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Feb 28, 2011

The three rules of real estate

Cedar Rapids. Just say it to yourself. "Cedar Rapids."

Sounds funny just saying the words, doesn't it? All homey and Midwesterny and kitchy, right? And, like, what would a film be doing that's set there? It's so funny and unique, let's just name the silly little film that would dare set itself there after the city.

I'm not entirely sure why (though I'll try to explain), but the name of Ed Helms' new comedy irks me. But it's not just the name - it's the mindset. And frankly, this film is on my good side...the fact that it's such an anomaly is what bothers me.

In case you have no idea what I'm babbling, let me explain. Now, perhaps my perception is all wrong on this, and I'm really not prepared to do extensive research of 80 years' worth of film to support my (obvious) theory, but it can be summed up as this: Hollywood films are extraordinarily boring with their choice of settings. So much so, in fact, that when the rare film is released that doesn't take place in New York City or Los Angeles, they go and name the damn thing Cedar Rapids, because the thought of anything taking place in the fucking Midwest is just so damn comical all on its own, right?

Now, before you realize that I'm entirely way off-base, know that I realize that a great deal of independent films (probably the majority) do not, in fact, take place in one of the two meccas of locales, likely due to the fact that many indies are produced by their writer/directors in their home towns (wherever that may be) and on the cheap. I also understand that production studios are located overwhelmingly in Los Angeles and New York, which would only serve to make sense that many productions would be set in these cities, given the cost of travel and whatnot. But I think there's something to said for the implication we can infer from decades of film watching - namely, that those are the only two cities that matter, and if you're not in one of them, you are missing out.

Of course, every now and then, other cities are allowed some time in the spotlight. "Second City" Chicago is as close to the Big Two as any city will likely ever be. Boston has in fact become such the trendy setting in the last decade or so that it's now almost more annoying to hear about yet another film being made there, if only because, more so than any other city, it seems, Boston MUST become a character itself within the film. Whatever that means, but I think you get the gist. Philadelphia has been seen quite a bit over a similar time frame, but I think those days are over, largely because M. Night Shyamalan's career is a shell of its former self, and he was the driving force behind that.

But what of the other, I don't know, 10-20 major metropolitan areas all over North America. How many movies can you recall being set in Houston, Dallas, Denver or my hometown of Phoenix? Sure, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle are occasionally trendy picks, but what of Atlanta, Baltimore, and San Diego? Of course, it's far from just these bigger cities getting the short end of the stick - more rural areas are all but forgotten altogether.

The saddest, funniest part of this? Cedar Rapids was filmed in Michigan. I give up.

5 people have chosen wisely: on "The three rules of real estate"

Nick said...

The Room is in San Fransisco... they never say that in the movie, but for some reason, it's easy to pick up on.

Anchorman is San Diego...

Every now and then you'll get a San Antonio or Austin or El Paso or some small Texan town nobody has ever heard of.

But yeah, generally when the setting is not one of the "big ones," there is a reason in the plot for it.

Aiden R. said...

Totally agree, man. The fact that Cedar Rapids is Ed Helms' Las Vegas is an awesome premise and hilarious right off the bat. More writers should take note.

Anonymous said...

This is why I love movies that don't take place in cities. I mean they're so ugly to begin with and it's always like the same six cities, so why not just watch some mountain films or something where you'll get to see something different?

Fletch said...

Nick - Really? The Room is set in SF? I had no idea.

Aiden - Well, I don't like that the fact that it's in Cedar Rapids becomes some joke that the film hinges upon (or looks to, anyway - you're the one that's seen it), but the fact that it's set there at all is a step in the right direction, I guess.

James - LOL. Grizzly Man!!!

Fitz said...

There are several films made in Baltimore by Levinson that at least acknowledge it is Baltimore (Bandits).

I hate when there are movies that pretend to take place in other cities when they are actually made in Baltimore. (The Replacements with Gene Hackman)

Sorry, rant over. If you couldn't tell I'm originally from Maryland.