What, you actually thought I’d do all of this list in one post when I could break it up and get three posts out of it? Come on! I’ve got to pad my post count somehow!
When doing a list like this, one could probably come up with an algorithm combining the proportion of the movie set in the state, the proportion of the movie actually filmed there, critical response (both immediate reviews and long-term reputation), and perhaps even adding in what the state’s tourism office might think of the movie.
But reducing things to a number isn’t as much fun as going through individual movies and making the decision on your own.
Louisiana: Here’s a perfect example of why these lists need continued revision. Up until a few years ago, you just had to say The Big Easy, and people would nod in acceptance if not outright agreement. But now, you’ve got Beasts of the Southern Wild as a serious challenger.
Maine: It’s Stephen King territory, so we’ve got to go with the movie version of one of his novels. One that’s set in Maine, naturally. I suppose you could pick your favorite, but I’m going to go with Dolores Claiborne – mostly because it has no supernatural elements in it at all.
Maryland: John Waters and Barry Levinson are both from Maryland. And a LOT of their movies are set in Baltimore. Which one best shows that city – and really couldn’t take place anywhere else? Very tough call…. How about Waters’ Pecker? It’s less outrageous than his other movies, but shows a bit more of life in Charm City.
Massachusetts: It’s got to be Good Will Hunting. Boston natives Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote it – Damon started on the concept while a student at Harvard – and starred in it. They’d also earn the Best Original Screenplay for it. Other than the classroom scenes, the film was pretty much shot in and around Boston.
Michigan: You’re automatically going to name 8 Mile or Gran Torino, right? Worthy films, shot in and around Detroit. But the setting doesn’t come into play that much; they could be set in or around any large city in decline from crime and gangs. How about Escanaba in da Moonlight? It’s Jeff Daniels’ (who grew up, attended college, and lives in Michigan) comedy about life and hunting in the Upper Peninsula. It was filmed there, and is accurate in the use of “Yooper” culture.
Minnesota: Prince’s Purple Rain made the Land of 10,000 Lakes a serious place for movies – but it doesn’t show off the state much at all. Fargo takes place and was shot in Minnesota, but the city of Fargo is across the border in North Dakota (and it seems that most Minnesotans aren’t crazy about the movie anyway). A Prairie Home Companion is a fictionalized account of the radio show that has given most people their image of Minnesota, so I suppose you could go with that.
Mississippi: Mississippi Burning is the obvious choice here. But given the controversy over its “historical accuracy”, it would be understandable if one wanted to go with The Help.
Missouri: Not a lot to choose from. Waiting For Guffman is most people’s pick. A correspondent of mine on another forum suggested Heroes, which stars Henry Winkler and Sally Field, and had some scenes filmed in Sedalia. It turns out that Missouri doesn’t offer much of the way in tax incentives to filmmakers, which might explain the scarcity of Missouri Movies. Anyway, I’m going to go with Winter’s Bone, which is set in and filmed in the Missouri Ozarks, and touches on issues like drug abuse and meth labs – all too common in those forsaken parts.
Montana: In Big Sky Country, one might naturally think of westerns like Little Big Man, Legends of the Fall, or Open Range. I’m going with A River Runs Through It, which is a bit more contemporary and shows off the state’s scenery to great effect.
Nebraska: The choice here – Election – tanked at the box office despite critical acclaim. So most people aren’t aware of this dark comedy about high school politics. Directed by Omaha native Alexander Payne, it was filmed in and around Omaha and Lincoln.
Nevada: It’s going to be something set in Las Vegas, right? Casino, Leaving Las Vegas, Ocean’s 11 (the original)…… I’m going to suggest Mars Attacks!, because some of it takes place in the beautiful and bustling town of Pahrump. And because they took advantage of the demolition of the Landmark Hotel to add a scene:
New Hampshire: While Jumanji is set in (and filmed in) New Hampshire, there’s really nothing about it that’s location-specific. One could say the same about On Golden Pond – except that the “pond” is a real lake in the state, and the house is real, too. Add in Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn (who before this movie had never even met!) as your leads, and, well, come on……
New Jersey: New Jersey native Kevin Smith has been showing off the state – complete with malls, jughandles, and convenience stores – throughout his career. Clerks, based on his direct personal experience working in that store, started it all.
New Mexico: If Them! were actually filmed in the Land of Enchantment, it would have a great shot here. No Country for Old Men was filmed there – but is set in West Texas. How about Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, set in Albuquerque and filmed outside Gallup?
New York: It’s very rare to find a movie set in New York that isn’t set in New York City. Wikipedia lists some 330 movies set in the state – and over 2,000 set in the city. Can I nominate Men In Black (the first one), which shows a couple of non-standard landmarks and also remembers that there’s more to New York City than just Manhattan?
North Carolina: If you think NASCAR rules, then it’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. But if you are a baseball fan, and have better taste agree with the critics, it’s Bull Durham.
North Dakota: If we can include documentaries, the choice here is The Overnighters. If we can’t, there’s not really much to choose from. As mentioned above, most of Fargo takes place in Minnesota. And let’s face it, Leprechaun isn’t really that good, and it could have been set anywhere. The only other good choice is Northern Lights.
I’ll take on the remainder in a few days.