Category Archives: Movies

LA Plays Itself In The Movies: Speed

Here is why Speed could not have been filmed anywhere other than Los Angeles: You need enough city space for a bus to go 50 mph for a whole movie without running out of city and 2 of the big action plot points count on a) a major freeway being under construction and b) a subway being under construction. Where else but Los Angeles in 1994?

You all remember the plot: Crazy Bomber (Dennis Hopper) is pissed off at LAPD hot shot Jack Treven (Keanu) for fouling up a previous hostage crisis and is taking revenge by putting a bomb on a bus that activates when the bus hits 50 mph and will explode if the bus slows below 50 mph. There is also plucky heroine, Annie (Oscar™ winner Sandra Bullock) and Jack’s LAPD partner Harry (Jeff Daniels).

After a lot of cars being smashed up on surface streets, they get the bus onto the 105 — it’s under construction with no traffic, there will be plenty of room to solve the bomb problem. Everyone relaxes for a moment until they find out part of the freeway isn’t finished and they’ll have to jump the gap, physics be damned. Later in the subway from Pershing Square to Hollywood/Highland, Jack and Crazy Bomber fight it out, (spoiler alert) Jack wins, but Annie is still handcuffed to a pole, the subway driver is dead, the controls shot to hell and the tracks end in a construction zone around a bend up ahead. What do you do? What DO you DO?

Obviously, you speed up the train (though why you could speed it up but not slow it down seems confusing…), make it jump the tracks and hope for the best. “The best” being the train flying up a ramp right onto Hollywood Blvd in front of the Chinese Theater. I love LA Mass Transit!

Click past the jump for some images and tangential info. Find the rest of the LA Plays Itself Series here.

Continue reading LA Plays Itself In The Movies: Speed

LA Plays Itself in the Movies: Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce (released in 1945) opens with gunshots and a the shadowy figure of a woman running away in the dead of night, set against a backdrop of crashing, Pacific ocean waves, as a beachouse somewhere on the coast is transformed from an idyllic retreat to the scene of a crime, committed in cold blood.

Mildred Pierce teases us with this image of a dark, mysterious, dangerous Los Angeles, and then sends us back in time, to years before this moment of high anxiety, to an unlikely origin point for murder: an unassuming house in a Southern California suburb, with Mission-style arched doorways and plam trees in the front yard. It’s here that Mildred, played by Joan Crawford in a career-defining role, slaves away as a housewife, baking pies in her spare time to keep her uppity, unappreciative eldest daughter Veda in piano lessons and fancy dresses. Mildred and her husband divorce because of Veda’s increasingly high-maintenance lifestyle, and Mildred and Veda spin into a mother-daughter tete-a-tete that lasts for years.

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Yet More Stuff To Do This Weekend in LA

I didn’t know anything about cherry blossom festivals or superhero-themed burlesque performances, so big ups to Queequeg for writing those up, below. Looks like we were writing up our to-do lists at the same time. So, here’s mine…it’s a busy weekend!

Adam 12, Skeet Skeet and Han Cholo DJ at PYT: Danceydance time with the dude from She Wants Revenge, the dude from Shwayze and Boys Like Girls, and the dude who makes the bitchin’ jewelry. Oh yeah, they also put on a great party.

The Knux at Spaceland: These Nawlins guys break it down with powerful rhymes and a garage-hop style of hip hop. Quality.

Owl City with Lights at Club Nokia: Get there early for the performance from Lights, last year’s Juno winner and unfuckingbelieavably adorable–with a great voice.

Mutaytor & Cannibal Flower at Club 740: Mutaytor bring their retrofuturistic drumsplosion carneypunk–and their super hot ladies who fly through the air–to the equally lovely, equally genuine Club 740 downtown, along with Cannibal Flower, curators of some of LA’s best underground art.

Amanda Visell’s “Primeval Love” at the Natural History Museum: If the recent artwork by Shag got it on with a diorama of bighorn sheep at the Natural History Museum, you’d end up with Visell’s engaging and charming imagery.

“Showdown LA”: Jerkin’ competition: I’m not much of a hip-hop lifestyle gal, but this sounds freaking awesome. Jerkin’ is a dance style that’s grown up in, yes, LA. What rock have you been under?

Hitchcock! with organists Christoph Bull and Stephen Tharp: UCLA Live presents the organ scores from “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Vertigo” and “Psycho”, plus a live improvised score to the early Hitchcock silent film, “The Lodger.”

CityRace Urban Adventure Hunt at Olvera Street: I’d recommend margaritas mid-race at La Golondrina, but that’s just how I do races.

