Over the weekend I was at a Circuit City browsing around and found a copy of the 1992 Laurence Fishburne film Deep Cover for $6. Being a Cupcake that apprecaites everything and anything that is deeply discounted, especially something as badass as this film, I scooped it up like Baskin-Robbins. I was introduced to this film a long time ago by my compadre Isaac and had forgotten how well done it is. Put is this way, most of the time there's nothing better than a bunch of gangsters doing a bunch of ganster shit.

Watching this film over the course of the next couple days, it began to occur to The Cupcake that movies involving the City of Angels are never easy endeavors. Even the comedies carry with them a sense that L.A. is a less-than-forgiving place wrought with desparation and depression. So, following this epiphany, I began an internal debate over my favorite L.A. films...to properly do this, however, I first established 4 simple ground rules:

- This is not a "top x" list - I hate "Top 10s" (with maybe the exception of Letterman's) and made a 2008 resolution with myself to get away from rank-ordering things - its trite and too subjective. This rule will also absolve me of having to include every film ever made that had some connection to L.A. Instead, this is just a collection of films that I personally like.
- For a film to be included, L.A. needs to be the setting's focal point. This means that, theoretically, Die Hard could not be considered an "L.A. film" since 90% of it takes place inside Nakatomi Plaza.
- All genres count.
- Because celluloid depictions of L.A. are usually so desparate, desolate (morally, anyway) and depressing, I've assigned each film a depress-o-meter rating where 1 means its fodder for Disney audiences and 10 means "fasten-your-seatbelts-for-Requiem for a Dream-style-anxiety".

Here we go, in no particular order:

Collateral (2004): Tom Cruise with gray hair, cool suit and a very difficult job (hitman). Jamie Foxx with almost no hair, sweat suit and a very difficult job (cabbie). Way better than Heat (see below) in my opinion since it dispenses with the pleasantries and extraneous character development and instead moves at almost-real-time through a meticulous night of witness "tampering" on behalf of a Colmbian drug king pin. Cruise, despite his tendency to annoy, is flawless as Vincent. And Michael Mann uses the city of L.A. visually in a way that is superior to any other film on this list. Depress-o-meter says: 5

Deep Cover (1992): Larry Fishburne is killer as an undercover narc working for the DEA that, at the beginning of the film, has never taken a drink or done any drugs thanks to a personal tragedy that befell him as a child...by the end of the film, he approaches the threshold of self-destruction but is stone-cold (Steve Austin!) cool enough to reel himself in just in time to nail both the distributor & the king pin he was tasked with bringing down as well as unforseen-yet-alluded-to elements of corruption in the state-department and the CIA. Other stand outs include Jeff Goldblum (WTF is he doing in this film?) and some actress named Kamala Lopez-Dawson that plays the scariest crack-addicted mother ever. Depress-o-meter says: 7

Blade Runner (1982): OK, so my rules don't exclude future "interpretations" of L.A., a weakness perhaps. Nevertheless, this 40s-style noir-thriller set in 2019 is replete with flying cars, extreme pollution and the coolest picture-scanning equipment this side of reality. Not so much depressing as it is a stark indictment of how for-granted humans take living and life itself - despite, of course, Rutger Hauer killing everything that moves. The star that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Depress-o-meter says: 5

Save the Tiger (1973): Harry Stoner. Morally decayed, tax-cheater, makes an extra buck by getting clients laid...put it this way, Jack Lemmon won an Oscar. Pinned into a corner, Harry decides to burn his warehouse down to collect an insurance settlement after giving the most rapid-fire, 4-minute cinematic world history lesson in, well, history. And the final scene would make Dick Cheney weep. OK, maybe that's stretching it, but you gotto save those tigers. Depress-o-meter says: 7

Fletch (1985): "I write a column under the name Jane Doe" says Chevy Chase at the apex of his career as L.A. Times investigative reporter Irwin M. Fletcher. The one-liners roll like tumbleweeds as he tries to figure out why Otter wants to be murdered and why Norm doesn't make any money off the drugs he sells out of his burger shack on the beach. Fred "The Dorf" Dorfman. Oldsmo-buick. Matress Police. I rest my case. Depress-o-meter says: 2

Escape from L.A. (1996): Not as good as its predecessor, but 10 times campier. Escape from L.A. again visits a sort-of-post-apocalyptic world where the the nation's fate (or in this case, what's left of it) rests in the hands of Snake Plisskin. This time L.A. has been separated from the mainland thanks to the "Big One" and has been relegated to a deregulated Las Vegas. Kurt Russell reprises his role with flair, but Cliff Robertson as a Christian fundmentalist President is truly eerie. He actually reminds me a lot of George W. Bush. Good bad fun. Depress-o-meter says: 2

