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Rewind 2003 Critics' night off In a slightly mischievous
spirit, Calendar's editors asked its critics to consider
a cultural event -- outside the subject they write
about -- that moved them, positively or otherwise.
These notes on unappreciated movies, strange television
and scary architecture provide another gloss on the
year gone by as well as insight into the section's

An otherworldly spaceship lands on Grand Avenue

December 21, 2003

Here's one thing they don't tell you about Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall: It can be a very scary place. Good scary, but scary nevertheless. Not during the day, of course, when the light shining on its 6,400 brushed metal panels makes the building look like an Oz the Tin Man could love. But after dark, things are different. Even from the glass-walled Grand Avenue level, the building's formidable but dimly lighted curves are disorienting, impinging on our personal space with their powerful forms.

Go up the stairs and into the trees at the hall's rear and things get even more otherworldly. Growing now from the ground up, Gehry's gargantuan walls hover over you, looking shadowy and almost sinister in the darkness, their smooth sides blending into the sky. They loom like some fabled lost city, the Kor ruled by She Who Must Be Obeyed, or perhaps a spaceship abandoned by some more advanced but problematic civilization.

The hall itself, rewarding our boldness in entering this challenging building, is welcoming and open, with its terraced seating creating an intimacy that the lightness of the Douglas fir and the Tiki-Tiki Lounge brightness of the seat fabric only increases. When the music is as transporting as it was when Pierre Boulez conducted the L.A. Philharmonic in the Adagio of Mahler's 1Oth Symphony, the notion of a spaceship doesn't seem farfetched at all.

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