Category Archives: VINTAGE MOVIES

Vintage Movies: “High Sierra”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

HighSierra

High Sierra (1941, 100 minutes)

Humphrey Bogart, about to turn 42, got second billing to Ida Lupino in film noir gem High Sierra. It was the last time he’d play second banana to anyone. His breakthrough performance as ex-con Roy Earle paved the way for every Bogey classic yet to come, from The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca to The African Queen and The Caine Mutiny. Only George Clooney, in recent years, has approached such a middle-aged bonanza.

The gates to Mossmoor Prison swing open and Roy Earle walks out, a free man. A mug in a battered coupe opens the car door for the pardoned man. “I was gettin’ kinda worried, Earle. Been waitin’ for over an hour.” Earle looks around and takes a deep breath. “I been waitin’ too—over eight years!” he says. “The park’s down there, ain’t it?” “The park? Say, Earle, you feelin’ all right?” Earle gazes up toward the blue sky and says, “I will be, soon as I make sure that grass is still green and the trees are still growin.'”

Earle heads straight for Big Mac’s place to get connected for some work. “Where’s Big Mac?” he barks at a face he doesn’t know. “Gone to California. I’m running things from this end now,” says a guy in a three-piece suit. “Who are you?” demands Earle. “I’m Jake Kranmer,” the man replies. “Copper, ain’t ya?” snarls Earle. “Used to be. I resigned,” says Kranmer (Barton MacLane). “Don’t worry about me. Mac wants you to start for California right away. The car downstairs is yours.”

“What’s the set-up?” asks Earle warily. “Tropico Springs, the richest little resort town in the world, they say. The hotel there gets all the sugar, and you’re gonna knock it off,” says Kranmer. “Am I?!” demands Earle. “Listen, Earle, you’re workin’ for Mac now. He calls the tune and you dance to it.” Earle takes the car keys, an envelope of cash and a map from Kranmer, then slaps him viciously twice across the face and slowly walks from the room, never looking back.

As Earle crosses into California behind the wheel of a ’38 Plymouth Deluxe coupe he begins to overtake an ancient Model T with three occupants, traveling at a snail’s pace. The old man behind the wheel suddenly veers to the left as a jack rabbit jumps into the road. Earle manages to avoid a certain collision by driving into hardscrabble beyond the road’s edge. He pulls into Ed’s Last Chance For 50 Miles filling station, followed soon by the Model T. “Wow, we made it!” says the old man to Earle. “I’d sure like to shake your hand, sir. I kinda lost my head back there, but you saved our bacon.” Grinning broadly, Earle shakes the old-timer’s hand and says, “I saved my own bacon, too.”

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Vintage Movies: “Beyond The Sea”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

BeyondTheSea

Beyond The Sea (2004, 118 minutes)

This must be a project that Kevin Spacey, one of the finest actors of his generation, has dreamed about since he first appeared in moving pictures almost 30 years ago: to direct and star in the story of ’60s pop singer Bobby Darin. Spacey, who does all his own vocals here, is the perfect fit as the enchanting-yet-abrasive entertainer who switched gears before you could count to four, from raunchy R&B belter (“Splish Splash”) to jazzy, Sinatra-like balladeer (“Beyond The Sea”). And, just as quickly, go from loveable pop star to burr under the saddle when things went wrong.

When I interviewed Roger McGuinn, lead guitarist/vocalist of majestic folk-rock combo the Byrds, for liner notes to one of his solo albums, he spoke fondly of his days before he formed the folk/rock legends, when he played lead guitar in Darin’s backup band.

The story here opens with Darin (Spacey) celebrating his 10th anniversary in show biz with a rare, intimate performance at New York’s Cocoanut Grove night club. The orchestra vamps with the opening chords of “Mack The Knife” as Darin is escorted to the stage by an entourage of about a dozen. Everything sounds right on the money when the singer abruptly pulls the ripcord on the song, three choruses in, when he spots the kid who plays the 10-year-old Bobby Cassotto (Darin’s birth name) at the back of the club.

