Monday, August 1, 2016

24 Hours of Movies: City of Angels

by Patrick Bromley
Los Angeles, I am inside you!

My family and I are in LA visiting Doug this week, so I thought it would be a good time to program a marathon of movies about the city. Having already programmed fake 24-hour marathons based around cities like Chicago and New York, I was surprised at just how much more difficult it was to narrow down the field of L.A. movies to just one full day (and, in fact, I failed, as you'll see down the lineup). As such, there were a lot of titles I had to leave out, including some of the most obvious ones like Sunset Boulevard and L.A. Story. Once again, these are the movies that I would want to watch, so the first person to say "No ___________?" or "You forgot..." loses. There are just too many movies to have included them all. I'm happy with these.

Let's watch some movies!

10 a.m. - Clueless (1995, dir. Amy Heckerling)
Let's start with something fun and fluffy and completely wonderful. Having made the definitive L.A. teen movie of the '80s with Fast Times and Ridgemont High, Amy Heckerling successfully did it again with the much lighter and sweeter Clueless. This update of Jane Austen's Emma is both a perfect comedy and a terrific satire of Beverly Hills values that, while very much of the 1990s, predicts a lot of the nonsense we're still dealing with in 2016. Plus it's a great love story and features a number of star-making performances from its cast, none more so than Alicia Silverstone's turn as Cher. I love, love this movie.

11:45 a.m. - Rebel Without a Cause (1955, dir. Nicholas Ray)
From the lighter side of high school to the dark, Nicholas Ray's groundbreaking classic essentially invented the American teenager in the 1950s. The iconography of James Dean's performance (and subsequent premature death) tends to overshadow just how great a film this is. A number of famous L.A. locations are used here to great effect, many of which would be recycled in later, lesser movies. If you haven't read Live Fast, Die Young, Lawrence Frascella's comprehensive account of the making of this classic, you really should. Nicholas Ray was a fucked up dude.

1:45 p.m. - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005, dir. Shane Black)
We can't have a marathon of L.A. movies without at least one film from Shane Black, whose entire body of work from Lethal Weapon to this summer's The Nice Guys is a kind of love/hate letter to the city. Of the films he's written and directed, I think this one (his first) is still my favorite in part because it has the most direct commentary about the city, including what might be my favorite description of L.A. ever written into a movie.

3:45 p.m. - Criss Cross (1949, dir. Robert Siodmak)
The list of classic L.A. noir is not at all short, so picking just one to represent the whole movement is almost impossible. I'm going with Robert Siodmak's Criss Cross because I haven't seen it for a long time and this would give me an excuse to revisit it. Also, Yvonne De Carlo in this movie chemically changes my brain. It's a very, very cynical film, but then a lot of L.A. noir (through Chinatown and L.A. Confidential and even the aforementioned The Nice Guys) is all about heartbreak and disillusionment. This one fits that bill in a big way.

5:15 p.m. - Night of the Comet (1984, dir. Thom Eberhardt)
There's no way you follow this site or listen to the podcast and think I'm not going to program Night of the Comet into an L.A. movie marathon. Long one of my favorite underrated '80s teen/sci-fi/comedy/horror movies, this has finally been finding its audience in recent years no doubt thanks to Scream Factory's excellent Blu-ray and, of course, our inclusion of the movie in our 2016 F This Movie Fest lineup. I love the characters, I love the performances, I love the humor, I love the unexpected drama and humanity. I also love to see parts of L.A. with no one in it because everyone has been turned to red dust.

7:15 p.m. - Heat (1995, dir. Michael Mann)
Yes, there has to be a Michael Mann movie. Yes, it has to be this one. There have been so many L.A. crime films, but this is the definitive one (and I'm making a distinction here between "crime films" and "noir mysteries" before anyone gets up in arms). Heat is imperfect, but it's so slick and sprawling and indulgent and often brilliant that I have to love it. I want it in the primetime slot because it is the sun around which the rest of this L.A. marathon revolves.

10 p.m. - Escape from L.A. (1996, dir. John Carpenter)
I've been asking in recent weeks which of John Carpenter's movies is going to take the mantle of "most underrated" in his filmography now that people have caught up to the greatness of both Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness. Part of me thinks it's going to be this one. There are things that have always held audiences back from embracing L.A. all the way, whether it's the way it redoes so many of the same beats from Escape from New York or the really bad CG or the way Carpenter pushes the absurdity until it becomes comedy, much the same way that Tobe Hooper did in going from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Part 2. But Carpenter has been ahead of his time so often that I think people will eventually come around to the satire and cynicism of this movie. Hell, it's worth revisiting just for the incredible cast. I've always been a fan.

12 a.m. - Midnight Madness (1980, dir. Michael Nankin)
I haven't seen this one since I was a kid, but I like the idea of scheduling it at midnight because I'm very fucking literal. It's a Disney movie in which a bunch of college students go on an all-night scavenger hunt; the main team is led by American werewolf/pepper David Naughton and features a very young Michael J. Fox, who, if 30-year old memory serves, does something cool with a retainer at some point. That's literally all I can recall about this movie, so I'd be excited to see it again.