Heat (1996): Billed as a "Los Angeles Crime Saga", Heat is a serviceable cops & robbers film of the highest technical order. DeNiro portrays a master-theif searching for one last score before disappearing to the greener pastures of, uhm, New Zealand. Pacino is the detective who stalks him. The film is great to look at and the set-pieces are executed with cold percision. Unfortunately, too much time is wasted on useless character developement (e.g. Pacino's annoying wife, DeNiro's forced romance). Why, for example, is Natalie Portman even in the film? Mann would have been wise to adhere to the nuts & bolts approach he took with Thief, a film that touches on many of the same themes but doesn't get bogged down in them by keeping it stripped down and centered around the trade-craft of burglary. Despite these flaws, the cornerstone of this film, the bank robbery scene, is epic: Italian suits, automatic weapons, Brian Eno soundtrack and the longest, frenzied shoot-out ever recorded on film. Depress-o-meter says: 5

To Live & Die In L.A. (1985): Secret Service agents track master-counterfeiter after said counterfeiter offs fellow agent. William Petersen is awesome as agent Richard Chance; played sarcastically with a streak of Harry Callahan. Unfortunately for Dick, he takes a shotgun spread to the face about three-quarters into the film, leaving the audience with no more protagonist - the ulitmate trick that went over like a lead balloon with the studio. The DVD contains an alternate ending preferred by the studio execs that is, seriously, one of the worst things The Cupcake has ever seen - how do you survive a shotgun to the face? Why would there be a secret service station in the middle of nowhere on a mountain top in Alaska? Great use of L.A., especially the rush hour chase going the wrong way on the freeway. Depress-o-meter says: 7

Chinatown (1974): In my humble opinion, Chinatown is the best L.A. film ever made, but we're not ranking here so I'll refrain from any more comments like that. Nicholson is incredible. Dunaway is incredible. Huston is incredible. The writing is incredible. The cinematography is incredible. The score is incredible. Even the extras are incredible. No spoilers or pontification here...just see it for the first time or for another time. Its a masterpiece that says more about L.A. than any of these other films combined. Depress-o-meter says: 9

Honorable mentions:
- Pulp Fiction (1996) - Don't be tellin' me about no foot massage!
- Less Than Zero (1987) - Its better than you remember and a helluva lot more depressing...
- Colors (1988) - Sean Penn. Robert Duvall. Excellent.
- Friday (1995) - You ain't got no job and you ain't got shit to do...
- Boyz N the Hood (1991) - Depress-o-meter says: 10
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) - More Sean Penn. More excellence.

Right out of the oven:

One minute you're at a holiday party thrown by your boss, the next minute he's sending 20,000 volts through your nuts...In other testicle news this week, the Cupcake was relieved to learn that cooler heads prevailed in the Virginia General Assembly, leaving "Truck Nutz" as an acceptable form of protected speech for the time being (special thanks to my girl Jessi out in San Diego for turning me on to deez'nuts way back when)...They do things a little differently out in the Bay Area - Palo Alto reviewing plans for converting cow manure to electricity...Ocean Shore, WA red-necks start using, uhm, brains, develop cool new, though likley inefficient, deer-hunting technique...Problem: You've run out of spare change and desparately need some for the soda machine. Its snowing outside. You're girlfirend has borrowed your car so you have no means of transportation. Solution: Steal a backhoe from a neighborhood construction site, drive it to the nearest car wash (sure to be vacant given the weather conditions) and excute reliable "car-wash-coin-machine-backhoe-jack" robbery using aforementioned stolen construction equipment...In a coldly precise, .203 BAC performance, Stephen Wayne Wolf secures his record 19th drunk driving conviction after hit and run accident...And finally, the Jack Tripper of the frog world becomes part of Three's Company-style mistaken identity the hard way. As one veternarian put it, "You shouldn't be kicking toads to death anyway, it's far better to catch them up and pop them in the freezer." Good advice Doc.