Artillery Art Debates at the Standard Downtown: LA-based artculture mag Artillery presents scads of people talking about art & culture: Juxtapoz founder Robert Williams, Flavorpill’s Shana Nys Dambrot, Coagula’s Mat Gleason, gallerist Robert Berman & more.

Helen Stellar at Spaceland: It’s great to see Helen Stellar back with April’s Monday night residency at Spaceland. They deserve it.

“School Nite” at Bardot: The softlaunch for KCRW’s Chris Douridas’  Monday night throwdown mixes up DJs (many with KCRW pedigrees) and local bands.

LA Plays Itself In The Movies: (500) Days of Summer

Most have probably heard already how last year’s (500) Days of Summer was some sort of love letter to Downtown Los Angeles (and IKEA), and, of course, it is. It’s full of glamor shots of old downtown building exteriors and landmarks like the Bradbury building, a lesson in LA’s skyline history from our protagonist, a downtown park in a supporting role, and even a random, awesome musical number featuring the UCLA Marching Band.


But this film does more than just take place in Los Angeles – it tells the story of many who have come here to live. Not because, as so many think, it’s designed for and starring a bunch of hipsters (I don’t actually think it is. Not everybody who listens to the Smiths is a hipster. And, sure, Zooey Deschanel is Queen of the Hipsters – literally, she’s married to the singer from Death Cab for Cutie. But, if all the hipster boys dressed like Joseph Gordon-Levitt does in this movie, well… I’d date a lot more hipster boys). It’s all about the high hopes one has when they get here, and what happens once they come crashing down.

Continue reading LA Plays Itself In The Movies: (500) Days of Summer

LA Plays Itself In The Movies: Midnight Madness (1980)

You know what the problem is with wacky college sex comedies? None of them were ever produced by Disney. Well, except one.

1980’s Midnight Madness was only the second Disney film ever to receive a PG rating (the first was The Black Hole, due to a long-since-deleted scene in which Maximillian Schell gets freaky with one of the robots). The film follows five teams of college students around Los Angeles as they compete in The Great All-Nighter, a citywide scavenger hunt designed and financed by Leon, a reclusive millionaire genius who lives in the Hollywood Tower with two women named Candy and Sunshine, with whom he presumably engages in hot, hot three-ways when he’s not planning and executing huge alternate reality games that span Los Angeles County. The script never really makes it clear.

Despite being part of the rich tradition of oversexed college goof-off films like Animal House, Porky’s, and Judgment at Nuremberg, Midnight Madness is relatively tame. It received its PG rating because it features alcohol consumption, a comedic description of female breasts, and the following frank discussion of human sexuality:

ADAM: Flynch, are you trying to tell me you’re a virgin?
FLYNCH: Oh, no, it’s not that. It’s just, I’ve never had a date.

There’s clearly a joke here, but it doesn’t stick the landing, and how Flynch lost his virginity despite never having had a date is never explained. He does talk a lot about his overprotective mother, so it might be best not to think about this too much and move on to the movie’s relationship with Los Angeles.

Continue reading LA Plays Itself In The Movies: Midnight Madness (1980)

L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies: Barton Fink (1991)

[youtube][/youtube]My first screenwriting instructor told our class not to write movies about writers, because their work, unlike the activities of cops and criminals, does not contain the dramatic action that movies require.  Maybe he was right, at least as far as popular appeal.  “Barton Fink,” written by Ethan and Joel Coen and directed by Joel, only grossed $6 million domestically at the box office.  On the other hand, it won the Palme D’Or at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the awards for Best Director and Best Actor (John Turturro), and was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Barton Fink hits L.A. and L.A. hits back, after the jump

LA Plays Itself in the Movies: Repo Man

This is an LA of space aliens, government conspiracies, stoned parents, evangelists,  lobotomies, repo men, debt, “Dioretix: Science of Matter of Mind,” rebellious youth, armed robbery, and most significantly some would argue, punk rock. Repo Man is the story of Otto Maddox (Emelio Estevez), an 18 year-old punk whose parents spend all day smoking weed and sending money they don’t have to a televangelist who preaches, “I want your money, because God wants it. So go out and mortgage that home, and sell that car, and send me your money. You don’t need that car.” Otto gets a job as a repo man, where Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) schools him (“Ordinary fucking people, I hate ’em.”) and the local  crazy shaman bum Miller (Tracey Walter) philosophizes (“There’s like this lattice of coincidence laid on top of everything”). Meanwhile, Otto meets Leila who is being tailed by creepy blonde government agents because she knows too much about a lobotomized scientist and his trunk full of aliens. Ultimately, everyone in the movie is looking for the same thing. Love? Salvation? Nope. A ’64 Chevy Malibu.

