California & USA

Explore the Film Treasures: The Greatest, Most Common California Films

California USA: This week, I finally saw the 1991 film “L.A. Story,” a fantastical romantic comedy that, above all, is a loving satire of Los Angeles.

The film, written and starring Steve Martin, is packed with jokes about traffic, earthquakes, fancy restaurants, ever-changing weather, and smiling people who aren’t really happy. Martin, who grew up in Orange County, once said producing the picture was “like teasing your best friend.”

“You have to know them pretty well and like them, in order to be able to do it,” he told The New York Times.

When Martin’s character recommends to his love interest — played by Victoria Tennant, who was Martin’s wife at the time — that he give her a cultural tour of the city, she says, “That’s the first 15 minutes. Then what?

“L.A. Story” felt familiar to me not only because of the filming locations — the opening sequence features a fantastic scene at Echo Park Lake — but also because it used the voice of someone who understands Los Angeles.

It was one of the movies most recommended by readers for our new California film list, which I hope will entertain you while also teaching you about the state. I’ll keep adding to the list, so please write me at [email protected] with your suggestions and why you think they should be included.

Here are four more selections to get us started.

“Chinatown” (1974).

Our most-recommended film, now 50 years old, was directed by Roman Polanski and inspired by shady dealings over a distinctively Californian issue: water rights. Read The Times’ (admittedly mixed) 1974 review, or watch Times critic A.O. Scott examine what has become a revered part of the cinematic pantheon.

“A classic detective mystery neo-noir, the best film ever made about Los Angeles. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway deliver outstanding performances, and Robert Towne’s screenplay earned him an Academy Award. “The best Hollywood film of the last 50 years.” — Tony Napoli of Santa Maria

“Sideways” (2004).

In this Alexander Payne film, two old college pals, played by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, embark on a wine-tasting road trip through Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County. This film enthralled cinema and wine critics alike, perhaps to an unhealthy degree.

“What it’s truly about is all the varied ways that people interact with wine. From drunkenness to wine enjoyment as an art form, the wine grape’s vital position in our state is brilliantly highlighted.” — Pam Van Allen of Stockton

“Ladybird” (2017)

Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age drama about a high school student, played by Saoirse Ronan, is a love letter to a region of the state that rarely receives attention on screen. Sacramento, where Gerwig was born and reared, is as much a character in the film as anyone else.

“Growing up in Sacramento, my youth was immortalized by the experiences of ‘Lady Bird’ and Greta Gerwig’s wonderful moments from my city. Every time I see this movie, I’m reminded of how special Sacramento is.” — Sophia Saunders of Sacramento

“Vertigo” (1958).

“Vertigo,” widely regarded as Alfred Hitchcock’s best film, was primarily shot in and around San Francisco. You can go to the filming locations and see images of how the city has evolved since the movie was shot.

“Does Alfred Hitchcock’s film require any explanation for its selection? How he manipulates the camera’s perspective to generate disorientation and express Scottie’s acrophobia. Monroe, Garbo, and Hitchcock knew the lens unlike anyone else.” — Noe Serrano of San Francisco

The remainder of the news

Between 2016 and 2022, at least 22 people died in California while being held face down by law enforcement personnel, according to The Guardian, using data analysis.

According to a new report from the California State Auditor, the state’s health agencies still lack the ability to assess the performance of a prenatal program developed in the 1980s to assist low-income moms.

Many Latinos, such as the Vega family in Southern California, are becoming first-time or first-generation homeowners by pooling their resources.

El Camino Real Charter High School students walked out this week to protest antisemitic insults, according to The Los Angeles Times.

A former Chula Vista councilwoman and her brother pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining a Covid-relief loan for their political consulting firm and diverting the funds for personal needs, according to The San Diego Union Tribune. A lawyer for the former councilwoman stated that she was “of course remorseful for what has occurred.”

This year’s Frieze Los Angeles features seven Asian galleries, as artists from China, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines gain notoriety.

Casa Vega debuted approximately 70 years ago in Sherman Oaks and is now a popular Hollywood hangout, frequently providing as a gateway to Mexican cuisine for locals.

Northern California

A strong winter storm is anticipated to hit Northern California this week, bringing blizzard conditions and significant snow, according to CBS Sacramento.

And before you leave, some good news.
The tale of California’s capital city can reveal a lot about its history.

Sacramento, one of the state’s oldest incorporated municipalities, has hosted numerous significant historical events, including the finding of gold on January 24, 1848, and the construction of the first transcontinental railroad.

Today, the state’s history can still be felt throughout Sacramento, particularly in its oldest operating businesses and eateries. The Sacramento Bee, the region’s leading daily newspaper, has delved into the city’s archives to learn more about these living historical landmarks.

According to the paper’s investigation, Old Ironsides, a watering hole and performance venue in Southside Park, is the city’s oldest bar and appears to be the first Sacramento establishment to acquire a liquor license after Prohibition ended. The Sacramento Bee, initially known as The Daily Bee, was also included on the list of venerable businesses. This month marked the 167th anniversary of the publication’s first printed edition.

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