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The Silver Screen, in Real Life

February 22, 2017
One of the biggest clichés in film, other than the “homely” woman who magically becomes irresistible when she takes off her glasses, is when a director or screenwriter tells an interviewer that “[insert city here] is really like another character in the film.” While there may be a monument or two in a movie that indicate where the story takes place, it’s not every day that a film’s location matches its spirit, the feeling one may have while visiting the metropolis.

The Sunday, “La La Land” is up for Oscars in 14 different categories, and the credit in part goes to Los Angeles. The vision of Hollywood put forward in the musical is intoxicating, and in many ways does feel like the real L.A., where dreams are made and dashed on a daily basis, and life happens in between working towards the goals.

There may be no better marketing for a destination than a film set in a specific locale. With its colorful song-and-dance sequences, “La La Land” may compel your donors to add Southern California to any list of dream vacations. But Los Angeles is certainly not the only city in our Destinations of Excellence catalog to which a winner of a fundraising auction travel package can fly. Here are a few more places that have received flattering – and, in terms of spirit, accurate – portrayals on the silver screen.

There is no city more wide open, where more is possible, than Chicago in John Hughes’ classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” When the titular character commandeers a parade float to lead seemingly the entire populace in singing “Twist and Shout,” it has the same energy as a teenager sitting in his or her bedroom, singing into a hairbrush. While New York and Los Angeles both get tremendous press as the cities where dreams come true, thousands pour into the Second City each year from smaller Midwestern towns to chase that freedom. And in wide-open spaces like Millennium Park and along Lake Shore Drive, Chicago can feel just as open to that freedom as anywhere.

Who hasn’t wanted to fall in love while zooming around Rome on a Vespa (or, maybe, a faster mode of transport)? “Roman Holiday” is a classic of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” era, when many filmmakers from around the world were drawn to the Italian capital, and movies like “Ben-Hur” and “Cleopatra” were shot there, giving a sort-of old-school romance to a city steeped so much in history. Today, the images of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck – and, by proxy, Rome – are almost a shorthand for carefree love. (Just, please, if you do ride a scooter around Rome, wear a helmet).

For city spotting, though, there may be no better film than “Paris, je t’aime,” the anthology film featuring short stories in neighborhoods all over the French capital. With so many different backdrops, the movie is one of the most wide-ranging depictions of Paris committed to the big screen; for once, the city is shown as being so much more than the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine. In addition to physically happening everywhere, its stories cover the gamut – tales of the domestic workers, the tourists, the aging lovers, the city’s diversity – while showcasing the French sense of whimsy. There’s a magic in the film that might only be felt standing on the Pont des Arts, the bridge where the Locks of Love once lived, and facing out towards the lights of the city at night.