Darin blames the interruption on the band to the grumbling fans who’ve paid big bucks for tickets. “I can do it much better,” he says to the unhappy audience as he leaves the club. One of the band members moans to Darin’s manager Steven Blauner (John Goodman) that it’s unfair to blame this on Darin’s musicians. “They’ve been working their asses off for him,” he says. A recent recruit to Darin’s backing outfit chimes in, “Yeah, I’ve never worked for such an arrogant asshole!” Blauner faces the complainer and levels him with, “Listen, you prick, there are four people around here who can’t be fired, and you’re not one of ’em! He might be an asshole, but he’s our asshole!”

Suddenly, Darin is transported to the Italian neighborhood in the Bronx where he grew up, as the family doctor explains to his mother that young Bobby has rheumatic fever. “It’s an illness that damages the heart and effects the joints and muscles too. Even with the best medical care in the world, the boy will be lucky to see his 15th birthday.” A few weeks later, young Bobby is awakened by his mother playing “Up A Lazy River” on a newly purchased piano. “It’s for you Bobby,” she says. The adult Darin muses, “Mama was right about music. It opened up a whole world to me outside of time and illness.”

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Vintage Movies: “Rear Window”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

RearWindow

Rear Window (1954, 112 minutes)

Director Alfred Hitchcock never made more out of a less-promising canvas than he did with Rear Window. From a vantage point of a second-story New York City apartment, the camera roves around a smorgasbord of open windows across the courtyard during a sticky summer morning. A lithe black tomcat slips up a staircase for an all-day nap after a night on the town. A milkman’s bottles clank as he makes his morning deliveries. The camera briefly returns to home base as sweat beads up on the forehead of L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart), sleeping fitfully next to his rear window.

It’s back outside into the courtyard as a radio bellows, “Men, are you over 40?!” and a paunchy man in a tanktop undershirt, who answers the radio’s desscription, lathers his whiskers with a shaving brush. An elderly man sits bolt upright on the fire escape, followed by his wife, sleeping head to toe. A shapely girl with a blond pixie cut pirouettes into her living room while attempting to snap on her strapless bra. She drops the undergarment on the kitchen floor, then readjusts it faster than Nijinsky could ever have done.

Jefferies is now seen in a hip-to-toe plaster cast of his left leg, bearing an inscription: “Here lie the broken bones of L.B. Jefferies,” with the second “e” squeezed in later to correct a typo. His apartment’s walls are covered with framed black-and-white photographs. Two Formula One racing cars careen upward like dinosaurs after a violent collision. Three people are running desperately from a burning vehicle in another photo, and a third depicts a man, maybe a police officer, falling into the path of a ’53 DeSoto. A coffee table bears a stack of LIFE magazine’s recent “Paris Fashions” issue piled next to a very expensive camera with flash attachment.

Later that morning, Jefferies is trying to run an electric razor over a sweaty upper lip as his telephone rings. “Congratulations on getting rid of that cast,” says Jeff’s principal magazine editor. “Who said I was getting rid of it?” replies Jeff. “This is Wednesday, seven weeks from the day you broke your leg, yes or no?” Jeff’s eyes roll back into his head as he says, “How did you ever get to be such a big-shot editor with such a small memory?” “Thrift, industry and hard work,” replies the editor, “and catching the publisher with his secretary. Did I get the wrong day?” “No, wrong week! It’s next Wednesday I emerge from this plaster cocoon,” moans Jeff.

The injury, he learns, will cost him a plum assignment in Kashmir, “about to go up in smoke.” To dampen the anguish from this missed opportunity, Jeff maneuvers a long stick inside his cast to scratch an annoying itch just above his knee.

