Ever since SJ and I decided to move to Los Angeles, we've decided to try watching movies set in and around the city we now live in. Considering Los Angeles is home to the movie industry, and has been since the late 1910s, there's going to be a lot of choices for us. What's cool about watching these movies is they run the genre gamut from drama to horror to comedy. Every kind of movie has been made using Los Angeles as a backdrop and we're going to drown ourselves in some locational method viewing. There's the obvious choices that we'll watch [Chinatown, Blade Runner, Pee Wee's Big Adventure] and the not-so-obvious [documentaries]. This is the first installation of a series of posts that I'm cleverly dubbing: Los Angeles Cinema. Very creative, I know. Check out a couple of trailers below for two of the films in this post and you might have to consult a glossary when you read my Valley Girl review as I do the review in "valspeak"! If you leave comments about Valley Girl, please do so in the appropriate vernacular for all to read.
L.A. Story. We might as well start off with a real Los Angeles charmer from renaissance man Steve Martin [comedian, novelist, playwright, actor, art collector and banjoist] penned this gentle satire set in the city he's lived in his entire live. Since Martin has such a long-term relationship with Los Angeles, he's got a lot of material to put in regarding the quirks of local culture and people. Martin mainly mines the 1980s fads that are natural targets [explosion of popularity of plastic surgery, nightmarish traffic on the freeways, never being on time, fashionable foods] while telling his story of a zany weatherman [Martin] who meets two opposite romantic partners. There's the buzzing with youthful energy in SanDeE* [Sarah Jessica Parker; yes, that's how she spells her name in another jibe at the locals] and the quirky, English appeal of a woman closer to his age in Sara [Victoria Tennant; Martin's wife off-screen from 1986-1994]. While L.A. Story has conventional romantic comedy roots, it has elements of fantasy [a talking electric road sign!] and is chock full of so much clever satire that the romance is used many times just to knock the way Los Angeles residents live. I loved the combination of elements and probably enjoyed the movie more this time than when I originally saw it in Tulsa in 1991. I'm going to have to re-watch a lot of these "Los Angeles Cinema" series and hope the second viewing of other films will be as rewarding as this. L.A. Story is a delightful and enchanting movie. Rating: ****
The Cool School. Los Angeles has always been in the shadow of New York City when it comes to art. New York, as it often does with other topics, likes to inflate its importance as the epicenter of the cultural world. "If you aren't an artist in New York, you can't be a real artist," that kind of mindset. Well, a group of artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s rejected that idea and stayed in their hometown and made the same sort of work that would have greatly increased their stature had they been in NYC. The Cool School is an entertaining documentary that looks into this all-male group of artists, the era they created in and the groundbreaking gallery [Ferus] that exhibited their work. I've missed out on knowing who any of these guys are, I'd only heard of one of them: Ed Ruscha. I know who he is because he's a fellow Oklahoman. The rest of them I hadn't the foggiest who they were, yet the documentary does a terrific job blending their life story, their style and their personality with the larger focus of the collective. There's also a lot of archival footage of Los Angeles in the 1950s through the 1960s that give a flavor of the city at the time. It's a much different place now than then and I wish I could have been around it when it was less compact, less crowded and much more of a cultural wasteland. Being from Oklahoma has instilled in me an attraction to places that are off the grid, forgotten, ignored or seen better days, and Los Angeles in the 1950s/1960s had pockets of the city that were definitely connected to those elements. It wasn't all glamour, glitter, reality shows, wealth and Hollywood stars on every street corner. It's probably not like that now, but perceptions of the city are kind of overwhelming. The Cool School is recommended for art fans and people who want to see a different side of Los Angeles portrayed than what bombards current popular culture. Rating: ****
Valley Girl. Now here's one I haven't seen since the mid 1980s that is about as good example of what "80s culture" is all about: valley girls! Released in 1983 and directed by Martha Coolidge, Valley Girl capitalizes on the craze at the time regarding "valley girl" slang known as [like totally awesome you know?]. It was the first Hollywood release to tap into the world of "valspeak" and is the quintessential movie for this sort of thing. Valley Girl is more than a document of "valley" culture though, it's a molotov cocktail of pure '80s culture that sent me back to moments of my youth that I could not believe I was witnessing. The hair, the clothes, the accessaries, the music, the slang! This movie could be viewed as a documentary it nails the early 1980s teenage lifestyle so completely. Like, seriously, you know? Here's my short review, in appropriate language for the "vals" who read CineRobot religiously.
So, like, Nicholas Cage [like, before he got his teeth done. His teeth used to be so grody! Gag me!] plays the totally bitchin' punk rocker "Randy." He's a gnarly dude with a boffin' bod who meets "Julie" [Deborah Foreman] and they start a romance despite the fact that she's from the valley and he's, like, from Hollywood. I'm so sure. Anyways...this is an epic romantic culture clash that rates right up there with what it would happen if, like, a Jew dated a Muslim in Jerusalem, like, during an intifada, for sure, you know? Totally. "Julie" is torn, there's her ex mang "Tommy" all her ditzy friends [like, whatever!] want her to get back together with to be tre Mr. and Mrs. Popularity, or the totally radical "Randy"? What's a girl to do, you know? Oh my God! So, like, how could "Julie" stay with "Tommy" when "Randy" is around? Like, barf me out! As if! I'm, like, freakin' out just thinking about it. Seriously, so this is a way cool movie that shows a certain segment of '80s culture with awesome tunes, bitchin' slang, tubular fashions and it will make you feel, like, awesome when it ends. For sure? Totally. Rating: ***1/2