And here’s how LA this movie is: According to IMDB, a couple of days into filming, the Chevy Malibu was stolen. They located a replacement, and then the police found the original stolen vehicle and returned it unharmed, which was lucky since one of the actors subsequently wrecked the replacement car. Now that’s LA, ladies and gentlemen.

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Fansourced, Fan-Edited NIN Tour Film at Echoplex April 11

For all you fankids out their who cried for weeks when you found out the Wave Goodbye tour was the last tour Nine Inch Nails would ever see (or, conversely, who rolled their eyes and turned back to their Jhonen Vasquez comics), boy do we have a nifty surprise for you.

By working together, the Nine Inch Nails fan community have created This One’s On Us: Another Version of the Truth” — bringing together scads (dark, brooding scads) of editors, designers, and web programmers to create a professional digital film, big enough to take up three discs. And on April 11 you can catch it in all its light-strobing, blaring, bombastic growly glory when it gets a screening at the Echoplex, where the sound system and the lighting should help do justice to the film’s great sounds & visuals.


So apparently, Nine Inch Nails released “The Slip” for free via their website on 5th May, 2008, as a gift to their fans. Or as Trent Reznor put it: “This one’s on me.”

The footage for “This One’s On Us: Another Version of the Truth” was gathered when on Dec. 13th, 2008, dozens of Nine Inch Nails fans recorded the last show of the Lights In The Sky tour in Las Vegas. Then, just about a month later, on Jan. 7th, 2009, over 400Gb of video from the Victoria, Portland and Sacramento shows from the same tour were unofficially released by the band.

Info & tickets here. I expect this to sell out.

The Dude Still Abides

While he’s been honored by the glitterati with the golden idol that is the Oscar award for his performance in Crazy Heart, to me Jeff Bridges will always be The Dude. And Lebowskifest is back in LA this weekend to celebrate all things Lebowski.

Tomorrow kicks it off at the Wiltern with appearances by lots of the folks who inspired the story & the characters, plus a screening of the film itself and a Creedence cover band, Paddy & the Poor Boys.

Then on Saturday check out the bowling party & costume contest at Cal Bowl, featuring games, celeb appearances, bowling (natch) and nihilists.

More info on the whole shebang here. And if you “don’t roll on shabbos,” well, you’re screwed.

Turner Classic Movies Film Festival Comes to Los Angeles April 22-25

2001: A Space Odyssey. Image courtesy TCM

Turner Classic Movies is holding its first Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles from April 22-25. The recently published lineup of classic films is astonishing, including Casablanca, The Good, the Band and the Ugly, Some Like it Hot, The Producers, Sunset Blvd., 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Stunt Man, and more.  Also on the bill are panel discussions, receptions, and an introduction to North By Northwest by two of its stars, Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau.  Participating theaters include Grauman’s Chinese Theater, The Egyptian, and others.

Unfortunately, the admission price to the Festival may be prohibitive to many.  Passes covering four days of screenings and events currently run $ 499 or $ 599.  According to the Festival’s website, individual tickets are also available, although seating preference will be given to pass holders.  TCM informs me that individual tickets are in the $20 to $30 range, with 50 percent discounts for those with a valid student i.d.

Perhaps next year, TCM will sell cheaper (e.g., one-day) passes.  Meanwhile cable and satellite tv subscribers can play along on the home version: according to its schedule, TCM airs many of the films from the Festival on its cable channel, where the price of admission is your monthly bill.

ICME – Episode 4.5 – A New Cuppa

Pic by Melinda Canett
"TK-421, Why aren't you at your post?" "I needed a Latte."

So, this caught my eye, but it caught it on Facebook. My friend Melinda snapped this from her cell and posted it there with the title, “Storm Troopers need coffee breaks too.”  She was kind enough to let me share it with you. (I have agents in the field!)

Where else but Los Angeles can you happen across a Stormtrooper making a call on his cell from a coffee shop? Well, where else on Earth. I imagine it’s fairly common on the Death Star.

This does, in fact, appear to be a Coffee Bean and not the Death Star Canteen, as described by Eddie Izzard. (Be Advised, that link leads to hilarity, but there is also liberal use of the “F-Bomb.” So, its NSFW rating depends largely on your work place’s attitude toward the word, “Fuck.”Aren't you a litle Hot for a Stormtrooper?

So, I’m wondering if this is who he’s calling.

Pictured is Courtney Cruz, taken by Shannon Cottrell for the LA Weekly’s coverage of Star Wars Burlesque. Click the lovely photo to go to the article. That photo, incidentally, has been immortalized in Tattoo Ink. Click here to see the Ink, and LA Weekly’s article about that. (I don’t blame ’em, I’d be proud, too.)

<Darth Vader Voice>Impressive.</Vader>

What do Howard Hughes, James Ellroy, and James Cameron Have in Common?

