Started by wilberfan, November 05, 2021, 08:30:50 PM
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Quote from: wilberfan on December 01, 2021, 05:54:47 PMThis is a pretty smart group, I'm curious if you guys picked up on the "Holden" film reference in LP. I'm not sure I've ever actually seen the film--but I had to read the book in high school, so I was familiar with the title.Spoiler: ShowHideNeedless to say, a watch is probably now mandatory.
QuoteIn the Land of Licorice Pizza: Paul Thomas Anderson's New Film is Filled with Landmarks From a Lost L.A.A guide to the very specific slice of '70s L.A. settings in PTA's latest."'Are you really going to make another film in Los Angeles in the '70s again? Don't you think you've done that?,'" Paul Thomas Anderson recalled saying to himself while recounting the origins of Licorice Pizza in a recent Variety interview. Licorice Pizza is Anderson's ninth feature and his fifth to be set largely in California's San Fernando Valley, where he's spent most of his life. In Anderson films, the journeys of his characters get mixed up with the director's personal history and local lore. That's to say nothing of memories and subconscious flashes of recognition created by the many movies and television shows that have used the city as a location, which can make it look familiar even to those who've never set foot there. "The Valley is everywhere and nowhere in media," Valley native Molly Lambert wrote in a 2014 look at Anderson's Valley films' locations for Grantland. "But in reality, it's peculiar and extraordinary, which is exactly what Paul Thomas Anderson captures in his movies set there. He portrays the Valley as a specific place, rather than as a stand-in for Anytown, USA."That's true, too, of Licorice Pizza, which offers a teen's eye view of a transitional moment in Valley history, when the freewheeling '60s started to give way to gas shortages and other '70s headaches. The film is littered with places and events specific to the era and presented with little explanation. Anderson drops viewers into the heart of his Valley and expects them to navigate the strange terrain for themselves. That's part of his film's pleasures, though digging deeper can be enriching as well. For those wanting to know a little bit more about where Licorice Pizza came from, here's a guide to a few key settings and other elements.Licorice PizzaLicorice Pizza never visits the L.A. record store-chain that gives the film its title. That doesn't mean it was easy to ignore in its day. At its height, the store had 34 locations. The peculiar name is said to have been inspired by the folk duo of Bud & Travis, who self-deprecatingly talked about sprinkling sesame seeds on one side of a low-selling album and selling it as "licorice pizza" on their 1960 album Bud & Travis... In Concert. But the joke's at least a year older than that. A news-in-brief column from 1959 quotes Bob Hope as joking that one of his albums sold well in Naples "because the inhabitants there think it's a licorice pizza." That the name can be shortened to "LP" adds another layer.Founded in 1969, Licorice Pizza became an L.A. fixture by the early '70s, advertising widely in local papers and dreaming up wacky promotions, like a 1974 discount offered to customers who streaked into the store. The store began renting movies with great success in 1983, but by 1986 Licorice Pizza had run its course. When Musicland purchased the chain in 1986, it announced the Licorice Pizza locations would keep their name. They soon became Sam Goodys.Tail O' the CockLicorice Pizza's teen protagonist Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) spends his evenings at the local restaurant Tail O' the Cock, the name of a real L.A. restaurant with two locations, including one in Studio City at 12950 Ventura Boulevard. Since 1987, a shopping center that currently includes a Five Guys has occupied the spot. When the location closed in 1987, the Los Angeles Times recalled it as "frequently the place where stars took their lunch breaks while working on pictures at nearby studios. Celebrities who have eaten at the restaurant, according to employees, include Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Robert Kennedy."In a recent L.A. Times profile, Anderson remembers it as a hangout for a different echelon of stardom, one where "Hanna-Barbera animators, commercial directors, writers and voice-over artists, mixed in with families and grandmas." Licorice Pizza, a film about coming-of-age in an era when the lines between childhood and adulthood got blurry, makes use of that culturally porous quality. It's a place where kids can wander about while grown-ups get smashed, and one where Gary