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Category Archives: The City in Cinema

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: the Lawn

Created for Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne’s Third Los Angeles Project event “Turf Battles: the Lawn in Los Angeles,” held on February 17, 2016. You can watch the whole evening here.

Urban Dystopia in “Blade Runner”, “Black Rain”, and “Her”

Now you can watch the video essay I made on visions of urban dystopia in Blade Runner, Black Rain, and Her for my talk at the San Francisco Urban Film Festival. See also my earlier essays on Blade Runner and Her on The City in Cinema’s Vimeo channel.

Portland, the City in Cinema

Portland hardly runs the risk of cinematic overexposure, but when we see real a Portland movie, one with a sense of place, we remember it. These run the gamut from the 1950s noir morality play Portland Exposé and nuclear-strike preparedness special A Day Called X to Penny Allen’s 1978 land-use satire Property to the work […]

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: the Bonaventure Hotel

What building most clearly signifies Los Angeles? In a built environment with few easily legible architectural icons, the Bonaventure Hotel has come to stand for the city as no other building does. Since opening in 1976, John C. Portman Jr.’s quintet of reflective cylindrical towers atop a stark concrete base has played in urban Los […]

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Miracle Mile (Steve de Jarnatt, 1988)

Again and again, the movies have visited the apocalypse on Los Angeles. Miracle Mile did it at the end of the Cold War, with both a city and an apocalypse perfectly suited to the zeitgeist of the era: mutually assured nuclear destruction. But despite the global stakes, the story stays local, focusing on not just […]

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004)

Crash drew great acclaim, up to and including an Academy Award for Best Picture, as a searing and incisive examination of racial tension and prejudice in Los Angeles, yet I’ve never met an Angeleno who likes it. Its indictment of the city — not, of course, a “real” city — as a tinderbox of incomprehension […]

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994)

Speed, the quintessential Los Angeles action movie, actually comprises not one but three Los Angeles action movies, each a contest of wills between a SWAT hot-shot and an ex-LAPD mad bomber: the first high in a downtown office tower, the second in a bus careening across town on a freeway, and the third underground in […]

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2006)

Southland Tales has endured many accusations, but never of playing it safe. By turns a satire, farce, polemic, zeitgeist movie, musical, and apocalypse narrative, Richard Kelly’s rich and paranoid follow-up to Donnie Darko also grounds itself in Los Angeles cinema. It tells an even more Philip K. Dickian tale than Blade Runner and ties itself […]

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)

Los Angeles noirs don’t come much noirer than Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich’s adaptation of a Mickey Spillane bestseller that transplants the story from New York and boils it even harder by turning its private detective protagonist Mike Hammer into a sociopath as thuggish as the criminals around him. An ill-considered pickup of a hitchhiker […]

Tonight: Colin and “The Cities in Cinema” Live in Portland

One night only, Portlanders! Tonight at 7:00 at the Hollywood Theatre, I’ll give my talk and screening “Portland and Los Angeles: The Cities in Cinema“, a look at how movies — respectable ones and schlockfests, Hollywood blockbusters and indie favorites, visions of the future and the past — reveal both the City of Angels and […]