We tend to forget how many amazing people we have in our midst here in Echo Park, Silver Lake and Los Feliz.
One is Silver Lake resident Vincent Brook, who writes extensively about the media and culture.
A former film editor, he has taught at UCLA, USC, California State University Los Angeles and Pierce College.
He's also written several books. His latest, Land of Smoke and Mirrors: A Cultural History of Los Angeles, came out recently.
It focusses on how Los Angeles and its people have been represented in Hollywood over the past century.
Brook drew from it Saturday in a talk at the Autry Museum about the way film has treated the city's historical "minorities" -- i.e., African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos and gays--who for decades had little or no political power.
Brook sees that changing, which makes him hopeful, though films set in L.A. still need to do some catching up to reflect this reality.
He recommended some movies we should take a look at to improve our own understanding of the subject.
Here's a list of a few:
1. Falling Down (1993) Joel Schumacher's film about an unemployed defense worker who lashes out against a changing Los Angeles stars Michael Douglas. Brook says it gives an early nod to Silver Lake as a gay and lesbian haven in a scene shot in the still-extant Army-Navy Surplus store on Sunset.
You can see a clip from the film in the above gallery, though not the one in the Silver Lake sotre.
2. Ramona (1910) D.W. Griffith's short film helped perpetuate the mythology about Native Americans and their treatment by Spanish priests and other colonizers. Co-written by Helen Hunt Jackson, who wrote the book of the same name, it was intended to expose cruelty and intolerance. But many feel it had the opposite effect, serving to glorify the "civilizing influence" of Catholicism, says Brook.
See the entire film in the above gallery.
3. The Kids Are Alright (2010) Shot in part in an Echo Park home, Lisa Cholodenko's story centers on the children of two lesbians who seek out their biological father. Brook also notes that there is only one Latino character in the film, who gets written out of the plot line fairly early.
See a clip from the film in the above gallery.
4. Quinceanera (2006) Set in Echo Park, it is the story of what happens when a young Latina gets pregnant and has to move in with her gay uncle and cousin. "In part it about gentrification and how white gays hope to make a killing, while thinking they can also get some cute Latino boys," says Brook.
Brook also points to the films of gay directors Greg Araki and Kenneth Anger, and the films Devil in the Blue Dress and Boyz in the 'Hood as important documents of the city's relationship to diversity.
And he recommends 2002's Charlotte Sometimes--shot at what was then Spaceland--just for fun.