Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

PORTLAND BLOWS UP BIG (figuratively, figuratively)

I've been commuting past an explosion site.

The steadiest work I've had in 2012 has been at that bindery in NW Portland near the Fremont Bridge, and my buses (originally the 17, now a 17-77 transfer due to TriMet changes this month) go up to NW 21st and Thurman, where I then walk the six or so blocks to the job. The bus lets me off near a warehouse. Sometime last year, that warehouse blew up. For television.

I didn't know that until a few weeks ago, when I finished watching season 4 of the fun TNT-aired heist show Leverage. "The Radio Job," the second-to-last episode of the season, featured a main character almost getting to a warehouse before it exploded. Like so:

But that was done in a way that left the building standing, as it still does:

This is also a block down from the Con-Way Freight offices that, in the same episode, doubled for the U.S. Patent Office in Alexandria, Virginia (Leverage has Portland stand in for a lot of different locations):

Some combination of air guns, gas and balsa wood was used in the warehouse explosion, and yes, to answer your next question, that explosion looks like it was done live. On the commentary for the episode, writer-producer John Rogers and producer Dean Devlin made cracks about how Oregon, a state lousy with trees (meaning it has LOTS of 'em) was surprisingly short of the balsa wood needed to build the warehouse loading doors that the show blew up.

As a media junkie and a Portland fan, I like that stuff like this is happening more often in Portland. And now it's happening with more films and TV shows that I like; for a time the best-known film shot here was Body of Evidence (1993) starring Madonna. Later it was the aggressively mediocre The Hunted (2003). Yes, we had some good stuff filmed here, too, thanks to Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy in 1989, My Own Private Idaho in 1991, f'r'ex) and the good, if short-lived, 1990s programs Under Suspicion (a police procedural starring Karen Sillas) and Nowhere Man (a paranoid science fiction take on The Fugitive starring future Starfleet captain Bruce Greenwood), but a lot of it was crap like The Temp. Some other stuff was just OK, like a Nineties TV show I can't remember the title of that was set in Portland. I remember one sequence on that show of a grandfather losing his grandkid on a TriMet bus, and him getting to a bus lot and seeming to herd buses so he could look in them for the kid. Not good enough or bad enough to remember more thoroughly, I guess.

More stuff's getting filmed here: Portlandia, of course, cementing my and many other people's feeling that Carrie Brownstein is possibly the perfect person *; the aforementioned Leverage, a very efficient entertainment machine juggling real-world frustration and satisfying stick-it-to-The-Man wish fulfillment, with a cast that's gotten more vivid, affecting and hilarious over the past five seasons; and Grimm, which I'm enjoying a lot.

We're not as wide open as Chicago ("Filmmakers love Chicago," rafaela once told me; "they let you do anything there"), and we don't have the iconic big city-ness of New York and Los Angeles, and nothing classic yet has been filmed for TV here, but hey, I like that we've graduated to being where THINGS BLOW UP FOR FILMED ENTERTAINMENT.

* Singer, songwriter, shredding guitarist, Zeitgeist-creator (she coined "Put a bird on it" and the even more Portland-specific "We can pickle that!"), unapologetically amused, unafraid to have fun, damn creative, damn good at the side-eye that says "Seriously? You're like that?," good with animals (she's won an award for her volunteer work with the Oregon Humane Society), and may I mention hot? I've appreciated Carrie Brownstein for over a decade, when I was first exposed to the band Sleater-Kinney, and I appreciate her more now.

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