Zaha Hadid Retrospective, Guggenheim, New York City

Architecturally illiterate, I entered the Zaha Hadid retrospective at the Guggenheim with no knowledge of the architect or her impressive body of work. The exhibit is vast and provides a glimpse into the many facets of Hadid’s work, from painting to flatware design. However, there isn’t a great deal of guidance for people like me, who are unfamiliar with Hadid’s vision and interdisciplinary approach. I was overwhelmed.

The exhibit focuses chiefly and reverently on Hadid’s precise, gleaming models and vibrant drawings. My friend and I regarded the abstracted drawings with some bafflement: “This is supposed to guide someone in building a structure?” “What do those green spirals represent, exactly?” Interestingly, Hadid’s drawings are complemented by Jackson Pollock’s works in the concurrent “Paintings on Paper” exhibit—figurative early Pollocks as revelatory as non-figurative architectural sketches.

Under-represented and divorced from the rest of the exhibit are the buildings themselves, present mainly in a few large-scale photographs. Hadid’s own website attests eloquently to the importance of her buildings in context—how they reflect and shape the natural and urban landscape, as well as the unalienable human activity of the space. Yet the viewer is not really allowed to see the finished buildings in context. Rather, they appear here as an encroachment on the pristine museum space. For me, the photos didn’t represent the triumphant end results of the models, which emanate pure potential; they seemed distant, somewhat sullied by the intrusion of human life. I could already feel the paint chipping, the bathroom door latches breaking.

Moving through this exhibit, I was left with no inclination to visit Hadid’s actual buildings, to be among the grimy trespassers in those far-off, looming structures. But I felt that I would love to be Hadid herself, or at least my romanticized conception of her, luxuriating in my beautiful studio (in this vision, it rather resembles the Guggenheim rotunda), god-like among the tiny, idealized worlds of chipboard, balsa, and styrene.

Superman Returns: Loews Lincoln Square * New York City

I watched the 1976 Superman movie and its sequels, and I enjoyed them. Since then, I’ve cheered through years of Batman, Spiderman, X-Men, and more, always at the edge of my seat, always pumped at the end, never a thought of blue suits, red capes. But minutes into Superman Returns, Warner Bros’ 2006 version, directed by Bryan Singer (the crowd, packed like sardines, cheering from the first note of the theme song), I was bouncing in my chair, gasping, covering my eyes, and yelling at the screen. No superhero beats Superman and my euphoria lasted all the way to the end.

Brandon Routh plays the title role humbly, the way I remember Christopher Reeve playing it. I even noticed a resemblance in his profile. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, just unrecognizable enough under a mop of brown hair—a character, not a star—kept me from missing Margot Kidder. Kevin Spacey makes a great Lex Luther: acting chops and the landscaped face that brings Gene Hackman to mind. And Parker Posey, as Luther’s lady friend, Kitty Kowalski, only left me wishing she would show up more often in Hollywood blockbusters.

A few purists exited the theater disappointed, but that’s no surprise. To them I say, maybe the science of Krypton doesn’t follow this fiction, but it’s a pro-human, pro-earth story, after all. Superman’s empathy—a relavent reminder—crosses all borders. I pumped my fist and hummed the theme song all the way home, happy to have a good ol’ all American hero back in my life.