Apparently, there’s this YA, vampirey series of books set in a prep school in my childhood home town of Tulsa — not the prep school I went to, mind you, but a big rival of ours; and much of the action in the books takes place in places I’ve been. I’m tempted to give it a shot. I vaguely remember getting a kick out of Dragons of the Cuyahoga because it’s set in my current home of Cleveland; it’s kind of a different way of engaging with ficton.
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Saw The Avengers last night. Much of it was filmed in Cleveland, though Cleveland is standing in for New York City and, in one scene, some place in Germany. I was afraid that would be kind of distracting, but it wasn’t, really; most of the time, everything’s going by so fast you could really be anywhere.
There’s one part, though — no spoilers, just talking about locations here — where they’re outside in this square downtown, and all these dressy people are happily walking on red carpets going into this shopping center/skyscraper I know as Tower City… and when they switch to an interior shot, it’s not Tower City, it’s some gallery. (Marie and I were thinking it might be the Cleveland Museum of Art, but we can’t confirm that.)
I found that kind of fascinating, because I didn’t find it at all jarring. It just kind of made sense.
Also, there’s this exterior shot looking up at the skyscraper part of Tower City, and it just works so well because of the way that place is lit with ominous red lights even when they’re not filming movies there.
There was another shot of a random street with some scaffolding over a sidewalk, and some Lion King and other Broadway posters on the wall behind the scaffolding, and nothing said New York City to me like that little section of street. That could have been any street in Cleveland I guess; just make it look like it’s under construction and add a zillion musical ads and boom, it’s New York. That sold me on the location better than the aerial shots, better than the view of the Chrysler building outside of someone’s office. Probably because that’s a view of New York City I’ve actually seen myself. It’s interesting, the details you latch onto. I don’t really think of the skyscrapers when I think of Manhattan.
Marie has this one football friend who was in the background of a scene, playing a random scientist. I didn’t see her, but I found myself paying a lot of attention to the extras, thinking about those here in Cleveland who were lucky enough to be a part of this and see how this all gets put together and meet the stars of the movie.
It’s funny, the last movie we saw was The Cabin in the Woods, also written by Joss Whedon, also starring Chris Hemsworth… and that, plus the enthusiastic midnight showing audience, plus it being in Cleveland, plus Marie’s friend who I’ve given water to on the football field, all that kind of added up to this unique way of engaging with the movie, like you’re watching a school play put on by a bunch of people you know already in other contexts. And it’s comforting and familiar and you’re not just there to consume something made by some faceless studio; you’re there to be supportive and see how it turned out and it’s a strangely personal thing at that point.
I like that. I like a big dose of artificiality with my fiction, and I kind of like the idea of being aware of the craft of the movie while watching it, just so long as that awareness doesn’t break you out of the story being told.
In an odd sort of way, the occasional familiar Cleveland building made it easier to imagine that this was all happening right here; it made it more immediate — not less.