of destruction, each laying waste to the city in the manner of a gigantic palimpsest: build, destroy, rebuild, redevelop, rewrite, destroy, rinse, repeat, rebuild, re-destroy. It doesn’t hurt that southern California has always drawn apocalyptically minded last-chancers from L Ron Hubbard to Charles Manson (there’s a seeker born every minute, as they say), and also harbored a goodly number of the great science-fiction pioneers of the genre’s Golden Age, who came to hymn the region’s postwar defense boom and its imaginative and speculative possibilities, and stayed to savor the dystopian underside of their adopted hometown. All of them, it seemed, slavered at the chance to put into practice all of the nightmarish end-times scenarios that lurked in the landscape and geology of the region, and in the uneasy minds of its citizens: quake, flood, volcano, the desert re-engulfing the city, the water running out, the seas crashing in. In novels from Rudy Wurlitzer’s Quake (which opens at the notorious rock’n’roll crash-pad the Tropicana Motel and ends with mass executions in a sports stadium) to Alastair Maclean’s Goodbye, California, and in movies from Earthquake to 2012, buildings have been toppled, the landscape atomized, and the citizenry driven to riot, murder and madness.

Earthquake (from 1974, the year Nixon resigned) remains impressive to this day, not so much because of its clunky SenseSurround effects and all that falling styrofoam masonry, but because of the complete breakdown in social controls and civic order that ensues. All of it dimly reflected America’s post-Watergate, post-Vietnam loss of confidence in social and civic institutions from the government all the way down to the national guard, which, instead of protecting the citizens, starts raping and murdering them (the golden age of the 70s disaster movie is also the moment at which post-1945 America lost all confidence in itself).

There is less of that sort of thing in more mindless (but no less delectable) destruction fests like 2012, but there is a discernible glee in the way the film-makers have unleashed their effects teams on the city outside their door. I for one watched in absolute delight as John Cusack and his family flew a small plane through the collapsing skyscrapers of downtown LA, one of which contained the offices of a particularly loathsome (and infamous) corporate law firm I once worked for. The source of said lava, the La Brea Tar Pits (one of LA’s more dubious tourist attractions: a primordial swamp that contains dinosaur bones and smells of eggy farts), also opens and closes Steve De Jarnatt’s pocket-apocalypse cult thriller Miracle Mile, set on the same stretch of Wilshire Boulevard on the night nuclear war commences.

In Them! (1954), the enemy is a squadron of gigantic, nuclear-irradiated super-ants, which converge upon LA causing every kind of havoc until they are finally subdued at another threadbare city landmark, the concretized Los Angeles River. In every end-of-the-world movie with a global scope (think Independence Day or Mars Attacks!), the doomed cities of the world are denoted by whichever of their indelible tourist attractions is levelled: the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the White House, the Empire State building and so on.

In Los Angeles, the edifices that get destroyed are always, without exception, the Capitol Records building, followed by the Hollywood sign – two emblems of the entertainment industry, two instances of the entertainment industry’s bottomless self-loathing. The real ruins, that is, as the movie was filmed in the final stages of the 20-year post-war redevelopment of the area, as old Bunker Hill was plowed under to make room for the small copse of skyscrapers that forms the new downtown.

Then there’s Blade Runner, whose dystopia merely exaggerates the prevalent civic phantasms of 1982 Los Angeles – smog, overpopulation, overdevelopment, acid rain, traffic, immigrants – until they become a single nightmare. By this stage, California, once the escape-hatch of the American Dream, has itself succumbed to all the ailments of the declining Rust Belt cities back east to which it was once a sun-kissed alternative: instead of the “Come To Sunny California” ad campaigns of the old 19th-century railroad companies, we now look to “A New Life in the Off-World Colonies …”, which will be the next California.

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