With Seven Psychopaths
hitting theatres in the US soon, and you can read my review over at FSR from TIFF
, I thought it best to take a look at those films that manage to set themselves in L.A. for no real reason. Stories, like Seven Psychopaths
, can happen anywhere in the world. However, for one reason or another the writer decided to set it in the land of movies and blah blah blah, so Hollywood/L.A. it is.
So here are my Top Ten Film Set in LA.:
10. Boyz n the Hood (1991) (dir. John Singleton)
, Lawrence Fishburne
and Cuba Gooding Jr.
deliver performances that should keep them working for the rest of their careers, however looking at the current state of affairs it doesn’t mean that it happens. The film takes us into the ghetto of Los Angeles with two best friends and how they grow apart due to the morals that define them. However, no matter the distance their friendship is so strong that it keeps them coming back together as they each have to figure out their own way of right and wrong.
A stark depiction of not only inner city life but also gang warfare in Los Angeles.
9. Drive (2011) (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
Last year I found it hard to find a movie cooler than Refn
’s latest and looking back I still am not sure I can. Ryan Gosling
takes on the role of the silent and nameless Driver who gets wrapped up in a bad heist and tears his whole world apart just as it’s beginning to take form. He shows his skills being more than proficient in every area that’s needed and when called upon can deliver what’s necessary for almost any situation. The film deals with the moral grey of life and delusion all while fetishizing violence in a way that’s hardly done as gracefully as this film.
8. Pulp Fiction (1994) (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
If one was the think of a much more serious and equally enjoyable relative of Seven Psychopaths
this is the film you would come up with. Pulp Fiction
takes the ensemble scattering of stories and brings them together in one big L.A. gangster action/comedy film at once. With John Travolta
, Samuel L. Jackson
, Bruce Willis
, Uma Thurman
, Harvey Keitel
and Ving Rhames
(to name a few) all getting together to tell stories of hit men with brains in a car, boxers running from mob bosses and robberies gone awry then you know you’re in the right place for a Tarantino
7. Heat (1995) (dir. Michael Mann)
A crew of highly professional thieves come to L.A. to pull a big bank job and the police get wind of the job. The film then becomes the cat and mouse of cop and robber pitted against one another to see if one can pull it off and if the other will catch them in the act. Pacino
and De Niro
have been lauded for this film, with good reason, but more than that is Michael Mann
’s calculated hand at making sure all the elements add up and giving a true sense of space at all times. The film takes us on (out of all the films in this list) the most detailed and grand tour of the city of L.A. without distracting from the narrative or feeling too ‘go here when you come in town’. Otherwise the film itself is fantastic with one of the most engaging bank robberies in history of cinema.
6. The Graduate (1967) (dir. Mike Nichols)
With a much more odd view of L.A. we see Dustin Hoffman
and Anne Bancroft
shuffle around having a secret relationship after he returns from college. It’s a story of a man who falls in love with a woman after having relations with her mother and trying to make one thing work without having the other’s existence ruin it all. Hoffman
’s performance is infectiously lovely and also endearing as he has to deal with his own guilt for what he’s done and at the same time be in service to his honest love for Mrs. Robinson’s daughter.
5. Chinatown (1974) (dir. Roman Polanski)
What can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said? When Jack Nicholson
, Faye Dunaway
and John Huston
are the leads in a noir detective film how could it go wrong? It can’t. When you see this movie for the first time it’s difficult not to be drawn into the investigation and be left with so many visual souvenirs. I can almost never forget the moment you see Nicholson
’s character open his glove box to see the large amount of pocket watches and their eventual purpose.
4. Reservoir Dogs (1992) (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
The beginning point of Tarantino
’s career as a director for many of his fans in a film which doesn’t particularly bring a lot of setting to the table. The film spends 80% of its runtime within the confines of an abandoned wharehouse where the remaining members of the team are waiting to hear from Joe (Lawrence Tierney
) after everything went wrong at the heist. Regardless the film is set in L.A. and it sketches into the list on a technicality, but in it is. Some days I pop in the DVD just to hear the opening diner scene (most specifically the Like a Virgin
conversation) at random points in my week.
3. Boogie Nights (1997) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
Sometimes I find it hard to think that at one point in time people went to public theatres to watch pornographic films. While film watching is a communal thing for me (and many others) I imagine that kind of film to be a bit more private hobby. However, watching the story of Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg
) on his rise, dip, and rise again to fame of the adult entertainment industry. Along the way we see the shift of technology and convention with the viewpoint of actors, film techs, crews, and director (Jack Horner).
2. Sunset Boulevard (1950) (dir. Billy Wilder)
I think it may be illegal in some parts of the world to discuss L.A. films, or films about movies, and not bring up Billy Wilder
’s Sunset Boulevard
. Even if you’ve never seen the film you would know the famous line, “Mr. Demille. I’m ready for my close up.”
Which comes near the end of the film. Being the prime example of a film where just because a character is narrating the film doesn’t mean he has to live at the end of it (as we see in the opening scene of the film). It’s a great discussion of a shifting time in Hollywood and how actors (like in the film The Artist
) were left behind as we see Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson
) talk of how the screen got smaller which is why she stepped away after the change from silent films to ‘talkies’.
1. Singin' in the Rain (1952) (dir. Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen)
Talking about movies about movies we reach my #1 L.A. film with Gene Kelly
’s Singin’ in the Rain
. He discusses the same topic as The Artist
– what filmmakers have to do when audio is introduced into films and they have a horrible sounding actress to sell – but with all the sides of film represented. Music, dance, comedy, romance, drama and even some good old fashioned performance driven discussion of the hard work of the movies. While the film is remembered for some iconic scenes like Singin’ in the Rain
, Make ‘Em Laugh
, and Good Morning
; I doubt the film (or any like it) can top the level of choreography, criticism, art and introspection that’s brought about by the final number Gotta Dance
in the film.
What are some of your favourite L. A. films that I forgot to mention?