Salford to San Francisco

For the 12 people that read my first blog, they’ll know I went through a mini meltdown on my quest to attend an Empire Podcast Q&A with Marvel’s head honcho, Kevin Feige. For the 7 billion other people that didn’t read, feel free to do so here. For those that have no interest, just know that the “Great” British railway system massively let me down, which led to me silently stifling tears outside Nuneaton. Well I’m happy to say that the redemptive arc of this story is now complete. It’s taken me a while to write this, but towards the end of last year I attended another Empire podcast event, this time in Liverpool. I was obviously scarred from my previous Empire experience, much like Luke Skywalker. The difference with me and Luke however, was that he appeared in Return of the Jedi with a metal hand, whereas my equivalent was arriving in Liverpool 4 hours early. He took down the Emperor, I took down Northern Rail.

All in all it was a great night. I met the fantastic hosts/film critics Chris Hewitt, Helen O’Hara and James Dyer, as well as conversing with Chris briefly about “Traingate”. He was kind enough to remember the panicked messages I sent him and apologised on behalf of public transport; which he really didn’t need to do. The best part of the evening was winning Do the Right Thing on Criterion Collection (a truly glorious addition to my collection). I did so by answering the question correctly, what was Samuel L. Jackson’s character named (Mister Señor Love Daddy). Despite the narcissism of this blog, I’m not usually one for public speaking, but my hand was up before I’d even realised. If I hadn’t answered I would’ve left early through unadulterated shame. Anyway, enough rambling and self-deprecation, this leads me on to another point.

During the show, it was discussed how the avenue where the film was shot, had recently been renamed Do The Right Thing Way. Firstly, that’s amazing. Secondly, why don’t I live on “Someone Robbed my Bin Street”? (Stay tuned for the inevitable filming announcement). I’d love to visit that street, and I’m certain I will at some point. It’s led me to ponder all the other places I’d love to visit in New York that hold film significance for me. However, my better half and I will be visiting the other side of the US this September, so I’m thinking of stops along the way that are essential.

In what might be the biggest cliche of them all, the Griffith Observatory is a must stop. La La Land holds a special place in mine and my girlfriend’s hearts, the first time we saw it we were completely swept away and have continued to love it. When we left the cinema, on that first viewing, the sky began to smother us in snow. I felt as though we’d been taken along on this wondrous tale and somehow Manchester had been sprinkled with some LA magic. The scene in particular that stands out is when Mia & Sebastian begin their adventure together in the observatory. They begin to dance, the music swells and at that moment we, along with them, take off. The first time I saw this I burst into tears which have continued, off and on, for the past 3 years. For the Griffith Observatory see also James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. No explanation necessary.

First Stop

Staying in LA, we may go down to the financial district to witness where Michael Mann staged the bank robbery to end all bank robberies. I obviously have no intention of seeing a real bank robbery, and at the moment of trouble I’ll be on the first plane home; a hero I am not. Maybe we’ll ride a bus, making sure to stay below, or above 50 mph, depending on how much excitement we’ve had to that point. Surely we’ll swap a late night chat in a diner, ensuring to end each sentence with “money” or “baby”. All three of those films were made in the mid 90’s in a contemporary setting, so I’m sure fashion wise we can fit in. Everywhere I turn now I see people dressed like I was as a ten year old. Please forgive me, that last statement has simultaneously aged me, and made me seem like a griping cynic. I’ll confess to being in my mid 30’s, but the cynical element I’ll try and keep at bay; at least for another decade. In the city of dreams we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to film locations, however it would be remiss of us not to finish off with a trip to see Fox Plaza in Century City. For those that don’t know, this building stood in for the fictional Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard. If I manage to get on to thirtieth floor, channelling my inner Alan Rickman, saying “ladiezzz and gentlemeeeen, ladiezzz and gentlemeeeen”, I think it will have been a successful holiday all round.

Once out of LA we will be briefly stopping off in Santa Barbara. Film wise it appears to be a somewhat barren land. However, the criminally under-seen/undermentioned 20th Century Women was filmed there, so this gives me another excuse to wax lyrical about the wonder that is Billy Crudup. Not only is he in this, not only is he sporting another incredible moustache, there’s the very real possibility that he’s playing an older, retired from the music business, version of his character Russell from Almost Famous. For that fact alone, it’s worth finding the bar in which he and the wonderful Greta Gerwig dance to punk music.