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Vintage Movies: “Eyes Wide Shut”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

EyesWideShut

Eyes Wide Shut (1999, 159 minutes)

It’s difficult to discuss a Stanley Kubrick film without speaking of its director. Beginning with his first widely successful effort, Spartacus in 1960, through Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and his final work, Eyes Wide Shut, he made only nine films over those 40 years—all classics. The director’s fear of flying forced him to build a mock-up of New York’s Greenwich Village at England’s Pinewood Studios for Eyes Wide Shut. It’s a brilliant farewell from Kubrick, with as much percolating eeriness as anything by David Lynch.

Tom Cruise shines as Dr. Bill Harford, married to Alice (the always reliable Nicole Kidman). The Harfords have been invited to the Christmas extravaganza of Victor Ziegler, one of Dr. Bill’s wealthy patients. “Why do you think he invites us to these things every year? Do you know anybody here?” asks Alice just as the society band strikes up “I’m In The Mood For Love.” “Not a soul,” replies Bill.

Ziegler and his wife greet them with arms wide open. “Alice, look at you. You’re absolutely stunning,” says Victor (Sydney Pollack). “And I don’t say that to all the women, do I?” he asks his wife. “Yes, he does,” she chimes in. “Hey, that osteopath you sent me to, to work on my arm, you ought to see my serve now,” he says to Bill, punctuating the remark with an overhead tennis stroke. “He’s the top man in New York,” says Bill. “Oh, I could have told you that just by looking at his bill,” groans Victor.

Alice, slightly tipsy on champagne, trips the light fantastic in the arms of a suave Hungarian who can’t help but evoke a couplet from one of My Fair Lady‘s forgotten numbers (“There he was, that hairy hound from Budapest/Never have I ever known a ruder pest”). Her husband, meanwhile, is being lured slowly into an empty room by a pair of pretty young things, when one of Ziegler’s employees interrupts, asking him to come upstairs immediately.

Very agitated, Victor is pulling on his pants as Bill enters the room. A beautiful girl is sprawled, naked on the couch, totally unresponsive. “She shot up something … a speedball, I think,” says Victor. Bill kneels down and forces her to make eye contact. “Look at me, look at me, Mandy. Good, good!” he says, quietly insistent. Eventually, she comes around. “Well, that was one helluva a scare you gave us, kiddo,” says Victor, eager to get her dressed and on her way. “Better give her another hour,” says Bill as the host looks at his watch. “Listen, I can’t thank you enough. You really saved my ass,” Victor tells the doctor. Bill will one day be equally grateful to this near-casualty of a girl.

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Vintage Movies: “Dead Calm”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

DeadCalm

Dead Calm (1989, 96 minutes)

This early look at Nicole Kidman, 10 years before Eyes Wide Shut, is an Australian thriller that co-stars New Zealand-raised Sam Neill (of Jurassic Park and TV’s Reilly, Ace Of Spies). Oddly enough, the simple plot is a dead-ringer for one used in Laurel & Hardy’s last great comedy, 1940’s Saps At Sea. Needless to say, no one in the Aussie picture is motivated to stand up to a belligerent stowaway by imploring his pal to play the trombone.

John Ingram (Neill), a captain in the Australian Navy, eagerly returns home for the Christmas holidays to find his wife, Rae (Kidman), in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after a car crash that has killed their young son. To begin the mending process from this tragedy, he suggests they take a lengthy vacation aboard their handsome yacht, just the two of them, drifting aimlessly in the Pacific Ocean off the Great Barrier Reef, heading slowly toward the middle of nowhere.

Everything changes one morning when the Ingrams spy another ship, a three-masted schooner, that has drifted into sight during the night. Someone from this mysterious vessel is rowing its dinghy as fast as he can toward them. The frantic man, shirtless and out of his mind with fear, stumbles aboard the Ingram’s boat, spewing a bizarre tale of what’s just happened aboard the mysterious craft. All four of his female passengers have died a horrible death from food poisoning, and his ship, rented for a pleasure trip, is now rapidly taking on water, so he claims.

