Five Cultural Tours of Los Angeles

As an Open Cul­ture read­er, you sure­ly enjoy a vast range of inter­ests, and what serves as a more robust nexus of inter­ests than the mod­ern city? Each city pro­duces an infini­tude of fas­ci­nat­ing case stud­ies in archi­tec­ture, eco­nom­ics, pol­i­tics, and social psy­chol­o­gy. But even when you exam­ine the less obvi­ous­ly city-rel­e­vant intel­lec­tu­al pur­suits — lan­guage, film, lit­er­a­ture, tech­nol­o­gy, style — count­less more con­nec­tions reveal them­selves. Because I’ve found orga­niz­ing cul­tur­al inter­ests by city so fruit­ful, I offer you here a set of resources to do with Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia. These are just a few of the count­less pos­si­ble per­cep­tions of the cap­i­tal of main­stream cin­e­ma, the ter­mi­nus of mankind’s west­ward push, the cre­ator and destroy­er of new urban forms, and above all the great divider of opin­ion. Archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an Reyn­er Ban­ham voic­es his own at the top of Reyn­er Ban­ham Loves Los Ange­les, a 1972 BBC tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­tary in which the archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an gives a per­son­al tour of the city: “I love the place with a pas­sion that goes beyond sense or rea­son.”

“They make movies here,” says CalArts pro­fes­sor Thom Ander­sen in the nar­ra­tion of Los Ange­les Plays Itself. “I live here. Some­times I think that gives me the right to crit­i­cize the way movies depict my city.” But he does much more than crit­i­cize in his video essay’s near­ly three-hour analy­sis of the roles Los Ange­les has played onscreen: as itself, as oth­er cities, and, most often, as no city in par­tic­u­lar. Chap­man Uni­ver­si­ty’s Huell Hows­er Archive col­lects the late Cal­i­for­nia-explor­er’s non­fic­tion­al video jour­neys in places like Venice Beach, the ever-ris­ing down­town, and even in a heli­copter above the city. For a sim­i­lar­ly aer­i­al per­spec­tive, but a his­tor­i­cal one, watch this 1958 footage of Hol­ly­wood from above. And for a point of view more force­ful­ly expressed, look no fur­ther than Ice Cube’s cel­e­bra­tion of Los Ange­les as mid­cen­tu­ry design mec­ca, espe­cial­ly for the work of aes­thet­ic lumi­nar­ies (and Pow­ers of Ten film­mak­ers) Charles and Ray Eames. “A lot of peo­ple think L.A. is just eye­sore after eye­sore, full of mini-malls, palm trees and bill­boards,” he says. “So what? They don’t know the L.A. I know.”

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.