The "George F. Will makes an interesting point" moment of the week:

I've always admired George Will, albiet at an arm's length. Depsite his conservative leanings, he generally approaches politics from a concurrence of realistic political philosophy and solid political strategy. And he has a sense of history unsurpassed in the punditry world. In this morning's Washington Post, after reminding everyone how ridiculous the Democratic Party's nomination process is, he focuses squarely on the absurdity of Hillary Clinton's continued assertions that her "vast" experience should somehow automatically relegate Barack Obama to the back-burner (Thank Christ someone finally did!). Essentially, George reminds us that the experience she keeps touting includes, as he puts it, "everything she has done since school, from her years at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm to her good fortune with cattle futures, as presidentially relevant experience." Most of which, I might add doesn't add up to a hill of beans in political accomplishment. And, in an even more astute observation, he duly notes that Abraham Lincoln was merely a one-term Congressman prior to being president. If I recall correctly, his mug is on our currency, and more than one piece at that - ok, so the penny is somewhat inconsequential, but its still, as Vincent Vega once termed it, legal tender. In fact, Abe's one of a select few presidents to acheive that feat to my knowledge (Washington and Jefferson being the others - correct me if I've left someone out). Gee, look what a lack of experience can get you...your face immortalized on a coin and a bill, not to mention a monument the size of the Astrodome.

Perhaps if the major "liberal media" (another fallacy for another blog) weren't so wrapped up in horse-race coverage, someone other than a conservative columnist like George Will would have pointed this stuff out already. Infurating? Not really. Depressing is more like it. Which leads me into...

A non-denial denial? moment of the week (so far):

Wow. Looks like they'll be burning copies of The New York Times in overdrive throughout red-state Amerikkka...just after the Cupcake defends Senator McCain against the barrage of unfounded and ridiculous criticsm leveled toward him from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the Times breaks a potential bombshell of a story about his possible philandering and influence peddling. T'is not the Cupcake's place to pass judgement on an issue of this magnitude, but I can say that working in public affairs myself, I can smell a non-denial denial a mile away - and, so far, the McCain camp's responses have been riddled with them. Take, for example, the first official response:

"It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election."

"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."

It would have been nice if, in addition to telling us about his war record - need we be reminded of that under this circumstance? - or his disdain for special interests or how sick of this "kind of gutter politics" we all are (we're not, we just say that), the spokesperson issuing this statement mentioned that the accusations are completely and utterly false. Hmmm, didn't see that anywhere.

In McCain's defense, he did issue a statement that first targeted the article as being untrue (hardly a denial) followed closely with an emphatic "no" when asked if he was ever romatically initimate with the lobbyist in question (that's what we were looking for Johnny). Man, for a self-described straight talker, it sure took a while for him to tells us he didn't sow a final oat or two.

And, as for the Times, I hope the hell they're right because if they're not, they just dropped a gold mine of fodder for Hannity and crew to tee off on Tiger Woods-style.

You should check out:

Hail Social. Straight outta Philly. In the words of Tom & Ed, extra supa dope. Nice lo-fi artwork. Killer lo-fi beats. Check out at all costs.

Right out of the oven:

Landscaper acquires WWII memento the hard way, loses clothes (they were burned for disposal by the fire department) and receives one of those cool fire-hose showers like the one from Silkwood...Welcome to the neighborhood! "Stressed" elk makes itself at home in man's dining room...Cornwall man identifies reason #684 to never go hang-gliding (Featuring killer rescue footage!)...Our specials tonight include frozen ferret, frozen house cat and frozen, ahem, sea otter!...Snowball antics elicit your average, every day shotgun/machete response...What a way to get it - innocent stop at port-o-let on way home from meeting yields a lifetime of nightmares...And finally, unsuspecting kite flier encounters 50 MPH gust, becomes airborne to the tune of 20 ft and, in what won't be a surprise to anyone, falls on face and suffers severe back injuries. Justin Pugh, manager of the local kite shop, summed it up best: "What happened is just a freak gust of wind catching him off guard, I think."

Kool-Aid Drinking 101:

In the wake of Senator John McCain's big night (and yes, it was big), the Cupcake thought it only fair to momentarily shift focus to the Republicans for a change. Now that McCain is clearly the "frontrunner" for the Republican nomination, its appropriate to comment on the recent backlash against the Senator from the utlra-right-faction of the Republican party otherwise known as the Conservative Media Community and their bretheren (e.g., Orange County, Evangelicals, etc). His success on Super Tuesday will no doubt only serve to further agitate this clan. Indeed, they will talk of how Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney established themselves as the true "conservative" candidates (by that, I assume they mean ignorant biggot and wolf-in-sheep's-clothing-with-good-math-skills, respectively). Let me tell you, if you're surprised that Huckabee won in places like Georgia and Alabama, you need to go sign up for an adult-ed Political Science course. And with the Mittster...let's put it this way, if you can't win your home state (or in this case states), you don't deserve to be in the running to begin with - his victories were even more inconsequential than Huckabee's, if not at least as expected. McCain is in no trouble and will have no problem whatsoever securing the nomination. Why? Because the "true" conservatives of the party have decided to take back their party - these Republicans understand that having the Democrats think you're okay is a helluva lot more beneficial to everyone than having the slim fringe of Evangelical America and talk-radio think you're okay. Which brings me to the McCain-bashing...