2 a.m. - Lost Highway (1997, dir. David Lynch)
We had to give up one of the fucked up overnight slots to a PG-rated Disney comedy, so there's a lot of catching up to do. Lost Highway will help get us there quick. I know Muholland Dr. could also work, but I like the idea of this one at 2 a.m. better. It's a mystery, it's a noir, it's a horror movie, it's a nightmare of Los Angeles. My favorite Lynch movie is still a total toss-up, but this one is in the running and on the right day is my number one pick.

4:15 a.m. - Starry Eyes (2014, dir. Kevin K├Âlsch & Dennis Widmyer)
There aren't a whole lot of horror movies set in Los Angeles. There are even fewer horror movies actually shot in Los Angeles, and even fewer that are as much about Los Angeles as this one is. I'm on record for several years as being a huge fan of this movie, and in particular Alex Essoe's incredible performance in the lead role. This will be great overnight.

5:45 a.m. - Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970, dir. Russ Meyer)
Normally this would get placement in the overnight section (it's that kind of movie), but because of Midnight Madness it's getting pushed to sunrise. This film, a collaboration between the great Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert (his only credited screenplay), is as weird and cultish as movies get. It's also pretty brilliant. I can't wait for Criterion's upcoming Blu-ray.

7:30 a.m. - Valley Girl (1983, dir. Martha Coolidge)
To get a little cheerier after six hours of weirdness, let's travel back to Martha Coolidge's breakout movie -- a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet with a mall girl (Deborah Foreman) and a punk (Nicolas Cage). The music is great, the romance appealing, the supporting cast (which includes Colleen Camp, Michael Bowen, Cameron Dye the great Michelle Meyrink and the even greater E.G. Daily) a who's-who of '80s movies. Yes, it's very much a product of its era (era), but that has real value, too. "Dated" isn't always a pejorative.

9:15 a.m. - Hollywood Homicide (2003, dir. Ron Shelton)
I've gone to bat for this underrated buddy cop comedy many times on this site, and it has a breezy looseness that will go down very easy after nearly 24 hours of watching movies. I love the sense of humor Shelton has here, as well as the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett giving what is, for me, one of his best performances. The thing that I've always liked about this movie -- and that I continue to like -- is its attitude towards L.A., where being a cop is something these characters do just to pay bills while they pursue other careers.

11:15 a.m. - Repo Man (1984, dir. Alex Cox)
This definitely should have gone in the overnight block, but it was a crowded field and a couple films had to be pushed back. This takes us past 24 hours, I know, but I couldn't imagine an LA movie marathon without it. This is one of only a few '80s movies that seems engineered to be a cult movie that still succeeds at being a legitimate cult movie for all the best reasons. Not sure how it will play during lunch (the second day), but there's no way I'm leaving it out.

1:15 p.m. - Nightcrawler (2014, dir. Dan Gilroy)
One of the best recent movies about Los Angeles, and not necessarily because of the things it has to say about tabloid culture and opportunism within the media (though those things don't hurt). It's great because of how important the actual geography and structure of the city is to the heart of the movie. Jake Gyllenhaal should have won an Oscar for his performance. Or at least been nominated.

3:15 p.m. - To Live and Die in L.A. (1985, dir. William Friedkin)
Ok, I know we're way over the 24-hour mark, but this is another movie I couldn't live without programming. Turns out there are just too many movies about L.A. that I love -- and I left a LOT out of the lineup. William Friedkin's last true masterpiece is one of the great cops and robbers movies of all time, one of the great crime pictures of the '80s and one of the best movies of that decade period. It has great characters, unbelievable action sequences, cool music, gorgeous photography and one of the best holy shit moments of any movie ever. I'm not sure how it works as a last entry after over 30 hours of consecutive movie watching, but there's something I find funny about wrapping up this marathon in the hands of John Pankow. Everything is as it should be.


  1. I'll never forgive the Oscars for snubbing Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Never. F the Oscars!

  2. There is something about LA that inspires a type of movie, which is definitely on show here (by the way inspired list - the best way to spend 18(?) hours). There is this kind of Ancient Romanseque facade of mythos and grandure that you don't find in other settings. Maybe because its so spread out, maybe its because of Hollywood. But mainly it just reminds me I need to watch Starry eyes.

    1. I mean 32 hours, wow I cannot add to save myself

  3. Great list. Miracle Mile would be my only addition. My end of the world classic and one of my favorite movies. But hard to drop any of those picks.

  4. Just took a one day trip down to L.A. on Sunday with some friends because they wanted to go to Universal Hollywood (I had previously only been to the one in Orlando). We left from the SF Bay Area Saturday night and I got back home around midnight on Sunday. It was exhausting but fun.

    I don't know that it inspires me to watch 24 hours of movies about L.A. but I could go for some Criss Cross and Midnight Madness.