Billy

From there we’re driving north up the Pacific Coast Highway to Morro Bay where, again, cinematically we approach a sparse landscape. In fairness though, comparing it to Los Angeles for film locations is like comparing Brad Pitt to the artist known as Ian Beale. Both have acted for many years, but clearly they’re operating on different playing fields. This does feel a tad harsh on Morro Bay, but you get the point. Anyway, the pick of the bunch appears to be the 1992’s Patriot Games. Oddly enough, I saw this a lot as a child. Looking back, the terrorists of choice thematically tended to be Irish, which clearly is a reflection of the time. Now that the IRA don’t fit the bill for Hollywood, films like this seem confined to the past, however Harrison Ford most definitely isn’t. Being that he has played some of the greatest characters in cinema history (Han, Deckard, Indy), I don’t think visiting the house in which his character Jack Ryan (not quite on the same level as the Holy Trinity) called home, would be out of the question.

Carrying on North to Santa Cruz, we’ll be on much more fertile ground. Perhaps most famously known for its boardwalk and The Lost Boys. I’ll make a confession here however, this is a film I’ve never seen. Maybe I’ll watch it before we travel there, as an homage to the location, however it now holds much more significance for me due to last year’s Us; Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out. While there, I very much hope there isn’t an underground system of doppelgängers laying in wait to go on a murderous rampage against the higher social classes. If there is, I hope they might consider putting it on hold for a couple of weeks, just as a common courtesy. If it kicks off while I’m there, Ill be donning a red boiler suit and grabbing my scissors.

Next up is San Francisco. What a treat. There are so many classic films set and filmed here, it’s hard to narrow it down but I’ll give it a go. The Conversation, Zodiac, The Graduate, Vertigo, The Maltese Falcon. Lest we forget the jewel of the crown, the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson starring San Andreas. Obviously, that’s a poor joke, but speaking of the Rock, there’s The Rock, and speaking of that particular rock, there’s Escape from Alcatraz. Where we also had Mike Myers starring in So I Married an Axe Murderer. A ‘90’s lost comedy classic that combines one man’s fear of relationships, with spoken word poetry and a serial killer. Not to mention the best large head jokes ever committed to screen. As the owner of a large head, said jokes were often repeated to me by my older brother growing up. The pick of the bunch being “Your head’s like an orange on a toothpick”. However, back to my point, San Francisco. There’s only one film I can think of now, and again it’s a new film, one that I fell in love with last year; The Last Black Man in San Francisco. It got a small release in the UK, and has yet to be released on Blu Ray (someone please help me here), but this film floored me. Centred around one man’s fight against gentrification and silence of minorities in SF, his former home is the central component of the narrative. The point of the film isn’t lost on me, but I have to go and see this house. There’s even a point in the film where a tour guide is showing people round the neighbourhood on Segways, stopping to gawp at the house. I appreciate there’s a hypocrisy in agreeing and seeing the point the film is trying to make, but also still wanting to visit the scene in which this point is hinged on. All I can say is, I’ll walk there and won’t be on a Segway .

The House

Finally our last stop, before looping back round to LA, is Yosemite National Park. I’m not sure if there’s restrictions on filming here from the government or park service, but there’s very little that’s been filmed here. Most famously is the documentary from two years ago, Free Solo. As with Lost Boys, I admit to also not seeing this. However, with this I have actively not watched it. I’m not scared of heights, but seeing someone free climb on something that is relatively high up, be it a mountain or building, I cannot handle. It sends me into a tailspin and is something I can’t bring myself to watch. Therefore, I’ll just have to bask in the wonder that will surround us and, perhaps, write a screenplay inspired by a couple dancing at an observatory, while getting trapped on a speeding bit of transport, being sure to include a late night diner visit, perhaps after visiting a handsome moustachioed mechanic, whilst also incorporating the worrying trend of gentrification. If I set it in Yosemite and include a bear fight, I think I’ll be on to a winner.

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