The McCain attacks have been eerily ridiculous (think Bizarro-world Superman...nice try at the old bait & switch Ann), tasteless/shameless (Rush Limbaugh couldn't hold Bob Dole's jock strap) and, not surprisingly, completely unified. The Cupcake can understand these conservative "pundits" holding a level of apprehension, or even distaste, against someone who is, in many ways, a liberal Republican. We're dealing with people that have all been living high on the hog for over a decade, first feasting on the carcass of Bill Clinton and then feasting on the propserity he and his Republican predecessors sowed. What I don't understand is why they hate him so much? I've been giving that a lot of thought and the logical explanation is: he represents the end of their reign. He has refused to drink the same kool-aid this faction has been drinking since 2000. You know the kool-aid I'm talking about. It's the kool-aid that has: A) the economy in the toilet, B) the richest 1% of this country riding the other 99% like those burros that take people up and down the Grand Canyon, C) our military mired down in a travesty of unwarranted privatization and alarming depletion because of over-extension (oh, I forgot, you go to war with the army you've got...) and D) a large majority of the other 193 countries on this planet ready to kick us off the island.

In fact, given the wild popularity of John McCain with the Republicans that have already voted in the primaries, things are looking pretty good for a general election showdown that very well may have the Republicans retaining the White House. If anything, the general eletcion, if held now, would be decided by a razor-thin margin - which, to the Cupcake anyway, is mind-boggling considering roughly 70% of the electorate disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing. In other words, if "pundits" like Rush think McCain of 2008 resembling Dole of 1996 is bad, they'd do well to game out the fact that a Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee of 2008 would look a lot worse - my guess is that they'd suffer the same fate Barry Goldwater did in 1964. At least Bob Dole walked away with a reasonable amount of self-respect intact. I think this Republican primary season has shown undisputably that the small-ruling elite of the Republican party is about to be deposed...the party of Lincoln is ready to come back to its roots of fiscal conservatism and respect for equality by telling those that have created all these divisions in our county to take a hike.

Recognizing that their legacy, indeed their very claim to fame, is at stake with this election, this core of "conservatives" is lashing out the only way they can. They know a McCain victory would relegate them to side-show freaks a la Joe McCarthy - a mere footnote in American history eventually regarded as misguided and ridiculous. These people are so afraid of change it makes me ashamed that they call themselves Americans. To viciously tarnish a man that has given so much to this country is appalling. And to suggest that this man would be soft on terrorism and defeatist in Iraq after what he's been through- first as a Naval aviator, next as a POW for over 5 years and then as a politician who has proudly exercised his right to independent thought - is ludicrous. By the way, no "pundit" has any shred of military experience, let alone combat experience - Limbaugh comes the closest with a Vietnam deferment...

Besides themselves, the only people Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity have to be upset with for turning most regular, tax-paying, rational Republicans toward McCain are those currently in the White House. In fact, based on the primary results so far, it seeems the large majority of people voting in the Republican primaries want to field the strongest candidate possible so they can win. Nevermind that, the Hannity types are too blind to see that a McCain presidency, if supported in the right way, could place the White House in Republican hands for elections to come. They would rather tar and feather their best option at redemption than say, "Hey, you know what? our guy has screwed things up good, everyone is against us and maybe the pendulum does need to shift back if we want to retain power." Of course, you'd never catch them saying that. They all have too much of that Nixon pride that so famously worked against rationality.

Well I, for one, say thank you for the near-sightedness guys, its very much appreciated!

You should check out:

I've been reading a lot lately...most recently, I started Flight of the Falcon, the true story about Christopher John Boyce's escape from prison and the subsquent manhunt. If you've ever seen the film The Falcon and the Snowman, this sequel to that film is a must read. If you haven't, then see the film at the very least. For a quick tutorial on this true story of treason with side dishes of falconry and drug dealing, check these out:

Falcon #1 (this one's a little slow to load)
Falcon #2