can arrange to meet Alana Kane (Alana Haim), the twentysomething woman he's sort of pursuing, much to her dismay. It's also one where movie star Jack Holden (Sean Penn, playing a thinly veiled William Holden) can bump into a hard-drinking movie director (Tom Waits) and head out into the night to create chaos. For a cross-section of Valley residents, all roads led to the Tail O' the Cock.The Teen-Age FairA child actor-turned-entrepreneur, Gary's interest in the budding waterbed business brings him to the 1973 Teen-Age Fair at the Hollywood Palladium. Though this was a real event, Licorice Pizza is fudging history a little bit by stretching its existence into 1973. Staged between 1962 and 1972, the Teen-Age Fair (briefly known as Pop Expo) was a ten-day festival focusing on teen interests, from rock bands to fashion to, as the years went by, astrology experts and other counterculture-inspired elements. The Fair played host to everyone from Soupy Sales to Jimi Hendrix. It's final year included a backwards-looking 1955 Pavilion and an exhibit on venereal disease that invited teens to "Play the VD Game," though Anderson packs it with wonders like the original Batmobile and an actor playing Herman Munster with an extremely familiar voice. (A vestige of the fair continues to exist via the Miss Teen USA pageant, which once called the Fair its home.)The MikadoLicorice Pizza features several barely disguised real-life figures but uses real names for some of its least-flattering depictions. That includes producer Jon Peters, depicted as a rampaging monster, and Jerry Frick, owner of the Japanese restaurant the Mikado, portrayed as a business selling a carefully selected vision of Japanese cuisine (and Japan itself) designed not to scare off Western diners. It also portrays him as a man who boasts of his time spent in Japan yet speaks no Japanese and uses an exaggerated accent to convey the thoughts of his wife, whom he replaces mid-film, a gag that's caused even viewers who otherwise admire the film to cringe.Whether or not the film depicts Frick accurately, both he and the Mikado were real places. The Mikado opened in 1958 as the Brass Rail but changed its name and focus in 1964. Frick seems really to have spent time in and run a business in Japan. He told the Van Nuys Valley News he lived there for 15 years in a piece covering a "Far East Get Together" event in 1965. The Mikado does seem to have been careful about offering timid Valley diners baby steps into the world of Japanese food. The writer of a short 1974 profile of the restaurant, also in Valley News, informs readers the Mikado offers "American or Japanese spirits" and "[f]or the daring, sashimi (fresh raw fish in season)."The Pinball BanYes, Los Angeles really did ban pinball, an ordinance in effect for decades. Starting in 1939, Los Angelenos had to do without, per The Los Angeles Times, "Pin-ball games, marble boards, scoop claws and similar devices" which had been deemed dangerous due to "petty gambling, so widespread that the police are totally insufficient in number to enforce the law." The California Supreme Court overruled the ordinance in 1974. Gary Goetzman, the film producer whose life and stories provided the inspiration for Licorice Pizza, really did run a waterbed business and pinball parlor out of an Encino storefront, too. It's long gone, though the set dressing fooled some pinball enthusiasts into thinking it was a new operation last year. If it's any consolation, a recreation of the original will be open in Westwood through December 18th.The El Portal TheaterNot every place featured in Licorice Pizza has met the wrecking ball. One key moment takes place in front of the El Portal, a movie theater boasting its current hit attraction, the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. (In another sign of changing times, it's the first to feature Roger Moore.) Opened in 1926 and located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd., the El Portal is still in business, though it's undergone some changes over the years.The El Portal began life as a vaudeville theater before becoming a single-screen movie house. The theater underwent a facelift in the late 1940s and was owned by the Mann chain in August of 1973 when it did play Live and Let Die, which alternated screenings with the Charles Bronson thriller The Mechanic. It suffered heavy damage in a 1994 earthquake but has since been repaired and now operates as a performing arts center. (You can currently catch Hair and ABBA Mania.) Declared a historical landmark by the City of Los Angeles, it will likely be standing for years to come. Maybe someone can even use it for a nostalgia trip back to 2021 decades from now.
