Films set in L.A. – My top 5

# 5  RESERVOIR DOGS – This is Quentin Tarantino‘s fantastic debut as writer and director in 1992. The film has also a great cast including Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi. The opening scene presents  eight men eating their breakfast at a Los Angeles diner. Six of them are using aliases: Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, and Mr. White. With them are gangster Joe Cabot and his son, “Nice Guy” Eddie. The film was screened in Park City at Sundance Festival and was immediately well received. It became immediately a classic, cult independent movie. Do you remember Mr Brown explaining what is the Madonna’s song “Like a Virgin” about?  “Let me tell you what ‘Like a Virgin’ is about. It’s all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The entire song. It’s a metaphor for big dicks.”. Go and check Mr. Blonde reply…

# 4  THE LONG GOODBYE – Put together a dark noir novel of Raymond Chandler, the magic touch of director Robert Altman and the craziness and talent of Eliott Gould interpreting a Philip Marlowe. The stunning result is this beautiful and difficult 1973 film which – quite unbelievably to me – remained largely unpopular. The story’s time period was updated from 1950 as in the novel  to 1970s Hollywood. The night scenes in L.A. are just beautifully shot and the house where Marlowe lives on the hills is an architectural masterpiece. A completely unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger appears very briefly in the film.


# 3  MILLION DOLLAR BABY – Very simply one the best film directed by Clint Eastwood

 and one of his best interpretations. Million Dollar Baby won 4 Academy Awards in 2004 including the one for best picture. Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman were also awarded the oscar for best actress and best supporting actor. I particularly like the beginning of the film when Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald, a waitress from a town in Missouri, shows up in the Hit Pit, a run-down L.A.  gym owned and operated by Frankie Dunn, a brilliant but only marginally successful boxing trainer. Maggie asks Dunn to train her, but he angrilyresponds that he “doesn’t train girls.” Frank will change his mind and ends up admiring and loving – platonically – Margaret whom he’ll nickname Mo Chuisle (my darling, my blood in Gaelic) until her tragic end.

# 2  SUNSET BOULEVARD – Billy Wilder and the most iconic L.A. boulevard which stretches from Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Coast Highway. Between the two ends, the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, which is a center for nightlife in the Los Angeles area. The film, shot in 1950 and featuring stars like William Holden and Gloria Swanson is one of the great classics of American Cinema and tells the story of a screenwriter who writes a play for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. The film was  restored and released on DVD in 2002. In 2003 a BBC review described it as “the finest movie ever made about the narcisistic hellhole that is Hollywood.” And as main character Joe Gillis says…”Yes, this is Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, California. It’s about 5 0’clock in the morning….”

# 1  THE BIG LEBOWSKY – Don’t mess up with the Dude. This film (together with Fargo) is the real masterpiece of the Cohen Brothers. An unbelievable cast – Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, John Turturro – looks like they are just having the time of their life while playing in the movie. Again there is some Chandler’s touch as the plot is loosely based on the novel “The Big Sleep”. The Dude Lebowski is a typical Venice resident who likes marijuana, White Russians, and bowling. By the way, the bowling alley scenes were filmed at the former Holly Star Lanes near Santa Monica and the 101 Freeway exit ramp. The bowling alley is not there anymore. It has since been torn down and a new elementary school stands in its place. But no more words from me, let the Dude and his mates speak…and careful, man, there’s a beverage here!

The Dude: Walter, what is the point? Look, we all know who is at fault here, what the fuck are you talking about?
Walter Sobchak: Huh? No, what the fuck are you… I’m not… We’re talking about unchecked aggression here, dude.
Donny: What the fuck is he talking about?
The Dude: My rug.
Walter Sobchak: Forget it, Donny, you’re out of your element!
The Dude: Walter, the chinaman who peed on my rug, I can’t go give him a bill, so what the fuck are you talking about?
Walter Sobchak: What the fuck are you talking about? The chinaman is not the issue here, Dude. I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line, you DO NOT… Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.
The Dude: Walter, this isn’t a guy who built the railroads here. This is a guy…
Walter Sobchak: What the fuck are you…?
The Dude: Walter, he peed on my rug!
Donny: He peed on the Dude’s rug.
Walter Sobchak: Donny you’re out of your element! Dude, the Chinaman is not the issue here!

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