The Ingrams put the delirious man, who calls himself Hughie Warriner (American actor Billy Zane), to bed. But John, with a naval veteran’s sense of something being amiss, decides to row over to the other boat to investigate this bizarre tale. When he arrives, he finds four female corpses, all brutally mangled by the man now comfortably resting below-deck aboard his yacht. Warriner was right on one count, Ingram finds: His craft is definitely taking on water. Scared out of his wits, he rows fast as he can, back toward his boat—but he’s too late.

Warriner, now wide awake, has busted free from his locked quarters below deck and delivered a vicious haymaker to Rae, knocking her senseless. Ingram arrives just a fraction too late to save his wife, as Warriner has already fired up the engines to escape. Ingram makes one desperate leap toward his boat, but bounces helplessly off the side and back into the sea, as his yacht vanishes into the distance. The distraught husband has only one recourse in an attempt to save his wife: to row back to the ghost ship with its grisly contents and follow the runaway madman in a ship that certainly won’t make the distance before it heads toward Davy Jones’ locker.

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Vintage Movies: “Rain Man”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

RainMan

Rain Man (1988, 133 minutes)

When it comes to portraying characters with severe mental disorders, the silver screen has a pretty sad track record. Since the early ’50s, only Clare Danes’ title role in 2010’s Temple Grandin, Russell Crowe playing John Nash in 2001’s A Beautiful Mind and Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt, a high-functioning autistic in Rain Man, stand out for tackling such heavy subjects as autism and paranoid schizophrenia

For a kid in his 20s, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is as self-absorbed as they get. He’s just paid for four Lamborghinis to be delivered to his European auto sales business in Los Angeles so he can sell them at a handsome profit. He bullies his office girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golina) as they are driving to Palm Springs for the weekend.

“I just got a call from Mr. Mooney, your father’s lawyer,” reports one of his employees over Charlie’s car telephone. “He’s been trying to reach you. Your father has died in Cincinnati.” Expressionless behind sunglasses, Charlie replies, “Uh, huh.” The employee continues, “The funeral’s tomorrow. He said you’d know where. I’ve got his number if you need it.” Charlie replies, “That won’t be necessary. Anything else?”

Charlie walks into the garage of his father’s lavish estate to find the ancient vehicle still parked there, the machine that came between him and his father so many years ago. “I’ve known this car all my life,” he mutters to Susanna. “I only drove it once. It’s a 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible. Only eight thousand were produced. It’s a Fireball 8 from the first full year of the Dyna-Flo transmission.” He tells Susanna about the momentous night he and a few friends drove the car, without permission. His father reported the vehicle stolen and had his son arrested. “He didn’t pick me up from jail until two days later,” says Charlie. “I ran away that night, only 16 years old. I haven’t seen him since.” Later he tells her, “When I was a kid and I got scared, the Rain Man would come and sing to me. He was just one of those imaginary childhood friends.”

Charlie becomes very angry when his father’s lawyer reads the will. The only items he will receive are the ancient automobile and his father’s prize-winning collection of rose bushes. The balance of the estate goes to an unnamed party. That person, reveals the attorney, is Charlie’s older brother. “I have an older brother?!” Charlie explodes. His name is Raymond, and he resides permanently in a home for autistic adults, explains the attorney. Charlie visits Raymond in the home and decides to set him free once he realizes this man, with his head now crammed full of minutiae, is the one who sang to him when he was frightened, the person he remembers as the Rain Man.

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Vintage Movies: “Saving Private Ryan”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Saving

Saving Private Ryan (1998, 169 minutes)

If the sheer terror of the climactic scene in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper—a mulligatawny-thick desert sandstorm making it impossible to tell who’s shooting whom—had you digging your fingernails into your chair’s armrests, you might want to revisit Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan for some historical perspective. Different conflict (World War II), less sophisticated weaponry (nobody’s making rifle kill-shots from a mile away)—but it’s every bit as horrifying.

Not for the squeamish, the half-hour long opening sequence of Private Ryan, detailing the U.S. part of the invasion of Normandy by the allied forces in June of 1944, may be as close as you’ll get to the overpowering fear engendered by the original event. Hundreds of bodies with limbs or heads blown off float aimlessly like bags of straw in the lapping waters as more and more troops slog ashore desperately trying to dodge the fusillade of shells from German machine-gun nests entrenched on cement barricades built into the rocky area above the beach.

