Monday, October 16, 2006

In Praise of LA

Los Angeles seems to be the bastard stepchild in the eyes of movies and books. New York has it's moments of course, "Last Exit to Brooklyn", "The Warriors", even "The Out-of-Towners" made the case for New York as hell. But rarely does LA get an even break on film or print. Even movies like "L.A. Story" looks at the city as kind of a running gag, if affectionately. Other movies portray it as something much darker: whether the portrait is of a city populated entireley by criminals and psychos (and the psycho's the protagonist) like "Kiss Me Deadly" or to a lesser extent "Double Indemnity" or by harridans and narcissists "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" or "Shampoo". Want futuristic urban Dystopia? how would you like that served? Dark "Blade Runner" or light "Demolition Man"? Even is song we get the short end: Chicago might be toddlin' New York is spreadin' the news and San Francisco has so many hearts left in it they really should look into donating a few. We get Randy Newman's back-handed compliment of a song, which has been curiously embraced by city politicians, which strikes me as being as odd as say, the producers of " Little People Big World adopted his "Short People" as the theme song. There just isn't one of those big movies they do about New York that makes you as a kid want to pull up stakes and move here. There's no "Manhattan" for us.

I suppose this is for the best, since the city is bursting at the seams already and if rents go much higher I may be living in my car, but I do wish there was one or two movies that caught some of the loveliness that exists here. I know that it can be hard to find: to the casual observer it can seem that LA is all strip malls and somewhat seedy boulevards (but hey, New York doesn't all look like a Woody Allen movie either..), but some of my fondest adult memories are of LA, not New York. For every fond recollection of autumn in Central Park, I have ten of Santa Monica in the September evenings, with the foggy chill starting to some in. For every rememberance of the sultry evenings of early summer looking up at the shimmering neon lights ringing the tops of the Empire State and the Chrysler buildings, I have 10 of walking through the bone dry evenings in the summer in Beverly Hills or driving on Mulholland with the scent of jasmine being blown by the Santa Ana's.

Thanks to a friend of mine, I did manage to have a quintessentially LA movie moment: for my birthday a few years ago, my friend lent me her vintage Mercedes 450SL. I was finally able to have my Richard Gere "American Giglolo" moment: I drove down PCH, with Blondie's "Call Me" on the stereo. And yes, dammit, I'd do it again.


elle said...

How brilliant that you had your "American Gigolo" moment. :-) That scene is actually how I think of California. I've got friends who live in Santa Monica who describe it frequently the way you do - a genuinely beautiful place to live.

tmp00 said...

Santa Monica is nice: right by the ocean so even in summer you sometimes get fog. I like fog. And it has one of the most beautiful streets in Los Angeles: La Mesa Drive, with it's beautiful homes from the 30's and canopy of Moreton Bay fig trees, the only street in Beverly Hills that comes close is Maple between Sunset and Santa Monica, with it's unbroken three long blocks of Camphor trees and almost untouched gracious homes from the 30's and 40's

I think everyone who comes here should have their "American Gigolo" moment, whether it's driving through Malibu in a Mercedes convertible or ordering in French at the Polo lounge..