For his contribution to this year’s Real Best L.A. issue of CityBeat and ValleyBeat, film editor Andy Klein decides to highlight his list of the best films to take place in the Valley. It’s a subject I enjoy playing with, obviously. See my own list of favorite films (and books and songs) on The Valley in Literature page.
Klein begins where I do, with Chinatown. He moves quickly to Every Which Way But Loose, the 1978 romp where Clint Eastwood races around the Valley with a chimpanzee for companionship. Targets was new to me as a candidate for the 818 canon, what Klein calls Peter Bogdanovich’s “barely released first feature” that used the circa-1968 Sepulveda Drive-In as a setting. Of course there’s Valley Girl, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pulp Fiction and all the Paul Thomas Anderson films that feature the Valley: Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love
Klein includes The Player and Short Cuts on his list, and he may be right — I just don’t remember either of them coming over the hill. He gives his longest treatment to 2 Days in the Valley — or as they knew it in France, Two Days in Los Angeles — and to David Lynch’s Lost Highway.
2 Days in the Valley is funny and altogether entertaining — with a plot so complicated it can’t be described…Herzfeld intercuts four or five separate story threads, each following a different group of characters. Even though we can be pretty sure that everyone will eventually converge, some of the connections still come as surprises.The fabulous ensemble cast includes Danny Aiello as a washed-up hit man; James Spader as, big surprise, a loathsome yuppie; Teri Hatcher as an Olympic athlete; Gregg Cruttwell as a snotty art dealer; Eric Stoltz and Jeff Daniels as cops; Paul Mazursky as a Hollywood hasbeen; and Charlize Theron, getting her first screen credit, as a butt-kicking babe.
With typically Lynchean oddness, the plot [of Lost Highway] centers on a jazz musician (Bill Pullman), who lives in the Hollywood Hills and who, after maybe/maybe not murdering his wife (Patricia Arquette), simply transforms, without any real explanation, into a Gen-X auto mechanic (Balthazar Getty) from Van Nuys. The film plays with the ways in which these two worlds are similar, even as they are culturally much further apart than their literal distance. In real life, they may be connected by the 405 and the 101, but in Lynch�s world, the highway that links them is lost from human view.
At that point, Klein runs out of 818 movies and diverts back across Mulholland to talk about Miracle Mile, which starred Anthony Edwards trying to escape a nuclear attack on Wilshire Boulevard. Personal privilege, he explains: “In the film, the heliport is supposed to be atop the very building in which CityBeat is located — but not for very much longer. Edwards may not have escaped, but were going to.”
It’s his list, of course, but he could have gone on quite a while longer. Mulholland Drive qualifies in name only and just barely even then, but what about Oscar winner Crash and E.T.? If you go back far enough you could count D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, filmed on location in the natural bowl along the Los Angeles River where Forest Lawn now stands between Toluca Lake and Griffith Park. More recent picks could have included Safe, Go, La Bamba, Foxes, Clueless, 187, Blast From the Past, The Brady Bunch, Encino Man, Earth Girls Are Easy — even Divorce American Style and the ill-conceived Chinatown sequel The Two Jakes. Wait, he did say best movies.
Reader Cathy emails: “I had a conversation with someone once who told me he really wanted to move to Reseda after seeing The Karate Kid.”