“They’ll shoot at any five men together! One man alone isn’t worth the ammo!” bellows an officer as the front gates of the LST landing craft spring open and the men in front are cut to pieces before they can even stand. Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks in his best screen performance ever) drags one of his injured boys about five steps up the beach before looking back and realizing it’s only half of the soldier. One man takes a direct hit to the steel helmet on this head. He removes it briefly to admire the dent and is drilled by a second round in the middle of his forehead. Miller hollers for the bangalores to be brought forward. The thin tubes that propel incendiary grenades at the enemy are just the ticket for finally flash-frying the machine gun outposts. Others are likewise soon blown to kingdom come.

In the aftermath of all five of the Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, perishing after the sinking of the cruiser USS Juneau by the Japanese in 1942, the armed forces have made a sincere effort to see that this should never again happen to one family. Since three of the Ryan brothers have just died during the invasion at Omaha Beach on D-Day, General George C. Marshall is determined to find the fourth brother, a paratrooper who’s landed behind enemy lines in France and is now missing, and send him home immediately.

A hand-picked group of eight elite American Ranger survivors, led by Captain Miller, are directed to venture deep behind German lines, and somehow locate PFC James Ryan (Matt Damon) and bring him back home. After the pure butchery of the 24 hours spent landing on Omaha beach, finding this kid ought to be a snap, reckons the battle-tested outfit. It isn’t.

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Vintage Movies: “Privilege”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Privilege

Privilege (1967, 103 minutes)

Peter Watkins’ Privilege hit the jackpot casting Paul Jones as Steven Shorter, an idolized pop singer from the near future whose every move is carefully scripted by the British government and the Church of England in order to mold the country’s youth into an easily controlled entity. In the early ’60s, Jones actually turned down Keith Richards and Brian Jones when they asked him to be the front-man of their start-up rock group. They would eventually land Mick Jagger. Paul Jones joined Manfred Mann, instead, just in time for the British Invasion, although acting was always his first love.

Four years after Privilege was released, A Clockwork Orange (a film dusted with similar sociological engineering) featured another pin-up boy, Malcolm McDowell, dragging the teen-idol concept into a lawlessly sociopathic future.

After an early period when Steven’s stage show consists of the singer being manacled, beaten and caged by the police, his bleeding body worshipped by screaming young girls everywhere, the board of directors who manipulate his every move decide it’s time for a new direction: total conformity.

As Steven gazes out from the rooftop balcony of a London office toward a sprawling block of high-rise council housing, one of his handlers whispers hypnotically into his ear. “There are millions of little people down there, Steven. We must be quite clear in our minds about one thing: that the old liberal idea that given enough education these people will grow into self-aware, creative human beings is nothing but an exploded myth. It can never happen. They are stunted little creatures with primitive emotions that are dangerous. They’ve got to be harnessed, guided. We’ve seen this happen over and over again for an evil purpose: Germany, Russia, China. You’re our champion, Steven. They identify with you. They love you. You can lead them into a better way of life, a fruitful conformity.”

Steven needs this periodic reaffirmation of the grand scheme. Being its linchpin is beginning to weigh heavily upon him. Dining one morning in the lush garden of the country home of Andrew Butler, Steven, instead of eating, nervously whittles away with a table knife at the hard crust on his bread. “Steven, may I say how delighted we all are to have you with us today,” says Andrew (William Job). “Everybody at this table will join me in wishing you every success for tomorrow night,” he adds, toasting Steven’s new-direction concert with a glass of Chablis. “I-I think I’d prefer hot chocolate, instead,” murmurs Steven nervously, an unheard of deviation from the norm. “You’d prefer what, Steven?” asks Andrew. “I’d like some hot chocolate. You’d like some too, wouldn’t you?” Steven asks the woman seated next to him. “Well … OK … yes,” she says, not daring to choose otherwise. Andrew quietly says to the butler, “Hot chocolate for everyone, please, William.”