Apparently,  a lot.  I was making my way through James Ellroy‘s “The Big Nowhere,” and, not too far in, Howard Hughes appears, along with his head of security, a crooked retired cop named Turner “Buzz” Meeks.  Meeks works at Hughes Aircraft, and it takes him an hour to drive to Studio City for some dirty work in pre-405 1950.  Trying to do the math, I recalled the giant Playa Vista residential development just a few miles from my house.

A couple of years ago, I took some dogs walking down the Westchester Bluffs on the South side of the Playa Vista property.  There were a couple of long drab buildings at the base of the bluffs, as well as a narrow service road.  Someone told me the buildings were film studios.  Another person told me they were part of Hughes Aircraft.

So I did some research and found this amazing website.  The gist of it is, this property was not only the headquarters for Hughes Aircraft, it was also Howard Hughes’ private airport. Howard Hughes buys our backyard, after the jump

Throughout March: Anatomy of a Script at Writer’s Guild Foundation

Pity the professional writers. They toil in relative obscurity, working long hours for low pay, pulling out hair by the fistful as they stare at blank computer screens as a creeping voice from their hindbrain tells them that even the most brilliant wordsmithing won’t bring them the fame and fortune they long for.

Well, most of us, anyway. Some writers have great jobs that pay well and make us all fall in love with them. Like, I’m pretty certain Damon Lindelof’s writing career is a lot more rewarding than mine. But then, I do occasionally get to write web copy for home foundation repair contractors. Take that, Lost-Boy!

So, yeah: Writers who produce television and movies are pretty cool. And if you’d like to hear a bunch of them chat about their trade in an intimate setting, the Writers’ Guild Foundation has you covered with their Anatomy of a Script series, which gives great TV and film writers the chance to talk about some of their most celebrated scripts. It begins tonight at 6 PM with Breaking Bad creator and X-Files scribe and producer Vince Gilligan. (OK, OK, technically it began last week with Matthew Weiner, but I didn’t get a chance to post. Please don’t be upset at me for forgetting to tell you about Matthew Weiner.)

Here’s the whole schedule:

March 3: Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad)

March 10: Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise)

March 17: Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island)

March 24: Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Zombieland)

March 31: Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give)

Visit the Writers’ Guild Foundation website for more information and to buy tickets.

Beach Party at the Egyptian tonight!

Tonight, the Egyptian is doing a double feature of Muscle Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo, and you really should go, really, really, you should.  Some people (ie: my roommate) claim that the Frankie and Annette beach party movies are terrible and unwatchable but I vehemently maintain that this is not the case.  No, beach party movies are glimmering, delicious nuggets of 1960s camp and I LOVE THEM.  In beach party movies, Southern California is a magical place where everyone wears high-waisted bathing suits all the time, and hangs out on the beach doing the watusi with Don Rickles.  Clearly, they are amazing and wonderful.

Watusi aside, however, what I really love about these films are the soundtracks and the musical numbers.  They were scored by Les Baxter, king of exotica , and usually have all kinds of great musical guests:  Muscle Beach Party happens to include the film debut of a (very, very young!) Little Stevie Wonder, as well as Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, and Frankie and Annette’s songs were co-written by Brian Wilson; while Beach Blanket Bingo has an appearance from surf rockers The Hondells.  Donna Loren, who appears as a vocal soloist in both movies (and later did a few episodes of Batman!) will be at the Egyptian to do a live set between films.

Anyhow, I am so excited about this and I will probably be hanging out in the first row of the balcony tonight, wearing my best go-go dress.  The show starts at 7:30.

My Neighborhood, The Film Set

Living in the center of the film and television industry, there are some fun games we get to play, like the “That Guy” game, where you run into a random actor out and about who you can’t quite place, and whichever of your friends figures it out first without resorting to IMDB wins. Another great game is “Name That Location”, wherein you can recognize the exact location a show is using for those remote scenes, not only showing off your photographic memory, but also destroying the fictional world the show has created and disrupting its narrative. It’s fun!

Now, it’s one thing to recognize local landmarks being used in a film, but I find it especially fun seeing my own neighborhood represented on the big screen (or TV. or laptop screen.). Eagle Rock is used all the time for exteriors, as many blocks are easily disguised as Small Town, Anywhere, USA. But interiors are harder to spot on TV – I knew it was Cindy’s Diner (which quite possibly gets more business as a shooting location than a restaurant) in those AT&T ads with Luke Wilson, but only because I saw Wilson standing outside in the parking lot while the commercial was being shot.

But this weekend while catching up on The Office, I spotted another local business (Can you guess it? Identity revealed after the jump):

Screen shot 2010-02-07 at 11.59.32 PM

Continue reading My Neighborhood, The Film Set