QuoteHow Licorice Pizza Gives the Valley the Brilliant Film It Always DeservedThe valley has become a cultural punching bag. Epitomized by "valley girl" films that portray the San Fernando Valley as filled with vapid teens and suburban sprawl, what the valley means to anyone outside of it has become distorted by the perception of vocal frys and saying "like" in between every other word. Thanks to films like Valley Girl and Clueless, which depict this exact stereotype while wrapped in '80s and '90s nostalgia, this hyper-exaggerated image has stuck in people's minds. But anyone who's lived in the valley can tell a very different story. That's exactly what Paul Thomas Anderson has done in Licorice Pizza, the 1970s coming of age film set entirely in the valley I know.While it takes place decades before I lived there, the valley is a place that defies time. One intersection could be littered with modern outlets while another is home to vacant lots, colorful liquor stores, and a restaurant from the 1970s. Licorice Pizza introduces us to a different, better kind of valley girl. Alana, played by Studio City native Alana Haim, represents a familiar valley girl that I feared I might one day become: Stuck, surrounded by people and a place you feel you should have outgrown.The valley, ironically enough, is an easy place to get stuck in. It's a place where every second feels like forever, but where years go by in an instant. Licorice Pizza plays with time like the uneven thing it feels like as a young adult. Anderson, a valley boy in every sense, is able to grasp this feeling better than any other filmmaker. Anderson, while from Studio City, attended schools throughout the valley as a child and has been outspoken in his fascination with the place. He treats the valley not as an existing cultural touchstone but as the place it truly is: A place that alternates between desolation and tight-knit communities, enveloped in a casual culture that lacks the intensity of the rest of Los Angeles. Through this background, Alana is allowed to be lost in the way many valley girls are. She is frustrated and warm and messy and uncertain in a deeply funny, human way that defies previous misconceptions.This isn't the first time Anderson has depicted his home. Boogie Nights plays up the porn industry for which much of the valley became known in the 1970s. Magnolia also returns to the valley, focusing more on the mosaic of characters that inhabit it. But Licorice Pizza feels different from these because its valley acts not just as a place but as a hometown.Licorice Pizza is not a love letter to the valley, and that's a good thing. Sherman Oaks and Encino are not romanticized. There are no sweeping shots from the mountains over the thousands of nestled homes. The beauty in the valley comes from running distances where it feels like the land will never end. Anderson's films often return to this motif, emphasizing the vast surroundings his characters travel through. But it feels much warmer and familiar when set in his hometown. The beauty comes from wide streets and tiny shops you could walk by every day and never step inside. It's a place you become numb to and can swear you hate, but struggle to say anything bad about to a person who isn't from there.Growing up is a deeply weird thing. It's no wonder coming-of-age films are one of the most reliable genres. Every individual experience feels so deeply strange and emotional that filmmakers can't help but reflect on their own specific transition from adolescence into adulthood. It's an experience that is both intensely personal and specific yet entirely relatable to anyone. As a kid or teenager it feels like it happens in one giant wave, but it's only something you can truly reconcile with in hindsight.When I tell people growing up in the valley is weird I often say "It's hard to explain." It's difficult to get into the emotional feeling of living in the shadow of something greater, but being encompassed by the world around you that's so dry and bright and unlike any other city. But while I have never started a waterbed business with my friends and delivered one to Jon Peters, I somehow feel like I have. Surreal brushes with fame become a casual experience to tell your friends about years down the line. The valley is where the chaos and celebrity-ness of Los Angeles leaks down into. Licorice Pizza resonates so strongly because of its skill in depicting the atmosphere of the valley when you're young: Experiencing everything and processing nothing.When I tell people I'm a valley girl I say it as a joke. That term feels far removed from how I think of where I'm from. The valley is so wrapped in other people's perceptions that it feels like outsiders have already made a judgment on what life there must be like. That's exactly what feels so cathartic about Licorice Pizza: It's a film free of the judgment and influences of other valley depictions. When I saw Alana sitting alone on the curb, watching Gary and his friends dance in the dusk after a death-defying drive down the canyons, I saw that Licorice Pizza understands the isolation and chaos of my hometown, but also the humor and joy. It's a moment that's beautiful and sad, but punctuated by a joke when Peters returns. The film never takes on any point of view but the one of someone who knows the valley for exactly what it is: A strange place that is given life by the people tied to it. The valley is a waterbed shop that appears, then one day becomes an empty storefront, and the next becomes a lively arcade.After a film so defined by chaos and small moments that culminate into one story, it's the final shot that cemented my love for Licorice Pizza. The film ends with one of those rare moments where you finally feel at peace. As Gary and Alana walked into that brilliant blue evening I felt a wave of calm wash over me. Anderson captured that loving and uncertain valley moment that feels like it lasts forever until one day, it's years in the past. It was the moment I've so often failed to describe with words or photos. In all my searching, the closest I can get is: It's home.
QuoteI tracked down the origins of the roadside motel and dining spot in Valley Village. It opened in 1958 as the Brass Tiger and by 1964 had become Mikado. I found the names of the owners mentioned in a period dining guide, and I began to track down Jerry Frick and the person the reviewer described as "the real boss...his lovely Japanese wife, Yoko." Mr. Frick showed up in the Social Security Death Index, but Mrs. Frick still lives in Beverly Hills. I figured that an interview with a pioneer might open some new doors. Unfortunately, an afternoon spent calling every Frick in the phone book and in our research editor's databases got me nowhere (although one called back to say that her Frick was 17 years old and therefore did not own a sushi restaurant in the '60s, thank you very much).
QuoteIn that scene where Gary first discovers waterbeds, as he's being led back to the bed (and DiCaprio's dad) by the girl, he looks directly into the camera, right?
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