As part of Movie City Los Angeles, key members of the creative team behind Focus Features’ forthcoming film Greenberg select their favorite movies set in the City of Angels.
Minnie and Moskowitz
I first saw Minnie And Moskowitz at the New Beverly during a stay in Los Angeles. I was lonely and confused and this film made me see the passionate energy that can come out of the very particular melancholy of Los Angeles. I don’t know if it was just how I saw it, but this is my favorite Cassavetes film. Gena Rowlands is (as always) the most interesting actress I’ve watched and Seymour Cassell’s moustache is pretty much worth the whole movie.
Earth Girls are Easy
This film was a childhood favorite for two reasons. 1) It was a (quasi) musical, and I was a musical nut. 2) I had a very intense, unspoken, embarrassing crush on the alien version of Jeff Goldblum. Because of this film, I thought Los Angeles was entirely wet T-shirt contests and elaborate fish tanks.
Singin' in the Rain
This is the first movie that I remember seeing that was about the making movies themselves. The stars, the studio lots, the movie sets – I was in love with the world. The song “Good Morning,” which they all sing after having stayed up all night working, pretty much fixed in my mind what I wanted my life to be like. When I finally walked onto a studio lot, I got a surge of Singin’ in the Rain memories. So many of the buildings still look like the one’s from the late 1920s – I kept imagining Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor tap dancing up the walls.
Even though this isn’t technically a Los Angeles movie, the part that takes place in Los Angeles is so funny and sad and true that I had to include it. Especially since I’m generally coming to L.A. from New York, I share Alvy’s sense of disorientation and clumsiness. My favorite line in the film is when Annie is defending Los Angeles to Alvy: “Tony’s very nice and, uh, well, I meet people and I go to parties and – and we play tennis.”
Stand and Deliver
I just love this movie, and while there have been other films that try to capture the “against all odds” spirit, I think that Stand And Deliver is one of the best. It is the true story of Jaime Escalante, who taught high school math at a struggling public school East Los Angeles, eventually teaching A.P. level calculus to kids that the school system had essentially given up on. I am a product of Northern California public schools, and I must have watched this movie fifty plus times growing up. “Inspirational” sounds trite to explain the effect of this movie. The bravery of both the students and the teacher is incredible, and the performance of Edward James Olmos is as amazing as the story itself.