I accompanied my husband to a screening last night--a rare occurrence since few films meet my criteria of no violence, no suspense and no slapstick.
But "(500) Days of Summer" was a romantic comedy, and had good buzz. Turns out the flick was charming and inventive, and both of us enjoyed it.
But there was one character in the movie touted as beautiful and charismatic that I knew really wasn't: Downtown Los Angeles.
The filmmakers even offer on the "(500) Days" website a video extolling their incorporation of the setting into the plot, as an underappreciated but praiseworthy locale.
Los Angeles is my hometown--in fact I'm the fifth generation born and raised there--and I love it for many things, almost all made by God and not man. When I worked downtown (as a writer at the Los Angeles Times) many years ago, I'd stroll during my lunch hour to Grand Central Market, where the produce was cheap, but the proprietors put the bruised pieces from behind the counter into your brown paper bag. I'd walk to the Bradbury Building and eat lunch in its lovely central plaza. Then I'd fast-walk back to the office, past little clothes stores where everyone spoke Spanish and seemed to have a ruffley and poufy sense of style. Downtown LA is colorful in the mornings, shut tight by 6 pm, and just not all that nice for browsing.
I also worked for a bit writing editorials at the Herald Examiner, RIP, and its historic building, as I've blogged before, had a distinctive Spanish style, a sweeping entry staircase, a grand cupola...and rats. Not much was nearby, though about six or eight blocks away, some clothes factories and stores clustered in dark, scary older buildings, where you could hear the churn of sewing machines and sometimes get a great deal; other times get ripped off.
In "(500) Days," aside from one hillisde location where the lovers perch overlooking a panorama where two of the prominent buildings are identified as parking lots, and one nice scene in the Bradbury Building, LA is just a blink. Even being in love--or not--can't color the brown that dominates the entire region, but that's irrelevant since there's not much of the region in this movie.
LA's attraction is its weather, its beaches, and the creativity and vitality of its people. Only tourists walk around Hollywood; many attempts to revitalize its skuzziness have failed. In fact, I just took a virtual look-see down Hollywood Blvd. on googlemaps' "street view," and no, it hasn't changed since I moved to the Northwest a dozen years ago. Too bad.
I'm still attached to my beloved hometown, and when the sky up here is socked-in gray, the ground saturated and moldy, and the short, cold days of winter yield to mostly night, I yearn for Santa Monica beach, for palm trees and sidewalk cafes, for the ever-blooming hydrangea and bouganvilla in our yard.
But don't tell me downtown LA has special magic. This time of year especially, I'll take the vibrance of downtown Seattle, where locals and tourists walk the sidewalks carrying white-wrapped armfuls of dahlias and peonies from Pike Place Market; where sparkling Eliott Bay moves with ferries and sailboats, where the golden light glints off panes in the Olympic Sculpture Garden. And where there's no better view than cerulean Lake Washington and snow-topped Mt. Rainier from right where I live. I only wish that summer in Seattle could last 500 days...