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Movies Of Today: “The Water Diviner”

WaterDiviner

Whether he’s ducking friendly fire from the LAPD in a rundown motel in L.A. Confidential, fighting for his life with a short sword and a shield in Gladiator or creaming three Greek soldiers with a cricket bat in current post-World War I epic The Water Diviner, Russell Crowe hardly ever loses his cool. It’s his ace in the hole as one of the finest actors of our time, this ability to keep his head when everyone around him is going ballistic. Crowe’s understated work here is reminiscent of the most heroic moments of John Wayne (True GritRio Bravo).

A few years after the end of WW I, the wife of Joshua Connor, overcome with grief by the loss of her three sons at the battle of Gallipoli in 1915, drowns herself in a pond. Connor (Crowe) swears he will bring the bodies of his boys back home and bury them beside their mother. The Aussie farmer possesses an uncanny ability to find water in the wilderness, a knack that will soon come in handy.

After arriving in Turkey, Connor meets Ayshe (Olga Kurylenkov), the proprietor of his Istanbul hotel, whose husband has also died at Gallipoli at the hands of the ANZAC troops. And he encounters Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan), whose Turkish forces were responsible for taking the lives of Connor’s boys. Now working to identify the remains of the Gallipoli campaign, Hasan becomes an unlikely ally in Connor’s mission.

Crowe’s excellent directorial debut is an effective portrayal of the grisly side of what was once known as “the war to end all wars.” And, much like Saving Private Ryan, a World War later, it is highlighted by one man’s attempt to complete a Herculean task that seems well nigh impossible.

—Jud Cost

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Vintage Movies: “Los Angeles Plays Itself”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

LA

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003, 169 minutes)

As the garish image of a ’40s strip club flickers across the screen,” Encke King, the deadpan narrator of this fascinating documentary, intones in a no-nonsense delivery, “Los Angeles is where reality and representation get muddled.” And it’s off to the races with one short shot after another that gets straight to the central nervous system of the City of Angels as well as any Beverly Hills neurosurgeon. Most of this is existing footage with some of it shot expressly for the project. The result is a wall-to-wall mindbender.

“A real movie shoot can create a better public spectacle than the fake movie studio tours,” says King as a city bus is hoisted by an industrial-sized crane and attached to the bottom of a large helicopter, a la the statue of Jesus flown through the Roman skies in La Dolce Vita. The images must speak for themselves as they come at you like logs rapidly floating downstream to a Canadian sawmill. Take them as they arrive as little explanation is given. “A place can become a historical landmark because it was once a movie location.” A sign explains that a Jackie Chan movie was once filmed there. The Ambassador Hotel has apparently been preserved as a film locale because it was the place where Robert Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in 1968.

Many L.A. locales are named after Hollywood celebrities, such as Bob Hope Dr. and a park called the Bette Davis Picnic Area. And a small bust exists near the Griffith Park Observatory, commemorating the site where James Dean once challenged a fellow high school student to a “chickie run” in Rebel Without A Cause.

Then there are the steep concrete steps covering at least four stories up a hill in Silver Lake, a Los Angeles suburb. They are now named “The Music Box Steps” after the 1932 short where Oliver Hardy is chased all the way to the street below by a runaway crate with a piano inside.

“Los Angeles may be one of the most photographed cities in the world, but it’s one of the least photogenic. It’s not Paris or New York.” A razor-sharp image appears from The French Connection of three four-story walk-ups across the street, framed by a rubble-strewn empty lot in the foreground and two gutted brick warehouses on either side. “In New York everything seems sharp and in-focus. In smoggy cities like Los Angeles everything dissolves into the distance. Even close-up stuff seems far away.” A smeared image from To Live And Die in L.A. looks like it could be washed away with soap and water. At first glance this may seem to be a hatchet job on old L.A. Instead it’s a passionate love story that makes you see the old girl in a new light.

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